Auspicious Beginnings…

The family’s back home safely (if you consider home to be in two widely spaced geographic locations), charged up with coffee, and back to work. Wife’s at school and my favorite guide is on a three-day trip on the River in the Canyon.

My first clue that this would be a good year was when the supe came in the door of the commons area of one of our high schools where he and the board were hosting the New Teachers’ Luncheon and introduction to us last Wednesday. He said, as we shook hands, “you’re going to like what I have to say.”

The luncheon included all the new teachers, and their principals and vice principals (33 schools). I sat at my old middle school’s newbie table, one of two for that school. The supe and the rest of the board got there after I did, and by that time the TOSAs (Teachers On Special Assignment, i.e., admin training) had created a “special” table for dignitaries, but I stayed with my home school newbies. They need to know what happens to teachers who retire and want to keep their oars in the water.

The supe was the featured speaker, and he is good. Short, to the point, but funny and comfortable. Based on what he said when he came in the door, I’m thinking, good, he’s going to emphasize exemplary instruction and talk about our district goals for the classroom.

Well, I was right about that, but he went on to give the new teachers a heads up that we are moving toward cleaning up secondary grading and he quoted a bunch of Ken O’Connor’s main points on good grading practices, while confessing that he himself had committed every grading atrocity known to teachers, but that if we were going to maximize our instructional effectiveness, we had to get grading and reporting under control.

This has been coming for a long time, and I was joyful. We are finally actively moving to fill in the missing piece from the research on student achievement

BTW, We’re not looking to duplicate elementary level rubric/anecdotal report cards, but rather make our As, Bs, and Cs reflective of actual student achievement relative to standards. Until higher education has more sophisticated achievement data processing capability, high schools are pretty much stuck with the alphabet (but we can sure make it more meaningful!).

The supe also let the newbies know that they would encounter policies in their school handbooks that are contrary to his grading suggestions. Then he said, “So buck the system!”

He totally galvanized the audience — literally. You could see new teachers startle in their seats, then laugh and applaud.

Monday, ETS/ATI grading conference info was distributed to the troops, so our district may break some ETS/ATI attendance records. We already have 20 spots reserved for secondary principals and VPs. Board members are making separate reservations so that they can get up to speed for the policy amendments they will need to make in the future so the newbies are no longer “bucking the system.”

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6 thoughts on “Auspicious Beginnings…

  1. “Well, I was right about that, but he went on to give the new teachers a heads up that we are moving toward cleaning up secondary grading and he quoted a bunch of Ken O’Connor’s main points on good grading practices, while confessing that he himself had committed every grading atrocity known to teachers, but that if we were going to maximize our instructional effectiveness, we had to get grading and reporting under control.”

    That’s the most important part of his speech; that connection to teachers as an administrator is sooooo important. To simultaneously distinguish yourself as a supervisor and still connect to teachers through real life experience is something so many supervisors miss out one, whether they be assistant principals, principals, superintendent, or even a chancellor. Good show …

  2. Way cool!

    I wanted to cry today when the AP was telling the staff how kids who are chronically absent should have a failing grade as a consequence. While I know that one typically follows the other, but to say that a kid deserves an F because they didn’t come to class (even if they show the learning) was just heartbreaking. I wish I could bring him along to the conference in December.

  3. Jose, you nailed it. Good connections let the electricity flow. (Thanks for connecting!)

    SG, Maybe I could send the AP an invitation? Failing that, will there be a debriefing after the conference for administrators who did not attend?

  4. Grading is a huge issue in my district too, as we go to a new grade book. We have to come up with a school-wide grading scale; that’s good for at least 5-10 hours of “spirited” discussion. Kids who are chronically absent from my class usually do fail because of the way I grade, which is a mix of many assessments. In World Language, there is definitely an oral, practical component to the grade. It’s pretty difficult to have conversations in the target language if one is not in class!

  5. It’s great that the supe wants these young new teachers to “buck the system” but is there a fear that the message will get lost in the translation?

    In other words, going from the supe through the bureaucracy, through the principals, through dept heads and finally to the teachers? It seems so often that positive messages from leaders get totally misinterpreted and jumbled as they go through the system and those on the low end of the food chain have no recourse but to suck it up and drive on.

  6. Eric, I understand your concern.

    The new teachers and teachers new to the district (along with all the principals and vice principals) are the first ones to get the informal word about aligning grading with standards via this luncheon. There are rumors going around anyway, and the supe wanted the newbies to hear it from him first.

    My impression is that we will introduce SBG formally next year for familiarization, education, and the “buy-in” phase, and we should begin the practice school year 2009-2010.

    I’m sure we won’t achieve 100% buy-in in 2009-10, but those folks will have to suck it up or ship out. (If they really have that big a problem with SBG, I won’t be sorry to see them leave.)

    The last thing admin wants to do in our district is to mandate major change without introducing it properly and training for it. (I wasn’t always lucky enough to have admin like that during the first half of my career!)

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