Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Census data suggests . . .

Here is something to think about from Daniel Pink’s blog related to the recent census.

Today, while 19.9% of Americans over 65 are racial minorities, 48.3% of kids under age 5 are.

Now imagine the complexion of this country 40 years from now, when (most of) those older folks are gone and (most of) those youngsters are in charge.

The article he sites contains some additional interesting information and links to other sites. For example, minorities make up more than half the population in about 10% of the counties nationwide, in four states and the District of Columbia, and in more than 500 counties there is a majority of minority children.

Nationally, we are moving towards a society where no group will be classified as a majority. These numbers are significantly different than we find in the communities making up our school system, yet we share the responsibility to prepare our young people for that world. We have a diversity committee that has been quietly meeting for three years to assist us in understanding how to embrace diversity and make ALL our students feel welcome and safe. We are also creating a focus on global citizenship in our curriculum to prepare students for working nationally and internationally with groups. These efforts are a start, but we have much yet to do. Critical in this effort will be the inclusion of the student, parent, and community voice. Sounds like another reason to consider a One Community initiative.

I’ll leave one last question for consideration. What will it be like in fifteen plus years when the 48.3% of kids comprising racial minorities currently under age five, are of voting age?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Real high stakes . . .

Just when we think that our tests are high stake Yong Zhao shares another insight into the Chinese education system. In this article we learn about the practice of qiajian which means skim the top in English. It is a common practice in China where incentives are given to high scoring students and their families to enroll in a particular school. Incentives can include free schooling, signing bonuses, free apartments for parents, and jobs for parents.

What is interesting is that qiajian starts in the transition from elementary school to middle school and continues through the transition from high school to college. It certainly makes the one test used to identify the winners something worth studying for. Zhao, however, shares his concern for the negative impact of this system on China and the limitation of the test that usually only includes sections on Math, Chinese, and English. The system reinforces the importance of tests just as the government is attempting to move away from them to promote creativity and innovation, but with little success.

Though we don’t have the same incentive system in place, our growing reliance on a single test to determine success creates similar stress for students and their families. Zhao also raises an interesting question – what if charters started to skim the top.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Not connected . . .

I found this information and video on Ian Juke’s Committed Sardine. Once again, it is the kind of information that causes me some anxiety because I am not connected to others except through e-mail and loosely through this blog. I have a twitter and Facebook account, but don’t use them. As I have shared before I can’t remember when and how I created the accounts and truth be told don’t know HOW to use them. I have many requests to be “friended”, including my own family that just get lost. I hope I am not creating enemies by people thinking that I don’t care or don't want to friend them.

The premise of the video featuring Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook CEO, is that e-mail is probably going away. This is worrisome as it is my primary communication source. Data to support the premise includes; only 11% of teens use e-mail daily and product research suggests that sites such as Facebook are much more effective at increasing sales than e-mail. Yikes, I’m in trouble. Hopefully, there are enough of us “older” technology users to keep me from losing touch.

Even though Sandberg certainly is promoting Facebook in the video, the five minutes viewing it were worth it to me. The scope of those using it is unbelievable to me. If she were here I would be able to answer her first question with a no becasue I haven’t looked up my first girl friend, something she suggests that all users do. I would have to know what I am doing to look her up.

Am I hopeless? Is it imperative that I get connected? Saying I don’t have the time to monitor one more thing is how I have rationalized so far, should I be changing?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Summer learning . . .

Today was day two of the third annual 10 Tech Summer Conference, a wonderful learning and sharing opportunity for our staff. This year, for the first time, we also have people from other districts participating in the sessions. Over 100 people are attending this year, testimony to the need for technology support and to the quality of the learning sessions.

I am proud of the focus on this work and the commitment of so many of our staff to spend the first few days of break continuing their learning. We have many people to thank for this great opportunity beginning with Kimberly Allison. Kimberly is the vision and commitment behind the summer conference and spends many hours planning, coordinating, and supporting those that teach sessions. Of course, it takes many others to put this learning opportunity together and to ensure that it operates smoothly. Three people that provide much of this support are Walt Szklarski, Ethan Smith, and Cindy Barnhart.

