Thursday, July 29, 2010

Learning community forming . . .

The summer GLAD training concluded while I was at the conference. What is impressive to me is the learning community that is beginning to form around this instructional model. The teachers engaged in the training share a belief that the strategies will influence learning of all students in their classrooms, shared and supportive leadership is emerging, resources are being committed to this collective learning effort, and the focus is on classroom practice and student achievement. Reading those should tell me why I shouldn’t be surprised by the energy around the initiative and the willingness of so many teachers to give two weeks of their summer for this learning opportunity.

In a comment to an earlier post this is some of what Amy shared the following.

Last year my teaching partner was trained in December and what she brought to my students in reading and math through GLAD was completely amazing. My kids loved math and reading and learned SO much!

In another comment Jan included this.

A partner teacher who is training to be a trainer and I switch reading and writing. The small bits she shared with me to try in my classroom were fun for me and engaging for the students. This approach definitely reinforces the habits of mind and Tahoma outcomes. It reinforces these behaviors throughout the year in very visible, tangible ways for elementary students. I can't wait to set up my room and get started.

I also received two e-mails thanking us for providing the summer learning opportunity and sharing their enthusiasm which echoes that of Amy, Jan, and others.
As we think about the future, it will be important for us to begin collecting data around the impact of this model on student attitude and student achievement. We have the opportunity to, over time; make program decisions based on this data. You may want to revisit the questions I asked on the July 8th post because a plan will be made focused on system decisions related to this instructional model.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

An adult perspective . . .

Julie Lee

When Mike asked me to attend the SOL Conference in Chicago in the middle of the summer with high school students, I have to admit that I was less than enthusiastic. After all, the month of July is when I usually take a mental and physical break from school and spend time with my family. However, I discovered that I was with four extraordinary young people who I learned a lot from about sustainability. They were outstanding contributors to both small group and large group activities and represented Tahoma High School well. Their energy along with the passion and enthusiasm of all the students from each school site was enough to convince me and other adults in the room that we must preserve our environment and embrace sustainable practices for future generations. As an educator, I must help students understand that they live within a large system and that their environment needs to be preserved. The collaboration between Peter Senge and The Cloud Institute is an exciting partnership to further awareness and education in schools about sustainable communities. In Tahoma we are beginning to make strides in developing curriculum that integrates these concepts into both science and social studies lessons.

Tracy Waters of the Waters Foundation presented an outstanding seminar on “Habits of a Systems Thinker”. She explained that students of all ages can understand systems thinking when it is presented in a relevant context. She used the example of three first graders in conflict with each other who had a mental model about each other and how it affected their current reality and the future. She helped them to change their perspectives to increase their understanding of their conflict. They were able to look for patterns and trends in their behaviors as well as identify leverage points to develop a resolution. In an unrehearsed video of the three boys, Tracy demonstrated how even the youngest of children can understand that we are interdependent and that our actions and behaviors affect a larger system. The Waters Foundation is a helpful resource to teachers who want to design lessons around systems thinking habits, concepts and tools in the classroom.

Our Green Team is becoming an active club on our campus and I want to support them in their efforts. I marvel at their enthusiasm and I can see how systems thinking is an important concept to introduce to our high school community. The Green Team steering committee is currently asking themselves these questions: What contributions can our school make to become a sustainable community? How can we build community connections and commitment to foster on-going innovation in our school? In what ways can we inspire our classmates to think about the world, their relationship to it, and their ability to influence it in an entirely new way? These questions and many others sprouted (no pun intended) in our time together invariably over an excellent meal after an inspiring day of education and awareness. We experienced many outstanding, gourmet meals from socially and ecologically conscious restaurants in the Chicago area who embrace using produce from organic, urban gardeners and meat from local farmers.

It was an added bonus to meet and speak with Dr. Peter Senge, Senior Lecturer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology after reading and studying work on systems theory in “principal credential school”. During the conference, Peter’s formal presentations and informal conversations about systems thinking really amplified what I read from his book “The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators” and has helped me to reflect more deeply upon my role as an instructional leader in my school. Dr. Senge’s book titled, “The Necessary Revolution” is my next summer reading.

How did I spend part of my July, you ask? I spent a remarkable week albeit hot and muggy in Chicago with an amazing group of students, Mike Maryanski and Mary Jane Glaser. It was a valuable, educational trip that I hope others in our “system” will have an opportunity to attend in the future!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Not a winner . . .

