Fall 2020 – Re-Opening schools Video Message #112Leads

“Always hold yourself to just one standard: to be the very best version of who you are.”
– George Raveling

Little in my career has been more complicated, more complex, and more controversial than the reopening planning for school this fall. On Thursday, March 12, 2020, we closed the doors to our brick and mortar schools and we have not yet reopened these doors. 

Right now, we are building schedule/staffing & infrastructure for hybrid (in person or virtual choice). As you are all well aware, we are prepared to open in person on September 3rd, and we will pivot to full remote learning if needed based on the health and science metrics.  Parents made an election of hybrid in-person or hybrid virtual for the first grading period (9/3-11/20 elementary and  9/3-11/6 middle school).

Please see the video message for additional explanation: (subtitles Spanish/English are in process)

Video Message to Community related to the reopening of schools

Impact of a Teacher – #112Leads

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
– Benjamin Franklin

With this school year coming to a close on June 4, 2020 I was reflecting on the power of a teacher, and in February 2017 I shared a similar story about one of the most impactful educators in my life. I thought it would be a good time to reflect on Dr. McFarland and share his impact on me again as we prepare to bring the most unprecedented school year to a close! Originally shared in February, 2017 I shared some thoughts about how a college professor from an undergraduate course on the American Presidency from many years ago impacted my life and my professional journey. A journey that currently has some powerful meaning/relevance with our district’s move to remote e-Learning. With this blog post, I’ll draw the connections!

As a former 6th and 8th grade social studies teacher (U.S. history, civics, law, world history, reading, etc.) I have a deep interest in our nation’s culture, history, values, beliefs, celebrations, etc. In addition, I hold a degree in political science, so I have been a “policy wonk” for many years, and to this day I follow the news, politics, etc.

While I was a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, UIC, I had some of the best teachers in my life. The late Dr. Twiley Barker Jr., Dr. Kevin Lyles, and Dr. Andrew McFarland, to name a few. During a course on the American Presidency, POLS 229, an event took place in my life that impacted my philosophies, beliefs, and actions as a teacher and educational leader over the past 30 years. In some ways it likely shaped my philosophies and impact as a teacher and as an educational leader so many years later. Right now there is a current challenging transition from the abrupt changes to remote e-Learning and how teachers have to “report progress” in this unusual time. Looking back at my personal educational history, I’m reminded of why meaningful feedback, teacher /student relationships, and the mastery of content and the flexibility of instruction supersedes any percentage grade or mark in terms of meaningful feedback and communication about learning.

With this blog post, I’m reflecting on the congruity of an impactful event in my life during an undergraduate course, and the realization that this impactful event has impacted my beliefs whether I consciously knew about it or not. This is an “aha” moment for me – this is partially why I so strongly believe the growing pains and transition are worth the time, effort, energy, and extra work involved in pupil progress reporting.

 


Change is hard (I’ve written a lot about the change process) – Unlearning is hard (I have also written about this concept).

My college professor Dr. Andrew McFarland gave me a chance in the “real world” -when I was in college. Because he knew me, he knew what kind of student I was – he knew my passion for political science he treated me like I was more than a percentage or a score. Dr. McFarland also taught so that students would learn. He had high standards for each and every student and he held himself to high standards too.

So what is this all about? What is this big event that caused me an “aha” moment? Dr. McFarland called me one night while I was eating dinner with my parents; it was 5:30pm – I don’t know how I remember this fact, but I do. This event took place in 1988 or 1989 and I still vividly remember our call!

He called me that night because earlier that day when I took the final exam, I inadvertently forgot to answer one or two additional questions. If Dr. McFarland graded or assessed based on the “old” system I would have received an F. Dr. McFarland, though, was using standards based learning and instruction (whether he or I knew it or not). He called me on the phone and asked me to respond to the final exam question prompts – for 30 maybe 60 minutes. Because he cared about learning – not about percentages or “harsh” lessons, I was able to demonstrate mastery and competency of the American Presidency course (in which I did earn an A, not only because of what I learned, but more importantly, because my professor cared about discovering what his students knew).

