The APPR Insanity Continued – From All Directions

So, I was going to share with you my reading by Tony Wagner and his book The Global Achievement Gap, but I came upon Jeff Craig’s second post on the OCM BOCES website about APPR. (I’ll save the other one for next week!) Please take the time to read this, as I cannot say it any better!  Have a great week!


The APPR Insanity Continues – From All Directions

Last month, this column described the political discourse about teacher evaluation and the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) as insanity, citing the definition of insanity as doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. During the last month, the battle between Governor Cuomo and the teacher’s association, New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), has escalated with both sides taking shots at each other. As previously observed, the insanity shows no signs of abating.

The Governor is arguing that inflated teacher evaluation results means change to the APPR system is necessary. He has been suggesting that a shift from the 20% + 20% + 60% is necessary, proposing a combination of 50% student achievement based on test scores and 50% of other measures that will magically solve things. After NYSUT went on the offensive with a media campaign against the Governor, Cuomo fired back by zeroing in on the generous conversion scale that many districts adopted to convert from the rubric scores to the 60%. Specifically, the Governor’s office has identified the NYSUT-developed conversion scale as problematic and hascalled for a review of all of the APPR plans of school districts located in Long Island (Newsday conducted an analysis that led to the attention). NYSUT responded with the observation that all of those APPR plans were approved by the State Education Department. Now the media is reporting the polling numbers of the two sides in the battle, including whose “side” the public is on. And so, the battle goes on…

The problem with this fight is that it drains the system of energy – energy that should be spent on the teaching and learning process. This very visible fight, often fought through the media, is a significant distraction from the work that needs to occur in schools. What’s worse, however, is that the battle is over the wrong things.

The problem is that the battle lines are all over a misplaced emphasis on human capital over social capital. Rooted in what Michael Fullan categorized as “wrong drivers of change,” systems that emphasize individual human capital over social capital and that emphasize the use of accountability data in a punitive way are simply doomed to failure.Here’s how Fullan compares the drivers (and you can easily recognize our present path):

  1. Accountability: using test results, and teacher appraisal, to reward or punish teachers and schools vs capacity building;
  2. Individual teacher and leadership quality: promoting individual vs group solutions;
  3. Technology: investing in and assuming that the wonders of the digital world will carry the day vs instruction;
  4. Fragmented strategies vs integrated or systemic strategies.

The basic assumption in the present APPR paradigm, with its emphasis on human capital, is that increases in student achievement will come either with better individual teachers or by changing the individual behavior of teachers. Carrots are being employed through offers of merit pay or other reward compensation. Sticks are used, too, via labels such as “ineffective” or “developing” and through threats of expedited dismissal with repeated “ineffective” ratings. Deming taught us long ago that such systems simply do not work. More recently, Daniel Pink clarified what motivates people. All of this is being ignored in the present [impolite] conversation. This doesn’t mean that systems of feedback, accountability, and evaluation aren’t important. They are. If we want continuously improving professional practice, however, the emphasis should be on different things.

Instead, what we need to do is to include the power of social capital in the effort to improve systems of teacher evaluation. We should be held accountable for the instructional decisions we make and on the extent to which we work collaboratively on the right work. We should expect all teachers to professionally work with each other, in a relentless goal of student learning. We should expect all teachers to work collaboratively, all the time, in pursuit of these four questions (the guiding questions in a Professional Learning Community):

  • What is it we expect our students to learn?
  • How will we know when they have learned it?
  • How will we respond when some students do not learn?
  • How will we respond when some students already know it?

Strangely, none of this is heard in the battle over teacher evaluation and APPR. Thus, the insanity continues. The situation is exacerbated by the toll the battle takes on teachers, administrators, parents, and ultimately, students. Instead of collaboratively focusing on student learning, our attention is being diverted in the wrong direction, thus decreasing the amount of time and energy that can be spent on teaching and learning. It might be naïve, but isn’t that exactly the opposite of what teacher evaluation and APPR is supposed to do?

