Saturday, November 21, 2015

Not Your Father's Classroom

"The illiterate of the 21st Century
will not be those who cannot read and write,
but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."
- Alvin Toffler

One of my favorite subjects has always been history.  I'm often fascinated by events, movements, and the courage of a select few.  As I've learned history, I've discovered that some people and events endured a tremendous amount of adversity while they moved our world forward.  

Our current educational system has been in place for over 100 years.  This system did not envision education for everyone.  I believe we are now in the early stages of an educational revolution.

Revolutions over time have taken two steps forward and one step back.  Education has done the same thing.  Let's take a look at the course of events since 1999.

  • 1999 School shooting at Columbine High School
  • 1999 Interactive Whiteboards introduced
  • 2001 No Child Left Behind 
  • 2005 YouTube created
  • 2006 Research released on Learning Spaces 
  • 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 
  • 2009 2/3 of all schools significantly increase standards on educator evaluations
  • 2010 First EdCamp takes place in Philadelphia
  • 2010 iPads introduced 
  • 2010 Highly Qualified Teacher Status developed
  • 2010 Race To The Top 
  • 2011 Common Core Standards created
  • 2012 Sandy Hook Massacre
  • 2012 Standard Based Grading created
  • 2015 Obama Administration denounces Standardized Testing obsession

The Industrial Revolution lasted multiple decades.  I firmly believe we are experiencing the beginning of dramatic change in education.  I often hear people outside of education talk as though they are experts about what happens in schools.  This deeply frustrates me.  The fact is, this is not your father's classroom.  School has changed: 

  1. We now know that hours of homework is stone age practice.  
  2. We now know the practice of teach, assign, collect, grade, and move on, is not best.  The role of teachers is to help students grow and aim for mastery. 
  3. We now understand increased safety procedures are for the good of everyone in the school.
  4. We now understand that technology can enhance learning and should not be stifled.
  5. We now understand that teaching is not a one-size fits all approach.
I remember reading about revolutions.  I remember each one was met with resistance. Sometimes the resistance came in many forms.  For example, can we all agree that the industrial revolution was a good thing?  I think so.  This dramatically changed our world.  Yet some people that lived during this time were called Luddites.  These individuals fought change, destroyed equipment, and derailed innovation.  

Think of all that has changed.  We've experienced increased security.  This is a good thing and our new norm.  We are experience the technology movement.  It's hard to imagine teaching without technology.  We are experiencing a philosophical change in the way we teach.  It seems obvious that we should have been focused on mastery all along...not just covering the material.

So I challenge you.

First, what side of the educational revolution are you on?  Are you for progress?  Or, do you simply want things to stay the same?

Second, it is critical that you expect setbacks.  Naysayers are not going away, but we don't have to let them beat us down.  "Obstacles are put in your way to help you determine if what you want is really worth fighting for."

Third, how can you help the educational revolution?  It depends on you.  Do you teach the way you were taught? Have you re-imagined learning in your classroom?  Are you willing to try new things? 

One hundred years from now I hope my great-grandchildren can look back at this educational revolution fondly.  I hope education continues to evolve and that their classrooms are beyond our wildest dreams!


Monday, November 23rd:  Happy Birthday Suzanne Gibbs
Monday, November 23rd:  Warner Elementary welcomes Todd Nesloney!
Monday, November 23rd:  No After-School Clubs
Tuesday, November 24th:  Last Day before Thanksgiving Break
Tuesday, November 24th:  No After-School Clubs
Tuesday, November 24th:  Video Conference Meeting
Wednesday, November 25th:  No School
Thursday, November 26th:  Happy Thanksgiving!
Friday, November 27th:  No School

Articles Worth Reading:

The Change Revolution @E_Sheninger

What's Best for the Best, Is Best for the Rest @Jeff_Zoul

Google has discovered the 5 Key traits employees need to succeed by Emily Peck

Tweetable Moments @curriculumblog

When a Child's Project Shows a Parental Hand At Work @nytimes

The Power of Audience @SpencerIdeas

Presence @JonHarper70bd

10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself @marcandangel

Videos Worth Watching:

Ellen's 2,000th Show! (3 min)

@jimmyfallon and his #ThankYouNotes (5 min)

On the Road with Steve Hartman...AMAZING STORY! (2 min)

@E60 Silent Night Lights...inspiring, motivating, touching! (14 min)

Saturday, November 14, 2015

I was wrong

"Being human means making mistakes
learning from mistakes and then
moving on and becoming a better
person from making those mistakes."

