Why Do We Need to Change At All?

Why do we need to change what we’re teaching our children? Most people have been pretty happy with Randolph Central, right? Just let my kids be happy, I don’t care if they learn as much math as possible in each grade–provided they’re learning and getting good grades. Here’s the trouble with that idea–as the superintendent I get to see the whole PK-12 continuum. I know our students can do more than we’ve expected of them in the past.

How do I know? Because for 25 years in education I’ve maintained relationships with graduates from Randolph, Gowanda, and Pine Valley. Think about this honestly now. How often has an 18 or 19 year old said to you, “Wow! I really worked hard in school! I was totally prepared for college, these professors are nothing compared to my high school teachers. Or, my employer is so happy with the way I can pick up a project and run with it. He wishes I could teach the other employees my basic math skills and how to communicate well in writing.”

I’ll tell you how often-NEVER. And that’s just not okay. We’re not here to hang out for 12 years, these are the most critical and accessible years of learning our children have and my personal and professional mission is to make them the most advantageous they can be for every RCS student. And that means every student is going to be expected to do his or her best–the same things I expected of my own two children and continue to expect to this day.

And here’s something else, our administrators are visiting classrooms and seeing our students meet the challenges. In listening to our teachers, I hear them saying that our students are accomplishing more than they thought possible. I have lots of thoughts about how this happened, about how we reached the point in education when not enough is expected of our students, but I will reserve that thinking for another time. I will only say that we are failing our brightest students as over the past several decades we expected too little of them which led them to expect too little of themselves. We see it every year as our juniors and seniors drop courses like Chemistry and Physics and Calculus for an easier route out of high school. Easier doesn’t make any of us better. And through the 1990’s when worrying about every child “winning” and their self esteem more than about challenging them was “de rigueur” didn’t help much either.

Yes, Randolph Central is a good school system already. But good isn’t enough for our teachers and students. If any District can collectively figure out how to successfully improve our school system, we can. Just like the teachers, I’m making good, thoughtful decisions every day, along with our entire leadership team. I’m listening, I’m considering and I’m adapting where needed. We aren’t mindlessly implementing the common core modules. We’re making the best local decisions we can and following the requirements of NYSED in purposeful ways. Just as we’ve always done. We’re also improving, expecting more of ourselves and our students, and striving to meet the highest standards possible.

Randolph has been #1 on the athletic fields and courts for many years. It’s time we step up and become #1 academically as well. That will, in fact, serve our students well in the long run as all will need good jobs some day and few, if any, will become professional athletes.

How Randolph Is Implementing the Common Core Standards

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been meeting with our PK-8 teachers at grade level meetings (content area meetings with 7-8 Math and ELA) with two purposes in mind. One, I wanted to listen. Our teachers are not alone in their implementation of new curriculum–they are supported by our curriculum coordinator and building principals and teacher leaders. I needed them to know that they have my support too, that I’m listening to them on how common core implementation is going, and that we as a leadership team are not working in isolation of the realities of the classroom. Two, I wanted to check my own thinking and know if what we planned to do this year is working in the classroom–if our leadership expectations are realistic and if so, are they clear to our teachers?  As every district has made different local decisions and I know many of our teachers have friends and family in other districts, I wanted to make sure our teachers understand what we’re doing at RCS with the common core standards and the common core modules as developed by NYS (yes, they’re two different things).  Today, I begin a series of posts to share our expectations with our larger school community.

I’ve been talking about making good instructional decisions for some time–it was the main idea of my opening day session with teachers both last year and this year. In some districts, the common core modules ( instructional units developed by NYS) are being implemented fully, page by page. In other districts, teachers and administrators began a couple of years ago to develop their own curriculum aligned to the common core standards. In Randolph, we have a combination of the two approaches.

