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!)