The sun was shining, a light breeze cooled us down and our emotions were running high.  I still remember some of our epic games at recess.  As a kid I lived for recess.  My friends and I would talk about what game we would play as soon as we saw each other.  It was one thing we all relished.

But why didn't I remember this when I became a teacher?  Early in my career I struggled with finding a consequence that motivated my students to be more responsible and to improve behavior.  I remembered when I was a student many of my teachers kept kids inside for recess if they misbehaved.  In a weird way, I thought this was appropriate.

I was wrong.

Then I began to learn.  As a graduate student at Spring Arbor University I researched several topics. A few areas really rose to the forefront of my practice. These were technology, movement, and understanding special needs.

The insight and knowledge I gained as I worked towards my Masters Degree made me a better educator.  During my studies I read articles and journals about movement and the need for physical activity.  The funny thing is, as I read the research I began to remember how much I loved and craved recess as a student.

At this point my teaching practice changed.  Not only did I almost never take away recess, but I also added in a second recess/brain break each day.  It began with reflection and charting behaviors. What I discovered was, after about two hours my students needed an extended break.  So each day at 10:30am we went outdoors for a 15-20 minute break.  We often played games as a class and I quickly found that as I played along with the kids it brought us closer together.  Our classroom culture improved, we laughed together, we problem solved together and I got a chance to see my kids in a different setting. I learned a lot about their personalities as I watched them play.

As I gained insight I had to come up with different strategies for students that misbehaved.  This is what I did:

1)  If I had students misbehaving I first looked at myself.  Was my lesson engaging?  Was I consistent in my own emotions?  These two questions determined if it was the fault of my students or if I had to own it as their teacher.  What I discovered on many occasions is, the more I talked and the more I assigned worksheets the worse my students behaved.  Simple, they were bored.

2)  I needed the consequence to fit the crime.  Rarely, but it did happen, did I take recess away.  This occurred when a student's behavior at recess was dangerous or unacceptable.  As for poor behavior in the classroom, I tried these things - 
  • praise the positives
  • separate the disruptor 
  • work with parents 
  • deal with the issue promptly, the longer I waited the less impact it had
  • heart to heart conversations with students
  • invite a parent or guardian to come in and help in the classroom
  • refocus efforts on building classroom culture
What has been powerful for me is that learning has prompted change.  I was wrong to take away recess.  It's easy to fall into a routine and do things the same way year after year.  But the question is, when you learn that a strategy you've done is not best practice do you change?

Check out these quotes from recent articles -
  • When it comes to recess and the importance of play and physical activity, too many schools ignore the current research. Instead of treating recess as an important, in fact crucial, part of a student's day, some schools still act as if recess is a privilege bestowed on well-behaved, compliant students. They use recess as a bargaining tool and withhold it as a form of punishment.  Recess is NOT a Privilege
  • Indeed, no research supports the notion that test scores go up by keeping children in the classroom longer, but there is plenty of evidence that recess benefits children in cognitive, social-emotional, and physical ways. Research shows that when children have recess, they gain the following benefits:  Recess Makes Kids Smarter
    • Are less fidgety and more on task
    • Have improved memory and more focused attention
    • Develop more brain connections
  • Experimental studies and anecdotal evidence point out that in any given school, it’s generally the same children who tend to have their recess withheld, indicating that the threat is ineffective. And, as Eric Jensen, author of several books on brain-based learning, tells us, remaining seated for periods longer than 10 minutes “reduces our awareness of physical and emotional sensations and increases fatigue,” resulting in reduced concentration and discipline problems. Demanding that children move less and sit more is counterproductive. Research, and our own common sense, tells us we should be doing the opposite.  Why Kids Need Recess

The beauty of being a human being is, we can choose to change.  I was wrong, but I look back at my evolution as an educator and I have a sense of pride.  I learned better methods and changed the way I taught.  Everyday is a new opportunity and we always have the choice to move forward in a new way.