Listen, no matter what the State intended K-8 curriculum may be, our teachers must make good instructional decisions for the students seated in front of them every day. If it’s a teacher at grades 7-12, those instructional decisions may be different for the period 2 Biology class to the period 11 Biology class. Our teachers are not teaching the common core modules, as developed by NYS, without consideration of 100 other factors on any given day. Most important is careful consideration of the strengths and weaknesses of the 20-25 students seated in front of them–what background knowledge do those students have, what curriculum were they taught in prior years and what learning did they retain? What are the interests and skills of the students? All factors that great teachers have considered in planning lessons for decades.

And since the beginning of time, including when I started teaching, we have had to consider the NYS standards in our subject area and where I taught, it was a local decision that all teachers meet the Career Development and Occupational Studies standards too.  We’ve had textbook materials to factor into our decisions, state tests to consider, and if we were lucky, a curriculum left by the teacher we replaced. How do the common core modules and standards come in to play now? Well, those NYS standards were pretty darn vague. Most of us complained about them and as administrators thought, “a teacher could plan any lesson she likes and simply type in a NYS standard to make it fit.” We complained that the standards needed to be a more substantial curriculum that teachers and administrators could follow. For years I have included in my leadership a goal to have a more consistent curriculum grades K-8 so that our students would have a strong, common experience not just learn something due to the luck of the draw or whatever teacher he gets that year. So now we have these curriculum modules, but we don’t know yet if they are reliable since they’re very new and are relatively untested.

So our teachers, our experts in the field,  are evaluating the NYS common core modules as they align to the common core standards and as they align to our other instructional materials including iReady and Ready, our reading series materials and our data on students through formative and state test results. We don’t wish to abandon, disregard, or relegate to an “if I have time” status any of those good things we’ve been doing the past few years that have helped our students meet with greater success. We realize our mathematics K-8 curriculum has not had the emphasis needed to prepare our students for Math in high school. We began addressing that problem two years ago and have made great gains–luckily in many grade levels the modules are enhancing what we’re doing. And when we find that they’re not, or a teacher has a better way to teach something, or our students aren’t ready for a module lesson–we’re modifying and adapting. But we are aligning to a more rigorous set of standards than what we’ve had in the past (more about that tomorrow).

The analysis and study of the modules is being done largely on the fly by hard working, dedicated teachers who didn’t have the opportunity to do this in advance of the school year in any detail because the modules are still coming out from NYSED. New modules come out from the State weekly. We are using the common core modules as a curriculum resource to help us raise our standards as our students are ready. Teachers are expected to study the modules and to make good instructional decisions for their students as we continue to align our taught curriculum to the stated common core curriculum. This will take time. We are doing the best that we can in an imperfect implementation system—but always with the best interest of our students in mind. If it doesn’t feel that way in your home–please talk to your child’s teacher. In Thursday’s post, I’ll write more about homework.

Tomorrow: Why Do We Need to Change At All?


Respectful Discourse

I’ve been writing here since 2006 with a genuine interest in better communicating with our school community and also to provide a space where people within our school community can share their thinking with me. Oftentimes, I will receive a comment that the writer asks I not share publicly or a separate email in which the writer wants to keep his or her thoughts between us. I write and read because I want to be a better superintendent. If I ever reach the point when I’m working in an echo chamber, I will need to retire. The absolute worst leader I could be is someone who believes solely in her own ideas and decisions without considering the ideas of others within our organization and community.

I also learn from asking questions and believe wholeheartedly that we’re better together than we are alone. Collectively, our teams learn from one another, offer different points of view and make better decisions–if we listen to one another first.

This weekend, I received four comments from people beyond our school community that I haven’t yet posted to the blog. Over the past seven years of writing, I can count one or two times that I haven’t posted a comment and that was only because the comment was in some way laced with profanity or unjustly injurious to someone within the organization.

Why am I hesitating to post these comments? Well, read these excerpts of the comments to get a better idea of what exactly the comments are about, all left in response to this post.

