Sunday, October 31, 2010

Another try . . .

On Thursday's post, I shared a Washington Post article that raises the question about how much math one needs in everyday life.  I raised the same question in the post wondering if anyone would comment.  Unfortunately, there were none.  With the changes to our state's graduation requirements in math and the national emphasis on math, it is difficult to take a stance against students taking more math.  Yet, I know that there are people who do not believe that all students should be required to meet standard in geometry to graduate.  It would be hard to support geometry as necessary for everyday life.  So, why the graduation requirement and the national emphasis on more math for all.

Care to share your thoughts?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

How much math . . .

I found this Washington Post article on dangerously ! irrelevant interesting and thought provoking as we implement a new secondary math curriculum and new math graduation requirements.  After sharing his insights into how A Nation At Risk provided colleges with an opportunity to create and sell mathematics education programs he asks the question many of us wonder about.

  • How much math do you really need in everyday life?
The author suggests no more than can be learned in the early years of math study.  As I reflect on my work and my everyday life, that would be true for me.  I rarely have the need to use math algorithms at work or in my daily life.  When I do, I find that I use a calculator to perform them.  On the other hand, I wonder how the logic and patterns of upper math study may have influenced my thinking, how I process information, and how I approach problem solving tasks, all of which I encounter daily. 

In the article, the author argues that we have been sold on the need for math to lead a successful life.

A lot of effort and money has been spent to make mathematics seem essential to everybody's daily life. There are even calculus textbooks showing how to calculate -- I am not making this up and in fact I taught from such a book -- the rate at which the fluid level in a martini glass will go down, assuming, of course, that one sips differentiably. Elementary math books have to be stuffed with such contrived applications; otherwise they won't be published.

What do you think about how much math is necessary for success in everyday life?  Should all students be required to meet standard in algebra and geometry to graduate from a Washington high school?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Another benefit of partnerships . . .

Third graders at Shadow Lake and Rock Creek went home today with heavier back packs thanks to a Maple Valley Rotary program. Our local club made the decision this year to join other clubs in the area in providing a free dictionary to all third grade students. The room was filled with excited students as the Rotarians passed out the books and engaged them in looking up words and definitions. Tomorrow, students at Lake Wilderness and Glacier Park will receive their dictionaries.

I am proud to be a member of our local Rotary Club. We support initiatives at the local, national, and international level and are always ready to assist school clubs and local service agencies in meeting their needs. An example of support for students is the annual awarding of scholarships to high school seniors in excess of $20,000 to support continued learning. In the community Rotarians play a prominent role in organizing and working at projects such as Make A Difference Day and in the recent renovation of the Maple Valley Community Center.

Thank you to the Maple Valley Rotary and the leadership and organization from Kelly Snodgrass for supporting our third graders.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A new WORDLE . . .

I haven't done a Wordle of my blog in quite some time so I thought I'd take a look tonight.  I'm pleased to see words like learning, classroom, school, and thinking prominently displayed.  At least it suggests I am focusing on topics important to our mission.  My fondness for football and the Bears is also evident, but I'm struggling to remember where some of the words like Brant and yard are coming from. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Another high school story . . .

Lettuce from the high school garden was served at Armondo's in Renton last week.  Thanks to Matt Tucker for sharing this exciting event with me.  Here is how it read on the menu as shared by head chef Tom Small.

TAHOMA HIGH SCHOOL FIELD GREENS local chanterelles, oven-roasted tomatoes, Cypress Farms goat cheese crostini

Also, thanks to board member Tammy Henkel for making the connection between the retaurant and Matt that made this possible.

Another exciting event was Friday night's Tahoma football game won by the Bears 36 to 34 over Kentridge.  They won on a 47 yard David Stoecker field goal with no time left on the clock after kicking what they thought was a 42 yard winning kick, only to be called back on a penalty.  The boys and coaches deserved it after last week's loss on the last play of the game.

                                                                                            Maple Valley Reporter

 Two of our girl's teams are having outstanding years.  The lady Bears soccer team continued their winning streak on Saturday with a 1 to 0 win over Kentlake.  That could move them up from number three in the state rankings.  The girl's volleyball team is also on top of the league with an 8 to 0 record.  Go BEARS!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

New learning tool . . .