This Week's Big Question:  If you knew one of your methods wasn't best practice would you change?


Monday, November 16th:  Happy Birthday to Katie Powers
Monday, November 16th:  Running Club 4pm
Tuesday, November 17th:  9:15am Admin Meeting
Tuesday, November 17th:  3:30 String Team
Tuesday, November 17th:  4pm Lego Club
Tuesday, November 17th:  4pm Gym Sports Club
Tuesday, November 17th:  Conferences
Wednesday, November 18th:  Grades 3-5 Assembly at 8:45am
Wednesday, November 18th:  10am Standard Based Grading Meeting at Admin
Wednesday, November 18th:  Conferences
Thursday, November 19th:  1:15pm Crisis Response Meeting at Admin
Thursday, November 19th:  4pm Minecraft Club
Thursday, November 19th:  Conferences
Thursday, November 19th:  7pm Drama Club Performance
Thursday, November 19th:  Board Meeting at 6:30pm
Friday, November 20th:  No Staff Meeting

Articles Worth Reading:

Videos Worth Watching:

Pianist Performs Imagine after Paris Attacks... (1 min)

Schools that work for kids... (15 min) by @E_Sheninger

#StopItDad (2 min)

Ellen's Starbuck Controversy... (3 min)

How We Met: Do the facts add up? (4 min)

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Are you on the bus?

"The remarkable thing is,
we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude
we will embrace for that day."
- Charles R. Swindoll

We all heard the hype.  Our coach landed a prized recruit that was going to make an instant impact on our college golf team.  As one of the leaders of the team I was excited to increase the quality and depth of our team.

Our season began with qualifying.  We played 10+ rounds of golf and, as it usually does, the cream rises to the top.  This year we had over twenty players attempting to make the team.  After the first couple of rounds the young phenom was entrenched near the top.  Nick, a lanky, big smiling freshman from Ohio was sitting in the three spot early on.  Unfortunately for Nick, he never got any higher than the third position.  Each round he dropped a little more and he ended up qualifying in either the eighth or ninth spot.  At that point most of us could see he had talent, but he needed time to grow up.  

Several weeks into the season our coach scheduled two tournaments on the same weekend.  He took the "A" team on Friday to Michigan.  The other squad was scheduled to depart Saturday morning. Our second team was high quality!  It had Lindsay, Opie and the young phenom, Nick.  Personally I expected them to compete for the top spot.

What I learned late Saturday as I sat in my dorm room shocked me.  The team struggled at the tournament and what was worse, they only went with four players, someone missed the trip.

I later discovered that Nick missed the bus.  What happened?  Was he sick?  In my mind I thought, how could he miss the bus?  This is college golf, the night before my first tournament I couldn't even sleep.

Over the next two years Nick remained on the team.  But the sad thing is, Nick never made it.  Truth is, after he missed the bus he changed.  You could tell that our coach was disappointed.  He expected his players to manage themselves, and when he discovered that Nick didn't do this well, his view and expectations of Nick dropped.

After Nick missed the bus his attitude sank.  You could see it and hear it.  He was blaming coach for his struggles.  He had a chip on his shoulder and the only time he seemed happy was when he was partying or bashing the coach.  

Nick began hanging out with the other players that didn't care for our coach.  They became toxic together.  It really was sad.  We didn't see it coming, but once the spiral began it was nearly impossible to stop.

As this entire story unfolded a different story was going on.  Our team had a second year player that didn't come with much fan fare.  His name was Rob and he admitted that his scholarship was only given to him because he was going into golf management.  Rob had a unconventional swing and during his first year he was almost always positioned around the tenth spot on the team.  

When Rob returned for his sophomore season you could see a swiftness in his step.  He definitely had a new and improved attitude.  That year Rob worked hard and put himself right in front of our coach as often as possible.  Rob vaulted into the top 5 and was a key staple to our conference championship and trip to West Palm Beach for the National Championship.

