Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Teachers are Givers

Recently a teacher was telling me about a challenging student.  The student isn't a behavioral issue, rather one that is disorganized and rarely completes work.  This teacher has helped to provide structures and time after school for this student to be more successful.

One question the teacher said she asked the student was, "what can I do to help you?"

Other students report this particular teacher does more to help this student than other teachers, but she is willing to give more to help this student be successful.

This is just one brief example of how teachers give of themselves to help the students they serve.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

I was in the high school this morning when they held a moment of silence for Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.  After the silence I opened up my iPad to show two folks a picture of my great uncle that perished on the USS Arizona.

After that I headed to the car to get to the office.  On my brief drive my thoughts jumped around to a series of things and landed on my grandfather.  I was pretty close to him.  He would take me camping, hunting, and always challenged my math skills.  As a cropduster he thought it important I needed to know liquid measurements and how to manipulate portions depending on how much water need to be loaded in the airplane.  Of course, I worked loading the plane and rode with him until I got too big to sit on his lap.

This morning, though, I realized that in all the conversations I had with him I can't recall him ever talking about his brother, my great uncle, that perished on the USS Arizona during the Pearl Harbor bombing.  My grandfather would have been around 11 years old when his brother died.

On this Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day I find myself wondering what type of person my great uncle was.  Given his sacrifice, I know him only as a hero, just like my grandfather.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Annual Paddling Trip

A good friend and I paddle somewhere every month and have done so for a little more than 5 years, but since 1996 a small group has gone paddling the first weekend in December.  What started as a few of us dwindled down to two so we started inviting others.  Thirteen enjoyed our 2012 paddle on the Eleven Point River. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Time to go Paddling

It's that time of year again.  Since 1996 a small band of eclectic souls have paddled a Missouri stream the first weekend in December.  What started as a meet-on-Saturday-morning has turned into a leave-on-Thursday-morning paddling trip.

This year we're off to the Eleven Point River.  Folks will arrive throughout Thursday afternoon for a few days of paddling, camping, and camraderie.  It's always a good time and this year looks to be no different.

Monday, November 19, 2012


There are lot of one-liners about Scouting, but two of my favorites are:  1) it's only an hour a week, and 2) Scouters are people who pay to do Scouting.  I've witnessed this throughout my years involved with the Boy Scouts of America.  Scout leaders put in hours each week to provide a good program to the youth they serve, not to mention some sort of event each month.  Then they'll take vacation for a week-long summer camp or perhaps more for a trip to a high adventure base.  Volunteers are the life-blood of the organization and millions of youth benefit from their efforts.

New leaders start out to get their son involved in a quality program and get sucked in ot the program themselves. It's quite common to find adults staying in the program long after their son has turned 18.  They do so because they have a passion for the program and its ideals.  With such passion they give tirelessly.

Recently I've become more familiar with another organization that garners such tireless passion -- FIRST Robotics.  In fact I spent this past Sunday serving as a judge at a local FIRST Lego League event.  This was my second time to serve as a judge at this same event and remembered many of the volunteer faces from last year.  These folks have a real passion for the ideals of FIRST and getting kids excited about STEM.  Many of them had judged the weekend prior and had other events on their calendars.

Other organizations exist all over our region that have great volunteers.  I would encourage anyone to find an organization that shares their values and ideas and give them some of your time.  There is an organization somewhere that could benefit from your talents.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Just Thinking

I recently read a post by Steven Anderson about his Things That Have Me Thinking series.  It got me to wondering what's been on my mind.

In our harried world of 24-hour news and 140 character blasts, do we take the time to reflect? 

Do we, as parents, put our kids in too many organized activities?

The more we sit in front of a screen, do we become more disconnected with nature?

Does Michelle Rhee have a bully pulpit, or is she a bully?

Why is it that Republicans, the party of limited government, want to place incredible regulations on public institutions?

Why is it that Democrats have come to embrace education policies that segregate?

If parents take over a school through a parent trigger law, who is responsible for paying any debt on the school building?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election Thoughts

I have seen the election, at the federal level, described as status quo...same President, Republicans still control the House, and Democrats still control the Senate.  What does that mean for us?
  • We know what the President's stance on education is, will see more of the same, and the waivers should stay in force. 
  • Will Arne Duncan will remain Secretary of Education?
  • With the waivers in place and similar agendas among Republicans and Democrats I don't see a big push to re-authorize ESEA.
  • Will this Congress address the financial issues that lay before it? 
Around the country several elections were being watched.
  • An effort in Bridgeport, CT to turn over control of the schools to the mayor was defeated. The effort to get mayoral control was heavily funded by outside groups.
  • Indiana will see a change their state commissioner of education -- they elected theirs. The incumbent was heavily funded by education reform groups.
  • Georgia voters look to have approved charter schools. The measure was heavily funded by for-profit charter providers who will no doubt benefit from the change.
  • Big money was poured into school board elections in several places.  The funds came from education reform groups.  The results were a mixed bag.
  • Washington voters look to have approved charters.  Prior efforts had been defeated.  This time the push to approve was funded by some billionaires.
At the state level:
  • Proposition B, the 70 cent increase in cigarette taxes, was defeated.  Attempts to increase the tax have now failed in 2002, 2006, and 2012.  Missouri's tax is 17 cents, while the national average is somewhere between $1.46 and $1.49.  In 2006 opponents of the tax were able to define it in a way that most folks thought it was an increase on the fuel tax.  Perhaps that was the case again.  A closer look at the numbers show the metropolitan areas and Boone County support the increase, but rural Missouri does not.
  • The Missouri Legislature has gotten more lopsided.  The Republicans control the House at 110 to 53 and the Senate at 25 to 9.  The provides a veto-proof majority.  Even though Governor Nixon was re-elected, his veto pen just got a lot weaker.  Educators will likely get a bill through that is sorely needed, but we may be in trouble on some others.
And more locally:
  • There was no opposition on the county races.
  • Bryan Spencer won the newly created 63rd House District that constitutes Wright City, Foristell, and Wentzville.  We'll be reaching out to him to build a relationship.  Bart Korman now represents only the very southern part of the school district.
  • Proposition K, the 1/2 sales tax to fund children's services in Warren County, was defeated for the second time.  Warren County youth metrics continue to lag behind other counties in the area.
And so it's over...for now.  Candidates for 2016 are already starting to be mentioned.  Hopefully our newly elected leaders will do the serious work that needs to be done.  For a brief period they can actually do their job instead of trying to keep their job.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Our Civic Duty

Today we have the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to exercise our civic duty of voting. 

I taught with someone who had a sign that read, "Don't complain about what you permit."  It stayed up most of the time, but it was always prominent during parent-teacher conferences.  This message often helped reduce the blame parents would sometimes try to place on teachers when kids weren't doing their work.  It was a simple way to communicate that we all play a role.

