Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year . . .

Be safe and have fun as you usher in the new year!  We'll see if our Grandson makes it to midnight or for that matter if I do.

Monday, December 30, 2013

An important question . . .

Below is a post I did on December 30th that I have decided to post again, something that I have not done before.  I don't have a lot of readers and the count always drops over longer holiday breaks so I should plan better for when to post content I would like to see generate comments and interchange between readers.  For me, this is one of those posts, a topic of importance that impacted me when I read the answers that teachers submitted.

Amy Torrens posted a comment to the original post that captures the feeling that many teachers and principals hold about needing to be perfect  that also showed up in one of the comments to the Strauss post.

I think this post captures what I hear my teachers say, and how I feel as a principal. So many people want to do it "perfectly" but there isn't the time to put in place everything we know goes into good teaching.

I won't make it a practice to repost, but this one deserved more readers and the opportunity for comments from those of you that do this important work.  Consider sharing your answer to this question.


On the Washington Post Answer Sheet Valerie Strauss poses the following question.

How hard is teaching?

She includes a few examples such as this one below.

“Teaching is hard. Not only because of the curriculum, not only because of the new tests, new rules, new measures. Not only because there are tests, tests, and more tests. But because it so often feels like an insurmountable, thankless, stressful endeavor. The rules are always changing. The tests are always changing. And the blame for anything and everything that goes wrong usually falls squarely on our shoulders.” – Neyda Borges, teacher at Miami Lakes Educational Center in Florida, from this piece on the website of StateImpact Florida, a project of NPR.

How would you answer the question?  I was particularly moved by a comment to the post from palan.

. . . But in some ways the hardest part is never being enough.

You know what, in a perfect world, you would do-- the assignments you would give, the personal attention you would give, the feedback you would give on assignments, the preparation you would put into units. You will never have enough time to do all of it, especially if you have a life of your own (and you have to, even if only to be able to connect to students), and so you must always decide what thing that ought to be done is not going to be done.

You grow every year (if you're any good) and you get better at juggling more balls faster. But every day is still educational triage and you are still bothered by the things you know you ought to do, but you don't have the time or the resources.

You will never be perfect, even though you have a pretty good idea of what perfect looks like. You will always be better than you used to be, but all good teachers know exactly in what ways they are failing.

Please consider sharing your answer with our readers and commenting on the Strauss post.  It is important for policy makers to get closer to the reality of how hard teaching is as they make decisions that impact what young people need to know and do and the resources they allocate for teachers and support staff to accomplish this difficult task.  

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A big win . . .

Once again a tremendous game by the Seahawk defense to win the NFC West Division championship and secure home field advantage throughout the play offs.  Still concerned with the offense even with Lynch mauling his way to 97 yards, but can and should go far with this defense.  It was loud today, but will be louder in two weeks no matter who we play.

Friday, December 27, 2013

A difficult transition . . .

In going through my blog file for post ideas two articles by Catherine Gerwetz in Education Week are at the top and follow conversations we had in our latest Teacher Leadership learning opportunity.  In the first she shares how states are grappling with common test score cutoffs for measuring career ready and in the second she follows that up with the problems associated with making the cut scores NAEP-like.

The issue of cut score is very important as we enter a new era of accountability aligned with common core standards beginning for many of our grades in the spring of 2014 with full implementation in the spring of 2015.  We are already experiencing some of the issues associated with this as we transition this year to assessments aligned with the common core that use some Smarter Balanced released items and scoring rubrics.  As accountability with these assessments becomes a reality and as questions of grades and graduation become tied to them we begin to see the push back she shares in her articles.

I am particularly intrigued by this issue of tying them to a NAEP standard.  As shared in the article, this is a high standard that could and probably would result in significant political backlash with the predicted low scores.  In 2013 fewer than 4 in 10 reached the proficient level in the reading and math assessments administered across the country.

W. James Popham, a governing board member who also sits on Smarter Balanced's technical advisory committee, said that while state schools chiefs "have a vested interest" in setting cut scores that minimize political fallout, technical advisors to a testing project push for a higher cut score because they don't want their test to be seen as weak.

He worried that "in the quest to look good... NAEP might be playing too dominant" a role in setting performance standards for the PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests. When the NAEP cut scores were set, Popham noted, they were intended to be "aspirational." Setting PARCC and SBAC "college ready" scores at that level of rigor has states "frightened," he said.

Patricia Wright, Virginia's superintendent of public instruction, said that states "like to be ambitious, but [NAEP-like proficiency cut scores] may not be the cut scores we want to set if we want to maintain our accountability systems."

Will the predicted low scores result in a common core cuts score different than the cut scores used by states for graduation purposes?  If different cut scores become a reality, will graduation cut scores across the states be the same?  I believe that there will be two sets of cut scores that result from implementing common core state assessments that will lead to more criticism for our public schools.  I also question if "aspirational" as measured by the NAEP should drive the proficient cut score and agree with those that say this should be a long term change process given a chance to succeed before it is destroyed by short term posting of results on assessments administered before we are given the resources and time to prepare them.