Each day of the session there are many options to choose from taught by different members of our staff. Thank you for your commitment and willingness to share your experience and expertise to support the learning of your colleagues.

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the contribution of Dawn Wakeley in supporting the work of Walt, Kimberly, and Ethan. She provides guidance and serves as their coach as they supply leadership for embedding technology into the learning experiences provided in our classrooms. We have created a highly effective instructional team to support this work that will be enhanced next year with the addition of Christine Thurston.
The team is now shifting their focus to plan for a community technology conference where parents, students, and community members can come together in a new learning experience.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Standards not high enough?

In this post on Education Week, Alexander Russo asks an interesting question about the rigor of our state’s 10th grade assessments. He questions whether it is still “High Stakes” when greater than 90% of seniors met the standard in reading and writing. Of course, the results are much lower in math, 70%, raising a concern for the new end of course assessment requirement for graduation in the future.

I thought the intent of NCLB was to get ALL students to standard as a requirement of graduation. So, if 90+% results in questions about rigor of the standards where does it stop? Maybe I’m reading something onto the post that was not intended, but I don’t think so. It is an interesting dilemma, however, as we move towards national standards. When states begin to score at this rate on those standards, that I believe he supports, will he raise the same question?
I encourage you to read the Seattle P.I. article referenced in the post. It provides a lot of information on our state’s assessment results including this year’s 10th grade scores on the High School Proficiency exam where 78% met standard in reading, 84% in writing, and only 43% in math. Preliminary 10th grade scores for Tahoma High School scores were 87% in reading, 87% in writing, and 49% in math.

With more time, additional support, and after more attempts we expect the reading and writing percentages will improve. Math, however, remains a problem at the state and district level in math. The problem will become more of an issue in the short term as we move to end-of-course assessments.

In Superintendent Dorn’s words:

He warned that high school math scores could get worse before they get better, because of a change in the way students will be tested, beginning next year.

The state of Washington will be changing to end-of-course exams for algebra and geometry as a replacement for the general math test. Dorn believes the new tests will be more challenging than the high school math exam, which includes a lot of general math along with some algebra and geometry.

And there's an additional problem he's been talking about for the past year: many of the first students taking the end-of-course exams will take them in 10th grade, years after they completed algebra or geometry in 8th or 9th grade. This issue will disappear eventually, but Dorn worries about next year's 10th graders.

He also is worried about the Class of 2013 being able to meet the standards necessary for graduation that include reading, writing, math, and science. That should concern all of us. And, how will the shift to the common core standards influence the results?

"We will expect more than 90 percent of the class of 2013 to be proficient in math by the time they reach graduation. I'm not confident that will happen," he said.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pay for performance studies show . . .

I found this article on Education Week of interest because of all the clamor for performance pay models and the recent release of the districts in our state that will pilot a new state evaluation model. The article shares a research report that can be found here. The study found that a performance-based compensation model planned when current Education Secretary Duncan was superintendent in Chicago showed no evidence of boosting achievement in reading or math.

It is interesting because he and President Obama have been supportive of this and other models. There is also significant revenue being given to systems to implement the model.
Please know that there is at least one other study of the Teacher Advancement Program using a different design that showed positive effects at the elementary level. Critics of the study are also finding other issues in how the model was implemented and compensation awarded to question the results.

A Chicago spokesperson shared the following.
“The report acknowledges that programs such as TAP take time to change attitudes and alter a school’s culture,” he said. “Measurables such as test scores and teacher retention might be better thought of as longer-term or final outcomes.”

And, from the federal department we get this response.

“We know TAP and other reforms are hard work. We can’t expect immediate results,” said Peter Cunningham, a spokesman for the federal Education Department. “That’s why we’re committed to evaluating programs over the long term and identifying ones that deliver the results for children.”

I don’t want to debate the findings or merits of the TAP program. That is for others to do. I have shared on earlier posts that I favor using student achievement data to hold ourselves accountable, but I am struggling with how to do that in all of the classrooms our young engage in learning. We need to have schools and districts creating and testing models, but we should not be throwing money out there when there is little data to suggest that it makes a difference or that much more must be learned. See these articles here, and here, and here. To provide some balance, here is an international one that suggests it can work.

