SPEAKING OF EDUCATION
View three Videos of Our Staff produced by the West Central Alliance Minnesota.
In last week’s article I wrote about the Common Core and promised this week I would give you the history around them. Most of the information from this article comes from the Minnesota Department of Education website, http://education.state.mn.us/MDE/EdExc/StanCurri/index.html.
I clearly recall the March 2009 meeting of the nation’s governors when they agreed that the states should have shared standards. I remember thinking that it was a good idea, but also a huge undertaking, both in scope of work and challenge in getting all fifty states on the same page.
The governors partnered with the Council of Chief State School Officers. Members of the Council of Chief State School Officers are the Commissioners of Education from each state. With the financial backing of several well known organizations, they hired a small group of educators to write the standards. However, representatives from every state gave feedback on the drafts before they were finalized, including Minnesota. In the summer of 2009, the Minnesota Department of Education convened a series of educator focus groups to review the many drafts of the standards. Several of the suggestions provided by Minnesota educators were incorporated into the Common Core standards, which were completed in June of 2010.
As required by law (Minn. Stat. § 120B.023, Subd. 2) the Common Core were finished in time for a revision of the English, Language Arts standards in Minnesota. Given the strong alignment between the Common Core and Minnesota documents, the state decided, as part of the revision, to adopt the Common Core standards as a basis for the Minnesota Academic Standards -English Language Arts K-12.
Minnesota chose not to adopt the mathematics standards. Since the 2007 standards were revised prior to the development of the Common Core mathematics standards, legislative action would be needed in order for the state to adopt the Common Core mathematics standards before the next scheduled revision, in 2015.
The Common Core English, Language Arts standards emphasize mastery of fewer topics over breadth. They focus on students’ ability to analyze and apply knowledge, rather than recall it. And they are designed so that, in theory, a student who masters them by the end of high school will be able to succeed in college or an entry-level job without remediation.
In the beginning of October I wrote an article about our spring 2013 MCA scores and talked a little bit about our new English Language Arts standards, which are called The Common Core. I didn’t realize at the time how controversial those standards have become! I hear little negative statements here and there and I am beginning to read articles and opinion columns about these standards.
I think it’s important to understand that education standards define expectations for student learning by stating what students should know and be able to do at the conclusion of a course or grade level. Standards do not dictate curriculum (e.g., textbooks and reading lists) or prescribe a method of instruction. Typically, standards decisions are made at the state level, curriculum decisions are made by local districts, and instructional decisions are made by local teachers and principals.
For as long as I have been an educator (34 years) the Minnesota legislature has dictated that the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) engage educators and parents to develop standards in several content areas. Once they are developed, we receive the standards from MDE, get a few years to implement them, and then for English Language Arts, Math and Science, an assessment is developed to determine whether we are adequately addressing them. We receive new standards in the different content areas every seven years. That has been the process for many decades in Minnesota!
Check in next week and I’ll give you the history around The Common Core!
FROM THE DESK OF THE SUPERINTENDENT
All of our iPads have arrived and we are preparing to launch our 1:1 iPad initiative to all of our 9-12th grade students and begin classroom iPad integration usage in grades K-8. We are giving our students a “High Five!”
If you would like to know more about our” High Five” initiative, and the who, what, where, when, why and how concerning this iPad project, please attend one of the community/parent informational sessions which will take place throughout the afternoon and evening on Thursday, February 21st. Sessions for community members and parents of students in grades K-8, will take place in the Cafeteria at 2:00 and 6:00 PM. These sessions are open to anyone who wants to know more about our plans to equip students with the skills and strategies necessary to succeed in the 21st Century. We will also explain how iPads will help us continue on the path of improving student engagement and achievement.
Sessions for parents of students in grades 9-12, will take place in the High School Conference Room at 1:00, 4:30 and 6:30PM on the same day, Thursday, February 21st. It is anticipated that 9-12th grade students will begin using iPads in classrooms and for homework by March 15th. Parents of those students will be required to attend a parent session before their child will be able to take an iPad home. There will be more informational sessions for 9-12th grade students before March 15th, but February 21st is parent-teacher conferences and we thought this would be a perfect opportunity for parents to attend both events on the same evening.
When I was growing up we had a telephone that was hooked to the wall between our living room and kitchen. The phone had one ring, two rings or three rings. Ours was three rings and the other rings belonged to two of our neighbors. We had nine people on our party line. Everyone in the house and our neighbors could listen to my phone conversations. My only hope for privacy was when I would stretch the phone cord around the corner to the utility room. My parents didn’t have to work too hard to monitor my activities!
My how times have changed! Today’s kids have devices that can fit in their pocket and they can take them wherever they want – and they do, even to bed. They have round-the-clock access to texting, email, You Tube, Twitter, Facebook, friends, strangers and much more.
There are many positives to these new changes. Thanks to cell phones, parents can reach their teen-agers when they need to and, best of all, they can reach us.
However, there are pitfalls. Sometimes students make poor decisions and may end up spending too much time online and lose sleep or neglect schoolwork. Too much unmonitored time can lead to poor decision making with technology – such as texting while driving or a new term – sexting – that can leave to dire consequences.
