Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Proposed Boundary Changes

To ease overcrowding, and due to the new elementary school that will open in Herriman next fall, the District has put together options for boundary changes.  You can view the options online.  A survey for patrons to provide input on the options will be available for the next six weeks at which time the Board will review the survey results and make a decision on how to proceed.  No matter which option is chosen, Elk Meadows and Terra Linda will return to a Year Round Schedule for the 2014-15 school year.  The new elementary school in Herriman will open on a Year Round Schedule.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Letter to South Jordan City Council

If you haven't heard, South Jordan is considering breaking off Jordan District to start their own school district.  Those of us who have been around for more than 5 years know what happened at the Jordan/Canyons split.  I sent this letter to South Jordan elected officials today.

Dear Mayor Osborne and South Jordan City Council Members,

I am unable to attend the council meeting tonight where Council member Newton will propose that South Jordan form its own school district as noted in this newscast.  I am against this for many reasons including costs, quality of education, and employee morale. 

In the story, Mr. Newton said, "Because South Jordan only needs one high school, one middle school and two elementary schools, that we'll be able to cut costs.”  Currently within the district boundaries are Bingham High, South Jordan and Elk Ridge Middle Schools, along with seven elementary schools, six of which are already on year-round schedules: South Jordan, Monte Vista, Jordan Ridge, Elk Meadows, Welby, Daybreak, and Eastlake.  There are students living in South Jordan City boundaries who attend Herriman or Copper Hills High.  Bingham is not large enough to hold all the high school students living in South Jordan City. 

It cost $33 million just to split Jordan and Canyons Districts back in 2009.  This was after months of negotiations and mediation with transition teams from both sides.  See this article.    In addition to the $33 million to pay for the split, Jordan District had to cut $17 million in the 2010-2011 budget.  See this article.  These cuts hurt students.  One example is the money for aides in Special Education classes was reduced leaving those students who are the most needy without the support to help them be successful. 

The quality of education students receive will suffer.  Jordan School District has an excellent curriculum department that provides many resources for teachers at all levels.  See Jordan District. The new district would likely be unable to hire those types of specialists, leaving teachers on their own to create curriculum.  As an elementary teacher, I appreciate having those specialists who can align curriculum to the Utah Core, provide quality assessments, and give curriculum maps for pacing subjects taught throughout the year.  If my time had to be spent doing those types of activities for all the subjects I’m required to teach, there would be less time for me to work with students and provide them with the feedback they need to improve.

Many employees on both sides of the Jordan/Canyons split felt like they were just assets assigned to buildings back in 2009.  We weren’t treated as individuals.  The morale is just now, five years later, beginning to improve.  Employees have not received their step increases three of the last five years.  While this is a different pay system than in other industries, when people are hired, the District explains the pay system, so there is an expectation that has not been met.  If South Jordan were to break off to form their own district, employee salary increases on both sides would likely be nonexistent. At the time of the Jordan/Canyons split, I felt discouraged and frustrated with my career.  I have become more optimistic as I have utilized the tools provided by Jordan District.  I am proud to have been teaching in Jordan District for 22 years.  I teach sixth grade at Elk Meadows Elementary, and I love my job! 

Please stop the discussion on breaking away from Jordan District now.



Thursday, November 7, 2013

What Now?

The Jordan Bond failed.  The District posted information about what will happen next.  Basically, the administration will look at enrollment at all schools and consider how best to accommodate the growth.  This could include boundary changes, more year round schools, and pocket busing.  The administration will then make recommendations to the School Board.  I heard Dr. Johnson say this morning, "This will mean boundary changes and a couple more year-round elementary schools", which would be in addition to the new elementary in Herriman that will open Fall 2014 on a year round schedule.

This continuum is used by the School Board to decide how to handle student enrollment growth.  The Board has not done much with permit moratorium, but that is another option, which will limit the choices parents and students have.  You can visit the District Alternative Housing Options page for more information on how decisions are made based on new versus established neighborhoods.  Portables are in place at almost every school.  There are 20 year-round elementary schools already.  Pocket busing is happening in Herriman.  Boundary changes will happen for the new elementary in Herriman, but I believe additional boundary changes will be needed to move students from highly overcrowded schools to less crowded schools.

Alternative Housing Options

Jordan Education Foundation Mini Grants

The Jordan Education Foundation will be awarding over $84,000 to 168 teachers as part of their Mini Grant Program.  90% of applications will be funded.  This money comes from donors through various fund raising activities of the Foundation, including through employee donations from payroll deduction, Ashton Family Foundation, Doug and Kristy Young Family, Rio Tinto/Kennecott, Wheeler Foundation, CIT Bank and Dee Foundation.  Look for these awards to be presented in the next couple of weeks!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Governor's Faculty Meeting

You were well represented yesterday at the 2013 Governor's Education Summit:  A Faculty Meeting with the Governor.  You can view the meeting at UEN.

