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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.

  • Working for the Grade

    Culture of Yes|2/26/2015

    There is a debate in education around the relationship between grading and learning. Many of our teachers and schools have shifted the ways that they give students feedback – focussing more on constructive comments for improvement and less on grades. Of course, this has been met with some concern. For so long, schools have been […]

  • Teaching our Students Social Media Etiquette

    Amy Griffin's Blog|2/22/2015

    CHS JROTC Air Rifle Team
     
    While I was scrolling through my Twitter feed last week, I found a social media etiquette graphic that made me pause and reflect. It had been posted in a school media center and was meant for students. However, it made me think about how appropriate it was for all ages. It has become ingrained in society to put things on social media that really need not be there.  Many times, posts and messages are negative -- even cruel, and sometimes lead to bullying.  Different from face-to-face bullying, these messages are seen world-wide and spread the cruelty and negativity far and wide.  Kid President and Coca-Cola launched a campaign several weeks ago to combat negative posting on social media. I also caution people to never post anything on social media that you wouldn't want read on a billboard or in the newspaper. What you think may be private is never private once on the Internet (even deleted material). 
     

     
    I love social media!  It can be a positive tool to network, communicate, and promote the great things in our lives. It is a wonderful professional development tool--I use Twitter daily to read about the latest research and trends in education. I highlight our outstanding students and staff through social media. Let's all remember and teach our students the responsible use of social media:
     
     
     
    CuCPS Highlights:
     
     
    Gustabo Lopez, Keavon Perkins and Davidrick Brooks competed in the 2015 VHSL State Wrestling Championships 
     
    • The Varsity Lady Dukes are 3rd place in the Conference 44 Tournament and will host Highland HS Monday, February 23rd, in the gym starting at 6:30 p.m. 
    • The Varsity Duke Boys are currently in 2nd place. They will have a first round bye this week and will play at home Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. against the winner of the Parry McCluer vs. Highland County winner. 
    • CuCPS wants to congratulate the following basketball players for making James River All-District teams:
      • Annesha Harris - 1st Team
      • Infinity Anderson - 1st Team
      • Deitrich Brown - 1st Team
      • Ahmad Booker - 2nd Team
    • JROTC Cadet results from regional competition at Camp Perry, Ohio: CHS Air Rifle Team - 2nd in Virginia; CHS Air Rifle Team - 2nd in 4th Brigade (VA, NC, SC, WV, MD, DE and DC); CHS Air Rifle Team - 5th at Camp Perry (25 states).  CHS Air Rifle Team - 21st nation-wide out of over 1,300 (all Army JROTC); Individual Results: John Ryan Bapties, 15th at Camp Perry, 79th nation-wide; Coleman Phillips, 16th at Camp Perry, 80th nation-wide; Dylan Stimpson, 20th at Camp Perry, 86th nation-wide; Caleb (William) Kinney, 35th at Camp Perry, 117th nation-wide; Mierra Edwards, 44th at Camp Perry, 134th nation-wide. Congratulations, Cadets!
    • Jump Rope for Heart is scheduled for Wednesday, February 25th:
      • 4th grade: 9:30-10:20
      • 3rd grade: 2:00-2:50
      • 2nd grade: 11:25-12:15
    • More February School Board Highlights:
    • CHS student Shayna Swanson's story, The Story Without Color, was printed in the Farmville Herald last Friday:  https://mobile.twitter.com/FarmvilleHerald/status/568832901409845248/photo/1

    Snow Make Up Days: 
    • March 11, 2015
    • March 19, 2015
    • May 21, 2015 (1/2 day to a full day)
    • May 22, 2015 (1/2 day)
    Events for the Week:
    • Monday
      • 7:00 Public Hearing on the 15-16 School Operating Budget
    • Tuesday
      • CMS Academic Review Visit
    • Wednesday
      • CCES Jump Rope for Heart
    • Thursday
      • 6:00 Technology Advisory Committee
    • Saturday
      • CuCPS Foundation Gospel
     
    Important Change: Scholarship Night will be on Wednesday, March 4th, in the Cafetorium starting at 6 p.m. This meeting will provide more information about scholarships and the scholarship process to receive money for college. Light refreshments will be served.
     
