Archive for August, 2010

Hills to Climb

Aug 15 2010 Published by under borderland,curriculum

Summer is over, and so is my unplanned break from blogging. Last week we had the kick-off welcome back session and we met our new superintendent. We had the introductions for new staff, brief recounts of summer highlights, and school-wide planning, planning, planning. Monday there will be more planning (presumably) and a meet-and-greet for teachers and families in the evening. Tuesday is my day for classroom and lesson prep. Wednesday, it’s kids.

While we teachers were sitting on our butts hour after hour being professionally developed, I thought about my personal summer accomplishments, and the benefits of personal development in general, which I suspect might contribute as much or more to my professional practice as any number of mandatory meetings. I was also reminded of the agony that kids go through when we require them to sit quietly at desks, “working” all day.

On the personal development front, as a point of reference, this summer I became a runner. I’ve never liked running before because it hurt my knees and I am slow, but I started with it (for maybe the dozenth time) because it’s an efficient way to burn calories. I lost a LOT of weight from running, biking, and eating less. Gradually, after running day after day, it started to feel good, almost fun. This was a first. Also, from where I live, I can take off from my house and run on logging roads away from traffic and neighbors. I take my iPod and for an hour or so, early, before it gets hot, I’m gone. Now and then, there’s a moose or a fox, or something different, and mostly it’s a peaceful time. The daily practice pays off when we go on family hikes since I don’t come home sore and demoralized from trying to keep up with my kids.

Saddle Sore

Seeing, I suppose, that I might have some potential, my sixteen year-old daughter suggested that we enter the Granite Tors trail run together. I didn’t do too bad, and finished the 15 miles in 3 hours. The guy who recorded our times took a picture of the muddy, bloody knee I got after my foot got grabbed by a root. I was kind of proud of the knee after that. I’m not a competitive runner, and I don’t plan on entering any more races. This one was just an experiment and a chance to try something with one of my kids. But it was also a confidence builder, which will be helpful the next time I have to do something hard.

And that leads me back to the planning we’re doing for this school year. Our school did not make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) on the State tests, and we’ve landed on Level 4, which calls for “corrective action.” As of now, this appears to mean that we will document everything and make some curriculum adjustments. So far, no personnel are being replaced, and no outside consultants are being brought in. The district as a whole is going forward with a Big Push for RTI, which requires collaborative team planning and programmatic “interventions” which may all contribute to what we need to do as a school on account of this AYP thing. Collaboration is good – if we get some latitude on goal setting.

At this point it looks like a major teacher research project to me. I volunteered to be on the Data Team, and I plan to write about as much of it as I can. We actually planned for this eventuality several months ago, knowing that the AYP targets keep rising each year and that by 2014, when we’re supposed to be at 100% proficient, nearly every school in the country will fail. Our downfall this year was that too few of our learning disabled students passed the language section of the tests. Shocking! Eh? The law has to change. It’s absurd to give a test that everyone is expected to pass since that would be, practically speaking, not a good test.

Our new superintendent told us, “AYP is one measure; if we solely focus on that one measure, we will have lost the battle. This is about the whole child.” [Applause].

I am especially glad that Alaska is not Racing to the Top, and that the only hills I have to climb are the real ones I can actually run on. By any sane standard, it is the NCLB law that has failed, not our school. But that isn’t to say there isn’t room for improvement. Curriculum is meant to be tested – every day.

I’m looking forward to this year.

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