Saturday, March 19, 2016

Most Likely to Succeed documentary coming to Rugby

As an education advocate and school leader I am interested in having dialogue with others regarding the state of our educational system and what its future may look like. There will be an opportunity on April 7th at 7:00PM to view the educational documentary Most Likely to Succeed at the Lyric Movie Theater in Rugby. I encourage all stakeholders to attend this thought provoking documentary. I may not necessarily agree with everything within the film, but I will most certainly be open-minded about the topic. From my perspective we should be concerned about remaining relevant in our changing world. I welcome you to attend the free viewing of this educational documentary. 

The following is a summary of the film: 

The feature-length documentary Most Likely to Succeed examines the history of education in the United States, revealing the growing shortcomings of conventional education methods in today’s innovative world. The film explores compelling new approaches that aim to revolutionize teaching as we know it. After seeing this film, the way you think about “school” will never be the same. Over a century ago, American education underwent a dramatic transformation as the iconic one-room schoolhouse evolved into an effective system that produced an unmatched workforce tailored for the 20th Century. As the world economy shifts and traditional white-collar jobs begin to disappear, that same system remains intact, producing potentially chronic levels of unemployment among graduates in the 21st Century. The film follows students into the classrooms of High Tech High, an innovative new school in San Diego. There, over the course of a school year, two groups of ninth graders take on ambitious, project-based challenges that promote critical skills rather than rote memorization. Most Likely to Succeed points to a transformation in learning that may hold the key to success for millions of our youth – and our nation – as we grapple with the ramifications of rapid advances in technology, automation and growing levels of income inequality.

I hope to see you there. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

What could you possibly achieve of quality in a single draft?

In our work life how often do we turn in something that has never been revised? Like the title says, "what could you possibly achieve of quality in a single draft?" When I think about all of the tasks that are required of me as a superintendent they mostly all entail some level of revision. I never send out something that has not been revised. I am sure that is the same answer we see in most professions, but in the school setting we tend to be more concerned with quantity of work and not quality. This blog post will undergo multiple revisions and I am sure I will still have a grammatical error or two.
"Students need to know from the outset that quality means rethinking, reworking, and polishing." - Ron Berger
Perhaps this focus on quantity has more to do with the shear amount of standards or possibly the overemphasis on covering the text book. Lets face it, we will never reach a level of deep understanding for all of the standards. We can certainly "cover" all of the standards if we are okay with only surface knowledge. I have written extensively about the PLC process and the development of power standards. The development of power standards are liberating in a sense, because it allows us to really hone in on what we want students to know and be able to do. We of course still teach all of the other stuff, but we report out on predetermined skills and content that the team deems as most important.

It is difficult to focus on quality when we have the mindset to cover. If we are going to ensure all will know and be able to do these 10-15 things then there should be multiple opportunities to develop mastery. If we are to require multiple revisions then we need to provide quality feedback and that takes time. Ron Berger suggests that we should use their peers to analyze and provide quality feedback.
"There is incredible learning potential in looking carefully at student work together as a group." 
Berger shares three rules when using peers for feedback:

Be Kind - No sarcasm or hurtful comments
Be Specific - No comments like It's good or I like it.
Be helpful - Don't waste our time.

Berger discusses two types of critique he uses to provide feedback: Gallery critique and in-depth critique.

Gallery Critique is when the work of every child is displayed. Students look at all of the work silently prior to providing comments. The primary focus should be to provide positive feedback. Students are to select examples from each piece that impress them and discuss why.

In-depth Critique focuses on the work of a single student or group. Students spend a good deal of time to critiquing it thoroughly. This provides a detailed process of making the work stronger.

When you look at both of these ways to critique student work the first thing that comes to mind is the shear amount of time required. It is certainly something that you cannot do for every standard, but I believe it could be used in some way for our power standards. This type of critique  and focus on quality is an excellent way to develop mastery. When there is an audience and student work is no longer a private affair between the student and the teacher, the overall quality improves.
"Ideally the promise of good grades and the threat of bad ones will keep everyone working hard. In reality, it doesn't work this way. Almost every school gives grades and yet has no shortage of poor-quality work. Not only do grades not insure quality work or effort, but in many cases grades work against student motivation." Ron Berger
If you are questioning the quality of student work find time to read An Ethic of Excellence by Ron Berger.

How do you encourage multiple revisions and create time to do so?

The Rugby Early Learning Center is now taking applications for the 2016-2017 school year

Our preschool is now taking applications for the 2016-2017 school year. The application is due on April 1st and can be dropped off at any of these sites: Rugby High School, Ely Elementary, and the Rugby Early Learning Center. The program is free to all those who attend. Your child is eligible for the program if he or she is age three or four. It is a four day a week program (Monday - Thursday) and follows regular school hours. 

If you are curious of what a day for your child in our program looks like please click on the daily schedule below. 
We are pleased with the success of students that have attended our program. We started the Rugby Early Learning Center (a collaboration between RPS and Head Start) two years ago. Our first cohort's data are showing a positive academic trend. Below you will find data from our NWEA MAP Assessment. Please click on the image.

We are finding that the social and emotional benefits may outweigh the academic gains. Students who attend our program are able to work on some of the needed social and emotional skills prior to kindergarten. 

If you have further questions about our program please contact Michael McNeff at Rugby Public School District at (701) 776-5201. Thank you! 

Click on the links below to access our application and website: