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Our “Best of the Blogs” section includes thoughtful insights on school leadership being shared through blogs maintained by AASA members. This representative sampling of five bloggers, through an RSS feed, will change periodically to showcase other member blogs, so check back regularly. If you are aware of others, contact magazine@aasa.org.

  • Will Your KidsRead Today?

    Mesquite ISD Superintendent|7/10/2014


    Simply put, reading reaps rewards and plenty of them. Solid reading skills are crucial to optimum school success. Just 20 minutes of reading a day can prevent a child from losing literacy skills over the summer break.

    Mesquite ISD’s Let’s Read Together! YouTube video is a popular resource. It gives tips on how to help a child grow in a love for reading.

    As a lifelong reader myself, I urge you to find books of interest to your child, regardless of age. We know that even small babies can enjoy books, but keep promoting reading for pleasure to your elementary and secondary age students, too. Remember, proficiency in reading is crucial to a young person’s future.

    So what will your kids read today?


  • Summer Happenings

    Judy Paolucci's Multimedia Blog|7/5/2014

     Leicester schools are a bit quieter over the summer though several projects are keeping us fairly busy.  The summer of 2014 will usher in a number of changes for personnel, future plans, and instructional offerings. Personnel Leicester High School As Marilyn Tencza begins her new position as superintendent in North Brookfield, Tracey Hippert will begin her tenure as our (Continued...)

  • 2014 Graduation Speech- Flag Day

    Dr. Tim Markley|7/1/2014

    Board Chair Don Hayes during his service in the Vietnam War. Every year at graduation, we hear a lot of great speeches from students, principals and others. This year, one speech stood out for me. That speech was the acceptance … Continue reading

  • Boredom Boosts Creativity, ButKeep Free Websites in Your Back Pocket

    Mesquite ISD Superintendent|6/19/2014


    Contrary to kids’ complaints, they actually need to be bored. That’s when they will discover they don’t need stuff to constantly fill their time. That’s when they’re inspired to create their own entertainment and summer gets magical. Boredom can actually boost creativity levels to new and unexpected heights.

    When the time’s right for an educational time filler, though, free online games can stimulate student learning this summer. It seems like there is something for everyone, and kids can work at their own pace. 

    See if some of these offerings pique interest:

    - A Marvel comic creator helps student practice artistic mastery and experiment with storytelling techniques.
    - Art Games allows kids to create abstract paintings online and discover painting techniques. http://kids.albrightknox.org/html/home.html
    - Wonderopolis explains a new “wonder” of daily life, such as why zebras have stripes.
    - Oxford Owl offers games that test reading comprehension while improving memory, and much more.
    - Science Netlinks helps kids tap into interactive and vibrant games, listen to podcasts and get help with hands-on activities. They can learn about the inner workings of the body and much more.


    Here’s hoping all our students’ minds and bodies stay active this summer, and they return to their campuses refreshed and ready to embark on a great school year.


  • What’s on YourSummer Bucket List?

    Mesquite ISD Superintendent|6/6/2014

    It’s not too late to create your summer bucket list. Fill it up with anything and everything you’ve ever wanted to do, whether it’s big, small or random. Then see what’s practical to make happen before school starts in late August.

    First on my summer bucket list is hosting a picnic for my grandchildren at Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose. Second is to visit Dallas’ own George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum for my first time. Lastly, I hope to attend a Texas Rangers game.

    If you don’t live your days by personal goals and plans, chances are you spend most of your time caught up in a flurry of day-to-day activities. Having a bucket list keeps what’s most important to you top of mind.  Research shows that when you take time to write your goals down, you are more likely to accomplish them.

    There’s no rule that your bucket list has to include big-ticket, extravagant goals.  Your goals can be as simple and important as spending more time together as a family. That can be accomplished by reading together or planning a cookout at a local park. Maybe you want to learn more about a topic of interest, so try visiting the library or a local museum.  There are lots of inexpensive ways to spend your summer that will result in cherished memories. 