When using the mastery levels of PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests in policymaking, states would be wise to "set goals that are stretch-but-not-break," said Kati Haycock, the president of the Washington-based Education Trust, which advocates policies that help disadvantaged students.

"When you ask yourself how many kids are hitting that [NAEP] level of proficiency now, and ask yourself how fast we can move systems and kids," she said, "there is no way this is anything less than a 10-year transition."

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A special wish . . .

I'm taking a few days off for the holidays, but wanted to wish for you and your family a very special and restful holiday season.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Focus on principal growth . . .

This Anthony Cody post at Education Week TEACHER includes a guest post by a teacher, Jennifer Gonzalez. that is worth the read. In it she asks the question: What makes a principal great? She refers to evaluation standards developed by the Interstate School Leaders' Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) and shares information from a study in our state.

Research in the state of Washington, for example, suggests that adoption of the ISLLC standards hasn't resulted in their consistent use in principal evaluation. In a 2011 summary of research on principal evaluation, Matthew Clifford and Steven Ross report that these evaluations are not conducted in any consistent way, and that by and large, principals see little value in them for their own professional growth.

This hits at home since I am the evaluator of principals in our system. Before this year and implementation of the mandated principal evaluation model I was much more focused on supervision and principal growth. The model that we have selected is based on the ISLLIC standards and is one that allows me to maintain a focus on what I believe are critical areas for principal focus, school culture and instructional practice. Though I am collecting data in more areas, I continue to provide feedback in these critical areas.

In her post Gonzales ends with these questions.

What impact have principals had on your ability to teach well? Have you found ways to offer them feedback about their work?

I am interested in the same questions and welcome any comments from teachers in our system. Principals want to increase their capacity to support teacher growth and feedback is an essential component of increasing this capacity. Please join me in supporting growth of our principals by providing this necessary feedback.

If interested, she is also conducting a survey on this topic. You can participate here.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Wondering about us . . .

A recent This Week In Education post shared the best NEA cartoons of the year including the one below.  They come from those that were the most shared and liked on the NEA website over the year.

Though funny it makes me wonder if this is what our students, parents, and teachers are thinking.  Though NCLB has not been a focus of conversation in our community and we are now much more engaged in Common Core conversations, is the testing in our system at a point where this question is an accurate description of our reality?

If you are interested in seeing more of the best cartoons of the year from NEA check them out here.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Another holiday brings more lasts . . .

Today was a multiple day of lasts beginning with our annual office ornament exchange brunch.  As always, it was great food, good company, and much fun watching Mark steal and Kristie make multiple trips to the table after being on the wrong end of an exchange.

The day ended with another last as we had our only board meeting of the month, one where gifts are exchanged with great food and important business.  It was a particularly good meeting as the board engaged in a difficult discussion to reach a decision on the upcoming levy.  We used SPACE to keep the focus on the issue as all of us were influenced in reaching a decision different than the original recommendation that I made.

So, it was another day of lasts on my continuing journey to retirement.  Funny how so many of the memorable ones are associated with fun, my central office colleagues, and great food.  Oh, and thanks Diana for reminding me within 20 seconds of entering the room that it was another of my lasts.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Reflection leads to wondering . . .

I'm sitting at home reflecting on the day and wondering how I could have been more effective in providing leadership, direction, and feedback on a number of topics and with the many colleagues who shared their day with me.  So much of my work is about feedback and support that I don't have traditional "products" to measure success so I often reflect on conversations and what I could or should have said or done in various situations.

As always in this situation, I find specific examples of positive influence and other examples where I question my effectiveness.  Today was no exception as I keep revisiting part of a conversation where I attempted to make a point with a questionable statement instead of a reflective question.  In a later conversation it was clear that my comment at the time did not have the desired impact that the later conversation and questions did.  I'm now wondering what influenced my intentional choice of the statement and what I need to do to not repeat the behavior.  Sometimes you just mess up and need to acknowledge and move forward.  Looking forward to tomorrow and a fresh start.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Interesting reader . . .

I had an interesting comment posted to my last post on the common core.  It came from the Illinois Freedom Coalition.  When I went to their link it took me to a blogger site that started in February 2013 with 562 profile views before I added mine.  The comment I share below shows how emotional the common core has become for some and the scope of arguments being used against it.

For years they went after the kids but good teachers maintained control of their curriculum. Now the communists are going after the teachers, follow the script of be fired. This started with Bush one and he dedication to the UN charter which violates the US Constitution 15 ways. The special status and benfits for teachers and unions has passed, join the parents and enforce the constitution or we move to the soviet system.

What is interesting to me is how my post actually was read by an individual in Illinois who felt the need to post a comment.  We see and read so much about online privacy, but this is my first experience that drives home the point that you never know who is watching and reading.  Out of all the blogger posts on December 12th, it boggles my mind that I would receive a comment from an anti common core organization in Illinois.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Common Core at home . . .

