Thursday, May 30, 2013

Senior Awards night . . .

Another of those bench marks for me that the student year is drawing to a close is Senior Awards night.  It is an evening to honor seniors for academic achievement, scholarships, department recognition, and the first time for School Board recognition related to a new Outcomes and Indicators cord.   It also marks the almost closing of school for seniors as they prepare for graduation which this year is on June 11th.

I had the honor of awarding the Valedictorian and Salutatorian Medals and the National Merit Scholarship recognition medals.  Needless to say I shared my part of the evening with some very intelligent young men and women.  The bleachers on one side of the gym were full of proud parents, siblings, family, friends and community members while hundreds of seniors were on the gym floor being recognized for various honors.  I applaud those sitting in the bleachers as the program was about three hours long with no break.

Once again it was an exciting and rewarding evening to witness the accomplishments of our students and the hard work done by staff to support them on their Tahoma journey.  Thanks to all of those that made this evening possible and thanks to the young people for their commitment to learning.  I'll share some pictures in a later post.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Under the radar . . .

This study seemed to go under the radar with a short post on earlier this week that linked to an article in the Spokesman Review.  The focus of the study was on per pupil expenditures from a Census Bureau report on 2011 data.  In the Spokesman Review the focus was on Idaho being the second lowest at $6800 per student for the third year in a row and Washington ranked 30th at $10,500 per student.  The national average was $10,560, the first drop since the Bureau began collecting data in 1977.

My sense is the legislators are pleased that our state's ranking didn't appear on the front page of our newspapers or in other media.  I was able to find a more detailed article about the study on that focused much more on the reasons for the drop.

So our state ranks 30th at $10,500 per student.  OSPI data for 2011 shows Tahoma at $8,896 per pupil, well below the state average and near the bottom of the ranking for districts in our state.  Only twenty districts expended less per student than we did in 2011.  What questions does this data raise for you?  What might this data mean for the tax payers in our school system?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Another example . . .

Yesterday I posted about an infographic and asked questions about using that format to communicate our housing needs and possible solution to the community.  Crystal posted a comment sharing her thinking that it might be a good idea.  Since I have few readers over the weekend, I thought I'd share another infographic from Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day and once again ask for feedback.  This one provides information about sleep and is much longer than yesterday's infographic on Memorial Day.

The questions that I asked  and am asking you to think about are these.  Would community members be more likely to read through an infographic than our more traditional trifold document?  What do you believe is the most important information to include in the district's one opportunity to inform the public about our need and proposed solution to student housing needs?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

New way to share information . . .

The Memorial Day Infographic below comes from Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day.  He shares education information on many topics including infographics.  I have been thinking that an infographic may be an adaptive way to share our need for additional capacity to house our current and projected enrollment.  Check out all the information that is contained in this compact example.

What do you think?  Would community members be more likely to read through an infographic than our more traditional trifold document?  By law, we are only allowed to share factual information and in only one document so it is an important decision that we will make as we move closer to a date for a bond measure.  What do you believe is the most important information to include in the district's one opportunity to inform the public about our need and proposed solution to student housing needs?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Preparing for Memorial Day . . .

Today, ninth grade students from Tahoma Junior High placed about 30,000 flags on graves at Tahoma National Cemetery   This is the tenth year in a row that our students have shown their respect this way for those that have served our country.  You can learn more about the project in this interview of Principal Rob Morrow by KVI's John Carlson.

We need to thank the staff at the Junior High for supporting this annual event and especially teachers Cary Collins and Todd Baker for their leadership and commitment to the program and to Principal Morrow for his understanding of its importance and behind the scenes support.  The flags are purchased through donations. If you would like to support this program you can make out your check to Tahoma Junior High - Flag Fund.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Professional quality product . . .

In September I blogged about our High School Green Team receiving an $80,000 grant from State Farm Insurance.  The purpose of the grant was to support their efforts at promoting deeper understanding of storm water pollution in our schools and community and identifying solutions to the problems caused by storm water runoff.  The girl on the right in the picture is Cassandra Houghton, a senior at the High School and one of the driving forces behind this initiative.