    Let your bucket list help you make the most of your summer months. Here’s to a fun, rejuvenating and inspiring summer!
     

  • Class of '14: An era of NCLB/RTTT & Testing

    Thinking About Schools|6/6/2014

    Dear Washington D.C.,
    We tried to warn you what would happen to public education.  You were understandably distracted at the onset but there is no excuse for the politicization and privatization that followed.  The Class of '14 began school when you conceived a misguided and uninformed NCLB and continued their learning under the politics, quick fixes, and blind obedience to RTTT.   And, while there are many causes of the collateral damage wrought on the imagination and wonder of children and the innovation and integrity of the profession, we will look back and see that the root cause unwavering since 2002 was annual high stakes testing.

    With respect yet regret,
    Public Education

    Because of annual testing…

    ·         Kids take high-stakes tests annually  (time, money, pressure)
    ·         Kids who do not yet speak English take two high-stakes tests annually to prove they don’t yet speak English well which hammers at their self-esteem and motivation
    ·         Kids with disabilities feel unnecessary pressure annually taking tests out of reach
    ·         Parents, students, the media, and others place far too much value and pressure on a once a spring one time test as an indicator of progress
    ·         Teachers feel pressure to align curriculum to and teach for the test which narrows the curriculum
    ·         Teachers feel pressure to align curriculum to and teacher for the test– minimizing innovation, using student interests, field trips, etc.
    ·         Teachers, psychologists, and administrators spend far too much valuable planning time on data analyses instead of child development and authentic progress
    ·         Principals feel the pressure to assign more time to core time to testing which eliminates time for art, music, p.e. recess...
    ·         Teachers feel more pressure to align and teach for the test because of it affects their evaluation
    ·         School and district “evaluation” (and the dreaded rankings) drive more pressure to focus on the tests and scores
    ·         The more high stakes testing, the more formative standardized-like testing that goes on duplicating high-stakes testing (and less new instruction)
    ·         Because of the volumes of data, decisions about grants and other school supports and the dreaded rankings are based solely on scores and not comprehensive quantitative and qualitative evaluations
    ·         Follow the money to testing corporations, text and technology corporations, and data warehouse corporations (and the scary monopolies that do all three)
    ·         The economic opportunity cost is staggering:  millions that could have been spent on professional development, staffing, technology, and more

    Test students only at the end of year clusters or at transitions from primary to intermediate, intermediate to middle school, middle school to high school, and the junior year – and all of the above go away!

    Standardized testing was designed to benchmark how a school is doing, how a cohort of students is doing over a few years period, and how a curriculum is doing (alignment with standards and gaps).   It was one of dozens of means of information to see how a child is doing on a percentile basis compared to others.

    If it wasn’t for Rod Paige’s Texas Miracle which was no miracle that turned into George Bush’s NCLB whose regulations were developed in the shadow of 9/11 that labeled schools as failures and diverted more funds to private interests and charter school which eight years later became President Obama’s higher stakes by RTTT to compete for desperately needed funds… we wouldn’t be stifling children’s learning experiences and what I call “school the way it oughta be” in order to pass tests. 

    Periodic testing is (potentially) valuable.
    Annual testing is devastating.
    One courageous decision could improve the quality and integrity of public education dramatically (and save millions of dollars, self-esteems, innovating lessons, music programs, quality teachers, and schools).  Test only (some students) in grades 5, 8, & 10. 

  • Spreading the Word AboutMesquite ISD’s Science Program

    Mesquite ISD Superintendent|6/2/2014


    John Horn High School’s honors anatomy class will be featured on the Monday, June 2, Science in the Classroom feature on Channel 11. Meteorologist Jeff Jamison interviewed teacher Aubrey Otero and several students for the segment set to air during the 4 p.m. newscast. 