He assessed my knowledge acquisition in an alternative learning setting because my teacher was more concerned about assessing my learning and mastery than he was about issuing a grade or a percentage. Had this caring professor used traditional methods I would have failed the exam. In my opinion and in my experiences, standards based grading, reporting, learning, and assessment actually prepares people for real life by holding them accountable to learn. Thank you Dr. McFarland!

Our district will transition through this remote e-Learning to next year (whatever that may be … ideally safe, healthy, and in person). Through this transformational experience for our schooling and for our society, we have all shown how quickly we can unlearn when we must, we have shown how we can relearn schooling, and we will show that we can learn how to create a new reality as necessary.

Dr. McFarland unlearned old school and rigid grading and assessment practices and I consider him to be remarkable and gifted, he was a leader who impacted me and my practice. Let’s use modern instructional strategies to maximize the impact and effect of learning whether we’re in person or remote, or in a hybrid combination of both. Let’s help people unlearn practices that make no sense other than to have been used in their past school experiences.

Preparing students for the future world requires teaching them content that is meaningful in learning environments that are powerfully purposeful and full of clear, regular, meaningful feedback and opportunities to learn and demonstrate learning. As we bring the school year to a close, we are reminded of the impact and power of a teacher and his or her feedback. Thank you to all educators — and thank you again, Dr. McFarland!

Safety in North Shore School District 112

“It’s hard to beat a person that never gives up.”
– Babe Ruth

One of the high points about working in North Shore School District 112 is the community outreach and partnership among public, social services, and private providers in support of students and their health and wellness.

Recently Kevin Liebe, District 112 Director of Operations, Facilities & Transportation, and I made a presentation and held a q & a with the Highland Park Welfare Council.

This group of social service agencies, public service organizations, private foundations, and others united in service for the youth in our community invited us in to address and share school safety initiatives. We’re proud to share the slides we used as a backdrop to our conversation. Every day we work toward excellence in education, excellence in physical safety, and excellence in psychological safety!

Snapshots of Success in District 112 – #112Leads

“We rise by lifting others.”– Robert Ingersol 


I recently posted a podcast episode with the information contained in this blog post, if you’re interested, you can listen:

In North Shore School District 112, I’m proud to report that our present is bright and our future will be brighter! We use various metrics to measure and gauge our success. For reference, check an earlier blog post: Measurement of Success – Blog Post

In today’s blog post, I’m sharing two slide presentations and a few extra slides that highlight some recent and current success in the District. The first presentation below was shared with the District’s PTO President’s Council (PTO refers to the Parent Teacher Organization). This is the formal leadership group representing the parents in the District’s 10 schools. In this report, the results of the Family Engagement Survey reveal significant growth in the areas of the school (& District) satisfaction/pride / and perception of our services.

My report from the January 21, 2020, Board Meeting focused on the District’s “Big Three” areas of focus for the 2019-2020 school year, which are Closing Achievement Gaps, Facility Upgrades and Modernization, and Portrait of a Graduate. The report began with student success data from the winter Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test.

Data shows students in 1st grade are showing the highest achievement out of all grades at 66% projected to meeting or exceeding state standards. I also highlighted additional strong growth in multiple grade levels over the past three years, particularly in mathematics. These trends point to the success of the Full Day Kindergarten program, multiple curricular implementations K-8, professional development, implementation of instructional coaches, and the hard work of our teaching staff and students. 

The report went on to cover the Northwood Modernization Project, which is on time and is within 1% of its budget. I mentioned multiple ways for the public to engage with the process including the Long Range Plan webpage, drone footage and a live feed of the construction site. It was also mentioned that in July of 2020 Phase 2 of the Long-Range Plan will commence with a Thought Exchange community engagement process that will be used to help form a recommendation that will be presented in April 2021.

The report concluded with information regarding several highlights including the Portrait of a Graduate, the 5Essentials Parent Survey, the Innovation Learning Parent Survey, and other ways to engage with the district. These communications tools include the Lighthouse 112 podcast, the district mobile application, e-newsletters, #112Leads, Facebook, and Twitter.

At the Board meeting I did not present the Reading MAP data for time/efficiency, but, in this blog post, I’m sharing the comparable Winter MAP Reading data below (see images).

