Are We On The Right Path?

In March, a wonderful opinion article was written for the New York Times by columnist Tom Friedman.  In the article, he interviews Tony Wagner, a Harvard education specialist and probably now working with Pasi Sahlberg, the author of Finnish Lessons, who is a visiting professor at Harvard.  You can read the article here.  The gist of the article is that our students are becoming less motivated after 5th grade and we need to reimage schools for the 21st century.  (The 21st century is here folks, where close to 20 years into it!)  I love this quote:  “We need to focus more on teaching the skill and will to learn and to make a difference and bring the three most powerful components of intrinsic motivation into the classroom: play, passion and purpose.”
 Wagner, in the article, highlights what the nation of Finland does “and it is the only country where students leave high school ‘innovation-ready.”  Sahlberg’s book Finnish Lessons, highlights what they do::
  • how they developed and owned its own vision of educational and social change
  • relies on high-quality, well trained instructors, with strong academic qualifications and master’s degrees
  • has an inclusive special educational strategy
  • has developed teachers’ capacity to be collectively responsible for developing curriculum and diagnostic assessments together
  • has linked educational reform to the creative development of economic competitiveness and also the development of social cohesion, inclusiveness, and shared community within the wider society.  (pg. xix-xx by Andy Hargreaves)
It’s an interesting book and I recommend it highly.  Although we are not Finland, we can learn some lessons from them and question what we are doing within our nation.  They don’t have the poverty problem like we do and they don’t test their kids at a young age, nor have a diverse population, but they are up there as a nation in the PISA scores and they are mentoring and guiding their young adults to be innovators.  (Did you know that the United States has a huge poverty problem with 22% of our nation’s children living in poverty What an embarrassment for a developed country!  Maria Shriver has a report out “The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink” that highlights women in poverty.  You can download it free until Janaury 15th.  EVERYONE SHOULD READ IT! Did you know that 1 in 3 women are in poverty in the US?  If the women are in poverty, so are their children.  We have a problem folks.) 
Being interested as well as frustrated with the direction the nation and NY State is going, I am currently in tune with folks like Carol Burris, Diane Ravitch, Pasi Salhberg, Arne Duncan and Michelle Rhee.  (There are others too.)  These folks are front and center with what is happening state and nationally.  They question the direction of Common Core, of GERM (Global Educational Reform Movement) and what is best for our kids, both pro and con.  Common Core is so new, we don’t even know that it works because it has not be tested and researched. 
So my question as probably your question too is, are we on the right path?  Are we steering our kids to be innovators?  How are we doing with that?  The CCSS are so new and we are working to comply with the mandates from NYSED, but my question will be, does it work?  Will the path that we currently have taken steer us this way?  Have we cut creativity for data, testing, scripted curricula, worrying about numbers rather than engaging kids?  I don’t have the answers, but I question it, over and over again.

 I am biased and most of you know my beliefs, and that may be due to experience in this job, but I want you to be informed and I try to give you various views.  In reading the blogs and articles below, it should be interesting to find out what happens in the next few months in our state.  Never before can I emphasize that it is so important that we be a team and help each other through the change we are experiencing and give our students engaging, creative opportunities to be innovators.   Be open minded and be the best of the best, even if you just finished the Iroquois module and your students cheered!  (That needs some looking at!)  You all are the best of the best!  Have a great week.
Other News
  • Bus Duty for Jan 6 – Jan 17 Team 8:  Erin Gate, Beth Siebels, Gina Taylor Upcoming bus duty:  Jan 21 – Jan 31 Team 9:  Kathy Palmer, Jennifer Nichols, Mackenzie Ritz
  • UPDATE:  Beck Dupre’s workshop is cancelled tomorrow, Monday1/13 for 3rd and 4th grade teachers.  We will do the 1/2 day planning that was originally scheduled.  Please adjust accordingly.
  • Group 2 lesson plans are due Friday.
  • We do have a DWIS scheduled for Monday, January 13 after school.  Dee Cook will be here to work with K-2, SuperKids teachers will work with Bonnie Francis and Kim Carr, and 3-5 and Title/RR teachers with Donna Bushey.  The meetings are scheduled here at East Side.
  • The STLE Applications are a great way to provide help and leadership within our school district as well as get paid.  I sent the email out to you and if you are interested, please see me because there is a process to be completed.  We need your help!!
  • Thank you for your help in creating the budget and thanks to Lisa for getting this all completed for us and turned around so fast.  I’m excited for the plans for technology integration.  This will be fun, work, but fun!!  Thank you for the commitment!
  • Please respond to my email by this coming Wednesday if you are interested in an Appy hour after school  Once I get names, I will conduct a Doodle Poll to see what day would be the best.  
  • Please review the email I sent out about the STLE Grant and Application process.  We are really looking to our teachers to step forward and being leaders.  This is a great opportunity for you as well as getting paid for your time.  Come see me if you are interested.

