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Cascade Matters is the blog of Cascade Educational Consultants. Cascade has extensive experience in policy development, advocacy, education reform, youth leadership, teaching and learning strategies, education collaborations and civic development. We are committed to ensuring schools create and sustain quality teaching and learning environments for all students to be successful in school and contribute to their communities as active principled citizens. Learn more about us.

Cascade Educational Consultants is an educational consulting firm committed to high-quality equitable teaching, learning and serving environments for all students to succeed in school and in life. Click here to learn more about our services...




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Who’s got the data on data-driven decision-making?

It seems educators, reformers, and advocates everywhere are committed to the idea of “data-driven decision-making.” Presumably, this term and its popularity are outgrowths of increased visibility and accountability in public education along with the rapid growth of the role of data in other parts of our lives. And, let’s be honest: it sounds good. It makes us feel secure. It sounds
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Why are we using an almanac to tell us about school climate?

When you pick out your clothes for the day, do you check your almanac to see what you should wear? No. More than likely, you check your phone’s weather app for a quick forecast and then determine your wardrobe according to this timely and (usually) more accurate information.When you decide to walk the dog or go for a jog or a bike ride, do you check the almanac to see how nice it is outside,
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Unlearning is Critical

Unlearning is the key to high school reform. This may seem odd as so many of our high schools struggle with students who read many grade levels behind, whose math skills are elementary, and whose writing is more understandable in a texting format than in a research paper. Logically and for years, we have invested in academic supports and remediation strategies early in high school to get students “up
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Life in 3D

I learned in my first sculpture class in college that a three dimensional piece of sculpture communicates and interacts with its viewer in all three dimensions. (This seems somewhat obvious, I guess, but it’s not that simple.) In other words, a sculpture’s depth, width, and height (along with other elements like color, texture, and movement, that live on that depth, width, and height) each
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The Other Foreclosure Crisis

For roughly four years now, we have heard the far ranging reports about the housing foreclosure crisis amid the other challenges in the economy. The country has seen millions of families lose their houses and destroy their personal credit. Many of these families have lost the one significant asset they had as they worked to build their American dream. The impact of the foreclosure crisis has been deep
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There Are No Words (Thank you, Francis Bacon)

In September at my alma mater Wake Forest University, I am having my first solo art exhibition in almost ten years. What is interesting is not that I am showing my artwork again, but how these paintings came about and why. I could have never guessed ten years ago that I would be making this artwork. Six years ago, I would have never guessed I would be using these words to discuss it. I have written
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Getting Readiness Right

A few years back when working with Tennessee’s GEAR UP coordinators to develop a youth summit for their students, my colleagues and I heard a consistent refrain repeated in a number of different ways, but summarized as: “Our kids come home from college before they ever even have a chance to succeed or fail academically!”When asked to explain further, the coordinators talked about
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But, Are We Dissatisfied (with Ourselves)?

In a variety of workshops, whether around school climate, youth/student engagement, or even broader community work, I reference the following change model out of Harvard, which I actually discovered through the Forum for Youth Investment:Change = Dissatisfaction x Vision x PlanWhy is this simple model so powerful? At the simplest level, what happens when you have a zero for any of these elements?
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Feeling One Way, Thinking Another, and Acting Somewhere in Between

Over the years, I have done a lot of work with educators and youth workers across the country and have often found myself trying to help them identify what I call “the intention-to-practice gap”, the space between what we believe and we value in our work and our actual delivery of our work. At the practical level, this frequently plays out with frustrated adults who genuinely want to empower
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Engaging Others

Part of the confusion and pressure of being a middle and high school student is not just that relatively new feeling of “otherness” (i.e. being different) but that this feeling charges our emotional and cognitive development in ways that can last a lifetime. These are truly formative years. Starting in our teens and carrying through the rest of our lives, we develop habits in response to
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“Remember, you’re responsible for yourself. Make good decisions.”

In my last blog I wrote about the relationship between responsibility and accountability and how each contributes to my understanding of our democracy, our economy, and our education practices. With this blog, I want to revisit the topic, but in much more personal and individual terms:So, picture a 12 year old allowed for the first time to spend the night at a friend’s house. As Mom pulls to
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Accountability, Responsibility and the 21st Century American Zeitgeist

I read the following in an article the other day quoting Pasi Sahlberg: “Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.”(Residue.)And, I would add “…and trust destroyed” to get us fully to our American “culture of accountability”. To spice it up, I would also like to bring in the old Mark Twain saying, “To a man with
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Dropout Prevention: The Million-Dollar Question

Audience Member: So, let’s say you have a class full of 10th graders and all of them are in danger of dropping out of high school. They have discipline issues, are under-credited, disengaged, all of it. You have no cost restrictions – no amount of money is too much. There are no limitations – you can literally do anything you want. What would you do to keep these students in school
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I’m Determined

I had the honor of speaking at a youth conference hosted and led by young people involved with “I’m Determined” in the state of Virginia (www.Imdetermined.org). I knew the focus of the work and leadership development was on young people with disabilities and that “I’m Determined” is committed to ensuring that these young people develop their voices, understand their
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It’s College Access Time in Tennessee!