    The Cumberland High School Forensics Team, Conference 44 Champions

  • Connecting Some of the Recent Dots

    Culture of Yes|2/19/2015

    If education in British Columbia made news over the last few years, it was almost exclusively around the ongoing labour issues.  With new contracts in place now for teachers and support staff, there is more of an opportunity for other education stories to hit the mainstream news – whether that is television, radio or newspapers. […]

  • Cells, Bells and Cockle Shells

    The Buzz from the Hornet's Nest|2/18/2015


    Cells, Bells and Cockle Shells


    Too many of our public schools resemble cells, bells and cockle shells. Classrooms have generally remained as organized and restrictive as cells in a prison, with a single guard and two dozen inmates in each cell or enlarged cubicle. Bells determine movement from room to room and/or subject to subject with uniform intervals of time separating the segments. These class periods are usually the same length of time that they were forty or fifty years ago, no matter the growth within the knowledge of a discipline And the culture of schools are as tightly closed as cockle shell clams, those small edible saltwater clams that live in sandy, sheltered beaches, similar to the preferred environment of public schools.
     

    How coincidental can it be - That the size and shape of most classrooms are identical to those that were built a hundred years ago? That the lessons are governed by the same 40-50 minute time frames as decades ago? (block scheduling produces the same number of total minutes over the course of a semester/year) That the organizational culture is altered only slightly from earlier constructs? All of this despite the introduction of advanced technology, the growth of neuroscience research findings, and the countless opportunities to re-design learning environments.


    Some degree of the stagnation or lack of creativity may be attributed to the firm grip of a nostalgic population comprised of people (including legislators) who apply their thirteen years of personal experience in public schools (thus qualifying too many of them as “experts”) to shape and confine their vision of what a public school is and can be. During a time of accelerated change in society and many institutions, public schools offer a safe harbor to people who are overwhelmed and threatened by change. It’s a lingering vestige to the “good old days” that elude reality.  

     
    However, perhaps the most significant culprit in the current state of public schools are those who govern schooling at the federal and state levels. The mountain of accountability measures introduced and mandated through legislation over the last dozen years (albeit in the form of reform – No Child Left Behind; Race to the Top) have promoted assessments that have borne a dependence on paper and paper, fill-in-the-bubble answers. These types of tests diminish the importance of writing and the creative process because such responses cannot be evaluated through electronic scanning or cost too much in time and money for human analysis.

     
    The emphasis on assessment outcomes has unfortunately prompted schools to eliminate recess periods at the elementary level and electives at the secondary level in an effort to increase “instructional time” in the face of an economic climate that prevents districts from negotiating longer school days. These responses are likely a “cut their nose off to spite their face” reply to the pressure of increasing performance on high stakes tests. Recess periods provide a potentially healthy opportunity for children as well as a chance to engage in socialization. Both of these benefits are important, but shouldn’t we consider the need for a respite in the day for children subjected to the stress of heightened expectations? The decrease in electives at the secondary level rob learners of creative outlets and exposure to subjects that are often associated with increasing creativity and expression. Together, these changes to the instructional landscape result in a prioritization process that reduces classes to be categorized as either core or non-core.

     
    The economic constraints over the last several years have compelled districts to reduce staff and programs, so this toxic combination often makes the decisions easier when budgets must be decreased. What does such a ranking convey to those teachers and learners involved in the “non-core” classes?

     
    Elementary teachers are faced with a crucial decision, especially when tests results are directly related to teacher evaluation, in allocating time for subjects. Do I shave some minutes off of those subjects that are not tested by the state (in New York, creative writing, social studies and science) and devote that time to the pursuit of improved performance in those subjects that are tested by the state?

     
    What are the long term outcomes?

     
    That’s the lingering question that begs a response from those imposing these mandates:


    What are the long term outcomes?
     

    Most of us recall the word cockle shells from the children’s poem, Mary, Mary Quite Contrary. Here’s an updated version of another famous rhyme involving a different Mary. Mary had a Little Lamb. This poem is entitled, Mary the First Year Teacher.






    Mary Had a Little Lamb                Mary was a First Year Teacher

     

    Mary had a little lamb,                    Mary was a first year teacher,

    his fleece was white as snow,               her teaching was a show

    And everywhere that Mary went,       And every day the kids in class

    the lamb was sure to go.                      were sure to learn and grow.

     

    He followed her to school one day,    Her supervisor said one day,

    which was against the rule,                she taught against the rule.

    It made the children laugh and play   The children couldn’t laugh or play,

    to see a lamb at school.                        just tests mattered in school

     

    And so the teacher turned it out,     Despite Mary being much in doubt,

    but still it lingered near,                   losing her job was a fear.

