Monday, May 31, 2010

Moving to One Community . . .

The comment to my post about One School is one that I think is important for all of us to consider. The part about One Community is very insightful as we think about the need for collaboration with the community. All of us are concerned about the percentage of yes votes on district measures and know that to be successful on a bond measure will require us to find adaptive solutions. Perhaps One Community can be a part of this adaption.

Coincidentally, I shared this same topic with the Board at last Tuesday’s meeting. It was my annual evaluation where I share information in the five areas that are used for assessing how well I am doing. As part of my presentation I shared the need for us to find new ways to connect with the community. This will require both the board members and me to identify and implement new practices. Genio, one of our teachers, said it well and makes the point that all of us share in this need.

We pride ourselves on being strong communicators, but I believe that we need shift our focus to actually connecting. We need to begin forming crucial connections now, not just with those who are already in our school buildings, but with the average Maple Valley citizen. I as a teacher hardly know any community members. If we want their buy in, this needs to be fixed. We need to be deliberate in our connection. We need to be creative and find ways outside of the box to connect. We need to share our schools success with them and help them to feel that success through a connection. We need them to be a part of our future success.

How can we do this? What might a One Community logo look like?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A time to give thanks . . .

At our Rotary meeting on Friday we were reminded by our speaker, Brian Combs, past commander at Tahoma National Cemetery, of what Memorial Day means. He shared information and statistics that drove home the ultimate sacrifice that hundreds of thousands have made for all of us. I know that for me it was important to be reminded of this time for giving thanks is more than just a three day holiday.

It also reminds me once again of the tradition that has been established at our Junior High of placing flags on all the graves at the cemetery. Thanks to Todd and Cary for starting this project and to all the staff for supporting and continuing the tradition. A new project, Where Heroes Rest, a photo journal and film of the history of the Tahoma National Cemetery is also being planned.

I want to thank all those former and current men and women for their service to our country. We owe you much for the sacrifices that you have made to preserve our freedoms and quality of life.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

One school . . .

At the board meeting on Tuesday the outgoing student reps, Chanse Pierson and Alyse Henkel, shared with us the reasons that teachers and students identified for why they love each other. We were particularly pleased with the outcome because the process started earlier this year in a joint student/board work study session. The document can be found towards the bottom of the high school web page.

It is also an outcome of the schools One School focus, an effort this year focused on relationships. Below is an excerpt from a communications shared with students and staff in September.

One School is many things. Originally, it was a meeting between the staff at THS and a group of 50 some students who came together to make the school a better place. Now, One School is the way that we want our school to be.

More than anything what we want, we being students and staff, is respect.
- Respect from one student to another.
- Respect from students to teachers.
- Respect from teachers to students.

This idea of respect translates into the building blocks of another main concept that both teachers and students shared interest in, relationships. Whether they are between students, or students and teachers, they create bonds that change the whole attitude of the school.

This is a worthy goal for any building. What do you think about creating a focus around One District or One Community?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Locking horns . . .

It seems that the AFT is refuting some of the claims in the article I shared in yesterday’s post, The Teachers’ Unions’ Last Stand. I found reference to the claim at EDUWONK , but haven’t found the talking points they identify. Not to be upstaged, the author Steven Brill refutes the AFT claims in this response. The point of contention is a quote that suggests that Randi Weingarten, AFT President, disagrees with President Obama, something that the AFT says is not true.

What will tomorrow bring?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The foundation is weakening . . .

I found this article in the New York Times Magazine, The Teachers' Unions’ Last Stand interesting so I thought I would share it with you. The article is very long, nine pages, so I doubt that many will read all of it, but it does pose an interesting question about the future influence of teacher unions on the Democratic Party. Much of the article is about the failure of New York to win in round one of RttT because of issues with supporting charters and teacher tenure. Interestingly, these are two issues that I believe make our state’s proposal questionable.

The author, on pages 3-5, draws a comparison to a charter and public school in New York housed in the same building. The intent is to demonstrate how much better and cheaper it is to run charters.

To take one representative example, 51 percent of the third-grade students in the public school last year were reading at grade level, 49 percent were reading below grade level and none were reading above. In the charter, 72 percent were at grade level, 5 percent were reading below level and 23 percent were reading above level.

In reference to the influence groups like New Leaders for New Schools has had on Race to the Top we get insight into the what drives people like Schnur. He is also the person who came up with the name for RttT.