There is an addition to the high school that is clearly visible as you approach the office and that will become another learning enhancement for high school science students. Solar panels have been installed in a partnership between the district, McKinstry, and Puget Sound Energy. Mckinstry supported our successful efforts to acquire a Renewable Energy Education Program grant from PSE for installation of the panels and solar photovoltaic monitoring equipment. With this grant, we have a system that will provide opportunities for web based monitoring and integration of the system and data analysis into existing science programs.

Thank you to PSE for this opportunity and to Mike Hanson, high school science teacher, for his vision and leadership in making this a reality for our students and teachers. The PSE grant that made this possible was for $16,550.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Superman and Design Thinking . . .

I thought I was done with Superman until I read Kathryn Strojan's comment to my October 7th post on no easy fix.  In the comment Kathryn shares a link to an article in the Huffington Post by Stephen B. Brant entitled Waiting for "Superman" and How Design Thinking Can Make Us the Superheroes We've Been Waiting for.

Brant makes the point that the movie missed the point when it said the system is broken by focusing on two broken parts; poor teachers and the availability of quality schools.  He claims this is the result of analytic thinking.

Analytic thinking is a machine age concept that treats all problems like a car with a dead battery. Fix the battery and the car will run. But if -- based on changes in the larger environment in which you are traveling -- you really need to be in a boat or an airplane, you are out of luck. Analytic thinking doesn't give you the thinking tools to ask whether you should be in a car or not.

According to Brant, what is required because the system is not only broken it is also obsolete, is a redesign based on Design Thinking.  I have read a number of books on systems and, though I am far from an expert, I believe that this is an important point.  Our Classroom 10 focus can lead to this redesign.  I believe that Brant would agree based on the following statement from the article.

Real education does not treat students as empty vessels meant to be filled with some sub-set of what knowledge is already known. Real education creates a love of learning that continues for the rest of a person's life, because the educational process recognizes that knowing a basic set of facts and foundational skills (like reading) is not enough to create a well-rounded human being.

Classroom 10 learning is an attempt to create a love of learning, creative problem solvers, collaborative workers, and critical thinkers.  These are the value added qualities embedded in our focus for learning, qualities that Brant and others see as necessary for future success in the world.  The structures we are creating on this journey are the foundations of this new design.  They include the focus on more than factual information, examining instructional practice, assessing all Classroom 10 characteristics, and the emergence of true teacher voice and leadership. 

Tomorrow, the district administrators and coaches will be at the high school to continue this journey.  We will be observing classrooms together over the course of the year to develop a common understanding of what Classroom 10 learning looks and sounds like in actual classrooms. I am excited about these opportunities as we learn to understand and support our redesign of the Tahoma School District.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A little football . . .

Not a perfect football weekend, but better than most.  The Seahawks won on the road today beating the Bears.  They played good defense and had enough offense to hold off the Chicago Bears for their third win.  I'm looking forward to next Sunday's game against the Cardinals.

Yesterday, the Huskies won a thriller against the Beavers in double overtime when the Beavers went for two and the win, but failed to convert.  It was one of the better games of the year for me.  The Cougars are also playing better, but can't pick up a win as they lost to Arizona.

The big disappointment was the Bear loss to Auburn Riverside on Friday.  It was the first "fall" Friday night of the football season.  It was clear and cold, perfect high school football weather.  Things were going great until the end as the Bears lost another heart breaker on the last play of the game 20 to 17.  The Bears had taken the lead moments before on a 37 yard field goal by David Stoecker, but couldn't hold on after a long pass play set up the winning  one yard run as time ran out. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Our kids are great . . .

Last evening at the TMS auditorium, a number of our students did a wonderful job presenting the Watershed Report sponsored by the Friends of the Cedar River Watershed (FCRW).  The city of Maple Valley and our school system were co-sponsors of the event.  It was an opportunity for the students working with the FCRW to share their beliefs, commitment, and powerful Watershed Report DVD.  It was also an opportunity for our high school Green Team to share our district initiatives and their work goals for the year.

It was a moving presentation with the kids doing the speaking  and sharing.  They were supported by Peter Donaldson in the creation of the DVD and in preparing for this evening.  We are blessed to have him as a partner in our work.  He brings knowledge, experience, and commitment to our sustainability education efforts. 

There was once again so much to be proud of as a member of our school system; the King County Green School recognition, the commitment to a sustainability unit in grades K-12, the partnerships with many organizations in our effort to conserve energy, recycle, and reduce waste, and the young people that both support and challenge us to do more.  We are mentioned several times in the DVD for these efforts and for being a role model for other school systems.  One of our high school students, Connor Durkin, has a prominent role in the DVD and does a wonderful job.  You can check out Conner on the DVD at their  web page where the Flickr photo is Cassandra Houghton another of our high school students.