All in all our District work is showing progress and upward trends!

Paint by Numbers or Creative Leadership – How do you lead?

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become  more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

Students have one chance to experience whatever grade level they are in. They will be in third grade once … it’s incumbent upon we in education, then, to make that the best and most meaningful third grade experience we possibly can. This takes creative, innovative, and empowering leadership. Gone are the complacent days of the “good old days” when rote memorization and “cemetery rows” of desks and chairs in public schools were the norm. Gone is (or should be) the “paint by number” mentality governing the public school system.

Well, I hope so … I endeavor to be a leader who demonstrates creative leadership and courageous leadership in support of excellence and the development of others so that we create optimal conditions for learning, growth, and success. One way in which I do this is through attendance at and participation in professional learning conferences.

When superintendents gather at a professional learning conference, there are some expected traditions. There will be a welcome reception, we’ll get a directory of members, we’ll review the history/tradition of the organization, we’ll have sessions that are whole group, keynote presenters, small group break out sessions, work with partner organizations, local culture/history excursions and networking opportunities. These are legacy traditions that bind us together in our professional organizations in pursuit of scholarship, fellowship, and leadership development.

Although there is a rhyme and reason, and while there is a set of expectations and predictable events, opportunities and experiences, the gathering of school superintendents – our nation’s chief education officers – is anything but paint by numbers professional learning. Today’s leaders must support one another and inspire one another and help one another be better than they were yesterday! The concept of Paint by numbers can be defined as:

Adjective. paint-by-numbers (not comparable) (of a picture) Made from a painting by numbers kit. (figuratively) By rote, without thought or creativity.

paint-by-numbers – Wiktionary

https://en.wiktionary.org › wiki › paint-by-numbers

From PAINT BY NUMBERS

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“For critics, the paint-by-number phenomenon provided ample evidence of the mindless conformity gripping national life and culture. “I don’t know what America is coming to,” one writer complained to American Artist, “when thousands of people, many of them adults, are willing to be regimented into brushing paint on a jig-saw miscellany of dictated shapes and all by rote…”PAINT BY NUMBERS

So paint by numbers became a craze in the 1950s in America so that “anyone could become an artist”. It was part of the postwar (World War II) leisure and recreation fads in the newfound postwar American prosperity. After the Allied victories in the European and Asian theaters, the nation experienced a postwar boom of economic prosperity, educational attainment (GI Bill) and suburban sprawl out of the urban and rural areas.

Life was good. Anyone could “paint by numbers” and become an artist. Through rote, orderly rule following, in clean, linear fashion, everyone and anyone could create masterpieces that were originally created through innovation and creativity and talent.

In the period of time following World War II, and following the Korean Conflict, it can be argued that America was lulled into a peaceful and prosperous conformity where leisure, complacency, and pursuit of the American Dream was the norm. This was until the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR/CCCP, the Soviet Union (archenemy of the United States during the Cold War) successfully launched Sputnik … that started the space race, and was a starting point for the American wake up call for many things, including a focus on scientific and mathematical learning in the nation’s public schools. “History changed on October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union successfully launched SputnikI. The world’s first artificial satellite was about the size of a beach ball…” Sputnik

Followed up with President John Kennedy’s bold, audacious goal that America would put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s. The palette of change and growth in America was about to become anything but “paint by numbers”.

Some argue that in the 19th year of the 21st Century, American public schools are again getting a wake-up call to create conditions for learning that resemble modern learning in response to the 4th Industrial Revolution instead of lingering traditions from the first or second Industrial Revolution. Why should our nation’s schools and classrooms still look like the image below?

F957DC40-CC54-43DA-9840-13282B189EF7.jpeg

When the world and the expansion of knowledge is far different and the work force has far newer needs, it’s urgent for K-12 schooling to change and adapt for the reality of the present and the possibility of the future. As illustrated in the image, there are degrees in college today that have significantly changed in the past half century. More and more of these college degrees, industry certifications, and career opportunities for which we in K-12are charged with preparing the future that cannot be mastered via rote, paint-by-numbers thinking.