Monday, December 16, 2013

December Paddle

In 1996 three of us took our first venture into cold-weather paddling.  We met early on a Saturday morning with one boat, drove to an outfitter, rented another boat, and spent a beautiful Saturday on the Eleven Point River.  That night it started misting rain around 8pm then rained steadily starting about midnight.  The temperature dropped as well.  Thankfully the rain stopped long enough on Sunday morning to cook, eat, and clean-up breakfast. 

The tent seemed to weight a ton as I tossed it the bow of my boat.  It rained steadily for about the first 2 or 3 hours of our float that morning.  Once the rain ended the temperatures fell more and the wind picked up.  By the time we reached our take-out temps were around freezing and it was spitting snow.

The weather didn't dampen our spirits then and we've continued the trip on the same weekend each year, although I now leave on Thursday morning.  Over the years we've had average weather, unusually warm weather, and an ice storm.  Thankfully the year of the ice we got to camp before it got really bad.

This year marked the first time we've ever cancelled a trip due to weather.  Significant snowfall was forecast for our destination, but it looked like we could get there on Thursday with no trouble.  The texting started about 5:30am that morning because the weather was coming in more quickly than expected and the snowfall forecast was on the rise.  One of the group described it as being "crazy" versus "irresponsibly crazy" in terms of leaving their families with such impending weather.  Our destination received enough snow to make the roads quiet dangerous.

At home thought we got nothing.  So my usual paddling partner and I headed out for an afternoon on the Missouri.  Wind chills were in the low teens at the start our trip and, of course, we had a headwind.

The drip rings on my paddle accumulated ice from the flow of water down the paddle.  My gloves and paddle jacket had ice pellets on them.  The side of the kayak had a fair bit of ice.

This may have been the coldest temps I've ever been on the water.  With the right gear you can stay toasty warm.

Friday, November 1, 2013

October Paddle

What a great weekend to be on the river!

Zack was wanting to do an overnight, but we had to find a buddy boat.  After a few emails, Twitter posts, and some scheduling we were blessed to have Rhett and Madeline join us.

We put in during the mid-afternoon on Saturday and eased our way down stream on a short jaunt from Aker's Ferry to Pulltite.

Along the way one must always take a brief respite to paddle into cave spring.

The night/morning was the coldest Zack has experienced on the river.  It was also the first time he stayed in a tent alone.  He claimed his sleeping bag didn't do its job.

Unfortunately at the 9.13 mile marker Rhett and Madeline took a spill.  Madeline was a trooper, never making a peep about the cold water.  Thankfully the air temps weren't too bad and we were in full sun.

Looking forward to paddling in November before the big trip in December.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Working on another writing project so blog will be pretty quiet for a while.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What did Deepthroat say?

The student transfer situation in the St. Louis region has been interesting to watch.  I've repeatedly said it's been great to be one county out from it.  I've also been impressed by some how some of the leaders have handled it.  I don't envy them.

In the last few weeks the Children's Education Alliance of Missouri has become a player in the situation as they reached out to families and were getting lots of press opportunities.  They've been noticeably absent in discussions around HB253.  It seems they might be interested in the loss of services to kids caused by HB253.

Or it could be their primary funding is from the guy backing HB253.

Like Deepthroat said...follow the money.

August Paddle

For the past several years I've donated a canoe trip for four to our scholarship auction.  The purchaser and I agree on a date and off we go.  Months ago we agreed on this weekend.

The plan was to camp at Pulltite on the Current River, but local flooding had kept the river closed all week.  The Courtois was going to be our alternate location.  We attempted to camp at Bass, but flooding there was pushing campers to higher ground.  Finally we ended up at Huzzah Valley.

Upstream from where were had gotten 2.5 inches of rain on our arrival day making the outfitters nervous.  On Saturday they weren't touching any canoes and decided to put in rafts during the afternoon. 

We decided to paddle from Berryman to Bass.  The water was up and moving nicely.  There were 4 of us in 3 boats, so 2 solos and one tandem.

