The Wawascene was created by Dr. Mark Stock, former Superintendent of the Wawasee Community School Corporation. Due to its local popularity, Dr. Stock has left the blog site to future Wawasee administrators.

Blog Rules

Comments should be respectful and pertain to the topic posted. Comments about personnel matters should be made directly to the administrators responsible. Blog moderators reserve the right to remove any comment determined not in keeping with these guidelines.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Rich schools vs poor schools: Indiana

A recent study ( here is the Star's editorial on it) seems to show that the gap in school funding between rich schools and poor schools is smaller in Indiana than in other states. In fact, through the General Fund funding formula, Indiana actually pays additional funds to schools with more non-English speaking students, and students on free and reduced lunches.

I wonder whether there is a gap or even if it is inverted in some cases when you factor in federal dollars as well? I did this study for our district once with spreadsheet data provided by the state department and found that despite Wawasee's high property wealth per student (go here, type in "Wawasee", go down the page and click on "top 10 corporations," choose "assessed value per A.D.M." and you will see we are number 2 in the state) , yet, we were still under state averages in per pupil revenue. When I factored in federal grant dollars it drove us even lower.

In other words, most of these studies usually involve state funding only, not additional federal grant revenue which is almost always distributed based on poverty and other at-risk factors.

Indiana has pretty much "uncoupled" property wealth from state General Fund expenditures. In other words, just because a school has high property values doesn't mean they get a lot more money to spend on instruction. Overall, this isn't a bad thing, at least from the standpoint of equity around the state. When you review this country's history of inequities - you can see why school funding formulas had to change.

However, the study shows that inequities do exist in facilities and projects. Why? Because those are more often local decisions, not state decisions. The local community may want to purchase "artifical turf" for the football stadium or some other perceived "luxury." In districts with high property wealth, even a very small rise in taxes can generate a lot of revenue for such things.

On a broader scale this is a perfect, textbook example of the liberty VS. equity tug-of-war. The more equity the less freedom. The more freedom - the less equity.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Superintendent calls for abolishment of NCLB

Here is an online news article from a superintendent that decries NCLB is a fraud and needs to be abolished.

The public comments are interesting too.

I would at least like to see NCLB based on a growth model instead of the current proficiency model.

Here is an example using the track event of high jumping.

If you count the percentage of students who can high jump over 5 feet in your school you have used a proficiency model. In a proficiency model the bean counters don't care how many athletes already jump well over 6 feet or how many students are handicapped or can't jump at all. We hold you accountability for the standard - which is 5 feet.

In a growth model you are looking at how many improved their jumping ability and how much.
In this model accountability is based on individual improvement of each student as opposed to only a pre-set standard. If a student is jumping 3 feet and they improve to 4 feet they have made more normative progress than a 6 foot high jumper who is only jumping 5 foot now.

There are other side effects of NCLB but at least this would help make the model more "fair" in the minds of some.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Classroom Blog - Pinellas County, FLA

This link (click here) will take you to the Pinellas County, Florida blog of School Superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox.

The Classroom Blog is usually a monthly/weekly question posed to the greater education community with comment threads from registered readers. It is a different style and I thought you might be interested to see so many of the same issues and concerns, even in a different state and a different blog format.

Dr. Wilcox and I have been invited to speak to the nation's superintendents and school board members at the 2007 AASA (American Association of School Administrator's) National Conference. The topic of course, is blogging and how to handle the rough-and-tumble interaction of the public forum.

I will not be posting for a few days. Enjoy your holidays!

K student suspended for sexual harassment

Here is a short news blurb reporting on a Kindergarten student disciplined for sexual harassment.

Interestingly enough it seems like most people are beginning to see that "zero-tolerance" has an evil twin called "zero-common sense."

Having said that, my caution to everyone who reads this type of an article is to remember that there may be a lot more to the story that the school is unable to comment on or reveal to the public for privacy reasons.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Same old song and dance...

If you get a chance, Click on this link and read this magazine article I have posted. (Note: It will take you 5-10 minutes to read it all. If you are short on time (who isn't LOL) read about half and skip to the bottom.)

Hint. As you read it, try to guess who wrote it and when.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Teaching children about giving

Here is a very quick read that provides some ideas about how to teach your children about giving during the holiday period.

However, I suppose the best lessons learned come from everyday life as opposed to holidays and special occasions.

A personal example comes to mind.

