Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Last Day of Meetings

What I learned today during our final day of in-service trainings:

- Our attendance policy is entirely punitive. No incentives encourage or reinforce positive behaviors. Last year the policy did not change student behaviors, so the detention times are now doubled. I think the person in charge does not understand that the student behavior is a symptom of the disease: the students' attitude towards school. We need to cure the disease or else the symptoms will continue.

- We used an entirely ridiculous decision-making model and discussion process, but somehow came out with a result the majority supported. The admin team gave us two hours to create a new (though previously) state-mandated culminating project. Instead of starting with the end-goal in mind and working backwards (you know, like teaching), we threw random ideas (time to use, resources, etc.) onto paper and then voted on it. The decision: give the project to social studies, who wanted it, to embed into their senior classes. We still don't know what the product will be. We just gave the work to someone else.

- Lunch was pretty good: wraps.

- My department rocks my socks! We worked together for an hour and completed every item on our agenda with time to spare. I am so fortunate to work with 19 other language arts teachers who can discuss issues and not individuals, debate dilemmas and not personalities, and create solutions and not add more difficulties. Our new journalism teacher said to me, "we have a great department leader. This department is amazing. You all just love your jobs." How cool is that?!

- Our cheerleaders truly want to unify the school and change the climate. They created over 120 signs, one for every teacher and visible staff member in the building, which welcome back each person by name. I know I'm biased because my wife is the cheer coach, but I actually believe these girls are serious about their mission and can make visible and lasting changes. This is not last year's squad.

As I said the other day, "I can't wait for classes to begin!" Can you tell I'm excited?

It's Me

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Mind Can Absorb...

The mind can absorb what the rear can endure.

That's the lesson I learned today in the meetings we had today. We sat. And sat. And sat. They lectured.

Now, I must be fair. We had an excellent guest speaker who discussed the hope teachers foster in their students. He was articulate, humorous, well-prepared, practiced, and relevant. He was the highlight of the day.

Then the administrative team emphasized the importance of relationships. I absolutely agree that the relationships built between students, staff, and administrators create much of our successes. They spoke very well in this regard because I wholeheartedly believe they are correct.

However, it was also obvious that the admins have no idea how to teach the teachers how to create better bonds with students. It's not that they don't want to do so. They just aren't successful at creating relationships themselves. This inability of theirs translates to an inability to model or instruct the teaching staff to build these relationships.

I really wish the admins would model effective teaching techniques by differentiating their lessons to the staff and would use techniques other than lecture. They are our leaders in education and, in my opinion, should be the models of excellence in teaching.

We did play a "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" game using a special PowerPoint template which could be a great approach in my classes. I'm going to request a copy of the template.

Quote of the week: "I don't know the question, but here is the answer."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Grading Thoughts

(continued from yesterday)

I really started to question what grading means and how grading should be conducted in my classroom. Here is where I am now:

1. Not everything turned in must be graded. Sometimes I just check to see where the trouble spots are by taking quick notes on a pad after reading through student work. Student work is not done for points, but for learning. This is something I pound into the kids' heads from day one.

2. Standards-based rubrics are used with every writing assignment. Each rubric I use is based on the Six Traits of Writing, and the categories are consistent with every writing I assign. The students should be familiar with the rubric before beginning an assignment and should know their grades when they turn in the assignment. All they have to do is to check the rubric to know their score before I even see it.

3. I use categories in every class I teach. For example in one class, I have 20% of the overall grade as tests and quizzes, 20% for literary analyses, 20% for assorted classwork and homework, 15% for vocabulary, 10% for mastery tests, and 15% for the final. This means no one assignment or skill set in a class dooms a student. However, students must be well-rounded to receive the top scores.

4. Students must, orally or in writing, explain why they receive the grades they get. This way they have to understand what they did, how they can improve, and how they got to the grade they received (metacognition--don't you love Marzano?).

5. Students can and will redo assignments in which they receive low scores. Just because it takes one student longer than another does not mean his/her grade should suffer.

6. Writings may be graded for very specific items (say, only organizational structure or just content or simply voice, etc.) without grading the rest. This way a focus is created instead of grading what has not been taught in my classroom.

7. Students will grade as much as possible--yes, their own writing as well. I hand out colored pencils, and we make corrections and suggestions as we go. I grade (sometimes check off) these based on how well they participate and go through the processes.