Based on conversations with the guys I mistakenly thought they had a bit of experience in canoes.  Their experience was on slow moving water with mostly long pools and a few ripples.  The speed of the current and obstacles quickly revealed their paddling ability.  They were army paddlers and I was starting to get worried.  The solo was doing okay, but the tandem was struggling.

For the most part I stayed close and on the inside of any strainers to lead them in the right direction.  At least until they got a bit ahead of me.  The river was mostly open with a low limb sticking out along the right bank.  They hit it of course and over they went.

Getting the paddles and boat were quite a challenge, but finally I got to the boat and emptied it with the help of one of them.  He then attempted to paddle it solo.  When we finally got organized the tandem crew decided to switch bow and stern positions.

As we came into the Blunt's slab I got ahead to check it out.  The water was right at the top of the slab, but there is a safe place to get around on the left side.  I pulled over and got on the bridge to direct them to safety.  As I was pointing to their left they went right, hit a tree, and went swimming again.  I caught the boat as it came into the slab and pulled it on top.

After that I took one of them in my boat for the final four miles of our trip.  The final leg was filled with rafters than had been put in just after lunch.  The rafts can typically bounce off trees and rocks, but we did come upon a boat hung up on two root wads.  That's were the throw line comes in handy.  We got the raft free and finished a nice day on the river.

Back in camp on of the guys noted that he now knows why you need to wear a life jacket on the river.  The water was too swift to stand if was over your waist.  He also wondered what they would have ever done to get the boat.

Overnight the Huzzah dropped about a foot, so on Sunday we headed to Harper's slab to start.  The guys made it safely down and were more inquisitive about how to handle a boat. 

Despite their troubles, it was a nice two days on the river.  There's no time like river time.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Thoughts from a Conference

The 52nd Annual Cooperative Conference for School Administrators wrapped up earlier this week.  This was the 13th conference for me and I always enjoy the networking that occurs.

In fact this time I was able to meet in person folks from my Twitter PLN.  I know most of the superintendents and business officials, but that leaves a big gap.  Many of them I learn from on Twitter, but had not met them until the conference.

Materials from the conference can be found on the DESE website.

Monday, July 22, 2013

July Paddle

For the second month in a row I've been able to paddle out of state.  Mr. Shaw and I went to visit the National Boy Scout Jamboree at Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia and took a rafting trip before heading home.

While there we camped and paddled with West Virginia Adventures.  Rob and his son RAD took us on a nice trip down the New River Gorge.

RAD led us through swim rapid and made sure that we took a leap from jump rock.  We threaded the needle near our takeout and then made the long drive home.

We're ready to go back with more folks.

A Day at the Jamboree

Every 4 years the Boy Scouts of America holds a National Jamboree, although it has gone off schedule to celebrate anniversaries.

As a family we visited the 2010 Jamboree at Fort AP Hill in Virginia.  It was the 100th anniversary of Scouting in the US and was the last Jamboree to be held at the Hill.  As a youth I had attended the first Jamboree held there.

2013 marked the first time for the Jamboree to be held at its new permanent home, Summit Bechtel Reserve.  As a visitor I was impressed.  The leaders and scouts we spoke with were also impressed, even though all the finishing touches weren't ready.  Although weary from the heat, humidity, and occasional rains, everyone we spoke with was in high spirits and having a blast.  Staying hydrated is key and the water intake guide served as a good benchmark for drinking water.

We visited on perhaps one of the busier days for visitors...the day of the big show.  Weather forecasts changed the schedule for the day, but we got in just about everything we hoped.  Rather than starting in the early evening, the pre-show started at 3pm.

Scouts went wild for the King of Sweden when he led a cheer for the 40,000+ in attendance.  Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs delivered a superb message to those in attendance, as well as those watching it stream live.

During out visit we made some new friends from Utah, Massachusetts, and West Virginia.  We talked to one Scout from Malaysia and saw others from Canada, Mexico, Sweden, and Ethiopia.

The Summit will take week-long campers in 2014 and improvements will continue for the next National Jamboree in 2017.  The world will get to see it in 2019 for the World Jamboree.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Is it unreasonable to ask for sound public policy not guilded by ideology?