My wife, Sandy, used to volunteer several hours every week at the North Webster Library. During the summer she used to take my elementary school age son along to help. After several weeks of helping and watching, my son announced that he wanted to donate $40.00 of his allowance money to the library as a gift. We thought it was a great idea and encouraged him.

He learned that many great things that make up our communities are volunteer efforts and funded by gifts. He wanted to do his part too.

May all our children learn the best about giving this holiday season and avoid the excessive materialism and "me-first" philosophy that permeates what passes for popular culture these days.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

More calls for change

A high-profile commission warned Thursday that U.S. workers will lose more jobs overseas and will see their standard of living drop unless dramatic steps are taken to improve how kids are educated.

In a report, the panel called U.S. schools outdated and said they were failing to prepare students to compete in a global economy.

Article here!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Board Meeting Overview

At last night's board meeting, the WCSC board...

1. was presented an American flag from Mrs. Hazzard that was flown over Baghdad on September 11, 2006. It was given to us from Mr. Charles Hazzard who is supporting the military on behalf of the Joint Area Support Group (JASG)
2. approved minutes, claims, personnel, and the North Webster Library Board Reappointment
3. heard ISTEP reports from Dr. Stock and Ms. Swartzentruber
4. approved the financial report
5. approved a summer tour of France chaperoned by Ms. Harrison
6. set the mileage reimbursement rate at 44.5 cents per mile
7. approved tax anticipation warrants - due to property tax reassessment issues the amount borrowed for cash flow purposes could be higher this year
8. approved a three year renewal of property and casualty insurance
9. heard reports from the Superintendent and Curriculum Director
10. recognized outgoing board members Marion Acton and Brian Dawes for their service

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

So how did we do?

In Math there were 1,566 students tested in grades 3-10. Seventy-five percent (75%) were above the proficient cut score. Our only year higher than this was 04-05 when 76% were above. In 5 of the 8 grade levels tested, Wawasee posted the highest percentage pass rates since the new test was given.

Writing skills have shown major improvement in some grade levels.

In the total Language Arts scores it is a different story. There were 1,450 students tested in grades 3-10. Sixty-nine percent were above the proficient score. However, in 4 of the 8 grade levels tested, Wawasee posted the lowest percentage pass rates since the new test was given.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Organized abandonment

A recent workshop presenter made the statement, "If we don't get a child up to speed in reading by the time they are 9 years old, it will be very difficult to close the gaps."

He then described a protocol for the lower grades (K-3) that requires 90 minutes per day of language arts instruction. If the child is still behind then they are assigned three 30 minute one-on-one tutoring sessions a week and if that doesn't close the reading gap sufficiently then they are assigned two 30 minute one-on-one tutoring sessions per DAY....all of this is in addition to the 90 minutes of language arts instruction provided by the regular classroom teacher.

So....from the stunned looks of the audience it was easy to see what they were thinking. What do schools have to give up in order to be able to provide that level of support?

One expert calls this "organized abandonment." In other words, in some organized fashion, schools must come to consensus and STOP doing some things in order to do others.

A few years ago we had a public initiative titled, "What do you want the public schools to do?" The overwhelming consensus was that our main mission was to send all students to 10th grade, reading, writing and doing math well.

What wasn't discussed was, "What should schools STOP doing in order to provide resources for those that aren't reading, writing and doing math well. I sense it may be time for a public discussion on what will prove to be a rousing debate.

If you have opinions on this...please be kind to each other.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Property Tax Assessment Delays

The Journal Gazette discusses the implications of property tax assessment delays. Most individuals are aware that the state is trying to adjust property tax rates more frequently using "trending" data. As more and more homes sell on the market, the idea is that the property tax assessments will keep more current with the market.

However, getting that done is harder than it looks.

FAQ's here.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Wawasee student is a published author!

A Wawasee High School student has her first book contract with a publisher. Her delightful children's book, "When You Don't Clean Your Room" was such an inspiration to the publishers that they started an international competition for high school students to write children's books.

Read more about Jami McDaniel on Ruth Ayres blog today.

PS: Twenty-two students in the 8th grade at WMS had the highest possible scores on their ISTEP writing sample. This is a new record for us! Jami is not the only one learning to write - but she is the first one PAID to write!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Guv proposes full day K

Governor Mitch Daniels proposes a 3 year phase in for full day K beginning with students on free and reduced lunches. The second year he proposes all students in schools above the state median for free and reduced lunches and the third year he proposes all students in the state receive the option of full day K.