Secretary Duncan announced today those states that made the cut to be considered for round 2 funding under RttT. Unfortunately, Washington was not one of the 19 that made the cut. As I have shared in previous posts, this is not a surprise given the criteria and our state's focus.

A summary of the announcement can be found here. In the article, Secretary Duncan says the following.

"As we look at the last 18 months, it is absolutely stunning to see how much change has happened at the state and local levels, unleashed in part by these incentive programs," Duncan said.

Yes, much has been done rapidly in many states, both those still in the running and those not such as ours. Only time will tell if these "reforms" will find their way into classrooms and influence achievement. With money being the primary motive for the change initiatives, I find myself questioning how successful states will be without the additional revenue anticipated in the grant proposals.

Two additional student voices . . .

This is a long post, something that I know is not suggested by those that are considered blog experts, but I want to share what the other team members have to say about the conference. I encourage you to read what both Kaylie and Cort have to share, I think you will be impressed.

Kaylie Holcomb

Kaylie Holcomb, soon to be junior at Tahoma High School, at your service. After reading my friends entries, I’m not sure what to add that would be new and interesting, but I’ll try my best.

The first day, there was nothing more I would have liked than to stay in bed, for my mood was anything but pleasant. However, after an introduction by Peter, making new friends, and several cups of coffee, I was feeling much better.
The rest of the day consisted mostly of socializing and introductions. The next day is when we really began kicking off with mental models and systems thinking. And so the week began for real.

While at the conference, I learned a plurality of skills and lessons. Some of my favorite ares: how to get kids excited about being Green, listening skills, leadership skills, and how awesome chickens can be.

Speaking of which, learning about the chickens was the best part for me. In fact, an idea I now have for my senior project and for a personal project in Green Team is to build a chicken coop at Shadow Lake Elementary (my old and personal favorite school). I want to have the kids there take care of the chickens, learning responsibility and love for animals.

I would also like to grow a type of crop there, like potatoes or corn. This would teach the kids that it is indeed possible to grow your own food, and that it can be fun! It’s pretty amazing how few kids realize that they can grow their own food and that it can be even more delicious than store bought.

I also want to teach them, on an elementary level, where their meat/food comes from and compare the lives of that livestock/produce to the life of the ones they take care of/ grow.
All the things I learned at the conference are things I plan to use in my future. I want to teach others these skills. And with them, hopefully change the world, one chicken at a time.

Cort Hammond

The SOL conference reminded me of the lessons learned at last year’s conference and gave me energy and experience which I cannot wait to put to use. Our site group this year was exceptional, even before the conference began we were discussing problems and ideas concerning school and the environmental initiatives at the school. Now after all the seriousness, the jokester, Mr. Maryanski, wouldn’t let us off the hook; we were going to have some good laughs. We had deep dish pizza for dinner and we underestimated the size. Seeing skin-and-bones Cort, Mr. Maryanski insisted that I finish the pizza. Using my environmentalist streak against me, he urged, “You would hate to waste all of the food.” I managed to eat three slices and I became the leftover disposal.

Of course conversation concerning the District’s goal picked up with the start of the conference. Immediately we set about determining what we have accomplished at our school. I must say, the results were heartening, as a District there has been steady progress in the realm of sustainability and education in systems thinking. Indeed this helped determine what our goals were by separating the current situation from the vision of what we hoped to achieve. What were our goals? We envisioned Tahoma Schools with: students using logic, systems thinking, and knowledge about sustainability to make conclusions, or decisions about more complex problems. We all agreed that the environment in which students are educated ought to be more sustainable.

We students were much more interested in coming up with concrete actions to be carried out in pursuit of our goal. Even though this was often appropriate seeing how we were more concerned with organizing activities, we were reminded that we should avoid looking for a quick fix action and look for the fundamental solution. It certainly was helpful to review the applications of systems thinking.

I am primarily concerned with the actions students can take to make their school and community more sustainable. So when examining systems present in society, I thought up a few systems that are related to the environmental movement in the District. When concentrating on the District’s recycling efforts, we recognized some faults in the system. For example: as students come up from the junior high, they are no longer forced to recycle, and they resent being forced to do anything. So, they often refuse to recycle. We realized that by simply changing the attitudes of authority, fewer students might be lost.