8. The processes are as important as the final product. Since these are fledgling learners just beginning the complexities of writing, they must first learn processes before being held completely accountable for final products. Eventually the final product is the vast majority of a score, but only after I have fully prepared them.

9. I write down at least one positive comment for every critical suggestion. Praise must be given. No product is unworthy of any affirmation.

10. Accommodations are no problem.

11. Eventually, students must be able to show a skill independently. Without independence, the skill is not learned (ingrained?).

12. Not completing an assignment is a zero until completed. However, students must complete the assignment within a week of the due date to receive credit. There are some exceptions to this, but I determine these on a student by student basis. I don't like the zero grades, but I don't have an adequate solution as of yet. I may give partial credit if a student can explain the desired learning, proving he/she knows the skill or information--haven't decided this one yet.

I have considered an academic citizenship or work ethic grade instead of zero scores for missing work, but I have not figured out what I would want this to look like.

This is how I go about things in my classes. There are more pieces of grading minutiae, but these are the basics.

How badly am I doing?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

DrPezz's Grading 101

I posted on a blog by Tense Teacher about some of my ideas on grading. When I first started teaching I put 20-30 minutes into each paper I read. I had positive comments, suggestions for stronger arguments, possible examples to consider using, grammatical and syntactical errors noted, sentences restructured, and word usage problems labeled. I did a great job!

My host teacher looked at me and said, "Who are those comments for?"

This stunned me. "They're for the kids, of course" was my reply.

"No, they're not."

I didn't get it. I furrowed my brow and must've looked lost because he continued with "you wrote those comments as if you were rewriting their papers. If they do what you just told them, the papers will be yours and not theirs."

I thought about that for quite a while, not really knowing what to do differently. The education gurus in college don't tell you how to do these things. Maybe a post for another day is what the education departments at universities don't teach, but today grading is my focus.

So...the first question I focused on was: what purpose is served by how I grade student work?

I can't say I formed a perfect answer, but this did lead me to decide how I wish to grade my students, why I grade the work, and what should be graded.

To be continued...

Friday, August 24, 2007

Good News

Here are my reasons for being in such a good mood:

- I vented in my previous post,
- my classroom is finished,
- the custodian responsible for our area last year is with us again,
- I'm having dinner with two of my favorite people (retired teachers),
- two students contacted me today saying how excited they are for my class,
- my parents arrive tomorrow,
- the sun is shining in a clear, blue sky,
- my dog is snoring loudly (which makes me laugh every time),
- I bought a new book to read (historical mystery - I forget the name), and
- I just need to make some copies to be ready for the first day (Sept. 4).

Besides all that, I've lost 20 pounds since Spring Break! Woo-hoo!


I've mentioned the Boss Lady and my avoidance of her, so I guess I should explain my feelings. We're very different people, and we approach the same issues from opposing viewpoints. Here are my (biased?) perceptions based on my observations and experiences.

First, I believe high school students and staff should be given trust until that trust is broken. I treat everyone as having a clean slate and freely trust until I have a reason to be suspicious. I believe in the inherent goodness of the individual and that giving responsibility to people helps them grow.

However, the Boss Lady seems to begin with a belief that everyone should be viewed as a threat to her power. Questioning a policy for clarification or suggesting an alternate path is seen as a challenge to her authority. I get the sense that she is somewhat insecure, so she has paranoid, defensive responses to questions and suggestions. Her posture becomes aggressive, her countenance hardens, and her answers become terse. She must make all decisions and must be a part of every committee or discussion.

Secondly, I don't believe the Boss Lady understands my job. At all. I teach English, which is a discipline I describe as non-linear. Skills come from many directions at once and are combined and synthesized all at once. English does not work like math, the subject she taught. English does not always work linearly like algebra (to which she compares English). It's just a different way to think.

She wants to restructure English by eliminating the honors classes, ELL courses (non-English speakers), and some special ed courses by putting everyone in the same courses. We would lose everything created--with community support and involvement--in the last 20 years. When the community gets wind of this, they will explode.

Thirdly, the Boss Lady was caught calling our department derogatory names after we explained how her restructuring ideas would destroy our programs. She openly complained to a support staffer in the library that the "whiners" in English are just "selfish." I don't think calling us names to anyone is acceptable, especially to one of the non-teaching staff in the building who must work with us.

I don't believe she respects the vast majority of the staff. I feel patronized by her and feel that she only respects those who follow her without question. Having worked with her one-on-one, in small groups, and with the entire staff, I feel I have a good grasp of how she views us.