Waiting to enter the auditorium

On PACE to 66% by 2020

  • 90% proficiency in 3rd, 6th, and 8th grade reading and math
  • 90% of high school students taking the ACT
  • 90% high school graduation rate
  • 80% of high school students pursuing post secondary credit
  • Eliminate waiting lists in required post secondary courses
  • 13% of Utahns with a board-approved certificate
  • 14% of Utahns with associates degree
  • 28% of Utahns with Bachelor's degree
  • 11% of Utahns with graduate degree
  • 90% of graduates employed in chosen field earning living wages or better
Governor Herbert talked about the statistics of public education in Utah.
  • 1,072 neighborhood public schools
  • 97 charter schools
  • 26,000 teachers
  • 600,000 students
  • $3.4 billion on education in 2013-14
  • $6500 per students
  • Need 4% increase in degrees and certificates awarded each year to make the 66% by 2020 goal
At each level, teachers have specific jobs to do.  In elementary, teachers should give students a good start to their education, proficiency in literacy, use of SAGE, and helping students achieve a year of growth.  Middle school teachers should have 90% proficiency in Math and Language Arts and 90% of students taking the EXPLORE test.  In high school, students should take the PLAN and ACT tests, more advanced classes, have an SEOP for transition to post-secondary education, and improve graduation rates.

He also said that education will require a long-term investment.  That as the economy grows and there are more efficiencies in state government that those savings can go to education.  He wants teachers to embrace technology, raise the bar, and realize this will not be easy.  More money is not the cure all, and we need to be more resourceful with our current resources.  "I have confidence in you.  I know your task is not easy."

State Superintendent Menlove said the 2014 legislative requests from the state office include:
  • Money for reading intervention
  • Funds to support middle grade math instruction
  • Technology infrastructure and support
  • Addressing improving graduation rates
Dave Buhler, Commissioner of Higher Education, noted that in 1960, Utah ranked 3rd in the nation for the percent of residents with a Bachelor's degree of higher.  In 1980, Utah had dropped to 8th place, and now Utah is in 21st place.  He also commented that students in high school need to be taking advantage of the opportunity to take rigorous and advanced classes, particularly in math.

The Governor concluded by saying he was "most proud of teachers for doing more with less," that "the best value in public education in the nation is in Utah", and the state "can do better in resources and outcomes."

There was a reception following the faculty meeting where the JEA members were able to meet and talk with Governor Herbert.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Education Nation

NBC’s fourth annual Education Nation activities will take place this year from Sunday, October 6 through Tuesday, October 8 in New York City. The event will explore “What it Takes” to get a student through school and ready to succeed in college, career, and beyond. It is comprised of the following components:
· Student Town Hall: Sunday, October 6, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. ET
· Teacher Town Hall: Sunday, October 6, 12 – 2 p.m. ET
· 2013 Education Nation Summit: Monday, October 7 and Tuesday, October 8, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
On Monday, October 7, President Van Roekel will participate in a panel discussion titled, “What it Takes: Well Trained Teachers.” Moderated by NBC’s Rehema Ellis, the panel will explore current teacher recruitment and training programs in U.S. schools of education, and whether such systems can ensure a pipeline of well-trained talent to prepare students for success in today’s world. Others on the panel include: Governor Jack Markell (D-DE), Andre Perry (Founding Dean of Urban Education at Davenport University), and Deborah Ball (Professor, Univ.of Michigan).
The entire Summit will be streamed live on all day Monday, 10/7 and Tuesday, 10/8. As in years past, the Summit will consist of panel discussions, presentations and one-on-one interviews. The agenda includes a wide range of topics, some social media tools to dive into the #EducationNation discussion are below. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Jordan District Bond

The JEA Executive Board voted to remain neutral on the Jordan District bond issue.  While the members of the JEA Executive Board recognize the need for the bond, and that should the bond not pass, it would be the students (and teachers) who would suffer, they also realize that those who teach and live in the district are hit twice:  once, in not having steps paid 3 of the last 5 years with only a 1% COLA four years ago, and second, by having their taxes raised.  Opening new buildings costs in ongoing operations beyond what the bond pays for. 

JEA has members who are helping with the bond campaign and who have spoken at the School Board and City Council meetings in support of the bond.

I encourage all JEA members to become informed on the bond and vote if they live in the Jordan District boundaries.  We need to look at the big picture and do what is best for students!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Teaching and Leading

I received this article from UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh and wanted to share it.