Reader #1 writes:

I am thankfully not in your district, but I am appalled at your response. To consider a child who is abiding by parent’s wishes as insubordinate in regards to testing where there IS a refusal option, (Source: New York State Student Information Repository System (SIRS) Manual, pg 64). There is no given grade, no consequences for the child, or harm against the school, seems to really be pushing the extreme of the definition of insubordination. (Source: New York State Student Information Repository System (SIRS) Manual, page 64 and 8.) Don’t blame NYSED for this. This is strictly under your district. NYSED leaves it to districts to determine what, if any action should be taken in the event students are not tested.

I suppose that is what I find most troubling about your post, you are offering regulations provided by NSED, but not disclosing them fully or presenting the whole picture to the parents. I’m not sure what you expect parents to do regarding testing they deem harmful to their children? Sit back and just take it?

How is it you claim to want to work with parents, yet your post clearly states what it is believed parents cannot do, rather than what they can do?

Reader #2 writes:

Sometimes, standing up for what you believe in puts you in a difficult position. This is quite true. Some would say a student who refuses the test is “insubordinate”. I would say s/he is practicing civil disobedience to make a point that continues to fall on deaf ears!

Your post sounds like a warning to parents not to challenge YOUR authority. Many districts have been able to work WITH parents in a reasonable way. Apparently, under your guidance, your schools won’t.

Be a leader! Do you really believe the common core and the Pearson assessments represent quality education?

Shame on you!

Reader #3 writes:

Parents may not have a legal right to dictate what schools teach, but we sure as heck have the right to voice our displeasure when we see all of the crap that CC is forcing on our kids. We’re the ones who see first hand the negative effects on our kids. We’re the ones watching our child’s future getting bleaker and bleaker because we have politicians and special interest groups falling all over themselves to experiment and profit off of the games they’re playing with education in this country! When we see English class being turns into a political science experiment meant to brainwash our kids into the current political regime way of thinking, when we see the blatant disregard for the US Constitution and the laws of our country perpetrated by our politicians and educational leaders – we sure as hell have the right to fight back! YOU as educators and administrators do not have the right to bully kids and parents who disagree with you, to outright lie to them about what they can and can’t do. Giving a child multiple detentions when they’re exercising their right to refuse a test is just plain wrong! And they CAN refuse those state tests, kids all over the country are doing it. Why else would the codes and instructions for how to handle refusals be built into the testing instructions? And leaving a special needs child unattended in a hallway because they won’t participate in a benchmark test? Unconscionable!! And the teacher making disparaging remarks to that same child? Inexcusable!! YOU are the ones who should be vastly ashamed of your actions!

What bothers me about the comments left by Readers #1-3 is that it seems that they didn’t even read my original post closely. That’s why I commented on my own post to clarify—this is about a child being instructed to “opt out” on an almost daily basis during the regular school day. Refusing academic intervention services when we know the child needs help or in the case of a special needs child who is refusing to take the regular progress monitoring testing the teacher needs to make good instructional decision making. This wasn’t about the NYS K-8 assessments—I know the points being made about refusal of the NYS tests—but do the writers know that my response to opting out of regular instruction and testing comes straight from education law? I’m not writing this to use my authority or to intimidate. I’m writing to help explain why we have to respond to what becomes a daily distraction–a child refusing to do what the teacher asks.  And what teacher is making disparaging remarks to a child as Reader #3 writes? I’m lost by how much is inferred from one post.  

Did they even read my post? Or are they using this blog to further their own agenda? I’m glad people are fighting for what they believe in—I believe the discourse on common core AND APPR AND SLOs (because much of what’s being named common core, isn’t) is  good—but it is also laden with much bad information, emotion, talk of political agendas and attitudes that remind me of those espoused by religious zealots.

There’s room in the conversation for more than one point of view but the only way we will learn from each other is through a respectful analysis of the ideas.

What bothers me next is the apparent need for writers to attack me without even knowing me, our District, our practices, my character or what we stand for—who are basing their ideas on about 1000 words printed to add another voice to the discussions our community members may be reading in the popular press or frankly, on Facebook.  This is most apparent in the last comment that follows here.

