Sunday, April 29, 2012

Top ten . . .

Olympia State Champions
 I don't mind reporting this even though I have no other information than our We the People Team found out this evening that they made TOP TEN!  Every team has made this a goal and this year's Tahoma High School team made it.

Congratulations to teacher and coach Gretchen Wulfing, to the team, and to all those that supported this program over the years.  This is truly an accomplishment to be proud of and a milestone for the program, for our high school, and for the school system.

Tomorrow they will once again be before the judges, this time in congressional hearing rooms on Capital Hill.  They will be competing with nine other teams identified below in alphabetical order.

Why blog . . .

After viewing this short video (1:37) showing Seth Godin and Tom Peters share why blogging is important to them, I can share some of their reasoning.  When I am not in reporter mode, my posts have forced me to become more concise and reflect at deep levels.  The posts also allow me to share my thinking with others I don't come into personal contact with and hopefully they promote thinking and reflection by others.

Peters says that no single thing in the last 50 years professionally has been more important to his life than blogging. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

More reporting . . .

I tried to blog last night, but Google once again is trying to get blogger users to switch over to Google Chrome and I didn’t have Crystal’s bypass handy. So, I’m sharing information a day later. I feel like a newspaper reporter with these last posts, but think it is important to share this information and celebrate these accomplishments.

Yesterday was the day when Glacier Park Elementary was recognized for achieving overall excellence for the fourth straight year. The number of years is impressive and being in the overall excellence category adds significantly to the accomplishment. Glacier Park was one of 275 schools being recognized by Superintendent Dorn and State Board member Frank for achievement as measured by the State Academic Achievement Index. It was exciting to be present while the Glacier Park representatives were called to the stage to receive the award on behalf of the entire staff.

Congratulations to the staff and students at Glacier Park for this significant honor that they once again achieved. The only negative at the ceremony was not having another school represent our work. We have had two and once three schools honored in the same year.

Though I am not by nature the jealous type, this second recognition has me somewhat blue. Tracy Krause, high school health and physical education teacher, was honored by the National Football League as their PE Teacher of the Year. This comes after being recognized in 2008 as the national PE teacher of the year by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education and Washington state PE teacher of the year in 2005. These honors are well deserved and I am very pleased for him and thankful for his contributions and commitment to our young people and our school system.

So, why am I blue? It isn’t the $10,000 he received from the NFL or the $10,000 that goes to the high school PE program. It isn’t the free trip to New York where he received the award. It is because I am watching the draft on ESPN and he is an honored guest at NFL draft headquarters. Yes, he is in the room sharing that experience in person. Now, that is truly an honor. In the picture below, he is flanked by Steve Mariucci former head coach and now announcer on his left and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on his right.

Congratulations Tracy!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Tahoma Junior High wins national honor . . .

The announcement from Education Secretary Duncan today identifying Tahoma Junior High as one of 78 schools across the country being recognized as a Green Ribbon School was a proud moment for me. Under the leadership of Nancy Skerritt we have made our environment a focus for integrated study across the grades. She and T&L staff have supported teachers in creating units of study that identify local, regional, and international issues of significance in our interactions with the environment. We use this content to focus on our Outcomes and Indicators, to engage young people in problem solving and critical thinking, and to create a deeper understanding of the need for sustainable practices locally and across the world.

On the energy saving side Lori Cloud with support from McKinstry has provided leadership and support to principals and building Green Teams who are the real force behind the changes in practice. Our schools and the school system are committed to continuing this quest for more energy efficient practices as demonstrated by our progress in the King County Schools Program and by the award announcement today for Tahoma Junior High.

The two components of educating for sustainability and energy savings are the foundation for this award. What makes it even more significant for the Junior High is that this is the first year for the award meaning they will always be among the FIRST to achieve this recognition.

From Secretary Duncan's news release.

"Science, environmental and outdoor education play a central role in providing children with a well-rounded education, helping prepare them for the jobs of the future," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools demonstrate compelling examples of the ways schools can help children build real-world skillsets, cut school costs, and provide healthy learning environments."

Many thanks to Rob, the students, and the staff for their commitment and congratulations on this very significant federal honor!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day 2012 . . .