What is it that we heard from DC during debt talks?  Never let a crisis go to waste. 

I think that is about to happen to us.  The reform/privatization/for-profit agenda will be pushed hard in the upcoming legislative session.  Schools in Missouri may be different, but will they be better?  The Interim Committee on Education will hear a lot about the transfer situation in St. Louis.
Opinion polls and sound bites will be plentiful in the coming months.  In the end I fear ideology will get in the way of sound public policy like it has time and time again.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Reverent Walk

Each time I visit our nation's capital I try to find some time to walk on the National Mall.  The Smithsonian Museums are undeniably a treasure, but the history of our founding and the memorials to those who have sacrificed are what I enjoy.

Walking the Mall one can't help being mesmerized by the World War II, Korean, and Vietnam Memorials.  This trip I took some time to find the name of one of my dad's friends on the Vietnam Memorial Wall.  I took a photo and sent it to him.  Dad later called to tell me he used to pick up Donnie Cunningham on his way to work each day.

I read something the other day to the effect that the founders of our country were geniuses, but those who are funning it now are idiots.  I won't speak to the latter, but remain in awe of the vision our founding fathers had.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires

A friend posted this to Facebook. 

The Outdoor Code

As an American, I will do my best to -
Be clean in my outdoor manners
Be careful with fire
Be considerate in the outdoors, and
Be conservation minded.

The Outdoor Code

As an American, I will do my best to -
Be clean in my outdoor manners
Be careful with fire
Be considerate in the outdoors, and
Be conservation minded.

Friday, June 28, 2013

NAEP scores going stagnant?

Diane Ravitch is a prolific blogger.  She posts frequently and includes lots of links to media outlets or other blogs.  I can't keep up with her and don't always agree with her, but her blog does serve as a nice repository of education policy being considered across the country.

In a recent blog post she does a quick analysis of the most recent NAEP report.  If her analysis is correct, the last 5 years have not been good for our nation's children.  Here in our district, we've made significant achievement gains in the past 5 years.  I know others have as well.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Calm in the chaos of change

Remember the Arab Spring?  I recently read something referring to the spring of 2013 as Education Spring, a time when folks started to stand up to the testing and accountability movement.

In some respects it has been chaotic as legislatures and courts push out new mandates under which schools must operate.  Given the political landscape, more changes are likely coming.

In the midst of it all stands our nation's teachers.  Each and every day they gather their flock of learners and guide them to greater knowledge in a safe, caring, supportive environment.  Teachers and their way of life may be under attack, but teachers remain committed to their students.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Must be an advocate

Recently I was reading a blog post on Parent Revolution meeting with teachers.  Here is an excerpt:

                   "I sort of knew the entire thing would go the way it did. They get paid
                   very well to advocate what they advocate, and weren’t there to listen to
                   community or teacher voices. The teachers and myself don’t get paid at
                   all to advocate alongside our communities, and that’s part of the point
                   isn’t it? On the other hand it was important that we showed up since
                   they would have been able to take the high ground and say they made
                   overtures that went unanswered. It also probably did them some good
                   to talk to real classroom teachers, something they almost never do."

What strikes me is these outside groups have funding to pay smart, young adults to advocate a position/ideology in a legislature and/or community.  Educators get too busy teaching to have time to be an advocate for their profession. 

The time has come for educators to be advocates too.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

June Paddle

We had planned to paddle the salt marshes of Huntington Beach State Park in South Carolina, but it was pouring rain from buckets at our tour reservation time.

Our tour was to be conducted by a state park naturalist so we could learn more about the flora and fauna of the area.  The steady rain made it difficult to see and there was no sign of wildlife because they were hunkered down for the storm.  We had also paddled in the rain the weekend prior and the family wasn't thrilled about doing that again so soon.

Oh well, perhaps another day...

Two days later I got the chance to paddle in Murrells Inlet, just north of Huntington Beach State Park.  It was quite windy, but at least there was no rain.

From the dock I paddle north along the bank of restaurants and home lining the inlet.  I find it better to paddle against the wind early while I have more energy rather than trying to paddle back in the wind when potentially exhausted.