I don't think she is evil, the Dark Side using the Force to conquer the universe, but I do think her paranoid defensiveness and callousness make her ineffective. In my nine years here, this is the most divided the staff has ever been, and we are viewed as a dysfunctional school by the district office. It didn't used to be so.

Since I am in a new union position I hope she and I will be able to work together effectively, and I want to believe she will be more effective uniting the staff. She was quite cheery when I ran into her today. Unfortunately, my hope is not the same as confidence.

P.S. Our bond failed.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Here is my to-do list for Friday:

- Get to school by 7:30
- Finish putting up my wall hangings (the "happy wall" is finished - yea!)
- Send out union notices (need to set up a meeting with the building reps to coordinate who will represent which faculty members)
- Avoid the Boss Lady
- Meet with another teacher about my first time as an adjunct professor in the high school (my new class - woo-hoo!)
- Lunch! (and avoid the Boss Lady)
- Finish my online history course (I'm almost finished with the final project)
- Dinner with a retired teaching couple I love
- Prepare for my parents' visit

I'm on the local union's executive board as the high school's main representative. The previous one is now in another union position, but he was (unjustly) attacked by the Boss Lady because he would not allow violations of our contract to go unnoticed. He would ensure that proper procedures were followed, which did not allow Boss Lady to cut corners or slight staff members and programs. This, of course, means I am now in the crosshairs of the Boss Lady, and I'm curious when she will let me know I'm in her sights.

Regardless, I'm looking forward to this year. I've got kids already (we start Sept. 4) e-mailing me, teachers coming in early to ask questions and collaborate, and the union president showing me the history of the current issues. I'm learning lots and getting giddy to begin.

Today I read all of my notes and cards from kids, which really gets me motivated. I keep everything and fill my wall behind my desk, reading each card and note as it's posted. I love seeing all those smiling faces on the wall. What a way to get me inspired. At least I know I had a few successes. :)

Let's do it!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The First Day

Since my school corrects schedules during the first week of school, it is quite difficult to begin teaching until the second or third day. This means I don't go over the classroom expectations until the third day of class.

Last year I decided that the first day would just be a fun day to help me get to know the students. I set a game show in my classroom with which some of you may be familiar.

We played The Match Game.

I loved that show as a kid. I used to laugh and laugh until my sides hurt listening to the banter and the answers to the crazy clues. The host, Gene Rayburn, really made the show what it was. His wit and rapport with the celebrities made this show just plain fun.

I collected actual fill-in-the-blanks from the show and had the students in teams. We competed against one another with some modified rules. It was great! We bonded a bit, I learned names, and the kids left feeling positive.

Before we played I showed them a five minute clip where insanity ruled and hilarity ensued, but what really blew the kids' minds was that I downloaded the 70s theme song and played it while they came up with their answers. Of course, they thought I was a nut but what a blast! They talked about it all semester.

Plus, they had to think! Imagine that on the first day. The answers they provide have to be clever and usually humor is encouraged. Here are a few examples of sentences they must complete (keeping in mind they have to match their classmates for points):

"Hey, did you hear about Carla the Cannibal? She went to McDonald’s and ate ____________________."

"In the delivery room when Ugly Edna was born, she was so ugly Edna’s mother asked for a _____________________."

"Sid said, “I’ve got the world’s toughest banker. Last time I asked for a loan, he wanted my _______________ as collateral.”

This year I want to try a different game but am not sure what to play. It doesn't have to be from a game show, but I want something fun.

Any suggestions?

Behind Schedule

I got up at 6:30 this morning, packed the car, and headed to the school to start organizing my classroom. Unfortunately, the custodial team is behind schedule and just waxed the floors of our hallway. I guess they were pulled for other duties last week according to one custodian, so now they have to catch up. I'll try again tomorrow.

Our custodial crew is awesome, by the way. They are courteous, personable, and industrious. The gentleman who is assigned my area asks daily what I need and often asks how his work is; it's always exemplary! His son was a student of mine about five years ago, and we've always been able to chat and help one another out.

I think I need to start the year with a plate of goodies or something for the crew.

If I could offer any new teachers out there some advice: treat the support staff well. You will need their help frequently.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Training with the Admin. Teams

I went to my first training as a member of my union's executive team, and I learned more about the administrators than I did about the evaluation process to be used this year.

It was a singular experience. I realized the following:

- my school's administrative team is way behind everyone else's. I believe there is a paranoia behind every decision they make and question posed to them. I sensed a CYA mentality first and foremost.