Five Beliefs That Hold Teachers Back From Leading

By Anthony S. Colucci

Do you believe that you can have a positive impact on education beyond the walls of your classroom? If not, ask yourself why, then give a good hard look at your answers. I’ve seen teacher leaders do great things for our profession—but I’ve also observed false beliefs prevent teachers from blossoming into teacher leaders. Do any of these seem familiar to you?

1) “It’s not my job to get involved in politics.”

There is little doubt that many of the daily frustrations teachers and students encounter are the results of misguided policy. Some of these policies exist because teachers did not make themselves heard prior to their passage. When teachers are inactive politically, we abdicate our influence, usually putting the decisions in the hands of those less informed than we are. Most of us would agree that it’s important to teach students how to become responsible citizens, who keep current with the news, have conversations with their representatives, and vote. How can we claim to instill civic virtue when we do not model it ourselves?

Last year, my students watched me fight for our school by organizing stakeholders and by speaking at school board meetings and rallies. And guess what I realized? “Walking the walk” makes a much greater impact on my students than just telling them what they should do when they are older. I’d go so far as to say that it is part of our job as teachers to be active citizens.

2) “I’m not the best public speaker (or writer or fill-in-the-blank).”

Advocating for our profession means helping policymakers and community members understand what we do and how we think our schools can be improved. But many teachers start out with a deficit mindset. They say, “I can’t do that,” because they don’t have the confidence or skill to do it perfectly.

But you don’t have to be a Pulitzer Prize-winning author to write a blog post or letter to the editor. When it comes to speaking, flawless articulation is not required. Sure, there are tricks we can pick up to improve our skills over time, but knowledge and passion are the keys to powerful communication. Perfectionism will stop teachers dead in our tracks—and, paradoxically, keep us from getting any better.

My advice to teachers who want to lead is to start small. With practice, you’ll become more comfortable and ready to move on to bigger arenas.

Start with an issue that taps into your knowledge and passion as an educator. Write an editorial for your local paper, speak at a PTA meeting, or start a Facebook page dedicated to the issue. You might be surprised by the impact of your seemingly small action. Recently, I was shocked to see that a short column I wrote for my local newspaper garnered national attention.

For teacher leaders, passion must trump perfection!

3) “My administrator doesn’t want me to lead.”

Yes, some administrators don’t support teacher leadership. But there are many administrators out there who feel overwhelmed and appreciate teacher leaders’ fresh perspectives.

And there’s more common ground than we might think. Many administrators do not like unfair evaluation measures or beside-the-point standardized tests any more than we do. In fact, issues that give us headaches often give administrators migraines!

Depending on where we live and what protections our unions afford, we often have less reason to fear repercussions for speaking up than administrators do if they speak up.

For many administrators, it’s not that they don’t want teachers to lead. It’s that they don’t want to be blindsided or put in compromising positions. I never ask an administrator’s permission to write or speak. However, I ask about including information that may put him or her in a difficult situation.

4) “But I’m just a teacher.”

Some teachers don’t want to take on leadership roles because they feel like the bull's-eye on a dartboard. Consider all those memes you’ve seen or posted on Facebook defending what we do.

We shouldn’t let these perceptions prevent us from leading. In reality, teacher-bashing is not a new American sport but it is evidence of the concentrated efforts of a few powerful groups.

The 45th annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll noted that more than 70 percent of Americans have trust and confidence in the men and women who teach in public schools. (That’s the highest level of trust since they started asking the question!)

Bottom line: “The public” is not out to get us. The public includes our neighbors and cousins, our postal carriers and our dentists. They are our former students and the parents of our current students. They have every reason to back us up. (And even if they haven’t asked, they’re curious what we think.)

5) “My students will suffer if I’m not in my classroom.”

Leading as a teacher can mean missing some face-to-face time with our students. Meetings with district and partner organizations may not be able to convene outside the regular business day. The truth is, our school schedules are outdated and inflexible—they don’t allow as much opportunity to lead as they should.

That said, when we do miss class, do our students suffer? Many would attest that just the opposite happens—our students benefit from our absence. For example, I missed a few days of school last year learning how to be a peer coach and then peer-coaching teachers. Carefully analyzing my district’s teacher-evaluation rubric led to me to polish some of my own practices—and observing my peers gave me some great ideas that I then took back to my students and classroom.

(It helps to find a great substitute. Last year, my substitute was a retired teacher who taught lessons effectively and with his own unique twist. The kids loved him—and benefited from the change in routine.)

