Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Moving Education Forward

Moving is horrible.  For any of you that have moved lately, you know what I'm talking about.  To me, moving is an abomination.  It took me 6 weeks to find my son's shoes and I know there are still things hidden in a box somewhere.  However, the process of moving from one's house is much less daunting than moving a whole system. 

How do we move forward in education?

  • For starters, we have to acknowledge the fact that there is no "moving company" to hire in education.  You have to pack the boxes and do the heavy lifting yourself.  
  • In order for change to happen, we need to confront the fact that the "educational house" we built no longer meets the needs of our students.  
  • It will take everyone in the neighborhood to help with the move.  This must be a community effort. Author Jamie Vollmer has a book titled Schools Cannot Do It Alone.  I highly recommend his book, especially for those that have been out of school for awhile.  
  • Change begins with the students.  I have a student principal advisory group that meets with me monthly to give feedback on school policy and general happenings in our school.  Thanks kids,  I listen!  And remember, I work for you!
  • No longer can learning be confined to the four walls of our schoolhouse.  Lets extend opportunities in the workplace, provide kids with college credit and/or certifications in a job related field prior to graduation.
  • We need to change grading practices to improve student learning.  Schools need to develop better assessments that provide feedback to both the teacher and student.
Will that get us to where we want to go?  What else would you add?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Student Voice Video Contest

Students I encourage you to participate in this contest!

You can also watch the promotional video here.  

1. Get a team

2. Think of some ideas
Not sure where to start? Take a look at these idea-starters to help you get thinking:
  • What would make school awesome? How would you set up the structure of learning so that you couldn’t wait to get there everyday?
  • Tell us about a time you lost track of time learning something new. Maybe you were practicing a physical or musical skill or spent hours trying to understand a complex science or math concept. Maybe you had a great time researching an idea or person that you admire or built or fixed something with your own hands. Whatever it was, you worked hard and you did it! You stretched yourself, learned a lot and felt that rush of accomplishment. How could school be set up so that kind of learning happened all day for everyone?
  • Imagine there has never been a thing called school – ever before – and the community decided today that we needed to help young people prepare for adult life. What would you need to learn? Where would the best learning take place? Who should do the teaching?  How would it work?
3. Submit your video by midnight on Nov. 2

4. Be sure to follow the rules.  

Win some cash!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What class would you choose?

I need to write more about the fantastic work our teachers do on a daily basis.  They rock!  Their work is dedicated, their hearts are genuine, and they come to school everyday giving their best.

But what do they do when the kids aren't in school?

And why do teachers need professional development anyway?

Take a look at this picture.  It shows two classes.  Class A and Class B.  In orange are two columns of descriptors of those classes.  In black, are questions I posed to the teachers.

  • What class would you want to attend?
  • What class would you want your own child to have?
  • Which class do you think students at Solon High School would choose?
These questions sparked our learning for the day.  Teachers worked collaboratively in departments to analyze their curriculum in grades 9-12.  After alignment, we then focused on creating assessments that matched those essential concepts.  

However, at the end of the day, I asked them to think again about these two classrooms.  If we have great content and great assessments but students have a lack of ownership, then where does that leave our students?  Our discussion will continue next time as we begin to look at standards based grading and informing our students more along a continuum of the learning process.  

What class would you choose?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Weekly Update October 3, 2011

Education Blueprint for Iowa Reform

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Department of Education Director Jason Glass have released their education blueprint for Iowa education reform.  As part of my commitment to innovation, I plan to work with SCSD staff to be a leader in this reform movement.

Here are some of the areas for suggested in the report:

  • Attract and support talented educators with an increase in starting teacher pay, more selective teacher preparation programs and improved recruiting and hiring practices.
  • Create educator leadership roles in schools and develop a meaningful peer-based evaluation system that requires annual and multiple evaluations of all educators.
  • Develop a four-tier teacher compensation system with Apprentice, Career, Mentor and Master levels and substantial pay raises for teachers who move up. Add other options for increasing teacher pay, such as work in extended day or year programs.
  • Establish a definition of educator effectiveness and tie job protections to an evaluation system based on this definition.
  • Free up principals from some managerial tasks to lead and support great teaching.
  • Improve and expand the Iowa Core to put Iowa’s standards on par with the highest-performing systems in the world.
  • Develop an assessment framework that includes measuring whether children start kindergarten ready to learn and high-stakes End-of-Course assessments for core subjects in high school. Have all Iowa 11th graders take a state-funded college-entrance exam.
  • Provide value-added measures for all districts, schools, grades and educators that take into account student background characteristics and consider student growth.
  • Seek a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law and work with key education groups and leaders statewide to design a new accountability system.
  • Ensure children learn basic literacy by the end of third grade with high-quality reading programs, supports for schools and students, and an end to social promotion for third-graders who read poorly.
  • Nurture innovation with funding for transformative ideas, greater statutory waiver authority for the Iowa Department of Education and pathways to allow for high-quality charter schools in Iowa.
  • Create a state clearinghouse of high-quality online courses available to any student in Iowa, and back the courses with licensed teachers and the best online learning technology available.
  • Set goals for student outcomes, including a 95 percent high school graduation rate and top statewide performance on national standardized assessments.

Click here for a copy of the report