Category: All.

Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 11.33.47 AM

We’re very excited to announce a new partnership with ANC today!  The President of ANC group Brian Daughhetee, states “We look forward to partnering with Always Prepped.  The Always Prepped solution will provide school districts with a functional view of big data by providing easy-to-read visual illustrations to assist in analyzing and monitoring student progress. Always Prepped is the perfect complement to ANC’s current solutions.”

By working with ANC as an education data partner, Always Prepped will have the ability to expand our platform to their current partners in the 2014-2015 school year.  Our founder and CEO Fahad Hassan also chimed in with his thoughts on the partnership stating, “We are excited to partner with ANC and expand the Always Prepped platform to hundreds of schools and districts around the country during the upcoming school year. We couldn’t be more thrilled to work with an organization like ANC, who shares our passion to continuously improve student outcomes by leveraging great technology in the classrooms.”

If you’re a district or school admin interested in improving school achievement by leveraging our platform, get in touch with us today!

15 things every teacher needs from a principal


“‘Principalship’ entails many things, but at its core, it is — and has always been — about building trusting relationships,” writes ASCD EDge community member Ryan Thomas. In a recent blog post, Thomas explains why it’s important for principals to build relationships with their teachers. Thomas also shares a list of 15 things that every teacher needs from their principal starting with knowing their principal will deal with their problems directly and privately. Click Here to view the original post and download a FREE principal coaching guide.


Shaking Hands








All teachers need to:

  • Know that their principals will deal with their problems directly and privately.

  • Be given credit for their ideas, creativity, hard work, and willingness to take on additional responsibilities (privately, publicly, orally, and in writing).

  • Know that their principals will not jump to conclusions or make hasty decisions, particularly when their welfare is under consideration.

  • Have principals who are available and listen to them.

  • Have reasons and explanations given when problems occur, requests cannot be fulfilled, or promises are broken.

  • Have all of the information and facts put on the table and be kept apprised of what is happening in their schools.

  • Know that when possible and where appropriate, when decisions are made that affect them, they will be given opportunities for input and discussion.

  • Feel their principals are fair and will not show favoritism to an individual or group.

  • Be assured that principals will keep open minds when they advance ideas or make suggestions for change.

  • Be a part of the team when parent and student problems are under discussion, problems are being solved, or plans are being developed.

  • Feel supported in their disciplinary decisions with students.

  • Know that their principals will admit mistakes, sincerely apologize when wrong, and then move forward.

  • Be confident that their principals will send parents to them first if there are questions or concerns about what they are doing in their classrooms.

  • Be able to bring problems and concerns regarding their principals’ performance to the forefront and, that such problems and concerns will be addressed honestly, immediately, and positively.

  • Know that their principals value their personal lives and, when appropriate and possible, will take them into consideration when making requests.

 Photo credit: Chris-Håvard Berge / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)


Sign-up to receive more news and updates from Always Prepped:





You may have read Louis C.K.’s Twitter rant on Common Core a few months ago. If you missed it, here’s the link.

The State of New York has responded.

Commissioner John B. King, Jr. released a statement yesterday, as well as critical assessment information from the 3rd-8th grade ELA and Mathematics state test questions. You can view those questions here and judge for yourself.

“As you know, frustrations around testing and test prep, along with questions and concerns about educator accountability, generated considerable public dialogue last year, some of it productive and some of it counter-productive,” wrote Commissioner King Jr. “No one equates testing with teaching, and test prep should consume as little classroom time as possible. We should test only as much as is needed to inform instruction and hold ourselves accountable, and we should do everything possible to minimize unintended consequences from testing – from narrowing of the curriculum to student and parent anxiety.”

This is our peer into what the State Education Department is thinking while also giving us a firsthand look into the kinds of questions that are being asked.

As the New York commissioner stated, there are two sides to it.

The one view that is counter-productive believes that it’s not that the questions themselves are too rigorous; it’s how they impact our classrooms and the assessment of schools in general.

The productive argument sees that the progress of students can be easier understood through high-stakes testing.

What do you think? Did New York respond correctly or is Louis C.K. still in the right?

There were two #edchat discussions today. This post covers one of them, and the other will be talked about shortly.

#edchat Moderator Jerry Blumengarten (@cybraryman1) asked “What does a lead learner in a school look like? Should it always be the principal? Can there be more than one in a school?”

Dr. Mark Weston (@ShiftParadigm) had a great response. “Since learners receive grades, should leaders be graded too? If leaders are graded on their learning then what should be basis for such grades? Who should do the grading? What a lead learner looks like is of less importance than what a lead learner does.”