Teaching is a demanding profession. It is easy for us to let ourselves off the hook. We can allow false beliefs to become excuses that let us close our classroom doors. These beliefs become reasons not to raise our hands or voices. And then, having excused ourselves from involvement, we groan at the consequences of top-down decision making. Help elevate our profession by rejecting these fallacies. Jump in and lead!

Anthony S. Colucci, a National Board-certified teacher, coordinates and teaches in the gifted-student program at three elementary schools in central Florida. He is the author of Copilots, Duties & PiƱa Coladas: How to Be a Great Teacher, as well as a host of articles for Education Week Teacher. A member of the CTQ Collaboratory, he has earned numerous awards for his innovative and creative lessons.

NEA Survey on the Common Core State Standards

Background:  Today as a part of President Van Roekel’s back to School Tour, NEA will release the findings of a member poll on Common Core State Standards.  NEA conducted a survey of more than 1200 members to gauge awareness and opinions of the new Common Core State Standards and their support for its goals.  The findings revealed that the vast majority of educators support the standards. 

Here are the 4 key points from the poll results to underscore:

1.       Our members wholeheartedly embrace the common core standards’ promise – that all students will have an opportunity to learn the same skills they need to succeed, regardless of where they live.
2.       These standards have the potential to be the biggest game changer for public education in a generation.  But in order to fulfill the standards’ worthy goals we need an equal commitment to common sense implementation.  We owe it to our students to provide educators with the time, tools and resources to get it right.
3.       Our members support the Common Core State Standards because they’re the right thing to do for our children. And we all need to work together – parents, educators, administrators, communities and elected officials – to ensure we get this right.  That requires a commitment to the time, tools and resources to ensure that the goals of the standards are realized.
4.       Even as our members strongly support the Common Core State Standards, they have deep reservations that there will continue to be too much emphasis on testing. The polling confirms what our members have said for some time—the current testing focus takes too much time away from student learning. Members also expressed a need to focus on doing things in the right order…we have the standards, now we must focus on aligning curriculum and students’ instruction, and then begin assessments. They are concerned that assessments will begin before schools and educators have had time to align curriculum and that they will be held accountable for those test scores in unfair ways. Based on those beliefs, NEA members also believe states should institute some type of grace period on the accountability provisions of the common core standards in order to give schools more flexibility to implement the standards successfully.

 Basic Frame:  NEA members believe that Common Core State Standards represent a game changer for students and public education if we get implementation of the standards right. There is overwhelming consensus among educators across the country that the Common Core will ultimately be good for students and education.  There are significant challenges associated with implementing Common Core, but the possibilities are far too great for us to throw up our hands and say, “this is just too hard.”  

·         98 percent of NEA members have heard about the standards
·         75 percent of those surveyed support the standards

The Standards:  Educators believe the standards can lead to better instruction, because they don’t dictate how teachers should teach, but they do provide clear goals. NEA members are particularly excited to have the time and freedom they need so their students can gain a greater and deeper understanding of the material.

·         Roughly  40 percent support the standards because they set clearer guidelines and education goals. Twenty five percent support the standards because they provide greater opportunity for all students, and provide more rigorous standards.
·         Teachers in upper grades believe that as the curriculum is laterally integrated, their students will be better prepared to learn and comprehend complex material.

NEA is a strong advocate for coursework that ensures students can think critically, solve problems, and attain global competence.  According to the PDK/Gallup poll released last month:

·         More than 90 percent of Americans believe a well-rounded education which includes activities like music, sports, drama and newspaper is important.
·         Three-fifths of respondents strongly agreed that today’s schools should: teach students how to set meaningful goals (64%); teach students communication skills (78%) and teach students critical thinking skills (80%.) 

These new standards help address inequity by providing a wide set of standards which ensure a complete education for all students, and increase the likelihood that students will persist in school and attain a high school diploma. Common Core State Standards is a positive step in the right direction.

·         NEA members in high poverty districts appreciate that the standards have the potential to increase opportunities for students.

Implementation:  NEA members support the common core standards because they are the right thing to do for our children. We all need to work together –parents, teachers and elected officials – to ensure we get this right.

·         Half of members who support the standards express reservations, but members are more supportive when they feel their districts are prepared to implement the standards—support rises to 87 percent among educators who think their districts are prepared.
·         While they know about and are excited to implement the standards, only a quarter of members report that their districts are ready to implement the new standards, and just a third feel well prepared to teach the new standards at the start of the year.
·         NEA members believe more family involvement would go a long way towards making common core successful, but more than half (55 percent) either say their school or district does not have plans to communicate with parents about the common core, or they do not know about such a plan.

The great promise of Common Core State Standards for students will be realized if the voices and expertise of educators lead efforts to develop relevant and engaging instructional materials to create the strongest next generation of assessments possible. 