April 22nd of each year is Earth Day, a time for us to reflect on the earth and our interactions with it.  You can read more at the Earth Day Network an organization focused on ensuring that our interactions with the world result in future generations being able to enjoy what we experience today or, if possible, the earth that earlier generations enjoyed.  All of us have a responsibility to reflect on our actions.  Whether we believe in global warming or not, we can and should do the small things that collectively will have a positive influence on our environment.  For me, that means a trip to the Enumclaw transfer station where I will recycle plastic, glass, tin, and assorted paper products.

On the Earth Day Network site I found a link to President Obama's proclamation about the 42nd annual Earth Day Celebration and sharing of the first Green Ribbon Schools competition.  I blogged about the competition here because we had three schools that received recognition at the state level.  Tomorrow, we will find out if Tahoma Junior High will be invited to Washington D.C. as a national winner.  I believe that this would be recognition well deserved for the commitment that these students and adults have for learning about their environment and for implementing changes that result in energy savings and a greener earth.  Thanks to a lot of people for the time and commitment that went into applying for this award including Kevin Patterson, Nancy Skerritt, Lori Cloud, Dawn Wakeley, and Rob Morrow.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Healthy teams . . .
Reading this post from Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day has left me with some creative tension as I apply the findings from Alex Pentland’s, “The Hard Science of Teamwork” to my work teams. He and his team at MIT have studied 21 teams over seven years resulting in a mathematical model that allows them to monitor and predict a team’s effectiveness by following team members. The good news is that lower performing teams can improve.

The team I lead at MIT's Human Dynamics Laboratory has done just that. Using wearable electronic sensors called sociometric badges, we capture how people communicate in real time, and not only can we determine the characteristics that make up great teams, but we can also describe those characteristics mathematically. What's more, we've discovered that some things matter much less than you may suspect when building a great team. Getting the smartest people, for example.

The study is in this month’s Harvard Business Review that requires a subscription to review. If anyone has access to the article I would appreciate a legal electronic copy. Following Ferlazzo’s link to a article leads us to the main finding.

And in the 21 organizations he’s studied over the last seven years, one central idea has emerged: What really matters is the pattern of communication. It is so powerful, Pentland argues, that the communication pattern - who is talking to who, when, how - is a more significant factor in excellence than any of the more obvious possibilities, such as the intelligence of team members, their personalities, and skills.

In a healthy team, all the individual members talk to each other, not just the boss. Everyone listens as much as they talk. There is frequent communication, but it tends to be fairly fast. And people regularly make forays outside the team, learning new things, and then share when they come back.

So, what do I see in teams where I engage. For the most part I believe that our interactions are characterized by the above findings. There are times, however, where I can see myself or someone else dominating the conversations and I still experience times when others wait for me or at least a cue from me that it is “safe” to engage. We and I am better, but I still have work to do to create and support healthy teams. I need to keep in my mind this suggestion from the article.

The best ones, Pentland says, are “charismatic connectors.’’ They talk to everyone, not just the bigwigs. They listen as much as they talk. They put people in touch and understand that the good ideas are not going to just pop into their heads, but are a product of people sharing what they know.

As you think about the interactions on your team(s) and the author's insights, how would you rate the health of your teams?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The right focus . . .

Alexander Russo in this Education Week post shares a study out of the Brookings Institute shedding light on the importance of instructional materials and the interactions between teacher, student, and these materials in classrooms. In the opening paragraph of the Executive Summary, the authors point out the gap between this focus and that of the education reform movement.

Students learn principally through interactions with people (teachers and peers) and instructional materials (textbooks, workbooks, instructional software, web-based content, homework, projects, quizzes, and tests). But education policymakers focus primarily on factors removed from those interactions, such as academic standards, teacher evaluation systems, and school accountability policies. It’s as if the medical profession worried about the administration of hospitals and patient insurance but paid no attention to the treatments that doctors give their patients.

The title of the report, “Choosing Blindly – Instructional Materials, Teacher Effectiveness, and the Common Core”, affirms the focus of our Classroom 10 work and our continual efforts to align instructional materials with what seem to be ever changing standards. This will once again be necessary as the state moves to the Common Core standards. This effort is under way in our system with K-7 teachers and administrators meeting today and staff from 8-12 beginning later this spring. The report’s authors suggest that the move to Common Core and the current focus on teacher evaluation will not yield the reform movements expected results without also looking more closely at the critical interactions between teacher, student, and instructional materials.