The activity set off by the contest has enabled Schnur’s network to press as never before its frontal challenge to the teachers’ unions: they argue that a country that spends more per pupil than any other but whose student performance ranks in the bottom third among developed nations isn’t failing its children for lack of resources but for lack of trained, motivated, accountable talent at the front of the class.

This theme of teacher quality is certainly evident in the grant with 138 of the possible 500 points focused on teacher quality.

“It’s all about the talent,” Secretary Duncan told me. Thus, the highest number of points — 138 of the 500-point scale that Duncan and his staff created for the Race — would be awarded based on a commitment to eliminate what teachers’ union leaders consider the most important protections enjoyed by their members: seniority-based compensation and permanent job security. To win the contest, the states had to present new laws, contracts and data systems making teachers individually responsible for what their students achieve, and demonstrating, for example, that budget-forced teacher layoffs will be based on the quality of the teacher, not simply on seniority.

The article also focuses on page 7 and 8 on the new teacher contract in Washington DC where AFT President Weingarten and Superintendent Rhee agreed to a contract being hailed as the forerunner for change. It eliminates teacher tenure-based job security.

But what happened last month in Washington could signal a new era in which the unions have to worry that Democrats, like Washington’s mayor, Adrian Fenty, not only won’t yield in contract negotiations but will also support laws and programs aimed at forcing accountability. That is the threat posed by the Race. “Deliberately or not, President Obama, whom I supported, has shifted the focus from resources and innovation and collaboration to blaming it all on dedicated teachers,” Weingarten says.

Well, what does this have to do with us? We seem far removed from changes in Washington DC and state capitals across the country. That may be true, but the conversations have started in our state and they will not end unless and until there is a change at the federal level. With a new opportunity for RttT probable for next year the pressure to continue to focus on teacher quality, tenure, and achievement data in teacher evaluation will not disappear. Even if this November’s elections bring change to the balance between Democrats and Republicans in Washington DC it is highly unlikely that Republicans will become the savior of traditional teacher union values.

We are fortunate to have a positive working relationship with our teacher association. I don’t anticipate this changing during the current round of negotiations or in the future as we consider how to align our Classroom 10 initiative with revised supervisory and evaluation models. A foundation of respect and the willingness to think systemically are critical to our success and something that those on the national level might be wise to consider.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Classroom 10 . . .

I have asked Dawn Wakeley to guest blog about the process for bringing additional clarity to our Classroom 10 work. The information will be shared in more detail at tomorrow morning's meetings.

What does Classroom 10 look and sound like in the daily work of our teachers, students, and administrators?

We have had a team of principals and teachers working together to bring clarity to that question by revising the Tahoma Teaching Standards to align with the characteristics of Classroom 10. We are still in rough draft form but want to invite all staff to take a look at the work in progress on SharePoint. We welcome your input on what’s clear, what’s not and any suggestions you might have. During the Friday morning inservice, building principals and teacher leaders will update staff on the work and demonstrate how to access the SharePoint site and provide input through the discussion tool.

The work on the site is truly in rough draft form. During our meetings we broke into teams of 5-7 principals and teachers. For each characteristic, two teams worked independently to create descriptors. The work of both of those teams is reflected on SharePoint and has not yet been synthesized together. We wanted staff to see this rough draft work and have a chance to offer input before synthesizing and polishing. We have identified a small writing team of principals and teachers who will work during the week of June 21st and take their work back to the larger team. We will finalize the language and be ready for roll-out of the new standards to staff in August.

Aligning all the various pieces in our system to fully support the implementation of Classroom 10 is exciting work. Staff will notice that the revised teaching standards have a significantly different look. The team decided that describing Classroom 10 through the lens of teacher behaviors, student behaviors, and instructional practices would support a level of clarity and shared understanding not found in our current document. Over time, we imagine a digital view of the standards document that includes hyperlinks to supporting documents and videos where staff can see snippets of classroom practice or teachers describing their work with a particular characteristic. We are very interested in ideas staff might have that support creating a clear picture of the expectations with Classroom 10.
Please share your good ideas with us!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Is Social Media a Fad?

I was introduced to another of those Did You Know type of videos in this Education Week post. This one is about social media that poses the question; Is social media a fad? There are some compelling quotes, many of which cause me to reflect on my use or lack of use.

80% of companies use social media for recruitment (and 95% of that percentage use LinkedIn)
I don’t really know what LinkedIn is. I have read about it, no I have read the term, but never stopped to see what it is. I’m the guy with a Facebook page that I have done nothing with, don’t friend or follow others, and don’t know how to use. I can't remember how I even ended up with a page. I have some work to do!