·         Asked what measures could be taken to help teachers with the standards, educators cited collaboration time with colleagues, more planning time, updated classroom resources, in-service training and better technology to administer the computer-based assessments.
·         Educators also pinpointed other factors that would help students learn the new standards. Forty-three percent cited smaller class size, 39 percent suggested greater parental involvement, and 22 percent said students need up-to-date books and materials.
·         NEA has established a Common Core Working Group (CCWG) which comprises representation from state affiliates to leverage our collective knowledge and expertise.

It’s no surprise that after a decade of the NCLB test and punish regime, NEA members are wary of the ways in which the standards will be implemented and evaluated.

·         Three in four members who hold back from supporting Common Core cite assessments as the reason for their concern: they believe they won’t have the opportunity to align their curriculum to the standards before their students are tested on the material.
·         More significantly, educators are concerned assessments won’t be used as a tool to help their students, but instead as a weapon to punish their students, their schools and themselves.  More than half believe there will continue to be too much emphasis on testing, stifling their ability to reach out and motivate their students.
·         We know that students’ mastery of the new standards cannot be demonstrated fully or appropriately through the use of the same old multiple choice items on a poorly designed standardized test. These standards will require a new generation of authentic assessment systems that provide students with multiple ways to show what they know.
Social Media Tools: Join in on the conversation on Twitter with hashtags:  #CCSS and #CommonCore

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

USOE Info on School Grading

More Than Half of Utah Schools Earn A’s or B’s in First Release of Grades

SALT LAKE CITY – Fifty-six percent of Utah public schools earned either an A or a B in the first-ever release of school grades in compliance with a new law enacted by the Utah Legislature in 2011, the Utah State Office of Education reported today.
Eleven percent of Utah’s 855 public schools earned an A, 45 percent a B, 30 percent a C, 10 percent a D and 4 percent an F. Grades are based on a combination of student growth and student performance on criterion-referenced tests in language arts, math and science given in the spring of each year. High schools are also judged in part on the additional standard of graduation rates. Schools also had to test at least 95 percent of all their students and 95 percent of their underperforming students. Schools that failed to test enough students were given a grade of F regardless of student performance or growth.

“I invite parents and those interested in the performance of Utah’s public schools to use these school grades as an invitation to further explore our schools and how well students are doing,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Martell Menlove. “These grades are based test performance and growth. I suspect there may be changes in the calculations as we move forward into the next legislative session. There are many other measures of schools. I encourage those of you with students in high schools to look at the results of ACT, SAT and AP tests there. For a parent, the best measure of a school is happens between a student and a teacher.”

The Utah Legislature passed the school grading bill in 2011 and made modifications in 2013. This is the first year a single letter grade has been issued for each school in the state.

All schools can earn up to 300 points by having all students proficient in language arts, math and science. They can earn another 300 points by showing growth for all students and for all students who are below proficient. The fewer students who show proficiency or growth, the lower a school’s grade. Schools with 80-100 percent of the total points for proficiency and growth (or 480-600 points) and growth earned an A, those with 70-79 percent a B, those with the  60-69 percent a C, those with 50-59 percent a D and those at 49 percent or less, an F. High schools earn an additional 150 points based on graduation rates. The graduation rate is multiplied by 150 to determine the number of points (e.g., .70 x 150 = 105). High school grades are based on a 750-point scale.

Individual school grades can be found on the Public School Data Gateway found on the Utah State Office of Education website, Once on the site, type in the name of the school you are interested in to get the school’s report.

Utah Grading School Summary

Utah Grading Schools is based on two main components, students growth and student performance on statewide assessment tests.  (High Schools are also evaluated on graduation rate.)  The system was designed to establish a clear and easily understandable evaluation of Utah Schools by giving each school an A, B, C, D or F.   Below is a summary of the Grade distribution for the school year 2012-2013.

Elem/Middle/Jr. High Schools
High Schools
All Schools
Grade Earned

The graphs below show the percentage of grades distributed by Utah’s low income status quartile.  The 1st quartile consists of schools in the state with the largest concentration of students from low income families while the 4th quartile has the smallest concentration of students from low income families.

                                          Elem/Middle/Jr High Schools                       High Schools

(I know the graph is small.  I tried to make it bigger but couldn't.  Sorry!)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

School Grading

20 Facts about the School Grading Program in Utah
Based on SB271 S3 as Passed in the 2013 Session
Compiled by Dr. Patti Harrington for USBA/USSA/UASBO

1.     SB271 (3rd Substitute) was originally written by Parents for Choice (PCE), the same group that advocated for vouchers in 2007, seeking to use public taxpayer dollars to support for-profit schools.  The bill was sponsored by Senator Stuart Adams but President Wayne Niederhauser developed the bill with PCE and asked Senator Adams to carry the bill.  SB271 S3 was co-sponsored in the House by Representative Greg Hughes.  No public education representatives were included in its development.