- my district's administrators don't like to follow through and don't meet deadlines. There was an emphasis on going through every step when "trying to dismiss or discipline an employee."

- all of the administrators who wanted to be noticed were also the ones who sounded the least competent. I got a feeling of desperation and inadequacy from four who just wanted to voice all of their good ideas. I felt bad for them.

- more will be asked of the teachers in my building, and they won't get the credit. During informal conversations sprinkling the room, I heard administrators share their new ideas, all of which will give them gold stars without having to do the dirty work.

- our bond will probably fail. I did not know that the building administrative teams held such a responsibility for getting people out to vote for the bond, and the number of people voting may not be enough to qualify the passage of a bond despite a favorable vote. They are desperate.

- I get a new evaluator! He's actually a friend of mine, even if he does now work for the Dark Side, and we will truly be able to share ideas about teaching. He was a great teacher and could help me improve.

- our overall evaluation process is a good one.

I still don't see a future growth of trust to occur in my building this year. I hope I'm wrong, but what I've seen--granted, a limited view--does not seem to indicate a real change in attitude or approach. What I've also heard from others in meetings with our administrative team is that more deadlines and duties are about to be announced at our first building meeting a week from tomorrow.

I am also curious to see how the union and the district administration works together. Traditionally, we have had a strong and positive relationship. I don't anticipate this will change.

My goal with my new union position is to be positive, to remain quiet as much as possible, to learn lots by listening (I love alliteration), and to understand my role.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

My First Meme

I guess I'm an official blogger now. I was tagged by Mimi, so here I go:

1. I am a good teacher because...I know all of my students can succeed and will if I make the right connection with him/her. I'm passionate about my subject and want to pass this on, though I know not every kid will have my passion, but I just know every kid can feel success with something in my class. We start with small successes and proceed. Upon that, we build.

2. If I weren't a teacher, I would be...working as a personnel manager or managing a theater. I love working with people, and I have managed a theater previously while working through school. I have to work in a social job. No cubicles or closed-in offices.

3. My teaching style is...organized chaos. Numerous activities are occurring at once with lots of interactions between students. I like being able to give each group of students a gentle push in the right direction and watching them go. If they aren't enjoying themselves, something is wrong. I don't mean to say all we do is necessarily fun, but they should be making the best of things and making connections with one another.

4. My classroom is...organized, maybe overly so. I can tell you where anything is at any given moment. However, during the period things are a mess, but we clean up real well. I am often teased for being so organized with everything in my room. I even hang things on the wall with a plan, even if others don't realize it.

5. My lesson plans...are online. I use my online calendar every day, making adjustments and additions all the time. I like that my students can click on my site and get the day's assignment. This goes for parents, other teachers, and the administrators, too. I like switching activities at least two or three times a period, so my plans are often quite busy and everchanging up until I teach the lessons. I make alterations on the fly and have to record these later online. Just because I'm organized doesn't mean I can't adapt. :)

6. One of my teaching goals have at least two activities per period to keep the kids' attention shifting to maintain their focus. Since I have a collaborative and social room, I need to keep the students focused on the business at hand, and multiple activities makes this easier.

7. The toughest part of teaching is...the administrative b.s. For example, this summer our English Department set up two days of summer work to make changes to the basic curriculum (better alignment, more student-friendly readings, sharing best practices, etc.) and then the district administration heard we had this time set-up, and they hijacked 3/4 of the time with their own mandates. We lost our collaboration time. I detest the paperwork assigned for inanity. I also don't like collecting data for the sake of data, which will sit in a binder gathering dust. Ugh!

8. The thing I love most about teaching is...working with the kids. They make every day worth it. The last days are my favorite when I can shake the seniors' hands and hug them and congratulate them. I get so excited for them! I get the "thank you" and the card and the hug and all is right with the world.

9. A common misconception about teaching is...that we don't work very often or very hard. People forget that we can't just walk in and begin. We prepare. We grade. We take classes during the summer. This is a time consuming profession. My buddy once said you only work 40 weeks. I told him I work more hours than him, and he laughed. I work 40 weeks and 60 hour weeks for 2400 hours. He works 50 weeks with 40 hour weeks for 2000 hours. He quit laughing at me. Another guy (we were playing hoops at the time) heard us and told my buddy that he didn't understand until he married a teacher. It's a time consuming job!