Today we get to play one of our most important roles as citizens.  If you don't vote, should you be able to complain?  Your candidate may not win, but when you do vote you let your opinion be heard.

Much has been written about the election leading up to today and much will be written after.  Regardless of your political leanings let's hope (I know it's a big one) that Congress will get down to the serious business that faces our nation.  It's time for them to stop trying to keep their jobs and actually do their jobs.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Different Kind of Segregation?

Questions have come up as to whether the school privatization movement is moving in a de facto direction of re-segregation.  This post by Anthony Cody and follow-up by Diane Ravitch provide some insight.

Interestingly,  I was listening to a podcast on investing where they discussed the stock trends of some for-profit education providers.  These investment folks talked specifically about how the enrollment of these providers (charters) are dropping as they become more selective in their student bodies.

We historically think about segregation in terms of race.  In the education world we also had segregation through tracking. 

My impression of some charters is that they are minimally selective at initial enrollment, but counsel kids out based on their behavior, work ethic, and parent support. 

The political landscape leads me to believe that school choice measures will only expand.  I do wonder if they will bring a new type of segregation; one where those with parent support for learning drift away from what they perceive not to support learning. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Reality vs. Perception

What do you glean from these metrics?
  • According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) the dropout rate in 1970 was 15%.  In 2010 the dropout rate was 7.4%.
  • NCES data also shows that NAEP scores are at their highest point since we started tracking in 1973.
  • There were 3,000,000 kids in kindergarten in 1970, but up to 4,200,000 in 2010.
  • There were 7,000,000 co-eds in college and grad school in 1970, but up to 18,900,000 in 2010, with more being women than men.
These metrics look pretty positive, yet confidence for public schools has fallen.  In 1973 58% of people polled by Gallup said they had "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in K-12 public schools. In 2012 that number was down to 29%.

When you dig deeper into the Gallup numbers you find that people realy like the school their kid attends, but that likability falls as one gets further away from their own school.  So, my school rocks, but that school across the country isn't so good.

What could account for such a difference in reality and perception?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

No Milkshakes

My typical day is to take Zack to school then drive to the office.  After dropping Zack off I typically listen to three moving songs to settle a busy mind then listen to podcasts.  What I listen to varies, but I have a variety of interests.

Recently I listened to an interview with Jerry Murrell, CEO and founder of Five Guys Burgers and Fries, the fastest growing restaurant chain in the US.  Their simplicity and focus on only a few things is a large part of their success.  As school leaders we can learn alot from such simplicity and focus. 

Often times we take on too much.  We have this initiative and that initiative, not to mention another one over there.  And sometimes they don't always align.  We do the grant or program of the day because we need funds to expand this or that.  Or maybe a principal got a sales pitch at a conference and wants to bring in X product.  But how does it align with what we're already doing?

Over the past few years we've made a concerted effort to focus.  The result has been stopping some things we were doing and aligning around what we call our three rocks:  student engagement; rigor in curriculum, instruction, and assessment; and taking data to action.  So far the results are much more positive than when we had lots of disparate, unaligned initiatives.

Jerry Murrell doesn't want to do milkshakes because it would take the focus off what they know they do well.  We call the things that aren't in our focus the wiggles or squiggles.  By keeping those things in check we can continue to focus on the things that matter and get results.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

October Paddle

Our October paddle was on a section of the Meramec River we've not travelled before.  The warm temperatures made for a nice day of easing down the river and the fall foliage was outstanding. 

Mr. Shaw's new rack worked great. 

Looking forward to a nice November/December trip to the Eleven Point.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What ever happened to the Missouri Vision Project?

Some time ago educators from across Missouri participated in the Vision Project for Missouri Public Education.  The final report was issued in October of 2011, but where are we now?  The October 4, 2011 news release from MASA read:

The Missouri Association of School Administrators (MASA) and the Missouri School Boards’ Association (MSBA) have completed a joint Missouri Public Education Vision Project. MASA and MSBA represent those charged with legal responsibility for governance and executive leadership of Missouri Public Schools and each group has developed advocacy positions in past years. This project is the first time these groups have jointly developed a comprehensive vision for public schools in Missouri.

To create this vision, a task force made up of education leaders from MSBA and MASA was formed with two major purposes: (1) to critically examine the components of our current public school system; and (2) to suggest changes that could transform our current system into one that better meets the needs of 21st century learners and ensures that graduates of Missouri public schools are prepared for college, career and life. The project was coordinated by Dr. Tom Cummings, Retired Superintendent from North Kansas City.

To complete the vision, the project reflects three major goals: (1) to create unifying transformational principles around which coalitions will form to change the education culture in our state; (2) to provide guidance to local school districts as they develop strategic improvement plans for increased educational opportunities in their communities; and (3) to build trust and support for public education.

To accomplish these goals, this project report will be shared and discussed with legislative and educational policy makers; boards of education; superintendents; school staff members; students; parents and the general public.

On the surface it looks like the report was published, several Boards of Education adopted resolutions supporting it, then it faded away.  I don't hear much talk of it.  There aren't any easy-to-find links from the MSBA website or the MASA website.

I had the privilege of serving on the governance, leadership, and accountability subcommittee.  Good stuff came from our group and the other groups.

Will the Vision Project end up being a nice document on a shelf, or will statewide leaders collaborate to implement the recommendations?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Comparison of MO Political Platforms

It had been my intention to put the Democratic and Republican Platforms side-by-side for comparison.  Unfortunately I've been unable to get my hands on the Democratic Platform.  Instead I'll look at the Presidential candidates in terms of education.

Interestingly, there's not much difference in President Obama and Mr. Romney when it comes to education.  They both like high stakes testing, tenure reform, performance pay, choice, etc.  The biggest difference is in the area of vouchers -- Romney supports, Obama doesn't.

In a month we get to enter the ballot booth and make our selection.  Be sure to vote!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

MASA Adopts Legislative Platform

The Missouri Association of School Administrators (MASA) adopted new legislative priorities at its business meeting on September 28, 2012.  The business meeting was held during the annual cooperative conference between MASA and the Missouri School Boards' Association (MSBA).

Thanks to the legislative committee for their work on the document.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What is Prop B?

The last week has seen a flurry of anti-Proposition B signs going up.  Billboards now line the highways and it seems like you can't get gas without seeing 3 or 4 of them.  But what is Prop B?  The last time a similar issue was on the ballot voters thought it was an increase in the gas tax.  Wrong!  It is an increase in the cigarette tax.  Here are the sides.