Article here.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Mark's Mini Poll

Trying hard to be a good public servant and not a lazy slacker... :-) .... I have created a mini-poll of several popular radio stations that we can add to the call list if there is a demand for it. We can also poll on TV stations next week.

I will leave the poll up for about a week.

(Note: I have set it up so you can only vote once in case you were wondering why you couldn't vote 1,000 times :-) whining if yours isn't picked!!! :-)

Friday's Funny

Regina Barreca writes a funny article on the - I Want (and Expect) It NOW Generation.

It takes a comical look at today's kids who have all the techno gadgets and have learned all about instant gratification.

Underneath the humor lies a serious question....

Could it be possible that school is now the main place where people have to learn a whole set of social skills like.....wait your turn, work with others, be reasonably polite, delay gratification, don't eat the crayons, don't trip your neighbor, say "please", be patient with those that don't learn like you, etc. etc.......

Thursday, November 30, 2006

An example of unwanted side effects of NCLB

The NCLB law is a federal prescription for supposedly "what ails" American schools. But this medicine has unintended side effects. (We will assume for the time being anyway, that they are unintended.)

Here is one principal's account of the side effects of NCLB on his school.

I am a principal at a small alternative school in Alaska. We have not met AYP (adequate yearly progress - which means increasing the percentage of students passing the tests until they reach 100%) for three years. Our students come to us after failing in the regular school system. They have low skills, most are low socio-economic status, and have a history of failure in school. Last year we would have made AYP if I had kicked out of school two low performing Alaska Native Students. The extra dropouts would not have made us miss AYP and two fewer "Not Proficient" subgroup members would have resulted in our making AYP.This year our Education Department is offering financial incentives to schools making progress as measured by NCLB. I think if I expel 3 low performing Native students and 2 low performing Caucasian students I will qualify my staff for bonuses. This is certainly not the intent of NCLB but it has become a statistics game. If we fail to meet AYP again I run the risk of losing my job and having my staff transferred. This year I had two openings in my building. I had two applicants, both were retired teachers that had worked in this building, and they were rehired. The State of Alaska has petitioned the U.S. Commissioner of Education to allow the state to use a "growth model" for determining if schools make AYP. This would allow schools to focus on improving the scores of all students rather than focusing on a predetermined level of proficiency. It has been denied...twice. For a school like mine, a "growth model" makes tremendous sense. My primary goal is to keep these students IN school. They have already proven that they have low skills and we need more time to have any hope of improving those skills. Even if we cannot get them to a level of "proficiency" or graduation we may be able to improve their skills and they should be better citizens giving a benefit to society.


Let us hope for everyone's sake, that no one, including Doug fall prey to the "statistics game" and start counting numbers instead of students. A growth model makes sense. At least in a growth model schools are held accountable for how far students have come and not where they start!!

We have students entering kindergarten who can read "Little House on the Prairie" and some who can't talk yet.

The one child could probably be ignored completely and still pass the state tests later, the other child might require tremendous resources and never be able to pass the test. The current accountability piece of the law does not distinguish between the two. A growth model could.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

School delay announcements

Most of you know that this year we reduced the number of media outlets we contact about school delays and closings.

We currently contact WAWC 103.5 fm, WRSW 107.3 fm, Channel 15, Channel 22 and post the information first on The Wawascene. Other stations will carry it but they are gathering their information from other sources. Because one station may be owned by other stations or companies, they will sometimes spread the information to others. However, the ones listed are those we have been contacting personally.

Some of you have asked what will happen now that Bill Dixon sold WAWC and it is no longer locally owned.

The answer is...hopefully nothing will change. They will still carry the information on school closings although I won't be able hassle Bill at 5:50 AM just before he goes on the news anymore. Rats.

I guess we will have to have a few of them before we know how that goes.

I hear the warm weather is leaving us and snowfall may be in the forecast this week.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Grades VS Test Scores

Susie comes home with her report card and is so excited. She was on the honor roll again! Three report cards in a row! Her family pats her on the back and gives her praise. A day later her ISTEP scores come in the mail. She failed to pass the test again. Mom and Dad raise one eyebrow and look at each other.

What is wrong here? This is a common phenomenon across the country.