Of course, there comes a time when precise actions must be decided upon. For this reason, I was glad to have two Green Team members at the conference with me. Our greatest challenge last year was keeping members engaged. So, after having the opportunity to join in another school’s icebreaker demonstration, we planned to include such activities in our first meeting. Furthermore, we resolved to hold team days when members could get together for outdoor activities. Otherwise, we hope to make volunteer events more accessible and more frequent. Our other focus is education. To educate the student body, we plan to work with the Global and Outdoor Academies to train leaders in Advisory activities.

The student-led presentations that were given by other school groups were very helpful. The Hewlett group screened a video of first graders promoting the use of reusable bags. A group from St. Louis presented about the benefits of raising chickens at the school as a means of education on sustainability. Certainly we are a ways off from implementing such a program, but it is likely that one of my peers will begin dialogue with the Elementary school about raising chickens.

The learning journey (a sort of field trip) took us to the Growing Homes organization in the impoverished and violence-ridden area of Inglewood. I was astounded by the perseverance with which the organization sought to teach skills to land a job and teach the community to eat healthier food. This gave me insight into how the less fortunate can be more motivated than those with plenty. It is imperative that we find a way to circumvent this dilemma; young people can not be brought up without awareness and a sense of stewardship for their environment in which they learn, work, and breathe.

Thus, after five days of talking with members of schools and organizations across the country, the confluence of ideas, passion, and guidance has indubitably given me and my peers the necessary creative tension to catapult ourselves into another year of community involvement and leadership.

Monday, July 26, 2010

RttT round 2 finalists . . .

In case you didn't know, Race to the Top finalists will be announced tomorrow in a speech by Secretary Duncan. The authors of this article in Education Week are guessing that there will be twenty finalists because Duncan has said there will be 10 to 15 winners in this second round. Washington did not make their cut and I agree with their assessment of our state.

Mike Petrilli at Flypaper also suggests that for political reasons there will be many finalists announced. A lot of money rests on these decisions.

Sharing by two students . . .

The following are some thoughts from two of the students, Chase and Cassandra, about the SOL conference. Once again I apologize for the picture quality.

Chase Pierson

This was my first time associating with Green Team so when I received the invitation to join them on a very exclusive sustainability conference, I didn’t know what to expect. When the conference rolled by I realized that this conference was nothing to worry about. We immediately received an introduction by one of our hosts, Peter Senge, then jumped right into getting to know one another and what each other’s schools were about and what they did to contribute to sustainable living. As the conference went by, new topics were displayed as we learned a new thinking style called systems thinking, which enables one to step back from the challenge you face and think it through by using different habits and methods.

Then the time came where our school received the opportunity to sit down and clearly think about what challenges we face within the school. Our particular challenge was getting people involved in the green team and supporting the different ideas the team has to offer. After a solid brainstorming session, we came up with excellent ideas to display the green team as a serious and passionate group of people. Some of our ideas include, possibly raising a chicken coop at one of the elementary schools, incorporating the education of sustainability in advisory time once or twice a month, and talking to Global/Outdoor Academy about the essence of sustainability. As the conference came to a tiring end, I look back at our experience and can' t help but to think that the Green Team is a club that is aspiring to be one of Tahoma School Districts greatest accomplishments. It will be an extremely educational success, but it will also be just the start of something spectacular.

Cassandra Houghton

This coming year I will be a sophomore at Tahoma High School. The opportunity to participate in the SOL conference has been a great experience. When I was first informed of this opportunity, I was ecstatic, but I don’t think I realized how much I would learn or how many friends I would make. The first day of the conference I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know anyone except the people from my site and I didn’t know what was expected of me. Once everyone was seated, Peter Senge jumped right in and got everything started. Before I knew it, I was talking with adults as if we are on the same level.

By the second day I felt I knew almost everyone at the conference and I was ready to learn all I could. It was time to get down to business. We were put into two groups and were able to collaborate with people from many different schools and organizations. Throughout the conference there were many discussions about what we would like to see happen in our school around sustainability and our struggles to make it happen. One struggle was in our main focus: getting students to want to be involved in sustainability, and to want to learn about sustainability. Many other schools seemed to have the same problem. Through collaboration we were able to come up with many ideas that will tackle the problem. We also created ideas about how we will integrate sustainability into our school curriculum and into our community.

All of the young people and the adults at this conference will be able to take back what they learned, and make a real difference in their community. Throughout the next year we will be communicating with the many schools that we connected with at this conference, and tracking each other’s progress. I am excited about becoming an active member of the green team and leading our school district through the process of sustainability.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Final conference days . . .