Based on some of the information from the video, I think that our school system also needs, particularly some of us in the central office, to examine how these sites can enhance our work and efforts to increase communication and collaboration.

*Generation Y and Z consider e-mail passé. Some universities have stopped issuing e-mail accounts. Instead they are distributing: eReaders, Ipads, and Tablets.
*Facebook tops Google for weekly traffic in the US
*1 out of 8 couples in the US met via social media

I guess that I am just not tuned in. Not only that, I just found out that there are over 200 million blogs in the world. I guess my little effort isn’t much of a big deal. It sure made me feel pretty good until I read this statistic. Maybe I better get with the Facebook thing.

I find myself agreeing with the following statement in the video.
* Social media isn’t a fad; it’s a fundamental shift in the way we communicate.

What does this mean for us who are in the business of preparing young people for success in their current and future lives?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Is a four-year degree the only route to success?

A recent post at League of Education Voters shared information from the Department of Labor demonstrating the importance of post high school learning to weekly earnings and unemployment rates.

This is in contrast to an AP article questioning whether college is really important for all students. Though the article is centered in Columbus, Missouri, similar conversations take place across the country. A high school student chooses to go to a technical school instead of college disappointing the parents and questioning the commonly held perception that only a college degree leads to success and happiness.

She has a 3.5 grade-point-average, a college savings account and a family tree teeming with advanced degrees. But in June, Hodges is headed to the Tulsa Welding School in Oklahoma, where she hopes to earn an associate's degree in welding technology in seven months.

"They fought me so hard," she said, referring to disappointed family members. "They still think I'm going to college."

Hodges has been set on a welding career since she was 13. She craves independence and has little patience for fellow students who seem to wind up in college more from a sense of obligation than anything else.

"School is what they've been doing their whole lives," she said. "So they just want to continue. Because that's what they are used to."

Sue Popkes doesn't hide her disappointment over her younger daughter's decision. At the same time, she realizes that Hodges may achieve more financial security than a college degree could ever provide.

I find myself more and more in agreement with those suggesting that the traditional college route is not value added for all students. Though I believe that post high school learning will be essential, it does not need to be in a four year college. Consider the following information from the article.

But federal statistics show that just 36 percent of full-time students starting college in 2001 earned a four-year degree within that allotted time. Even with an extra two years to finish, that group's graduation rate increased only to 57 percent.

Spending more time in school also means greater overall student debt. The average student debt load in 2008 was $23,200 — a nearly $5,000 increase over five years. Two-thirds of students graduating from four-year schools owe money on student loans.

And while the unemployment rate for college graduates still trails the rate for high school graduates (4.9 percent versus 10.8 percent), the figure has more than doubled in less than two years.

"A four-year degree in business — what's that get you?" asked Karl Christopher, a placement counselor at the Columbia Area Career Center vocational program. "A shift supervisor position at a store in the mall."

This college debate will continue for the foreseeable future, perhaps until such time that the data in the table above shows a smaller differential or we discover additional ways to measure success.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

We joined . . .

The School Board, TEA, and the Principal Association have agreed to sign on to the state’s RttT grant that the governor, state superintendent, and many others have encouraged all districts to do. We didn’t need to be lobbied because we see it as an opportunity to support our work. By signing on, we reserve a place in the process, we have not committed to any plan or initiative. When the state is successful in securing the grant funding we will come together to make decisions that are in the best interests of our school system.

GLAD is . . .

Two people posted comments to my question about GLAD. They both provide insights into why this initiative has become so popular with elementary teachers. I want to share parts of each because they help us understand from the teacher context the potential of this program to support learning for ALL children. Though the program was developed to support English language acquisition, those using it in our district tell us it enhances learning for all students.

Christel Winkey at Winkey’s Wonderers shares her experience this year including the following.

GLAD is an amazing collection of strategies that really push our students in what Tahoma stands for. The level of impact these strategies have had on my students' learning has shown me the importance of GLAD and I am grateful to have the opportunity to become a district GLAD trainer.

Laura Bowden shared the following based more on observation than experience as she will be taking the training this summer.

I love working in a district with such high standards and rich curriculum. What has been missing is a way to make this kid friendly and exciting. From what I have observed about GLAD is that kids retain basic information, they have a voice in their learning, and are building schema that sticks with them. This is the bridge for our kids to attain such complex learning that is expected of them.