Going through my RSS feeds the first post I opened had the Common Core as a topic.  As I went through it there were others on the same topic that I transfer over to my blog folder for possible posts. The folder has a number of posts most of which I have not used and will not, but today I do want to share some of my thoughts and some of the posts.

Why now?  Because the Common Core is creating anxiety, confusion, and concern in our system and is a topic of conversation in our latest round of Teacher Leadership.  We are asking the teacher leadership teams to assist us in identifying our "Common Core current reality", something that would mostly be based on assumptions if we did it with input only from central office staff.  Knowing our current reality is essential if we are to identify the structures and strategies necessary to close the gap between our aspiration of young people positioned for success in the spring of 2014 and the reality shared above.  As system leaders, we created the reality, understand and own the responsibility to close the gap.

This is and will continue to be difficult work as we focus on answering the question many are asking themselves.  Is it worth it?  The focus of these efforts is on culture at the team, building, and system level; work that many of us struggle with and find ways to put toward the back of our priority lists.  Working through our issues to create learning environments positioned to support the needs of our young people is essential and time sensitive.  We are sputtering after a less than successful unveiling, but committed to reflection and implementing structures and strategies to move the system in a direction that closes the gap.

Our efforts are taking place at the same time that systems are experiencing push back at the local and state level around the country.  Here is a link to an Education Week article sharing the shift that Mike Huckabee, a one time Presidential contender, is making from a conservative supporter to opposing implementation of the standards.

"It's been hijacked," Huckabee tells his audience, referring to common core, "and I don't support the hijackers or the destination. But I don't blame the airplane for getting hijacked."

He calls for the term "common core" to disappear from the education policy lexicon, but that states shouldn't back away from high education standards: "Common core is dead, but common sense should not be."

In this Education Week Teacher article, Anthony Cody shares hos concern with the influence of the Gates Foundation and the standard's tie to commerce and corporations.

There is a powerful engine of "reform" at work in the "venture philanthropy" of the Gates Foundation, which has sponsored the development, adoption and implementation of the Common Core, spending close to $200 million so far on the project. While every Common Core web site claims that the standards were "authored by states," those who inquire learn that the standards were written by a small groupof individuals affiliated with a handful of non-profits funded by the Gates Foundation. 

I could pick many more posts and articles to share, some supporting and some fighting against implementation of these standards, but I doubt they would be read.  You get the point, the experiences in our system are no different than the struggles taking place across the country.  How we respond to the challenge will have a significant influence on the learning cultures that  emerge to support students and teachers in this most important experience we call learning.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Seeking adaptive solutions . . .

There are many major initiatives demanding time making it more and more difficult for me to maintain a focus on providing support for principals and central office leadership.  My situation is similar to that faced by all of us, competing demands on our time and added responsibilities with little likelihood of dropping any current job functions.  The demand for engagement in the planning of our new high school has been the latest need for my time with the replacement levy decision and processing up next.  Others in the central office are also experiencing significant push and pull on their time from these same initiatives.

So, how do we meet increased job functions and maintain a focus on what we consider to be priority responsibilities while maintaining a balance in our lives?  Is it possible to provide quality leadership in public education while maintaining a balance in our lives?  Since I don't view saying no as an option, what new strategies and structures are necessary to adapt to these changing conditions?  What can and must we do to support each other through new adaptive structures and strategies?

These are some of the questions I am struggling with as I try to keep my priority on supporting building leaders in Classroom 10 and TPEP work and my central office colleagues in their leadership and support work at the building and system level.  Though the context will be different for each us, the needs are similar.  How we respond to these competing commitments and the demands we place on ourselves will influence the cultures that emerge from our efforts and the learning environments that result.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A tribute to Mandela . . .

If you spend much time online, you have probably already seen this Maya Angelou tribute to Nelson Mandela.  If not, I encourage you to give yourself the approximately five minutes to see and hear her work.  I learned about it on Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

I'm wondering . . .

This Education Week article is interesting to me and makes me wonder who makes these decisions for us and the criteria they use when making them.  In this case it refers to a new teacher assessment, the edTPA, that will become part of the licensing requirements in January 2014.

I know nothing about the test, what interests me is that Washington and New York are the first two states to adopt the test and the difference in the cut scores.

Washington state, as I report in a story this week for Education Week, on Nov. 14 chose to set its bar at 35 out of 75 points, for a predicted passing rate of 85 percent of teacher-candidates. That figure is somewhat lower than the nationally recommended maximum of 42, a decision made in part because the exam is still pretty new, a state official told me. It's possible the state will look at increasing the score over time.

Conversely, a few days later, on Nov. 22, a New York state panel set its marker: a 49 out of 75 points for elementary teachers, a 35 for world and classical-language teachers, and a 41 for pretty much everyone else. Candidates also would have to earn a minimum score across the various rubrics that make up the total score.