Here's what the Prop B supporters have to say:
  • Increasing the tax will save lives and reduce health care costs.
  • Increasing the tax will generate revenue to fund educationa and tobacco control programs.
  • Missouri has the lowest tobacco tax in the country at 17 cents per pack.
  • Missouri has some of the highest rates of smoking and lung cancer.
  • 9,500 Missourians die each year from cancer and other smoking related diseases.
  • Tobacco use accounts for at least 30% of all cancer deaths and 87% of lung cancer deaths.
  • 8,600 Missouri kids become new daily smokers each year.
  • Each year, annual health care costs in Missouri directly caused by smoking $2.13 billion and $532 million is spent on the state’s Medicaid program.
  • Every household in Missouri pays $565 per year in their state and federal tax burden from smoking-caused government expenditures.
  • $2.51 billion in smoking-caused lost productivity
  • Increasing tobacco excise taxes on cigarettes is one of the most cost-effective strategies to reduce tobacco use among adults and to prevent youth from starting.
  • Tobacco use is the most preventable cause of premature illness and death in the United States and Missouri.
Here's what the Prop B opposition has to say:
  • 429% tax increase on all cigarettes (increase is 73¢ per pack, from 17¢ to 90¢ per pack).
  • Prop B will decimate cigarette & tobacco sales for every convenience store & retailer inMissouri.
  • Prop B will put every convenience store & retailer at a massive competitive tax disadvantage with Kentucky (60¢ per pack),Tennessee (62¢ per pack),Nebraska (64¢ per pack) &Kansas (79¢ per pack).
  • Prop B will drastically reduce the advantage Missouri retailers have over Oklahoma ($1.03 per pack), Arkansas ($1.15 per pack), Iowa ($1.36 per pack) & Illinois ($1.98 per pack).
  • Never forget that the ultimate goal of the anti-tobacco zealots who support Prop B is to outlaw all tobacco products by initiating, supporting & pursuing outrageous & unfair taxation & regulation!
  • MPCA continues to support a reasonable tax increase on tobacco products that will allow Missouri retailers to maintain their competitive tax advantage over our higher-taxed border-states.
I find two things interesting about the opposition's positions.
  1. Many Missouri retailers are at a disadvantage because most internet sales are not taxed.  Would MPCA support a tax on internet sales?
  2. MPCA claims it would support a reasonable tax increase, yet has opposed every tobacco tax increase that has been on the ballot.  What is the level they would get behind?
I don't smoke and think it is a nasty habit.  We also know it causes some bad health issues.  Not sure how I'll vote, but whatever your feelings are on the issue, vote.  Express your opinion at the ballot box. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Does time matter?

Seems like you can't go a day without something in the news or on Twitter about how schools are failing and it's the fault of teachers.  Regardless of outside-of-school factors it's up to teachers to cure the ills of society.  Let's look at this from a strictly time matter.

There are 365.25 days in a year.  Multiply that by 24 hours in a day for 8,766 hours in a year. 

We have 172 days of instruction scheduled in the 2012-2013 school year.  Teachers work 7.5 hours per day so let's assume 7.5 hours for kids from simplicity sake.  Let's add on another 2 hours per day for a long morning and afternoon bus ride.  That puts us at 9.5 hours per day for 172 days.  This on the long side, but let's use this 1,634 hours as the number of hours a student would be in our care during a school year.

But wait, we also have summer school for 7 hours per day for 24 days.  Let's tack on that long bus ride again to get 9 hours for 24 days.  This is an additional 216 hours of contact.

1,634 hours + 216 hours is 1,850 hours a student would be in our care.  Not all of these would be in direct instruction.  We've included time for bus rides and the 7.5 hour day would include time for lunch, recess, class changes, transitions, etc.

At most we would have a student 21.1% of their year.  That leaves 78.9% of time when a student is out of our contact.  Seems to me that this nearly 80% would have some influence on student achievement.

Monday, September 17, 2012

September Paddle

Had a leisurely paddle on the Meramec River this month.  It was a new section of the river for us.  Definitely not scenic, but we did see some deer. 

I've driven over bridges across the lower section, but never paddled it.  We put in and paddled upstream from Valley Park.  The river is wide, slow, and brown. 

We paddled after attending the Woodbadge closing luncheon.  It was great to see old friends and make new ones.

Thoughts on the Missouri Democratic Platform

Have you seen the Missouri Democratic Platform?  If so, send it my way.  I can't find it, others have been unable to find it, and Party headquarters doesn't return calls.

My plan was to look at both (GOP was earlier post) separately then compare them side by side.  That's not looking possible at this point.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Congress is Back

Congress is back in session after the August recess, but will they actually do anything?  The list of things that need to be addressed is still there:  farm bill, ESEA reauthorization, a budget, etc.

My guess is that there will be some hearings, lots of press briefings, even more posturing, and some last minute deals to keep the federal government running so they can go home to run for office. 

They will kick the can of any meaningful decisions down the road once again.  The Republicans are hoping Romney will win and they'll take the Senate.  Democrats want to see President Obama re-elected and gain some seats in both chambers. 

Whichever way the wind blows on November 6 we will get ideology.  No meaningful solutions, just a this way or that way approach. 

I taught with a great teacher who put a sign on his door at each parent-teacher conference.  It read, "Don't Complain About What You Permit".  This concepts cuts across many aspects of life.

As the November election approaches know whose on the ballot, research their positions, and vote for the folks who represent your views.  Let's get a Congress that will tackle the issues of our time.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Thoughts on the Mo GOP Platform

Have you seen the Missouri GOP Platform?  It's hard to find.  Here are my thoughts and observations...

From the Preamble on page 1:  "We believe government governs best when it governs least."  The Missouri Legislature annually meets from early January through early May, with a veto session in September.  Given some of the nonsense that comes from the Legislature in roughly six months, governing less might be a good idea.

From Freedom, Job Creation on page 3:  supports "Continued efforts to limit job-killing frivolous lawsuits."  I get that "job-killing" is in the statement because it's a talking point, but it limits the notion to frivolous lawsuits.  Who is defining what a frivolous lawsuit is?  If a frivolous lawsuit isn't job-killing, is it okay? 

From Freedom, Spending & Debt on page 4:  supports "Balancing the state budget without increasing taxes."  On nearly every measure Missouri is a low tax burden state.  We have the lowest tobacco tax in the country.  Do I want to pay more taxes?  Of course not.  But I recognize that when your income (tax revenue) falls by 12.5% one not only has to reduce spending, but also look to increase their income (tax revenue).  Missouri must seriously consider taxing internet sales.  I hear lots of small business owners grumbling about that roughly 8% built in advantage.  Missouri has done much better budget-wise than many states.  While the cuts have not always been palatable, the Legislature and Governor have done an acceptable job keeping Missouri afloat.

From Security, Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice on page 9:  supports "Expansion of state laws that fully protect our children against sexual predators."  Who can argue against that?  The problem is that while Missouri has balanced its budget services have been cut.  Unfortunately, we have seen children kept in dangerous situations due to a lack of personnel to investigate and act on allegations.  Interestingly, we'll get an immediate response if a school employee has an allegation against them.  Do we need more laws or enforcement of those already on the books?