This is us on the last day posing with Peter.

I didn't post on Thursday like normal because we had a late dinner before ending the conference on Friday. It was a productive week for me that ended on a high note. At least four of the participating districts will be using web-based software to monitor energy use at school buildings during the year. The most important part of this monitoring is that it will be done by students. In our district, this will include a report to the board in the spring with recommendations on additional ways to save on energy use.

The kids formed relationships with others from two districts in St. Louis, North Carolina, and Long Island. They have also committed to monthly video conferences to maintain the relationship and to share progress on their goals.
The picture below shows Cort and Cassandra with a student from St. Louis sharing the details of the audit project with the rest of the group. They along with Chase had an opportunity to discuss it with Peter and Jamie on Friday morning. I don't believe that all the students understand and appreciate the opportunity they had to learn from someone like Peter Senge. He volunteered his time during the week because of his commitment to SOL and youth leadership. He was with us except for Wednesday when he had to fly to Washington D.C. for the day.

Over the next few days I will share more that includes guest posts from the students and other members of the team.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Day three in Chicago . . .

I am writing this at about 10:40 so it has been a very long and I am sorry to say not entirely productive day. It was “learning journey” day where we divided up into two groups to visit local businesses, schools, and organizations engaged in sustainable practices. Unfortunately, the group I was in spent over four hours on a school bus in 90+ degree weather trying to go around traffic jams.

Though not all the stops were learning opportunities for me there were some that will be of value in the future. First and most important was a presentation from a representative of the United States Green Building Council. She increased my knowledge of the LEED certification process and directed us to many resources that will be important as we make decisions on incorporating LEED practices into our renovations and new construction. We found that our local chapter is the Cascadia Green Building Council. This will be an invaluable resource as we move through this process. The architects, however, may come to regret what I learned today as I have many questions that need anwers.

Another of the sites we visited today will not have influence on our work, but it was interesting and worthy of a few sentences. It was an impoverished area in South Chicago where nine people were murdered last night and 52 people lost their lives over the July 4th holiday in gang related incidents. As we were driving to the site we witnessed a SWAT team and many other police vehicles conducting a search of an area.

The site we visited was Growing Home, a job training urban farm for homeless and low-income individuals in Chicago. It is a social enterprise business based on organic agriculture. The program provides experiential learning opportunities and employment in the horticulture field as well as job readiness support that helps reintroduce participants back into the workforce. It is an impressive effort to support individuals and families in this area. It was also the first site where we saw gardens. We also saw gardens in other places including many roof top gardens.

I won’t share any of the other sites except for our last stop of the evening, dinner at Uncommon Ground a green certified restaurant. They have the first certified urban organic roof farm in the country. It measures a whopping 0.015 acres, but still qualifies. The food was just great as was the food at all of the previous meals.

The most important learning of the day for me was really validation of what I already know. Our kids are great! Cort and Cassandra were with Mrs. Lee and me. They maintained a positive attitude and engaged through a very long and at times difficult day. Because they were on a different bus with Mrs. Glaser, Chase and Kaylie had an opportunity this evening to spend time with students from St. Louis and Long Island at the Navy Pier. Returning to the dorm on our bus we happened to go by the pier during the fireworks display so we were able to share that from a distance with the them. I look forward to hearing about their journey tomorrow.

Spending time with these kids gives me great hope for the future. They are bright, articulate, and curious young people who have the capacity to do good work. Most importantly, they care. They care about this world that we share and they care about those less fortunate than themselves. We are blessed to be able to spend time with them and to support their learning.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Day two in Chicago . . .

Today we spent the majority of time learning about system thinking and dynamics concepts. Tracy Benson from the Waters Foundation shared with us some hands on learning opportunities to begin understanding the habits of system thinkers, stocks and flows, behavior over time graphs, and feedback loops.

I have had previous opportunities to be introduced to these concepts, but Tracy’s choice of activities and delivery made them come alive as never before for me. I have included some pictures showing one of the activities designed to demonstrate the importance of having a common goal and how the ability to communicate effectively is essential in realizing that goal.

The afternoon for me was spent with Peter Senge in a small group exploring in more depth a problem solving model. The conversation was resulted in looking at the iceberg concept, something we have used to assist us in thinking more deeply at the patterns, structures, and mental models that influence our behavior and decisions. I relearned the importance of monitoring my level of advocacy and of the importance of truly wanting to engage to support the learning of others as opposed to pushing my agenda.

