So, What Else Did the Board Discuss Last Tuesday? (Tempest in a Teapot, Part 2)

From my comments on The Oregonian Forum re Lighthouse:

The irony in this discussion of the Board’s faux “division” is that our OSBA Lighthouse Project instructors are competent, experienced, and successful education professionals who are, as the Board is, locked into a rigid program that needs data on the Board’s performance as measured by future student achievement, and therefore [the program] cannot adapt or change to improve.

Also ironic is that of all the topics the Board discussed last Tuesday, this one is merely “sensational,” while the other topics were much more relevant to the continued improvement of student achievement.

The Board received updates on the District’s rollout of standards-based grading (see Policy IK) accompanied by increased professional development in classroom assessment — the day-to-day, moment-by-moment feedback teachers give to students about learning, which, according to exhaustive research, is our most powerful teaching tool.

The Board also continued the discussion about the upcoming renewal of the HSD 1J Strategic Plan that will involve a large cross-section of the HSD community. Board members Adriana Canas, Rebecca Lantz, and Hugh O’Donnell will serve on a core committee with 27 other community representatives to determine which of the current plan’s objectives have been met, which should be maintained, and which still need work. The core committee will also deliberate on perceived need for new objectives.

Following the work of the core committee, still more educators and community members will serve on action teams that will determine the steps needed to realize the objectives.

Any volunteers?

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Dividing the Board? Not.

An article in today’s The Oregonian suggested that a recent discussion at a Board work session on Tuesday, September 14, centering on HSD 1J Board of Directors training, is dividing the Board. Certainly we Board members have differing opinions, but is it really news that we disagree on something? We disagree all the time, but we come to consensus, or, in formal meetings, vote. And nobody walks away mad.

My comments on the article are as follows:

Wendy, just a slight course adjustment here…I’m with John on the ponderous waste of time, and I’d just as soon discontinue the project. But with four Board members (and probably five, but the fifth was missing from the meeting) wanting to continue the project, it doesn’t much matter what John or I have to say.

Perhaps you didn’t have space in your article, but it would be nice for folks to know that we, the Board, are lab rats in the Iowa Lighthouse Project. Not that that’s a totally bad thing, but because the Iowa folks are gathering data based on our performance as a Board over the next few years, the content and delivery of Lighthouse instruction has not, and cannot be, altered or the data gathered might be less valid and reliable as compared to other Board’s performances nation-wide over the last few years. That’s just the facts of life in a research project that depends on good statistics.

And that’s a piece of the picture that none of us had explained to us going into this thing.

The best thing we learned from Lighthouse was to follow up with District administration on Board expectations. The rest has been to micro-analyze District performance data (an admin job) and encouragement to micro-manage our administrators, which is something that the Oregon School Board Association has discouraged in the past, according to all our training to date. At least until Lighthouse.

I’m all for high-performing Boards of Ed, and I think we have a very conscientious group, but we barely have enough meeting time and opportunity to take care of A-1 priority issues, let alone waste time with the glacial pace and questionable learning opportunities of Lighthouse.

If the Lighthouse curriculum could be condensed and presented the way a competent teacher would be expected to present it, I’d be willing to go for it, but not the way it is now.

Bottom line: this Board is made up of seven reasonable adults, and our differences of opinion on the Lighthouse Project are no big deal. Certainly not enough to cause a “division” among us.

Last, I “feel” the comment by Mad As He** talking about irony. Remember, Mad, I’m a retired teacher. Part of my (latent) mission as a Board member is to encourage better, more differentiated professional development that is actually welcome and valuable, and positively affects student achievement.

Further comment:

singa September 17, 2010 at 6:58AM

“The school board needs to be conversant enough to be critical consumers of the reports put in front of them by staff thus enabling them to ask appropriate questions and set reasonable and challenging educational goals for the district. The next step is to set reasonable parameters for the admin. to work within to achieve those educational goals through board direction and policy.

In the end the buck of district performance stops with the board.”

Right as rain, singa.

From the Board page on the HSD 1J website, http://www.hsd.k12.or.us/District/BoardofDirectors/tabid/64/Default.aspx :

“The Board of Directors received several distinguished accolades from the Oregon School Boards Association (OSBA), both collectively and individually, for their commitment to community engagement and developing their skills as Board members. The awards were presented at the 2009 OSBA annual convention in Portland, which was held in November.

OSBA Continuing Board Achievement
The Board received the Continuing Board Achievement award for the sixth-consecutive year. This award signifies the Board’s successful completion of substantial board leadership training activities through the Leadership Institute. The award represents the Board’s commitment to continually enhancing their skills to strengthen their effectiveness as a school board.