The Common Core standards will only have a chance of raising student achievement if they are implemented with high-quality materials, but there is currently no basis to measure the quality of materials. Efforts to improve teacher effectiveness will also fall short if they focus solely on the selection and retention of teachers and ignore the instructional tools that teachers are given to practice their craft.

Reviewing this report is reaffirming as our Teaching and Learning Department over a long period of time has known the importance of this critical interaction in the classroom and worked to assure the necessary alignment. This alignment and the focus on our Outcomes and Indicators and thinking skills has been the primary reason why much of our curriculum has been developed in our system and not purchased. Perhaps this may be one of the reasons why our young people do so well as opposed to what was suggested in a recent newspaper article out of Atlanta.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Greener printing . . .

(Tony Avelar / Bloomberg / March 16, 2012)
I continue to be amazed by technological advancements such as the 3d printer I posted about here. We are surrounded by technology in our workplace and home, but most of us are not aware and certainly not regularly engaged with other advancements that are and will be changing our world.  Another one of those that will at some point find a way into our work is this "unprinter" process that vaporizes ink from paper.  This is the ultimate recycling method, simply reuse the paper once the ink is removed.  Talk about green technology.  Laser blasts are used in the process identified in this LA Times article.

But, as lead author David Leal-Ayala points out to the BBC, the ability to re-use the same piece of paper time and time again may prove to be a greener way to recycle than our current system.

"You use electricity, water and chemicals, and to be honest when you print something the only reason that you don't re-use the paper is because there is print on it," he said.

"The paper is still in good condition and there is no point going through all the heavy industrial process if the paper is still perfectly fine."

What new and unusual innovations are you reading about or using?  Send me a link and/or share in a comment for the readers of this blog to enjoy.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

More details . . .

I know that the new legislation on educator health care is of importance to many of you that follow my blog so I'll share what I am learning.  More information on the changes are emerging today as those close to the situation have had an opportunity to begin analyzing the bill.

Though it has been a significant issue for many and was a major cause of the difficulty in reaching agreement on the budget, I have not followed the details of the story.  I do know, however, that the original bill was supported by PSE, but had vigorous opposition from WEA and that those same positions continue after passage of the revised bill.  In this Education Week article a spokesperson for PSE shares his belief that there are problems with the bill, but he is pleased with its passage as it is a step in what they see as the right direction.

Rick Chisa, spokesman for the Public School Employees of Washington, the state's largest union for school support staff, said the bill that passed includes expensive new requirements — which he approves of — but doesn't provide countervailing cost savings.

"The Legislature forced itself into the position where insurance is going to cost the state more," said Chisa. "There's nothing here that helps reliably control costs long-term."
On the other hand the WEA spokesperson is not pleased with the action of the legislators.
Rich Wood, spokesman for the Washington Education Association, which strongly opposed changes to the current system, expressed concern that the bill was passed in the middle of the night with little public oversight. He also said the disclosure requirements appear to be unnecessarily onerous.

"This was negotiated behind closed doors without any input from the people affected by it," he said.
I am concerned with some of what I am reading as it relates to the provision to bring premiums closer together for family coverage compared to individual coverage.   It makes sense and is more equitable, but I wonder how it will influence the plans that must be provided.  There are also new requirements for districts in reporting data that if not done will result in the district's employee health plans being turnefd over to the state.  Beginning in 2015, the state will use the reported data to rank districts based on "performance" and reward top districts with grants to lower copayments and deductibles.  Wow, I never imagined being in the position of competing for state money related to health insurance premiums.
John Williams, an expert on K-12 insurance plans with the Health Care Authority, said that the new calculus will have to involve raising premiums for individuals in order to help bring down costs for those with dependents while avoiding excessive new expenses to the state.

"It's a good bill," Williams said. "It establishes the requirement that premiums be rebalanced to bring them closer together."
I am sure that this issue will resurface again as this is probably step one in a multi-step process continuing in 2016. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Finally a budget deal . . .

Photo: Ted S. Warren / AP
After being called back by Governor Gregoire for a second special session for one day, legislators reached agreement on a state budget for the remainder of the biennium. The good news is that there are NO additional cuts to public education or higher ed. This is especially rewarding considering the tension we were experiencing this past November when the Governor shared her initial 2012 supplemental budget that

would have cut LEA funding and shortened the school year by four days.

Besides no cuts for us, it looks like there were compromise bills passed on retirement and health care two of the issues that proved most thorny to overcome. I’m finding it difficult to find details on these bills, but here is some information in this Seattle Times article on the retirement decision as well as responses from some legislators.