I had been wary of paddling the inlet alone because aerial maps gave me the impression one could easily get lost.  Fortunately I departed from a large structure that was easy to spot from a distance.  The maze of grasses was interesting to navigate though.  I would ease my way through breaks in the grasses only to find dead ends.

Overall it was a nice morning of paddling in a new location.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Memorial Weekend Paddling

It was off the meet some friends at Meramec State Park for a brief Memorial Day Weekend camping trip.

Being a holiday weekend the campground was, of course, full.  Thankfully our friends were able to get there early and secure us some spots that had not been reserved.

A nice fire, good food, and great company kept us busy Friday evening.  It was bit cooler that night than expected, but Zack and Debbie both reported being warm all night.

We were iffy on when to paddle Saturday due to the possibility of rain in the forecast.  With the water high and a quick look at the radar (rain was way north) we headed out.

About an hour in we started hearing some rumblings of thunder and the sky darkened to our west.  When it started to sprinkle I pulled out the rain gear.  Shortly thereafter it started coming down in buckets.  We pulled off with some other folks and attempted to use the boats as shelter. 

Years ago we had to do the same while paddling on the Jacks Fork.  It was Debbie's first canoe trip and we tied a rope between two trees to support the canoes while eight of us huddled under them.

This time Tony and I stayed out in the rain and held the boats and some plastic in place.  We ended up moving everyone over to a large fallen tree to prop up the boats, but it quit raining shortly after.

Photo: Gimme shelter.

We rearranged everything and headed out after the rain, but hit another shower shortly before our takeout.  All in all everyone did very well in the cool and wet least much better than I would have thought.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Wrong Ideas

There are a set of concepts being pushed by the education reform movement and the legislators to which they make contributions.  We see this movement across the country, with elements coming from the US Department of Education as requirements/assurances of applying for competitive grants.

The trouble is these are the wrong ideas.  We should, instead, look to the schools and districts that outperform their demographics to how to improve schools.  The education reform crowd says that teachers are the problem out of one side of their mouth, while talking about how great teachers make a difference from the other side.  Beating down the very people charged with improving performance just doesn't seem like a good idea.

When we look to those schools and districts making significant strides, we see collaboration, not caustic confrontation.  I recently spent time in two buildings, but three schools, in a different district.

The first building was an elementary school with about 25% free and reduced lunch.  They've instituted a continuous classroom improvement model.  Although their performance was pretty good, they've shown system improvement under the new model.  In other words a student will perform better the longer the student is in the school.

The second school is contained in the same building as the first.  They have about 55% free and reduced lunch.  They've implemented the same model and are also starting to see system improvement.

The third building has 88% free and reduced lunch.  It's an older building in an older part of the town.  What one might expect in a building with this high a free and reduced lunch is not what you find.  The school has an active parent volunteer group and uses the same classroom improvement model as the other two schools.  It's performance isn't as high, but much higher than one might expect.  The system improvements are considerable, especially considering the mobility in this school.

Are any of these schools implementing stuff from the reform crowd?  No.   

Monday, April 22, 2013

Quick thought/question?

I was recently talking with colleagues about current legislation being debated in Jefferson City.  As individuals most of us are a bit right of center on the political spectrum, but we lead organizations that are considered left-leaning.

One of the comments that I made was that despite my political leanings, I've become increasingly critical of Republican lawmakers.  How is it that the party of limited government keeps pushing education legislation that makes local and state government entitites inefficient by inflicting mandates upon them?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

April paddle...found and lost

What a gorgeous weekend for a paddle trip!  And we weren't the only ones who thought so.

We headed toward Eminence after picking up Zack from chess.  I had checked a couple of places to stay the night and decided on the Riverside Motel in Eminence.  It was my first choice, but it was relatively clean and quite cheap for a brief night before hitting the river.  We've certainly stayed in worse over the years.  The walls were a bit thin though.  A sneezing neighbor woke us up.

The next stop was Harvey's at Alley Spring to arrange a shuttle.  They were as nice as could be.  Zack got a cheap new pair of swim trunks and they gave him some marshmallows...probably from last season.