The Washington Post discusses it here.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Why the graduation rate is not the inverse of the dropout rate

The Indy Star leads its editorial page today with the misleading headline "These steps can lead to fewer dropouts."

It then proceeds to link the new graduation rate formula that schools are using to the implication that this new graduation rate also reveals the dropout rate.

Here is what I mean. Wawasee Schools is anticipating a public release showing their graduation rate under the new formula to be 70% or so.

Does that make the dropout rate 30%? No - but everyone will think so.

This 30% includes GED students, students who took longer than 4 years, students who moved without a forwarding address, special education students who completed 4 years of school but had handicapping conditions that prevented them getting a diploma, and even foreign exchange students without a proper document from their exchange service.

The true "dropout" rate is really around 7% - not 30%.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Wednesday Wonderings

Did you ever wonder why?

1. Did you ever wonder why so many WCSC buses run around half empty half the time?
This might come as a surprise to the mathematically challenged :-) ... but 100% of Wawasee's buses run at 50% capacity half the time. We had a plan to create 100% efficiency 100% of the time but the parents didn't want to drive their kids to the bus driver's house!

2. Did you ever wonder why Wawasee has the second highest property values per student in the state but has always ranked in the bottom quarter in revenue per student?
Due to high property wealth here, a low tax rate generates a lot of money so the state withholds state revenue and sends it to schools with higher "needs." While our "needy" students are increasing, they must not be increasing as fast as other school districts.

3. Did you ever wonder why property taxes are unpopular but school superintendents are reluctant to support getting rid of it in favor of other taxes?
The property tax is a stable, if unpopular tax. Students are always with us and always need education no matter what the economy is doing. If we switch to sales taxes and income taxes to fund schools, then revenue streams are erratic and float up and down with the economy. While a business can layoff employees during a downtime, schools always have students whether their parents have jobs or not. It's hard to "layoff" students to make ends meet and outsourcing students to third world countries doesn't appear popular either!

4. Did you ever wonder why the school can afford athletic programs but it scrimps and saves in other areas?
Athletic programs are entirely self - supporting except for the coaches stipends and some large facility expenditures. Cutting athletics will not help the instructional program in any way.

5. Did you ever wonder why a school district can build a new building but it can't increase personnel to staff it?
Facilities are paid for from a different fund and the school cannot transfer building project money over to the General Fund where personnel costs come from. is true, your school system could conceivably build a "Taj Mahal" but not raise taxes to hire more teachers. The school boards have a lot of control over Debt Service Funds to pay for buildings but almost no control over the General Fund to pay for staffing.

Have you ever "wondered" about a school issue? E-mail it to me (link is on the sidebar) and I will make a list and try to answer some frequently asked questions about schools.

Have a great Thanksgiving Break!!!!!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

NCLB Critics

Susan Ohanian is a writer and outspoken critic of No Child Left Behind. The Tennessean recently posted an article describing a few of her views and then posted forum responses. The actual newspaper post is linked by clicking on the title.

I found the diversity in views on NCLB to be fascinating.

Here is one forum response from a teacher:

I am a 5th grade reading teacher at a Title 1 school. 78% of our student body is on free/reduced lunch. Our students come from public housing and two low income trailer parks. It is not unusual for our students to have one or both parents in jail or on drugs. In addition, in my class are a number of hispanic students who speak NO English.(they will be required to take the same exam as the other students in the spring-and their scores will count against our school) Also, we employ a family resource person at our school whose primary job is to proved clothing and school supplies for our students. Yes, school supplies- our students are sent to school at the beginning of the year without notebooks, paper, pencils, etc. The school through donations provides them. After my "school day" ends, I stay(along with 4 other teachers) until 4:45 helping students do the homework I have assigned-after we have provided a snack. This is a free service. I feel certain that a majority of adults in this state including those who have posted on this site could not test proficient on the reading portion of the 5th grade TCAP. Could you correctly identify the implied theme of a passage? Could you identify a metaphor, hyperbole, personification... or author's implied reason for writing or intended audience? When is the last time you had to approach a poem analytically? How are your sentence combining skills? Could you correctly place the semi-colon or subordinate conjugation in two independent clauses? How is your writing? In Feb. our students take an expository writing exam. They are given a "prompt"..."imagine you are a rain drop..describe your day"..and are to write 45 mins..demonstrating correct mechanics, expressive and vivid vocabulary along with great imagination... People who are so quick to criticize schools and educators have NO IDEA what goes on inside those buildings or what a standardized test expects of our students. In closing, the problem is not in our schools. The problem is at home. There are too many parents who do not parent (did I mention that we provide parenting classes). They can barely meet the basic needs of their children. They are sent to school with too many adult and worldly things on their young minds ( the police got my daddy/mama last night, older sibling providing the caretaking for the younger, we don't have any lights..our electricity is off),etc..... Interestingly enough, there is NO PARENTAL accountability in NCLB...NONE . The schools are not failing..the family has failed...and until that is addressed all the legislation, testing , and finger pointing in the world is not going to fix the real problem.