And now comments on the Educating our Children portion of the Platform on pages 5 and 6...

"Control over our schools should be returned to the local level, where parents have more say in how their children are educated."  I read this to a conservative voter.  Their response was they thought this was what locally elected school boards did.  Parents and community members elect representatives to their local boards of education.  The number of proposals from members of the Mo GOP who file legislation that erodes local control is intriguing given this Platform statement.  Perhaps we'll see less of this type of legislation from the Mo GOP in the coming session.

Supports "Efforts at the state and federal levels to adopt a fair system that grants parents the ability to help their children escape failing schools and attend schools of their choice -- whether private, charter, home schooling, or public.". This notion of failing schools is kind of new.  It stems from the labels required under NCLB for schools not meeting arbitrary targets on state tests.  There is no consistency from state to state on how the targets were set, nor the cut points on the state tests to be proficient.  The result was that states with high standards had more "failing" schools than those with lower standards.  Several studies have shown that Missouri has some of the highest standards in the country.  The notion of choice is gaining steam and sounds simple on the surface.  In Missouri the taxing and spending inequities from district to district is an issue when thinking about choice.  Take my district for example.  We border five other districts, we have the lowest operating tax levy in the group, and are the smallest of the group.  Should the rates be equalized in a choice environment?  Let's also not forget that Missouri does not contribute to facility construction.  Some districts have the community support to have nice facilities, while others can't get voter support to improve facilities.  Lastly, I'm offended that by the order of the supposed choices.  The implication is that private is the first choice and so on.  Is there a belief that public schools are the choice of last resort?

Supports "Quick action to address the urban education crisis that has already sacrificed the futures of generations of young people."  Urban education is an issue across the country, but the devil is in the details.  St. Louis struggles as a district, but has one of the top performing high schools in the state.  The problems with urban education are complex and there are no quick fixes.  Sustained improvement efforts with broad support from the community, parents, teachers, and kids is what will make the difference.

Supports "The foundation formula that funds education based on the needs of our children rather than the taxing capacity of a school district."  The SB287 formula is based on student needs.  The problem is that politicians have failed to fund it.

Supports "Education savings accounts that are tax exempt and may be used for meeting educational expenses for each individual or family member without penalty for withdrawal."  This statement needs some clarity.  Are these accounts for PK-college, just college, just PK, for private schools, etc.?  The broadness of the statement implies all of the above.

Supports "Local school boards in their efforts to guarantee quality instruction and to remove an unfit teacher."  Okay.  And is there some underlying meaning here? 

Supports "Reforming teacher tenure to ensure that the best teachers, regardless of their length of employment, remain in classrooms."  What we've seen coming out is more of an elimination of tenure rather than reform/change.  How about some measures that will attract folks to the teaching profession?

Supports "Establishing a merit pay system that rewards the most effective teachers."  Guess they haven't read all those studies on how merit pay for teachers doesn't increase student achievement.  We find that our highest performing grade levels are where our teachers collaborate better and have interventions and enrichment in place to meet student needs.  Will that remain in a competitive environment for a fixed pot of money?

Supports "Policies to reduce bullying in schools."  More policies, rules, or laws won't make a difference.  They haven't in the war on poverty, drugs, crime, etc.  The Legislature could, however, serve as an example by not bullying their members with chairmanships or committee assignments to get votes.  That would be real change.

Supports "Policies that stress the importance of parents in the education system and allow and encourage parents to play an active role in their local education system."  There seems to be an underlying assumption that schools don't have such policies.  Or, is this a veiled way to show support for the parent trigger concept?

Supports "The authority of parents as the primary educators of their children in all matters, including morality, sexual orientation, and responsiblity."  The social conservative wing of the party is shining through.

Supports "The fundamental right of parents to raise their children according to the convictions of their family and faith, to be the primary authority to determine and direct the nurturing, health care, education, guidance, discipline, and moral upbringing of their children including, the ability to home-school or send their children to faith-based schools free of burdensome government regulations."  Nice talking point but schools must have the ability to establish standards of behavior (discipline).  These are typically based around legislative action, court decisions, and mutually agreed upon community norms.  In the world of choice/vouchers how can faith-based schools be free of burdensome government regulations if they take government funds.  And aren't burdensome government regulations burdensome for public schools?

Supports "Protecting children, in our public schools and any public entity where computers and the Internet are made readily available, from pornography on the Internet, with local entities choosing the proper filter."  So the GOP supports pornography for non-public school students?  Got wordy and clouded the message here.  My guess is that this entered the Platform due to the internet filtering case in the Camdenton School District.

Supports "Rejecting the establishment of school-based clinics/health links that dispense contraceptives and provide abortion counseling."  The social conservative wing is coming through here.  Whether we like or agree with it or not, teenagers have sex.  Sticking your head in the sand isn't going to make it go away.  And remember, teenage pregnancy has been going down.

Supports "Requiring the informed consent of a parent or guardian before providing health, mental health or substance abuse treatment services to minor students in public schools."  Does this mean a school nurse needs to get permission before putting a bandage on a wound?  Guess they don't want nurses/teachers in private schools to get permission first.  Sounds like burdensome government regulations to me.

Supports "Empowering local school districts to determine how best to handle the teaching of creationism and the theory of evolution."  Those social conservatives are shining through again.

Supports "Encouraging people to use their real life experience to teach in elementary and secondary schools."  There are many routes to teacher certification in place in Missouri.  I am curious as to what life experiences would prepare someone to be a teacher, especially an elementary teacher -- just being a parent, having a degree, knowing how to spell, having drawn a picture, having gone to school, etc.? 

Noticeably absent from the Platform is a call for more testing, although support for merit pay hints at it.  I will at least give the Platform credit for no explicit call for more student testing.

The Platform as a whole contradicts itself over and over, taking a stand in one area only to support something against that stand in another area. 

Look for my thoughts on the Mo Democratic Platform (if I can get it) and a comparison of the two Platforms in future posts.

Wasting Boats

Canoes are for paddling, not sculptures.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Work for America

Seems I've been reading a lot about Teach for America lately.  I had an awareness of the organization, but not a lot of knowledge.  From what I understand TFA was founded in part to meet the teacher shortage in the early 1990s, especially in urban, high poverty areas.  Corps members look to be high achievers who did not plan to go into education.

Interestingly, corps membership is growing despite roughly 300,000 teachers losing their jobs since 2009.  Even more interesting is that around 1/3 of TFA placements are being made in charter schools.  Folks are wondering if TFA has abandoned its purpose and become more of a business.

For the entrepeneurs out there I have an idea for you, although I'd like a percentage of any profits.

