Thursday, June 19, 2008

It's our fault! I tried to tell you.

A recent study from the Public Policy Institute of California demonstrates that failing the California high school exit exam can be predicted by 4th grade. Here is one of their pearls.

The study suggests that shifting resources to struggling students in early grades will be a more effective way to improve achievement than the state’s current approach of focusing on students in the last year of high school.

My educational response to this brilliant finding would be, "DUH"! And here's another nugget we've been talking about for a couple years now.

Help with reading in early grades would benefit students in all other subjects, a particularly important benefit for English learners.

Of course, I'm convinced starting in 4th grade is way too late. Schools should start in kindergarten, and give parents plenty of resources to do the one thing that makes a difference before school: read to their child 20 minutes a day. Maybe we also ought to get out the CAHSEE blueprints for math and language arts and make sure our kids have mastered all the prerequisite skills embedded in that test before leaving our doors.

A year worthy of our gifts

Seth Godin makes me consider whether our efforts are worthy of the privileges that we enjoy.

I take so much for granted. Perhaps you do as well. To be here, in this moment, with these resources. To have not just our health but the knowledge and the tools and the infrastructure. What a waste.

If I hadn’t had those breaks, if there weren’t all those people who had sacrificed or helped or just stayed out of my way... what then? Would I even have had a shot at this?

What if this were my last post? Would this post be worthy?

So, what if 2008-09 is our last chance to lead Halecrest. Will we give our best to show our appreciation for all the benefits and opportunities that we enjoy at this school? Let it not be said at the end of the next school year that we wasted the opportunity. Many new and exciting ideas are being considered and I think the time to make some bold moves is upon us.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

After the fact treatment

Patterson, et al in Influencer The Power to Change Anything begin their book by describing the typical response to a difficult problem. They describe it as "after-the-fact" treatment. Like the scourge of AIDS where treatment of the disease's effects gets much wider attention than treatment of its causes, we often attack problems by trying to clean up something after the damage is done.

In education, I see this as the attempt to shrink the learning gaps in middle school and high school. We must start in kindergarten, when we still have a chance to stem the tide. Indeed, the more effective we are at getting parents and preschools to do a few simple behaviors (most notably - Read to their children 20 minutes a day) will allow us to eradicate the number of students reading below grade level to zero!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Summer Reading

Since I have at least one more loooooong summer before our district goes to a common calendar, I'm breathlessly awaiting the chance to hang out with the family and explore our usual vacation spots as well as curl up with a few good reads. Here are some selections that I'm planning on digging into, and in some cases, have already started.

This book gives you the criteria by which ideas have been made memorable and has application as a school leader and classroom instructor. I mean, I know I sure would like the staff to remember what I said once in a while. Hopefully I can learn to present well thought out, compelling initiatives that actually get implemented for a change.

This book is a tip from Scott McLeod who invited folks to a summer chat on its implications. I browsed through the first few pages at the bookstore and couldn't resist the purchase. This will help me exert profound influence over everyone in my sphere, ideally with some of the sticky ideas I came up with because of the first book. It's all part of my master plan...

This gem is a gift from one of my outstanding teachers. Having already perused the first few pages, the subject is obviously sobering and humbling. It is needful to often get out of the small confines of one's immediate circumstances and understand the profound suffering that so many are facing because of this deadly disease.
Stay tuned for a few more selections coming up. Does anyone have any suggestions for more enlightening reading this summer?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

My best day ever...well pretty close

Despite a frantic work day that included lots of preparation for end of the year activities, I had a great day because it was Twin Day at our school and my twin was a cute little 1st grader named Emily who was tickled pink to be my twin; she also just happens to be my daughter. Now, I had way too many people remind me that I should cherish this moment since she'll soon avoid me like the plague any day now. So, although I refuse to buy into their cynicism, I have fully enjoyed being her favorite twin for this day at least and I've got the photos to blackmail her if she starts getting nasty around Middle School.

Literacy in the content areas

Two of my favorite teacher bloggers are crying foul about the literacy first, last, and only folks. Go read their posts here and here and let them know you feel their pain and love their content, which is one of the greatest keys for developing fully mature literacy skills, beginning... in the womb!

Everybody who issomebody loves assessment

You see, I'm not the only one who is obsessed with the proper role of assessment. Scott McLeod gives a logical case for assessing before instruction, just in case your little learners already know what you're trying to teach 'em. The concept is so simple and elegant, however it opens up such a can of worms. If they already know it, now what do I do? Actually, it opens up a world of engagement and enthusiastic students who can go on to explore something new and challenging and in greater depth. So, jump right in and start assessing Day one!