Why the difference and why did our state pick a bar that is below the recommended cut score?  What does this decision communicate to parents and to prospective teachers?  Who and how was this decision made and what will trigger the possible increase suggested by the unnamed state official?  It makes me further wonder the intent of the assessment.  Is it measuring the candidates capacity for becoming a "proficient" teacher?  Is it intended to weed out teachers without the capacity to reach the "proficient" standard?  Is it a measure of the effectiveness of the college that prepared the candidate to meet the licensing requirements?  Just wondering.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Center stage for "high risk" waiver . . .

In the last few days there have been multiple articles about a major focus of the upcoming legislative session on the need for legislators to amend the teacher evaluation law to mandate use of state test scores in a teacher' evaluation.  In this Seattle Times article they show how"easy" it could be and the reason why many believe that it must be done.

The Washington law says statewide test scores can be a factor in teacher evaluations. The federal government wants the word “can” to be changed to “must” or the state will not meet its requirements for a waiver from the federal education law, according to Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn.

State Superintendent Dorn has made this one of major goals in his legislative package for this session with the other being increased revenue for K-12 of $540 million.

“When the Legislature was debating this back in 2010, I said the language didn’t go far enough,” Dorn said in a statement.
He noted, however, that test scores should not be the only measure to judge teachers. “But they must be one of the tools we use in our new accountability system,” Dorn said.

He wants and needs this change in the law to secure the waiver.  If the waiver were not granted nearly every school in the state would need to inform parents that they are not meeting the NCLB standards.  This would then lead to other federal mandates under the NCLB legislation.  He and policy makers are in a difficult situation because they know there will be a lobby effort to maintain the current level of flexibility and "local control" at the same time they face this federal mandate for change to maintain the waiver status.

I think there also may be some inaccurate information about what districts are doing based upon this comment in the article by Deputy Superintendent Burke.

At a recent meeting of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee, Deputy Superintendent Alan Burke said districts are ahead of schedule in implementing the new law and that so far all districts that have adopted a new teacher-evaluation system have included student growth on statewide tests as a factor.

Every district is required to have an adopted model at this time and I know that our district does not currently have an agreed upon process to use statewide tests as a factor and I don't know that I have heard of any agreements at this time that include that factor.

This is a BIG DEAL and one that will influence our belief in the primary purpose of this effort being to support teacher growth as I blogged about here.  If changed, it would add additional complexity to the process in the first year of implementation and make it even more difficult to maintain the focus on teacher growth.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Great football evening . . .

Wow!  The Seahawks put it altogether tonight dominating on both offense and defense holding the Saints to less than 150 passing yards while winning 34 to 7.  They did it without Pervy Harvin, two suspended corner backs, and lack of a running game.  It was once again Russell Wilson's night.

My son and I were also able to be on the field for about an hour before game time.  We were on the 15 yard line on the Saints side of the field for warm ups almost completely surrounded by Saints fans that traveled from New Orleans for the game.  Mostly corporate types that talked business, acted like they knew the players personally, and shared a little "smack" while suggesting that we were on the wrong side of the field.

Loading the overhead camera
I was amazed by the size and speed of the athletes.  Two other things made the experience very interesting.  First is the noise, it is much louder on the field than in our seats, even before the stadium started to fill up.  Lastly, though I thoroughly enjoyed being on the field and close to the action, I like the view from our seats where we can see the plays unfold.

Great night of football and the Hawks secured a playoff spot.  Now onward for home field advantage.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Difficult decisions . . .

Looking forward to tomorrow night's Seahawk game against the Saints, but it is presenting me with a challenge.  For the first time, I have sideline passes to be on the field during pregame warm-ups compliments of my ticket agent.  Since my seats are under cover I rarely worry about what to wear other than being warm.  With this opportunity and the weather forecast I now have the problem of what to wear not only for warmth, but to remain dry while on the field.

Compared to bond issues and the day-to-day decisions I make this may not seem like a big issue, but it is a decision I must make tonight to be ready for the game.  So, what criteria do I use in arriving at the "best" answer to my dilemma?  I have three different Seahawk outer wear possibilities, but none are water proof.  I have three water proof jackets, but none show Seahawk colors.  So, what is more important, showing our colors or staying dry?  Or, can I accomplish both?  Yes, I can by wearing a light water proof jacket under a Seahawk top.  I'll stay dry and show our colors at the same time.  Better yet, maybe the latest forecast will be accurate and it will be dry and cold something I can and have planned for at Seahawk games.

So, tomorrow at about 4:30 p.m. I'll be on the sideline next to where the Saints will be warming up.  No food, no autographs, but pictures are allowed.  Should be an interesting experience to see and hear this part of the pregame activities.  I'll share some thoughts in the next post.


Friday, November 29, 2013

Another informative infographic . . .

I've read about and listened to people talk about how it would annually take 1.5 earths to provide our resources and absorb our waste.  It has over time contributed to my belief in the need for us to reflect on our individual and collective role in contributing to this need and to what we can do about it.  The infographic below from Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day really drives the point home.  Basically, we consume the earth's allotted resources for the year in mid-August and have been over the allotment each year since the 1970's.