10. The most important thing I've learned since I started teaching...was to document everything. My best friend was almost fired based on two students lying about her and a lack of support from the administration because they believed the students over her (unbelievable, I know). After a long fight of about 8 months, she was finally proved correct when one of the two students admitted guilt. That was a tough lesson for everyone.

I will tag Seth, Brian, Mister Teacher, Mrs. Chili, and Brian B.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

My Snark is Prepared

Ok. I can admit it. I'm a cynical and sarcastic high school teacher at times. To prove this, I have prepared all of my snarky answers, which I can't say, but would absolutely love to do so from time to time:

Student:"What's my grade?"
Me: "Who cares? If you don't know, it's not that important to you. I want you to learn, not try to acquire points."

S: "I forgot my homework."
Me: "You're fired!"

S: "What'd I get on the final?"
Me: "You should've known when you took it. Did you know the answers?"

S: "Did you finish the grades?"
Me: "When my grades are posted, you'll know I'm done grading."

S: "Did we do anything important while I was gone?"
Me: "No, we took a holiday because you weren't here; we didn't want you to miss anything. Of course, we did something important! Otherwise, we wouldn't have done it."

S: "I'm going to be gone tomorrow. Will I miss anything (important)?"
Me: [See above but put in future tense.]

S: "Can I turn the assignment in tomorrow? [Enter excuse here.]"
Me: "No. I want it today. That's why today is the deadline. If I wanted it tomorrow, that would've been the deadline. By the way, you're fired!"

S: "Can I have some extra credit to boost my grade?"
Me: "No. There are two types of students who ask for extra credit: those who won't do it and those who don't need it. Besides, the entire idea of extra credit is ludicrous. It means you didn't do what you were supposed to do and don't deserve it."

S: "Is it ok if I [enter way to break a rule here]?"
Me: "No. If you had to ask, you know it's not ok. And now, you're fired!"

S: "What do I have to do to pass? I just want to pass."
Me: (Sigh) "Fulfill the requirements as stated on the hand-out you just received. Don't strain yourself while you're at it." (Oh, man! He'll be put in charge of something important some day--probably my pension.)

S: "I just want to do the best I can. I just want to learn."
Me: (Almost black out) "You get it. You understand why you're here. But, sorry to say, you're fired! You might take my job."

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Changing Face

When I was a kid I remember being told that one day, far, far in the future everyone will be tan skinned, a dark shade of tan. Because of the races mixing and having children, soon everyone will be a blend of everyone else. I'm not sure if this will happen, but America's face is not what it once was.

A recent article in the Seattle Times states that the face of America is changing. Now one in ten U.S. counties have a population where non-Hispanic Whites are not the majority. Primarily, these counties are in the southwest, the Bible belt, Alaska, and Hawaii; however, there are a few counties in my neck of the woods included in this demographic measurement.

Some of the more experienced teachers with whom I work told me that the current 35% Hispanic population we have at the high school is a new development. In the 1970s and 1980s they said we had a Hispanic population of 5% and under. Our valley's agricultural boom and construction needs have created an influx of seasonal migrant workers and a newly transplanted population from Central America. We are one of the faces changing in America.

I firmly believe in the power and desirability of diversity. I have always known a diverse community, being in the minority for much of my life and always made a better man because of diversity's power.

A new study is now out countering the benefits of diversity on civic life. This study conducted by Harvard's Robert Putnam indicates that almost all "civic measures" decline as diversity increases. Some findings in diverse communities are:

a) "fewer people vote,"
b) "they volunteer less often,"
c) "less is given to charity,"
d) "fewer people work on community projects," and
e) "neighbors trust one another about half as much as they do in the most homogenous settings."

While I can't directly dispute any of the findings or data, I believe the problem at the center of this isn't really diversity. The problems are prejudice and fear. Humans fear what is different or strange. People tend to shy away from what they don't understand.

I see the results of this study, not as a negative, but a positive. We can change if we so desire. Is that not what we teach our children? To be inclusive, accepting, tolerant, and respectful of one another. Adults are not always the best models for the qualities we try to instill in our youth, but we're doing better. We're doing better all the time. Our country is changing and changing for the better. I will continue to lift our lamps beside the golden door.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Simple Economics

A Seattle Times article explains how early education programs in Chicago have paid dividends twenty years down the road. An oversimplified justification for early education programs could be simple economics. A co-author of the study said, "the gains in terms of reduced social-welfare costs have far exceeded the program's $5,000 per student, per year cost to the Chicago public-school system." Social programs are often eliminated from government budgets despite the numerous long-term benefits.

