The InnovatED Blog

Julie Durham

Julie serves as our Director of Research and Grants and earned her master's in Public Policy from the University of Wisconsin and an undergraduate degree in Public Affairs from Central Michigan University. Prior to working at Innovators in Education, Julie was a project manager and researcher at the Center on Education and Work. She enjoys reading, biking and spending time with her husband, Jon, and their daughter, Quinley.

Recent Posts

Why a Racially & Ethnically Diverse Workforce Matters

Posted by Julie Durham on May 4, 2017 10:16:05 AM

In Michigan’s charter school sector, who heavily serves an ethnically diverse student population living in disenfranchised communities and exposed to trauma and stress, hiring a teaching staff that is reflective of their student body is key for students who are facing a learning gap even before they step into the school building.

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How to Handle Divisive Classroom Conversations

Posted by Julie Durham on Feb 7, 2017 12:05:00 PM

Whew! I’d say, if there is anything certain in these uncertain times, it is that everyone has an opinion. But as a teacher or school leader, you have to walk a fine line when it comes to talking about current events and politics. Certainly these things are on your students’ mind and may come up in the classroom. How many Facebook posts showing teachers sharing personal political views (along with calls for their resignation) have you seen lately? As educators we need to be careful about showing our own hand, knowing that the diverse experiences of your students and parents means opinions are plentiful.

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Topics: Classroom Management, Critical Thinking

The Secret Ingredient to Student Success

Posted by Julie Durham on Jan 27, 2017 10:50:07 AM

Schools are spending valuable resources, time, and money on trying to figure out that one thing; the secret sauce, the silver bullet. Teachers and leaders are working so hard, but are seeing mixed results.
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Topics: Vision, Leadership, School Data

K12 Assessment: The Fallacy of the 50th Percentile

Posted by Julie Durham on Jan 19, 2017 3:35:07 PM

Across the country, states are adopting and negotiating new assessment strategies for their students. The struggle is evident as leaders wade through the decision making process of which assessments to use and why. New assessments and accountability systems have left schools in the lurch. When will things be finalized? How frequently can they expect the state to change assessments? As a result, many are turning to their tried and true assessments as a gauge of student success while states figure out their assessment policies.

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Topics: Assessment, Testing

Relationships Matter: How educators can strengthen student relationships and positively impact learning

Posted by Julie Durham on Nov 4, 2016 5:05:08 PM

In a recent study that asked teachers, students, parents and school leaders what the biggest influences were on student achievement, each group identified student-teacher relationships as a factor. Each group, that is, except teachers. 

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Topics: Teaching and Learning, Student Relationships

Curiosity in Schools

Posted by Julie Durham on Sep 23, 2016 4:52:39 PM

Struggling schools have tried everything: RTI programs, school culture trainings, replacing teachers, hiring a new leader, restructuring the school day. Often times these efforts create only bumps in student achievement, and rarely are these bumps sustained over time. Teachers and leaders lament that there is only so much they can do. Some of the responsibility lies with students to manage their own learning.

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Topics: Teaching and Learning

An Open Letter to the Student from Hell

Posted by Julie Durham on Sep 13, 2016 2:01:30 PM

Dear Student From Hell:

I see you. I see your struggles every day. When other people call you “the student from hell” what they mean is that you create hell for them in their classroom. I know that you are, actually, living in hellish circumstances. I see that your mother works three jobs and that you are responsible for your younger brothers and sisters even though you are only nine. I see that you work at your family’s business for longer hours than are legally allowed and don’t have time to finish your homework.

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Topics: Student Expectations, Student Learning, Student Trauma

The Michigan School Reform Office and School Closures

Posted by Julie Durham on Aug 30, 2016 3:39:25 PM

A media storm has erupted on potential action to be taken by the Michigan school reform office (SRO) to close underperforming schools in the coming year. Understandably, some schools are worried, or at least confused. When will these decisions be made? What information will the SRO use to make determinations? Can decisions be appealed? Is closure the only option?

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Topics: Budget, Policy

Students Living in Poverty Exposed to Trauma and Stress

Posted by Julie Durham on Aug 30, 2016 9:20:33 AM

By now, we are all familiar with the siren of low test scores. Alternatively, we hear just how very hard schools are working to serve their students. They are trying new things; implementing new programs; differentiating more instruction. But still, we are seeing test scores stagnant or falling. What is happening here? Where is the disconnect between what schools are doing and the results in student achievement? Teachers and leaders will say that they are serving very difficult populations and success is more complicated than test scores. But expectations need to remain high for all students, regardless of their circumstance, right?

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Topics: Student Expectations, Teaching and Learning, Trauma

Not All Retention is Created Equal

Posted by Julie Durham on Mar 17, 2016 10:16:16 AM


Many schools struggle with retention. Student, leader, and teacher retention all play critical roles in establishing and maintaining positive school cultures that lead to increased academic achievement. But is all retention good? Specifically, is all teacher retention good? When resources are limited, schools would be best served to identify their top performing teachers and focus retention efforts on them. Retention policies and programs must be deliberate and emphasize a continued support for a school’s most effective teachers.

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Topics: Retention

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