Monday, April 14, 2014

Adding a possible delivery model . . .

For a number of years I have been reading about what I believe over time will become a common place learning model in public school systems called blended learning.  What is blended learning?  From this short post on Getting Smart we can see that it is a combination of teacher-led instruction, quality digital learning time, and group work and projects. We have an experience with this model, but it has not yet moved to the prototyping stage because it takes a commitment of resources to ensure quality in all components of the model especially in the digital learning component.  As we gain more experience and begin the process of reviewing delivery models with the opening of a new high school and altered grade level configurations K-12, blended learning will become a component of that review.  It is a model that has the potential to increase engagement for some students that also provides additional options for students and families.

The post included an infographic from Compass Learning that is shared below.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Hard to argue with . . .

John and Scott posted comments to my post wondering how the WEA decision to support families in opting out of state tests will influence results in our state and in our school system.  As I shared in the post, though I can understand the reasoning behind the decision I struggle with the impact on scores and how that might play out as the new accountability index is implemented.  Unfortunately, it is another of those uncomfortable situations created by demands on our state and local school systems by actions at the federal level.

John's comment captures well the frustrations teachers are experiencing.

This year, I will be spending 8 days of my 180 giving standardized tests to my students, and not receiving any feedback that can impact their learning, this year. That is simply irresponsible practice. 

Hard to argue with.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Not good news . . .

Iv'e been watching for information on the status of our NCLB waiver given the legislator's inability to agree on revising state law to mandate the use of state assessments in teacher and principal evaluations and the news today is not what we wanted to hear.  In this Education Week article I learned that following a phone call Tuesday with Superintendent Dorn it appears that Secretary Duncan is on the verge of pulling the waiver.  If pulled, we would be back under the penalties of NCLB adequate yearly progress mandates with an as of today unknown timetable.

UPDATE: Dorie Nolt, a spokeswoman for the department, said in an email:
"We are in touch with Washington officials on the state's request to extend Elementary and Secondary Education Act flexibility. Washington has made us aware that they are unable to meet the state's commitment to create a teacher- and principal-evaluation and -support system with multiple measures, including student growth based on state assessments and other measures of professional practice. The Department has not issued a final decision yet, but we recognize that the state needs to know soon as officials prepare local budgets for next school year."

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I'm wondering . . .

I learned in this KUOW.ORG post that WEA has voted to support families in opting out of state mandated assessments including next year's common core tests from Smarter Balanced.  We have been seeing a growing trend across the country especially in New York, but other than in Seattle last year I haven't read or seen an organized opt out campaign.  Since it was a motion voted on by members I assume it took place at their annual conference.  Could this be the start of of a statewide movement? If local units follow the recommendations in the motion it very well could be.

1. Support the rights of parents/guardians to collaborate with teachers to determine appropriate options for assessment of student proficiency if opting out of statewide standardized assessments.
2. Encourage its local affiliates to work alongside student and parent leadership groups in promoting opt-out for Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC) tests whenever possible.

3. Inform members of current student and parent organizations’ opt-out efforts through existing communication vehicles. The link to the OSPI form for parents to opt-out of state tests shall be made available to members via email.

Given the current reality of mandated testing and how those that opt out influence district and school data, I find myself more aligned with the position that OSPI has already taken following this WEA decision.

At the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, spokesman Nathan Olson objected to the motion. "We think that all students should take the test," Olson said. "The feds mandate them for a reason."

Under the federal law known as No Child Left Behind, students who refuse a test earn a zero – and the federal government can penalize schools that underachieve on standardized tests.

"To refuse to take the test, I think it only hurts the school, the district, and ultimately the state," Olson said.

 So, I'm wondering how those representing TEA voted and their plans for the future?  I'm also wondering influence this vote may have over time on assessment in our state.

Monday, April 7, 2014

More High School recognition . . .

The Washington Post has once again come out with their America's Most Challenging High School index based primarily on the number of college level courses offered.  More detail on how the rankings are determined can be found here.

The index score is the number of college-level tests given at a school in the previous calendar year divided by the number of graduates that year. Also noted are the percentage of students who come from families that qualify for lunch subsidies (Subs. lunch) and the percentage of graduates who passed at least one college-level test during their high school career, called equity and excellence, (E&E). A (P) next to the school's name denotes a private school.

Once again, Tahoma High School made list with state scores in the chart below.  At the national level our index of 2.234 placed us 919th.  Congratulations to our students, staff, and leadership at Tahoma High School.  Just think, in three more years it will say MAPLE VALLEY instead of Covington!

The chart below shows the growth in our program during the years of this ranking.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The other half . . .

