Thursday, August 30, 2012

A changing Bear . . .

Thursday night and I’m blogging about football.  I can’t believe it.  I gave up my tickets to the last Seahawk preseason game for a number of reasons with the most important one being the Tahoma Bears playing Kent Meridian at French Field.  It would need to be a much, much, much more meaningful Seahawk game before I would miss the Bears.  

Coach Davis unveiled a new spread offense that proved unstoppable as the Bears won 52 to 21.  They gave up a lot of yards and some big plays with poor tackling, but their offense was something to watch.  Still can't believe what I just watched, the grind it out Bears now throwing and throwing and throwing.  The one down side is it sure made for a long game.

By the way, the Seahawks beat the Raiders 21 to 3.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Focus on the watershed . . .

Mark your calendar for the Annual Premier Screening of the Watershed Report where students come together with leadership from Peter Donaldson and support from the Friends of Cedar River to share positive sustainability projects in our Cedar River-Lake Washington watershed.  Twenty two students from seven districts and private schools will be sharing a number of student-produced videos of these projects as well as data and other information.  Eleven of those twenty two students are from our school district, so once again our kids are leading the way.

This year the event will be held on September 12th starting at 6:00 p.m. at the Seattle REI Flagship Store.  Please note that this event is well attended and that you must RSVP to the e-mail address in the heading above. 

Jayaram Ravi shared the invitation with me and I am pleased to share it with you.  The kids do an awesome job and bring a deep commitment to making a difference in our watershed.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A possible learning resource . . .

In case it escaped your attention, this is World Water Week.  Why blog about this?  Much of our curriculum is focused on water with Lake Wilderness, Cedar River, and the Puget Sound providing on site opportunities for our young people to focus on this critical resource.  I also believe that as the world’s population continues to increase making it more and more difficult to feed and water all of us; this resource will be at the heart of future world conflicts.  To head this possibility off we need to equip today’s students with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to find adaptive solutions to this growing problem.

The focus of the event is on achieving food security for the world’s population.  Even with increased production and a United Nations goal to decrease by 2015 the number of hungry from 840 million to 240 million, by 2012 the actual number has grown to about one billion.  This despite production increases during this same period.

In a report published to coincide with this conference titled, Feeding a thirsty world:Challenges and opportunities for a water and food secure world, the authors define food security as:

“food security exists when all people at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

Since 70% of all water withdrawals in the world are used in agricultural production, water is one of the large variables in the search to change the trend and see more people in a state of food security.  Another large variable in this issue is energy consumption.  We can only hope that those involved with Water Week are more productive than those attempting to change energy consumption across the world.  This report and this conference are good sources of content for engaging young people in issues that directly impact them today and in the future.  They also demand the use of Habits of Mind and thinking skills to examine this complex issue and reinforce the need for our Outcomes and Indicators as they research and identify adaptive structures and regulations to change the trend.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sharing a message . . .

This week adults in each building will come together to prepare for a new year.  I always look forward to observing at some of these meetings as the principals and teacher leaders share their work and the focus for the year.  This year I have been asked to share our College and Career Committee work over the summer with the High School and Junior High staff.  I don't often get an opportunity to participate in these meetings so I am looking forward to sharing our work.

I was also asked by one of our principals to replicate a conversation we had last spring where I provided him with feedback about the need for teachers to receive feedback as they work on our Classroom 10 goal. Though it will be difficult to generate the same conversation, I am excited with the opportunity and pleased that he wants his staff to see that he also needs feedback and that he views it as a form of support.

I miss coming together as a whole staff to start the year as we did before budget issues and lost days due to the budget problems.  It was a time for all in attendance to hear the same message and for me to reflect on what that message should be considering the scope of all that I could share.  For example, this year I would have needed to focus on Common Core work and the College and Career focus, things that I blog about.  The message needs to be shared, but now we will do it in multiple meetings using multiple voices.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Common core assessment items . . .

Today, I had another opportunity for a conversation about the Common Core with a Renton elementary school teacher.  She is in the initial stages of learning about these new standards and what she must do to prepare her students for the new assessments in 20015.  She understands the importance and need, but is not at a point yet to feel anxiety over the new assessment items.  I believe that as she begins to see the new sample items the anxiety level for her and all teachers will increase.