2.     SB271 S3 passed on the final day of the 2013 Legislative Session by a narrow margin
(38-36 in the House and 16-10 in the Senate).

3.     This legislation adds yet another school accountability system on top of the Utah Comprehensive Accountability System (UCAS) that was created in response to 2011 legislation and for use in federal accountability and is also in addition to the required annual school improvement plans developed at the local level by school community councils.

4.     The primary political purposes of the bill are touted by Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida.  At the time of Florida’s school grading implementation, Utah outperformed Florida in almost every indicator.  Utah still outperforms Florida in many indicators.  There is no research that connects school grading with school improvement; it remains much more of a political ideology than a research-based practice.

5.     UCAS requires measuring both student proficiency and individual growth scores by all students; SB271 S3 only counts proficiency for all students, thus failing to measure improvement made by students who have the greatest struggles in learning.

6.     The factors in SB271 S3 make it highly unlikely that any high school can change the initial grade they receive and fail to offer any meaningful measures of student or school improvement.

7.     The forced stratification of grades around a mid-point in SB271S3 limits the ability of a school to demonstrate improvement and may actually lower some grades as proficiency rates increase.

8.     Many public education stakeholders actively opposed SB271 S3 and encouraged Governor Herbert to veto it.  The bill was not vetoed in exchange for making some amendments to the bill in a Special Session of the Legislature; President Niederhauser refused to support the call for a Special Session.

9.     The first SB271 S3 grades are set to be released on September 3, 2013.

10.  The School Grading Program will assign failing grades based on participation in end of year tests regardless of unique circumstances at the school level.

11.  The School Grading Program does not allow counting the growth of students who still may be sub-proficient but have made tremendous learning gains.

12.  The School Grading Program treats all schools the same; schools that serve students with disabilities, students in mental health settings, and students in alternative schools will all be graded with the same one-size-fits-all metric.  Most unique schools will receive failing grades.

13.  The School Grading Program is roughly aligned with economic factors in a community, giving higher grades to schools located in wealthy areas and lower grades to schools located in areas of high poverty. 

14.  The School Grading Program will label schools in inaccurate and simplistic ways; not accounting for the myriad of school factors that should be included in a sensible accountability system that reflects complexity and growth aspects of schools and students.

15.  There is no current plan from the Legislature to help schools who receive poor      grades; in fact, the Utah Legislature significantly decreased funding for at-risk and accelerated students the past few years.

16.  The per-pupil legislative allocation in Utah for FY14 is $2,899, up $57 from FY13.  Utah continues to be ranked 51st in the nation in public education per pupil spending.

17.  Ninety-two percent (92%) of parents choose to send their students to Utah’s public traditional schools, including their online and special purpose options; the remaining students attend charter schools and private schools.

18.  A recent poll conducted by Phi Delta Kappa and Gallup Poll measured the public’s attitudes toward the public schools.  Seventy-seven (77%) of America’s parents gave the school their oldest child attended a grade of A or B.  These are the highest grades parents have assigned to their oldest child’s school since the poll began 44 years ago.  Twenty years ago the number was 64 percent (64%).  Locally-elected school board members listen carefully to their parents and work to continue to improve their local schools and the achievement of every child.

19.  Local boards of education support school accountability that:
·         Honors growth by concentrating attention on helping every child grow in their academic achievement and a system which values and recognizes that growth.
·         Makes clear to schools what is needed in order for them to improve in way that even small increments of improvement can be recognized, reinforced and rewarded.
·         Is devoid of limitations which arise from reliance upon a bell-shaped curve.
·         Uses a system which accurately reflects the performance and growth of the school and has a common perception as to the meaning; and
·         Provides assistance to schools which have created an improvement plan, and the resources to implement that plan.

20.  Student Growth Percentiles (SGP)
School Grading is based on student proficiency and growth (and graduation rate for high schools).  Growth is based on the Student Growth Percentile (SGP).  In the past, growth was determined by comparing students regardless of their achievement level.  Everyone was expected to grow the same.  The great value of SGPs is that growth is a measurement based on comparing students from past performance to present performance at the same achievement level. 

 The SGP is calculated by comparing each student with all other students who received the same scale score on the same test ( his/her academic peer), in the previous year and then comparing the scale score of these students the next year to determine their SGP.  So all students with a scale score of 150 (not proficient) the previous year, will receive an SGP of 1 – 99.  Thus, every student, regardless of achievement level, has the possibility of a low or high SGP based on their growth from previous years to the current year.  Students with low achievement can demonstrate high or low growth.  Students with high achievement can demonstrate low and high growth. 