There are things parents can do according to John Duffy, author of The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Tweens and Teens:
1) Model moderation – If parents are constantly on their gadgets, don’t expect teen-agers to know and understand good manners about their use.
2) Don’t rush in – especially when it comes to smart phones, which allow students to access the entire internet. Dr. Duffy suggests waiting until at least ninth grade. Younger children should make do with a basic phone. 3) Set rules for technology use in your home. Just like establishing rules for driving or curfew or anything else, parents need to make those rules clear and use consequences to enforce them.
4) Monitor, but don’t snoop. Friend them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, and tell them that if you feel it’s necessary, you will spot-check their texts. Never comment on your child’s status. All conversations should take place off-line.
5) Embrace this new technology and do not fear it. While it can feel like technology causes more problems than it’s worth, it also offers wonderful opportunities to connect with your child.
I connect with my three girls almost daily and they are 22, 26 and 28! Even if it’s just to say, “How’re you doing?” or “I love you.” Believe me, I always smile when I get an” I luv u 2!” back!
I write an article every year about school weather related closings. I think it’s important the community and parents understand the process I use to make this very important safety decision. Technology has definitely had an impact on this decision-making process. However, trying to figure out Mother Nature is still not a perfect science! Please know that I always try to error on the side of caution.
It’s important for you to know that the Minnesota Legislature has changed the student attendance requirements from days to hours. What this means is that any time we do not have a scheduled session, we lose hours toward our required time. While we have hours to spare from the required time, a two hour late start counts against that time now, where it didn’t count before. What it means in the decision-making process is that superintendents may start looking at one hour late starts rather than two hour late starts as the days start getting longer. I do not think this will start happening until we have gone through this first season, unless we end up with a lot of mornings in February and March where weather conditions force us to call school late. I’ll keep you posted.
This year we have already had a school closing, but unusual for us, it was because of icy conditions. We have had one two hour late start because of extremely cold conditions.
I may call school late in the morning because of bitter cold temperatures or because of stormy weather. To determine that, Don Maninga, our transportation supervisor, and I begin discussions the previous afternoon. I also consult with area superintendents. I have “The Weather Channel” and “My Radar” on my iPhone and check it frequently. Our threshold for cold weather is in the -30 degrees range. If, based on the forecast, we can’t make the decision the night before, I get up about 4:00 A.M. (Don is already at the bus garage). I will check the internet to determine the current and forecasted conditions for our area. Don and I will consult each other. If the decision is to go two hours late, I will immediately send a message to Deb Lenzen, Menahga District secretary, and she will contact Instant Alert and the media outlets. These include: KPRM (870 AM); KDKK (97.5 FM); KXKK (92.5 FM); KKWS (105.9 FM); KWAD (920AM); KMSP (1420 AM) and the District Web site.
It‘s important for you to remember that as a parent/guardian you have the right to make the decision about whether or not conditions are safe for your child to attend school. All we ask is that you notify your child’s school if you choose to keep them home on a day when school is in session. Through that notification our staff will know that your child is safe.
At the January 21st Menahga School Board meeting, the school board approved an upgrade to our wireless infrastructure and the purchase of iPads for our teachers and students. While it seems like this change has happened very quickly, the preparation and groundwork for this evolution has been happening for many years. 1) In 2001, with a lot of community input, Menahga School District created a comprehensive strategic plan. With that process, the committee crafted a mission statement that can be summed up as a desire to prepare students for their future. 2) As a staff, we have worked tirelessly to improve our instructional practices and academic achievement, and we have! A few examples: Menahga Elementary is a Reward School – a designation given to only 10% of the state’s highest performing schools! Our eleventh grade math scores were higher than the state average this year. In 2009 they were almost 10% lower than the state average. 3) Since 2010, we have been mapping our curriculum based on Minnesota Standards at each grade level and content area. 4) We opted out of the curriculum cycle of purchasing textbooks every year after a 2008, K-12 purchase of math textbooks. At first it was about saving money, but very quickly we began to realize that there were better options out there and we began to explore them. 4) We purchased technology like SMARTBoards and netbooks and had intensive staff training geared to learning how to use technology to improve student motivation and learning. It’s now time for our staff to be able to access the resources they need to allow for optimum learning. Teachers will use their curriculum maps at each grade level and content area as a guide to address the standards set by the State of Minnesota. Teachers will be able to choose from online, print and hands-on resources because students will have access to those resources. As a result of the ground work that has been put in place, we will be able to make well-thought out decisions to bring a curriculum that will prepare our students to succeed in an ever changing society.
Posted January, 22 2013
The Menahga Elementary Christmas program, “Going to a Christmas Concert” will take place at 7:00 PM on Monday, December 10th. Doors open at 6:00 PM. This year we will offer a Grandparents’ Program at 1:00 PM on Tuesday afternoon. As most of you know, you need to get to the program early if you want to get a seat. Even with the Grandparents’ Program the next day, you will probably still have to arrive early. Remember, we added 40 additional students to our elementary this year!
