Sunday, November 9, 2014

What came first the Chicken or the Egg?

I'm throwing a wrinkle at the age old question.  Here's my version -

What comes first healthy school culture or strong test scores?

The obvious statement is, do you have to choose?  

I view myself as a life long learner and much of my learning comes from reading, listening and personal experience.  A couple of books I've gained a lot from are:


"Good people know that high stakes testing has limited value and they keep operating anyway.  They don't let testing get in the way of doing the good work they want to do to get kids prepared for life.
-Todd Whitaker

Todd's exactly right!  Most schools are working as hard as possible and it is imperative to focus on helping kids be prepared for life.

I interact with many educators on a regular basis and I hear three things that come up over and over. 

1) Data Driven
2) Budget 
3) Test Scores

Recently I heard these topics come up and I simply stated, "That's a shame. Shouldn't we be focusing on students?  

A few days ago I had a debate on social media about data and culture.  I found myself frustrated. During my educational career I've watched the pendulum shift multiple times.  I see times where the focus is squarely on numbers and then I've also witnessed times when relationships take center stage. What I'm about to share may be viewed as a weakness, but I stand by my beliefs.

At the heart of a successful school/classroom/district is putting relationships first.  My philosophy is this:  An atmosphere that puts students first, focuses on relationship building and establishes an environment where students love to learn is one where the data will take care of itself.

I'm not a Data Hater, but I've come to learn that data can be manipulated and often doesn't tell the whole story.  Have you ever had a parent approach you and tell you they want their child in a certain school because they have strong test scores?  

I have.  

My response is often one that creates dialogue.  I share our philosophy, our programs and our passion for kids.  I don't share scores or data.  It simply isn't my focus.  

When I hear parents bring up test scores I sometimes feel disconnected.  I'm a parent.  My child's test scores are not a big priority.  When I think of a school for my kids I think of these things:

1)  A school that is safe
2)  Educators that are passionate 
3)  A school that is welcoming to families and student-centered
4)  Opportunities & Programs for students
5)  A school that my child enjoys

As I share all of that I feel the need to also share a story about data.  A while back I was sitting at my classroom desk.  I was looking at my class list and I was checking my notes. What I was doing was simply going down the line and trying to gauge or predict how my students would do on an upcoming social studies test.  As I finished looking at my list I confidently believed that my class average would be between 87% and 92%.  My test was not a piece of cake, it was twenty-six questions long and had a mixture of Bloom's Taxonomy.  

Before I handed out the test I sat on the corer of a desk and I looked at my class.  I told them that I was very confident that they would do well.  I told them I really didn't think I needed to give the test. At this point one of my students said, "It's okay, Mr. Gilpin, we're ready!"

That night I took the tests home and graded them.  My class average was 89%.  As I looked at the data I discovered two questions tripped my students up.  I was confident that my wording was the issue, not the students' knowledge.

To me this was valuable data.  Not a standardized test score.  

This Week's Big Questions:  Where do you stand?  Is data at the center of your decision making or is it about relationships?


Monday, November 10th:  AM Tornado Drill
Monday, November 10th:  Conference Week
Monday, November 10th:  Book Fair Opens
Monday, November 10th:  4-5pm Lego Club
Monday, November 10th:  3:45 String Team
Tuesday, November 11th:  Veteran's Day
Tuesday, November 11th:  9am Admin Meeting
Tuesday, November 11th:  PTO Conference Dinner for Staff
Tuesday, November 11th:  4-5pm Minecraft Club
Wednesday, November 12th:  Grades 3-5 Assembly 8:45am
Wednesday, November 12th:  3-4pm Board Game Club
Wednesday, November 12th:  3:45 String Team
Thursday, November 13th:  PTO Conference Dinner for Staff
Friday, November 14th:  Picture Retake Day 9 - 12pm
Friday, November 14th:  Happy Bday to Angie Pratt
Sunday, November 16th:  Happy Bday to Katie Powers

Articles Worth Reading:

The letter Y @jonharper70bd

Videos Worth Watching:

Arms Wide Open... (16 min)

Dog Tested...Dog Approved! (30 secs)

Egg Russian Roulette (4 min)

Videos on Ellentube... (2 min)

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