I think of these two teammates and the difference in their college careers.  One of them came with a lot of fan fare, the other flew under the radar.  One never really sniffed a start as a freshman, the other dropped the ball when the chance was there.

But the difference in the two was deeper.  They both had talent.  They were both capable. But in the end only one made it.  The key factor was attitude.  Rob's determined attitude drove him.  Some would call Rob a gym rat, but on the golf course he was more like a permanent fixture.  You usually saw Rob hitting balls or working on his game in some way.  His attitude and approach carried him.

Then there is Nick.  Nick was never the same.  Once his attitude sunk he was never the same player or person.  It saddens me to think how quickly things went south.

Looking back it is a valuable life lesson.  I realize that my attitude shapes me every day.  I can tell when my attitude is poor, I get cynical, irritable and pessimistic.  I don't like that person and I imagine others don't either.  It is in these tough moments that I try to slowly change my course.  My number one tool for improving my attitude is lifting up others.  Sometimes I write a note or card, sometimes I spend time with people.  When I invest in others I feel my attitude shift.

This Week's Big Question:  How is your attitude?  Do you lift up others or pull them down?


Monday, November 9th:  4pm Running Club
Tuesday, November 10th:  7:30am meeting at the ISD to discuss literacy
Tuesday, November 10th:  Panther Pride Lunch
Tuesday, November 10th:  Bible Release 9am
Tuesday, November 10th:  String Team, Lego Club and Gym Sports after school
Tuesday, November 10th:  PTO Meeting at 7pm
Wednesday, November 11th:  K-2 Assembly at 8:45am
Wednesday, November 11th:  Veteran's Day
Thursday, November 12th:  Mobile Dentist
Thursday, November 12th:  CP Federal Credit Union in the PM
Thursday, November 12th:  Minecraft Club after school
Friday, November 13th:  Picture Retake day
Friday, November 13th:  Fire Drill in the PM

Articles Worth Reading:

What's Yours Going To Be? (worth your time)

ABOUT that kid, the one that hits, disrupts and influeces YOUR kid

How Teachers Prepare Future Citizens @edutopia

Never Give Up Hope  @Jonharper70bd

Press Pause - The "R" Factor @Vroom6

Change your Attitude, Change your Life

What two airline companies can teach us about school culture @SpencerIdeas

5 Things To Remember When You Are Stuck and Desperate For a Change @marcandangel
(my favorite is number 4)

Videos Worth Watching:

Opening Doors and Hearts (6 min) *sure to make you smile

Haunted House PART 2 with @TheEllenShow  (4 min)

What causes headaches? (2 min)

#HalloweenFail (4 min)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Cause Bigger Than Ourselves

Since 2003 men from around the world have participated in No-Shave November or Movember.  I for one, have not joined in the movement...until now.

Here's why...

For a handful of years I have watched others grow beards and mustaches during November.  I knew the movement was in the name of men's health, but I wasn't sure I could make an impact.  My tune has changed.  As a principal and dad I see a tremendous need for our kids to have strong, male role models.

For several years many students have made their way into my heart.  I could sit here and list them, but instead I'll share a story that sums up my changed perspective.

At the end of last year I had a mom approach me.  She asked for a minute of my time.  Her son had been at Warner for a couple years and she told me that I was the only male figure he looked up to. She thanked me for driving him home on multiple occasions, having several one-on-one talks with him, and for simply taking him under my wing.  I graciously smiled and told her that she has a great son that needs her guidance and support in finding positive influences.  It was a brief, but powerful conversation.

There are many men around this country that have stepped-up as male role models.  I'm fortunate to see men each week mentor our youth in the Kids Hope Program.  I also have friends that are Big Brothers and Big Sisters, they support our youth in a crucial way.

Here are some statisitics on why we need more men to step up as role models:

  • 43% of U.S. Children live without their father
  • 85% of all children who show behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes
  • 71% of high school dropouts come from fatherless homes

So what does all this have to do with No-Shave November?  As a father I see the importance of good health and setting an example for our youth.

