Tuesday, May 27, 2014

How do you know if it has been a successful school year?

Principal ponderings...

I was having writer's block leading up to writing this blog post.  So I took some time to read through several blog posts from a variety of educators that I follow.  A principal who I follow who also writes a weekly blog for his staff recently wrote about determining a successful school year.  His ideas helped me get over my writer's block!

We are down to the last few weeks.  Third and fourth graders managed to get through the math MCAS.  In another week, two of our third grade classrooms will pilot the end of year math test for the PARCC.  I just had a conversation with the other principals about when we will make the big leap from MCAS to PARCC for the whole district.  There are certainly pros and cons to consider when taking on a new assessment.  Whether it is the MCAS or PARCC, the big question is always going to be how much student growth happened over time?  And of course we want our students to be 'proficient' no matter what test they take, but I can't help wondering...if a student is not proficient, does that mean that student is a failure?

I was thinking about a student who I have been involved with since kindergarten.  He was a half day student so he didn't have as much time at school that first year.  But it was clear when he was here that he had not come to school with much previous support or education.  He had a difficult 1st grade year.  He quickly became known by his teacher and his peers as a behavior problem.  Forget about trying to have him make benchmark...we were just trying to get him to make it through a school day without being sent to the office, shutting down or getting kicked off of the bus.

When you have a student like that, whether he will be proficient or not on the MCAS, PARCC  or any other assessment...that is really the last thing on my mind.  I am always thinking how are we going to get this child ready for learning, because clearly he is not ready for learning yet.  Fast forward to this year, 2nd grade, and finally, we are seeing a child who is becoming ready to learn.  He has shown improvement on the bus.  He has actually had very few incidents of shutting down.  He has begun to show us what he knows and what he is capable of learning.  He is not a child that has a learning disability or one who needs special education.  Well...he needs special education of a different kind.  He needs teachers who will care about him.  Teachers who will not give up on him.  He needs special attention by the guidance counselor and the principal and assistant principal.  Will be make benchmark by the end of this year in math and reading?  I don't know.  So do I consider that a failure?  Absolutely not.  He is a success.  This school year has finally been a successful school year for him.  Will he be proficient on the MCAS or the PARCC next year?  It's hard to say...considering all of the holes in his foundation, it's not likely.  But if he continues to have teachers who believe in him and encourage him to grow not just academically, but socially and emotionally as well...then he will be a success story.

We live in an education world that measures success by academic growth.  I do agree that we need to do that.  However, not every kid is going to be proficient.  We certainly need to strive for that for all of our students, but there are going to be students who are not proficient or who do not meet benchmark by the end of the year.  We can not give up on those students.  Student growth comes in all forms, and that is how we determine if it has been a successful school year.

Think back to a student you have or have had in the past.  How did you make their life better during the school year?  Did you imagine what it was like to walk in their shoes?  Did you give them the love, support and patience that they needed?  If you made their life better, then I would say that was a successful year!

Currently reading:
Have to be honest...this week most of my time has been taken up with writing evaluations so reading has been put on the back burner.  My goal this week is to both finish evaluation writing and get back into my books!

Events this week:
Tuesday - Kindergarten screening @ Prescott 9:00-2:00, Grade 3 Chorus rehearsal 9:30-11:00
Wednesday - Kindergarten screening @Prescott 9:00-2:00, 3rd grade school chorus show @ 1:30, School Committee Meeting @ 7:00
Thursday - Kindergarten screening @ Prescott 9:00-12:00, Special Education teachers in a training from 9:00-11:30, Middle Assistant Principal talking with 4th grade in the cafeteria @ 1:20, Grade 3 concert @ 7:00
Friday - 3rd grade fire safety evaluations, Graduation at the high school @ 6:00

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Mrs. Benkley and Mrs. Maynard were trying out the new Safari Montage...a digital media management system.  They had an area that students were struggling with so they looked up the standard and were given lots of recommended video clips to show.  The whole class was very excited to watch and learn!

  • We were lucky to have Julie and Phyllis help us launch a new model for staff meetings...edcamp!  We had to do a shortened version, but it was still great to try out this new way to create your own professional development in the building.  Teachers were engaged in great conversations and learning from each other.
Check it out:
Read more about the idea of edcamp here:
And here is a long list of edcamps all over the country in case you want to check one out this summer!

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