One of the products of the initiative is the professional quality video below of Cassandra presenting to our ninth graders.  If you take the time to view the video you will be impressed with the information being shared and with the presentation by Cassandra.  Her passion and commitment are present in her words and in her delivery.  She did on awesome job!  Earlier this spring she was honored by King County as a 2013 School Earth Hero and was one of three out of 29 that received special recognition for their efforts.

Behind the scenes in this video and one of Cassandra's mentors is Peter Donaldson who provides guidance and support for our sustainability work.  Peter is guiding the efforts to create rain gardens on our sites that serve as a models and teaching spaces for our science program.  High school teacher and Green Team Advisor, Clare Nance, is another adult that has supported and provided opportunities for Cassandra to live her passion in our school system.  Thanks to them for nurturing the passion that our young people bring to these efforts.

Monday, May 20, 2013

A possible pitch . . .

This short Daniel Pink video I found on his blog caught my attention because the topic was about the use of questions in making a pitch.  It comes from his book To Sell Is Human where we learn that if the facts are on your side it makes sense to pitch with a question.  He uses an example from the 1980 Carter/Reagan presidential campaign to make his point.

The video is only 1:36 in length so you may want to give it a look.  I did so and my attention immediately turned to our bond measure where we badly need something to get parents and community members engaged in the conversation and seeing the need for additional learning environment capacity in our system.  Give it a look with this context in mind.

Do we have the facts on our side related to the need for additional capacity or is the opposite true leading to what Pink says will be people disagreeing with you?  What are the facts about this need?  If you were going to lead the campaign with a question what would it be?  I would be very interested in your thoughts as we continue conversations on how best to meet our current and projected student enrollment needs with quality learning environments aligned with our Future Ready initiative.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A reinforcing email . . .

Last Friday I received an email from one of the business owners that attended our Cafe event that I blogged about here.  It was one of many comments that attendees shared with me about their positive experience.  The email took it a step further and I wanted to share part of it with you.

Your people are OUTSTANDING. I live and breathe in FORTUNE 500® corporate environment, and attend a lot of meetings with folks in facilitator roles – I was very impressed with Ms. Kathy Whylie as group facilitator -- Ms. Whylie brought her contagious passion, attention and smile as she made sure that all voices were heard, while accurately capturing the essence of our group discussion – great facilitator! 

Kathy was one of the many table facilitators that supported the conversations.  She and the others did a great job as they do in all of our work.  We are blessed to have competent, committed individuals and teams supporting our efforts.  This email reinforces what I already knew about the quality of people I have the privilege to work with, but it is always good to have one's beliefs reinforced by others.

I'm looking forward to the information and guidance from this process and will share how it will influence our Future Ready initiative as we move forward.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Another special evening . . .

This evening we brought together 100 people to assist us in a review of our outcomes and indicators.  We had representatives from parents, city counselors, local and regional business, higher education, staff, board members, and students spend almost four hours in conversation and feedback to support our work.  We want to ensure that the Outcomes and Indicators capture what young people need to know and be able to do for success in post high school learning and work.  We did a cafe style process where each participant engaged at three different table groupings with a focusing question at each table.

The following questions were used to initiate each conversation.

  • In what ways do the district Outcomes and Indicators, as currently written, propel students to future success?
  • As we think about the essence of "future ready", what, if anything, is missing from the district Outcomes and Indicators as currently written?
  • In what ways might we enhance the district Outcomes and Indicators to capture the realities of a global community?

We ended with the following question that was posed to job alike groups.

  • What is one bold step our job alike group could take to support the future ready vision becoming our reality?
I'm excited about the answers to this question and to the recommendations for possible revisions to our document.  I'll share the results once we have an opportunity to process the information, but will share one from the students that particularly resonate with me.
  • Rewrite them using kid friendly language.  By the time we get to high school they are over used and begin to lose their importance.
This is why we need to ensure that we have student voice in ALL major decisions impacting their learning in our system.