The most common cancer for men is prostate cancer.  Screening is suggested for at risk men between the ages of 40-45.  For all others at age 50.  Are you at risk?  It is best to consult your physician.

American Cancer Society

Here's the challenge I'm issuing:  

  1. Participate in No-Shave November and encourage your colleagues/friends to donate to the cause.  On the 10th, 20th and 30th days of the month you need to post a pic of yourself and how much you have raised.
  2. Set-up a visit to your physician.  If, at the very least, for a physical.  Be proactive with your health.
  3. Get active!  Set an example for our youth by making exercise a priority. 
  4. Donate to a worth while charity.  Most people donate to the American Cancer Society, but you can also donate to these great causes - 
      • Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America
      • Testicular Cancer Foundation
      • Zero - for prostate cancer
      • Larry King - cardiac foundation
This Week's Big Question:  Are you up for the Movember Challenge?  

Articles Worth Reading:

Saturday, October 31, 2015

What comes first, the chicken or the egg?

"If your actions inspire others to dream more,
learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader."
- John Quincy Adams

Some moments are ingrained in our minds forever.  They can be moments of great happiness, tragedy or misfortune.  But we all have these moments that forever sit with us.  

For me the moment happened years ago.  The girls name was Abby.  She was very soft spoken and a young girl that would seek me out for a hug or a high five.  Each day I would notice Abby in class and I would watch her participate and listen to her share her answers.  Abby was a pleaser.  She worked hard in school.  Anytime we did a positive behavior challenge she would always be one of the first to the pinnacle.

THE MOMENT  - I remember sitting down with her parents at Fall Conferences and sharing her successes.  We talked about her positive attitude, her friendliness towards others, and her drive to learn.  But I also had to share with her parents that her learning was a struggle.  She was for all intensive purposes right on grade level or just slightly below. Her parents didn't appear overly concerned.  In fact they shared one of her favorite out of school activities with me.  I smiled and had a strong sense of pride when they talked about her "playing school," at home with her dog and stuffed animals.  I could just see her doing that!  I wrapped up the conference with a plan for her academics and lots of praise for their fabulous little girl.  

Then her parents said something I won't forget.  The looked at me and said, she loves it here.  She wakes up early and always has a smile on her face.  We know you'll get her where she needs to be. 

As time has passed I have seen my share of students that resemble Abby.  Great kids that love school, work hard and stay right on grade level.

But I've also witnessed many students that do not love school.  They don't care to try and thus they often struggle.

Abby taught me many things.  Abby taught me that kids that love school will keep growing, keep trying and keep dreaming.  I also learned that the student that doesn't want to be here or doesn't care, isn't going to maximize effort.  

So what comes first, the chicken or the egg?  I'd like to re frame the question in educational terms.

What comes first?

A student that loves to learn.


A student with good results in school.

Something to ponder:

If you have a student that doesn't enjoy school.  I would assume they are not meeting their potential, their effort is lacking? Correct?

How do we first build a love of learning?

  • Have you found your student's passion?
  • Have you invested your time to get to know your student(s)?
    • Have you formed a meaningful relationship?
  • Have you shared celebrations with parents?
    • Or just negatives?
  • Have you worked one-on-one with the student?
    • Did that have a positive impact?
  • Do you know how your students perceive school?
    • If you found out your students didn't like your class, how would you feel?
    • Would you change?
  • Would you want to be a student in your classroom/school?
This Week's Big question?  As a classroom or school leader, do you inspire others to learn more, do more, dream more?