We debriefed as a team on issues that will require our focus. One that keeps coming back to us is the need to identify strategies to make joining and sustaining membership on the high school Green Team a priority for more students.

Please excuse the quality of the photos - combination of cell phone and operator.

The SOL journey begins . . .

Our first day was spent reflecting on where we are at with the four pillars of the SOL initiative and sharing with the other districts from across the country. We also heard from the founders of the organization the goals for the week and the format for the remainder of our time together.
The first thing that struck me was the composition of the district teams. There are eight teams participating with more students than adults on almost every team. Others include board members, teachers, administrators, and community members. Below, is a picture of Julie and Kaylie sharing some of our work with others at the conference.

The four pillars include organizational learning, youth leadership, system thinking/system dynamics, and education for sustainability. We are making progress on three of these foundation pieces with system thinking and dynamics being the one that continues to be the most difficult to embed in our culture. In our profession, we don’t learn about this work in our college classes and there is little focus on this content in conferences planned by traditional education organizations.

I believe that in our journey at this time, system dynamics has much to offer us. We have some of the system thinking foundation in place through our communication focus in teacher leadership work and with our principals, but little capacity to use system dynamics to influence our thinking and decisions. I have asked a team of three teachers and Ethan Smith to begin exploring the potential for building this capacity in our system for adults and students. Their work is focused on how to embed system thinking into the work on the state science standards and also to identify how we can develop capacity to use the tools with adults in our learning community.

Another alignment opportunity . . .

I don’t know if you saw the press release, but here it is. Superintendent Dorn has provisionally accepted the common core standards in English language arts and mathematics. We will learn more about what this means for our alignment work when a report is given to the legislature in January 2011 comparing the core standards with our current standards. We can only hope at this time that our new secondary math adoption is as aligned with these standards as it is with what will soon be our "old" standards.

At the same time there are two national consortia competing for the bulk of a $350 million federal grant to develop tests aligned with these core standards. Over time, these assessments could have much more influence over what is done in public schools than the standards.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Learning in Chicago . . .

Four a.m. and I’m with our group at the airport. Our flight leaves at six for Chicago and the Society for Organizational Learning Conference. With me are four high school students, Cort Hammond, Kaylie Holcomb, Cassandra Houghton, and Chase Pierson, Judie Lee, assistant principal, and May Jane Glaser from our board.

The conference is focused on system thinking/system dynamics, organizational learning, education for sustainability, and authentic youth engagement. We will work with others from across the county and learn from people like Peter Serge, Senior Lecturer at MIT and founding partner of SoL, Jaimie Cloud of the Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education, and Lees Stuntz of the Creative Learning Exchange.

I am excited about the opportunity to engage once again with these people. We have a great group and should be able to contribute to the work of the organization. Today was check in and getting to know the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago where we are staying in a dorm. Thank goodness it is air conditioned as it is very HOT and MUGGY outside. Great thunder storm on arrival, but clear by the time we reached our dorm. One of our first tasks was deep dish pizza at Giordano’s. It was well worth it and very filling.

It appears that I will miss my normal Sunday post as we were not given the Internet password at check in. Hopefully that will come tomorrow when I can add a picture and links.

Found a coffee shop with a great iced tea and Internet access two blocks from the dorm so I am posting.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Summer loss . . .

Now that I have signed on to Lijit Weekly stats I can see that my readership really drops during summer break. Last week I had more than 100 fewer readers and when I usually have between 200 and 275 that is a big drop off. It makes me think about frequency and content of my posts.

I don’t have any answers, but one thing I am thinking about is that unused Facebook page. Next week I am going to the SoL conference with four students and two other adults from our system. I usually try to share my learning during the conference. Maybe it might be time to think about using Facebook. I might learn what to do with the thirteen people who have asked to friend me.

Though the number of readers is down, I hope that one of you can help me with my problem embedding things into my blog posts that I shared yesterday. I would appreciate it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Any help out there?

I usually do my posts in Word and then copy and paste onto blogger. Yesterday, I copied and pasted the chart from Jane Hart's blog onto word. When I then transferred it to blogger, the chart did not copy. The only way I could get the chart onto my post was to snip and copy as a jpeg. Does anyone know why it won't copy and paste on blogger?