When I look at the job market and talk to local employers I see and hear that what is needed are folks with technical know engineers and the like.  In fact I spoke to an employer in the last week who had 330 applicants for a technical position, but not one qualified.

So if TFA can bring in college grads for a few weeks in the summer and train them to be teachers, why doesn't someone start Engineers for America.  Just scan presitigious colleges and universities for high achieving young adults who got a degree is something that isn't marketable and put them through a summer engineering training program.  They'll then be ready to go into companies across the country for a 2-year commitment.

Once their commitment is completed they will come back to work for EFA.  After a while they'll get a senior position at an engineering firm and shortly thereafter be able to lead the firm.  For those with political talents they can move into policy making, maybe even becoming Secretary of Defense.

But why stop at EFA, could we not do something similar for other career paths?  A larger Work for America organization could be the answer.  But doesn't that exist as a completely different entity?

I want a highly effective teacher in every classroom in the district.  So do our parents.  It's time the media and politicians stood behind the talented folks in our classrooms rather than demean them.  And we can't circle the wagons and shoot inward.

Monday, August 27, 2012

When will we leap again?

Neil Armstrong passed away a few days ago.  He became famous for his words as the first man to step onto the moon.  Over the past few days I've been wondering about that leap for mankind and what the next leap will be.

Will it be in technology, medicine, space exploration, energy, our ability to coexist, or something else entirely?  Whatever it is, I hope it makes the world a better place for future generations.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Can't Have It Both Ways

The Broad Foundation has defined 75 ways how bureaucracy stands in the way of America's students and teachers.  This was written to apply to urban districts.  I've not taught, worked, or been an administrator in an urban district, but I want to compare some of the claims to what we see in rural districts.  On others I just want to comment.

The 75 ways are split into 3 categories. 

Resources often don't reach the classroom

1. More than one person in a central office may play the same role, meaning resources are unnecessarily duplicated. ---In rural districts the same central office plays multiple roles.  This has especially grown as politicians and agency officials place more reporting requirements on schools.

3. Central office systems are slow, meaning that teachers may not get paid on time and students may not have books and materials (or the permanent teachers) by the start of school. ---I've not see a rural district not pay on time, but getting materials can be a struggle if not ordered early enough.  Suppliers sometimes don't get in a hurry with small orders.

5. More money is spent on facilities construction and maintenance than is necessary. ---State laws drive these costs up.  This is especially true in very rural districts.  Laws governing our bidding processes require that we pay prevailing wage on construction jobs.  This drives up cost with some districts paying much more for labor than a contractor would pay in a locale.

6. Investments in purchase and maintenance of supplies and facilities go unused. ---Rural districts tend to use almost everything they have before ordering more.

7. Budgets are not based on what things actually cost. ---This is an interesting claim without any backup information.

9. Little effort is made to learn from other high-performing organizations and public agencies in areas like transportation, operations and facilities that would free up dollars for the classroom. ---Rural districts operate the only transportation system in their area, and often the largest restaurant.  We learn from each other to be as efficient as possible.

10. Different parts of the organization that manage resources do not communicate with each other, which means that schools and classrooms receive resources like supplies and instructional support inconsistently. ---In rural districts the entire system usually knows what the other parts of the system are doing.

12. Principals lack the freedom to decide how to spend school dollars in ways they know would support their own students and teachers, because district central offices often control school budgets. ---Our principals submit and defend budget proposals.  They are then given great leeway over those funds.

14. States often inform districts of their budgets too late (e.g., often after school has already begun) for districts to be able to properly plan how to best use resources to support students and teachers. ---This is a function of state laws having deadline requirements that simply don't mesh with the reality of schools.

15. Across the board budget cuts (vs. strategic, targeted cost reductions), operational inefficiencies and administrative overhead mean that too few taxpayer dollars actually reach the classroom. ---Given the cuts that colleagues have had to make in recent years, I've not seen anyone doing across the board cuts.  The cuts I've seen have been very strategic.

Teachers often don't receive the support they need, and may talented Americans don't even enter the profession.

17. Teachers don’t have the time or technology they need to change or improve upon their instructional strategies. ---Many of us provide staff development time during the summer (100 hours for us this year), as well as having staff development each week.

18. Teachers don’t have access to instructional pacing guides to help them make sure students learn what they need to know in a timeframe consistent with other schools by pacing the delivery of curriculum across the school year. ---This one is strange to me because our curriculum development software used by folks around the country has a pacing guide component.

20. Teachers lack access to mentors, master teachers, collaborative planning time, expert lesson plans and best practices to grow professionally by working with their peers. ---We require mentoring of new teachers and have ongoing training for our new teachers.  Collaborative planning time is the norm, as well as professional development focus groups.

21. Teachers lack access to proven interventions for students who are struggling. ---For the past 2 years we've held data institutes where teachers examine data and gather research-based interventions to use in their classrooms.

26. Teachers feel assessments are not appropriately connected to what students should know and be able to do. ---Aren't these assessments being pushed by folks like the Broad Foundation?

28. Teachers lack timely and adequate information about how each of their students is progressing. This includes data about how subgroups of students (i.e., different income, ethnic, gender, racial and language groups) are progressing on mastery of expected academic standards so that teachers can hone in on particular student needs, improve instruction and fill in gaps in the curriculum. ---Most of my colleagues is using some type of benchmarking tool to know how each student is progressing.  If we stay focused on the needs of each student, the subgroups will take care of themselves.

29. Test results throughout the year are provided to teachers too late for them to re-teach subjects and fill gaps in learning before students take high-stakes exams or before the end of the year, so students enter those exams without core knowledge and skills and fall behind grade level.  ---This is true of state-mandated tests, but not of local assessments.

34. Central office staff and principals are not evaluated regularly nor are they held responsible for teacher or student success. ---Student achievement is a key component of superintendent and principal evaluations.

38. Top teachers are not properly recognized, rewarded or compensated, so they leave the profession. ---What evidence is there that top teachers are leaving the profession?  Does the Broad Foundation demean other professions the way it does teachers?

39. Teachers are paid far less than many other professions that are just as critical to the strength of our country, our democracy, our society and our economy. ---The policies being backed by the Broad Foundation seem to support low pay for teachers.

41. Processes to apply or interview for teaching positions are often difficult, burdensome, unclear or lengthy, which means districts lose talented candidates who instead take positions in suburban or private schools that have faster, simpler hiring timelines. ---I have found suburban hiring timelines to be extremely slow.  Rural districts hire much faster.

43. Principals and managers are often unable to hire candidates they feel are best suited for the job because someone above has to approve the hire, or they are forced to hire teachers, like those removed from other schools, but have placement seniority and can bump other, less tenured teachers. ---Our hiring processes leave the hiring of teachers to principals.  How else can we hold them accountable for their building's performance?