I'm becoming a supporter of infographics as a way to make information more visible.  This one certainly shows the contribution that we in our country make to this hungry planet.  Combining this with the growing gap between the rich and poor here and across the world makes me wonder how long it can continue before we experience even greater discontent and tragedy.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Monday, November 25, 2013

I'm wondering . . .

Am I the only one still looking at the bond results?  I'm  pulling to get to 70%, but we are falling short at 69.49%.  With tomorrow being the date for certification of the results there is still a slim chance as there are a couple hundred votes yet to count.  While I am pleased and proud of the results it would have been nice to reach 70%.  Maybe we'll get to 69.5% or more so rounding will reach what has become my goal.

Not only did we pass at a percentage greater than any of us imagined we did it with a very large return.  The return at the county level was about 48%, but for us it was a whopping 61%.  So, tomorrow is the day when it all becomes official and I can let go of my goal and move to other blog topics.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Almost forgotten . . .

With everything happening in our system as well as following the rising push back to the common core  I had forgotten about the lawsuit brought against charter schools by a coalition that includes the state teacher's association, Washington school administrators, and the League of Women Voters.  The status of the suit argued before a judge last week is summarized in the this Tacoma News Tribune article.

I found it interesting that attorneys for both sides as well as one for the charter initiative sponsors are using the McCleary decision to support their arguments.  Though the state attorneys feel the case has no merit and have asked for summary judgment, the judge has suggested that the complexity of the issue and arguments will require some time before she reaches a decision.

The judge heard the case the same day that applications to start a charter were due.  In this News Tribune article we learn that 19 applications were received from individuals and from organizations that are running charters in other states.

Though I struggle with seeing how charters under this initiative will close any gaps, I also struggle with the lawsuit.  Any problems the judge might find will more than likely then become a focus for the upcoming legislative session that will simply delay implementation and/or another initiative making a successful lawsuit even more difficult.  Time to move forward with the McCleary decision and focus on what we in public schools can do to close gaps and meet the needs of all our young people.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Little like water torture . . .

At the PSE meeting today the topic of life after Mike surfaced.  After Barb shared some comments that I very much appreciated she then shared the concern that she and some others have about moving forward after my retirement.  It was a good opportunity for me to share my belief in Rob's commitment to continue our journey and to build upon what we have created.  I am both pleased and proud that we have the right person in our system to preserve and grow the collaborative culture that is the foundation of our success following this transition in my life.

Later this evening I was sharing with Bruce who is in his first year of retirement how this conversation reminded me of yesterday when I experienced another "last" as superintendent.  This time it was my last Thanksgiving luncheon with the Central Office staff, a group of people that I love, respect, and so much rely upon.  For the most part, they work in isolation and rarely get the recognition for the contributions that they make to our success.  I will truly miss having them in my life.

Bruce then said something that is beginning to happen for me.  He said that his last year was like water torture - the lasts just keep piling up and you just want it to be over.  I'm not yet at that point, but as this year rapidly approaches that last day I can see how this can happen.  I try to be tough, but each of these lasts has an emotional toll that keeps building.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A thoughtful approach . . .

I am impressed with the message in this Education Week Leaders to Learn from post by Catherine Gewertz where she shares how the state of Massachusetts will phase in the process to use the new common core assessments from PARCC for graduation purposes.  In particular, I like this message from the education commissioner.

Mitchell D. Chester, the commissioner of education who proposed the phase-in approach, told me that it just doesn't make sense to expect his high school students to suddenly meet a "college-ready" bar in order to graduate. Not when four in 10 of Massachusetts students who clear the MCAS hurdle and enroll in state colleges or universities have to take at least one remedial class.

"Our system isn't ready to deliver a college-ready education to all our students off the bat," he told me the other day, before the board voted on the phase-in plan. "I don't want to get there by having students punished by not meeting that bar."

Thank you for recognizing the significant difference between the current state requirements with cut scores identified for minimum high school graduation standards and cut scores designed to measure college and career ready.  And, this is in a state that consistently out performs other states on national and international assessments.  Our state has taken a different approach.  Today's seventh graders will need to meet standard on the ELA and mathematics common core assessments in 2019 in order to graduate.  There is an opening in the legislation, however, that allows the State Board to consider lowering the cut score - in other words if significant numbers of students don't meet the national standard, it can be lowered to survive the backlash similar to that currently being experienced in places like New York where parents and students have received scores.

So, if the cut score is lowered, are students still college and career ready in our state?  Across the nation?  What happens if Massachusetts and other states do the same and arrive at different cut scores?
2019 seems like a long way off, but based on what I currently know I expect that the cut score will be lowered in ours and in other states.  That is if the common core is still a requirement in that year.

Though states seem to still be firmly aligned with their commitment, the push back is growing.  Last Friday it was fueled by a comment from Secretary Duncan that forced a later apology.

“It’s fascinating to me that some of the pushback is coming from, sort of, white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were, and that’s pretty scary,”

Interesting how one test can change the context for success of a student, school, and school system.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Another new technology for me . . .