Buck Hollow access on Hwy 17 was our put-in.  It had been over 20 years since I'd been through there and was surprised to see a nice new bridge.  There was a lone kayaker unloading his gear when we arrived, but by the time we pushed off there were several vehicles in line.

Debbie and I were in the tan Mad River Explorer with our gear and Zack was in his kayak.  He had his trusty dry bag, that he later found out leaks, a frisbee, a ball, and some drinks.  This was the first time we spent an entire paddling trip without towing him at some point.  He held on to our boat for brief periods, but he never tied on to us.

The weather on Saturday started out on the chilly side.  Here is Zack with quite a few clothes at Blue Springs.

A quick lunch stop found us at Jam Up Cave.  I went to shorts and sandals at that point.  After lunch we explored the mouth of the cave.

Our goal was to get past Rymer's before camping for the night.  The prime sandbar camping spots were taken as we eased our way down stream, but we finally took refuge on a small gravel bar just upstream from Chalk Bluff.

Zack spent much of his time in camp throwing rocks before roasting his stale marshmallows.  At dusk he teased the bats with rocks.

I spent my first night on my new sleeping pad.  It seems my gear is starting to wear out and replacements are in order (backpacking stove, water filter, dry bags, etc.).  I've not ever slept on a sleep number bed, but I sure had the sleeping pad on firm.

Sunday started off cloudy.  By 10 am it was bright, sunny, and warming fast.  We left camp in shorts and headed to our Bay Creek take out.

Zack had wanted to swim on Saturday, but we told him the temperatures would be better on Sunday.  When we settled on a good swimming hole, Zack stripped down to his trunks and sandals.  I ran and dove in, but he stayed on the bank.  Let's just say it was invigorating.

We were off the water and headed home by 2 pm, a fine weekend behind us.

By the way, I found a 56 inch Bending Branches Arrow paddle.  But I lost my tried and true Columbia wide-brimmed hat.  It blew off in the wind, sank, and lodged on a rock.  I'm pretty sure I came out ahead.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Peter and Paul

I recently saw a billboard that said something to the effect of:

When government takes from Peter to pay Paul
it can count on the support of Paul

This billboard was in what one would consider a fairly conservative area.  The assumption is this is political commentary from Republicans.

I would contend that Republicans also takes from Peter and gets the support of Paul.  Currently there are Republicans in the Missouri House of Representatives that support virtual charters.  By the mathematical nature of Missouri's funding formula if more kids are funded through virtual charters, there is less money to go around.  In short it takes money from existing public school students (Peter) in order to fund students who would take classes through virtual charters (Paul).  And guess who is supporting these bills--those who would fall into the receiving (Paul) category.

People are funny--politicians included.  They don't want government in X, but they sure want it in Y.  It is interesting, frustrating, and ridiculous to watch politicians establish policy.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

March Paddle

A gorgeous March Friday found us on the Missouri River paddling from Frontier Park in St. Charles to Souix Passage Park in North St. Louis County.

We started off making great time and having a wonderful day of paddling.  But then a bad decision made for a couple of hours of hard paddling.  We decided to cut through the Car of Commerce Chute.  It was shallow at the entrance before going through a nice slough and hitting the wall of rocks going from bank to bank.  A few more inches of water and we might have been able to get through, but portaging it was.

The chute remained shallow for much of the way, but the wind was the killer.  It kicked up to where it was negating the little bit of current we had.  It is never fun pulling Zack through what feels like going upstream. 

Our shortcut through the chute was anything but.  Lesson learned...stay in the channel when on the Big Muddy.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Opposite of Intention

This week the Downsizing State Government Committee in the Missouri House of Representatives passed out HB616.  The language is short and simple...

Notwithstanding any other law, the state board of education shall not adopt, and the department of elementary and secondary education shall not implement, the Common Core State Standards developed by the Common Core Standards Initiative. Any actions taken to adopt or implement the Common Core State Standards as of the effective date of this section are void. Common Core State Standards or any other statewide education standards shall not be adopted or implemented without the approval of the general assembly.

