Sunday, June 7, 2009

Tech Cohort 2 Summer Training

We hope this BLOG finds you enjoying the summer sun and time to re-energize. We wanted to send an exciting note to everyone letting you know that our laptops have arrived! Our Tech Cohort 2 is on schedule, and we are really looking forward to getting everyone on board with the new instructional tools.

As we shared in our May meeting, we will be compensating everyone for the training time this summer. We have budgeted 8 hours for each staff member at $25 per hour. The plan is to have everyone come for the first meeting “Care and Feeding of your Mac” for four hours. Then, after that initial session, the other two training sessions will be 2 hours each. Following each session, we will be sending everyone off with assignments geared to familiarize you with use of your laptop. It promises to be fun.

Each session will be held in the library media center and start at 9:00. We will provide pizza on each training day, so bring your own drink. The dates for the sessions are:
Session 1: June 22nd (4 hours)
Session 2: July 20th (2 hours)
Session 3: August 10th (2 hours)
A make-up session will be offered on July 30th. If you are unable to attend the first four-hour session, we will be able to provide a small group at your first attended session.

In addition to our TPACK (technological, pedagogical, content knowledge) training, Benton staff will be focusing on student management and motivation next year in our School Improvement Plan (SIP). We are bringing in Jim Knight and company to help us get to the center of what it takes to keep our kids motivated and focused in our classes. One goal is to create a school-wide management system that we can all use to build the best instructional environment for our students all while ensuring that they stay enrolled in school and make it to their graduation day.

We are really looking forward to seeing you in a few weeks. Dress is completely casual for this training – flip flop appropriate, as I like to say.

Until June 22nd…
Jeanette, Jeff, Luke and Sean
(For the new folks: feel free to contact us at school at 816-671-4030 or log-in at either of the following sites:

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Back in Business & Ready to Roll!


We have so many things to celebrate, I figured we might might as well make a week of it! I hope
you all love it. We missed National Teacher Week and Day last week with all the EOC testing and meetings, but we are not going to miss it entirely. Jeff, Luke, Z and I are going to help you celebrate you by hosting FOOD all week long! The menu will follow.

ALSO, we missed Secretaries Day the week before -- and you all know we can NOT do without
them! I officially declare WEDNESDAY of this week to be for the secretaries. You should bring them presents or give them hugs or something. They really do make the world turn at Benton. Please celebrate with me.

We have award winners in our midst that we need to celebrate! On WEDNESDAY, we will have
an assembly during 5th hour (unless Z overturns this decision and changes the day). During that assembly, we will honor CHOIR state winners, BAND state winners, INDUSTRIAL TECHNOLOGY state winners, and JROTC will present their special routines (Stackhouse and Rivera, you decide which routine to display). If I've missed any students that should be honored -- email me ASAP and we'll put them on the agenda.

On Friday, we have our Scholarship Assembly to honor our award winning seniors. Please
thank our counselors (particularly Nancy), as they put a TON of work into this! After the assembly, our NHS seniors will be honored with their end-of-year picnic. Be prepared for those seniors to be out of class Friday afternoon.

It's time to share leadership. Starting on Tuesday (after school, the room next to my office), we are going to begin planning the CAMP for next year. This is a MAJOR initiative for Benton for 2009-2010. If you want a voice, leadership experience, or an opportunity to direct how BHS operates next year, you might want to be there.

Climate Control Committee:
With our new technological trend, I see this committee being analogous to upgrading to a digital thermostat. It's time to upgrade how we respond to "hot" items in our building -- from our high failure rate, to classroom discipline, from dropping attendance, to our our ever increasing alternative school referral and drop out rate. This committee provides another opportunity for leadership. If you have an opinion on any of these topics, this committee is for you. We are meeting after school on Thursday (in the office next to mine).