I can always count on something in Ian Juke's 21st Century Fluency Project to boggle my mind.  It was one of the first sights where I learned about 3d printing that just happens to be a component of the video below focused on a Disney research project about interactive graphics.  The video takes the viewer through a four minute explanation of AIREAL, an interactive tactile experience.  I learned that this means we will soon be able to not only interact with our devices, but actually feel for example a butterfly moving up our arm.

As well as making screens you can feel, Disney Research is also developing tactile equipment that doesn’t require any actual contact at all — like an Xbox Kinect, but where you feel as though you can touch objects in front of you in thin air. The device is called the “Aireal” and in its developers’ words it provides “interactive tactile experiences in free air.” The Aireal works by blowing small rings of air at a user to simulate touch, movement or collisions with objects.

I also learned a new term from the post, haptic technology.  I figured out the meaning from context, but decided to followup on Wikipedia.  We are actually in fourth generation haptic devices and I am only now learning about them, another measure of my technological literacy.  Guess I just need to keep reading his posts.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Thought I'd help . . .

Last week Federal Education Secretary Duncan congratulated State Secretary Dorn on the progress Washington students made on the NAEP assessments that I blogged about here.  In the message, he asked Secretary Dorn to thank teachers and principals for all their hard work.  So, I thought I'd help Secretary Dorn share the message and include my thanks as well.

Hope Duncan keeps this in mind when it comes time to renew our state's waiver from NCLB.

Friday, November 15, 2013

When 69% is a disappointment . . .

On election night it was total jubilation that we were passing by such a large margin.  Over the next few days as more votes were counted I and some others were hoping to reach the magical 70%.  It seemed very possible as we inched up to 69.58%, but since then we have inched down to tonight's 69.40% with 14,221 ballots counted and few left.  

I guess if that is disappointment I'll take it every time.  The turn out is well above the county average and the results are a validation of our work and the vision for what the community wants for our young people.  Thank you!

We can now shift our energies to moving the work forward.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Mathematically impossible . . .

With over 13,400 ballots counted and with a Yes vote of 69.48% I was told this evening that if every ballot not yet counted was a No, the measure would still meet the 60% requirement for passing.  What an accomplishment.  We have moved from hoping for 60% to now wanting the final count to be over 70% Yes.  If someone had suggested this as a possibility two weeks ago I would have said no way.

At this evening's Board meeting we invited a number of people to join us so that we could thank them for their commitment and leadership in support of this bond measure.  Below, are those from the VOTE Committee, from the Chamber and business community, and from staff that could join us.

We also had the honor of thanking Barbara Kennedy for her long standing support of our school system in a variety of capacities and for her leadership of the VOTE Committee for many years.  Though I'm sure if asked she will be there when we need her, she will pull back from her leadership role.  THANK YOU BARB!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thankful for . . .

Though today is the day we designate for thanking those that serve our country, it just doesn't seem to be enough.  For the sacrifices that these individuals and their families have had and continue to make on our behalf and for those less fortunate than us in today's chaotic world I truly am thankful.

Thank You!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

State students do well . . .

While focusing on our bond results I found a number of possible topics for posting including this one from KPLU on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results.  The focus is on how  Washington fourth and eighth grade students did on the reading and math assessments.  Historically. our students have scored above the national average and that continued with only five states scoring significantly higher on all four assessments.

The state’s reading scores have climbed significantly in recent years, as has the fourth-graders’ math score. At most, five other states scored statistically higher in all four categories.

“We’re proud of how our students are doing and the work that our teachers are doing,” said Washington State Superintendent Randy Dorn. 

In this Education Week blog post by Catherine Gewirtz we read that Secretary Duncan tries to tie gains in some states to the federal Race to the Top competition.  

"Tennessee, D.C. and Hawaii have done some really tough, hard work and it's showing some pretty remarkable dividends," he said. "Lots of folks sort of scoffed when we invested in Hawaii through Race to the Top. People thought that that was a loser, that Hawaii could never do anything. ... Hawaii, to their tremendous credit, has proved a lot of skeptics wrong."

Of the 12 early Race to the Top winners, however, only six—Delaware, Tennessee, New York, Florida, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia—produced statistically significant gains on the NAEP since 2011, according to the NCES data.

So much for gains being driven by the millions spent on this and other federal competitive grant opportunities.  Though he tried to tie reforms required under the NCLB waivers to the modest overall gains it didn't resonate with all at the press conference.

Pressed to say how national gains of barely 1 point on a 500-point scale in three of the four subject areas was a victory for billions of dollars in federal investment, Duncan noted only that "scores actually went up across the board," and that the federal stimulus money saved many teachers' jobs. 

It would seem that we are doing pretty well in our state without  additional federal financial support and without some of the initiatives the Secretary favors. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Inching closer . . .

As of this evening there are 10,529 ballots that have been counted with 68.51% of them being Yes votes.  We also know that there are 15,019 total ballots returned thus far so there are potentially about 4,500 more ballots to be counted.  Given the trend since election night of small increases in the Yes vote from count-to-count, I am feeling much more confidant in the final outcome.  We are inching closer to that time when we can officially say we did it.