My colleagues and I are in the midst of launching the Tennessee College Access and Success Network. But, you might have heard, “it’s football time in Tennessee”! It is well acknowledged and documented the cultural role that football plays in the South and the role of the church of the Southeastern Conference in particular during the fall and winter months. So, I figured that if
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Power, Relationships and Language

A few months back, I had the opportunity to work with the National Association of State Directors of Special Education and the IDEA Partnership. Our focus was on “self-determination and youth investment” for young people with all sorts of abilities. The group included the deaf and hard of hearing, the physical disabilities community, the autism community, the mental health community, and
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Conversation: Talk About Core Curriculum!

What was the last good conversation you had? Think about that for a second…What made this conversation “good” for you?As I consider this question, I can think of a number of conversations in just the past week that I would consider good (By the way, I feel fortunate but have also made many personal and professional decisions that allow me to have good conversations on a regular
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Supply, Demand, and the Nonprofit Non-Economy (Something’s gotta give.)

Supply and demand: it’s probably the one relationship any of us remember from some sort of economics or even government class we had in high school or college. The point where supply meets demand is the equilibrium; it determines price. It is the basic idea of our economy and it’s as fundamental to our daily experience as the air we breathe. It determines what most of us consume and
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In the Middle of Everywhere

Remember when you used to go to the mall or the movies just so you could hang out and talk with your friends?Remember when you (occasionally) hated to miss school because it meant that you missed out on whatever buzz was circulating that day perhaps from a weekend party?Remember when you had to go to the library in order to do your research paper or to learn about random or obscure topics that stretched
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27, 28, 29

I have written before about my father’s suicide and I am doing so here again on the 5th anniversary of his death. I share this with you out of my commitment and my family’s commitment to doing our part to make sure that people struggling with Depression and issues related to sexual abuse, and those who love and support them, need not do so in the social and cultural shadows. I do not
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The Poet

I often write about things in my blog that move me intellectually, challenge me politically, concern me socially, or inspire me personally or professionally. For this blog, I am writing about something that is all of these things. I am writing about someone who captures all of this and more through the power of his words; a young man who at 17 years old moves my spirit by his presence and moves my
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Financing Public Education: Part II (reader ideas)

The following are responses from readers of my last blog “Financing Public Education (It’s not what you think)” about their ideas on how we could lower the opportunity cost of education for our students. In seeking these responses, I asked people to think big and think honest in terms of their experience regardless of their professional “system”. These responses represent
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Financing Public Education (It’s not what you think)

Every day, our schools and communities ask young people to make an investment in their education*, an investment that promises to pay dividends in some distant future, an investment with deferred and often untenable financial, social, and cultural benefits the likes of which many of our students have never seen manifest in their own families and their own communities. It promises a return on investment
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If Monet Visited My School

I recently saw an exhibit at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville entitled “The Birth of Impressionism” that visually chronicled the evolutionary process, the critical questions, as well as the outright revolutionary transgressions in the world of painting that gave us Impressionism. And, while it is now recognized and sold on everything from coffee mugs and calendars to umbrellas
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Silence: It’s an Action Thing to Do

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of spending a couple of days with staff and youth of the Youth Activation Committee of Special Olympics Arizona. I was proud to have the opportunity to support their work by having the chance to facilitate a part of one of their meetings. For my work, our main goal was to get back to an understanding with the youth and adult coordinator of how working with Special
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Discourse on Discourse

Much has been made recently, and I believe rightfully so, about the current state of American political discourse. And, as many of you who have read my blogs before know, I believe that the language we choose is formative and that it sets the stage for how we live, often even in opposition to our intentions or values. Our language frames and then we tend to fill out those frames as we act upon the
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Uncertainty is a Lie (and a Fact)

As I was driving to work today and listening to NPR, I was caught a bit off guard by a streak of frustration that flooded me as I listened to yet another economist talk about the jobs market and “uncertainty”. Uncertainty is to blame for slow hiring (or no hiring). Uncertainty is to blame for a lack of lending. Uncertainty is to blame when it comes to consumer spending. Uncertainty
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Optimism: A Reason to Be Optimistic (notes from a recovering cynic)