Things in the Blogsphere
Things in the Twittersphere

Beware of those who love the data more than the children.
POsroff's avatarN.Y. postpones release of identifiable student data to inBloom; legislators see chance to address privacy via @LoHud

MichelleRhee's avatarThis RT @StudentsFirst: 16 Myths About The #CommonCore State Standards, Set Straight: via @BuzzFeed #edchat #edreform
pasi_sahlberg's avatarWhat counts as evidence in system-wide educational change? That’s the key question in my #HGSE spring course. @HargreavesBC@DrTonyWagner
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  • What are the five things you are grateful for?  Make a list daily.  It does wonders!
  • Be the change agent for kids!  Be a champion for kids.  Every kid deserves a champion!
  • “Beware of those who love the data more than the children.”  Carol Burris
App of the Week:  Screencast Tools:

Educreations, Touchcast and Doodlecast Pro three apps that give you and your students a great too to do Screencasting, where you can pre-record anything, using photos, videos, drawings, or illustrations and audio and save it.  Lots of teachers are using these applications to “Flip” lessons, pushing them up to YouTube or the app service so students can access this to learn and homework help, just like Kahn academy.  You can share these lessons among staff.  Another benefit of these apps, is that students can use these apps to record their work in an audio-visual format.  How cool would it be for kids to create things on these apps, share them and use the technology.  It would be great for our “shy” kids as well and give them a tool for presentation.  The benefit is that they are apps and that they are mobile or on a tablet.  Can you imagine what our primary kids could do with this if shown how to create a screencast?    Educreations and Touchcast have web-based or desktop versions, Doodlecast pro does not.  Both Educreations and Touchcast are free in the iTunes app store.  Doodlecast Pro cost $4.99 but worth every bit and more!  These three apps only work for the iPad tablet.  Maybe in the future the companies will open them up to Android and such.  Check them out!
Other Items of Interest

The standards for teacher leadership describe the qualities of teacher leaders and the things they might do.
Grant WigginsGrant Wiggins explains how our orientation in our curricula toward knowledge, rather than action is all wrong. He agrees that education should be about the future and not the past.
In this publicly available article from Educational Leadership, Grant Wiggins challenges the notion that a high score on any assessment can be construed as mastery (such as an 85% on a Regents exam). He offers a more thoughtful approach to the notion of what constitutes mastery.

This column argues for the importance of leadership development and education in your organization.
What do the CCLS Literacy Standards mean for Social Studies teachers in grades 6-12? Join other colleagues on January 17th to explore the CCLS anchor standards and standards for Literacy in Social Studies and History for grades 6-12 and focus on what the CCLS looks like in the social studies classroom. Participants will learn strategies for including literacy instruction to support their students in learning Social Studies content and critical thinking skills.


This video allows students to follow the struggles ofWorld War II through a changing map that shows territorial changes during the course of the war. There’s a Europe-specific video and another that shows the world.
This short read offers developmentally appropriate tips to promote self-regulation.

Check out this Pinterest board filled with math ideas and connections.


The most recent “Making the Common Core Alive” edition from Just ASK addressesacademic vocabulary. Academic vocabulary is explained and strategies are offered.

This column provides a short and sweet explanation of co-teaching – and the fundamentals.

A Touch of Humor
Close to Home


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