There are so many people to thank for this work, some that I know of and others that I don't.  Trying to name them all will result in missing many, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention Nancy and the teachers writing the curriculum units, the school board for their support and commitment to this work, the teachers in the Global Academy and Outdoor Academy at the high school for their curriculum focus on this work, Clare, Matt, and Cort for their nurturing of the high school Green Team, the adults that support the other building Green Teams, and Todd and Cary for introducing our students to Peter and his work with the FCRW.

We also used the occassion to recognize Connie Jo Erickson from Glacier Park for her commitment and vision that started the building efforts.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Not an easy "fix" . . .

I was going to share my thoughts on this Washington Post article where urban superintendents and others share their thinking on how to fix broken schools. The article is titled, How to fix our schools: A manifesto by Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee and other education leaders.  I changed my mind, however, when I read this post by John Sener at Educational Technology Center, etc.  He does a much better job than I could.

I am not suggesting that you read the manifesto, but I do encourage you to read the Sener post.  I believe that what he has to say will resonate well with many of you.  His basic premise is that schools do not need fixing and that they are not broken because they have never essentially worked for all students.  I know this from my own school experience and from my observations over many years.  If they are simply broken we should be able to go back and identify what caused the break and "fix" it.  Unfortunately, the fix will require adaptive changes because as Sener suggests, they never did work for all students. 

I find myself agreeing with most of what he says, but I'm struggling with his argument that we do not know how to educate all children.

But the really massive error being made here is the notion that we already know how to educate everyone, and we just need to remove the remaining obstacles like “poorly performing” teachers. We have raised our expectations to reach every child through education, but we haven’t yet figured out how to meet them. It is a noble, historic, risky, and ultimately awesome enterprise to undertake, but it is badly undermined by pretending that we know how to do this, or ever did.

I believe that we know much about what needs to be done to support each student's achievement and that our focus on key content, active learning, and checking for understanding is a good start; one that research suggests does have an impact on learning.  Yes, I understand that we also have obstacles to overcome and learning that must take place to achieve this worthy and necessary goal of academic success for all students.  I'm energized by the challenge and eager to engage in the work with the adults in our school system.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A charter focused on "master teachers" . . .

I checked out the Equity Project charter school that Stacy shared to the Superman post.  Would these words on the opening of their web page captures your interest?

The Equity Project (TEP) charter school believes that teacher quality is the most important factor in achieving educational equity for low inclome students.  Spurred by this belief, TEP reallocates its public funds by making an unprecedented investment in attracting and retaining great teachers.

How?  First, all TEP teachers earn a $125,000 salary, plus an annual bonus of up to $25,000.
I would think that any teacher would be interested in further investigating this opportunity. 

A closure look suggests that TEP sees teacher quality, especially master teachers, as the key to success.  In their words, they use a three-pronged strategy that they term the 3 R’s: Rigorous Qualifications, Redefined Expectations, & Revolutionary Compensation to achieve its mission.

Rigorous Qualifications  Categories under this criteria include the following with more detail to be found on the link.  It is clear from this and the other information that new and inexperienced teachers need not apply.  Their recruitment focuses on master teachers, a term defined by some of the criteria under the 3'R's.
  • Expert subject-area knowledge
  • Teaching expertise and experience
  • Strong curriculum development ability
  • Outstanding verbal ability
Redefined Expectations  TEP redefines the school day, the school year, and career development.

Work Day:  The work day extends from 7:45 am to 5:00 pm with two 50 minute planning periods. Teachers are paired, observe each other each day and use one of the planning periods to share and jointly plan.

Work Year:  The student school year follows the New York city school calendar.  Each summer all TEP teachers are required to attend a six week Summer Development Institute leaving them with a summer break of three weeks.

Career Development:  TEP calls it a career arc that includes a mandated sabbatical every four years. These are unpaid sabbaticals.

In addition, TEP teacher sabbaticals are not “sabbaticals” in the usual sense of the word, since they will typically occur every fifth or sixth year, instead of every seventh year. TEP believes that the intensity of the teaching profession mandates a shorter duration between sabbaticals. TEP teachers are expected to begin researching sabbatical opportunities at least one year in advance of their sabbatical year. Teachers may use their sabbatical year for employment (e.g. a position at a think tank), education (e.g. a one-year art-history masters program), or travel (e.g. a travel fellowship). Teachers are not paid by TEP during their sabbatical years; however, TEP attempts to assist teachers in securing funding for their sabbatical-year project.

Revolutionary Compensation:  This is obviously a key component of the program and besides the salary and bonus opportunity it includes a comprehensive benefits package.
TEP is operated with public money, but must find donations to lease or purchase a facility.  I couldn't find any achievement data, probably because it only opened a year ago. 

In her comment Stacy asks if you would have the gumption to apply.  Would you?  She also asks us to suspend our assumptions about what she labels "clock punchers" as there is much more to a teacher's dedication than the time spent at school. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

No easy "fix" . . .

I found this Washington Post article on Wesley Fryer's Moving at the Speed of Creativity. The writer asks the question; why won’t congress admit NCLB has failed? The premise of the article is that the growing focus on high stakes testing is a cheap fix to the nation’s educational needs.

Testing is a cheap “fix.” Genuinely improving schools and teaching, and overcoming the poverty and segregation that are still the most significant factors in student outcomes, are expensive, complex and politically difficult. Too many members of Congress – and their state counterparts - are willing to accept the cheap way out, even if it is no solution at all.

Like Fryer, I agree with this point. To create change that improves achievement for all students and that sustains over time will not be accomplished with a major focus on national core standards and common assessments of those standards. Yet, that is where hundreds of millions of dollars have recently been allocated. The move to national standards and the accompanying assessments is progressing rapidly, unlike most education change efforts in this country. The next logical step will be a national curriculum focused on these standards. Is that far off?

Certainly, having quality assessments “of” learning is necessary to measure progress and to support change initiatives. Of more importance, are assessments “for” learning that teachers can use to make decisions on a daily basis in support of individual student learning. One positive outcome of the two national test consortia is a focus on performance assessments throughout the year that will support this need and not just a summative assessment given once a year.

Those at the state and national level in policy positions must understand that our schools and school districts require more than just new standards, assessments, and teacher and principal evaluation models. Our systems are simply too complex for easy solutions. We are asking most of those delivering instruction to fundamentally change the way that they learned how to plan for and deliver lessons. This requires more than just the materials to accomplish this. It must begin with establishing common beliefs about what young people need to know and be able to do, creating expectations and holding ourselves accountable to these beliefs, and challenging ourselves to not settle for 90% achievement on state, district, or federal measurements.

Communities of practice like the charters that many “reformers” keep pushing on us have not realized their success because of these standards or assessments. I agree that the lack of “bureaucracy” has influenced the pace of change in successful charters, but there is more involved in this success. They create cultures that demand of themselves success for all students. In these cultures, traditional barriers are overcome and the adults continually focus on the needs of their students. These cultures can and are being created in public schools such as ours.

Where is the support to create these communities of practice in our public schools? Some of the money being allocated to these assessment initiatives would be well spent supporting the development of these schools and school systems. I for one would welcome this support.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Closure to Superman . . .

I wanted to share the Seattle Times article that has some quotes form Allison, one of her students, and a Central student that attended with us.  The author does a nice job in this article of being more objective than most that I have read.  He isn't pro-charter or anti-union.  He places the focus on kids and the need for adults to maintain this focus and to learn form the successes of others.

Schools that do well — charter or not — prove that disadvantaged children can soar. They offer blueprints for success that need to be embraced by other schools. Some are private, some public; some have lots of money, others don't. Above all else, the best believe in doing whatever it takes to help children be successful.

I will end this series on Waiting for Superman with these words from one of our students.

Senior Garret Gileno wondered, "Why doesn't anybody ask the kids? Why isn't the emphasis on the kids?"

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Some football and taxes . . .

I'm catching up on my RSS feeds while watching the Seahawks throw a half back pass just before halftime.  It works, then Hasselbeck has another pass deflected.  Close game, maybe it will end with a victory as the Huskies did at USC.  Maybe not, as they just botch a fake field goal that leads to a Ram field goal and 10 to 3 lead.

Onto the RSS front, this one from Daniel Pink was very interesting.  He shares a post about the Taxpayer Receipt.  The main point of the post that most taxpayers don't have any idea how their taxes are used is certainly true for me. 

Check out this chart.

As Pink suggests, this makes me wonder if either of the political parties has an agenda for the future to ensure that my grandchildren can experience the quality of living that I have been fortunate to have.  Who knows, maybe I should be just as concerned with my retirement years.