 Then how does SB271 S3 fail to acknowledge significant improvement made by students who have the greatest struggles in learning?    By requiring a pass/fail bar (this year set at the 40th percentile), SB271 S3 prevents the SGP from reaching its full potential of awarding points for all students as it generates fewer points for low growth and higher points for high growth.  This is an attempt to try to force SGPs to be more similar to the value added growth model that the stakeholders rejected in 2012.  That stakeholder group included President Niederhauser, who now is fully rejecting the work of the original stakeholder group on which, he, himself, served. 



Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Strategic Conversations

Notes from the second day of the administrative conference.  This is a long post, but this is what principals were trained in.  I found it insightful into my own interactions as JEA President and as a Sixth Grade Teacher working within a PLC.
Guest speaker Dr. Robyn Johnson – - @Robyn_mindsteps

Building Mastery
Challenges of leading
·         How do I give effective feedback that actually changes practice?
·         How do I effectively follow up with ineffective employees?
·         What do I do with an employee who won’t admit that s/he is ineffective?
·         What do I do about a person I really don’t believe can get better?
She believes any teacher can become a master teacher with the right support and practice.
She talked about her experience evaluating teachers and how they came to fear her, they would give a “performance” rather than show genuine teaching, and they weren’t improving based on feedback.
Will and Skill
·         Effectiveness is a result of both skill and their will
·         Will: a teacher’s motivation to do what is best for students, the school community, and the profession.
·         Skill:  a teacher’s capacity and ability to implement instruction effectively.  This includes both pedagogical and subject area knowledge.
Four Types of Teachers
·         Low will/low skill:  retired on job, collecting paycheck for little work, kids like these teachers for little work and low expectations
·         High will/low skill:  often newer teachers, love kids, enthusiastic, kids and parents like these teachers because they love kids, can become low will/low skill if not lead appropriately, if you build their skill they can become a high will/high skill
·         High will/high skill:  motivated, know what they’re doing, smart, love kids, good with kids, innovators, they transform students and/or school, most neglected as far as feedback goes, they want feedback especially positive feedback, growth is up to them, typically complain about working conditions, if not supported they become low will/high skill
·         Low will/high skill:  good teacher, knows how to pass evaluation, start mutiny, have union on speed dial, blames others, ones who refuse to do what they are asked, cannot evaluate them out, push back for sake of pushing back, were likely a high will/high skill at one point, if don’t support their skills will erode and they become low will/low skill
Teachers move within the types of teachers.  Change of assignment, change of administrator, life events, or different group of students, can cause teachers to move among the types throughout a day, a school year, or career.  This is not about good and bad teachers.  Helps principals know how to approach different types of teachers and what type of help to give them.
We believe in every child, every day, but something changes when we think about adults.  How can we believe in every child but not in every teacher?
What do you do if have low will/low skill teacher who gets better, but their reputation in the community is still low?  Constantly talk about how every teacher is moving toward mastery.  Show parents that every teacher is improving and growing.  Highlight changes that teachers have made in newsletter or on website. 
Systemic approach to excellence in the classroom so there isn’t a different expectation at another school. 
You cannot solve a WILL problem with a SKILL solution.  You cannot solve a SKILL problem with a WILL solution.                                 
JPAS Domains chart – Will/Skill

Will – Does the teacher . . .
Skill – Can the teacher . . .
Managing the classroom
Treat every student fairly?
Create a positive classroom culture?
Effectively manage student behavior?
Organize space for learning?
Delivering instruction
Demonstrate flexibility and responsiveness?
Communicate with students?
Use effective questioning techniques?
Provide engaging instruction?
Interacting with students
Encourage reluctant students?
Acknowledge learning efforts?
Check for understanding?
Provide effective feedback?
Submit lesson plans?
Plan for all students’ needs?
Demonstrate high expectations?
Design effective assessments?
Demonstrate an understanding of the curriculum?
Professional responsibilities
Reflect on teaching?
Contribute to a PLC?
Maintain accurate records?
Behave in a professional manner?

Four levels of skill
·         Novice
·         Apprentice
·         Practitioner
·         Master
Building skill
·         Differentiated practice

Skill level
Has minimal exposure/experience/expertise.
Needs to acquire a concrete understanding of what it takes to be a good teacher.
Is building expertise but still needs supervision.  Can perform some more routine tasks on their own.
Needs to internalize the standards and principles in order to become independent problem solvers and develop their own “teacher sense”.
Makes accurate and reliable judgments.  Teaching practice shows both skill and economy.  Can teach others.
Needs help integrating skills into a seamless performance and develop adaptive expertise.
Can deal with unusual and tough cases.  Judgments set best practice, standards, regulations, or ideal.  Practice is seamless.
Needs help remaining mindful in their practice.