I want to thank Connie Hoffman and Dawn Wakeley for the quality lesson design and facilitation of an effective and efficient meeting.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Creating a broader context . . .

The Education Specifications Committee met again this evening to continue conversations about a new comprehensive grade 9-12 high school.  I blogged about the work of this committee here and here that is designed to alleviate the over crowded conditions in each of our buildings.  It is a generative process where individuals share ideas designed to provide the architects with direction and a framework to begin the design phase.  Tonight was focused on designs to meet specific functions identified in prior discussions including core classroom spaces, project and applied learning spaces, media/library, administrative, fitness, and other spaces.

We started the meeting this evening, however, trying to create a broader context for the work.  Yes, we are bringing an aspiration to life, but the driver behind this effort is the need for additional student housing capacity.  As we continue this effort, it will be important for the Committee and for all of us to keep this broader context in the conversation.  We shared the slide below to visually capture the number of students we are currently housing in our schools compared to the designed capacity of our buildings.  Though the graph shows we are over capacity, it does not convey the tension it is creating in our school system.  As the work continues it will be important for us to identify vehicles to share stories that truly capture the tension and stress that over crowding brings to our learning environments.  In the absence of addition capacity, we will be forced to make difficult decisions with significant program implications.

The remainder of the meeting

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Standing out in the crowd . . .

Sunday is a "normal" post day for me so I have spent the last few minutes going through my blog folder to choose a topic and there are plenty to choose from.  I want to share the video of Bill Gates TED talk last week that I blogged about here, but thought I'd share a more personal reflection on our young people and our school system.

Our schools, teams of students, and individual students have recently received local, state, and national recognition for achievement.  I have blogged about many of these achievements, but I am more proud of who we are individually and collectively.  As I told our We The People Team, placing seventh nationally is an exceptional honor, but I am also as proud, if not more, for the stories that Gretchen shared about how other teams became our biggest boosters.  Our kids are competitive, but they are also collaborative and supportive of others.  They don't resort to smack talk and game playing.  They do their thing with confidence and humility that results in respect by others.

I believe that this respect is a byproduct of our work in the system focused on our Outcomes and Indicators and our deep belief in collaboration and consensus.  Another example with students is Bear Metal our robotics team receiving the Chairman's Award, the highest award in the First Robotics world.  The award is given to teams that support the mission of the organization and that demonstrate collaboration and support in a competitive environment.

Please consider sharing with me and those that follow the blog other stories about young people and adults that demonstrate this important characteristic of our culture.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Simply unbelievable . . .

I just sent Melissa Corby and Ken Riggs an e-mail thanking them for a thoroughly enjoyable evening watching Les Miserables.  The singing and acting were so good that I can't believe I was watching students.  Their voices were amazing and the acting of a professional quality.  The young people in the starring roles are truly impressive, but what struck me the most was the quality of talent across the whole cast that also included students from our elementary schools.

It was for me one of the most impressive high school performances of any kind that I have had the privilege of attending and is one that I will remember.  Thank you to Melissa and Ken for creating a stage for our young people to showcase their talent and for the memories that they will take with them forever.  Tonight was one more reason to be proud to be associated with the quality young people and adults that make up our school system.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A new experience . . .

Today brought a new experience for me that took place at the Issaquah Community Center this afternoon that was shared with about 1200 others.  I may have been the only one in the room from the Tahoma School District as it was the Issaquah Schools Foundation fifteenth annual luncheon fund raiser, Nourish Every Mind.

How did the Tahoma Superintendent end up at an Issaquah fund raiser?  I was invited to join the table sponsored by Cedar Grove Composting, an organization that this year will sponsor a $2500 scholarship for a Tahoma student and that also sponsors student attendance at Camp Snowball. I had previously met the Foundation Executive Director when I presented last month at an Eastside Business event and wanted to follow-up with her on an offer to assist our foundation effort.