Reader #4 writes:

Kim, Kim, Kim, … Parents Do have a right to refuse this corporate schlock you feel obliged to defend. We didn’t ask for it and neither did the teachers. Neither did you if you can be honest about it. But some very wealthy people tucked a few key politicians into their pockets and set about declaring an emergency in American education that they just happened to have the cure for, at a price. Well the price is steep, it’s costing us billions but the real price is it’s robbing our kids of a chance to love learning. It’s causing our kids to hate school and hate themselves. How many more Administrators are going to stand up to this and call it out for the child abuse it is. How many more blog posts do you have in your file before you realize you are on the wrong side of education, the wrong side of kids, the wrong side of history and ultimately, the wrong side of right and wrong. Trying to keep a job that asks you to defend child abuse must be a lonely futile endeavor. Any time you’re ready to stand up for kids and education we will welcome you into the light. Until then you deserve no support and even less respect. P.s. i know you won’t allow this through so I posted it on FB. Cheers!

What purpose is served by patronizing me from the very beginning and using my first name as if this man even knows me at all? And then calling me out about posting his comment? An argument is so much more powerful if made intellectually rather than emotionally. And why is it necessary to call my character into question to make the point? Is the only way that side of the argument holds true is by calling me personally into question?

I won’t use this blog post to defend my own character. That will only incite further comments placing me forever on the defensive. And frankly this reminds me of that person we all know who isn’t really listening to us in the first place but is instead just waiting for us to shut up so that he can voice his own opinion louder or more vehemently or by attacking us for disagreeing. I realize that in responding to the comments I may elicit more comments from them–some would advise me not to acknowledge the comments at all–but I have read about and thought about the ideas presented by these readers and considered our own practices more than the four readers can know from a blog. I cannot solve the national or state debate nor do I honestly have the time and mental energy to engage in an endless back and forth about this—with those outside of our school community. I trust that our own school community knows this about me and feels welcome to come in and meet with me or ask me to a meeting or to attend one of our community forums which include “Clarifying the Common Core”. Or talk to our teachers and principals, don’t just take it from me. As always, we want to be the very best we can be for our 1000 students and that includes teaching to the common core standards, which can be found here.

There are many sides to the changes in education today. Some needed and some not, and I’m guessing what’s which varies depending on who’s talking. What I can speak to is our district, our experiences, and our future. Much good is coming of all of us working together toward common standards and goals—in particular a clearer path for all children through our school that will lead to greater success as we make good instructional decisions for all.

Parental Rights and Public Schools

With the “opt out” of state testing that has been discussed in the media, some parents may begin to think that it’s possible to “opt out” of other testing, curriculum or programs that they dislike in our public schools. I’d like to address the question “Do parents have the right to direct the public schools on what their children will and will not be taught, on what tests they will and will not be given, and on what books they read?”

While parents have the right to direct the education and upbringing of their children, it doesn’t mean they have the right to dictate what the public school district teaches (our curriculum) or on what programs we use for instruction or for remediation (ex. iReady).  According to NYS Education law and Commissioner’s regulations, as a public school district we are required to follow the state mandated learning standards.  New York State has adopted the national P-12 Common Core standards. These learning standards apply to all public elementary and secondary school students.

The NYS learning standards also apply to students with disabilities and those students who are at a risk of not achieving the learning standards must be provided and must participate in academic intervention services. The New York State Education Department has provided resources for schools and parents on the website http://www.engageny.org/.  Don’t believe everything you read on websites from across the country, please cross reference your information with the NYS education laws and regulations.

Parents do not have a right to tell the school what their children will and will not be taught and as public school administrators and teachers we cannot follow parent directives. We are required to follow the directives of the NYS Department of Education. When parents advise their children to refuse all testing or to opt out of parts of the curriculum, it puts the child in a difficult position. Students are actually insubordinate if they refuse to participate in all testing or in our use of the instructional program iReady/Ready which we use in our Math and ELA programs, just as is the case with students who refuse to participate in physical education class or any other part of our academic programs.