47. Arbitrary certification requirements (e.g., whether teachers have master’s degrees, which research shows does not correlate with student achievement increases) mean great people are not hired and millions of dollars are spent by districts unnecessarily. ---Certification requirements are set at the state level.  Several avenues for alternative certification are available to the "great people" supposedly not hiring.  We want the best people teaching our kids, but we don't get paid unless they are certificated.

48. Teachers are hired without being observed teaching a sample lesson or otherwise evaluated for their actual ability in the classroom, and are instead just screened for a criminal background check and required paper credentials. ---This is somewhat true, although we're starting to see folks asking for a video.  We also have to manage the volume of applicants.  This notion would increase the hiring time mentioned in item #41.

51. Top college graduates are discouraged from entering the teaching profession due to low salaries, poor work conditions and lack of respect. ---The Broad Foundation could set the example of treating teachers with respect.

52. Many teachers feel frustrated because of poor workplace conditions and have little hope that things will improve.

Policies and procedures - which may be designed to comply to laws and regulations - often don't allow the school system to pursue its core mission:  advancing student achievement

56. District leaders focus on complying with regulations and funding streams that are not necessarily helping students and teachers, as well as on day-to-day operations, rather than on removing the barriers to student success. ---The largest barrier to student success is poverty.  We'll take all the help we can get on removing that barrier.

60. A lack of accountability exists at all levels of school systems, which creates a culture where it is unclear who is responsible for what. ---The short-term expectancy of the superintendent seems to yield that he/she is highly accountable to changing boards of education.

62. New, well-intentioned “programs” are often arbitrarily adopted or selected because a vendor made them sound good, rather than because they are research-based, proven to raise student achievement or, in the absence of research, logically connected to student achievement. ---This is all too true.  It is imperative that districts of all sizes evalaute their programs. 

64. Scientific standards for research and evaluation in the field are lower than in other fields like medicine. ---Is this not a function of the infinite number of variables in a student's life?

70. Similarly, district leaders do not publicly share their strategies to address these problems and their progress, which means that the people who are affected by the success of their school district are unable to judge whether leaders are doing enough to fix these problems. ---I see more and more transparency of actions through district websites.
Since the Broad Foundation continues to fund education reform efforts that aren't producing the gains touted, I must assume they aren't taking their own advice.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mental Models

What is your mental model of school?  My guess is that it is the school you attended.

Over the next few weeks we have a group of teachers and patrons walking our facilities as we update our facility maintenance plan.  The first walk through was earlier this week.  It was at our high school.

Interestingly, several participants seem to want to recreate our high school as the high school they attended.  Some partcipants attended the high school and spent time discussing what teacher was in what room, how the building had grown, how programs had expanded, and how other programs had dwindled or been eliminated.  Regardless, it was fairly clear that people wanted to see things as what they had when they were in school.  When we talked about the future of school and what it could look like, they had a hard time grasping the potential changes we will see.  Are they stuck in their mental model?

There are more buildings to walk through.  Can and will their mental models change?  Can they see beyond the school they attended?  I think so...they want the best opportunties for their kids.

Caring Adults

A parent scared the bejeezers out of me this morning.  I was in my car putting on my seatbelt in preparation for leaving a parking space when a parent appeared at my window.  Considering the parking lot was empty, the surprise presence of a body startled me.  (In full disclosure I have a tendency to do this to others.)

This parent had moved to the district at the start of last year but kept their child in the parochial school she had been attending.  The drive was a challenge for them, but they kept it up all last year.  This year they chose to bring here to public school.

The parent's purpose in catching me was to let me know that their first two weeks had been a great experience.  It started with a greeting from the principal, who escorted her to class when he found out she was new.  It has continued by being in the classroom of an experienced teacher.

It's the people that make a difference in schools.  Other countries understand this.  Our political and business leaders would rather bash teachers.  I wonder how their employees would perform if they were being demeaned as teachers and administrators are?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Charity Paddling Trip

For the past several years I've donated a canoe trip for four to a local charity auction.  Each year the trip has been purchased by Phil.  We did the outfitted trip this past weekend.  He again brought Greg, Tom, and John.  This year they wanted to paddle sections of the Current River.  We base camped at Pulltite.

On Saturday we put in at Aker's Ferry for the 10 mile paddle down to Pulltite.  I like this section of the river, but on a Saturday during the summer the crowd can be a bit much.  It wasn't horribly crowded, but some of those who were out for the day were loud and rowdy.  The Park Service had tightened down on the silliness a few years ago.  Perhaps they've eased up.

Sunday was a much quiet paddle from Pulltite to Round Spring.  The rowdy folks must have gone home.

Overall it was a nice weekend of paddling with cool evening temperatures and daytime temps in the low 80s.  Can't wait for some cooler paddling this fall.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

172 Days

Yesterday marked the start of school for us.  It's always fun to see how the kids change over the summer. 

I started my day at the high school as kids started to arrive.  Several have grown quite a bit, many look more mature, and some it's hard to believe they are seniors.

At West Elementary the new second graders were learning how to navigate their new surroundings.

At East Elementary the kindergarteners looked lost, but perhaps not as much as their parents.  Lots of teary-eyed adults travelled the halls after dropping off their pride and joy.  They could stop by the boo-hoo breakfast, but most exited in quiet reflection.

We are entrusted with their care for the next 172 days.  During that time we will monitor their academic progress to provide necessary interventions or enrichments to move them forward.  While doing that we will see them grow, wipe their tears, bandage their wounds, feed them breakfast and lunch, send food home with some on the weekends, clothe some, and celebrate their birthdays, all as part of what teachers do on a daily basis.

Educators are a self-less bunch.  Thank one the next time you see one.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Paddling with Troop 2

Paddle with Troop 2 was a great time for Zack and me.  We arrived at their camp late Friday and had a great night's sleep in the tent.  Zack was up early Saturday and exploring before hitting the water.

We paddled from Two Rivers to Powder Mill.  Seventeen boys, four leaders, Zack and I were off for a great day on Current River.  After some quick instruction I took the lead boat position.  The conversation among the boys was interesting and they wanted to race.  After a bit we pulled over on a nice gravel bar to let the boys swim. The temperatures were much cooler than they had been all summer, so there was some shivering.

Another stop for lunch and I went to the rear of the pack to help two scouts finish canoeing merit badge.  They had not gotten it complete at summer camp.  They were left with what I think is the most difficult requirement for small boys--entering the boat in deep water with assistance.  It took us a couple of times, but the boys were successful.  I also demonstrated some alternate methods.

After another stop it was time to help some scouts with kayaking merit badge.  One of the leaders is a merit badge counselor for the badge, so I was the helper.  We took four boys through the paces on the water.