Professional Development in 2009-2010
Your department should be talking about this pretty often by now. Our School Improvement Plan is due by June 1st. Your Department Improvement Plan is due now. Our goals remain the same, but the SIP goal committees have made a few changes in strategies and action steps. I think you'll like them. The goals remain as follows:

1. Close the achievement gap. These really lands on department best practices, changing practice in order to improve our testing data (ie. include ACT in curriculum AND begin to work on improving benchmark scores) and identifying students who are really at risk and doing something REALLY different for them.
2. Improve our graduation rate (we have to keep our kids in school at Benton)
3. Improve our attendance rate
4. Implement a four year technology plan (we are in year two, and as of last week -- we will be able to continue our implementation bringing on all staff with constructivist learning using Web 2.0 tools)

The district is changing the way they do business in the way the offer PD for content areas. Next year, each department will be given time to focus even more on their best practices and will have the funding to do so. There will be additional district department PD times. Look for the dates and times from your coordinators and department chairs.

Power School PD -- Power school is our new student information system that will roll out on June 8th. Principals and secretaries will be trained over the summer, but expect training at the beginning of the year. This web-based system will take a little getting used to, but it will be a great asset to our improvement plan.


May 31, 2009; 7:00 p.m. @ Civic Arena
This year, all three high schools will offer formal ceremonies with staff participation in the processional. It makes for an incredible memory when our students see their teachers at graduation for one last hurrah! I hope you all can carve an hour or so out of your schedule to share this time with the Class of 2009. If you plan to attend, please contact Debby Fry as soon as possible to reserve your gown. We will have a short video and directions for all staff members participating in order to make sure everyone is comfortable with the entrance. I promise, you will not be disappointed if you can celebrate this one last time with your students!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

April 12 & 19: Too Sad To Speak

Sorry so silent, Cardinals. It's been a tough few weeks with our levy and bond initiative failing. I've finally informed all staff who will not return of their future. The cuts are still not set. Fees will rise. I will post our future plans soon.

I appreciate your continued efforts for our students. You are true professionals.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Week 29: One Day

April 7th: Vote Yes Twice

As I sat in church this morning, Darrell Jones, my pastor, shared how this week was the church's week -- with a celebration of Palm Sunday to start it and Easter Sunday to complete it.

It is not lost on me that the election for the school district levy and bond falls within this encapsulated week. It's a powerful thought. As my pastor shared passages from Luke, he made a statement that seemed to have a double message in my life:

"It's about you and me making a difference in the Jerusalem in which we live."

I have always felt called to make a difference in the lives of children. I work hard to make that difference matter. I have felt God's grace in my efforts. As Pastor Darrell finished up, he asked us to "recognize the significance of the day." He is, obviously, referring to Easter -- but in my life, there was a double message in that statement.

Tuesday is also a significant day in our lives . It will, in many ways, determine the future of the city in which many of us live. It absolutely will affect the place where we all work. It's time for the Benton staff to make a difference in our community. We must get out and vote on Tuesday. This really is about you and me making a difference in the community in which we live.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Week 28: The Future Looks Like This!

Great Find!

Kerry Shepherd posted this link to a video about the Networked Student on Virtual Southside today. It's worthy for all to watch -- only five minutes! This is where we are going with our kids next year. Exciting times. Thanks Kerry!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Week 27: CAMPing @ BHS

Why Are We Going CAMPing?

Background Knowledge: Carn
egie Units, Advisement and School Hour Changes
The 2009-2010 school calendar will change significantly from previous years. First semester will begin August 19th and end December 22nd. This is a tremendous advantage for our high school students allowing a smart and logical break in educational units of time – for final exams as well as for transfers and transcripting purposes – with the end of the semester occurring before they leave for the winter holiday break.

Meeting Carnegie Unit Requirements
Our courses are offered on a time unit called a Carnegie Unit which requires 120 hours of instruction to earn one unit of high school credit (or 60 hours for ½ credit) for a course. By ending the semester prior to the winter break, the semester would have been 10 days shorter in the first semester of 2009-2010 school year, so it accommodated by starting earlier than the previous year. With that in place, there was still a time shortage for each class that totals to five minutes per class. Last fall, Dr. Dial asked all the high school principals to provide a potential schedule to accommodate the additional five minutes per class. I posted an option on Virtual Southside and sent an email to all staff to read it and comment. I made the appropriate changes and submitted the following schedule which added only five minutes to our school day:

1/2 7:40 – 9:08
3/4 9:12 – 10:40
5/6 10:44 – 1:08 (Announcements 10:45-10:50)
7/8 1:12 – 2:40

Note: Several suggestions were made to just simply add 20 minutes to the school day. All high school principals stood in favor of teacher time and plan time to maintain current hours of operation, and all three high schools added less than 10 minutes to the daily schedules therefore not effecting after school activities, bus schedules and teacher after hour work times.