The Foundation is impressive and the event was truly inspiring.  They raise over a million dollars annually and provide the school system with support in multiple areas.  A focus for this year is to create a fund that will annually put $100,000 into the school's art programs and $360,000 into purchasing a writing program.  They sponsor rocketry and robotic programs and a four week summer school program for ELL students.  And, the list goes on.

What did I learn?  I learned that systems like Issaquah and Mercer Island whose foundation can raise over $500,000 in a breakfast meeting have resources that create opportunities for their young people and staff out of reach to most other systems in the state.  There is no level playing field when systems have this capacity and can also pass maximum levies and $200 million bond measures that result in lower taxes for their home owners. Though it concerns me that our current reality does not include these flexible resources or ease at passing levies and bonds, I do not fault their system for this incredible support.

Today also reinforced for me the tremendous job that our teachers and staff do without this additional support.  I left the meeting with increased tension to grow the capacity of our foundation to replicate the success in Issaquah.  We will be meeting with their Executive Director to learn from their journey what we can transfer to our school community.

Oh, in case you are wondering, I did make a contribution.  It did seem a little odd when they passed me an envelope with my name on it as I had not given any thought to the possibility of needing to contribute until I walked in the door without my check book and little cash.  It was a good thing that they took credit cards.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A heartfelt thank you . . .
Though there is not much time left in National Teacher Day, I want to join the many others thanking teachers in our system and all teachers for the commitment that they make to support the learning of our most important resource, our young people.

I always struggle with finding words on these celebratory days that adequately convey my feelings for teachers.  It seems too easy and impersonal to do a blog post or to send an email conveying my appreciation, but that is what I find myself doing.  So, thank you for creating learning environments that produce outstanding results and for doing this in overcrowded schools and at times under less than supportive conditions.  Thank you for contributing to a culture that embraces collaboration and views change as an opportunity for growth.  Thank you for sharing your experience, expertise, and passion with our young people.  Most of all, thank you for choosing us and for your role in contributing to a good school system seeking greatness.

Thanks, Mike

Monday, May 6, 2013

Finding agreement . . .

It is not often that I find myself in agreement with Bill Gates, but in this TED Talk preview of a new show he shares his views on giving teachers what they deserve.  I find myself in total agreement with his view that what teachers need and deserve is feedback.  The show premieres on PBS this Tuesday, May 7, at 10 p.m. Eastern/9 p.m. Central.

For my part, I talked about what I think is the most powerful idea in education today: getting teachers the feedback they deserve so they can improve their practice.

It’s amazing to think about how much coaching is given to, say, professional athletes. I have a coach who gives me feedback too. (You’ll have to watch the show if you want to know why.) But most teachers get almost no feedback at all. And the vast majority of countries that outperform us in education have some formal way to give their teachers feedback. So this is an area where innovation and investment can make a big difference for teachers and students in this country.

Providing feedback to teachers has been a focus in our leadership work for a number of years.  We know that changes to instructional practice will not sustain in the absence of feedback, one of the reasons that we developed the feedback protocol that I shared in this blog post last week.  The protocol supports using data from the observation to reinforce behavior aligned with the proposed change and to identify areas for further growth.  The leverage in the protocol comes from the capacity to ask clarifying and reflective questions, another critical component of providing effective feedback.  It is good to see that a long standing practice in our system is being promoted by one of the critical players in the education reform movement.

Once again, here is our feedback protocol.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Common Core concerns grow . . .

This Education Week article about a Nashville, Tennessee panel discussion on the Common Core is just one of many taking place across the country.  What once looked like a slam dunk is being questioned by some in many of the 45 states that have adopted them.  One of the main issues is captured in the statement below from the Nashville panel.

The panel held Tuesday was among a growing number of such events being held nationwide. One main allegation is that the federal government is regulating education and allowing little input from local school districts.

"School choices, school curriculum are best established at the local level," said Casey Preston, a mother of two who attended the panel in Franklin. "I don't feel that the national government or the state of Tennessee should dictate what all children are studying or learning."