Implementation of these new standards is another demand being placed on our teachers.  We must respond with the same level of support as teachers begin this work.  Nancy and the Teaching and Learning team are doing this as they review and revise integrated units and our district's literacy curriculum.  Teacher leaders are involved in this effort and are also working with our math coaches to better understand what support will look and sound like for math teachers.

This Education Week article will give you some idea of the rigor in some sample assessment items.  Below is the timeline for the Smarter Balanced Consortium that our state has signed onto.

You can learn more about the test specifications here that also links to some sample items.  I'm concerned about timeline and opportunity to learn for our young people.  We need to embrace this work and engage young people in learning opportunities that prepare them for these new, more rigorous assessment items.  

From the Education Week article.

“What we are starting to see here are tests that really get at a deeper understanding on the part of students, not just superficial knowledge,” said Robert L. Linn, an assessment expert and professor emeritus of education at the University of Colorado at Boulder who reviewed a sampling of the consortia’s materials. “But unless students are really prepared for them, it’s going to be a huge challenge.”

And, a different quote from the article.

In the case of the common assessments, he said, “we’re not talking about a new version of an existing assessment. We’re talking about a revolutionary kind of change,” not only with different kinds of items, but also computer-based or computer-adaptive technology. “What they are trying to do with these items pushes the bounds,” he said. “To get this done in the amount of time they have is going to be a challenge.”

You can find a link to assessment items for all grade levels on this site.  The items are too long to include in this post.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Reformer motivation . . .

Amy is good at feeding me posts and articles focused on the reform movement, especially those against much of what is unfolding in today’s public schools.  One of her favorites is Diane Ravitch a champion of public schools and a fierce critic of the reform movement.  In this piece she questions the real goal of the reform movement.  Is it focused on creating better environments and learning for young people or is it focused on breaking the unions and toppling public schools as we know them to be replaced by privatization of all public schools?

The more conversations I have about the entire “reform” movement, the more convinced I am that it’s really about disbanding teacher unions so that the majority of education programs will eventually be part of a private industry thus paving the way for the privatizing of all public systems.

To support her argument she cites the regulations that public schools must work within compared to the freedom that charter schools are given.  She believes that the system being created by policy makers focused on test scores and teacher evaluations tied to them is designed for failure so that the real goal of privatization can be achieved.

It’s as if these policy-makers have found a way to rig the game: Create new rules that make for impossible goals and then watch a good system that serves the public fail under these new rules. They have set up the game so that the players will fail no matter what–IF you believe the rules are sound.

I do not believe that this is the driver for reform in our state as we still do not have charters and I want to believe that it is not the driver for the majority of policy makers and foundations supporting reform.  I do, however, believe that the coming Common Core assessments will give reformers that may be aligned with the goal of privatization additional leverage in the battle.  Those initial results across the nation and in our state will raise questions as to how well we are preparing young people for these college and career standards.  Will the charters and other private schools be faced with the same challenge or will their students not take the assessments?  If not, it doesn’t seem like a fair playing field. 

What is your reaction to this Ravitch post?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Building a coalition . . .

Yesterday was important because we welcomed new teachers, but it was also important because of a meeting we had in the afternoon with representatives from a diverse group.  In the room were two high school students, two high school administrators, and representatives from the central office, City of Maple Valley, Chamber of Commerce, DLR Architects, Green River Community College, Renton Technical College, Center for Advanced Manufacturing Puget Sound, and a King County representative on a phone link.

Why this diverse group of people in a meeting at our high school?  The topic was the possibility of building a new, comprehensive high school on the county’s “donut hole” property that I first blogged about here and here.  The reason for the diversity is because the concept that is emerging is one of a regional learning center resulting from a partnership with institutions of higher learning and manufacturing.  The intent of the meeting was to determine if those in the room share the values that we have for our students and our growing concern for their success in post high school learning and work.  The conversation resulted in a coalition forming to begin moving the concept forward.