Instead of focusing on a model or even a few, we should be encouraging the development of many, studying the results over time, and then supporting implementation of those that experience success. Support will be critical because of the cultural changes that will be required. We know from previous change efforts not nearly as comprehensive as this, that simply taking a model that works in one place to another will not result in success without guidance and support over time. So, given all this I do not believe that we need to jump on this ship. We have our own journey and the first leg is to align our evaluation model with the Classroom 10 documents.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sir Ken Robinson on TED Talks . . .

Sir Ken Robinson has another TED Talk that you might find interesting. Both this and an earlier talk on schools killing creativity are humorous and in the 18-20 minute range. He is also the author of The Element –How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.

In the more recent TED Talk he shares his belief that we need a learning revolution; that we need to disenthrall ourselves from the ideas that we take for granted related to education. He suggests that the current view of education is one of linearity. We start here, end here, and are then set for life if we attend college. It is a system obsessed with getting kids to college at the same time. The system is also one of conformity; it is one of batching people based on an industrial/manufacturing model.

He contends that we need to move from a fast food model of education (linear) to a more organic model because life in today’s world is far from linear. Going to college and getting any degree no longer brings with it the options that it once provided. In an organic model we would create conditions under which all students would flourish. The curriculum would be personalized to meet the education needs of all students.

In his 2006 talk he suggests that creativity is as important as literacy and should be treated as such. One of his points is that as children age we begin to educate them progressively from the waist up followed by a focus on their heads and slightly to one side. Since the public education systems of the world came about to meet the needs of an industrial age they are built on focusing on preparation for success in that world. So what were important are those subjects that prepared you for work. You wouldn’t do music or art because that wouldn’t lead to a job.

The system was also predicated on academic ability which dominates our view of intelligence. This results in many highly talented and creative people who do not see themselves as intelligent because of their experiences in schooling. He claims that these views of intelligence are arcane and need to align with today’s world. His thoughts are similar to what Daniel Pink shared in his book A Whole New Mind.

I enjoyed both talks and believe that they validate our Classroom 10 journey and our belief that we need to provide options for young people that include opportunities for learning in the arts. We need to create environments where passion can be nurtured for both students and adults. Though we are on this journey and have much yet to accomplish, I don’t believe that we are a model for the systems he is describing in these two talks. We have a vision that embeds much of what he believes. Getting to the personalized, organic education model, however, is far removed from our work. Perhaps he has some suggestions that might emerge in alter talk or book.

This passion thing is huge. We know that students will spend time on those things that they are passionate about. We also know this to be true for adults in our system. How can we capture this to provide fuel for our journey? This might be one of those posts to spend some time on if we get some comments, and passion might be a place to start.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Another mistake . . .

I made a very bad mistake in my graduation post. I attributed the wonderful idea of a time capsule with audio tapes of her first graders to Shirley Hatch, a retired Tahoma teacher. Thanks to Jonathan and Kevin I find out that it was actually Nancy Hash who had the idea for the time capsule. Nancy is a teacher at Rock Creek Elementary. So, if you were at graduation, please let her know how much you enjoyed listening to the graduates as first graders.

Nancy, so sorry for the error. I sit with the board members on the stage behind the speakers and unless they are looking to the side and you can see their face it is sometimes very hard to understand what is being said. I guess that that must have something to do with performers wearing ear plugs or whatever they are. When Terry said Nancy Hash I thought he said Shirley Hatch. Once again, sorry.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Graduation 2010 . . .

I know the school year has is coming to a conclusion when I have the honor of attending graduation ceremonies at the White River Amphitheater. Even with the weather, wind and rain, it was an enjoyable event. The speeches were great, just the right mix of laughter and seriousness for the occasion. In his speech, Mr. Duty shared audio that some of the graduates had recorded as 1st graders in Shirley Hatch’s class. They were very enjoyable and brought much laughter from all of us. The other speakers were David Mahoney, valedictorian, Mike Seger chosen by the graduates, and Didem Pierson, Board President and mother of a graduate.

Congratulations to the graduates and thanks to those who supported them on their learning journey.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sustainability recognition . . .

