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?