    Last fall, one of Jamison’s Science in the Classroom segments focused on the district’s STEM course at the Technology Excellence Center.

    We are proud to spread the word about our top-notch science teachers and program.


  • Deeper Understanding of CCSS

    Judy Paolucci's Multimedia Blog|6/1/2014

     With state testing, spring sports, class trips, concerts, and high school graduation nearly all behind us, it appears that the summer is approaching at breakneck speed – all we need is consistent good weather!  The work of our teachers and students will surely slow over the summer months but neither group can put aside learning and planning if we are to expect success (Continued...)

  • The Right to Bear Standards

    Thinking About Schools|5/30/2014

    Standards don't hurt kids.  People with standards hurt kids.

    With the furor over the Common Core State Standards, you'd think they were in the 2nd Amendment debate:  The right to bear standards vs. standards control.  Like millions of others, I owned a rifle as a kid.  And, like millions of educators, I've used learning (and teaching) standards since I started teaching kids (a long time ago). The Earth is still spinning on its axis. 

    Should everyone have access to either?  Probably not.  Should anyone be able to access either without some certification and screening?  Probably not.  There's a reason the military carries weapons but the Peace Corps volunteers do not (hmm, does the analogy apply to McTeaching?)

    Standards are not the problem.  Politicians, philanthropists, and over zealous (is that redundant) administrators with concealed standards and concealed intentions and are the problem.  

    Practically every criticism at the microphone of the angry forums begins with, "I am not opposed to the standards but..." and the speaker continues stating... "... but they need some serious editing."  "...but they drive excessive (profit making) testing and require expensive and insecure (profit making) data systems."  "...but they result in tightly defined curriculum, scripted instruction, and scoring teachers." "...but they've driven creative programs out of schools."  

    We've heard often and loudly, the problems with CCSS are who wrote them, who paid for them, and who has access to them.  The problem is the abuse of standards in the form of narrowed and scripted curriculum.  The problem is the tight alignment of standards with the narrow curriculum carrying the CCSS good housekeeping seal of RTTT approval that drives the teaching that drives the testing which then slaps a score and label on teachers.  

    Paired with the need for quick fixes and quicker success stories (that won't stick), the ultimate problem is that as the first domino in the line of standardization, the new standards have created a culture of testing culture in schools, states, state legislatures, and Washington. 

    The standards are not the problem; the people with standards making poor policy decisions are the problem.   And, most people get that.

    The standards need (a lot of) work.  They need teacher vetting for developmental appropriateness.  They need to allow for much more latitude and flexibility for teachers.  And, once the obsession with testing and "gotcha" test scores evaluation is resolved, revised standards can be used the way standards ought to be used. 

    Standards don't hurt kids; people with standards hurt kids.  There are good guys with standards and bad guys with standards.   The latter?  It's the policy makers and politicians, not standards, who allow corporate investing in McSchools; who ignore poverty and school readiness; who hire McTeachers or use them as a business model; and who force (mob style) annual standardized testing and accountability systems (no testing, no money).  And, its the profiteers who publish scripts, devices and software, and anything else they can stamp "CCSS-aligned." 
     
    Standards are standards.  Since the beginning of time, we've had learning standards. And, we've had standardized tests used as benchmarks in a few grade levels, not every year. (And, we need to go back to testing only in transition years - 5th, 8th, and 10th grade.  CCSS are not the problem!  Re-vet them.  Revise them.  Field test them. Make them more flexible.  And, stop evaluating teachers with single standardized tests (which are based on the standards). 

    And, most importantly, get them out of the hands of people who cannot handle them responsibly.
     