On Stephen's Lighthouse the links on the chart were active. Can anyone help me understand how to copy charts, graphs, and pictures onto blogger?

Trying to learn . . .

One of the blogs I follow is Stephen’s Lighthouse. Today, he shared an introductory guide to social media developed by Jane Hart for people like me.

I thought it might be of interest to some of you that still need a little guidance with these tools. If you go to her site there are links to additional information. For example, I learned that Elgg is a free open source social engine for creating social environments and that Dimdim has the potential to host a meeting of up to twenty people.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

More on creativity . . .

I don't go out of my way to find articles on creativity and China, but Daniel Pink shared this one on his blog. In the article we learn that creativity scores are going down in our country. It was good to see that schools are not necessarily being pointed at for the entire blame as TV, video, and other activities may be partially responsible for this change.

Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William & Mary discovered this in May, after analyzing almost 300,000 Torrance scores of children and adults. Kim found creativity scores had been steadily rising, just like IQ scores, until 1990. Since then, creativity scores have consistently inched downward. “It’s very clear, and the decrease is very significant,” Kim says. It is the scores of younger children in America—from kindergarten through sixth grade—for whom the decline is “most serious.”

From neuroscience we are learning a great deal about creativity and and the importance that both sides of the brain play in this process. And the good news is that it can be taught.

When you try to solve a problem, you begin by concentrating on obvious facts and familiar solutions, to see if the answer lies there. This is a mostly left-brain stage of attack. If the answer doesn’t come, the right and left hemispheres of the brain activate together. Neural networks on the right side scan remote memories that could be vaguely relevant. A wide range of distant information that is normally tuned out becomes available to the left hemisphere, which searches for unseen patterns, alternative meanings, and high-level abstractions.

There is much for us to learn from this information as we create Classroom 10 units that are designed to create project learning opportunities for young people. The importance of focusing on the state and district standards is critical as is the opportunity to work individually and collectively on a problem aligned with a district outcome and the thinking skills and habits of mind that support creative learning opportunities.

The Chinese connection comes from the work of Jonathan Plucker of Indiana University.

When faculty of a major Chinese university asked Plucker to identify trends in American education, he described our focus on standardized curriculum, rote memorization, and nationalized testing. “After my answer was translated, they just started laughing out loud,” Plucker says. “They said, ‘You’re racing toward our old model. But we’re racing toward your model, as fast as we can.’ ”

From an earlier post citing a Yong Zhao entry, I shared where the Chinese are moving in this direction, but still have a heavy reliance on traditional tests. The tests determine transitions through the grades and control potential college attendance options. Remember qiajian? This does not, however, take away from the movement in our country that is driven by the common core standard focus and the even newer movement to create common assessments aligned with these standards. What impact will this movement have on creativity in our country?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Summer learning . . .

Summer is here! Sun and hot weather, it was simply a wonderful day in this unbelievably beautiful part of our country. And, on this day what did I see in our board room? Thirty plus teachers learning about this thing called GLAD. I took the picture below at about 2:30 this afternoon and people were still engaged. On earlier posts I have shared my amazement with how this instructional model has taken hold. That was reinforced today.

Below, are sections from a comment on my May 12th post from Susan Noonan, one of our first grade teachers.

I have never attended another training in my 14 years of teaching to which I have responded so immediately, yet at the same time sustained that response over time.

This has also required me to "dig deeper" into the material I am teaching. Many is the morning that my first-grade teammate and I greeted each other with, "You'll never guess what I learned about sea horses last night" or "Did you know that...?" I found my enthusiasm for the information I was teaching was contagious and students responded to that excitement.I am excited to take refresher courses this summer and get all the materials prepared this summer to teach the material from all three first-grade integrated units with the GLAD approach.

From Vanessa on that same post.

I have also heard from parents of students that have a GLAD trained teacher, and they have commented on their child’s burst of enthusiasm for school and their child’s use of high level curriculum vocabulary.

Words I would use to describe GLAD: engaging, powerful, active, multi-sensory, energizing, and effective.

With this summer’s training we will have over fifty elementary staff members trained in this program and using the strategies in their classrooms. Will this become a problem in our system? Will parents now begin to request teachers who have had the training and integrated the strategies into their teaching? Will teachers only partner with those that have taken the training?