We sometimes forget about principal evaluation with all the attention given to the teacher evaluation component of TPEP.  This year we have two principals on comprehensive status using the framework from the Association of Washington Principals.  It too has eight criteria.

1. Creating a Culture: Influence, establish and sustain a school culture conducive to continuous improvement for students and staff.
2. Ensuring School Safety: Lead the development and annual update of a comprehensive safe schools plan that includes prevention, intervention, crisis response and recovery.
3. Planning with Data: Lead the development, implementation and evaluation of the data- driven plan for improvement of student achievement.
4. Aligning Curriculum: Assist instructional staff in aligning curriculum, instruction and assessment with state and local learning goals.
5. Improving Instruction: Monitor, assist and evaluate staff implementation of the school improvement plan, effective instruction and assessment practices.
6. Managing Resources: Manage human and fiscal resources to accomplish student achievement goals.
7. Engaging Communities: Communicate and partner with school community members to promote student learning.
8. Closing the Gap: Demonstrate a commitment to closing the achievement gap.

As with teacher evaluation our focus is on growth over time with an emphasis on criteria 5, Improving Instruction.  I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work with these two principals in this implementation year as we learn how to make this process another positive contributor to our learning organization journey.  In our effort to gain feedback we recently asked teachers working with these two principals on comprehensive evaluations to respond to the questions and information request below.  Though a small sample, the responses reflect a positive experience and suggest that we are succeeding in our effort to maintain a focus on teacher growth.

  • Please share how your planning for and delivery of instruction has been influenced this year by my feedback and conversations with you.
  •  I have helped you grow as a teacher by . . .
  •  We know that feedback is an essential component of growth.  Please share with me any feedback that can help me grow in my capacity to support teacher growth.
  •  The area of TPEP that I found most challenging this year is . . .
  •  The area of TPEP that I found most rewarding this year is . . .

Below, are some of the responses taken from the most recent responses.  They reflect the tone and content of those given to me earlier with both positive and constructive feedback.  The information gives me additional insight into how these two principals are influencing planning and delivery as well as system information to consider as we review first year implementation of TPEP.  Please consider posting a comment if your are a principal or teacher on comprehensive this year sharing your experience.

Influenced this year . . .

  • Through the process of the comprehensive evaluation, my planning has become even more intentional than it has been in previous years. This is especially true for me in the areas of student talk and using success criteria in my classroom. Our conversations have been guided by these areas that I have been working on, which leaves me with food for thought and allows me to further question and refine lessons and their delivery. I have greatly appreciated these focused, ongoing conversations that have occurred both formally and informally. I have implemented some new ideas as a result of our conversations as well, such as assigning A-B partners for student talk on the carpet.
  • The feedback I have received as a result of his classroom visits has helped me see my teaching through the eyes of an experienced teacher/administrator. I have had both positive and constructive feedback and he has guided me to focus on a few critical areas. He has been tactful and direct so that I can efficiently focus my learning, implement strategies for improvement (e.g. how to wait when I ask questions before going right to an answer, how to randomize the process of engaging students, and how to differentiate groups to ensure fuller engagement). 

Most challenging . . .

  • This has been a year/time of big changes. The most obvious challenge is the extra stress and time it takes to complete the process. Although very valuable, it is another stress on a teacher's very complex and ever changing work. There are also some challenges with the system itself, learning how to input documents and evidence, and learning the numbering system of the criteria. I am sure that with time and practice it will become a smoother process.
  • The most challenging thing about TPEP was not knowing everything that needed to be done.  Even thoug I spent countless hours negotiating and sitting in meetings that gave me more information than most on comprehensive, we still did not have have all the answers at the start of the year and that was a challenge. As I reflect back I would have done a different growth goal that was not just a quick snapshot in time but rather a goal that could be measured and evaluated all year.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A bonus . . .

Winning Juniors
I had the opportunity this afternoon to work with one of our principals on a a comprehensive evaluation. During the conversation I learned that later in the afternoon he was facilitating a conversation with a group of math teachers focused on supporting students needing to meet the math graduation standard.  I decided it would be important for me to stay and observe the conversation and was awarded with a bonus because it was also the spirit assembly day where the spring sport teams are introduced.

Balloon toss - no winner
I have been at some of these assemblies over the years, but this one was different as there were many seniors not in attendance.  Some are Camp Casey counselors and others are on a European trip.  In the absence of these seniors it seemed that there was not as much energy in the room to get the students engaged and teacher Mike Seger was also missing to whip them into a frenzy.  The juniors won the competition to see what class was the loudest followed by the seniors and then the sophomores. Even without the normal numbers and noise, it was still a rewarding experience for me being in the presence of these great kids and committed adults.  And, if you are counting with me, yes it is another LAST!

Drum Line setting the tone

Flag and Rifle Team