New Schedule; New Challenges
So, with the new schedule comes a few challenges. As the schedule shows, we will offer only four blocks a day and with the addition of five minutes per class comes the sacrifice of the allotted time for our academic lab period. Currently, a few very good programs are in operation during that time – several innovative teachers and counselors have spent academic lab time increasing student learning in their own content area, on ACT skills, or in specialty student needs groups. FMPs spend time with the freshmen tutoring and building relationships. So what do we do with these programs? How do we continue with ideas that we know are working for our students in a day when the schedule no longer provides the minutes? I’m so glad you asked.

SGMS Advisement Success
Last week I was talking about how well advisement had worked with the Spring Garden 8th graders who will come to us this fall. Their plan began last year with all instructional personnel at SGMS being assigned 8-10 students each to advise and mentor. Jeff, Luke and I, along with all our counselors, went to Spring Garden and saw advisement in action. It was amazing. I talked to several parents about the advisement process, and although they were not totally clear on the program, they did think it was impressive that one teacher took the time to maintain a vested interest in their child. The program will come to Benton starting next year. In order to put it into place, we must begin planning now.

Cardinal Advisement & Mentoring Program (CAMP): Commencing 8.19.09
Yep, we’re going to CAMP! It’s going to be fun! We are going to get close to our kids. We will keep them with us until they graduate. We will present a more formalized program proposal to the Leadership Team on April 22nd during the team retreat, but I would like for you to talk with your department chairs and give them ideas or concerns to bring with them to the retreat. To do that, I need to share the basics.
1. We will “save” time from out 5th/6th hour to create a bubble of time to meet with our CAMP kids. We will meet two times monthly with our CAMPers
2. We will create a CAMP schedule which allows you to meet with our CAMP kids; the schedule will offer CAMP time during 3/4 block then in two weeks in 5/6 block in order to allow at least one meeting per month with Hillyard students.
3. We will allow each adult (secretaries, maintenance, and nutrition will not be assigned students) to select students – sort of in a draft style – with every adult having 2 students from each grade. Each adult will also have at least TWO ornaments on their team – you can even keep your one from this year!

Feedback Time
Feel free to pose questions. Feel free to add to the idea. Feel free to be critical. We need to look at this from every single, solitary perspective possible. Give the information to your department chair to bring the LT retreat. You can also email it to Jeff, Luke or me – but please don’t expect answers. This is up to the Leadership Team and they will decide based on what you tell them! I’m excited. I love CAMPing!

P.S. Luke is an Eagle Scout. You know he will be good at this!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Week 26: The Leading Edge: How Can Benton get There?

What does it mean to be
leading edge in education in 2009?

As we begin to update our plan for the 2009-2010 school year, I find myself wondering about something I perceive to be extraordinarily significant. I wonder if it’s important to my staff at Benton to be a school on the leading edge of progress?

I guess in order for each individual staff member to make that decision, one would have to know what being a “leading edge school” entails in education in 2009. I can only offer a limited idea of what that looks like from our corner of the state, but I would enjoy constructing a list that encompasses insights from across the nation – maybe even across the oceans. Funny thing is, the only way I have to offer what it leading edge is in some instances is to offer what it isn’t.

First of all, I think leading edge in 2009 is a school that is enriching instructional offerings. The offerings must be grounded in standards, and I heard that Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, is offering national standards.

Secondly, I think schools must rethink what constitutes a school day, semester credits, and a school year. President Obama has been throwing around the idea for a few weeks now.
Crazy thing is, Missouri’s current process is perpetuating the value of attendance over what the attendance gains us. Our students must sit in rooms or travel room to room to hear about it when all they desire is to practice their learning. That practice along with more realistic relativity to the information being taught is critical to student learning. We must stop the preaching and reach out to the different ways. In our school – we are calling that constructivism. In science classes in our district, it’s referred to as inquiry learning. In our social studies departments, it’s called problem-based learning (PBL). It’s coming to all four core areas with heavy implications to the electives.