For the past several years we have had 30-40 people standing out in the lobby because there hasn’t been even standing room left in the gym. We have considered ways to alleviate the overcrowding, such as having students not watch the program or have a grandparents’ program during the day of the program. Director Lonnie Schmidt has been concerned that if we offer a program during the day, some parents may opt not to bring their children to the evening performance. He is the one who came up with the idea to have an additional performance the next day, especially for grandparents. However, I also found out the secret why Mr. Schmidt has insisted that children attend the evening performance and we not have the program on the same day. It’s about the magic! Mr. Schmidt and some of his “elves” decorate the set on the Sunday afternoon before the program. The students never see the set before the evening performance. He also plants “surprises” that are not part of any practice with the students.During the evening of the program it really is all about the students and the enchantment of the evening. An afternoon program before the evening performance would infringe on the magic of the evening. Not allowing the students to watch the evening program would mean they would miss the surprises throughout the program. So while Mr. Schmidt may have looked like an uncompromising Scrooge, he really just had the students at heart. I believe this is a win-win solution for everyone involved. But if I were you, I would still arrive early for another great Menahga Elementary Christmas program!
There are two topics I would like to cover this week. Both are very different in nature. First of all, I made an error in a letter our Business Retention and Expansion (BR &E) team sent out last week to all Menahga businesses. We sent the letter to all Menahga business owners inviting them to participate in a Career Exposition Fair on March 14, 2013. The error was that I wrote 2012 instead of 2013 – I apologize for the error. I fixed it once, but must not have saved it. I read the letter over at least 100 times before I sent it out and still didn’t catch it. Probably because I thought I had fixed it! So just to be clear: The first Menahga Career Exposition Fair will be held on March 14, 2013!
The other topic I would like to cover is to remind everyone to please vote on Tuesday, November 6th. Exercising our freedom to vote is a valuable teaching tool for our children, especially at the local level. . The Menahga School Board has four positions that are up for re-election. Three of the positions are four year terms and one of the positions is a two year term. A member of a school board takes on one of the most important responsibilities that can be assigned to any citizen by helping to plan the education of the community's youth. Please make sure your voice is heard by showing up to vote next Tuesday!
Posted October 30, 2012
School has been in session for a month and I can feel a new energy in our school. We have ten new teachers this year. Some of these individuals are veteran teachers who come to us with a wealth of experience from other school districts. Others are young teachers, starting their first job of their professional career. Mix in new employees with fresh ideas and I guarantee we will have an exciting year of learning! The success of our students would not be possible without the commitment and dedication of all our teachers, principals and staff. Another part of our new energy comes from the students themselves. We have 58 additional students from opening day last year. Our growth has been phenomenal since the 2007-08 school year. Before that time our enrollment fluctuated between 735 and 746 students each year. Then in 2008 we grew to 752 students and have never looked back. We added 20 students in 2009 and 30 more students in 2010. A superintendent makes enrollment predictions to help the school board plan for future needs. When doing such a prediction a superintendent wants to be as accurate as possible without over predicting. Predictions are based on the pre-school children predicted to attend our district and the number of seniors graduating the previous year. Here were my predictions in 2009: 2011-12 – 806 students; 2012-13 – 836 students; 2013-14 – 850 students. By the time we had failed our third referendum, I had to make new projections because I was short about fifteen students each year, so I adjusted: 2012-13 – 859 students; 2013-14 – 888 students and added 2014-15 – 901 students; 2013-14 – 850 students. Well, guess what? We started out this school year with 876 students, so I have readjusted my predictions again to: 2013-14 – 916 students and added 2014-15 – 930 students and added a prediction of 950 students for the 2015-16 school year. Time will tell if more adjustments will be coming!
Posted October 3, 2012
Last week, at our Menahga School Board meeting, I reported some educational results from the Gallup Poll. According to Wikipedia, Gallup Inc. was founded in 1958 and named after its founder, George Gallup. Gallup conducts public opinion polls in more than 140 countries around the world. The majority of Gallup surveys in the U.S. are based on interviews conducted by landline and cellular telephones. Generally, Gallup refers to the target audience as "national adults," representing all adults, aged 18 and older, and living in United States. Gallup Polls are often referenced in the mass media as a reliable and objective audience measurement of opinion. Gallup’s annual “Work and Education” poll surveyed 1,012 adults from Aug. 9-12, 2012.
At the Board meeting I reported that respondents gave the nation’s schools only a 19% approval rating, basically the same as twenty years ago. However, when asked to evaluate the school their oldest child attends, 77% give their school an A or B. This is the highest rating in 20 years! What this tells me is that we have a communication gap with members of the public who do not have children/grandchildren that attend our schools and those that do.
Both Menahga and Sebeka schools have worked tirelessly to use the best assessments, data, research and practices to do what’s best for our students, while being fiscally responsible. We are not perfect, but what we are is on a path of continuous improvement.
If you have a negative attitude toward the school in which you live or schools in general, please take the time to visit your local school and see what’s going on in today’s classrooms. I believe if you see the high quality educating that’s happening, you will become a fan! If you would like to visit, feel free to just stop in or call and we will arrange a tour. Either way, please check in at the school office. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to give me a call at 218-564-4141 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted September 26, 2012