Following the first count I have received many congratulations from people in our system and community as well as others in the education community.  I am appreciative of them, but this result is something that our community accomplished.  Congratulations and thanks need to be directed at those on the VOTE Committee that orchestrated community outreach and challenged voters to become educated before making this critical decision.  To city staff, the mayor, and council members who embraced the vision and saw the possibilities to support their short and long term goals for the city.  To the Chamber and local business community for their endorsement and advocacy shown in multiple ways.  To the realtors for their contributions to educating voters on the importance of this measure to their home values and the health of the community.  To Sound Alliance and the trade unions for their financial contributions to the VOTE campaign and for their active engagement in getting the word out.  To the hundreds of parent and community volunteers who were a visible presence in the community and to our teachers and classified staff who joined them at store fronts, in neighborhoods, and on street corners over a multiple week period.

It took this kind of collaborative effort to achieve this stunning result.  The coalition that formed will provide our system with a solid foundation as we move forward to bring the vision of this bond measure to a reality for our young people, staff, and community.  There is one more group I want to acknowledge before closing and that is our School Board and please forgive me if I have missed another.  Below is an excerpt from an email I sent them on Wednesday morning.

I want to thank you for your leadership in putting this measure before the community that many, if not most, thought was dead on arrival.  That was a difficult decision that few in the community can identify with and one that I commend you for taking.  Instead of a typical “Tahoma add-on bond”, we created a vision that began to resonate in the community, one that resulted in many new partnerships that will continue to grow into the future . . . Please know and accept that though it isn’t often stated and most often unrecognized by community members, we would not be the destination school system we are without your leadership and commitment.  I know and appreciate that.

Our Board made the difficult decision to ask our community to support this bond measure that was far above anything ever asked for in our system.  They did this after many hours of learning, exploring options, asking clarifying questions, and requesting additional information.  It was a courageous decision that now becomes a focus of our continuing learning journey.

At next Tuesday evening's Board meeting we will be recognizing some of those that provided leadership for this effort.  Please consider joining us and giving voice to your appreciation.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

It means yes . . .

This says it all!  Never would I have predicted a 68% YES vote on the first count.  So many people to thank and so much to be thankful for living and working in this school system and community.  

It seems the answer to this post about what does it mean was people bought into the vision.  I'll share more of my thinking later, but for now I need to take some deep breaths and wonder if it could be any better.  

Monday, November 4, 2013

A nagging question . . .

What does it mean is the question most on my mind this evening?  On Saturday, today, and tomorrow there is a ballot collection van in the Rock Creek Elementary parking lot.  I learned this morning that on Saturday it was the busiest van collection site in the county and that today they have experienced even more ballots being dropped off.

As of yesterday the county posted 6381 ballots ready to count and 6526 returned.  I assume this means that there are 145 questionable ballots.  The 6381 is about 25% of the 25,097 registered voters in our school system.  So, what do you think it means that one fourth of the eligible voters returned ballots by the end of last week and that the van collection site has been busy?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Another bond interview . . .

Kevin Patterson shared on Friday that King 5 wants to interview me again about the bond on Monday morning.  As many of you know, being interviewed by the media may be just below having to make the snow/ice school closure call on my list of least favorite things to do.  Today, as I think about tomorrow morning it may in fact be number one on my list.

So, why the anxiety about an interview that may be no longer than five minutes resulting in maybe 30 seconds of on air time?  Part of it is the process, multiple questions reduced to a few short sound bites often taken out of context.  Another part is that I can't make a definitive statement about when and if the Board will make the decision to implement one or both of these alternative delivery models.  It is the decision that we have made at this point in time because it best positions the system to continue our learning organization journey given continued growth in student enrollment, but there is much to discuss and consider before implementing ether or both. Adding to that, is my assumption that their purpose is to push this issue of going to year-round, multi-track and double shift if the bond fails.  It was part of the previous interview and with the timing being the day before ballots are due makes me feel that this is the intent.

Many of my colleagues and people in the community tell me it doesn't matter because any on air time is  important in our effort to provide voters with information on our need for increased capacity.  Though I don't disagree, the timing and my assumption about the intent for tomorrow's interview is not needed as we approach the ballot due date.  I would feel much better if the the intent was to focus on our over crowded conditions, on the possibilities for improving all learning environments with the addition of a new Tahoma High School, on the opportunities for our young people and community with higher education partnerships, and on the collaborative effort that has emerged during the process of educating our community to the need.  Maybe some of these questions will be asked and even be included in whatever makes the news.

Though difficult, I'll work at suspending my assumption to be open to a more positive intent.  Speaking of positive, yesterday we had over 200 people lining Maple Valley Highway in the wind and rain to show their support of the bond.  It will be very difficult for anyone to say they didn't know about it, something that we always hear following a school measure placed before the voters.  Sean Kelly shared the picture below of some of us getting the word out.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Homecoming 2013 . . .

Tonight was Homecoming at Maxwell Stadium as the Bears took on Thomas Jefferson in a must win game to qualify for the playoffs.  It was quite the evening as we saw many young Bears showcase their talent in front of a packed crowd on Senior Night.

As I entered the gym the band was warming up for the evening.

The National Anthem was performed by our jazz choir and signed by students in our sign language program.

Homecoming royalty was introduced a halftime followed by a rousing fireworks display.

The band and Flag and Rifle Team performed a very impressive program after the game.

Oh, yes there was the football game.  The Bears won 21 to 13 winning the right to be the number three seed from the league.  I don't yet know who they will play, but it feels good to come back after a tough loss last week.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Rural Halloween . . .

I've shared before that the Maryanski household has historically not experienced a "neighborhood" Halloween with large numbers of trick or treaters.  I'm always amazed at the stories of how much candy is handed out in Maple Valley neighborhoods.  We live in an area where homes are on 2.5 or 5 acre lots so we are fairly far apart and there are no street lights so parents usually drive the kids through the area.  It seems like each year we have fewer and fewer kids knocking on our door with tonight's total being 10 including a couple adults.

The biggest turn outs were when our kids were young and one of the neighbors hooked up the tractor to the wagon and went house-to-house.  There were fewer homes, but more children at the time.  I guess one could say we are an aging neighborhood where many of us have stayed in the same home after our children have grown and started their own families.  Even back then, however, a big turn out was 15 to 20 kids.  What are some of the numbers that visited your home.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Reflecting on leadership

Today was the third day for round two of our Teacher Leader Institute.  Our focus for this round included:

  • Reflection on what the teams have intentionally done to reduce the gap between their current reality as identified in August and an aspiration they created around one component of that reality.
  • A learning opportunity to increase their knowledge of teacher practices that result in quality student talk, a component of our 5D+ Instructional Model.
  • An introduction into a teaching protocol that can be used to share the concept of "interpersonal mush" that forms from the assumptions that are made in conversations.
  • Providing time in the afternoon for the teams to be reflective and make decisions on how to support staff through professional development opportunities.
As always, these sessions were energizing for me and I bring from them much to reflect upon.  In the course of the conversations it became more clear to me the importance of the mental model that teachers bring to their practice and to their lesson designs.  If the mental model that drives a teacher's practice is one where they are driven by the content to cover today, their planning and delivery will be significantly different than a mental model driven by the need to ensure that all students leave the lesson meeting the learning target goal.  If my purpose is to deliver content there is little need for me to be concerned with revisiting the learning target, differentiation, summarizing, student reflection, success criteria, and student talk.  These take on added significance if my intent is to ensure that all students are successful.

So, where are we on our learning journey related to the mental models that drive teacher planning and delivery behavior?  On a continuum with some at both ends and most somewhere in between.  As I reflect on this I am reviewing what the authors of How Did That Happen call "complyment" behavior signified by giving to the work one's hands and feet and buying in at a lower level.  They contrast this with "complete alignment" where people engage not only with their hands and feet, but also with their hearts and mind.  It is no longer doing because it is in one's best interest, but instead because they believe in the changed practices and are committed to making them come alive in their place of work. 

I will continue to engage in conversation around this topic always looking for leverage for leadership teams to move teachers on the continuum.  This becomes more difficult in times of stress and anxiety created by multiple change initiatives and the unknowns that come with them.  The complexity is one of the components of leadership that at the same time make it difficult and rewarding.  

So, what do you think about the difference in planning and delivery driven by these two different mental models or mental models that differ from these two?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Motivation and relevance . . .

I like this post from Will Richardson sharing an excerpt from a book by David Price, Open: How We’ll Work, Live and Learn in the Future.

No one can be ‘made’ to learn anything: for knowledge and understanding to stick, we have to have learner intent. The quality of one’s learning is directly related to our desire to learn. This is why progress made in learning socially, voluntarily, is invariably far greater than in the formal, compulsory context…We can’t motivate learners to learn: many teachers believe it’s their job to motivate their students. It’s not. They can only truly motivate themselves. But a great teacher helps learners see the relevance which drives self-motivation – why learning something will make a difference in their lives. [Emphasis mine.]

Do you agree with Price when he says that you can't motivate learners to learn, it's not the teachers job, and that great teachers help learners see the relevance which drives self-motivation?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A different context . . .

In following blogs about the latest international assessment comparison I posted about here, I found the following information that I thought I would share.  Before I share some charts that show how our state compares to other states and to the other countries taking the science and math assessments I thought it would be interesting to share the context for the scores created in this Educationnext post and the link to the interview.

But as Ed Next’s Paul Peterson explains in the article, the pool of countries taking the math and science exams includes many developing countries, and several industrialized nations, including France, Germany and Denmark, did not participate. “So if you really want to compare the U.S. to the developing world, then we do look good,” Peterson told Motoko Rich.

Given that, the charts below show our state in comparison to the other states and to the other countries   referred to in the Educationnext post.