Craig,-Jeff_WEBJeff Craig
Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Support Services

Other News

  • Bus Duty for Feb 23-March 6 Team 2:  Paula Bates, Marcie Tyler, Sarah Pawananon  Upcoming Bus Duty: March 9- March 19:  Team 3:  Erin Gates, Beth Siebels, Gina Taylor, Pat Williams
  • Check out our first East Side Video Update by clicking here!  Awesome!
  • Our next Staff Meeting is this Thursday, March 5, 2015 from 7:30a.m.-8:30a.m.
  • I will be starting up walk through evaluations again to get folks in the 3-5 grade levels completed prior to April NYS testing, and then hit lower levels and then DONE, and get ready for domain 4 and end of year meetings.
  • Speaking of NYS Testing.  April is the BIG month.  Here are dates for NYS tests:
    • ELA April 14, 15, 16
    • Math April 22, 3, 24
    • 4th Grade Science Performance May 21 Written: June 1
  • 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!   Just do right!

Other Items of Interest (Read at your leisure!)

(Provided by OCM BOCES IS Weekly Dispatch )

You can learn about risk and protective factors in young people that explain the different paths students take when facing similar situations. Some students make bad decisions, others persevere.

Public schools outperform private schools when you control for the demographics, says this research.

Learn about the new format of the SAT at this session provided by The College Board.

Here’s another take on the Eight Essentials of Project-Based Learning

differentiation in a science classroom. You can see several examples of scaffolding and challenge.This post explains how formative assessment is a key to successful differentiation.

Mike Mattos wonders if we sometimes ask the wrong questions when we design our RTI systems. In this post, Mike raises some questions for us.

We talk about rigor all the time. Tony Wagner (who will participate in PBLNY this summer) suggests that we’ve got it all wrong. Students don’t or can’t get rigor in the school’s we’ve got, he says.

Wrong Drivers

Some of you are aware that I am a huge fan of Michael Fullan’s work.  His belief is that if we build up the teaching core and provide professional capital for our teachers, we will have better teaching and in turn better “results”.  He also believes that we have taken a turn and are utilizing more wrong drivers than right drivers, especially in the US and UK.  I wrote about this in my blog here.

Jeff Craig oversees the Instructional Support Department at OCM BOCES.  In light of the State of the State address by Governor Cuomo this past week, Jeff wrote a great blog about APPR that I would like to share with you as for your perusal.  Enjoyl


APPR Insanity

The definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result, according to Einstein. Or Franklin. Or Twain. All three of these noteworthy thinkers have been reported to say this – and most often this axiom has been attributed to Einstein. He was, after all, both smart and witty. As it turns out, however, no one has been able to find this in his writing. Nonetheless, this oft-used truism applies to the system of Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) in New York State. In fact, we are trying to do the same thing, over and over, and expecting a different result.

The Widget Effect was published in 2009 and it described the state of teacher evaluation. It identified that, using evaluation systems used in the United States at that time, all teachers were satisfactory (less than 1% were rated unsatisfactory). The report also concluded that truly excellent teaching went unrecognized, that professional development was not connected to evaluations, and that poor performance was not addressed. Despite the overwhelmingly positive rating that teachers were receiving, 57% of teachers and 81% of administrators reported that there were poor teachers in their school. These findings pointed, we were told, toward the need for a new system of teacher evaluation.

The conclusions of the Widget Effect report were used to argue for a new APPR system in New York State. When you add the incentive of Race To The Top money for the state in a time period of fiscal contraction, you get the political context for a deal. The framework of the deal is the 20% + 20% + 60% APPR calculus. The first 20% is supposed to come from the state and be based on some measure of student achievement. Whether or not you agree that 20% coming from state assessments is a good idea, the state, as it turned out, could only determine the 20% for a small fraction of teachers. For the rest of the teachers, school districts were delegated with the authority to a mechanism from a few larger jurisdictions in the county known as “Student Learning Objectives” (SLO). Besides being poorly named (educators thought that an SLO was a learning objective for the students), the regulations about SLOs were written in such a way as to allow for many different interpretations.

The second 20%, according to the NY APPR plan, was to be a locally agreed-upon measure of student achievement that had to be different than the first 20%. There were even less regulations provided for this part of the evaluation, so the variation between districts was considerable.

The variation in local interpretation and implementation of the locally-determined 20% turned out to be nothing compared to the variation in the final 60%. The 60% portion was supposed to come from multiple measures which included evidence collected from a minimum number of classroom observations. Like the second 20%, this had to be negotiated with the local professional association. NYSUT, New York’s teachers’ union, introduced an extremely generous conversion scale that many districts adopted. Other districts literally gave teachers a significant portion of the 60 points just for submitting any artifacts with no assessment of the quality of the artifact whatsoever.