Thirdly (sounds funny, but it’s legitimate), we must address what it takes for a student to “graduate” from grade to grade and finally from high school. Our current system is not rewarding the learning – it continues to reward the time served. The placid practice of earning a grade is, ironically, so lacking in motivation for students. Oh sure, it works in the short term, but for resistant or struggling learners, it’s deleterious. Without question, at Benton we are finding the issue of failing grades to lack of credits indelibly paralleling our alternative referral rates.

Students are leaving us their junior and senior years to sit in front of computers to learn what they need to learn in order to pass the GRE test (as well as the national and MO constitution tests), and earn an identical diploma to one earned from our own institution. Sounds enticing, doesn’t it? According to our latest data, Benton has 118 referrals so far this year compared to Lafayette’s 25 or so. Central also has less than us. I certainly think to be leading edge – practice must change. Albert Einstein said it best; “Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.”

Finally, and possibly most importantly, there is technology. We must embrace it. At this point in time, but the most appropriate way to consider integration is through TPACK.
I am excited to say we at Benton, we are preparing for a faculty launch. Not unlike the Space Shuttle, we might be delayed by poor weather, but we WILL launch. I think our focus will be blogging to start – since we have piloted our start with our Virtual Southside technology cohort – but all educators interested in being leading edge must hook up with Alltop (Education),
all the top blogs on education in the nation. To learn how to blog – either as a professional, in professional development or in your classroom, you will see the best of the best modeled here.

And so, Benton High School, with that said, I must ask you this. Are you ready to be leading edge? I realize it will take work, but more so, it will take your dedication. Dedication is to several things – our kids, each other, and change. We will never settle for good enough. We decided that years ago – remember our embracing good to great? This is where the rubber hits the road. Time to check your bus ticket. All aboard!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Week 25: March 2-6, 2009

Ironically, an appropriate analogy of our school improvement.

Yahoo! We did it! The district walkthrough felt great! Although each part of the year-long process was arduous – for our staff, the leadership team, the BAR team and administration -- it was worth each step along the way. Both Mrs. Patterson and Dr. Dial had huge praise for the progress Benton’s staff has made on our journey of school improvement. They both gave us kudos for specific improvements we have made on our SIP and DIPs as well as giving us some very important critical feedback on areas to focus on in our SIP next year.

First and foremost, let’s celebrate what we did well. Both Mrs. Patterson and Dr. Dial reported they saw evidence of our literacy program embedded deeply in our school. In classroom after classroom they witnessed teachers and students engaged in reading – either through Eyes Past Print (EPP) or individual student reading. Tech cohort teachers were actively using technology in their classrooms – a strong testament to the continued, powerful success of our pilot program – and what Mrs. Patterson was most impressed about in the those classroom was that the lessons were based in constructivist instruction.

The most exciting feedback, however, came in two specific areas. One was on our student work displays. Both Patterson and Dial claimed that Benton had, without question, the best exhibition of student work displays they have ever – and they both emphasized the “ever” – seen in high schools. Not only were the displays best in quantity; both viewed numerous displays with exceptional quality.

The second area of distinction, and what we all agreed was the most powerful area of improvement, was how each department’s best practice was in some way evident in every classroom they entered or in the window into their classroom as seen in the display of student work. Patterson and Dial carried a list of best practices with them on the walkthrough, which your teams established in your department improvement plans, with intent to determine what level of department improvement was implemented. Interestingly, they both noted which departments were more successful as a team coming together in their improvement and which departments were more individualized. All in all, they were impressed at the success of our use of Department Improvement Plans to build toward our school improvement!

Here is comes, but before we share that with you, allow me one aside….

Sean handed me a book a few days ago called Mindset (Dweck, 2006). It’s definitely leadership team EPP material, but one excerpt about how certain people dealt with failure (which is what I am pushing to parallel with our critical feedback) was very eye opening for me. In her research about those individuals, Dweck said,

“What did they know? They knew that human qualities, such as intellectual skills, could be cultivated through effort. And that’s what they were doing – getting smarter. Not only weren’t they discouraged by failure, they didn’t even think they were failing. They thought they were learning.”

I realized that in each walkthrough, Patterson’s and Dial’s critical feedback set us up for learning. There are people, according to Dweck, who choose a “fixed mindset” which evokes defensiveness or stubborn resolve in their approach, but the “growth mindset” allows individuals to use [critical feedback] to sharpen practice – even if it stands in greatness. It goes without question that Jeff, Luke and I would challenge you to join us in the growth mindset – to learn with us as we continue to improve not only our own practice, but education as we provide it for our students.