Part of the budget agreement was tied to a bill addressing early retirement benefits for future state employees. That measure had been a key sticking point between Democrats and Republicans. Senators approved the pension bill Tuesday by a margin of 27-22. It later passed the House, finalizing a deal that eluded lawmakers for months and delayed final action on the state budget.

State workers who retire before the age of 62 already have scaled back pension benefits. Under the new bill, pension benefits for workers retiring at the age of 55 would be reduced by as much as 50 percent. The changes only apply to workers hired starting in May 2013. The plan would save the state an estimated $1.3 billion over 25 years.

The only information I could find on the health care compromise is from the WEA web page.

A confusing and convoluted health care bill was approved by legislators at about 4:20 this morning. The bill was passed without a hearing. The bill makes major changes to the $1 billion health care system. It does not mandate a state takeover of the K-12 health care system, but it could force some school districts into the state health benefit plan if they fail to provide a lot of required data. While local collective bargaining rights are retained, the bill will have a major impact on local bargaining negotiations. More details forthcoming.

The Governor’s press release can be found here.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Fascinating . . .

This past September I posted on a 3d printing process that produced a workable crescent wrench. Since then, I have come across other examples of this process that are interesting and lead me to wonder again, what next and how will this someday influence our work. The first is from Ian Jukes where he shares the first transplant of a replacement jaw using additive manufacturing, a technique that allows fabricators to make an item directly from a CAD drawing and 3D printing.

Below is a short video of the manufacturing and implant process.

Even more informative and fascinating to me is the TED video below showing Scott Summit’s customized prosthetic limbs. The video is about a new design process that has taken the 3d printing to a different level. The process attempts to capture as much of the person’s personality in the prosthetic as they can and unapologetically make it look man made. For example, below is a picture of a prosthetic made through the 3d printing process that is machine washable and comes with a price tag of approximately $4000.

Below, is a different prosthetic for the same person that brings the owner’s personality into the design in an attempt to make it cool and beautiful. They do this through using a variety of materials and tattoos while designing something that does look man made. The results are promising as people are responding positively about their feelings and responses from others. For example, the fiance of the person with the prosthetic said she likes that one better, something that no one had ever said before.

The TED video is about 11 minute in length and includes many more examples and thoughts on this new design process that is taking 3d printing in another direction.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Managing my impulsivity . . .

Last week's Atlanta Journal article implying that we cheated on state tests is an example for me of how difficult it is to manage my mental models.  My initial thoughts were not positive and I jumped to the assumption that they were trying to take the heat off of their cheating scandal by implying that others across the country are doing the same thing.  But, why us?  Dawn helped me with that when she explained the methodology, but before she was able to do that it was very difficult to not have that assumption drive a negative, lashing out reaction. 

I found this post from The Heart of Innovation to be timely and once again reinforced my understanding of how powerful our assumptions are in being able to control our behavior.  I am not pleased with the assumption in the article nor do I believe that we have cheated.  It has, however, resulted in us reviewing our testing protocols and looking at results in different data configurations.

I'm going to reprint the entire post from Mitch Ditkoff because it may also serve as a reminder for you of how powerful assumptions that result in ladders of inference can be.  It is much easier to feed our assumptions than it is to suspend them and become open to a different understanding of our world.

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.  He said, "My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.

"One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

"The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Struggling to heal . . .

I’ve been sitting on this short piece from Education Week wondering if I should share my thinking and with nothing but finger pointing happening in Olympia decided that it was worth a post. The opening paragraph captures it all.

Gubernatorial candidates Rob McKenna and Jay Inslee on Thursday praised a new law that passed the state Legislature this year making evaluations a part of how teachers are judged.

Yes, this is a sore subject for me, one that won’t heal because of all the reminders such as this piece. Just when the scab is about to fall off I read something that results in more scraping. So, our Governor candidates praised the new law that will likely force our system to adopt an evaluation model mandated by the state legislature as opposed to continuing our Classroom 10 driven model. Is this aligned with what we hear from many politicians suggesting that government should get out of education and allow for local control?

In honesty, I don’t yet know a great deal about either candidate’s education position though later in the article I learn more about McKenna as he is also supportive of charters and merit pay. What I am wondering is just what do they know about the new evaluation model? What level of detail has been shared with them by their staff?