What was the result of this APPR cacophony? The result was that systems were locally constructed in order to be very generous to teachers. Yes, there was a great deal of drama among the teacher ranks about widespread and unjust teacher dismissal that would result from implementation of the new APPR system. The drama was unnecessary, as it turns out, because most of the decks were stacked in favor of high evaluation scores for teachers. How high? Well, the most recent information from the State Education Department indicates that just 1% of teachers were rated as ineffective. Swap the label “unsatisfactory” for “ineffective” and you end up with precisely the same number that the Widget Effect cited as a rationale for a different system of teacher evaluation.

Now, due in part to a feud between NY Governor Andrew Cuomo and the teachers’ association, another change to the APPR system seems possible. The Governor has seized the inflated teacher evaluation results as an opportunity to force changes to the system through the budget process. While the new (and old, for that matter) APPR system doesn’t work, there is no indication that the kind of changes the Governor desires will improve it. Based on an exchange of letters between the Governor’s leadership andSED, it sure looks like the present version of the APPR system is in the crosshairs. We’re hearing about new math, such as 40% + 60% or 25% + 75% or 50% + 50%… but this, too, is just more of the same and constitutes insanity as applied in this post.

Systems like the APPR system in NY mistakenly place an emphasis on human capital rather than social capital and thus are doomed to failure. Rooted in what Michael Fullan categorized as “wrong drivers of change,” systems that emphasize individual human capital over social capital and that emphasize the use of accountability data in a punitive way are simply doomed to failure. To replace old systems with similar systems, repeatedly, gets us to the insanity that some other than Einstein, Franklin, or Twain described. So far, our leaders haven’t learned from the past and haven’t read much Michael Fullan. To our north there lies a large system of education that is making progress based on an application of the “right drivers of change.” Ontario, which happens to have one very large city in it, with a few other good-size cities, and a lot of geographically diverse communities, is making the kinds of educational improvements that we can’t. Perhaps we should stop the insanity and apply a little common sense, research-based thinking in place of political vitriol. If we don’t, we’ll continue to get what we’ve always gotten.

Craig,-Jeff_WEBJeff Craig

Other News

  • Bus Duty for Jan 20-Jan 30 Team 9:  Jessica Serviss, Brandi LaRue, Teresa Kiechle, Denise Croasdaile  Upcoming Bus Duty: Feb 2- Feb 13:  Team 1:  Kathy Palmer, Brooke Santamont, Kyle Baker, Jenny Nachamkin
  • 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!   Just do right!

Other Items of Interest (Read at your leisure!)

(Provided by OCM BOCES IS Weekly Dispatch )

  • In his speech and in his budget proposal, the Governor offered no increases in aid to schools unless he achieves agreements for a more rigorous teacher evaluation system, tenure changes, and of the limit on the number of charter schools.
  • There’s been a great deal of attention paid to student engagement – this article reports on teacher engagement and its impact on learning. New York has the third highest percentage of actively disengaged teachers.
  • Perhaps some of the most effective ways to support students in poverty is through the little things we can do, according to this New York Times article.
  • Sometimes we need to be able to laugh at ourselves. Try this education jargon generator – you’ll impress your colleagues (and get a good laugh out of it).
  • This post describes the process of developing guiding questions in a step-by-step manner. It includes an important step to ensure that your question is standards-based.
  • The questions can be more important than the answer – and it’s better if the questions come from the students than from the teacher. Explore this post to get you thinking more about questions than answers.
  • You can improve the PowerPoint slides you use in the classroom (and improve the retention) by following this advice.
  • Small schools have additional challenges when transforming to a Professional Learning Community due to some of the scheduling and teaming issues. This column includes some suggestions.
  • This article describes the stages that teams in a Professional Learning Community might encounter during the transition toward becoming a truly effective team.
  • You and your students can compare all sorts of data about different aspects of our country at the Measures of America site. The site can provide facts to support and explain social issues.

A Touch of Humor

Learning to Make – Making to Learn – From STEM to STEAM


As you know, I question the direction that our state has taken with APPR, testing, and a poor implementation of Common Core State Standards.  I wrote about it here when I shared Pasi Sahlberg’s book, Finnish Lessons.  This has lead me to read and follow Michael Fullan and Andy Hargreaves’ philosophy of building professional capital in staff. And then comes Maker Leadership.

Always looking for innovative conferences and to learn, I happened upon a wonderful day conference called STEM to STEAM and Beyond at the Poughkeepsie Day School in Poughkeepsie on Monday, April 21st. (Check out the link I put, awesome workshops!) I think it was through a tweet from Pam Moran, the superintendent of Albemarle County Schools in VA  or Josie Holdford the head of PDS (when you are in a tweet chatting stream, it goes so fast so I can’t remember) that they said to get down here for this workshop.  So I did.  (I am lucky to have these two ladies in my PLN.  I consider them as mentors and friends and they are available 24/7.  That is the beauty of twitter and a PLN!)

Pam keynoted the workshop.  All I can say is WOW! Pam has a vision for her district.  She is an advocate for Learning Spaces, an educational model that emphasizes project-based-learning in non-traditional settings and promotes collaboration, analytical and critical thinking, and communications proficiency among teams of students.  I am not going to go into the day as I have Storified the tweets and am working on a blog post soon to be published.  Let’s just say, after attending this conference, it has reconfirmed my belief that New York and the State Education Department is on the wrong path with education. (I know, a strong statement!  A PDS staff member said that she was sorry for me because we are stuck in a model dictated by SED that is not innovative!  That didn’t sit well with me and it can’t be!)

One thing that Pam asked us to do at the end of the day was to bring one item back to your district and work with it.  As you know, Project Based Learning is in the forefront for me as a building leader.  Maker Spaces and Learning Spaces thrive on the PBL philosophy.  I wrote about PBL here. I believe it is the way to move forward.  Don’t get me wrong, we still need to teach how to read (learning to read and reading to learn, phonics, phonemic awareness, writing, etc)  and how to do math (facts, numeracy, etc, etc), science and social studies, but how can we infuse it into project based learning?  How can we “beef” up the modules that we are working on to be more engaging for our students?  Look at your class.  Are your students bored?  Pam said to look under the desks and look at kids feet and legs.  Are they antsy?  If so, there’s something going on and they may not be as engaged as you think.

Let me be honest, this will not be easy because we have to infuse CCSS into how we do this, but it will be engaging for our students!  We can continue to do the drudgery and worrying about how students do on ONE test and worry about our score, or we can, as Pam said, bring the passion back into schools by bringing in PBL.  The passion for teaching and learning!

I sent out to you via email that Patrick Shaw will be up to do a PBL 101 workshop on August 11, 12, 13.  This is on MLP. I am going – there are some of you who have signed up already.  People, it’s good stuff. This is NOT  like the old projects you did with your class, i.e. Pumpkin projects, dioramas, or Johnny Appleseed projects.  It’s a  different way of thinking and engaging students and there is training that is involved.  It will start you thinking about bringing the fun and passion of teaching and learning back into the classroom.   Patrick says it goes well with Responsive Classroom and if you know anything about Academic Choice, PBL blends nicely with this part of RC.  Don’t use the excuse, “I don’t have the time to infuse this into my classroom.”  Or, “I don’t have the time during the summer.”  Really? I don’t have the time either, but I know it will be good for kids.

Folks, you are so much more than a score.  Let’s start thinking out of the box and push away the standardization of the curriculum.  It’s not in the best interest for kids nor for innovation.  True, we have to assess, but it’s not the end all be all.  Just ask yourself, “Is what I am doing, planning, teaching, etc,  helping students really be college and career ready?”   Will learning how to take a test prepare students to be 21st century citizens, readers, and productive workers in today’s workforce, or do we stay in the 19th and 20th century model and produce widgets in our kids?  As Pam Moran’s educators in her schools asked:  “Isn’t it past time for education and educators to respond to 21st century changes as well?  Isn’t it time to move from teaching places limited by walls of classrooms and schools to learning spaces, limitless in possiblities that extend educational opportunities beyond school walls and district boundaries?  Isn’t it time to stop paying attention to political and private sector agendas that promote 20th century standardization methodologies and, instead, attend to the need of ‘destandardize‘ curricula, assessment, and pedagogy so we can get to unlimited, deep learning?”  (Digital Leadership: pg. 25.)

My friend Eric Sheninger, HS principal at New Milford, New Jersey wrote in his book, Digital Leadership, ” A focus on standardization narrows the curriculum and creates a teaching culture where creativity, exploration, and critical thinking are scarce and nonexistent.  It creates a culture that students disdain; one that only can be sustained with the use of “if-then” rewards or “carrots and sticks.”  That’s not what I want East Side to be and I hope you are with me on that!   How can we have a smarter balance?  Let’s work together on this – I’m in.  I am hoping you are too.   Enjoy the week!