In our opinion, if a leader isn’t learning, it is much more dangerous than if learners aren’t leading. Lead learners don’t always need to be a principal; however, that’s the easiest person that students can look up to.

On the other hand, we need learners to lead courageously. This is much tougher as it requires someone who hasn’t assumed the role of a leader before to take action. This means that there CAN be more than one lead learner in a school, and it doesn’t matter what their age is.

What do you think about lead learners?

We covered the first #edchat topic earlier in the day here. The second discussion was on social media and educators.

#EdChat Founder Tom Whitby asked, “How has participating in social media affected your teaching and how has it affected your students’ learning?”

The discussion went in a couple of directions.

Teachers talked about using Edmodo and seeing participation from students who are typically quiet in the classroom. Students who aren’t as likely to speak up in class feel better about expressing themselves online. In Edmodo’s case, if there is a safe online environment, social media can positively affect teaching and learning.

The USC Rossier School of Education (@USCTeacher) continued the discussion, “What is the cost of NOT being a connected Edu?”

The answer is simple: there’s a whole world of information you’d miss out on. There were two hashtags for ISTE this year, #ISTE2014 and #notatiste2014. With hundreds of educators and innovators in attendance, it would not be possible to have an efficient conference schedule without being connected online. People were getting the insider scoop and insights even if they thousands of miles away. You can’t beat that.

What are your thoughts on the topic? What is the right mix and use of social media by educators?

Better Teachers

One thing that is scarce in today’s global economy is quality labor with unique skills. As any college graduate can tell you, it’s hard to get a job right now because the people that are hiring want candidates with previous paid experience.

The teaching profession is no different. Teachers can get their license without ever stepping foot into a classroom and be forced to learn on the job. We need to change this because it’s one whole year where students are going through their educational career and not getting the best possible experience.

Elizabeth Green wrote on this topic in her upcoming book “Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach It to Everyone).”

“You don’t need to be a genius,” Green said to New York Times’ Joe Nocera. “You have to manage a discussion. You have to know which problems are the ones most likely to get the lessons across. You have to understand how students make mistakes – how they think – so you can respond to that.”

Yes, experience is the best teacher, but at what cost?

For the last 10 years, schools have been trying to figure out how to handle the situation with students and their cellphones.

At first, students were not allowed to use their devices during school hours. Then, schools started to allow usage before school, at lunch, and after school.

Now, administrators can’t ignore the potential of combining their curriculum and mobile devices.

SmartBrief recently did a poll on the topic, asking users whether students should be allowed to use cellphones in class, out of class, or in the school in general.

63.30% believed that students can bring them and use devices as a learning resource in class. 26.22% feels that cellphones can be brought to school but not be used in the classroom. 10.49% think that electronics should be allowed in school at all. The numbers may have been flipped a decade earlier.

On speculation alone, eventually schools will find a middle ground and a productive way for both students and teachers to be happy.

Chess and Education

Editor’s note: Our Marketing Coordinator Shafiq wants to tell you a story about why he loves teaching through his experiences coaching chess.

Three years ago, I was a sophomore in college. I had just gotten back to Alabama from Maryland to go back to school, ready to spend another semester commuting from my mom’s house.

This time, I was a little bit more motivated. My brother had just gotten married, I had a girlfriend, and I was offered a job as a chess teacher*. Life was great.

*While being a chess teacher sounds silly, I taught a 36-week curriculum for three years. It was interesting. I learned so much from my boss who had taught world history for over 20 years.

I’ll never forget my first class. It was at St. Francis Xavier in Mountain Brook, also known as the affluent area in Birmingham. (Do you remember that story recently about the surgeon who walked eight miles in the snowstorm to save a person’s life? Dr. Hrynkiw lives there and his home is beautiful.)

I didn’t know what I was doing at all. I got to the school with a lot of time to spare. I walked in, set up my projector, laptop and chess board and nervously awaited the students.

Only one showed up. He was a 2nd grader and his name was Danny.

Danny was your typical southern boy. You could tell that he had a bright future ahead of him and his life would be filled with love from his family and friends. He also happened to be interested in chess. He wasn’t the best but his enthusiasm made it fun to be around him. He was the kind of kid that if you ever saw him sad, you knew something had gone horribly wrong.

I’ll always remember him because he made it easy for me to become a great teacher. Danny was also the first person I saw when my girlfriend broke up with me a week before my 20th birthday. It’s strange how these things work.

I trembled as I ran through my lesson on the basics of chess. I was a nervous wreck worrying about a student not learning something because I could potentially fail at doing my job.

