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

Developing Parent Partnerships to Tackle the CCSS

These past few weeks, I have the privilege to dialogue with many folks, teachers, parents, administrators, students, about various things.  One topic that comes to the top is how the curriculum has changed and how different it is from what has been taught in the past.  Parents are contacting teachers about homework, or about how to simply “move the decimal point” rather than to understand why the numbers have to move.  This is all new to us as educators as well as new for our parents.
In their wonderful book Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family-School Partnerships, Anne T. Henderson, Karen L. Mapp, Vivian R. Johnson, and Don Davies devote a chapter on how involving parents can help your test scores.  The gist of the chapter is to help families support their children’s learning, both at home and at school.  To help their kids at home, parents need to know what is going on at school.  What often happens is that teachers may complain that parents don’t bother to check their children’s homework.  But parents may say, “We didn’t know we were supposed to check homework.  Tell us how to do it and what to look for.  Explain what the teacher wants.”
Basically, parents are asking for help and what a wonderful opportunity to bring them in.  How powerful will it be to build those relationships with your parents if you hold an evening to help them understand the Math Common Core Standards, what the curriculum is asking us to do and how it is changing instruction.  Some may say, “Oh, but this takes time out of my schedule and I cannot commit.”  Yes, it does, but the majority of you are parents – wouldn’t you want this for your child?
As you know, the research is there:  In a study of Title I elementary schools, researchers found that teacher outreach to parents improved student progress in both reading and math.  When teachers did these three things, student performance improved at a 40-50 percent higher rate:
  1. Met face-to-face with each family in their class at the beginning of the year.
  2. Sent fammilies materials each week on ways to help their children at home.
  3. Telephoned routinely with news about how their children were doing, not just when they were acting up or having problems.
Let’s become smarter and tap into this resource.  Parents want the best for their children, and what a wonderful opportunity than to open the doors, invite them in, and explain what is happening within our school.  I will help in any way possible.  Let’s take the challenge and increase our parent partnerships.  Have a great week.
  • Bus Duty for Sept 23- Oct 4 Team 2: M. Backus, P. Mahay, B. Gauthier.  Upcoming bus duty.  Team 3:  Jessica Serviss, Teresa Kiechle
  • Oct 2nd we have a BEDS meeting in the library @ 2:45pm.  Please bring a #2 pencil.
  • Our next staff meeting is October 7th.
  • Group 3 lesson plans are due to me asap.
  • Progress reports are due this week.  Just a reminder that 3-5 progress reports will be generated through the Schooltool program.  Progress reports are due to the office on Thursday.
  • We have lots of substitutes in for Thursday and Friday due to professional development opportunities for our staff.  Please be cognizant of this.
  • I am continuing with walk through visits.  I see wonderful things folks, thank you!
  • My friend John Falino writes about “Is Twitter Trending or Just Trendy?
  • Peter DeWitt writes about “The Counterproductive Ways Schools Punish Kids”  This is a must read!
  • 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
As you work on SLOs, don’t forget the lessons we learned from the process; that reflection is posted at the APPR 2.0 page of the APPR microsite. Additionally, there are new SLO resources on, including revised guidance and examples.


SealThe transition to Common Core Regentsexamination memo has been revised. This was revised to make it clear that the old IA and new A1 exam administration will overlap in June 2014, August 2014, and January 2015. After that, only the new A1 Regents examination will be available.
This advice about feedback rings true when providing feedback to students and adults alike.
If you encounter low expectations for students with disabilities or challenging circumstances, share this post about the “Least Dangerous Assumption.” The post addresses the cultural roots and offers concrete tips to counter low expectations.
This provocative article from The Atlantic points out that we spend more on high-school athletes than high school math students; “The Case AgainstHigh-School Sports.”

If you want higher test scores, do more physical fitness in schools. And, the more difficult the material, the more physical fitness might help.

Research is Core& Common Core, that is! October 25th is a unique opportunity for teams of teachers and librarians across the region to work to define or refine research process, K-12. We will examine how research is different under Common Core Standards. Tools and processes will be shared to develop capacity to implement research process to meet rigorous standards. Registration is filling quickly.
The Teaching Channel has hour-long “specials” prepared for public television:
This source of on-line courses includes some that would apply to teachers – and they are free.
Paula Rutherford and the folks at Just ASK Publications have created a crosswalk between all of theirresources and the NYS Teaching StandardsInstruction for All StudentsMeeting the Needs of Diverse LearnersCreating a Culture for Learning, and Why Didn’t I Learn This in College are all connected to the Standards.
In the story from The Atlantic, a parent decides to do all of his daughter’s homework for one week. Read about his experience. If you are talking about homework in your school, this is worth reading (after you get done with your homework).

A Touch of Humor