I am excited and energized with the potential for this initiative to meet our student housing needs, our newly emerging program needs for all students post high school plans, and for supporting the city and greater community goals of living wage jobs in the city.  Will it be easy?  No, there are many issues that must be resolved and for us a bond measure that must be passed.  In my career, however, I have found that the one thing that can overcome obstacles is a truly shared vision.  I sensed that beginning to form yesterday.

I believe in this Margaret Wheatley quote and I believe that the thoughtful people were in the room yesterday.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”

Monday, August 20, 2012

Another indicator . . .

As I shared before, there are annual events that portend the start of a new school year and today was another one of them.  This morning, we welcomed about thirty new teachers to our school system.  They spent the day with Kristin and Nancy learning about who we are, what we value, and why this is a great place to be for a young person and for the adults that work here.

Kristin does a great job of supporting teachers new to our school system throughout the school year.  She has a deep understanding of Classroom 10 instructional practices, our Outcomes and Indicators, thinking skills, and habits of mind; the foundation of what makes us who we are and what we value.  She is one example of the quality support structures provided by our Teaching and Learning Department to balance the high demand placed on teachers in our system.

Greeting these teachers new to our system means that kids are right around the corner.  Next week all buildings will be coming together to start the new year and the kids will shortly follow.  Are you ready?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

World Humanitarian Day . . .

I learned on Larry Ferlazzo's blog that today was declared by the United Nations as World Humanitarian Day.  The video is a song sung by Beyonce at the UN titled I Was Here.  It is well worth the few minutes to watch and will make you think.

I live my life in a small spot on this earth with so much to be thankful for and I often lose sight of those other places on this earth with far less.  Those people without food and clean water living in a constant state of fear due to war and civil conflict.  Those others with more, but who also want more and aspire to be like me.  How long can we continue as global citizens of this earth to expect the "others" to be satisfied with their current reality?  How long is it until their aspirations for a better future will directly influence our future in ways that we will feel, see, and hear?  How much longer can this one earth support our small space while others try to replicate that same space?  These are questions truly worthy of our efforts to provide young people with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for the adaptive solutions this world needs in the future.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Criteria identified . . .

If you are a teacher or principal you may want to visit today's post on the Washington State Teacher/Principal Evaluation post.  In it, we find the criterion that will be used to meet the requirements for using student achievement data to evaluate teachers and principals.  For teachers it will be in the following criteria.
  • Criterion 3: Recognizing individual student learning needs and developing strategies to address those  needs.
  • Criterion 6: Using multiple student data elements to modify instruction and improve student learning.
  • Criterion 8: Exhibiting collaborative and collegial practices focused on improving instructional practice and student learning.
We have chosen to align our work with the CEL model developed at the University of Washington.  You can see an updated version and more detail on these criteria here.

For principals it will be in the following criteria.
  • Criterion 3: Planning with Data: Lead the development, implementation and evaluation of the data- driven plan for improvement of student achievement.
  • Criterion 5: Improving Instruction: Monitor, assist and evaluate staff implementation of the school improvement plan, effective instruction and assessment practices.
  • Criterion 8: Closing the Gap: Demonstrate a commitment to closing the achievement gap.
The tool that we are reviewing for use with principals comes from the Association of Washington School Principals and can be found here.

Though we now know the criterion, much work is in front of us in collaboration with bargaining units for teachers and principals.  What data?  How will it be collected and interpreted?  How much data will we need to collect?  How much of the judgment will be based on the collected data?  I believe that these are some of the questions that we will face as we meet the intent of the legislation and the requirements for the waiver to NCLB.  This is a mandate driven by the discussion at the national level and our state's need to align behavior with federal expectations in order to maintain and possibly enhance federal revenue and qualify for flexibility.  Will it result in improved practice and increased student achievement?  Could we have achieved the same increases without this mandate?  I would say that yes we will see increased achievement while also believing that our system would see the same growth through a focus on our Classroom 10 instructional model without the evaluation mandate.  But, that is no longer possible so we will expend considerable energy at the system level to meet these mandates from outside our system.

    Monday, August 13, 2012

    New funding with priorities . . .