Danny was okay with this. It was almost like he understood my fears and went with what I was saying.

I finished the lesson after about 50 minutes, we played a 10-minute game of chess, and his mom was in front of the school ready to pick him up.

I took a deep breath. It was over. That wasn’t so bad.

The first week was tough. Five different schools and five different groups of students. It was a challenge that I readily accepted. As the weeks went on, I got more and more comfortable being in front of the students.

I remember beating my boss in a game for the first time. I had to play him in front of a class at Our Lady of Sorrows in Homewood (also known as a “toast game”). I couldn’t even explain to you the confidence I had to go teach the class after that. I just beat someone who’s been playing chess longer than I’ve been alive!

I remember the faces of every student I lost to. I learned more from them than they learned from me in my opinion. Among others, there’s one student who I’ll always talk about. His name was Samson, he was in the 3rd grade, and he was from Cherokee Bend.

Samson was one of those students who was way beyond his years in maturity. His mom would trust him with responsibilities and know she didn’t have to worry because it was Samson. Samson went to the national tournament for chess amateurs in Dallas for players that had a ranking under 1200 (typically for people that hadn’t played in a tournament before). Samson only placed second because the person in first had more points than he did, and they didn’t even play each other.

I was flattered when these same students would tell me that they enjoyed playing me because I never played with the same strategy. Yes, you can be flattered by someone who is 8 years old.

Over three years I taught at over 20 different schools. I saw different kinds of communities. I saw rich areas and other places that weren’t as organized. No matter what the situation was, I did my best to make sure the kids enjoyed the lessons*. Have you ever had a school tell you that you’re a fun teacher? Have you ever smiled so hard it almost made you cry? You feel a sense of meaning in your job and life.

*I feel like colleagues would usually be jealous, but the other teachers were also college students around my age and they enjoyed my candor and passion. I loved them equally, enough to where we all collaborated at the end of our first year and arranged a date night (dinner and a movie) for our boss and his wife. The boss’s exact words, “No one has ever done anything this nice for me in my life.”

That’s the thing. I was in the front of a classroom five days a week. For that hour, we all took a trip away from everything else we were worried about and just played a game of chess. It was beautiful. I may have had a very small taste of the profession, but I’m forever grateful for those moments.

Last month the White House released a study on big data and privacy. You can read the whole report here or check out the summary here.

The first survey covered and pictured in the review is the concern with data practices. Most people are very much concerned with data storage and security, transparency about data use, legal standards & oversight, collection of location data, collection of video/audio data, and collection of telecom data.

Our thoughts of the first infographic can be summed up by this quote from Alistair Croll:

“Perhaps the biggest threat that a data-driven world presents is an ethical one. Our social safety net is woven on uncertainty. We have welfare, insurance, and other institutions precisely because we can’t tell what’s going to happen — so we amortize that risk across shared resources. The better we are at predicting the future, the less we’ll be willing to share our fates with others.”

There will always be uncertainty in the actions of others. That can’t and should never stop us as a nation from advancing further into our developments. Our world has made so much progress over the last ten years because of big data. We need to forget about the danger of a few and keep our eyes set on the betterment of the whole.

When you think of social media, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Facebook and Instagram likes? Twitter followers? Pinterest pins?

When you think of social media and education, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Edmodo? Teachers Pay Teachers? MinecraftEdu?

What are the differences between the educational social media outlets in comparison to the others?

The difference is what you, the educator, can put into and get out of it.

When you use social media, what results are you expecting?

When you use Edmodo, you can expect a better, stronger collaboration between you and your students all in one tool. Teachers Pay Teachers is a great way to offer your expertise to other educators in your field and get instant feedback on improving yours and everyone else’s curriculum. MinecraftEdu is an interesting way for teachers to reach their kids and assign history and science lessons through a video game.

Educational social media gives you, the educator, an opportunity to reach your student in a more personal way that Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest can’t offer. Educational social media provides educators and administrators an effective two-way communication outlet instead of just an informative, almost narcissistic one.

The latter networks can still be used in an effective way, though, as most people in your community will more than likely be using them. You can still use Facebook and Twitter to post about happenings in the area, and Pinterest to show what’s working at your school, district, or state.

At a period in our society where people in the U.S. are on social media on an average of 16 minutes an hour and using social media on their phones 71% of the time, Educational social media is offering teachers a new way to keep up with their students.

It’s only a matter of time before 16 and 71% become 20/75%, 30/85%, and 45/95%. In education, it would be in our best interest to figure out how we can use those numbers to our advantage because the worst case scenario is having a 1 hour, 100% mobile social media use and our field being irrelevant.