Monday, November 20, 2006

New graduation rate formulas

The old graduation rate formulas allowed schools too much leeway in defining what a dropout or a graduate really was. Therefore the statistics were meaningless in a statewide context. The new graduation rate formulas may clean up the definitions - but do they really provide a true picture of what most community people think of when they hear the word "dropout?"

Wawasee had two foreign exchange students last year that did not have a certain document from the foreign exchange placement service. Under the new graduation rate formula, Wawasee has to count them as a "dropout."

Karen Franciso, writing for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette in Sunday's paper, provides some local and statewide context for the graduation rate formulas being used by Indiana.

Lowell Rose, a respected researcher, consultant and admitted public school defender, points out in Karen's article that if there are ANY dropouts - it's too many - but the Indiana numbers do not rise to the level of crisis.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Friday Funny #2

A guy is in a bar with his dog watching the Ohio State-Michigan game on Saturday. After being down two touchdowns to Ohio State, Michigan finally kicks a field goal for their first score. The dog starts barking and wagging his tail.

The bartender says "That's funny, your dog must be a Michigan fan."

Michigan happens to score a touchdown on it's next possession and the dog starts barking and doing back flips.

The bartender says "That's amazing! What will he do if Michigan wins?!" The guy says, "I don't know, I've only had him for 3 years."


supplied by Denny Duncan who also happens to be a Cleveland Browns fan but he doesn't admit it much in public any more.

Friday's Funny

I had been an elementary principal for four years when the school district I was working in lost their Assistant Superintendent. I replaced her and moved my office over the central administration building.

The next school year I was up walking the halls of my "old" elementary school. I passed two first graders standing by their lockers.

One little boy looked up and said, "Hi, Mr. Stock!" The other little boy who was new to the school, looked at his new friend and asked, "Who is that?"

The little guy says, "That is Mr. Stock. He was our principal last year. Now he is a secretary or something!"

Aren't kids great. He knew exactly who runs the schools!

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

So what would a dropout free school look like?

The last blog post has a couple of interesting comments about dropouts and dropout programs such as our Wawasee Academy. Let's think outside the box.

So, here are a few questions.

What would a dropout free school look like? What would they do different? How would a dropout free school be organized? What would teachers do differently? What alternatives should we provide to our current alternatives?

A recent workshop I held with teachers uncovered a torrent of frustrations building over the increase in percentages of students who are more apathetic, unmotivated and unwilling to put in the work the state is now requiring.

SO...How do we connect emotionally and psychologically with students who do not see the value in what schools provide?

Here are the rules for commenting:

1. Be kind.
2. No names or accusations.
3. Describe your ideas positively as opposed to describing what we AREN'T doing.

Schools are open to new ways of doing things..but the limits on funding, staffing and current state requirements and accountability rules have mentally gridlocked us.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Indy Star on Dropouts

The Indy Star today ran an editorial (again) on the issue of high school dropouts.

Now, I will be the first to agree that there are far too many students that drop out of high school. But read the editorial carefully and notice the use of the words "graduating on time."

In the Star's world, if a student doesn't graduate with their age group they are a "dropout." The official dropout formulas that will be used in the future will allow schools to adjust for those that come around and get it together and earn a diploma.

I wonder what the dropout rates will be when passing the Core 40 Algebra I test becomes the "gatekeeper" course for high school education?

Currently 23.7% of Indiana students can pass that test.

It will depend on what the state does when it sets the "cut score" for passing.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Some of you have heard the news that Bill Dixon has sold WAWC and have wondered what Wild Bill is up to now. He is running a new web site called Bill is streaming video over the internet at

His first upload contains taped interview segments with the student athletes who won awards at the Wawasee Fall Athletic Award Program.