Monday, November 2nd:  4th Grade Jackson Tour
Monday, November 2nd:  Book Fair (first day)
Tuesday, November 3rd:  Admin Meeting 9:15am
Tuesday, November 3rd:  String Team 3:30
Wednesday, November 4th:  Adrian Administration Visit
Wednesday, November 4th:  Assembly for grades 3-5 at 8:45am
Wednesday, November 4th:  Early Release 
Thursday, November 5th:  Book Fair (last day)
Friday, November 6th:  No Students, PD begins with breakfast at 8:30am in Mrs. Oliver's classroom
Saturday, November 7th:  Glow Run Jackson 5K (encourage your kids to sign up)

Articles Worth Reading:

Homework: An unnecessary evil? Surprising findings from new research...  by Valerie Strauss

U.S. Public Schools Could Benefit From Less Test Taking... by John Rosales

Students have only gotten better, not worse - we should stop blaming them @mwniehoff

Stop Trying To Be Perfect @kara_welty

Trust at the Starting Gate: Our call to tune in and listen @NKrayenvenger

Youtube: Informational Text Hotbed? @TonySinanis

5 Ways To Uncomplicate Your Thoughts (love #3 on this list) @marcandangel

Ban Halloween in schools? Parents FUME over this! @iveydejesus

Videos Worth Watching:

@TheEllenShow with hilarious Halloween Fun! (4 min)

Around the World in 7 Days! Tremendous story... (12 min)

Nike's New Ad for Snow Days (2 min)

Stephen Colbert tells the Donald... (3 min)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Game of School

"If we teach today's students
as we taught yesterday's,
we rob them of tomorrow."
- John Dewey

This past week I went to the Michigan Theatre to watch the screening of, Most Likely to Succeed.

The video is a trailer and I highly encourage you to check it out.

It's Sunday and I still can't stop thinking of a few things that occurred last week.  The following will be an account of what happened and my process.

First, it all started as I walked up the slight incline at the Michigan Theatre.  I was thinking of the laundry list of things I had to do and if I truly had time to take in this film.  Ultimately, I decided that if I missed it...I would likely regret it.  So, with laptop in tow, I positioned myself in the back third of the theatre and decided to give the film a go.  

To my delight, I was sucked in immediately.  The first three minutes are powerful, and sure to make you think.  In a nutshell, I quickly began thinking, how can I encourage more people to see this?  

The film challenges the way we've done school for the past 100+ years.  Admittedly, I'm a vision person and this spoke loud and clear to me.  

Second, during the film I watched as a couple adults sat down and talked with a group of high school students.  I'll paraphrase the question that they asked, "Would you rather be taught how to get a good grade on a test?"  


"Would you rather be best prepared for the world after school?"

The answers surprised me.  Almost all the high school students in the room wanted to be taught how to ace the test.  

Here is my take on this exchange.  The Game of School can be defined as this.  I go to school for roughly thirteen years.  It begins with understanding routines and procedures.  Most students typically enjoy school from kindergarten to second grade.  Then somewhere during the latter part of elementary or middle school things change.  School becomes task driven and monotonous.  Students begin to lose their joy.  During this process some students learn that school is a game.  They learn to play the game.  They realize if they listen, take notes, turn in homework, study for the test, get good grades on the test and show compliance, they will get into a good college.  If they play the game well, in college they earn a degree, which may assist in getting a good job (or so they believe).

Our current system of school is designed for students that play the game best.  I challenge the status quo and say, "Not all students learn the same way."  It is past the time to revolutionize our schools. Our traditional system works for some...but not all.  So, why don't we adjust?  I believe there is still a need for foundational skills and some traditional methods.  I would hope that we could create a new way of school.  Lets find the balance between foundational skills and passion based.  Lets accentuate our students soft skills and stop the mile wide, inch deep approach.  We should focus on the whole child instead of spending 80% of our time on drill and kill methods.

Third, I read the blog by @alfiekohn titled, To Change What We Do, Consider What We Believe.  In this post  (which I absolutely loved!) Alfie shared the research on rewards in the classroom.  Here is an excerpt from the post...
"The study, conducted by Mark Lepper and his colleagues, asked preschoolers to draw pictures with Magic Markers. Some were promised a reward for drawing; some weren’t. The question was what effect, if any, that reward would have on the children’s interest in drawing a week or two later. Overwhelmingly, Hom reported, students predicted that the kids who had been rewarded would be more enthusiastic about drawing later on. But just the opposite is what actually happened, a result that scores of studies subsequently confirmed with subjects of different ages across many cultures engaged in a variety of activities. The more that people are rewarded for doing something — drawing, reading, sharing, you name it — the more they tend to lose interest in whatever they had to do to get the reward."
Fascinating!  This third piece of information that I learned basically was telling me, THE WAY YOU'VE ALWAYS DONE IT...DOESN'T WORK!  Now sure, you may see short term results, but over the course of time, those results will taper off.