The people who were in these programs also described themselves as depressed less often and more likely to possess health insurance. Again, the long-term benefits of early education become apparent.

Further benefits based on this study are as follows:

- higher high school graduation rates,
- fewer felony arrests and incarcerations, and
- more have full-time employment.

It would seem to make sense that the more education provided to people ages three and four the more likely the individuals will be successful later in life. Early investments pay off down the proverbial road.

Currently, a large portion of my community does not want to invest in the futures of our youth. We barely passed a levy last year, but this year a bond failed by 24 votes. Letters continue to plague the pages of our local paper decrying the bond.

Especially frustrating are the letters with incorrect information. Since this bond is only concerning infrastructure, a new alternative school--the focus of much of the dissent--to replace an obsolete structure, repairs to other buildings, and the replacement of Eisenhower-era buildings, the letters discussing how the money goes to teachers and to support "those" kids are points of conflict.

Kids, current and future, will benefit from these new buildings. These structures need more than band-aids, which was previously done for years, and now is the time to do it. Prices will only go up; in fact, the price of the new alternative school has already tripled since being voted down in 2001.

We will be able to offer more early education programs to our community's children with this bond passage. We need the facilities, and then we can provide the opportunities.

I only hope this bond passes and that early education programs continue to prosper.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Do We Set Students Up for Failure?

An interesting debate taking place between district administrators and high school teachers in my district is the effect of the system on student achievement. The primary topics are: how advanced learners are treated and the reasons for a high freshman failure rate.

A growing trend for Freshman Honors classes at the high school is the higher number of students in the D and F grade range. One teacher in my department recently had two of her children pass through the middle schools (one has graduated and one has entered her Sophomore year), and she constantly complains about the lack of rigor for advanced students in our middle schools. Her children were essentially segregated, along with two or three others, to work on independent projects for three years without any direct instruction in English. In her opinion, she believes her children lost English language and literary analysis instruction because no advanced program is provided and the amount of practice aimed at passing standardized tests is increasing.

During articulation meetings where English teachers from all grades gathered, teachers in the middle schools related that they spend approximately 20% of their time giving and grading assessment practices aimed at passing our state test, the WASL. Because of this enormous amount of time used for test prep, the students are losing time studying other content areas, especially the arts, and losing direct instruction in all content areas. Our district instructional leader wants WASL prep to be the curriculum and has created that structure in the middle schools. In fact, no novels or texts over twenty pages in length are used in the middle schools according to a middle school teacher. It's the district's dirty little secret, she says.

In addition to this inadequacy, teachers are beginning to see more students struggling as Freshmen. The reasons, according to many of the high school teachers, are:

1) too much time is used to prepare for the state test. Last year our high school English Department charted grades for freshmen and saw that more students were falling into the D/F range than ever before. 1.6 English teachers are needed just to teach students repeating a failed English course.

2) even though the district labels Freshmen as the "most at-risk" students in the district, Freshmen English and Math classes are maxed out at 32 per class. When my department raised this dilemma and reminded the assistant superintendent we were supposed to be the district's "number one priority" this year, he said there's no money to lower those numbers. He further stated that he did not feel that class size was a major factor in student success, even though he (and the others superintendents) mandated that remedial courses be capped at twenty students. Of course, he failed to mention that the district is front-loading money to special programs until a levy passes.

3) students are not held accountable for passing classes until high school (9th grade). Students have been socially promoted for eight or nine years, which creates a mentality that the work is not important and passing courses are not necessary to pass to graduate. Since the students don't understand how credits work, they often don't realize they must earn credits to graduate. Plus, students don't understand that courses at the high school are sequenced; the first must be passed to take the second.

4) systemic interventions for students are only really available after school. Many students help their families by working or babysitting and are unable to spend extra time at the high school, so interventions are needed during the normal school day, built into student schedules. This may be in the form of study halls, tutorial periods, writing and math labs, etc.

5) students are only required to pass the state test during 10th grade, not at the 4th or 7th grade testing years. Again, this creates a mental state which reinforces apathy about the test. "It doesn't count" is often heard by students because it never has counted for them.

Obviously, a better avenue of conversation is needed between the high school and the district office, but nothing indicates this will occur. We are typically told to go "teach" better and things will improve, despite some glaring unmet needs. I'm hopeful that this year will springboard a new working relationship with the district office, one that fosters collaboration and not just consternation.