    I found the Seattle Times Sunday editorial on education funding in the state interesting.  It calls for additional funding aligned with identifying key priorities.

    Both gubernatorial candidates are also calling for additional funding to meet the court demands.  They also say that they can do this without raising taxes, something that I have commented about in previous posts.  The editorial does not take a position on the tax issue, instead waiting for a Joint Task Force on Education Funding to present their options.

    The editorial does however, call for legislators to identify priorities before providing additional funding. 

    The conversation about money rightly begins with a conversation about education goals. Outcomes cannot be divorced from the resources used to pay for them. Credible strategies for addressing kindergarten readiness, high school dropout rates and college/career preparation should top the list of priorities.

    I don’t disagree with the need to identify priorities and those in the paragraph above are certainly important considerations, as are preparing for and implementing practices that ensure teachers and students meet the challenges in the mandated common core initiative.  I want to be held accountable to meeting the needs of our young people and adults, but I also want for us a period of time with no new mandates or accountability targets. 

    The demand is high enough, we need high support to balance that demand.  Support may include additional funding, but it must also include a period of time with no new mandates.  Common core, new teacher and principal evaluation systems, and goals embedded in the NCLB waiver requirements are all mandates from outside the system.  Yes, we need additional funding to meet the demands that are already placed upon us, but adding additional goals does not make sense for our school system at this time.

    Sunday, August 12, 2012

    Guest posting about 3d printing . . .

    The 3d printing that I first blogged about here has come to Tahoma.  Darren Collins, our robotics teacher, has a 3d printer for his program that is already making parts for one of their robots.  Darren is one of our very bright science teachers who is on the cutting edge of technology in our schools.  He is providing leadership and support for Bear Metal our young and successful robotics team that I blogged about here.  Below, he shares the first experience making a part with the new printer.

    Darren Collins

    Tahoma High School is offering a two semester robotics class this year. The school has a number of exciting technological tools to help with fabrication including two 3-axis CNC vertical milling machines, a laser cutting-engraving machine and a 3D printer. The 3D printer arrived at the school last week and I set it up on Monday with the help of a couple of students from the robotics club.
    This 3D printer works by depositing melted ABS plastic in thin (0.010”) layers to create a plastic creations limited only by the users imagination. This process is significantly different than a milling machine which cuts away material from a larger piece of stock to create the designed part. The beauty of the 3D printer is that it can easily create complex parts that would otherwise be cumbersome or even impossible using conventional machining techniques.

    Once we had set up the printer, we were eager to try out and see it in action. The initial part that we decided to create was a pulley to help improve the performance of “Bearmageddon”, our 2012 competition robot that we built last spring for the FIRST® Robotics Competition. It would have been possible to create this pulley using a lathe and milling machine. However, since the part didn’t need to be extremely robust, it made sense to just print it out.

    A render of the pulley that we designed using Autodesk Inventor.

    The printer in action creating nine pulleys at once.

    A finished part before the soluble support material is dissolved away.

    The pulleys installed on Bearmageddon’s lower ball lift roller.

    I am eager to see the unique creations that students will be designing and printing this upcoming year.

    Saturday, August 11, 2012

    Can it be football already . . .

    I can't believe it, but football has started.  Tonight was the first preseason game of the year with the Seahawks beating the Tennessee Titans 27 to 17.  I don't normally go to the preseason games especially when it is 80 degrees out and it is a night game.  But, like many others, I wanted to see our new quarterbacks and our old quarterback Matt Hasselbeck as well as Jake Locker the former Husky.  Hasselbeck did not do well, while Locker was ok.  For us, the starter Matt Flynn was ok, but it was his back-up, rookie Russell Wilson who provided the highlights with a touchdown pass and a rushing touchdown.

    It doesn't "feel" like football season, but it sure sounded like it.  It was pretty loud for a preseason game.  For me this is just the beginning with the Bears and Huskies right around the corner.

    Thursday, August 9, 2012

    Getting closer . . .