He also provides athletic information about events and will also provide community information as well.

This site is not connected with Wawasee Schools in any way.

Some of you are now wondering..."Isn't it a violation of privacy for Bill to post pictures, interviews and even game video clips of students without parent permission?"

No. The courts have determined that when student athletes go out for a sport they are knowingly giving up any rights to privacy by competing.

So...Bill can video tape to his heart's long as he doesn't show up in Discrete Mathematics class to tape a lecture!!!!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Political musings....

Election surprises everywhere. It seems like Americans and Hoosiers in general are pretty much fed up with a lot of things.

List of choices:

aggressive partisanship that often negates thoughtful voting by individual party members
gas prices
stagnant wages
rising health care costs
the disappearing middle class
massive poverty in the richest nation in the world
negative campaigning
political corruption
no coherent immigration policy
immoral behavior on the part of some elected officials
arrogant, elitist governance that ignores the people
BMV closings
selling of America to foreign entities
lack of decent paying - low skill jobs is what Democrats are going to soon learn. It is a lot harder to govern than it is to complain about those in charge.

My personal opinion is that is better for America when one party is NOT in charge of every branch of government. When there is balance of power they have to work together, compromise and share the credit and the blame. When one party controls they flaunt their power in an arrogant fashion and get things done by enforcing one party discipline on their members. The other party sits back and takes pot shots and blames the other guy.

Well, we'll see what the next several years brings in America.

I believe one of the greatest things America should be proud of is the organized and civilized way these transitions in power come - each party ultimately accepting the will of the American people. This is not so in much of the world.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Wawasee School Board Election Results

I have been asked to post the election results so here goes...

District 1 Votes %
Lydia Stech Clark 1829 43.19
Mike D. Wilson 2406 56.81

District 2
Mary Lou Dixon 3731 100.00

District 3
Marion Acton 1795 38.8
Becky Linnemeier 2825 61.15

New board members take the oath of office in January of 2007 and serve 4 year terms.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Did you vote today?

You know that is the only way to stop those vicious ad campaigns - vote and put an end to this nonsense.

Monday, November 06, 2006

More Charters

The Star reports today that there have been 10 more charter schools approved.

It's interesting that the two main reasons charters and school choice are promoted publicly are that they are "better" than the public schools and they are"cheaper."

Well, the last two major studies have shown that charters are no better than public schools academically when demographics and social economic status are taken into account. In other words - compare apples to apples.

And, the September 2006 Indiana Department of Education report titled, "General Fund Summary of Expenditures" shows that 8 of the 10 most expensive Indiana schools on a per/pupil expenditure basis are all Charter Schools.

The highest is the KIPP Indianapolis College Preparatory School at $14,370 per pupil.

In 2005 Wawasee Schools was $5,819 per/pupil.

However, one good thing about how Indiana has implemented charter schools is that they have to abide by the same accountability rules, they just get more freedom in hiring and curriculum areas.

Given that, Let's just give public schools the same freedom as charters.

Nah - that doesn't fit the real agenda that undergirds the conservative movement that fuels the public school choice and charter agenda - limiting the political clout of the NEA.

Friday, November 03, 2006

New ISTEP tests are coming (but it will be awhile)

Developing new ISTEP tests was the discussion topic at the State Board of Education Meeting Wednesday, November 1, 2006. This duty was handed to the State Board by the 2006 Indiana General Assembly.

Of special interest to parents and educators were the following points:

The test would be moved to as late a date as possible during the second half of the school year.

The high school graduation exam (GQE) will be a different test. The new GQE would consist of end-of-course assessments in Algebra I and English 10.

End-of-course assessments for CORE 40 would be given in English10, Algebra I, Biology I, and US History.

Wow - It looks like a future student who can't pass an end-of-course Algebra I test, can't graduate.

Currently only 23.7 % of the state's 10th graders are passing the Core 40 end-of-course Algebra Assessment. It's all about the cut score. They will set the passing score based on how many they want to fail and how many they want to pass. There is no stone tablet from Moses that tells us how much Algebra someone needs to know in order to be successful in life.

But I do know one thing, it is harder to be successful without a high school diploma.

Here is Friday's Funny, contributed by Wawasee teacher Sara Harrison.

My sister and I were driving in the car with my 9 year old niece. We were discussing the State Board's passing of ISTEP legislation. Being adult talk, we were unaware that she was listening.