Other News
  • Bus Duty for April 28 – May 9  Team 6: Connie Tubbs, Kelly Ayen, Bev Phelps  Upcoming bus duty:  May 12 – May 23  Team 7: Paula Bates, Marcie Tyler, Sarah Pawananon
  •  Speaking of tests:  The NYS Math Tests are on April 30, May 1st and May 2nd.  We will need to change special area time slots for 1st and 5th grade again for these three days.  Please plan accordingly.
  • Thank you Brenda for arranging and organizing our guest author Mike Thaler, to visit our schools last week.  It was AWESOME and lots of fun!
  • Please check the schedule and emails that Bridget has put out for the presentations for Monday’s Kids on the Block and Making Friends presentations.
  • Field trip time is around the bend.  I am hosting four training sessions for parents and we have sent out notification this past Friday.  Please make sure you are following the correct procedures for field trips and completing the field trip packet.  When in doubt, ask the office.
Things in the Blogosphere
  • 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!
Great Quotes:
“Standardization continues to follow in the footsteps of the century-old model of education that is focused on industrialization.  Such a model stifles the growth of teachers, students, and administrators.  This entrenched system produces students who lack creativity, are fearful of failure, work extremely hard to follow directions, (do homework, study for tests, not question authority), and are leaving schools with obsolete skills in a postindustrial society.  Schools focus more on filling the minds of students with useless facts and knowledge than giving them essential skills that can’t be measured with a #2 pencil.”  – Eric Sheninger – Digital Leadership, page 21.
VictoriaL_Day's avatar
Vicki Day @VictoriaL_Day

@pammoran @iSchoolFive me too Still reflecting about it and making changes & plans!

 Pam’s response to Vicki:
Other Items of Interest

The APPR microsite has a new look and new functionality. No resources have been removed – they’re just easier to find. Oh YAY!! (Yes, that is sarcasm!)

VideoThis video from the Campaign for Grade Level Reading does a good job to explain the gaps we see in students from poverty and summer loss. Morgan Freeman narrates.

Read about the changes to the SAT.

Here are some food allergy resources for school administrators from the CDC.

Read about alignment between PBL and the Common Core.

The Buck Institute has a searchable collection of PBL projects.

Dayna Laur, one of our PBLNY presenters, cautions against over-use of PSA as projects.

This “Tip Sheet” from Robyn Jackson explains the difference between being engaged or being entertained.

Here are tips for teacher librarians.

Opportunities to network with fellow math teachers continue. For geometry teachers, the next meeting is May 8th. Digging Deeper into CCLS Algebra is on tap for May 16th. For teachers of math grades K-2, the next networking meeting is May 19th. Finally, another session for teachers of grades 6-8 Accelerated Mathis May 21st. As always, teachers (and leaders) can join these groups at any time. There’s so much to do that we need collaboration to get it all done!

ASCD Collection book of the weekThe Formative Assessment Action Plan. The book explains an approach to formative assessment, explaining it promotes learning in the classroom. Teaching American History: Field Experience- Women’s Rights National Historical ParkJoin a group Saturday May 17 to explore the following questions: What are rights? How do we get them? Who defends them? Who decides who gets rights?

A Touch of Humor

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

NYSED Prohibits Standarized Testing PreK-2


During the week of tense Common Core forums on Long Island and a call from NYSUT and UFT, Commissioner John B. King, Jr. released a statement Thursday, November 14 to the media here  calling for a ban on standardized testing for PreK-2 grades and throwing the responsibility back to districts to make the decision on how to assess students in PreK-2 grades.  They do not recommend giving “bubble” tests such as what has happened is some districts using Pearson tests in first grade as attested by Carol Burris here.  Luckily, our district chose not to go this way with standardized testing at the PreK-2 level.  We even made the decision to “cut back” on giving so many checkpoints and “probes” to our younger students via AIMSweb testing because it is taking too much time away from instruction.

We still need to be cognizant of how we are approaching assessments, not only PreK-2 but throughout all grade levels.  Good teaching is good teaching, including giving assessments. Our staff embeds assessments and we include “checkpoints” to see how students are achieving what is being taught. What we need to be careful with is “test prep”, how we are doing it and how we expose our kids to testing. Unfortunately, we are in an era where the standardized tests count, something that is being pushed back from parents, educators, students, staff and citizens around New York State.  Just look at the Long Island forums about Common Core.  “The mommies are awake!”