As I reflect on my week I'm once again challenged to continuously learn, reflect and grow.

This Week's Big Question:  Are you still learning?  If so, how?  Do you read?  Do you write?  Do you attend conferences that push you?  

As a person, have you settled?  Have you decided that you're good enough or, are you striving to improve every day?


Monday, October 26th:  Happy Halloween Week!
Wednesday, October 28th:  All-School Assembly 8:45 in Gym (CP Fed. Credit Union Kick-off!)
Wednesday, October 28th:  PLC Wednesday (I need everyone to meet in Mrs. Kline's room at 3:10.
Thursday, October 29th:  9am TEAM Meeting
Friday, October 30th:  Halloween Parties (Y5/KDG in the AM) Parade at 2pm on the track

Articles Worth Reading:

I would never want your job... @casas_jimmy

We've Sung Every Hymn in the Hymnal @Jeff_Zoul

Stop Googling. Let's Talk @nytimes

How one student becomes a reader. @DebraRosenquist

How to have Courageous Conversations with your child's teacher @pernilleripp

9 Things All Healthy Couples Do @marcandangel

5 "Be's" for Connected and Curious Educators @edutopia

Videos Worth Watching:

A Daughter's Touching Serenade to her sick mom. (5 min) @TheEllenShow

How to fix a broken school (17 min)

Jimmy Fallon and Tom Hanks in Kid Theatre (7 min)

Jimmy uses the Dubsmash App (4 min)

Secret Life of Dogs (3 min)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

High Stakes to a Whole New Level

"Sometimes, the most brilliant and intelligent minds
do not shine in standardized tests,
because they do not have standardized minds."
- Diane Ravitch

Roughly ten months ago I heard rumors that our Michigan Governor and the Legislature were looking to pass a law that would potentially hold back 3rd graders that were not reading at grade level.  My initial reaction was one of disappointment and doubt.  I thought, there is no way that could pass, what a ridiculous idea.  With that as my thought process I admittedly did not take my thoughts any further.  I truly believed it would die in the process.

Fast forward to the present.  The other morning I woke up at my usual early hour.  I let the dogs out, grabbed a blanket and my laptop and sat down to watch the news.  To my complete surprise I saw that the Michigan House of Representatives passed the 3rd grade Reading bill and now it is headed to the Michigan Senate.  The best way to sum up my reaction is to imagine that I'm a die hard Michigan Wolverine fan and I just watched our punter fumble away the game.  Hands on head, with mouth wide open, I would be saying, "What just happened?"  That is what I was thinking as I watched the news.  Did that just happen?

What is the bill that is now headed for the Michigan Senate?  We will call it "The Michigan 3rd Grade Reading Bill".  The bill is highlighted by these statements:
  • would prohibit schools from promoting students to fourth grade if they are at least a full grade-level behind in reading
  • reading proficiency would be determined by scores on a state standardized test
  • calls for a series of early screening and intervention strategies
  • requires that schools begin assessing students in kindergarten
  • hire literacy coaches to train staff

Let me state that I do believe the most critical component to student success is a strong ability to read.  Essentially, if you cannot read you will always be playing from behind.  