One of the boats was a Dagger Response.  I watched it being paddled all day and wondered if I would fit in it.  My height is a disadvantage in trying to fit in a nice whitewater boat.  I was curious if I would fit.  After adjusting the foot pegs I was able to crowd my legs in.  What a fund boat to paddle and easy to roll without a skirt.  Might have to investigate finding a used one.

Thanks to Troop 2 for letting us join them for a nice day on the river.

Friday, August 10, 2012

August Paddle

Several months ago a good friend asked if I would join Troop 2 on a float trip this coming weekend and serve as a canoeing instructor.  I was looking forward to it and helped him a bit with the trip planning. 

Each year I donate an outfitted canoe trip to our scholarship auction.  The same guys buy it each year and we have a good time.  In trying to schedule a mutually agreeable date we ended on the weekend following the Troop 2 float.  I didn't think I could swing two weekends in a row away from the family so I backed out of the Troop 2 float.

Then came a nice bike ride earlier in the week where Zack and I discussed getting away for a last weekend before school started.  We decided a paddling trip was in order, so I'm back to paddling with Troop 2 this weekend and the auction guys next weekend.

The Troop 2 float will be from Two Rivers to Powder Mill on the Current River.  Zack had paddled the 40 miles upstream from Two Rivers earlier in the summer so he'll get to pick up another 7 miles.  Don't know that I know any 7 year olds that have paddled that entire stretch.  We'll need to do Baptist Camp to Akers when the water is nice.

Can't wait to paddle with Troop 2 this weekend.

Monday, August 6, 2012

What sells?

Recently I had a conversation with our local newspaper editor about an observation I made regarding the Olympics.

My observation was that the ratings for the Olympics were quite high and that the Olympics are what could be considered good news.  We get to watch people at the pinnacle of performance and learn about the work that got them to this point.  I argued that people do like good news.

The editor's response was one of facts.  The paper had recently done two very different stories as headlines.  The first was a good news story about Governor Nixon visiting a local advanced manufacturing plant to given an award.  The second was a story exposing some potential conflicts of interest in the city government of a neighboring town.  Guess which sold more papers?

There are educators doing great things in classrooms across this country every day.  These supermen and superwomen are getting blasted daily in the national media by those who seek to privatize public education.  We're not going to improve education as an institution by throwing rocks at the people in it.  Our teachers have earned better treatment.

Student Engagement

Middle and High School teachers are back today with two days of training on Kagan strategies.  Teachers had two days of training last summer including coaching throughout the school year.  Soon after the start of the year students were asking who this Kagan guy was.

Friday, August 3, 2012

New Staff

New employees (teachers and support staff) started orientation this morning.  They are in district and building level meetings throughout the day.  We visit as a group again next week and have new teacher induction sessions throughout the year.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Data Institute

Teachers and administrators at West Elementary working with data to develop interventions and enrichments for the upcoming school year.

Our collaboration around student data, and subsequent actions, have led to significant gains in student achievement.  Thanks to our staff for their work this week.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Worst Congress?

This article was referenced in a recent presenation I attended.  Sounds very much like what I saw on a recent visit to DC.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Pioneers of Education

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education annually recognizes pioneers in education at its back to school conference.  The recipients this year are William H. Danforth, Martha Fennewald, Frankie Freeman, and Russell V. Thompson.


Marzano and Teacher Evaluation

Listening to Marzano speak on teacher evaluation at our state department conference.

Started off with lots of statistics that bring up some interesting conversation about the reliability of education measurements. Seems that a teacher quiz has similar reliability to sub-scores on standardized tests.

Can you reward status and growth at the teacher level?  An interesting question for our table to discuss and one with no quick consensus.  How to measure defines part of the problem?

Thinking about looking at a teacher over their career, does effective in year two of one's career look the same as effective in year 12?  Missouri is considering a model that takes this into account.  Large scale piloting is to take place this year.

I don't know what the answer to teacher evaluation is but do know what we currently do is not effective.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


The area Chamber of Commerce hosted a meet the candidate night earlier this week.  The event was attended by numerous candidates, or their surrogates, for national, state, and local elections.

The political speak and meaningless talking points were out in full force.  It was an amicable event, but there was a lack of substance.  Unfortunately, attendance by the general public was quite low.  Was the hot weather keeping people at home?  Is it general apathy?  Or, have people made their choice for the August 7 primary?

Friday, July 20, 2012


Just finished our summer AASA Governing Board meeting. When I came onto the Board the association was facing dire financial straits, like many associations were and continue to be. The situation has been remedied, with significant staff reductions, and we've come out the other side a leaner, more efficient organization. Thanks to the AASA staff for their hard work.

The association still faces significant challenges. The most prominent is a decline in membership. Surely the economy is a cause, but we must also consider the outright attacks on superintendents as a cause as well. Regardless, our charge is to engage current members as well as gaining new members.

As we talked in our regions this morning it was amazing to learn of some of the ways school leaders are getting attacked across the county. I have to wonder if we've lost all civility sometimes. Anyway, it was great to visit with colleagues from the midwest and Canada. We will gather again in February.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Awe and Reverence

I'm in Washington, DC for the summer AASA Governing Board meeting. Each year I find it an interesting trip and get taken aback by the history that surrounds me. I was again in awed reverence as I walked in front of the Capitol this morning. The early morning sun on the monuments is an inspiring site. Perhaps our elected officials will take some time to soak in the reverence around them and then get down to doing the people's business. We need solutions, not the talking points and rhetoric that we get in the news each day.

Energy Bills

Yesterday I checked into a hotel for meeting. I had some time before the first meeting so I did some reading then sat down with my iPad for some catching up. After a while I noticed that I was getting quite cold. Considering the outside temperatures were near 100 degrees, that must have meant the air conditioning must have been on at a high level. I checked the thermostat to find it set at 68. That may not seem an odd setting, but we keep our house much warmer than that. Usually our summer thermostat is program to go no lower than 76. We are used to the higher temperature so I tend to get a little cold when in other buildings. A couple of years ago when we were doing budget cuts at school we estimated that a 1 degree change in our thermostats would save us $6,000 in utility costs. How much would this hotel save if gave patrons less of range to manipulate the temperatures? And how much lower would the rack rate be?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Scouting Weekend

Zack and I spent some time this weekend at Camp Gamble on the S-F Scout Ranch attending Dad and Lad.  The event is for Cub Scouts and their dads.

We arrived after lunch on Saturday.  After a brief camp tour and gear drop off it was off to the various program areas to have some fund.  We had opportunties for archery, BB guns, swimming, canoeing, hiking, and fishing.

The hot weather on Saturday (10th day in a row over 100 degrees) sent us swimming in Nims Lake to keep cool.  While we did some other things, the lake was most refreshing.  After dinner we spent some time exploring before heading off to a most entertaining campfire.  The energy level of the staff was suprisingly high given the sweltering summer they have endured guiding hundreds of Scouts.

