Monday, July 29, 2019

RPSD to Increase Time for Teacher Training


At the February 12th school board meeting, the Rugby Public School Board voted to increase the amount of time for teacher training by adding seven additional days of training to the 2019-2020 school calendar. The school board took advantage of a recent law change that provides schools with additional flexibility for teacher training and storm day makeup.

The approved school calendar for 2019-2020 provides 10 days of professional development for teachers and support staff. This equates to one professional development day per month. The school district will not have students in session on these training days. In the past, we would front load most of our training during our two days of professional development prior to school starting. Due to the time constraints of the school day and a traditional school calendar it has been extremely difficult to gain momentum on our key school initiatives. According to research on adult learning, high quality professional learning is job embedded and continuously occurs throughout the year.

In general, the calendar change will provide teachers more opportunities to engage in school improvement, curriculum planning, and personal professional development during their working hours. It is the belief that quality is greater than quantity in relation to time in front of kids. All professionals need time and opportunities to update, to train, to interact with other professionals, to hone their craft, to reflect on their work, to get better. Effective professional development is distributed over time and not jammed into a single day.

Professionals need opportunities to: become aware of best practices, observe others modeling new or different practices, have opportunities to practice, receive feedback, reflect and interact with others. When teachers are able to meet regularly to reflect on practice, examine student work, agree on common outcomes, research best practice, observe others, share effective practices, everyone benefits. The traditional structure and length of the school day has not allowed for this type of practice. Sometimes the lumberjack must stop sawing to sharpen his blade to improve production. This is no different than the teaching profession, sometimes we need time away from teaching to improve teaching.

You can view the new calendar at this website: https://tinyurl.com/y25zzqkw


Thursday, April 18, 2019

Deep Learning

This post has been influenced by a recent book I have been reading, Deep Learning by Fullan, Quinn, and McEachen. Fullan et al., share their insight on deep learning. They define deep learning as, “valuable learning that sticks – it situates the learner as someone who acts upon the world (usually with others), thereby transforming her or himself and the world itself.” This is really about relevance, students need to find relevance in what they do in the classroom. We need to give them opportunities to apply what they learn in real world situations. We need to provide them opportunities to pursue their passion. Real world application and finding their passion will make their school experience more engaging and relevant.

“Put a young person in a stagnant situation or one demanding irrelevant activities, and they will appear unreachable” (Fullan et al., 2018, p. 9).

According to Jenkins (2013), student engagement levels peak during kindergarten at 95% and slowly decline to 39% by the time students reach grade 11. This is very concerning and something we should be considering within our school improvement efforts. How do we create classrooms that students want to attend every day for 175 days of school? I love when my own kids come home from school excited about what they learned at school and continue to explore the topic at home. All kids should experience this sense of excitement throughout their school experience.

Deep learning is the process of acquiring these six global competencies: character, citizenship, collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking.

“In the past, we mostly asked students to solve problems that have already been solved. Today we have moved from asking our students to be consumers of knowledge to asking them to apply their solutions to real-world problems” (Fullan, Quinn, McEachen, 2018, p. 82).

Over the past few weeks, I have been able to witness a few examples of what I would consider deep learning.

Last week, our seniors presented their capstone projects as part of fulfilling the requirements of their senior English course. Seniors were able to pick a topic that they were passionate about and complete a mini-research study on the topic. They researched their topic, conducted surveys, analyzed the data, and provided a presentation on their topic to the public on April 11th. I included a few of the topics in the image below. I was thoroughly amazed by the knowledge they acquired and how they were able to apply it to a real-world situation.


Earlier this week, Mr. Leier and members of his Community Development class were invited to meet with Governor Burgum to discuss their work on the Mainstreet Initiative. These students participated in a community forum earlier this year and were asked to gather information on the following: What are the strengths and weaknesses of our community? If Rugby were to be able to build a Multi-Purpose Community Center, what would residents want to see and how might they support it? The culmination of this project involved a meeting with the Governor and his Main Street Initiative Team in Bismarck, ND.


 “Students have untapped potential, but given voice and choice through deep learning we see them influencing dramatic changes to organizations, society, and pedagogy” (Fullan, Quinn, and McEachen, 2018, p. 47).

