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.