    And waited patiently about,            But, she wanted to shout about,

    till Mary did appear.                       the loss of what was dear.

     

    "Why does the lamb love Mary so?"     “Why does teacher hate teaching so?”

    the eager children cry.                              the sad children did cry.

    "Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know."  “I hate the new mandates, you know”

    The teacher did reply.                                The teacher did reply.
     

  • When they're done with me, they're coming for you!

    The Superintendent's Chair|2/17/2015

    To my fellow Michigan Superintendents,

    Most of you don't like me.

    Not "me" as a person. I have been told I am quite like able.

    You don't like the "Novi Superintendent" me. I represent a district that has many advantages. We have a sinking fund, a recreation millage, and a recently passed capital projects bond. We have a community that is adding housing stock so our enrollment is expected to grow.

    But more importantly what you don't like is that my district receives $8,630 per student. Technically for the 2014-2015 school year I received $8,409. But we earned a performance funding bonus from the state because of our student test scores. That equaled $70 per pupil last year. Then we earned the best practice bonus from the state of $50 per pupil last year for meeting the state identified school district best practices. We also received 20f Hold Harmless funds of $16 per student.

    All of us received a retirement offset from the state. In Novi, it amounted to $83 per student.

    So you add it all up and there it is $8,630 per student:

    Per pupil foundation  $       8,409.00
    Performance funding  $            70.00
    Best practices  $            50.00
    20f - Hold Harmless  $            18.00
    MPSERS offset  $            83.00
     $        8,630.00

    I know many, in fact most, of you receive far less.

    So when I speak out against the Governor's 15-16 school budget you will probably not be too sympathetic.

    After all, who cares if one of the "fat cats," one of the "rich" school districts receives less state aid. If the district you represent receives more at the expense of one of the "well-funded" districts, so be it.

    I would urge you to reconsider.

    The Governor says my district will receive a $75 per pupil increase next year.

    My district - like yours - spends the money it receives. We are not hoarding it, we are not saving it, we are not being frivolous with our revenue.

    As Exhibit A: I give you this example.

    Our step one, first-year starting teacher's salary is $39,581. Teachers hired in our district at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, have never received that salary.

    The first year in my district there was an off-schedule (meaning it would not carry over to the next year) salary cut of 1.3%. The salary was reduced from $39,581 to $39,052.

    The next year, that first-year teacher's salary reverted to the written step one contractual amount but through negotiations everyone received a 1/2% on-schedule pay cut. So that teacher now in their second year received a salary less than the step one salary listed in the contract. The salary was $39,383 instead of $39,581. The second-year teacher again did not receive what our contract stated was the first-year teacher's salary.

    Finally, this year - for the teacher hired in 2012-13 who was in her third year in the district - surely that teacher would receive what was supposed to be the starting salary from three years ago. Alas, no. The salary was frozen at the $39,383 level except for an off-schedule one-time payment.

    So this teacher who entered the profession eager and ready to help our students has not received a salary increase in three years and has in fact received less than the contractual step one amount all three years.

    This is not how you attract young talent to the profession.

    We have a fund balance that hovers just over 10%.

    We have kept it there by making cuts in salaries, as noted above. We have also frozen and cut secretary and aide hourly wages. Administrators have also been frozen and cut over the last three years.

    We are trying to be responsible but it is coming on the backs of our employees.

    Our K-4 class size average is approximately 22. We have four specials at the elementary level - music, physical education, art, and media center. We have an orchestra, band, and choir starting in 5th grade. We have AP and IB at our high school. We teach five foreign languages.

    Our tennis team won the Division I state tennis title. Our volleyball team was the Division I runner-up. Our marching band was fifth in the state. Our middle school orchestra was invited to play at the Michigan Music Conference. Our robotics team qualified for the world championship. Our cross-country team was academic all state.

    We have a comprehensive community school district.

    Yet, next year while the Governor says he will boost per pupil funding by $75 per student he has also proposed to take away performance based funding ($70 per pupil in my district) and reduce best practice funding (a reduction of $30 per pupil in my district). The end result is that my district will receive $25 less per student or a total reduction of $161,000 dollars.

    While, in jest, I suggested that most of you don't like me, the truth is that if the Governor cannot balance his budget by cutting schools like mine he will start to cut schools like yours.