Please know that we very much want to work with you in the education of your children.  As a public school district, we have more rules and regulations that we are required to follow than you can imagine—but we do want to hear from you, to talk with you about your concerns, to be flexible in the areas in which we can be. If you have any questions about the many changes that we’ve had in the past few years in education, or about anything, please contact your building administrator or me at any time.

Welcome to the 2013-14 School Year

Tomorrow morning our students return and it’s one of my favorite days of the year. Everyone returns with enthusiasm in whatever favorite new outfit they’ve chosen. And the best part is that I get to help our littlest ones find their classrooms. I really enjoy seeing our students return and watching the bittersweet goodbyes from parents bringing their child to school for the first time. Parents, please know that we will cherish your babies—that our teachers will love them and expect the best of them. And so will I.

At the same time, we will have high expectations for each child. We want our students, your children, to learn and to grow and to experience a positive yet challenging school year. Attached you can look at the opening day presentation I gave to our entire school family of employees yesterday. Randolph academic success is on the rise and we are working hard so that our students can be successful in every aspect of our programs. We look forward to working with you and we hope that you will also have high expectations for your child.

Why are our expectations for children so important? Here’s a personal example. My parents were clear in their expectations for me as a student—my grades had to be above a C. So that’s what I worked for, to get above a C–B’s worked just fine in my house.

We like to think every generation gets smarter than us, right? Our expectation for our own two kids was that they had to have their grades above a 90 average. That’s a higher expectation than my parents had for me and both of our children met that expectation every ten weeks. I remember quoting, “hey, to he (or she) who much is given, much is expected”—meaning your life is good, your brain is good, get to work! When our son was a senior in high school, he had to write a paper in which he spoke about his strong relationship with his dad for 90% of the paper and then on the last page wrote, “and I’m thankful that my mom had her foot on me through all of school or I never would have done as well as I did.” Not exactly gushing in it’s emotion for his mom, but hey–you get the point. He’s now a senior at St. Bonaventure on an academic scholarship that requires he maintain a 3.0 average. What do you think he maintains?

Please expect more from your children. I’m betting they can get there. We’re doing the same here at RCS and we’re expecting more of ourselves too. I’ve never forgotten something I read at the beginning of my administrative career, written by Todd Whitaker in What Great Principals Do Differently, “Great teachers have high expectations for students but even higher expectations for themselves.” I’ll work on everyone here at RCS having high expectations for themselves–first of all ME–please help us by working on having high expectations for your children at home–in school attendance, academic performance, behavior and treating everyone with respect. Deal?

Parenting Classes

Something happened a week ago and I can’t get it out of my head. That usually means I’ve got to write about it so it’s out here instead of running a track through my mind. During a recent visit to the doctor’s office, I was in the waiting room when a mother and two young boys entered the room. Immediately these two little guys took over the office. They were running around, sitting in the middle of the floor, breaking up some small toy and throwing it around the room.

What was mom doing? That’s the part I can’t get out of my head. She sat passively and looked at a point on the wall without talking to, scolding or acknowledging them. I was quiet as long as I could be, thinking “this is none of my business” but when the older of the two worked feverishly to shove one of the pieces of the toy into his ear, I couldn’t take it any more.

I engaged both in conversation saying, “I bet I can guess what grade you boys are going into!” First and third grades, I got it right. Neither boy made eye contact with me (much like their mom). When I said, “don’t stick that in your ear! That’s going to hurt you!” The mother looked at the boy and then at me and I said in a friendly way, “my niece once stuck a lego up her nose and they had to go to the emergency room!” At least the young man stopped when I told him to do so.

Once in the examination room, this family was placed in a room next to mine and I could hear the chaos continuing until the physician’s assistant walked in and said, “stop that and sit down.”

I’ve been thinking about parenting as a skill set ever since. This woman was completely lacking in any parenting skills with no idea of what to do. We end up with children in a school system who have no idea how to behave because they’ve never been taught. I’m not pointing fingers at her, I’m saying she appeared to have no skills as a parent, much like I have no carpentry skills. Only I can hire a carpenter to build something correctly and in her case, she can’t hire anyone and it’s her children who suffer.