I read the statements about now being able to use student assessment data in the evaluation, the same statements that come out of every politician’s mouth when discussing this issue. How much detail on this topic is enough for a governor candidate that wants education to be a major part of his campaign? I don’t have answers, but I want them to know that yes, assessment data will become part of the process, but each individual district will bargain what that will be. Do they think that process will result in all 296 school districts using state assessment data to evaluate teachers? If they do then they need to rethink it because WEA may influence locals in another direction.

One of the major reasons for the change to the legislation was to ensure that student assessment data was included in the process. This was a celebration by those pushing for reform, yet what did they gain, unless this is simply the first step in moving towards legislation that mandates the use of state assessment data. Perhaps this is part of what McKenna and Inslee are referring to in statements in this Tacoma News Tribune link from the Education Week article.


We’ve had a good start with the pilot programs. We’ve had a good start with this new legislation. … I do think there’s at least one additional change we need, which is to make sure these evaluations are a significant part of personnel decisions in the schools, and I think that probably is a statutory change that we’ll need at some point.


The way it’s written now, the state isn’t really involved in its implementation, and I think that’s going to pose a challenge … We’re probably going to need additional legislation that allows the state to make sure that the new teacher-evaluation and educator-evaluation system is implemented.

Without giving it a great deal of thought I think I could have been more supportive of changes in legislation that gave more direction on what and how data was to be used and left the option for districts to choose or create a model. That mandate would be something that reformers could celebrate and that would also give us the flexibility I believe that we have earned through our work and through our achievements. Well, maybe I don’t feel that way, but I sure wish that this hurt would heal and the scab would fall off.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Still no budget . . .
The impasse in Olympia on the budget is becoming more of a concern for me as I fear it isn’t the budget that is creating the inability to reach agreement. If not, there are major issues that impact education and education employees that could be at the heart of the problem. One of those is charter schools and a second is the fight over school employees health plans. Either or both of these could become part of a package that emerges from these closed door sessions as did the teacher/principal evaluation changes in the earlier compromise. I don’t know if one or both are part of the six issues Governor Gregoire identified in this article as the cause of the impasse, but I am concerned that they are part of the conversations.

There certainly has been plenty in the Seattle Times over the last few days on both of these issues. Charter schools is the topic of this letter to the Times by Robert Enlow president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, and Jonathan Bechtle CEO of the Freedom Foundation, a free-market think tank based in Olympia. In it they argue for charters, an argument supported by public opinion polls suggesting that the public supports them.

A public-opinion poll recently released by our organizations found that Washington voters favor charter schools by an overwhelming margin of 60 percent in support versus 23 percent opposed. Moreover, charter schools enjoy majority support among Democrats (51 percent), Republicans (70 percent) and independents (65 percent).

To corroborate those findings, a poll released last month by the Washington Policy Center found that 60 percent of Washingtonians support charter schools, particularly those that serve low-income and urban families.

On the health plan issue the editorial board of the Times comes out in support of the plan to consolidate the current options into a state program. They use the changes and cost savings in Oregon’s system to support their argument. I struggle to understand why it is so difficult to get an idea of cost savings because of the inability to get data as shared in this article that also talks about the differences between the WEA and PSE position on this proposal.

Aside from an estimated $22 million needed to set up the program and a potential $20 to $25 million in annual savings from reducing the role of insurance brokers, no one can reliably say what, if any, savings would result from an overhaul of the $1.3 billion system.

This is largely because insurers, school districts and the Washington Education Association - the state's powerful teachers' union - declined last year to disclose to the Health Care Authority details of how the money in the current system is spent.

Premera Blue Cross, which covers 60 percent of those insured under the school districts, says its spends six percent of the premiums it collects from the state, school districts and school employees on its administrative overhead, which it notes is well below the industry average.

Without seeing a breakdown of how that money is spent, says John Williams, who oversaw the HCA's study on the proposed overhaul, "we have no way to validate that that is an accurate figure."

Not sharing these numbers leads to a loss of credibility and leverage at the bargaining table.  Of course there may not be a bargaining table concerning these issues in Olympia.  It may be continued partisan politics with a few maverick democratic senators all driven by beliefs too far apart for compromising to prevail.  In this environment we see legislation emerge that tries to meet the needs of many such as the changes that were made to the evaluation process.  Hopefully, we won't see similar legislation causing us additional concerns emerge from this protracted special session.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

On another list . . .