I find it interesting that a committee charged with downsizing state government passed out a bill that would require the Legislature's involvement in adopting and implementing education standards.  That doesn't seem like a downsize of government to me, but rather the opposite.

We know a key value of successful organizations is their ability to be agile in the face of change.  This bill heads in the opposite direction.

It seems, however, that local school districts could still implement the common core.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Who's minding the kids?

I recently had a conversation about virtual education with a couple of dads in my son's class.  We were at a birthday party where all the kids were jumping on indoor trampolines, so everyone was just making small talk.  The conversation started with GPS vs. map preferences and went into a technology discussion that led to virtual learning.

We talked about MOOCs (a concept they understood, but hadn't heard the term) and how college as we know could change by the time these rambunctious, jumping second graders hit college.  Then it came...why can't we do significant virtual learning in the early grades.  There's nothing to really say they can't but the comment I made gave them sent them in a different direction.

My comment/thought/question surrounding large scale virtual learning at home is one of daycare.  Whether we want to admit it or not, schools serve as a place for kids to be while both parents are working.  If schools didn't exist in some form, what would working parents do with their kids?

Life in a Voucher world?

Let's imagine for a moment a pure voucher environment.  Every child has a set dollar allotment to use at the school of his or her parents choice.

Now for some questions..
  • Would all schools offer special education services?
  • Would any schools offer transportation?
  • Would there be any need for high-stakes testing?
  • Is there any accountability other than voting-with-their-feet?
  • Would all schools offer breakfast and lunch?
  • How does such an environment not cause income-based segregation?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Taking Schools from the Community

Parent trigger legislation is making its way across the nation fueled by ALEC, StudentsFirst, and others.  It looks like this type of legislation just cleared the Oklahoma Senate and has been filed here in the Missouri House.

It looks to me that the goal of parent trigger legislation is to turn schools over the charter management organizations.  We know these groups perform at or below the levels of public schools.

Here's my issue...We have a building that is 4 years old.  The district issued bonds to build it and the debt is paid by district taxpayers, not just the parents in the school.  Additionally, this school serves only two grade levels.  This means that 50% of the parents are new each year.  Why should a small group of parents be able to take a school away from a community and hand it over to private operators?

Would we allow this for the police department, fire department, library, ambulance district, etc.?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Let's Measure

Much has been written in the media and blogs about Bill Gates' recent annual letter.  In it he talks about the importance of measurement to improve the human condition.

As a person with a math and science background I can appreciate the desire to measure.  I think it was perhaps Peter Drucker who is known for saying, "What gets measured, gets done."  So who gets to determine what gets measured?

What I want to measure might be different from what Mr. Gates would like to measure.  We know from our own data that you need to look at it through multiple lenses in order get a full picture.  It seems common place for folks to manipulate data to support a particular position or ideology.  And let's not forget about this book.

The problem is that organizations use the data that supports their premise while ignoring the data that doesn't. 

Learning from Twitter

Last week I attended the National Conference on Education.  There were some great sessions and speakers.  We heard from Jim Collins, Linda Darling-Hammond, and Yong Zhao.  I heard all three speakers, but it is impossible to attend all the sessions.  Thankfully most conferences now post session presentations in some manner. 

But during the first presentation I learned something.  I was trying to take notes as well as Tweeting out various thoughts on the conference hashtag #nce13.  About halfway through that first session I decided that I really didn't need to take notes.  Instead I could follow the hashtag and essentially get notes from lots of people.

There weren't folks Tweeting in every session.  In fact I expected more Tweeting than what there was.  At any rate, I was able to learn quite a bit out of other sessions.  And my personal learning network grew.

I recently joked that Facebook is for gossip and Twitter is for learning.  My experience last week reinforced that Twitter can certainly be used for learning.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Does the 88% matter?

8,760 hours in 365 days.  Missouri requires a minimum of 1,044 hours of school attendance in at least 142 days.

If a student has perfect attendance we have them in our care for 11.92% of a year.  Surely what happens in that other 88% makes a difference.