I’ve certainly known over-indulgent parents in my work and personal life, this was something beyond indulgence. Goodness knows we all parent differently. There’s nothing that says my way of parenting is better than someone else’s. But my own mother did a really good job and the proof is in her two productive children who have loving families and pretty good kids too. Somehow along the way my role models figured it out and I parented the way I’d learned from example. What about this woman and the others like her? Who helps her learn what to do?

As a school system I would love to reach out to that mom and others like her. Not to say “I’m an expert and this is what you must do” but to say, “I know parenting is hard, I’ve got some experience and some ideas that worked with my kids—can I help you learn what to do with yours?” No parent EVER has done her child a favor by NOT teaching him or her how to behave in this world. Parenting is positively the most important job any of us has to do.

How do we reach those parents who are the neediest? How do they admit to someone like me what they don’t know? Do they even know what they’re doing isn’t working? Does it take Child Protective Services or the county getting involved? And even when the school gets involved, we walk carefully on that line of helping vs. telling parents what to do. I know our elementary counselor is wonderful at supporting our children and families but more often than not parents end up angry and feeling like we’re meddling in their home life.

To further complicate my thinking on this is my strong belief that I want the freedom to make my own decisions and choices without “big brother” telling me how much soda I can drink or which guns I can own or dictating exactly what education must look like at RCS. Does my desire to help that mom who looked so lost and alone and helpless equate to government’s desire to dictate everything to us?

I’d love to hear your thinking on this one! If we offered parenting classes in the evening, I don’t know who would even come–how would we get this mother to attend without insulting her?

Does Our Academic Rank Matter?

It matters to me. Always has, especially when I hear colleagues discuss why it shouldn’t. I don’t know why I wouldn’t want our school district to be as good as or better than similar schools around us? As a community Randolph is clear that we want to be the best in athletics and to celebrate our students’ success. Why wouldn’t we want that same excellence  academically that we enjoy athletically?

I’ve written about academic school improvement here many times before and as the superintendent, it’s my number one mission—to provide the very best education we can to each and every student while being fair to our taxpayers. We do so many things well here, with outstanding teachers, administrators and students, why did we sit in the bottom third of all 97 WNY school districts for so long?

As the superintendent, I research what our colleagues are doing who are more successful than we are just like a good coach studies game film. I also research what’s expected from NYSED and what’s working in the field. While I’ve made some mistakes in my career—I never fully believed in curriculum mapping as a real change measure and yet implemented it in Gowanda—I do believe our efforts at Randolph are paying off in terms of higher expectations for ourselves and for learning for our students. Our teachers have always worked incredibly hard  and this year they’ve been focused on data team meetings to further individualize their instruction for all children during intervention and classroom instruction. We’re also working together on our curriculum and raising our expectations at every grade level so that our students may achieve more as they move through our system. I’m so proud of our team and of our students for meeting the challenge!

Business First ranks all of the elementary, middle and high schools, and districts based on the past four years of NYS test results and Regents exams. Here’s a link to how the ranks are determined. No mystery, no magic. Just the facts on how our students fare on tests over the past four years. And I believe we’re good enough to get from the bottom third of the 97 school districts to the top third. So does our School Board and Administrative Team. And here’s the proof that we’re getting there after a decade of little to no movement in these rankings.

Our elementary school ranked 174 out of 281 which is up 28 spots from last year’s rank of 202. Our middle school results rank us 123 out of 208, up 22 spots from last year’s rank of 145. Our high school rank is 68 of 135, up 14 spots from last year’s 82. And even though we saw improvements from 2011-2012 in middle and high school, our district rank was stuck at 74 of 97. This year I’m delighted to say that we are ranked 59 of 97 WNY Districts, up 15 spots from 74 the last two years.

We are focused on the right things, we are taking what State Ed mandates and making it reasonable where we can and making it work for us. Our students will graduate having the same excellent education they’ve always gotten, but with even higher expectations and achievement. Thanks to everyone for getting us here!