It should be interesting to see what happens in the months ahead.  NYSUT, UFT and  SAANYS have asked for a three year moratorium on  high stakes consequences for teachers and principals and using the NYS 3-8 exams.  This is due to the  ineffective manner of how the CCLS and curricula have been rolled out in school districts.  And unfortunately, the answer should not be “go to EngageNY for professional development”.  It sure is an interesting time in education.  Have a great week!


  • Bus Duty for Nov. 18 – Dec. 6 Team 6:  Connie Tubbs, Kelly Ayen, Bev PhelpsUpcoming bus duty Dec 9 – Dec 20 Team 7: Paula Bates, Marcie Tyler, Sarah Pawananon
  • I had to change our staff meeting date to Nov. 19th.  Please make sure that you sign-up on MLP before it goes off.  The topic of this meeting will be dedicated to watching and having a discussion about the movie, Including Samuel, and inclusive classrooms.  Kim Hayes will join us.
  • Please make sure you are enrolling for the Fall offerings of Professional Development on MLP soon!
Other News:
  • Please check the East Side Announcement page for updated dates, announcements etc.  Lisa is updating this continually!
  • 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!

Other Items of Interest

Enterprise America is ready to launch! A special Open House for Middle-Level Educators(administrators and teachers) with an informational presentation and guided tours has been scheduled for December 11th at 4:00pm at the new WCNY headquarters and Education Center. Come see how the space has been transformed and learn details about the experience.


Students with disabilities don’t all need extra time on tests and sometimes general education students benefit from extra time. Let the purpose of the assessment determine how time should matter. If assessing efficiency, then a fixed amount of time makes sense. If demonstration of understanding is the goal, however, time should not matter.

Here is some good advice for responding when students say “I can’t do this.” We want all of our students to have the habit of perseverance, or, as it is popularly called these days, grit.


It is important to teach students how to study. This research explains what works and what doesn’t. Reading, re-reading, and highlighting are not very effective ways to study. Distributed practice is much more effective.
This board has lots of suggestions to help with writing: organizers, prompts, infographics, videos, lessons, and more.


We all make lots of presentations. This short post reminds us that every presentation we give is about making change. We should keep that in mind and use this acknowledgement to evaluate every slide we show in every presentation.

This RSAanimate about The Power of Time has many connections to education and schooling.

Here are some clever ways to display the lesson objectives, goals, or I can statements (with a little help from technology).
The history of the principalship is fascinating and helps us understandthe complexity of the position (but it doesn’t make the job any easier to do).

Here’s a compelling argument for why very busy educators should find fifteen minutes every day for social media. By the way, November is “connected educators month.”
LogoThe Opportunity Nation site describes the economic, education, and community factors by state or even by county.


Thinking about a 1:1 initiative? Watch this recording of Patrick Larkin from the recent TALKS session. He did it!

Pre-K | ELA | Comprehension
First we take you to a classroom where Ms. Davis uses repetition through an interactive read-aloud to help students practice and develop their vocabulary. 
Pre-K | ELA | Art
Let’s stay with Ms. Davis for another inspired lesson where she helps students connect the pictures they’ve drawn to words on the page.
Pre-K | ELA | Empathy
Ms. Hawkins uses a read aloud to get students identifying and describing feelings. Students continue to develop emotional literacy by creating images and magnet boards to build faces that show different emotions.
A Touch of Humor
Close to Home

Do Not Let The NYS Test Scores Define Us!

Hi All:

I hope you are having a wonderful, restful summer and getting recharged for another fantastic school year! Yes, I am trying a new format for the Monday Focus this year and will be putting it into blog format.  Just so you know blogging is the future and lots of educators and folks are blogging.  Be brave and try it out.  You have lots to share!
As you are aware, the NYS exam results have been released.  We were warned that we would see a dramatic drop in our scores.  We were also told that this should not affect teacher growth scores as this is an adjustment in the curriculum and a new test.
You know, as your building principal, it was hard to watch this unravel last week.  It truly put a knot in my stomach, didn’t it for you? What I have to remind ALL of you is this:  You cannot let this define what you do, day in and day out.  EVERY district is in the same boat, every teacher, every building principal, every superintendent.  There is nothing we should stress about and we need to continue in the manner of positivity.
Please know that our administrative team will be working on how to release scores to the community.  I have not seen individual student results nor have we received growth scores from the state.  Once we get this, we will be planning for the release to the community, parents and teachers.
Remember, we are humans, we are not a score and neither are our kids we teach.  You are the best of the best and we have to remember to keep the tenants and beliefs that we have instilled and that the social and emotional curriculum is just as important as the academic.  We will get through this together as a team like we have done in the past.  You are already working hard to align curriculum, work on assessments, and getting ready yet for another fantastic school year.  I cannot ask for more.  Know that my door is always open and I will see you soon!
  • The custodial team is doing the finishing touches and finishing up rooms in the 4-5 wing.  I have to commend them all for the hard work in moving all classrooms, supplies, furniture, etc. from one building to another.  Thank you for a wonderful job!
  • Our office will be back up running full time on August 19th.  We have lots to do, so please work with us as we get our school up and running.  Our supplies have not come in yet, so we will be working diligently on that as well as ALL of the packets and “things” we need to do to get our school up and running for September.
  • A great post by my friend, Peter DeWitt regarding the release of the NYS test results.  Take a peek.
  • Check out my blog post “Why We Need to Believe in our Kids”
  • Please remember to mark on your calendar our Meet and Greet for Sept. 3 from 6:00p.m. to 7:00p.m.
  • Please start enrolling in our Remind 101 class for text to your phone for delays and cancellations.  This will take over for the snow phone tree.  (Please refer to my email regarding this feature.)  How do you join?  It’s simple. To receive messages via text, text @eastsides to (347) 732-3168.  That is it, very simple.  Please start joining.  Thanks.
  • I am in conversation with Dan Cullen, principal at Stillwater Township Elementary School in NJ to hook up our building for cross-conversations on best practices.  Their grade level teams are interested in partnering with us and I thought, wow, what a powerful tool to see what others are doing.  Dan and I just did a google hangout and we are in the planning stages.  Lots of opportunity here, so please keep your mind open and I will provide staff development on how to do this, i.e. google hangouts, skypingetc, etc.  Here is the link to Dan’s school.  More info, will be forthcoming.
  • Please check the East Side Announcement page for updated dates, announcements etc.  Lisa is updating this continually!
  • What are the five things your are grateful for?  Make a list daily.  It does wonders!
  • Be the change agent for kids!

Other items of interest:

SED prepared material to accompany the release of 3-8 student scores, including explanatory slides, some test items with explanation, and eventually a scale score conversion strategy. 
The APPR 2.0 section of the APPR microsite now includes the notes about what we learned from SLOs, evidence collection, and end-of-the-year meetings. Don’t forget that the deadline for APPR Plan Implementation certification is August 30th (forms and instructions are posted on the APPR Plan page of the APPR microsite). 
North Carolina is the largest state to change their tenure laws. In the future, the most effective 25% of teacher will be offered four-year contracts while all other teachers will be offered one or two-year contracts. 
People who were bullied throughout their childhood are more likely to convict crimes and serve time in jail – more reasons to tackle bullying. 
Some of the 101 things for a great start list might not apply to K-12 education, but many do. It might be worth a look by your new teachers and mentors – and then have them create their own list. 
Here, again, is your Opening of School Checklist from JustASK publications. You’ll be able to check many of these things off – but there might be a few more things to add to your to-do list to help you be ready. 
This new video from EdLeader21 lets you look at some schools where the 4Cs (Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking & Creativity) are a deliberate part of the educational program. 
Here are two examples of the positive welcome back letters students should receive from their teachers before a new year starts. 
Here are great ideas for getting to know your students at the beginning of the year (NYS Teaching Standards #1). 
This is a good collection of 2.0 ideas you can share with teachers prior to the beginning of the year. Larry Ferlazzo, too, shares a great collection of ideas for the new school year. 
This guide to 21st Century learning for parents starts with the 4Cs, and then provides web site and other resources to support the 4Cs outside of school. 
This picture is another approach to expressing what college, career, and citizenship readiness really means. How many of these skills are measured by the NYS Assessment System? 
Here are Alfie Kohn’s tips for creating meaningful learning environments for our students. As you expect, he downplays compliance and suggests ways to involve students in their learning. 
A Touch of Humor