Subscribe to the Blog

A case for standards-based grading?

Mr. Wainstein’s 136-page report, made public on Wednesday, lays much of the blame at the feet of Deborah Crowder, a secretary and then manager in the department of African and Afro-American studies, which is often called AFAM. Ms. Crowder worked with Julius E. Nyang’oro, who was then chairman of the department, to develop what the report calls a "shadow curriculum" that awarded students, many of them athletes, with high grades for classes that required no attendance and minimal work.

Or maybe it is a discussion about removing athletics from schools. Or maybe a question about why we continue to let academics take a back seat to sports in schools.

Via David Doty

How to get kids to sit still in class

Angela Hanscom:

In order to create actual changes to the sensory system that results in improved attention over time,  children NEED to experience what we call “rapid vestibular (balance) input” on a daily basis. In other words, they need to go upside down, spin in circles, and roll down hills. They need authentic play experiences that get them moving in all different directions in order to stimulate the little hair cells found in the vestibular complex (located in the inner ear). If children do this on a regular basis and for a significant amount of time, then (and only then) will they experience the necessary changes needed to effectively develop the balance system–leading to better attention and learning in the classroom.

In other words, adjusting children’s seating and taking quick one-minute movement breaks will offer some support — but we will continue to see significant sensory and behavioral problems, as well as a decline in children’s overall health (i.e., rise in obesity, decrease strength, and poor body awareness) if we don’t start allowing for adequate time in which children can get up and out of their seats to move.

She also shares a story where she suggests a student get an hour of recess time each day and teachers laughed out loud at her during the meeting. Could I, as a principal, justify an hour of recess for a student with major behavior issues and likely not performing to the level he "should"? With the right support (like Playworks), I think I could. I've seen kids spend that much time out of class or disrupting their peers in a day that it would be better for everyone if that child had more time to move. Just giving the kid an hour of unstructured time would likely result in more problems, but support from a Playworks coach could have a very positive impact. Also, I have seen teachers who are very effective at getting kids to move around during the day NOT have problems with kids that other teachers can't seem to handle.

Rule of Thumb: Games that Buy Ads on Facebook = Addicting

Sam Laird at Mashable:

Maybe I need to cut back some of my hours on it,” Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain told the newspaper with a laugh in July. “I think I’m going to cut back on it a little bit.”

After the team meeting and refocusing session, "the Royals won 16 of their next 19 games. The iPad usage became less conspicuous," the Star reported. But that didn't mean it was easy for every player.

“It’s ending,” outfielder Jarrod Dyson said of the game this summer. “I’m ending it. I’m winding it down. I’m toning it down. I’m trying to tone it down. It’s going to be hard, but I’m trying to tone it down.”

This is almost unbelievable. But at the same time, after seeing it myself, I know that video games can be addicting. I would just think that professional baseball players would have more self control. But we are all human!

Co-Moderating my First Twitter Chat Thursday Evening

The chat will be moderated by Brad Currie and Jethro Jones. Brad is [a] Middle School Vice Principal and Supervisor of Instruction for the Chester School District in Chester, NJ. He is also a co-founder of #satchat and the author of the recently released book All Hands on Deck – Tools for Connecting Educators, Parents and Communities. Jethro is the Principal of Kodiak Middle School in Kodiak, Alaska and the host of the Transformative Principal Podcast.

I'm excited to co-moderate this chat with Brad. He is a leader in the field and I'll be able to learn a lot from him. I hope you will join us. #cpchat

Students Returning to School after a Concussion

Charles Fox:

Chances are that the most children with concussions had never previously been identified as students with disabilities who required either special education or accommodations. I believe that all children who have had a concussion should go through a screening and be considered as a possible candidate for a case study at an appropriate time post injury. Hopefully these children will be able to recover fully and return to school and other activities without special eduction or a 504.  But for those students for whom this is not the case, their parents are very likely unfamiliar with the world of special education IEPs or 504 Plans.  Thus, the educators, along with parents and the doctors, will need to watch the progress of these students carefully and if warranted, begin more formal evaluations to ensure the delivery of appropriate services.  The previously mentioned CDC Fact Sheet on "Returning to School after a Concussion" may prove invaluable to school staff.  School staff have a vital and proactive role in this process.

Mr. Fox presents some clear information about the role of schools in helping students recover after a concussion. One area where we are weak in schools is that we don't know when these concussions happen. We need to establish better lines of communication to parents, doctors, coaches and others to ensure that we know when kids need our help.