Are the GLAD strategies a critical link that should become part of the district’s professional development model? I encourage others to share their experiences so that we can better understand why this has become so powerful and make decisions on how to move forward with this learning opportunity.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I am amazed at the response of our elementary teachers to the opportunities for GLAD (Guided Language Acquisition Design) training. This summer we have 43 teachers attending two-day trainings in June and July and 50 signed up for the five-day training in July. The district is supporting the training costs and the teachers are giving their time to learn about this program.

I can’t remember any initiative in our system that has generated this level of enthusiasm and commitment in such a short period of time. What is driving this behavior? We need to bottle it for use in other initiatives. I have some ideas after attending some of the training this year in our district and observing some of our teachers implement what they learned, but would like to hear from you.

For those who have already attended or for those who have heard the stories, what is it about GLAD that has resulted in this level of commitment? If you had to describe what the program is for someone with no information, what words would you use?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Pressure to sign on mounts . . .

As the application date nears, the pressure mounts for districts to sign on. This media clip is just one of the many requests that I have seen and received in the past two weeks as the leaders of the state’s RttT grant attempt to get all 295 schools districts and associations to sign on. The belief is that without association support the likelihood of a successful grant is not very good. This comes from reviewing round one winners and Secretary Duncan’s comments in this media release announcing them, where he starts with a comment about the statewide buy-in for both.

It also seems like there are more states making the decision to not apply for round two funding. Andy Smarick at FLYPAPER believes that there will be between 33 and 40 applications. This is good for us as we know our state will apply and the fewer other states that apply the greater chance of success for us. Could I be getting more optimistic?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Celebrating excellence . . .

Yesterday, I had the honor of being in attendance while three of our schools were recognized by OSPI and the State Board of Education for academic excellence over a two year period. Tahoma Middle School, Glacier Park Elementary, and Rock Creek Elementary were three of the 174 schools in our state identified for this honor.

The recognition is the result of a program implemented in 2009 that will continue with each school indexed each year based on the five outcomes of student performance on the state’s reading, writing, math, and science assessments, and a school’s extended graduation rate. The outcomes are each then measured using the four indicators of achievement of low income students, non low income students, schools with similar characteristics, and improvement over time. The index for each school is the average of the twenty measures.

If you are interested, each of the principals has the data for their school so you can see the index number. Below, is an example of the matrix.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A week to give . . .

Today is day three of Teacher Appreciation Week and my opportunity to share my appreciation for the commitment and work done by teachers every day of the school year. It is one of the few times recently at the national level, that we are able to focus on the great work of teachers and the impact that these dedicated individuals have on the lives of young people.

We expect much from our teachers; too often without the same level of support and with little acknowledgment and appreciation for their efforts. I know that I can and need to do more in both the area of support and appreciation. We are moving in this direction through our efforts to engage the teacher voice at the system level in the curriculum and instruction decisions that drive classroom interactions between students and teachers. We understand the need for and are committed to teachers assuming leadership roles and influencing our Classroom 10 journey.

I thank the teachers and certified staff of our school district for the success we enjoy in our community and for the positive reputation we have in our state. I have the opportunity that most do not have of hearing from others across the state and at the national level about how good we are. I am learning to accept this and not focus so much on how much more we have to do and I am so very fortunate to be a small part of this learning organization.

This week is for teachers and ours have earned the right to take pride and enjoyment in the acknowledgments and thanks for work well done!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

No social networking . . .

A middle school principal in New Jersey recently sent an e-mail to parents asking them to ban social networking sites for their children. The e-mail is at the end of the newspaper story found here.

"Please do the following: sit down with your child (and they are just children still) and tell them that they are not allowed to be a member of any social networking site. Today!

"Let them know that you will at some point every week be checking their text messages online! You have the ability to do this through your cell phone provider.

I found reference to the article at The Thinking Stick where Jeff Utecht disagrees with the principal’s decision. He contrasts this principal’s request with the decision in Oregon to connect all public school children to Google Apps. Utecht shares the following.

So basically I take two things away from this video:

1. Parents are the problem and need to be told by the school how to raise their children.
2. That because “2% of kids are going to say something” we want you to ban all social-networking sites.

I find myself struggling with where I stand on this continuum of no monitoring to no use. I do not endorse the requested ban, but do believe that parents should and need to have some understanding of how their children are using these sites. For me, it reinforces the need for schools to play an essential role in educating young people about safe and appropriate use of these tools.