Friday, May 13, 2016

Individualizing PD through PLCs

We continue to revamp our Professional Learning Plan (PLP) for teachers. Each Professional Learning Community (PLC) completes the PLP at the beginning of the school year. The PLC guides their own learning through the format below. For the past two years, our Professional Development Committee has continued to tweak the PLP. The latest addition allows all PLCs to choose a peer observation option to fulfill the Observation and Integration of Learning component. I am proud of our work and the focus on making professional development more meaningful for teachers in our school district.

You can find the editable document within the Dropbox link above.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Second Annual STEM Camp this summer at Rugby Public Schools

We are excited to announce a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Camp this summer at the Rugby High School for students heading into grades 3-5 next school year.  The STEM camp will take place from 8:00AM – 12:00PM Monday – Friday beginning July 25th.  Highlights include: Biomes of the World, Buzzing a Hive, Bubble Festival, and Engineering Challenges. This will be a fun filled week to get kids excited about science. Registration forms can be found at Ely Elementary and the Rugby High School.  These forms are due by June 24th. The cost for a student is $40.00. Spots will be limited so sign up soon.  For questions contact or Mike McNeff at 776-5201.

Monday, July 25
8:00 AM - Noon
Biomes of the World
Tuesday, July 26
8:00 AM - Noon
Buzzing A Hive
Wednesday, July 27
8:00 AM - Noon
Bubble Festival
Thursday, July 28
8:00 AM - Noon
Engineering Challenge
Friday, July 29
8:00 AM - Noon
Engineering Challenge & Awards

Monday, May 2, 2016

Teacher Appreciation Week

Today is the start of Teacher Appreciation Week at Rugby Schools and across the nation. I think we can all remember that teacher that helped us at a certain time in our lives. In my own life I can remember several from elementary and high school. Teachers spend the majority of the day with our children and play a significant role in developing them into productive human beings. I am thankful for the teachers and support staff within our district. We have arranged small tokens of appreciation over the course of this week in celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week at Rugby Public Schools. 

Thank a teacher today! 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Making Time for PLCs in a Time Deprived Day

I will be presenting at the North Dakota PLC Summit this week. As I was preparing my presentation I put together a few suggestions for districts that are exploring embedded PLC time.

We cannot expect this work to occur during their prep, after school, during lunch, before school and etc. I believe we must embed a specific time that is consistent across the district.

Find a consistent time that works for your district. The time should be consistent across the district. This will help administrators support each PLC. This will also help with vertical meetings that will need to occur to address gaps and overlaps with curriculum, instruction, and assessment.

Meetings should occur at minimum once per week. If we aren’t meeting once per week we forget about our focus and it's harder to get back on track and use the time efficiently.

We need to ensure that this time is protected and considered sacred. People will try to consume this newly found time with meetings that don’t matter. Administrators need to protect this time. That means no practices, activity meetings, advisor meetings, and etc. The only thing that occurs during this time are activities that are associated with the PLC.

Target Wednesday morning for the day to implement PLCs. I truly believe there isn’t a better time than Wednesday morning. I don’t want our coaches and advisors to miss this time due to practice. There are typically less events and vacation days on Wednesdays.

What will you do with the students? We still allow all students to be dropped off at their regular times. In the elementary school, we have upwards of 100 students that head to the library to read silently, read with a friend, or be read to. This alone has been a positive for kids. For the remainder of our students we have our para educators supervise students.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Most Likely to Succeed documentary coming to Rugby

As an education advocate and school leader I am interested in having dialogue with others regarding the state of our educational system and what its future may look like. There will be an opportunity on April 7th at 7:00PM to view the educational documentary Most Likely to Succeed at the Lyric Movie Theater in Rugby. I encourage all stakeholders to attend this thought provoking documentary. I may not necessarily agree with everything within the film, but I will most certainly be open-minded about the topic. From my perspective we should be concerned about remaining relevant in our changing world. I welcome you to attend the free viewing of this educational documentary. 

The following is a summary of the film: 

The feature-length documentary Most Likely to Succeed examines the history of education in the United States, revealing the growing shortcomings of conventional education methods in today’s innovative world. The film explores compelling new approaches that aim to revolutionize teaching as we know it. After seeing this film, the way you think about “school” will never be the same. Over a century ago, American education underwent a dramatic transformation as the iconic one-room schoolhouse evolved into an effective system that produced an unmatched workforce tailored for the 20th Century. As the world economy shifts and traditional white-collar jobs begin to disappear, that same system remains intact, producing potentially chronic levels of unemployment among graduates in the 21st Century. The film follows students into the classrooms of High Tech High, an innovative new school in San Diego. There, over the course of a school year, two groups of ninth graders take on ambitious, project-based challenges that promote critical skills rather than rote memorization. Most Likely to Succeed points to a transformation in learning that may hold the key to success for millions of our youth – and our nation – as we grapple with the ramifications of rapid advances in technology, automation and growing levels of income inequality.

I hope to see you there. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

What could you possibly achieve of quality in a single draft?

In our work life how often do we turn in something that has never been revised? Like the title says, "what could you possibly achieve of quality in a single draft?" When I think about all of the tasks that are required of me as a superintendent they mostly all entail some level of revision. I never send out something that has not been revised. I am sure that is the same answer we see in most professions, but in the school setting we tend to be more concerned with quantity of work and not quality. This blog post will undergo multiple revisions and I am sure I will still have a grammatical error or two.
"Students need to know from the outset that quality means rethinking, reworking, and polishing." - Ron Berger
Perhaps this focus on quantity has more to do with the shear amount of standards or possibly the overemphasis on covering the text book. Lets face it, we will never reach a level of deep understanding for all of the standards. We can certainly "cover" all of the standards if we are okay with only surface knowledge. I have written extensively about the PLC process and the development of power standards. The development of power standards are liberating in a sense, because it allows us to really hone in on what we want students to know and be able to do. We of course still teach all of the other stuff, but we report out on predetermined skills and content that the team deems as most important.

It is difficult to focus on quality when we have the mindset to cover. If we are going to ensure all will know and be able to do these 10-15 things then there should be multiple opportunities to develop mastery. If we are to require multiple revisions then we need to provide quality feedback and that takes time. Ron Berger suggests that we should use their peers to analyze and provide quality feedback.
"There is incredible learning potential in looking carefully at student work together as a group." 
Berger shares three rules when using peers for feedback:

Be Kind - No sarcasm or hurtful comments
Be Specific - No comments like It's good or I like it.
Be helpful - Don't waste our time.

Berger discusses two types of critique he uses to provide feedback: Gallery critique and in-depth critique.

Gallery Critique is when the work of every child is displayed. Students look at all of the work silently prior to providing comments. The primary focus should be to provide positive feedback. Students are to select examples from each piece that impress them and discuss why.

In-depth Critique focuses on the work of a single student or group. Students spend a good deal of time to critiquing it thoroughly. This provides a detailed process of making the work stronger.

When you look at both of these ways to critique student work the first thing that comes to mind is the shear amount of time required. It is certainly something that you cannot do for every standard, but I believe it could be used in some way for our power standards. This type of critique  and focus on quality is an excellent way to develop mastery. When there is an audience and student work is no longer a private affair between the student and the teacher, the overall quality improves.
"Ideally the promise of good grades and the threat of bad ones will keep everyone working hard. In reality, it doesn't work this way. Almost every school gives grades and yet has no shortage of poor-quality work. Not only do grades not insure quality work or effort, but in many cases grades work against student motivation." Ron Berger
If you are questioning the quality of student work find time to read An Ethic of Excellence by Ron Berger.

How do you encourage multiple revisions and create time to do so?