    Public schools that provide a comprehensive education for the students in communities all across Michigan are threatened by Governor Snyder's budget proposal. It is not just my school district.

    It is up to Michigan superintendents to communicate to their communities, to the legislator, and to the Governor that public education should be a priority. The students in our school districts deserve much better than this proposal from Governor Snyder.

    Very sincerely yours,

    (The like able) Steve

  • Authentic Assessment: What is it?

    Amy Griffin's Blog|2/15/2015

    Paying it Forward: Little Duke Leaders call principals from other schools to to see if they need a Buddy Bench!

    Last week, I attended a Dan Mulligan workshop on Performance Based Assessments.  In March, a cohort of teachers will begin working with Region 8 colleagues on developing Performance Based Assessments in the areas of 3rd grade history and science, history 6, and history 7.  This is important for several reasons. For one, we keep telling legislators that the current method of high-stakes testing is not good for our students.  Therefore, it is our responsibility to show legislators what WILL work. We need to find alternatives.  The second and most important reason is that closed-task assessment items (i.e. the majority of current SOL assessment items) only produce low to medium potential in providing meaningful data (Transforming Classroom Grading, McREL, 2002).
     
    According to VDOE, authentic assessment refers to assessment by performance, task, product, or project. Students apply what they have learned by providing evidence of in-depth understanding. Performance assessment is a term used hand-in-hand with authentic assessment. Students are required to demonstrate their knowledge, skills, and strategies by creating a response or a product (Rudner & Boston, 1994; Wiggins, 1989). Performance assessments range from short answer to long-term projects. During the Dan Mulligan workshop, we learned about a variety of types of Performance Based Assessments:  Essay, Short Written Response, Oral Response, Performance Tasks, Teacher Observation, and Student Self-Assessment. The two types that provide the richest data are Performance Tasks and Student Self-Assessment. The Region 8 cohort will be developing Performance Tasks.
     
    I am excited about the chance to develop alternate and more meaningful ways of assessment!  It is critical to assessment and accountability reform in Virginia.
     
    CHS students propose a Sunshine Garden at CCES.
     
    CuCPS Highlights:
    • Congrats to our Forensics Team for placing 1st in the Conference 44 Tournament! EVERYONE moves on to Regional competition at West Point.
      • Crystal Rundstrom Storytelling 3
      • Kaylah Paras Poetry Interp 3
      • Cheyenne Johnson Poetry Interp 2
      • Madaline Johnston Prose Interp 2
      • Amatul Fulani Original Oratory 2
      • Brittny Price Extemporaneous 2
      • Acadia Czeizinger Prose Interp 1
      • Alexa Massey Impromptu 1
      • Riley Jo Giles Storytelling 1
      • Chyann Taylor Dramatic Interp 3
      • Justin Crawford Dramatic Interp 1
      • John Jefferies/Shayna Swanson Humorous Duo 2
      • Katey Hougland/Demory Williamson Humorous Duo 3
      • Kyrra Hodges/Harleigh Marion Dramatic Duo 2
      • Brenton Morris/Wyatt Salinas Dramatic Duo 1
      • Logan Morris Humorous Interp 3
    • The Cumberland Dukes Wrestling Team had their finest performance at a regional tournament since the program was reinstated 8 years ago. Joe Kingsley and Trevon Foster placed 5th in their weight classes and are alternates for the state tournament. Gustabo Lopez paced 4th in a stacked heavy weight division. Davidrick Brooks earned a 4th place finish in a tough 106 lb bracket. Keavon Perkins placed 3rd in the 152 weight class. Keavon Perkins, Gustabo Lopez and Davidrick Brooks will represent Cumberland High School at the Virginia State Wrestling Tournament next weekend at the Salem Civic Center!
    • February School Board Meeting Highlights:

    First graders look for text features in non-fiction magazines!
     
    Events for the Week:
    • Monday
      • 1:30 Agriculture Advisory Committee Meeting
    • Wednesday
      • 4:00 Gov. School Joint Board Meeting
    • Thursday
      • 7:00 CHS Scholarship Night
      • 7:00 School Board and Board of Supervisors Joint Budget Work Session
     
     

  • The Learning Commons Mindset

    Culture of Yes|2/12/2015

    I walk into almost all of our schools in West Vancouver and very often the first thing people want to show me or talk to me about is the changes happening around the library.  Or more specifically, schools are taking great pride in their learning commons spaces that are developing.  While the physical spaces are exciting, […]



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