·         Deliberate practice
o   Evaluation
o   Elaboration
o   Observation
o   Practice
o   Feedback
o   Coaching
o   Collaboration
o   Reflection

·         Developmental practice
o   Must pass through skill levels gradually by changing approach as move through levels.
o   Not going to be an expert immediately.
o   Novice – acquire
o   Apprentice – apply
o   Practitioner – assimilate
o   Master – adapt
§  Same rigor framework used for students
Four Will Drivers
·         Autonomy: I have some control over the things that matter to me.
·         Mastery:  I can get good at the things that matter to me.
·         Purpose:  I am involved in something that matters.
·         Belonging:  I am important to people who matter.
Each person has a different key will driver.  The other three can be in place, but if that key will driver is not met, the others won’t matter.  Need to know your own key will driver, because it impacts your relationship with others. 
Improving school wide – implementing changes
·         Explore – why, skills development (4-6 weeks)
·         Expect – checking to see if doing (3-4 weeks)
·         Evaluate – see at high quality based on feedback (6-8 weeks)
·         Extend – individualizing (ongoing)
Example:  Carolina High School
·         Administrative Training – needed to align feedback
·         Initial rigor PD for all staff
·         Differentiated PD based on four levels of teacher skill
·         Ongoing observations and discussions
·         Improved instructional quality
·         Common core implementation with fidelity
·         Improved test scores
Example:  Marion County, Florida
·         Administrator training on will and skill
·         Administrator training on strategic conversations
·         Increased fidelity among administrators with the observation tool
·         Increase quality in teacher feedback and significant teacher growth
Example:  Connecticut
·         Training on strategic conversations
·         Increased interaction and accountability
·         Increased follow up with struggling teachers
·         Increased administrator comfort with difficult conversations
Strategic Conversations for Instructional Leaders
Teachers tell you how they need to be led based on complaints, comments, or behavior.  These show their will diver. 
A series of targeted, individualized interactions with teachers that are designed to help them significantly improve their instruction.  Take into account their skill and their will and will driver.  Not one-sided.  Jointly working to solve a problem.
Why strategic conversations?
·         Engage teachers as partners
·         Create joint ownership over the problem and solution
o   Help teacher fix his/her own problem
·         Tap into shared knowledge and expertise
·         Gain cooperation rather than compliance
Match the conversation to each teacher's needs

Reflective conversation: help teachers make connections between their attitudes and approach and student achievement.
·         Low will/low skill: must reflect on something specific and concrete, may take several days, not a good starting place for these types of teachers High will/low skill: struggle with connection because they don't know enough, they want to answer the question but may not be able to make the connection High will/high skill: love these types of conversations Low will/high skill: help you (questioner) reflect, bounce ideas off this type of person and ask for their opinion, establish trust and start building on the topic, you need to be vulnerable first

Dr. Jackson referenced Brene Brown's The Power of Vulnerability video on YouTube and said that leaders must be vulnerable first.

Need to be reflective ongoing, not just after the evaluation.

Facilitating conversations: help teachers make commitments to improve their instructional practice.

·         Low will: this is place to start, may have to revisit multiple times to gain commitment, share data and give feedback and decide on commitment

Coaching conversations: help teacher make corrections to their teaching behaviors to improve student achievement Low will: commit to fixing before suggesting corrections High will/low skill: welcome this type of conversation, love coaching, be careful because they can become dependent on coaching High will/high skill: they will often come to you to ask for coaching, if not they will try to figure it out on their own

·         When coaching, give people two options to fix the problem then let the teacher choose. Can determine a viable third option.

Directive conversations: help teachers make changes in their teaching behavior because it puts students in immediate danger or because they have not responded to other supports.

·         Too often default to this type of conversation, but really don't need to use this very often.
·         Usually document this kind of conversation.
·         High will/high skill: if no kids in immediate danger use a facilitative conversation, directive will kill motivation Should follow up within two days with a reflective conversation so the teacher can talk about the direction given.  Trying to process at the time just makes the situation worse.

Follow up

·         plan a series of interactions rather than just one
·         stay the course even when things become uncomfortable, frustrating, or seem to be going nowhere.  Don't stop too soon.

This is not going to be easy. You need to decide if you are going to continue doing what you have done in the past, or are you going to commit to looking at individuals will and skill and having appropriate conversations with them.

Some schools take 2-3 years to make changes. Dramatic change is right around the corner, and we often stop too soon.