     

  • The Continued Politics of Education

    Dr. Tim Markley|5/30/2014

    The Senate released its budget yesterday, and the highlight of that budget was an 11% average raise for teachers. That was the good news and is clearly a step in the right direction. The 11% will go a long way … Continue reading

  • Graduation

    The Rebel Yell|5/28/2014

    Last night was Ridgewood's 52 Commencement Ceremony.  It was a great event and, by all means, well-received by all those in attendance.  The evening's guest speakers, graduating senior Michael Jorgensen and local entrepreneur and member of the Ridgewood Class of 1985 Savino "Nuccio" D'Argento provided the graduates with an excellent send-off.  The band sounded great and the Ridgewood Foundation awarded thousands of dollars in scholarship, while the entire graduating class amassed over $3 million in scholarship offers.

    Unfortunately, the evening was marred by the behavior of many of our graduates who, in spite of continuous instructions not to do so, decided to throw their caps in the air at the conclusion of the ceremony.  Now, this may not seem like a big thing to most, but I would like to speak to why we think it is.  First of all, our staff goes to great pains to make the ceremony a dignified event.  The gym is decorated; people dress up (some of them); we expect dignified behavior.  Secondly, it is an indoor event.  In past ceremonies, people have been hit by flying caps.  We'd just as soon not have graduates leaving with cuts and black eyes.  Lastly, it was a simple instruction: "Please do not throw the caps or there will be consequences."  The graduates heard this and made their choice to mar what should have been a joyous event.

    Perhaps it is the final lesson they will take away from high school: there are consequences for behaviors in life.  If you are unwilling to face those consequences, perhaps you should rethink your actions.

    To all of the graduates who did not participate in the banned activity: I am sorry that your fellow classmates put you in this position.  If you wish to voice your concerns, you should probably start with them. 

    To all of the Class of 2014, the last one I will address as superintendent, congratulations on your accomplishments.  One of the speakers last night told you that it is time to be called adults.  If that seems like a scary thing, that is because it is.  Just remember that with the privileges of adulthood come the responsibilities inherent in the "job."  Good luck.

  • STAAR Testing Just OneLook at Academic Success

    Mesquite ISD Superintendent|5/23/2014

    Quest for Excellence: Success for All Students. As our district’s mission, this is the driving force behind all our decisions and actions regarding our 39,000 students.

    And STAAR/TAKS results for the 2013-14 school year, which you will receive this week, are used to help us know when to offer enrichment or intervention for students.

    Skills are not mastered at the same rate, and no single test can give a complete picture of a particular student’s progress or potential.  Our teachers and administrators closely monitor each student’s growth and academic needs over the course of the school year.  Every campus works tirelessly to reward student success, build up struggling students and push individual talents to higher levels.

    As you know, parental involvement is always encouraged and welcomed in Mesquite ISD. To learn more about resources to help your student advance and reach his or her full potential, please contact your campus staff.


  • Sunday Marks Official Beginningof Mesquite ISD Graduation Events

    Mesquite ISD Superintendent|5/16/2014

    Sunday marks the official beginning of the graduation events with the Baccalaureate at each high school. These ceremonies will be followed by graduations the next weekend as nearly 2,500 students will receive their diplomas. 

    Watching the eagerness of these young adults inspires all of us in attendance because seeing successful students go into the world is what we strive to achieve. Many graduates will enter college or technical school; some will serve in the military; and others will go directly into the job market. Whatever the choice, each one has worked hard and been nurtured by caring parents and teachers. Thank you for your support of Mesquite ISD as we prepare our future leaders.


  • A Tribute to an Old Friend by Dr. Rick Holliday

    Dr. Tim Markley|5/15/2014

    The New Hanover County Schools lost one of its legends recently. Coach Joe Miller hung up his whistle for the last time. Much has already been said about the amazing career that he had here at New Hanover High School … Continue reading

  • Education's WMDs, WOPR, & Weapons, Part I

    Thinking About Schools|5/14/2014

    They (you know, "they") say you should never bring up religion, sports, or politics in meetings or speeches or as analogies to make your point.  Ha!  But "They" don't say anything about weapons!  So, I guess it's alright to blog about weapons of mass destruction, nuclear war, and weapons. 
     