As our BOE President, Dave Adams, said, “congratulations to you all as you all had an impact on this achievement. Continue the hard work and support all of your fellow teachers and administrators to make this a total team effort and we are confident that you can move RCS to even higher rankings in the years to come!”


May Mayhem

What a mixed-up month May is in the world of school! It’s budget time so I’m immersed in budget documents, procedures, the public hearing, ‘Meet the Candidates’ night and the public vote/election. At the same time, it’s beautiful outside (at long last!) and I’m yearning to get outside in my gardens but have no time to do so. As we look to next year we are interviewing and hiring for our 2013-14 openings and we haven’t even allowed 2012-13 to come to a close.

We have spring concerts and events, awards dinners, spring sports and planning for next year already. And our Seniors! They are their own crazy mix of emotions. One day they can’t wait to get out of here and the next they are miserable to think there are only about ten school days left. They are sick and tired of each other one minute, already missing each other the next. We’ve been talking a lot about appreciating every day and savoring the moment. On some days I think they’re even listening to me!

May also brings the end of the year meetings on tenure decisions, development of class lists for next year and new–the dreaded portfolio reviews. Our local Marina is open in Onoville and we’re starting to think summer.  Prom is in May, with all of its pomp and excitement–and the Randolph After-Prom event which is completely organized and run by our parents–by far one of the best events of a high school student’s life.

If you’re the parents of a high school student, especially Seniors, hold them a little tighter as they struggle to break free for the next phase of life. The summer before our own son left for college wasn’t my favorite. He was stretching his wings at the same time that I hated to see him go; his departure for college brought that “empty nest” to our home. Hang in there Mom and Dad–this too shall pass!

What’s the Single Greatest Action to Influence the Instructional Process?

As superintendent of a school district, what do you think is the single greatest action you can take to have a positive influence on the instructional process and its impact on children?

This question is worded in an interesting way, notice they ask what is the single greatest action. That phrase changed my answer. On first reading I thought, courage. This is a leadership position that absolutely requires courage in a million different ways and decisions. But courage isn’t an action.

The single greatest action to have a positive influence on the instructional process? Hire the right people. That means hiring teachers who are outstanding, who have high expectations for students and higher expectations for themselves. It means assembling the right administrative team, administrators who share in our goals of the absolute best instructional program for every student, with high achievement and learning for all. It means helping those employees who don’t have high expectations for themselves realize this isn’t the place for them.  All of it takes courage, yes, and hiring and retention decisions are the key actions.

New Starting Point?

So in this video, linked on our school website to the State Ed’s website with resources for parents, Commissioner King and Associate Commissioner Slentz talk about the common core standards and the new 3-8 assessments.

Mr. Slentz says emphatically that everyone must understand that we expect the results to be lower and that we will have a new starting point. If it’s a new starting point, with new standards and new assessments, then how can they be compared to the results we’ve gotten in the past on different assessments? How can we compare the growth of our students against two different measures? And we’re doing so in high stakes ways that result in evaluation scores for teachers and principals?

Let’s also remember that the tests our students are taking this week are completely aligned with the common core curriculum, something that’s at best been introduced in most NYS school districts. I wonder how Business First, who historically looks at four years of test results, will handle this new starting point in their comparative studies. (Read sarcasm.)

As a district leader, I’m paid to handle the change, to make decisions, to educate the entire school community on these changes and to lead the district to greater academic success. We’ve been ahead of this game all along, implementing iReady diagnostic tools and the new teacher/principal evaluation tools last year. We’ve been closely analyzing and implementing the common core curriculum guides as they become available. But all is not in place yet, in any district or from the state. And now we evaluate our children on a curriculum they haven’t fully learned and certainly haven’t come through the system with yet.

Having said all of that I do believe we are as equipped to handle the changes as any district can be. I remain optimistic and RCS community members, including teachers and parents, should too. At the end of the day, we’ve done all that we could do to prepare, to learn with rigor, to help one another. Make sure our children know that too! These are interesting days in public education.