This was the first time Zack slept in a canvas wall tent.  The openness of the tent surprised him as did the volume of the insects and frogs at night.  It didn't keep him from sleeping through the thunderstorm that hit around midnight though.  That was the first rain I've seen in about a month.

Overall it was a good weekend.  We'll try a different camp next year and try to get more boys from the pack and den to join us.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

ASCD Summer Conference Day 2

At least the rooms weren't as cold on day 2. Listened to Bob Marzano talk about having a common language of instruction. Good to know that we're implementing several items he discussed. The afternoon session I attended didn't deliver what was expected. Did learn about some cool web tools though. Most of us went to the Cardinals game after the sessions. Good win for the Cards.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

ASCD Summer Conference Day 1

Nice to have a national conference so close to home. With a common core theme, we are sending our administrative team and most of our common core transition team to the event. The morning 3-hour session I attended was on standards based grading. We have been working on this for some time and two of our teachers leading the project were in attendance as well. We'll need to consider brining the presenter(Dr. Cathy Vatterott) out for some help. Thankfully, she is based in St. Louis. The session was helpful but the room was very cold. The afternoon 3-hour session I attended was on resistance to rigor presented by Robyn Jackson. Rigor in curriculum, instruction, and assessment is a big part of our instructional improvement plan This room was also quite cold, but got to be at a table with a diverse group of educators. Always interesting to talk to educators across the country. Hopefully the rooms won't be so cold tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Water and Rocks

It is inevitable that we paddle streams previously paddled.  When we do I'm always amazed at how the stream has changed.  Seasonal flooding changes so many things about a river.  Two recent examples come to mind.

The first was a short paddling trip we took on the St. Francis at the end of April.  I've paddled the lower stretch of this section more times than I care to count, but had not done so in a few years.  I was amazed that the river had taken a completely new route for about 1/4 mile.  From what I remember about the area, the river would have had to go uphill to cut through.  The area had seen record setting flooding in 2011.  Water is a powerful force.

The second example from trip on Current River.  Up and down the stream one can find large rocks/boulders with part in the water and part out, kind of like a stationary iceberg.  While flooding changed the river in the previous example, these rocks tend to stand the test of time.  Flash flood after flash flood and they stay in place.

I think about this concept as I consider education reform.  A flood of reform measures (vouchers, tuition tax credits, charters, virtual charters, performance pay, tenure changes, etc.) are pushing against the rock of public education.  There's plenty of evidence showing that these reforms don't yield significant results.  What we, as educators, fail to grasp is that these efforts are not about quality -- they are about choice.  Once parents are given choice, the education marketplace is supposed to take care of itself.  Don't like your kid's school?  You've only yourself to blame because you get to choose.

In the midst of this flood is the rock of public education.  Schools have stood the test of time, making changes along the way to provide a quality education for millions of students. There are good schools, bad schools and everything in between.  Public perception data on public schools is actually quite good, but you don't hear that on the evening news.

But the flood of education reform is on a steady rise and there is no end in sight.  Will public education hold firm, making changes that provide better opportunities for all kids?  Will the money behind the flood continue to flow?  Will public education be wiped clean by the flood of reform/choice?

Only time will tell.  In the meantime my colleagues and I will continue to lead public school districts along a path of continuous improvement.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Paddling Monthly

I recently updated my simple paddling log.  I've only been keeping it since I set a goal of paddling monthly.  That was in June of 2007. 

In reviewing the log I found that I've only missed two months since that time.  There was no paddling in July of 2008 because I had changed districts and moving got the best of our time.  The second one was in January of 2011 when were frozen out.  It wasn't too cold to paddle, but our prime and back-up locations were frozen.

I look forward to these monthly outings.  Where will we go in July?  Better start planning.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Teacher Evaluation Pilot

Two of our administrators to talk about our teacher evaluation pilot in a webinar on June 26.

Join Us to Hear What Your Colleagues Have to Say About Their First-year Pilot
Learning Sciences International and the Marzano Center for Teacher and Leadership Evaluation invite you to join a live informational webinar event for Missouri school districts on June 26, at 10:00 a.m. CDT.  The purpose is for districts to hear first-hand from administrators in Missouri districts that participated in the pilot of the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model. Dr. Beverly Carbaugh will host the discussion with Independence Elementary Principal, Laura LaCroix, Springfield Facilitator of Operations, Secondary Schools, Dr. Cathy Galland, Wright City Middle School Principal Jeff Haug, and Assistant Superintendent, David Buck.
The Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model is unique in that it identifies a direct cause-and-effect relationship between elements in the model and positive gains in student learning.  Over 500 studies have validated that the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model helps teachers raise student achievement in rural, suburban, and urban environments. Developed over five decades of research, the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model is both expansive enough to reflect the complexity of teaching and focused enough to encourage targeted feedback about classroom behaviors.
Register online to attend this live webinar on June 26, at 10:00 AM CDT.

Monday, June 18, 2012

June Paddling Trip

June 2-5, 2012

The paddle of the month was on the Current River.  This was a leisurely four-day family trip from Akers Ferry to the confluence with the Jack's Fork at Two Rivers.  We took our time on this 40-mile or so trip because it was the first time Zack (age 7) would be paddling his own boat for more than a couple of hours.

We arrived at Akers Ferry just around lunch on a Saturday.  Lunch was eaten at the put-in while the boats were loaded.  Zack was in his kayak with his little dry bag of goodies.  Debbie was in her boat with a little bit of gear.  I was in our gray canoe with most of the supplies.  After lunch, arranging a shuttle, and restroom breaks we hit the water.  The first night was spent on a nice gravel bar just above Pulltite.

On Sunday we made an early morning stop at Pulltite to get a weather update, use flush toilets, and get a treat.  Storms had been in the forecast for Sunday afternoon when we left home -- that was still the case.  We found a nice camping spot high above the river level and set camp very early in the day.
It rained some in the late afternoon.  Zack spent most of the afternoon gathering firewood and practicing his rock throwing skills.  We had camped near a cave, so we got to see lots of bats in the early evening.

Monday was to be our long day.  We stopped at the store at the Round Spring bridge early in the morning to check the weather and get a treat.  The temperature was a bit warmer, causing us to spend more time in the water than the previous two days.  Zack referenced how good of a swimming hole one of our stops was -- all while his teeth chattering behind bluish lips.

Another great camping spot for Monday night.  Zack built a rock wall on the edge of the water and must have thrown a gazillion rocks.  His accuracy is improving.

On into Two Rivers on Tuesday around lunch to complete the trip.  Zack did very well on his first trip of this length in his own boat.  One of us would tow him from time to time, but overall he did surprisingly well.

Where to next month?