    NCLB is to WMDs as RTTT is to ______
    a.  drones
    b.  The WOPR from Wargames
    c.  scripts, scripted training, & gotcha management
    d.  all of the above

    We've Found WMDs: Test Scores
    When President Bush and his Cabinet were laser focused on a 9/11 response as we expected and needed, Congress quietly found education WMDs.  While no one was paying attention, No Child Left Behind regulations put Standardized test scores (all 50 versions), PISA scores, NAEP scores, and all those obnoxious rankings in their cross-hairs as their WMDs:   AYP. PI. AMO. HQT. EOC. SIP. TIP. (Oh, we love our acronyms)*.  

    Why would policy makers fight poverty, equitable funding, early childhood language development, and segregation?  Why should they support professional development, innovation and pedagogy, and authentic district accountability strategies?  Too difficult.  Too slow.  Controversial (ironically after a century of controversy and inclusion).

    They needed something swift, loud, and measurable.  That's how you win.  Count anything that and be counted. Blame, swoop in, and tout the numbers that won't last. 

    NCLB found WMDs: Test scores!  No debate. A big announcement. A Quick fix.  Declare victory.  Immediate results (as meaningless as the Texas Miracle upon which the federal law was modeled).   Ooops!  What WMDs?  What means?

    And, so began he trend of using all the wrong answers in all the wrong places based on all the wrong reasons in education policy. 

    The WOPR, Drones, and RTTT
    After ESEA 1.0 and not satisfied with NCLB stick, President Obama and Congress went with ESEA 2.0: the nuclear defense and drone carrot RTTT competition strategy.

    Humans make mistakes so you can't trust humans.  You can't trust experts (a.k.a. academics and administrators with authentic experience) and you can't trust the proverbial "boots on the ground" (professional teachers).  Public anything isn't good enough; privatization is the answer and corporations know best.  Top down, centralized (computerized) decision-making, and scripted practice are the only things that works.  Standardized implementation.  Write off collateral damage as inevitable.

    Educational WarGames

    In WarGames, the politicians ignored the experts and installed the WOPR, the machine than ran war games scenarios.   They took the professionals out of the silos and strategy rooms and let the technology give orders to those flying the planes (today it would be drones, again - no humans). 

    RTTT reform is the education version of the WOPR. Scripted curriculum  Broad Scholars.  Be tough power hungry administrators (who never taught).  TFA (original concept good; now a business model for robot teaching with emotions). Teaching scripts. DDDM. Segregated or boutique Charter schools. Vouchers.  Tax credits for private and religious exclusion. Rock star superintendents (and their cheating scandals).  Superman.  Dangle billions to those willing to play by their rules - or else.  And, replacing professionals with short term McTeachers to save money.

    Research? Experts? Professionalism? Leadership? Innovation? Certification? Why bother.  Take the men and women out of the silos.  Fight the wrong war. Privatize.  Reduce teaching to programming a 5-week trained teacher and principal who in turn program kids to take too many tests!  Why not?  It even works on both sides of the aisle! 

    WarGames : "General, the machine has locked us out. It's sending random numbers to the silos."

    Dr. Strangelove:  "Based on the findings of the report, my conclusion was that this idea was not a practical deterrent for reasons which at this moment must be all too obvious."

    Unless Americans go deep into the roots and rationale of public education, implosion is imminent.  History will show fifty years of inclusive educational policy and court decisions followed by a 21st century characterized by ill-conceived strategies to solve misrepresented problems with misinformed policy makers scheming the end of public education.  Or, maybe not; when they are done with programming teachers, curriculum, and kids, they'll just reprogram history, too (well, at least in some states).
     
    *AYP (annual yearly progress), PI (proficiency index), AMOs (annual measurable objectives), HQT (highly qualified teacher), EOC (end of course exam), SIP, (school improvement plan), TIP, (teacher improvement plan).




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