As a school, we were given two major challenges:
1. Align. Align your curriculum objectives to your lessons. Align your lessons to your student work. Align your objectives to our scoring guides and rubrics. Align your scoring guides and rubrics in your common collaborative courses. [We, okay “I,” started to take a fixed mindset here and defend how we were working on this, and then I realized – they’re right; we can do much, much better at this.] This means revisiting our focus on understanding how to unpack objectives and fit that to the rest of the process.
2. Embed each department in their best practice so that no matter what classroom you enter there is obvious and overwhelming evidence of their best practice.

Mrs. Patterson and Dr. Dial debriefed us by departments, which we felt was very helpful. Jeff, Luke and I met later Friday night (meetings kept us there until 4:30 which is why your walkthrough letter is so late in its posting) to finally debrief the walkthrough, and we realized that some of the feedback must be delivered to departments individually. Why? Because there is no guarantee on mindset, I suppose. There are ideas, questions, and discussion that need to be done in a more intimate setting. With that said, we will not include everything in this public forum. Here are some of the more generalized comments from Patterson and Dial:

Communication Arts: Good job on attempting readers and writers workshops as noted in the DIP. No one asked you to do this, and you still went there on your own. What is guiding you? Why isn’t your entire team studying and implementing similarly? Excellent collaboration was noted as seen in the CA10 common student work display. We will separately department debrief on: reading strategies, purpose for reading, accountability, essential outcome setting, independent reading improvements, and conferencing.

Special Education: We must work on establishing instructional curriculum, setting prioritized essential outcomes, and understanding how to unpack them in the entire gamut of the instructional process. Continue to work with core coordinators for alignment. For further discussion: student work displays, integrating objectives with IEP objectives, courses offered by grade by curriculum.

Social Studies: The parts of PBL that must now be evident are the noted professional development areas last year and this year. Those non-negotiable elements include the entry document, the comparison or need to know chart, the problem statement, and coaching. Discussion on the difference between problem and product must be ongoing. The framework is present. Topics for further discussion: work on how to thicken the PBL unit, full department implementation, missing PBL aspects.

Mathematics: The synergy in the work displays of common courses was positively noted. We were told not to take that for granted. Several discussions questioning current operating practices and how teachers were questioning their own practice showed true growth in the department mindset. Continued reflection on practice and how to change failures was encouraging. Patterson strongly suggested we encourage and increase the voice of those ready to look at a constructivist approach. For further discussion: purpose of student work displays, continued level of failures, moving past using basic skills issue, and classroom visits for changing practice. Research Daggett.

Science: Evidence of “claim, evidence, reasoning” was noted in most rooms. Use of common terminology was strong, but avoid “cookbook approach to inquiry.” Need to see current practice tweeked to provide higher level of rigor. Labs (displays) showed huge potential. Saw some evidence of science notebooking. For further discussion: Increasing notebooks to include more than labs/vocabulary but also reflection, scoring mechanism on scoring guides, and student work displays (alignment).

Foreign Language: Need ideas for different paths and purposes to learn, need to focus on new instruction coming at the start of the school year, not past semester. For further discussion: alignment, new or refocused DIP best practice.

Business: Where are we in technology integration with cohort learning? Is best practice problem or project based learning? What is the difference? Can the department differentiate? Why did you select (project or problem) the one you did? Best practice is scoring guides/rubrics – did they study the difference? What is basis for displayed scoring mechanism? Where is the process shown in work displays? For further discussion: scoring points on rubrics, rigor level of problem/projects, alignment to curriculum.

Industrial Technology: Same as business with addition to display of student work needs to be thicker with application of scoring/assessment. For further discussion: where is the curriculum in the process of learning? How does the curriculum align to their best practice as shown in their scoring guides/rubrics?

FACS: Same as business and IT. For further discussion: analyze issue of student failures, make plan to decrease.

Fine Arts: Beautiful displays throughout. What a tremendous improvement over the last two years. Why not display the curriculum objective with the student name, selection title? Make display cardholder permanent. For further discussion: What is your plan for your DIP after your common scoring guide?