My name is Anderson Williams and I am a recovering cynic. Like any recovery, mine is a daily battle. I do, however, believe that cynicism has its place in a healthy society and my recovery is about learning to use it properly as a tool and not allowing it to become a way of being. It needs to be a skill, not a habit or a mindset.My recovery began slowly and I estimate it began in about 2002. Paradoxically,
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Educating Youth and Developing Students

Earlier this year, I posted a blog “Can’t See the Forest for the Fields” in which I talked about the arbitrary (for youth) but systemic (for our schools, communities, and organizations) distinction between the notion of “student” and that of “youth”. I also talked about the gap that we create when a young person is a student say from 7 a.m.-2:00 p.m. while
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The Texas Ranger and America in the 21st Century

Despite its unfortunate end for his team, the month of October had to be somewhat of a dream for Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers Major League Baseball team. You see, Hamilton was drafted in 1999 and was considered one of the most promising players in baseball with a future so bright one almost dared not speak it for fear of under-selling or perhaps jinxing it. In 2001, however, after an injury
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If a Tree Falls in the Woods…Are Student Rights Violated?

Recent discussions and outright alarm about the consequences of bullying in our schools has spurred some larger questions about student rights and responsibilities in schools and our daily attention to detail in this regard. In other words, I guess recent tragedies have left me wondering: how did it get so bad for these young people without some awareness or intervention or support by either peers
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A Call for Self-Centered Leadership

I was recently looking back at a piece that a friend of mine named Thomas Knauer wrote in graduate school about the three components of the self: I, me, and myself. Thomas had an uncanny ability of toeing the line between the philosophically brilliant and the painfully inane, and I always admired that about him. So, please read the excerpt from Thomas’ piece below, with this line in mind: “The
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Put a Bucket on Your Head

Around the same time that I posted my last blog, “Picasso, Genius, and Intellectual Disability,” Newsweek launched the cover story “The Creativity Crisis” by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman in the July 19, 2010 issue. The article’s central concern is recent research demonstrating that American creativity is on the decline and has been since 1990. The article also specifies
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Picasso, Genius, and Intellectual Disability

Pablo Picasso was the preeminent artist of the 20th century and his genius shook the art world from hundreds of years of tradition and sent it in new and profound directions. If you have ever seen a Picasso exhibit that includes his earliest work (I am thinking of a portrait he painted at age 13) you know that his technical skill was genius. He could render a self-portrait at 13 that defied understanding.
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Power to the Pupil

No matter how long I work with folks or how much I believe we are on the same page, I occasionally still get caught off guard by a fundamental question about youth/student power. It dawned on me recently that I have had a number of these questions come directly back, or filter back circuitously, to me over the years, many times deep into a relationship. Co-workers, colleagues, partners, educators
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Council Counsel

In the last twelve months or so, I have connected with at least a half dozen cities, several local and national nonprofits, the philanthropic arm of a major corporation, and even the ministries of education and of local government of Trinidad and Tobago, all of whom are engaged in some way with youth councils. Many were starting new initiatives around school, organizational, and municipal councils;
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College Access and What It Means to be a Student

Across the country, young people are anxiously awaiting and excitedly receiving letters and emails from our institutions of higher education telling them that they have been accepted for enrollment and giving them a glimpse of what the future holds. I remember this time during my own senior year and have shared this time repeatedly with the young people I have worked with over the years. It is a
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Power to Share

At a recent meeting of school administrators from across Wisconsin, we had the opportunity to reflect on and consider the opportunities and challenges related to involving students in their schools. We based this work on the Continuum of Youth Involvement (pdf). We considered the range of involvement from student participation to voice to leadership to engagement. We sought to understand the distinctions
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Says and Means

I’ve been thinking a lot about language lately while reading about “critical consciousness” and the importance of “critical literacy” for youth, particularly in marginalized communities and communities of color. I have also been inspired by the example being set by young people involved with Special Olympics as they advocate for the end of the “r-word”. These
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Relevance Through Youth-led Research

We often struggle in education and in youth programming with the “relevance” of our efforts in the lives of young people. What is more relevant to a young person than his/her own life? Youth-led participatory research is a tool and a process that connects young people more deeply to their own experiences while also expanding awareness, developing skills, and building a sense of power and
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Can’t See the Forest for the Fields

Investing in the positive development of our young people is fundamental to a healthy democracy. I don’t think that too many people would actually argue with this notion. Thankfully, our nation is full of stories and innovative strategies and of creative work with young people in communities, schools, states and even nationally, and across a plethora of fundamental supports, issues and opportunities
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Adult Development is Youth Development

I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with young people over the span of my early career and more recently to translate some of these experiences into working with adults. The bulk of these efforts have been focused on developing meaningful opportunities for young people to engage in their own lives and in meaningful community change with the support of adult allies and adult-led systems.
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