Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The blog will return soon!

Monday, April 14, 2014

A state of confusion…

Most states have mottos.  They’re generally in Latin, and it seems like our schools across the state of South Carolina should have as their current motto “de tumultu” because we seem to always be in a state of confusion.

Here’s an article (click here) recapping the current controversy regarding participation in statewide testing next year.  As with most “states of confusion” there seems to be conflict, and that’s what happened in both the State House and the Rutledge Building (the location of the SC Department of Education) last week. 

The SC Department of Education is planning to stop participating in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and consider other options for statewide assessment of public school students; however, the SC Board of Education was a bit more reluctant since no other options for assessment are currently on the table.
One of our elementary schools was to participate in field testing of the new assessment, but that was put on hold last week.
I’ll be honest.  I’m not so wedded to the idea of using Smarter Balanced assessments next year.  I vote for ACT’s Aspire based on my reading of the literature. 

Oh, well.  Let’s hope this state of confusion is soon cleared up. 

Update:  Click here for Ed Week's coverage of the debacle.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Expectations for students in the 21st Century

NPR had a great report earlier this week on two changes coming to public schools as we work hard to align college and work-ready standards with the century in which we live. 

One story describes “close” reading (click here for more information on this reading strategy).  PARCC consortia states, “Close, analytic reading stresses engaging with a text of sufficient complexity directly and examining meaning thoroughly and methodically.”  The story highlights the strategy in a close reading lesson.

The other major change is in how assessments will be used to measure students' understanding.  Again, the story provides more detail on how the difficulty level and expectations for students will be increasing. 

Each of the stories is about 4 minutes, and well worth a listen.  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Thanks to all who participated in the re-accreditation process…

Well, our visitors from AdvancED have now packed up and exited the county. But, they provided the Oconee Board of Trustees with a preliminary report this afternoon before saying goodbye.  
The team of six professionals developed the report by reviewing our self-analysis and doing the following this week:
  •   Interviews and conversations with…
           -   5 Board Members
           -   47 Administrators
           -   57 Teachers and Support Staff
           -   71 Students
           -   24 Parents and Community Stakeholders
  •   62 Effective Learning Environment Observations (classroom observations of at least 20 minutes)
The group, based on our self-analysis and the interviews, conversations, and classroom visits, has recommended our continued accreditation with AdvancED as a school system committed to systemic, systematic, and sustainable improvement.
I owe my gratitude to each of our employees and community stakeholders for a job well done over the past 14 months as we’ve prepared for this step in the re-accreditation process.   
The visiting team identified five “Powerful Practices” in our school district. These are considered exceptional practices the institution has initiated or is engaged in that are making a positive difference in the system and its schools. More about these practices will be shared when the report is finalized later this summer.
The team also provided actions that we can endeavor to complete as we work to improve our school system. These include:
  • Designing a formal vertical alignment process which defines readiness and success at each level, develops system-wide common instructional and assessment terminology, and incorporates the use of exemplars of high quality work.
  • Developing frameworks for interpretation and use of data to promote differentiated instructional practices and personalized learning for all students.
  • Determining and prioritizing 21st Century learning skills that integrate technology, incorporate problem-based/real-world learning experiences, and promote global awareness of diverse cultures.
I thank everyone for helping to make our visit a success!

What happens next?
A copy of the accreditation report is due to us in 30 days.
Final review and approval must come from AdvancED in June.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Backhanded compliments (or complisults)…

I received a news release with what many would call a backhanded compliment as part of the narrative; you know, an acknowledgement that includes an insult.

I learned they’re often called complisults, and, compliments of Google, here are a few that may give you a chuckle today:

  • "You're looking great today! I really admire your combover.”
  • "I never forget a face, but in your case I'll make an exception."
  • "I'd like to leave you with one thought... but where would you put it?"
  • "I'd love to help you out, but I don't know which way you came in."
  • "I've had a wonderful time, only this wasn't it." (Groucho Marx)
  • "I remember when that suit was the pinnacle of style."
  • "He carried out every task to his entire satisfaction."
  • "He has the wisdom of youth and the energy of age."
  • "He has all of the virtues that I dislike." (Churchill)
  • "A modest person, with much to be modest about." (Churchill)
  • "He has given me a copy of his latest book. I'll waste no time reading it."
  • "He has Van Gogh's ear for music."
  • "Keep talking. I always yawn when I'm interested."
  • "Of all the people I've met, you're certainly one of them."

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Classroom visits by the AdvancED Team...

It’s Day 2 of the AdvancED accreditation visit in SDOC, and our guests will be visiting with several schools today.  Time is spent interviewing teachers, staff, parents and students, but most of the time is spent in the classrooms of the school.   

The visiting team will use an instrument called ELEOT or Effective Learning Environments Observation Tool.  The purpose of the classroom observation tool is to identify and document evidence of an environment that promotes student learning. 

The ELEOT instrument has seven areas or things the observer looks for as they observe students and teachers in action (click here to see the observation tool).  These areas include… 
  • Equitable learning opportunities
  • High expectations
  • Supportive classroom
  • Active learning
  • Monitoring and feedback for students
  • Well-management classroom
  • Digital learning tools for students

Folks will be visiting in each attendance area.  The team will visit Blue Ridge Elementary and Seneca High (Seneca Attendance Zone); Oakway Intermediate, Fair-Oak Elementary, and West-Oak Middle (Westminster Attendance Zone); James M. Brown (Walhalla Attendance Zone); and Tamassee-Salem Middle/High (Tamassee-Salem Attendance Zone). 

I hope the team members enjoy their visits today.  

Monday, April 7, 2014

Superintendent's Overview for the Visiting AdvancED Team

I will be presenting an overview this morning for the visiting AdvancED accreditation team.  Here's a look at what I'll share about our district (as a PowerPoint video file).

 Click here for the links to our final report.

Friday, April 4, 2014

A change in direction…

School district officials received this notice yesterday (see below), and it was reported in several newspapers around the state this morning.

South Carolina is changing direction with regarding to state-wide testing at the elementary and middle school level.  I have never been a fan of information I’ve read/observed from the Smarter Balance Consortia, and I’m hopeful the state will consider ACT’s line of testing known as Aspire (click here for more information on this assessment instrument) for elementary and middle school students. 
Stay tuned for more information.  I know the state will have to be in “fast forward” to get everything done for next year’s testing season.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Read that financial aid letter carefully!

I have a meeting with our student advisory group tomorrow.  Many of those students are seniors, and they have been sharing their plans for life after high school.  Because of that, my ears perked up this morning when I heard this story on the radio. It seems students need to carefully read the financial aid package letters because some can be deceptive.  I advise folks to heed the information in this story.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Spring SDOC Art Exhibition

April 3 - Oconee Student Art Show - 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. unveiling and reception at Duke's World of Energy.

The exhibit will be open to the public until April 19 in the World of Energy Lobby during regular business hours (see below).

Here's a preview:

The photos were taken by Jennifer Hindman from Orchard Park Elementary.
 World of Energy Hours of Operation
Monday – Friday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday: Noon to 5 p.m.
Sunday: Closed