PE/JROTC: Wow, you had displays. Good job. Are you really implementing EPP? If yes, evidence and how. If not, why not? Gradual Release was your best practice. For further discussion: what does your best practice look like? How will a supervisor know it when they see it? What is different about GR than what you are currently doing?

Counseling: Thanks for the food. Is Prep HQ really a “best practice” strategy or one tool to reach a best practice? How are you measuring Prep HQ? For further discussion: Where does advisement fit into your learning? How are you using EPAS (apart from how the departments are using it)?

Leadership Team & BAR Team: your work is clear and evident. The numerous commendations given to you two teams by your three administrators shows your true leadership and your impact to the improvement of Benton High School. What more can you do? What would take you to the next level? Where can you move to so that you own the process a bit more? I challenge you to find that step.

Tech Cohort: You have established a true pilot for the district. Your work is just beginning. Please continue to push hard to keep your practice grounded in constructivist learning. You are leading the way for high schools. Your administration tells me you will study TPACK, and without having further researched it myself, I believe it is exactly where we want to go as a district. Keep a strong push to integrate this into your classrooms.

From Jeff, Jeanette and Luke: Great job you guys! Thanks for your hard work. We tremendously thank those of you who continue to take our school improvement to heart. We realize it is just too easy to make this a hoop jump or to sit back in your teacher chair and make this about you. We are here for the students. We are here to make sure they are given the very best we have. We hope you are here to be the best. We hope you know the three of us are here to try to make sure you are the best. When a school joins together – truly joins together – to improve, everyone benefits. We thank you again for joining hands with us as we learn together.

With deep respect,

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Week 24: February 23-27


The image helps. We started the 2008-2009 SIP journey slightly less than one year ago.

It took great thinking on the part of the Leadership Team. It took great thinking on the part of each department. That day at TMC birthed Library 2.0. Then the thinking lessened and finally settled as the plan took shape, the work became less and less.

Then it started again -- this time with implementation. It was tough to implement our goals to gain improvement. Goal 1 -- Raise scores. We said we would read more, test better, implement best practices in each department. Goal 2 -- Increase attendance. We all wondered how. Goal 3 -- Reduce drop outs. The BAR team was created. The data was overwhelming. The implementation gave us hope. The data remained flat. Goal 4 -- well, our pilot cohort has its ups and downs. Time commitment issues.

It was frustrating. For all of us. The math department and I own the second large dot on the second set around that circle. I learned much that collaboration day -- about myself and the frustration of implementing school improvement. Then science grapples with inquiry. Social studies would rather throw things -- mostly at me -- as we work through reading improvement. I wonder at what point we ALL own school improvement. I ponder how to truly make that happen.

And so, we are two weeks away from sharing our school improvement with Mrs. Patterson and Dr. Dial. As we meet these last weeks with each department to review your data collection for your DIPs, I want to give you a few tips on what we are looking for:

1. Each department should prepare a single presentation piece (probably a notebook) for your DIP data (arranging by goal seems easiest).
2. Each DIP needs to be walked through, goal by goal, action step by action step, and data must be collected.
3. Analyze your data and summarize it for your DIP (one or two bullet points with samples)
4. Keep notes on Next Steps for the 2009-2010 DIP. This will really help our department for next year's DIP.

Okay everyone. Get your display of student work up. Get your data analyzed. We're on the final LARGE CIRCLE set of closing our SIP circle. Remember, it's a boat-load of work up front, but it quickly lessens. If you have questions -- don't hesitate to check with us!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Week 23: Feb 17-20

Sewing Down the Letters of My ODD and EVEN life

After a week’s hiatus, which my oldest son Matt told me not to feel guilty about, as the ability to not post constantly was the beauty of the blog, I find myself inside an analogy. You see, someone took Benton’s ODD and EVEN signs. It’s not vital to the day-in, day-out operations of our school, but it’s amazing how many people rely on those silly little signs. I’ve had the remaking of those signs on my list for almost two months now. That and about a thousand other things. Now, I try not to whine about how busy I am – no, really – and I know I am in good company (yes, I hear you say it too). I felt like I got beat up week before last and so my response was to fall back, lick my wounds, and come back stronger and smarter.