Lasers work

David Kirp recently wrote about how to fix bad schools.  He used the example of a school district that had turned itself around.

This is the story of a district that focused (see Bullets vs. Lasers post) on a few things and made great strides over time. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A-F is a step backwards

The Tweets below came from Missouri's Student First group today during a House Education Committee meeting today.

 #hb388 hearing in committee today. Yes! Parents deserve rich & meaningful info re: school performance. @Kathyswan147@molegislature

 MO elem & second Ed committee learns abt importance of A-F letter grades to all schools. #hb388@Kathyswan147

Our district, and many others, are at varying stages of implementing some sort of standards-based grading because the A-F grades don't provide a full picture.  This became evident as we started providing more specific assessment data to parents.  One of our parents came to us saying her daughter had an A in math but the skill specific data showed she was weak in measurement.  The mom reported she thought everything was okay because of the A.

There is currently a wealth of information about every school and district available on our state website.  Going to the A-F system pushed by ALEC is a step backward from the way we're moving in our classrooms.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bullets versus Lasers

Too often we're searching for silver bullets to solve the problems in education. 
  • Let's buy this program and it will fix our math scores.
  • Let's do this initiative, or maybe that one.
  • PLC is the answer.
  • School choice is the answer.
  • Merit pay is the answer.
  • Teacher evaluation is the answer.
  • Data teams are the way to go.
The problem is that we too often try one thing and another and another without giving adequate time to gauge the results.  Folks are running here and there looking for that silver bullet.

Perhaps we need to stop searching for the silver bullets and instead build lasers.  Through comprehensive needs analysis we must determine a focus around which to build our improvement model.  We call this establishing our rocks.  By focusing everything through the lens of our rocks we establish a laser focus that drives us forward.

In this era of heightened talk of gun safety, let's put away the bullets and start building those lasers.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Performance Excellence

Our principals and other key leaders received training on the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence over two days recently in preparation for the Show-Me Challenge self-assessment.  We followed it up with a introductory session for our patrons.  Our belief is that this process will put us on a path of sustained improvement in all areas of performance. 

Over the next three weeks our Baldrige leadership team will be interviewed on how we are doing over the six performance areas.  Once those are complete we'll get training to do walk-around interviews.  We're looking forward to getting a better gauge on our strengths and opportunities for improvement.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

There is a profit there somewhere

Today I saw a Tweet from one Students First's state groups.  It was something to the effect that all kids deserve a great teacher.

That's hard to argue against.  When I look at their actions, there seems to be a misalignment. 

Students First seems to be for school choice and privatization of public schools.  At least that's my impression.

A simple numeric exercise illustrates that school choice just moves the deck chairs.  Let's assume a school district of 50,000 students with an average class size of 25 for simplicity.  So we have 2,000 teachers.  School choice legislation is passed, charters rush in, and 5,000 students choose other schools.  The charters need 200 teachers to keep our simplistic class size of 25.  Guess who just had to lay off 200 teachers due to enrollment decline.

The charters might be able to pick up a few new teachers here and there, but the job market is full of teachers just laid off from the local public school.  The same kids and many of the same teachers are now under a different governance model.  A model that appears to lower labor costs because the teachers are looking for any work and the charters aren't in the teacher pension system.

Sure seems like there is a profit to be made by charter providers. 

The education sector as a private equity market is a significant strategic challenge.  Our goal is student learning, not profits.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

January Paddle

I've not posted anything in a while, but thought I would get back in the groove with a post about paddling today.

Couldn't get Zack to come today.  He said it was winter and he doesn't paddle when it's cold.  Never mind that he has had a great time when we've had to break ice or that it was unseasonably warm today.  Regardless, it was just two of us today.

We took a short trip on the Meramec River.  It was nice and peaceful.  The sun was a bear early due to the angle.  Several geese and ducks greeted us shortly after the put-in.

Not the best of places to take out, but we got ashore and hauled the boats up the hill.  Someone else was backing in with a long racing boat.  Asked if we were training for the MR340.  The race seems interesting, but I don't think I want to be in a boat that much.  I like to enjoy paddling.

It was a great day to be on the river.