Tuesday, April 22, 2014

National honors for another school . . .

Congratulations to Shadow Lake Elementary School students and staff for joining a select number of schools recognized as National Green Ribbon Schools.  They join 47 others across the nation in receiving this honor and are one of only two from our state this year.  They also join three others from our system Tahoma Junior High School, Tahoma High School, and Glacier Park Elementary School who received the honor in year one and two of the program.  I know that no other district in the state has this many recipients and wonder if it has been replicated anywhere in the country.

We also were honored at the state level as a Green District Leader, a step below being nominated for national district honors.  Many thought we were in position to be the district nominated by the state for this honor, but Vancouver received distinction.  Wonder what we need to do to make it over that hump and also wonder which of our schools will come forward to continue the tradition of having at least one school receive the honor in each year of the program.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Another reminder . . .

The end of this month brings with it two decisions with the potential to have serious short and long term impacts on public schools in our state.  The first is the legislature's response to the State Supreme Court's directive to supply them with a funding plan to meet the requirements in the McCleary decision. The second is the impending decision by the federal education department on the status of the NCLB waiver.

Yes, it seems like these have been reoccurring themes in my posts over time so why again so soon? Because of this front page article in yesterday's Seattle Times with the following title.

It would not be good to be the first state to lose the waiver, but if those in positions of authority in our state believe this and continue to say it we should soon find out.

Now, Washington may be the first state to have its waiver revoked because it didn’t go as far as the Obama administration wanted when it came to holding teachers accountable for their students’ performance.

“We fully expect to lose it,” said Kristen Jaudon, spokeswoman for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. 
Why is it taking Secretary Duncan so long to make the decision?  Could it be because as he has publicly stated when compared to other states we are doing a good job without needing to use state test scores in teacher evaluation?  Could it be because the accountability requirements of NCLB will never be achieved and it makes no sense to hold a system accountable to them?  Could it be because the federal government should not be in a position to mandate how we evaluate teachers and principals?

It should be all of these plus others, but it is more than likely because he and they are struggling to figure out how to put the state back on the Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) trail to being declared failing schools and school systems.  Once they decide how to hold us accountable to a standard that cannot be achieved we will learn how close we are to joining every other district in the state as a failing school system.

Before the waivers, schools were measured on something called Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) toward the goal of every child passing math and reading tests by this school year — 100 percent proficiency.

No Washington school district with enough students to report test scores reached that mark last year, so they would be considered failing if Washington simply reverts back to the old accountability system.

Doesn't make much sense to me, but I think like someone in Washington State, not Washington D.C.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Announcing awards recipients . . .

Yesterday, OSPI announced the 413 schools to be recognized as 2013 Washington Achievement Award winners.  The awards are  based on a combination of factors that combine the state's Accountability Index with federal accountability criteria embedded in the ESEA waiver.  The Achievement Index ratings are now based on a review of state assessment data over the previous three years with a major focus on growth over time for all students while the previous ratings were focused on the percentage of students meeting standard.

What does this mean for Tahoma?  It means that for the first time we do not have multiple schools being recognized for this honor.  It means that the structures we have in place must change to better support growth over time for all students. Given that I am pleased to share that Tahoma High School is once again being recognized for this honor and will receive their award on April 24th at a ceremony at Timberline High School.  The high school is being honored in the category of “high progress”.  Schools that qualify for this honor are in the top 10% of schools making the most progress in the performance of all students over the last three years in reading and math using both proficiency rates as well as improvement from year to year.  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Falling short . . .

In a March post I once again shared information on the struggles lawmakers face with meeting the State Supreme Court directive by April 30th to present a plan for full funding by the 2018-19 school year.  e knew following the recent session that they would not be able to do this and in this Tacoma News Tribune piece we learn that the response will fall far short of a funding plan.

A joint committee of legislators met with attorneys on Monday to go overt he directive and how to respond. Instead of a funding plan the Court will be presented with a summary of what the legislators have done including bills introduced this year that did not pass.

It will be interesting to see how this resonates considering the Court's previous order and this comment from a Crosscut piece suggesing that those providing guidance to the legislators understand the expectation.

"The court said estimates of a shortfall is not a plan," Kristen Fraser, counsel for the House Appropriations Committee, told the joint report-writing committee.

The joint committee will meet on the 29th to finalize the report if they can reach a consensus on what to include.  Whatever it ends up being, it will fall short of the expectation and create a difficult situation for the Court.  How will the Court respond?  Will all of this end up with full funding by 2018-19 or will we see it play out in a constitutional battle between the Court and legislature?  What do you want to see the Court do in response to the requested funding plan and expected response on April 30th?

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."