As you may already have read, our district was recently recognized as the first school district in the county to achieve Level 1 status as a district in the King County Green Schools program. This means that all buildings in the district and the district itself have met the level one requirements for waste reduction and recycling practices. As a district, we have saved approximately $50,000 this year in garbage rates.

Though I am the one that was privileged to accept the award, it really should have been presented to someone from Glacier Park. They were the first to start the program and are much further along than any of the other buildings or the district. They have increased their recycling rate from 10% to 68%, saving about $7000 annually.

The person behind this, or in front of the curve, is the head custodian at the school, Connie Jo Erickson. She promoted the program and convinced those in leadership positions that this was something that must be done. She was persistent and is certainly the person that deserves the recognition and thanks for providing leadership for this initiative. Her commitment resulted in a vision that we are beginning to realize with this recognition.

THANKS Connie Jo.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Choosing what to share . . .

I am in the habit of posting on Sunday evening after reviewing e-mail and my RSS feeds. If I don’t have anything that I want to share about our district or myself, I review my blog file folder to see what might be of interest to share. The file now has over 20 items so there is much to potentially share.

As I review them this evening, I find myself reflecting on what, out of the hundreds I review, do I end up putting in the file. There is the latest on the common core standards that were released last week in final format; Race to the Top, leadership, merit pay, and the list goes on. I choose things that are of interest to me and that at some time will have an influence on my work as a leader in our system and/or that will influence decisions we will be making in our system.

With that said, I’ve decided today to share this 10 minute video about Daniel Pink’s book Drive. The focus of the book is on motivation and the video shares some of his thinking about motivation, performance and innovation. I wonder if those pushing for merit pay have read the book. There is much for us to consider about motivation as it relates to students and to the work that we are doing to align our Classroom 10 and teacher supervision documents.

If you could influence the content of my posts what would you want see?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A boat for the future . . .

Jonathan posed interesting questions in a comment to my last post about signing on to the state’s Race to the Top proposal. He built on what Scott said in his opening comment using a nautical analogy, so reading the comments in order will help with the context. The questions he posed are:

Will the lawmakers ever go to the shipbuilders and ask what craft will best get us to where we're going? Or are the fickle winds of change (and re-election campaigns) blowing our captain-less rafts against the rocky shoals of failed educational reform?

The questions refer to the legislative changes in HB 2261 that emerged as the blueprint for change in the 2009 session. This year the HB 2776 passed to take the beginning steps at funding the reforms in 2261. If we asked those who were engaged in developing the legislation and approving the measures they would likely say that the teacher voice was in the room when the legislation was crafted. This could mean WEA or teachers selected to be on committees that gave input into the reform package. But, for most of us the conversations are far removed from our day-to-day work and there was little engagement or sharing of the process or the outcomes.

I believe that the direction of the reforms and the focus on funding is positive. Getting there will be a difficult journey, one that can be supported by seeking outside funding sources to support the work. So, I support the direction, am concerned with whether the legislators will have the capacity to make the difficult decisions to provide a stable funding source, and agree with Jonathan that real change must come from the local level. Of course, that raises the question of what does teacher voice mean at the local level in the decisions focused on the use of time and autonomy once the classroom door closes. In our work it seems that there are plenty of things to talk about.

In Scott’s last comment he shares a short Washington Post article where the author identifies what he sees as positive results of the RttT initiative and then his prediction that it is too little to have significant impact on public education. The title of the article, “Race to the Top: A sprint when we need a marathon”, captures the essence of his concern.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The grant is in . . .

Yesterday, Governor Gregoire submitted our state’s Race to the Top application. Here is a short summary of the proposal that shows the following level of support across the state.

Signatures on Partnership Agreements Percent
School district superintendent 100%
School board president (238 of 265) 90%
Teacher union president; districts with unions (171 of 249) 69%
Principal representative (223 of 258) 86%

All the listed positions signed for our district. It is interesting to see that all superintendents signed on, but not all school board presidents and principals. I would struggle with not having alignment and would think that it could influence distribution to the locals if the state’s proposal were to be funded. Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia have applied in round two.

In this AP article we learn that the education department believes that 10-15 grants will be awarded. We will find out later this summer if we are one of the winners.