It seems like we end up on a lot of lists for the work that we do and for the accomplishments of our students and staff such as this one where Mike Jackson, high school teacher, is honored with the King County 2012 Earth Hero at School award for his work with our technology students.  Unfortunately, this past week we also ended up on a list of four, only this was not a list we aspired to or that we believe deserve.  The list was identified in this Seattle Times article where four districts in the state were identified as potentially cheating on state tests.  Since that time Dawn Wakeley our testing coordinator has been researching and studying the methodology used by an Atlanta newspaper to compile a national list of potential cheaters.  This is on the heels of the Atlanta testting scandal that surfaced last year. 

I asked Dawn to share what she has learned thus far in the guest post that follows.  Unfortunately, we have not seen the last of this as there will be a follow-up article this week end in the Atlanta newspaper.

You have got to be kidding!?! This was my first response to the article recently posted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) and it continues to be my response after about 60 hours of analysis; poring over our data to see if there are any concerning trends when examining our data by cohort grouping over the last 7 years.

In the Atlanta Journal-Constitution study, they identified an “approximate cohort class” of students as a group of students in the same school from one year to the next. In the Tahoma system this translates into cohort classes identified at the building level for grade 3  4, grade 4  5, and grade 6 7 for both reading and math. Data for cohorts where a grade transition moves them to a new school building were not analyzed in the Journal-Constitution study. Districts with fewer than 20 cohort classes in a school year were not included in the study. Tahoma has exactly 20 cohort classes of students that met the criteria.

So, what does this mean? In the Journal-Constitution study they flagged cohort classes that performed outside the norm. According to the study, in any year a typical district might expect to have about 5% of its classes flagged for unusually high or low performance relative to that group’s performance the previous year. In Tahoma 5% equates to 1 cohort class because we only have 20 classes that fit the parameters in their study.

Our testing practices are tight and haven’t changed over the last 7 years. All of our staff take to heart the expectations the state and district have established for annual proctor training, documented chain of custody for all secure testing materials, locked storage of all testing booklets, and proper test administration procedures.

A constraint in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution study has them examining only two adjacent years for a cohort and then comparing that to the regression model for all the cohorts in the state, looking for outliers to flag. To illustrate this, the following charts show a cohort that was the biggest outlier for Tahoma in their study.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution study also has no context for what is actually happening instructionally with the cohort groups in each school building. We know that a highly successful teacher in the classroom delivering quality instruction every day is the biggest determiner for student success. Research that informs our Classroom 10 model and our focus on key content demonstrates highly successful teachers can get gains of up to 1 ½ years of learning in 1 year. We are committed to increasing consistent implementation of best instructional practices. We have also put into place, over the last 7 years, an increasing number of interventions and programs where there is shared responsibility for student learning. Successful academic interventions occur across our system, varying year to year based on what the data indicates is a cohort group’s highest need and what our staffing and budget allows us to put into place.

The gains we see as a system are made classroom by classroom, student by student, where high performing and dedicated staff deliver quality instruction every day. To indicate that Tahoma teachers aren’t committed and do not practice the highest standards of ethical conduct in testing just isn’t substantiated by the data. I’m appalled that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution gets to make the sweeping judgments they have made. We have teachers and other staff that are so incredibly dedicated to students and the work they do here in our system and any stain

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Time for reflection and re-energizing . . .

I can't believe that it is already spring break. At this stage of my career the years seem to go by much faster and that has nothing to do with it being April 1st. Like most of you I will be taking a few days off to reflect and re-energize as we enter the last quarter of the student year.

One celebration that I'm exited about is the progress that we are making on the system Classroom 10 goal focused on key content. We are seeing visible signs in all classrooms that teachers are striving for well-constructed learning goals and are hearing from many teachers how a focus on the components of key content has changed their practice. They are reporting that students are expecting to visually see what the learning for the day is and are also beginning to reflect on how well they are doing during and at the conclusion of the lesson. Not all teachers are experiencing this powerful shift, but it is beginning in many classrooms in our school system and that is exciting to hear and to see.

I also think that our potential to build a high school in the donut hole is resonating with many people in the community. I have been stopped in the grocery store and have received e-mails from people with questions and supportive comments. The fact that this possibility will result in conversations about our need for increased capacity is a very positive sign.

I have much to be thankful for as we continue our efforts to ensure quality learning, every day, in every classroom, for every child.