Here I am. No longer at ODDs with what has got to be progress (what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger); but more on an EVEN keel. I realized that I have a gazillion things I want to talk about with everyone – the very everyone’s that I run out of time to talk to during the school day. So, with that said, I will begin my series of posting on the following idea: BUT… before I start (and that might even be as soon as tomorrow), promise you will respond. Benton High School has blogable issues that we must communicate about. We HAVE TO, and I really mean HAVE TO, hash these things out. We have two weeks before we our walk through. One week later, our BIP (building improvement plan) is due. We have six weeks before the community VOTES about our future. We have two months before we MAP. Throw in master scheduling, five more grading cycles, prom, finals and graduation – geez, we need to talk!

Okay folks, here’s my tentative list of topics for the next few weeks:
1. Grading – where is it getting us?
2. School and Department Improvement Plans – paperwork or improvement?
3. To Survey or Not to Survey – what do we want to know?
4. Technology – Our future, kids’ future – You in or out?
5. Fighting the Frustration and Fatigue

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Week 21: February 2-6, 2009


Living Large On-Line

It's time to get everyone started toward SIP goal #4. School year 2009-2010 brings Benton High School to TPACK -- not just a cohort of instructors -- ALL of us! To begin getting everyone in the swing, Clay Burell's link below is a MUST READ that Sean sent by way of Twitter.

If you do NOTHING ELSE this week, read Clay Burell's blog entitled, "Snark Attack: UCLA Research Dissing Technology Bombs!" COMPLETELY!

Take the time to explore every link and YouTube inclusion. You will grow professionally this week in ways you can not imagine! This is the beginning of Benton 2.0 and you are a part of it!

Image credits: Static.flicker:

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Week 20: January 26-30, 2009


As the data walkthrough gets closer and closer, I grow more and more concerned with the feeling that our staff is not connected to our school improvement plan. I have to ask...WHY?

In order to tie everyone to the plan, we have department improvement plans. I see the department chairs somewhat invested in those plans. Is the rest of the department invested? Maybe it's due to the fact that our plans are to broad -- too vague. Is that true? What causes an entire staff to work toward improvement? Do we have what it takes?

I thought her presentation was inspiring. I have seen that several teachers are already implementing her strategies. I am so enthused when I see this occur. Then, I am afraid when I see other staff members remain aloof and uninspired. It makes me wonder why. It makes me wonder if I will ever find out. It also makes me wonder if perhaps Benton is on a path they don't agree with. What happens then?

It's time for the tough reflection. It's also time for the administration to set the vision for Benton's future on the table. Who are we? Where are we going? What do we see in our academic future? What do we see in our technology future? Where are we going with department accountability? Teacher accountability? Administrator accountability? What do we want for our students? Have we set the bar high enough? Have we set it too high? Are we willing to give what it takes to get there or are we going to settle?

I think the answers must come from all three of us. We will post this by Wednesday. The deadline for requesting a transfer is February 1st. We think our staff deserves to know the future expectations in order to know where the Benton bus is going.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Week 19: January 12-16, 2009

Presidential Moments

If you're wondering what the agenda is for January 20th at Benton High School, wonder no longer. It's not like we will be as busy as President-Elect Obama and his family for his inauguration!

Here is the schedule for our day:
7:30 - 8:45 Department Meetings (breakfast on your own)
8:45 - 8:55 Transition to Auditorium (informal greeting with Dr. Allen)
9:00 - 11:00 Dr. Janet Allen; Session 1
11:00 - 11:30 Dr. Allen informal meet & greet; Cohort 1 reflection writing time
11:30 - 12:30 Lunch & View Inauguration Ceremony (served by Hy-Vee in the cafeteria)
12:30 - 2:30 Dr. Janet Allen; Session 2
2:30 - 3:00 Dr. Allen informal meet & greet; Dept & cohort reflect/implement plan writing

Each department must determine a plan for implementation after our training from Dr. Allen. I expect each department to submit the plan no later than Friday, January 23rd. Your plan should include a focus on how you will implement reading strategies, the timeline for implementation, and how you will measure improvement. (May I suggest examining student work?)

Also, don't forget our big events this upcoming week:
Leadership Team meeting is Wednesday at 7:00. Ask your department chair about the new scheduling process we are going to try this year!

Friday, Jan 23rd, is our 2nd Academic Pep Assembly. Mr. McCoy has a few more great treats to share with everyone! We will set by 5th hour classes, so make sure you go over your seating chart with your class!