Here are my problems with the 3rd grade reading bill: 
  1. The determining factor will be a student's score on a standardized test.  Really?  Have we not learned anything? Standardized tests are are not a valid representation of a student's ability. The tests are too long, biased, often dependent on prior experiences, and extremely stressful to our students.
  2. Where will the funding come from for these so-called interventions?  School after school around the country has implemented some sort of intervention program, but most have paid for these programs out of the general fund.  If our Michigan Legislature passes this bill they should be ready to pony up additional funding for such programs.
  3. Retention is not the answer.  I saw one quote from Rep. Lee Chatfield, R-Levering. "But for those concerned with retention, my response is this: I'd rather hold a child back for one grade than hold a child back for life."  That is your stance?  I ask you Lee Chatfield, have you looked at the research on retention?  Have you looked at the data and correlation of data on retention and drop out rate?  If you have not, here is an article to help you get started: What research says about grade retention...
  4. Michigan is not the first state to attempt to make this a law.  In all, sixteen states have some form of law about 3rd grade reading levels.  I would call this a sample set to learn from.  I ask our legislature, have you contacted other states?  Have you learned from their missteps?  Here are three examples worth researching more:
        1. Multiple studies and meta-analyses have found that students held back in a grade show academic and social problems later on, including being at higher risk for ultimately dropping out of school.
        2. "There isn't this magic age that, if you don't catch a kid by that age, you lose them forever," said Timothy Shanahan, a distinguished professor emeritus specializing in literacy research at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a lead writer of the common-core language arts standards.
        3. A separate analysis by the Education Commission of the States calculated that nationally, it costs an average of more than $10,000 to retain one student. If, for example, districts held back all the roughly 10,000 3rd graders who failed the reading portion of the Florida state tests in 2014, taxpayers would be on the hook for another $100 million.
Information and statistics gained from the following web articles: Should 3rd Grade be the Pivot Point for Reading?

Up to this point I have been staunchly against the 3rd grade reading bill.  I will now offer a better solution than the one being sent to the Michigan Senate.  As I stated earlier, literacy is essential.  It is a determining factor in student success.  I've read books by +Donalyn Miller and had several conversations with leading literacy educators from around the country.  Getting kids to love reading is by far and away the number one goal.

Instead of punishing a student for being behind, let's do this:
  1. Change the age date for students.  Currently students are not mandated to attend school until age 6.  I believe this should be adjusted to age 5.
  2. Put more funding into early childhood programs.  Many parents are forced to pay for preschool which then deters them from sending their child.  Creating programs that ALL families can afford is the best form of intervention.
  3. We should be screening students in kindergarten (at the end of kindergarten).  Students that do not have essential skills will be targeted for interventions in 1st grade.
  4. The Michigan Legislature needs to trust in local districts and county ISD's to assess reading skills.  The time has come to stop making Standardized Tests the end all, say all in education.
  5. If a child is not reading by the time they complete third grade there needs to be a summer program that involves both educators and families.  A child's success does not solely fall on a teacher's shoulders and it does not solely fall on a parent. This should be a shared responsibility to help the child.  A summer program will create a partnership where both educators and families invest their time.
My final thoughts are this:  For many years educators have been told about the detrimental effects of a student being held back, but now our own Michigan Legislature is proposing just that.  It feels very contradictory.  I hope that the Michigan Senate will shoot down this bill and then go back to the drawing board with different and viable solutions.  I urge you to contact your Michigan Senators and let them know how you feel.

How would you help struggling readers?  What would you suggest to lawmakers?


Monday, October 19th:  ISD training on 5D+ evaluation tool
Monday, October 19th:  Grades 1, 2 and 4 Curriculum Night (5:45 - 7:15pm)
Tuesday, October 20th:  Admin Meeting 9:15am
Tuesday, October 20th:  Fire Drill in the PM
Tuesday, October 20th:  String Team 3:30pm
Tuesday, October 20th:  Nutrition Meeting at 3:45 
Wednesday, October 21st:  8:45am Assembly with grades 3-5
Wednesday, October 21st:  Visit from Adrian Public Schools Admin Team AM only
Wednesday, October 21st:  PLC early release, grade level meetings on new Pivot tool
Thursday, October 22nd:  4th grade to Indian Brook Farms
Friday, October 23rd:  8am Staff Meeting in Mrs. Brugger's classroom

Articles Worth Reading:

Teachers Who Bully @SimplyKinder

The night before tomorrow @JonHarper70bd

Pedagogy First @GustafsonBrad

Videos Worth Watching:

Hilarious!  I must up my game on the morning announcements. (4 min) @jimmyfallon

Fantastic Ted Talk by @MrsDelz (13 min)

#30SecondTake (5 min) @GustafsonBrad