Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Welcome Back!

Welcome back to the new school year.

I don't know about the rest of you teacher-parents, but this year is going to be intense.  Between my kids' games, practices, Scout meetings and booster groups, there have been a couple of near-impossible days already this year.  I sure am glad that I am not a single parent.

Back to work.  THE THING that is driving this building this year is the drop in state test scores.  I don't think anyone is in a panic yet and heads haven't started rolling.  But they are down a bit.

One has to wonder what happened.  There are some theories.

The one I heard at a faculty meeting was that we spent too much time and energy on technology and that interfered with what we traditionally do.  I don't think this staff would let digital technology interfere with their subject area.  If there is a problem, maybe it is the prepackaged digital activities they selected aren't engaging enough or aren't well enough connected to the subject that kids don't see the connection.

Technology is not going away in the world after school, not learning to use it effectively will be a disservice to kids.  What we need to do is research what great teaching in the digital age really looks like.

I have also heard someone wonder if the drop was the block schedule we are now on.  90 minutes for reading and 90 minutes for math at the expense of other subjects isn't paying off in expected ways.  There are a couple of things that could be going on here.  90 minutes is more than enough time to disengage.  In a time when we are used to getting our ideas delivered in 10 minute chunks (TV content between commercials), 90 minutes is plenty of time to wish for a chance to change the channel.  Personally, I want compact lessons, a chance to play with the topic and out the door to the next thing.  Pass the remote, please.

Or the 90 minute block cuts out an overlooked resource.  Parents have been reporting less homework and they "love it" with the block schedule.  Is that something to love?  When my kid has homework issues, I go to bat and we figure it out.  No, I don't have all the answers and the terminology has changed since I was in school.  We really do re-read and discuss what the teacher said to get there.  Do you suppose that process is important in my kids' education?  At the very least, we learn not to give up.  Doing away with homework cuts out parental help.  I know that my kids are lucky when it comes to family (Ok, they probably would say Dad is a little goofy.)  Not all families will take the time to do homework.  There must be an answer in here someplace.

Or maybe it is just test fatigue.  How many minutes a year do we park there tails in a chair and ask them questions about reading and math?  Who really reads through all those results?  There must be an ivory tower over near the capitol someplace.

According to the numbers, we are an excellent school.  I happen to think we are an excellent school even without looking to the numbers to prove it.  Parents, don't make your decisions just on numbers.  If you are looking for a great school, go over there and look.  Get the tour when there are kids in the building and teachers teaching.

We could just quit playing this testing game.  I think there may be more important questions to ask and more important things to be doing.  How about we ask the students what they want to be when they grow up and help them get there?

Anyway, welcome back!  As always, it is going to be an interesting year.

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