Too Focused on Buzzwords

Rafranz Davis

Later that evening, amidst crazy school canceling storms, I found myself looking through conference proposals and sessions. It bothered me. I won’t lie. I feel like we, this edtech community, are further drowning ourselves into a pile of buzzwords and platforms so much so that I have to wonder if people really understand what transformation, innovation, inquiry and even creativity looks and feels like.

We surely get way too focused on these buzzwords and tools and not on actual impact on students. It's not about the tool, it's about the student.

Yosemite and iOS 8.1

Austin Mann:

It’s now super easy to slow down your iPhone Slo-Mo footage on your Mac: just open the slow-motion video file in QuickTime and drag the sliders on the timeline below. This process will be familiar as it’s exactly the same as the process on your iPhone.

While he is talking about how these are benefits for photographers, I think they are benefits for everyone who uses an iPhone.

I wonder if some of these new features that keep all our devices in sync will be a detriment to me because I am on a metered Internet package now.

(h/t to Shawn Blanc)

✓ On Professional Development and Conferences

Over on his blog, Eric Sheninger posted about his new role at ICLE and the professional development that "School Leaders Need and Deserve" What rankles me about his post is that he starts out by saying:

During my ten years as a school leader I dreaded professional development days in my district. I am not sure any educator looks forward to these monotonous experiences (developed under the guise of learning!) that are supposed to provide us with new skills and knowledge to do our jobs better. If in-district professional development wasn't bad enough, I also attended my fair share of workshops and conferences that were a complete waste of time. I attended many of these events just to meet the required hours of professional development. The problem here was that the experience focused on hours of time on task, not on the learning itself. More often than not, PD is something that has been done to us, rather than something we as educators want to engage in. These experiences made me and others come to the conclusion that professional development, or “PD,” as it is often referred to, is broken.

We, as educators, rail against this kind of teaching. How can we expect our students to sit there, unengaged, and actually learn something. Eric is trying to change this by providing a conference that is hands-on and not like the PD he is offering, which is admirable. He is trying to change things.

I've presented at a lot of local conferences. I've chosen the kind of presentation that Eric suggests, focused, hands-on, interactive, participatory, engaging. What have my results been? Very few participants. I decided to conduct an experiment this last year and I presented a topic called 60 Tools in 60 minutes for Busy Administrators and I had way more people attend. I asked one of my friends with a higher view of the conference perspective what he thought about that and he said that it was a symptom of our time. People want a firehose. They don't have time to go deep into anything.

What a tragedy.

When I go to conferences, I see that time as being totally focused on learning new things and improving my craft. I get so frustrated when I go to conferences or trainings and can't get out of it what I need. As a principal, it is even more frustrating when I see my staff's time wasted. I feel very fortunate that I was able to learn about how to give good professional development from Hollie Pettersson and Amber Roderick-Landward when they were my bosses and Directors of Evidence-Based Learning in my former district. They knew how to create PD that was meaningful, engaged, and made you learn. Hopefully, I can provide that kind of PD for my faculty whenever we have that opportunity.

I'm going to give Eric Sheninger my trust and I am going to go to his conference. I hope it is as good as he claims it will be.

The best conference I have ever been to is the RTI-Innovations Conference. Everyone who presents at that conference is all about doing it. They all come ready to show how to do things and make sure you are engaged in figuring out how that works at your school.

What are the best conferences you have attended?

Two Things Teachers Want

Larry Fliegelman

I mean, you’d think that with all of the books on leadership and several years on the job, I would already know that two-way communication/feedback is vital to a smooth running, high performing school. Then again, if it were that easy there wouldn’t be so many books (and workshops, seminars, blog posts, webinars, mentoring sessions, and more devoted to the topic).

I imagine that Larry's staff gets to these two things because they trust he is willing to provide it. It takes time to build that trust and it is very important.

Not a Failure

Tony Sinanis:

But I knew I wasn’t a failure - it was just that no one took the time to find out what I was interested in; what I was excited about; and what I was passionate about in "real life."

I know that I was a struggling student. Not because I wasn't smart, but because school did not hold my interest. I figured out "the game" I needed to play and worked hard at doing just enough to scrape by.

Many educators, myself included, assume that people are teachers because they were good students. I think there is now a growing number of educators who realized they could do it better than their teachers and connect with kids that our traditional system can't connect to.