States such as Indiana are reviewing their adoption at the legislative level and have decided to put implementation on "pause" while they continue the conversations.

The state legislature approved and sent to the governor a bill to "pause" common core implementation, which had started in grades K-1, pending more study and state board of education hearings. From a practical standpoint, this may or may not mean a whole lot (except maybe a whole lot of confusion). The state is teaching only common core in grades K-1, and common standards alongside Indiana standards in all other grades. So the "pause" just means that Indiana standards will stay around for at least a while longer, according to Glenda Ritz, Indiana's superintendent of public instruction, who talked to me about education issues in general for a wide-ranging story I'm working on.

AFT President, Randi Weingarten, recently called for a moratorium on implementation of high stakes Common Core testing beginning in 2015.  Russo shares his agreement with her suggestion in This Week In Education post.  I share Russo's concern with the issues that will emerge with the inevitable drop in scores across the country with these new assessments.  It would have made much more sense for the assessments to be implemented over time as our students and teachers are given the opportunity to teach and learn the standards.

I am including in this post other recent articles about issues with the Common Core in this Education Next article, and others here, here, here, and here.  So far I am not aware of any issues in our state, but believe that it is only a matter of time as the push back on both the standards and the accompanying assessments grows.  We continue to move forward with creating teacher understanding and preparing curriculum and assessment materials for classroom use in our system, an important and resource consuming initiative.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Seeking leverage for support . . .

Today was one of those days that I was able to be in classrooms with principals, days that are energizing for me and that always result in much reflection on my part.  My goal is to support principals as they gather data and search for the one point of leverage to support teacher reflection and growth.  Our time together is spent sharing the data that we collected, referring to 5D+ and our learning target documents, and then discussing possible leverage points.  In this process, we discuss clarifying questions and make decisions on a course of action using the protocol below.

With experience, we are refining the process, gaining deeper understanding of 5D+, and increasing our capacity to support teacher growth.  We know that feedback is an essential component of growth and this protocol is designed to identify feedback that reinforces and feedback that leads to growth.  The process is easy to describe but more complex to implement effectively as there are many additional variables to consider before determining the leverage point for support.

I believe that through this process I am increasing my capacity to ask questions of principals and provide feedback that leads to meaningful interactions between them and teachers.  As we move into a new teacher evaluation model we must continue to grow in our capacity to support teacher growth and this is one process  supporting that growth.  Perhaps one of our principals or teachers receiving feedback would consider sharing their experience in a comment to this post.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

High school students shine . . .

Once again there is so much to be proud of as our young people at the high school continue to achieve honors at the state and national level.  Though you may have already read about these in other places I also wanted to recognize their achievements and thank them and their adult mentors for their commitment and success.  So, congratulations to our We The People Team, to our state music competitors, and to our Robotics Team for their recent success.

Tahoma High School's We the People team placed seventh in the national finals in Washington D.C.  The team coached by Gretchen Wulfing, finished in the Top 10 for the second consecutive year and had the highest finish in school history.

Tahoma competed against teams from 45 other states and the District of Columbia. The teams participate in simulated congressional hearings, in which the judges test the students’ knowledge of the Constitution.

On the music front, three Tahoma High School vocalists and one instrumentalist placed in the top three in their respective categories at the state solo and ensemble music competition, held April 27 at Central Washington University.  Tyler Johnson won the Tenor category, the first Tahoma soloist to win the state contest in at least 17 years, vocal music director Ken Riggs said. Katie Duffy placed second in the Soprano category and Elizabeth Zosel placed third in the Mezzo-soprano category. Stephen Shin placed third in the Euphonium category for instrumental music.

Last week, members of the Tahoma Robotics Club participated in the FIRST Robotics World Championship at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. Bear Metal Competes in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) which is reserved for high school students. Tahoma’s 120 pound Frisbee gathering and throwing robot played much better than at regional events, but did not make it into the finals this year.