OSBA Leadership Training
Three individual Board members were recognized for their leadership achievements though engaging in OSBA’s leadership training last year: Patti McLeod, Rebecca Lantz and Carolyn Ortman received Platinum Awards.”

Ning’s the Thing

teacher meeting

I first heard the word “Ning” from The Science Goddess a while back. I’m not sure I understand the full potential of nings, but from what I can see, there’s plenty of opportunity for collaboration and learning. I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of them.

I’ve added a new link category, “Nings,” to my sidebar for folks who visit here and would like to be pointed in new, helpful directions.

My first ning link is to The English Companion Ning, a meeting place for English/Language Arts teachers. Jim Burke, the administrator of the ning also has a web site called English Companion. And he is seriously published. Check out his books.

If you want to create your own Ning, go here.

(A few clicks later…)

I’m in the exploration mode here, in real time. Mr. Burke has a blog also. I’ll be looking at that for a while!

Additional Note (October 4, 2009): I just viewed a bunch of education-related nings using the search term teacher ning. There’s lots out there. Surf’s up!

Save the Oregon Historical Society’s Research Library

cenexpo

Today a fly fishing friend of mine who volunteered at the OHS museum and research library from 1979 to 2000 clued me in that the research library may be shut down for lack of funding. That would be a disaster.

Please visit the petition site to weigh in on the matter, and then let everyone you know about the opportunity to keep Oregon history available.

This resource must remain accessible to keep Oregon history alive. One of the first steps to obliterating a culture or a people is to cut them off from their history. We can’t have that happening in Oregon. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

Anyone else have any ideas on how to get the word around? Please comment here and I’ll do my share to spread the word.

As of tonight, only 20 people had signed the online petition. Surely more of us must care.

Unified Field Theory of Education

info-theoryOver Christmas Vacation (Winter Break to my PC friends), I read a thriller that put forth the idea that Einstein actually had succeeded in developing the necessary equations to explain the physical universe in its entirety, his Unified Field Theory.

The novel was written by a well-informed science historian with a knack for suspense. If the equations fell into the “wrong hands,” the result could be a weapon more devastating and sinister than the A/H bomb.

Long story short, I began to think about how unbearably complex the field of education has become. I wondered if there are, perhaps, a few simple principles we could discuss, validate, and practice, that would forever serve every student well. How powerful would that be?

Think about it…a Unified Field Theory of Education.

What would be some of the characteristics of such a theory?

I’ll suggest one, then I’d like to see some ideas from the rest of you. The simpler, the better. (No need for “research validation.” Follow your intuition.)

Here goes: “Every student is a genius, and our job is to help them discover that fact.”

Join me on the adventure. 🙂

Doug Reeves on Toxic Grading Practices


Dr. Reeves entertains while he enlightens. Classroom assessment is his main topic, and that includes sound grading practices. Here’s an excerpt from a conference earlier this year in Ontario.

Next, read page 20-21 (The Case Against the Zero by Doug Reeves) in Reeves on Zero, Etc. .  (Scroll waaaay down to the title.)

Oh, don’t forget to peruse pages 16-19 on grading in general!


Stepping Back to Assess

What’s wrong with this picture?

Well, yeah, the dragon’s in a cage, but the dragon’s still breathing fire. Good for the dragon. I think I need to follow the dragon’s example.

Since I went live with my real identity, I feel like I’ve been caged and my fire has most certainly been reduced.

A number of bloggers I’ve read recently have talked about struggling with going “live” or remaining covert. Tough decision. I’ve seen how it affects my writing and I’m not real happy.

Anonymity is not a free pass to be rude or sloppy with the facts. But being out there as yourself can inhibit expression.

Lately I’ve been reviewing the internet literature on standard-based grading and marvelling about my loss of literary passion. I’ve never stooped to ad hominem attacks on adversaries, but I’ve never backed off from calling plays as I see them.

Lately, I’ve been somewhat mute. I’m not afraid of lawsuits, but don’t want to embarrass folks I associate with and care about. The fact is, though, if they’re worth caring about, they won’t be embarrassed by me. That goes for my fellow board members and my excellent superintendent.

So the first thing I’m going to tackle is the irresponsibility of print and internet publications that wear the mantle of “official and valid teacher information.” The Teacher Magazine blog board is one of those gratuitous fonts of drivel and cool stuff that enjoys the halo effect of education establishment legitimation. See if you can find some problems I have with this particular edition…

PS: Tomorrow I’m gonna wish myself Happy Independence Day for a number of different reasons. 😉