    In June I blogged about an ad-hoc committee commissioned by the board to look at how we can support all young people in being ready for successful transition to college and career.  Last evening we completed our third meeting of the summer with the full committee giving a smaller planning team feedback on a draft vision statement for the work.  The planning team spent three hours in spirited conversation using information from handouts and speakers representing Renton Technical College and the Boeing Company in drafting the statement.  The committee then spent about an hour reviewing the draft and providing feedback for the planning team to use next week.

    The second focus for our work is to provide the board with a communication plan for educating the community on the need to consider other paths for success than pursuing the traditional four year degree.  Historically, we have struggled to engage large numbers of community members in major initiatives and we are determined to change this pattern with this important initiative.  Committee members provided the planning team with considerable input on both the structures that can influence this change and the people that must be involved in the community conversation.

    The draft vision statement makes it clear that for success in this area we must collaborate with the broader community.  The existing mental model has been in place for years and is reinforced in difficult economic times like we are experiencing today.  Through the work of this group, we are on our way to providing the board and community with suggestions on how to answer this important question.

    How do we partner with our community to ensure that ALL Tahoma High School graduates leave with a plan that provides options for success in post high school learning and work?

    I will share the vision statement following consensus at the next meeting as well as components of the communication plan.  To give you some sense of what the committee is reading here is a link to a study we shared yesterday.

    Tuesday, August 7, 2012

    Leadership and learning . . .

    The 2012 opening leadership workshop is now behind us.  We spent two days with principals, teacher leaders, and Teaching and Learning staff revisiting some old knowledge and skills and introducing some new knowledge and skills to support our Classroom 10 journey.  The work is designed to support growth in becoming a learning organization and to provide building leadership teams with knowledge, skills, and data to continue planning for the support that teachers need to meet system and building goals.

    The review included a focus on the power of mental models to control our behavior and influence our capacity to be open to new ideas and ways of being.  We dug deeper into using the iceberg or results pyramid to assist us in deepening our knowledge about our current reality and then using this knowledge as leverage for identifying the structures necessary to close the gap between that reality and our preferred vision for Classroom 10.  Creative tension, the Experience Cube, and balancing high demand with high support were also included in our focus.

    Our new learning included revisiting the importance of feedback and introducing some new ways of providing it.  We learned about the difference between instructional and facilitative coaching and the importance of the coach being aware of the need to intentionally focus on each area.  We want the capacity to support knowledge and skill development (instructional – ways of doing) and we also want the capacity to influence and support new ways of thinking (facilitative – ways of being.)  This is an exciting new concept to support our need for increased feedback as teachers engage in new learning and instructional practices.

    Please ask an attendee for some feedback and if some of the terms above are new to you what they mean and how they will be used in your work.  I know that there are at least a couple of people that read this blog that might want to comment on their experience.  I’ll leave any personal judgment about the quality of the days out of this post to make it easier for an attendee to comment.  Please consider it as I believe your colleagues would be interested in your thinking.

    Monday, August 6, 2012

    Some thoughts from the system conference . . .

    Since I was not able to attend the end of the ESD Systems Conference I asked Bruce to share some thoughts and to also ask other members of the team to share some of their experience.  Below is the guest post from Bruce with some quotes from others.

    The “Systems Thinking Conference” at Puget Sound Educational Service District provided a powerful opportunity for our Tahoma team of approximately 20 classified staff members, supervisors and administrators to work with coaches who are well grounded in systems thinking to begin to tackle a complex issue with which our district has struggled over time.

    The Issue:
    There are few administrators in comparison with the number of classified staff members.  It presents  a significant challenge to provide a system of feedback that genuinely promotes growth and accurately describes the employees’ performance.   Our conference team agreed that if we are to  commit to a supervision and evaluation process which promotes a sense of value and professionalism, we need to look deeper using systems thinking tools to challenge the mental models and structures  we have developed around this issue for many years.    As a result of the two and one-half days our team engaged in meaningful learning and the application of systems thinking to this issue, I have a strong belief that the collaborative efforts of the team members will draw many others in our system into related planning and change efforts in the near future in order to create and implement a more effective process.