The challenge with these types of learning experiences is that they take considerable time to complete, but I’ll bet what they learned about their topic will stick with them for years to come. We need more of these types of learning experiences in school. Let’s trust students to take on real world problems and apply their learning. We will be surprised about what they can accomplish.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Quality Over Quantity

I prepared this information in support of House Bill 1346. HB 1346 shifts our instructional day requirement to hours. This bill creates flexibility for school districts to do some pretty innovative things. I believe that the amount of instructional time may not be as important as the quality of the instructional time.

How does North Dakota’s instructional time requirements compare to other states? 

Currently, North Dakota Century Code requires 1,050 instructional hours for high school and 962.5 instructional hours for elementary school. NDCC also includes a 175 day requirement for all school districts. The chart below compares North Dakota to our neighboring states. Rugby Public School District requires a longer school day than the state requirement. It should be mentioned that many school districts in the state of North Dakota require more instructional time than the state requirement. 


How does North Dakota’s instructional time requirements compare to international educational systems? 

The country of Finland’s educational system has long been admired internationally. Finland continually scores near the top of international educational assessments in math, reading, and science. Finland requires approximately 600 instructional hours for elementary and high school. Finland outperforms the United States with half of the amount of instructional hours. The top 36 international educational systems in the world require 800 hours on average for elementary school and approximately 700 hours for high school. The United States’ average is approximately 1080 instructional hours for both elementary and high school (Sahlberg, 2010, p. 91). 

Why do international educational systems spend less time in front of students? 

In general, lower teaching hours provide teachers more opportunities to engage in school improvement, curriculum planning, and personal professional development during their working hours. It is the belief that quality is greater than quantity in relation to time in front of kids. All professionals need time and opportunities to update, to train, to interact with other professionals, to hone their craft, to reflect on their work, to get better. Effective professional development is distributed over time and not jammed into a single day. Professionals need opportunities to: become aware of best practices, observe others modeling new or different practices, have opportunities to practice, receive feedback, reflect and interact with others. When teachers are able to meet regularly to reflect on practice, examine student work, agree on common outcomes, research best practice, observe others, share effective practices, everyone benefits. The traditional structure and length of the school day has not allowed for this type of practice. Sometimes the lumberjack must stop sawing to sharpen his blade to improve production. This is no different than the teaching profession, sometimes we need time away from teaching to improve teaching. 

Leading the world in the time we spend in front of students is not the answer, redirecting a portion of that time for personal professional development is. The world’s educational systems spend less time in front of students and use that time to improve their practice. 

Our board recently approved our instructional day waiver for our 2019-2020 school calendar. This calendar will have 10 professional development days and 36 (50 minute) late starts for teacher collaboration. HB 1346 would allow districts the flexibility to make structural changes as needed and districts would no longer have to submit a waiver. 




Tuesday, February 26, 2019

RPS and HAMC partner to become a Reach Out And Read Site.

Rugby Public Schools has partnered with HAMC Johnson Clinic to become a “Reach Out and Read “site. Reach Out and Read is a national nonprofit organization that gives young children a foundation for success by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together.

“We are excited to partner with HAMC by purchasing the books through our Striving Readers Grant” says Mike McNeff, Superintendent of Rugby Public Schools.

Through Reach Out and Read, practitioners at HAMC Johnson Clinic will “prescribe” reading aloud to infants and toddlers. At each well child/well baby check, HAMC practitioners will be giving a book to the child and talking about the importance of reading out loud.

HAMC Physician Assistant, Dustin Hager says “We know that childhood experiences early in life can have a lasting impact on later learning, behavior, and health. Many studies have shown a strong, association between a home reading environment, such as access to books, frequency of reading, and variety of books read, and brain development.”

Jodi Schaan, Medical Staff Coordinator for HAMC says, “We are excited to partner with Rugby Public Schools and the Reach Out and Read program, fostering a love of reading & learning in babies & preschoolers that will benefit them throughout their life.”

Reach Out and Read currently serves 4.7 million children and their families. The Reach Out and Read has 6,000 program sites in all 50 states. The Reach Out and Read model is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.