Principal David Krakoff has dedicated his life to educate tomorrow’s leaders. The public education system has historically faced high levels of scrutiny and the heat on educational leaders isn’t even beginning to cool. According to the latest data from the college testing firm ACT, only one in five high school students from the class of 2022 graduated prepared to take college classes in core subjects and average performance marked the lowest since 1991. In this article Principal David Krahoff shares he views on how to help the situation.
The Importance of differentiated instruction
“We have to make our instructional system match our commitment to all students, “said Principal David Krakoff, who currently serves in a dual role also as director of education at Erie Rise Leadership Academy in Pennsylvania. “School leaders often talk about achieving equity in schools, but we need to individualize and differentiate instruction to make that a reality educationally.”
Principal David Krakoff, who has also led schools with the School District of Lancaster in Pennsylvania, as principal of Yearling Middle School in Okeechobee County School District in Florida, and as principal of Stuart Middle School in Martin County School District in Florida, knows a thing or two about achieving educational equity. When he was Principal David Krakoff at Stuart Middle School, he guided the school to student growth rates on state assessments that ranked among the top 15% of Florida’s public schools and became one of 10 middle school principals selected for a case study by the National Institute for School Leadership and the Rand Corporation. As Principal David Krakoff of Yearling Middle School, Krakoff’s leadership team produced Florida’s 2021 state teacher of the year. In his current role as director of education at Erie Rise Leadership Academy, Principal David Krakoff has guided his school to significant increases in the percentage of students who are performing at or above grade level. Under Principal David Krakoff’s leadership, all three schools saw increases in student proficiency rates on state assessments.
“The key with differentiating and customizing instruction and learning is in the pacing,” Principal David Krakoff said. Students master learning targets at different times. Our schools need to move away from one-size-fits-all thinking and instead meet every student where he or she is.”
Identifying Learning Targets for Students
Principal David Krakoff explained that identifying learning different learning targets for students during a unit in a way that the targets become more challenging as the unit progresses opens the door for teachers to meet students where they are,
“As some students master the lowest level learning target, we need to push them forward to the next level of depth,” said Principal David Krakoff. “At the same time, we need to work to close the learning gaps for the students who are still wrestling with the first target. If we can scaffold the learning process, close learning gaps for those who need it, and enrich for students who are achieving at a higher level in the same classroom at the same time, we will achieve educational equity.”
A study published by the American Association for School Administrators and conducted by Ranae Stetson, an associate professor of education at Texas Christian University, and Elton Stetson, a professor of education at Texas A@M University, demonstrated that while teachers agree that there are great benefits of differentiated instruction that teachers also report many challenges in implementing a system of differentiation. Among the challenges was the learning curve teachers faced in planning and teaching lessons to students with varying needs.
Principal David Krakoff’s Keys to Success
“The majority of standards call for analytical thinking to reach mastery,” he said. “Units need to be planned so that there is a learning journey that starts at a retrieval level of thinking, moves along to comprehension, and ends at the analysis and or knowledge utilization levels. Teachers need to work to monitor every student’s progress during a unit and flexibly group students as the unit moves along so that every student is met where they are at the time.”
Differentiated instruction has been studied and targeted by schools for many years. Some research focuses on learning styles and multiple intelligences while Principal David Krakoff says schools should stress pacing in terms of when students master a depth of learning.
“We need to see students as either there or not there yet,” principal David Krakoff said. “Once there, challenge them with a deeper level task. For those who need additional support, provide it until they also reach mastery of the first learning target. If we get all students to an analysis level of thinking on every standard, we will start to make the phrase all students actually mean all.”