If you had the responsibility to lead a team tasked with making a recommendation for the future of GLAD in our system, how would you proceed? Who would you need to include on your team? What criteria would you identify to base your decision and recommendation? What data would you want to collect before making the decision? What would you need to see and hear before making the recommendation? How much time would you spend studying, collecting and analyzing data before you would be ready to make the recommendation?

This is the situation we are now in and how and what we do as a system in the future will have a significant influence on our schools, on teams of teachers, and on individual teachers. How to proceed?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Planning a bond measure . .

As many of you may know, we have been planning for a necessary bond measure for a number of years. The bond revenue is needed to add classrooms for projected growth and to do major repair and renovation to existing buildings. The original plan was to go before the voters in the spring of 2010, but the Board made the decision to move that vote forward one year to the spring of 2011. They made this change because of the economic situation and because the demographic projections suggested that growth could be accommodated without significant issues for an additional year.

With the recent changes to the elementary attendance areas we are approaching the point where there is little room for growth in any of the existing buildings. In the absence of new classrooms, we will be looking at the need to increase class sizes or look to an alternative delivery model. The same situation is true at Tahoma Junior High and also at Tahoma High School where aging portables need to be replaced.

Major components of the proposed bond measure include the following.
· Renovation and new classrooms at Tahoma High School
· Renovation and new classrooms at Tahoma Junior High
· Renovation and new classrooms at Cedar River Middle School
· Replacing Lake Wilderness Elementary with a new school
· Constructing a new elementary school on property adjacent to the Junior High

One of the necessary components to qualify for state funding for the projects is called the Educational Specifications process. It is designed to identify the programmatic, functional, spatial, and environmental requirements of a new facility in written and graphic form. On Tuesday, the Board was presented with draft copies of the educational specifications for renovation and new construction at Tahoma High School and Tahoma Junior High. A link to the high school document can be found here and to the junior high document here. The process for Cedar River and the prototype to replace Lake Wilderness and construct a new elementary will begin in September.

The draft documents were developed by a team of staff members and community members facilitated by representatives from our architectural firm, the DLR Group. They focused on our Classroom 10 goals to look at the functions for new and renovated spaces and came up with a design model such as shown in the diagram below. The yellow arrows identify where walls and doors can be moved to create larger spaces and the inclusion of small group meeting areas outside the classroom space provide flexibility for students and staff. There is much more to learn about the specific areas that will be added and renovated in the linked documents.

Please remember that these are recommendations and much additional work is necessary before we see an actual drawing and final decisions on bond components are made. It is, however, exciting to see how we are moving forward to create environments that meet our projected growth needs and that align with our Classroom 10 goals.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Possible veto . . .

In case you have not been following the budget conversations in Washington D.C. related to education, here is a New York Times article with the latest developments. The Obey amendment introduced last week survived in the recently passed $80 billion war spending bill. The amendment diverted $500 million from the Race to the Top money, something that both the President and Arne Duncan oppose. It also includes $300 million in cuts to the Charter School Program and Teacher Incentive Fund.

The purpose of the amendment is to provide $10 billion to school districts to avert potential teacher cuts as the stimulus funds are no longer available. There are obviously supporters and those that believe this is not a good move. This FLYPAPER post shares thinking from one of those opposed to the amendment.

With the potential to divert funding from Race to the Top and charters the President has threatened to veto the bill, a move sure to upset many teachers across the nation. Perhaps the Senate will spare him from the need as they still must pass a measure.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Graduates share with Board . . .

On Tuesday the Board held their annual meeting with Tahoma graduates. It is an opportunity for former students to share what they are currently doing and how their experiences in our school system have prepared them for higher education and the work force. The turnout was small, 12 former students and 1 current student, with 9 of those currently attending college.

Some of what was shared is similar to previous years, especially as it relates to being prepared for college where the responses are usually positive. They feel that their learning experiences have prepared them, though they are sometimes surprised by the amount of reading expected at the college level.

This year we heard from some students that they wish they had been more active in high school by participating in activities and from others that they should have challenged themselves to take more difficult classes. The key learning for me, however, was the almost universal agreement that some type of “life” skills class would have been helpful. Some type of class that focuses on everyday life skills, like banking, interest rates, buying insurance, renting, purchasing stocks, and purchasing a car is important for us to consider. Many shared how they appreciated the brief opportunity during the senior project fair to hear and learn from people in the business sector, but it was too brief and limited in scope.

Next year we hope to have a larger turn out with more graduates that are in the work force. If you know of someone that might like to attend, please let me or one of next year’s ASB officers know.