    The conference team was composed of staff members which included some who have a solid grounding in systems thinking, concepts and tools through their work over a number of years.   Mike Maryanski presented the “Tahoma Leadership Journey” in support of our Classroom 10 Vision which really served to energize the conference and provided an overview of the tools and terminology which many in our system now apply routinely.  Dawn Wakely and Mike Hanson contributed greatly by sharing their expertise and assisting Steve Byers, our PSESD primary team coach.   For some on our team the terminology and concepts were completely new, however their contributions to the discussions were invaluable.   For me the structure of this experience allowed me to understand the application of systems thinking tools far more deeply than I have previously experienced.   We worked intently to apply learning to this very real and complex issue in our school system.   We know so well that the best learning occurs when teachers “Make it real,” and this a great example of professional development providing new learning made real through the applications to a genuine and complex issue.

    All of our team members shared their meaningful insights as the conference concluded.  Some partial comments which were similar to views shared by others included:

    “What an experience.  I have lived my life by what’s possible.  I had the opportunity to spend these days reminding myself of what’s possible and a new and exciting tool to use for stretching myself to what’s possible.”  Barbara Roessler
    “ The experience was exciting and at times very eye opening because of the stakeholders in the process.  Thanks for an awesome learning experience!”    Sharon Monaco
    “Awesome training for professional and personal growth.  Great to see  how our team grew, opened up, and collaborated for a shared commitment.”   Cindy Erickson.
    “ I learned that while I thought I understood my ladders, I didn’t realize that my mental models are driving my decisions.”  Lori Cloud
    “In order for us to see the whole picture we all need to make a constant effort to seek a deeper understanding that helps build relationships that promotes success for all.”  Ruth Mackie
    “This conference has been meaningful for me because it gave me a context for using tools I had previously been exposed to in isolation”   Rhonda Ham  

    Thanks Bruce for sharing this with us.

    Sunday, August 5, 2012

    More specific feedback . . .

    If you follow my blog you know that I shared parts of our journey on two occasions this summer, last week at the ESD system conference and earlier this summer at Camp Snowball.  As always I get the usual feedback; great message, impressive what you have accomplished and are doing, and . . .  I usually just say thanks and don't pay much attention to it. 

    Something changed, however, with these last two presentations.  An ESD staff person shadowing our system coach stopped me Friday morning and asked when I was going to write our book.  I thought she was asking a question about one of the books I mentioned in the presentation.  No, she was so impressed with our work and the quality of the conversations she was hearing she said we should be documenting it.  She searched for words to describe it and came up with genuine, real, and caring.  The funny part of this is that Connie is always saying we should be writing our book and often I feel the same thing when reading about the journey of other systems or in conferences.

    I received similar feedback following the Camp Snowball presentation and from others that were in our core module.  I now believe that we are different than most systems when the focus is on collaboration and conversation.  Though we sometimes think we aren't very effective, we don't talk over each other and we do understand and value the need for inquiry.  Though some in our staff may take exception and could respond to this post with examples of when this does not take place, today I am feeling very good about who we are, what we have accomplished, and where we are going. 

    Thank you for making this a productive and energizing journey.

    Thursday, August 2, 2012

    Using systems thinking tools . . .

    Today was the first day of the ESD systems thinking conference attended by a team of Tahoma staff representing PSE and supervisors at the building, department, and system level.  Our focus is on an issue that has troubled PSE leadership and staff for many years and has persevered through multiple technical solutions.  We realize that we need an adaptive solution and a process that looks at system structures.  What is the issue?  Evaluation and supervision of classified staff and the mental models that have been created over time.

    Our team has the support of an outside systems coach who helped us use the tools that were introduced today, behavior over time graphs and the iceberg, to begin looking at the issue through a different lens.  Conversations at the end of the day identifying mental models held by those on the team were informative and opened the door to identifying structures that result in an evaluation process not valued by either the evaluee or evaluator.  The process left me both reflective and hopeful and also saddened because I won't be able to be a part of the conversations through Saturday.

    I look forward to the outcome over the next day and a half and to the meetings that will continue during the course of the year.  I believe there is leverage in these tools to support resolving multiple issues that persist over time and that we will be confronted with as we continue our Classroom 10 journey.