Explaining a BEST PRACTICE
-- for your sake, for parents' sake, for students' sake, for our sake, for goodness sake!
Year long classes are year-long. Semester classes are semester-long. The concept seems pretty simple. Funny how complicated this has become. In an attempt to return to a life of simplicity, it's time to return to a few very obvious assertions:

1. A student will not drop a year long class. Any exceptions to this rule will be by admin.
2. A teacher can not remove a student from a year long class. Any exceptions...see #1.

If you are wondering why, you would be in the majority. Here's at stab at it:
  • We are not staffed to accommodate students dropping year long classes to take semester classes.
  • The curriculum, and therefore end-of-course exams, are based on length of class. All students are required to take and end of course exam in the classes they take starting this year.
  • Students (and convinced parents) want to drop classes based on: 1) whether or not they like you, 2) whether or not they like their grade first semester, 3) depending on whether or not they have a big project due next semester they want to avoid, 4) they want to join their friends in something more "fun", or 5) a myriad of other reasons I am currently unable to offer at this time.
We need to examine the need to change our block classes from 83 minutes each to 88 minutes each without making you work longer days. Interested in solving the puzzle? Click here. Enjoy!

Oh yeah! Did you know that there are only two guidelines in the constitution concerning the Presidential Inauguration? The date and the time: 3rd Tuesday at noon. I learned that on my PLN! :)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Week 18: January 12-16

CHANGING HOW WE more finals (unless...)
Calvin and Hobbes
Giving a Semester Final:
This is, or was, what we used to call finals week. It is no longer. Well sort of, but not really. If that confuses you, you're in good company. This is the last week of the first semester of the 2008-2009 school year. We are no longer changing the hours we teach and test to offer students with two or less absences the opportunity to be exempt from testing.

If you teach a class that is only a semester long, you ARE giving a comprehensive final exam; however, it's now called the End-of-Course (EOC) exam. This test is not to be confused with the MAP EOC (also End-of-Course Exam, but still MAP). If you are teaching Algebra 1, Biology, or Communication Arts 10 (and you know who you are), then you are not only MAP testing this year, but you are doing so on-line with our students.

MAP Practice Test (that really tests the SERVER):
The first week of February, our freshmen and sophomores will practice the on-line test. We are really trying to take a first run at the testing to see what gives and what doesn't at our technology end as well as at the state's. There really is no telling. The impact to most of the district is that TMC may close YouTube for a small time to conserve bandwidth (or they might not to see what happens). Either way, if the server crashes, you'll know.

Formative Testings of our Literacy Initiative:
January 20th brings Janet Allen to Benton. It's really almost like a formative assessment of sorts. Are we really bringing about change when it comes to advancing literacy in our school. Is our plan -- our school improvement objective that keeps us knee deep in Word Walls and Eyes Past Print -- really working? I think she will give us feedback that will redirect or buttress. Not unlike the kids, it would really help if everyone would give an extra effort right before the test.

Early Outs (2 Hours) on Thursday and Friday:
These are for you! Dr. Sumy, Mrs. Godfrey and I asked the Superintendent's Council for time for teachers to put in their grades at the end of the semester. You got it, so make good use of the time! And with that, the semester is over. Enjoy Monday's holiday!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Week 17: January 5-9, 2009

What's Your Resolution?
Yep, it's 2009, and school starts up again tomorrow after a wonderfully rejuvenating two week break.

As we start into this new year, what is your resolution? Just to break it down for you, mac says that's your intention, resolve or decision (just to name a few). Dr. Smith has often shared with me that education is a journey, not a destination. I agree, but we have to have specific places to visit along the way otherwise, we get tired of our travels. After two weeks of missing seeing each of you and the kids, it's time to start down the road again. (music enters into my head after that last ditty)

Here's my resolutions for work for me...
1. Joy -- bring it, enjoy it, find it, share it, be it. Get it?
2. I want to celebrate what we do more often. Join me.
3. Bring more staff members with me on the journey. Can I ask you?
4. Enjoy change -- it will happen! (refer back to resolution #2)
5. Increase my techno-savvy. You know we have to do it!

Okay everyone, your turn. What are your resolutions to better Benton?