She piped up with "Give it in the fall or no test at all."

My sister and I were laughing so hard. Her explanation was that students who needed help would be unable to get the help they need.

Something tells me we should listen more to the children.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Help Your Daughter Think Realistically About the Future $$$!

The Executive Director of the Indiana Commission for Women, Sharon Langlotz, joined us on October 31 for our N.E.W (Nontraditional Employment Workshop for Women) annual workshop.

Ms. Langlotz shared some interesting facts with me about working women:

Plan on working. Over 71% of all moms with kids under 18 are working (26 million moms nationwide)

National leaders take credit for boosting the economy since the 1970s, but increases can be attributed directly to women joining the workforce and adding to the GDP

One of the concerns of the Commission for Women is the wage gap in Indiana between men and women’s pay. Comparing the wages of all Indiana women against all Indiana men, women make 72¢ for every $1.00 a man makes (that’s up from 68¢ in 2004). Nationally, the average is a little better at 77¢ on the dollar.

One explanation for the gap is that women tend to be over-represented in lower paying jobs.

The only way to close this gap is to ensure that our daughters gain the education and skills and training they need to compete and move into higher paying jobs in industries across the board.

We had 21 non-traditional occupations represented at the N.E.W conference. All represented well-paying jobs and most did not require a four year college degree – but all required some post-secondary training or apprenticeship.

Just FYI - the current female workforce in Indiana – 25-65 years olds – looks like this:

*23% have a degree beyond high school
*82% have a high school diploma
*18% (362,000) have no diploma or degree

A high school counselor once wisely said “look for a job where you will be happy”. I would like to add an addendum to that; “happy” is sweeter at $22.00 an hour than it is at $8.00!

So……. talk with your daughters about different occupations and check out what those jobs might pay. The doors have been opened for our young women – we just need to make sure they understand where they are, and are prepared to walk through them.

Contributed by Sharon Langlotz, Executive Director of the Indiana Commission on Women

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

WMD's discovered!!

In an amazing turn of events, WMD's have apparently been discovered right here in America.

These Weapons of Mass Delusion (WMD's) are actually negative political campaign ads that result in American's believing the worst about every possible candidate running for office.

These smear campaigns ultimately help the candidate doing the best smear job get elected but the side effect is that Americans continually lose respect for politicians and ultimately the democratic process.

It's a shame that when WMD's (Weapons of Mass Delusion) were finally discovered they were actually tools of American political advisors whose main role is to get their candidate elected by any means possible, even if it means America loses.

Or... am I the only one tired of negative political ads about how the other guy is a jerk and a moron?

How about a simple ad that says this is what I believe and this is what I will do if elected. Then we can throw out the ones that say one thing and do another.

Unfortunately, negative ads work - but only for the candidate elected, not for the rest of America.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

WCEA sponsors "Meet the Candidate's Night"

The Wawasee Community Educator’s Association is sponsoring a “Meet the Candidate’s Night” on Thursday, November 2, 2006.

This forum is designed to introduce patrons to candidates that are running for school board seats in the Wawasee School District.

It will be held in the lecture room at Wawasee Middle School starting at 7:00 P.M.

Please stop by to meet the Candidates for School Board.

Monday, October 30, 2006

"Getting through a rough week with good people"

This post is dedicated to every teacher who has the "occasional" rough week on the job.

I'll let you define "occasional" however you want, it probably depends on the year!

This brief article highlights the importance and the seriousness of our work. The author says that the secret of getting through a rough week is leaning on the support of other seasoned professionals who also respect and appreciate the important work we do.

Click here.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday's Funny - True Story

My first year of teaching was a doozy (that might qualify as educational jargon so here is a self made definition - "doo'zee": adj., superior, extraordinary, highly unusual...)

What was extraordinary about it? The day before school started the school psychologist sat down with me and said, "I want to talk to you about a child that you will have in your room this year. Her name is Pam."

I swallowed hard and said, "OK." She continued, "Pam seems to have a number of unusual social and emotional issues."

"How do these issues manifest themselves?" I asked. (In non-educational jargon I probably said, "What does she do?")

"Well," hesitated the school psychologist, "Last week she shredded the living room curtains with a razor blade and set them on fire."

I swallowed again and looked at my windows to see if there were curtains in the room.

As the year began I got to know Pam better and to appreciate a few of her idiosyncrasies (that's jargon for odd behaviors.)

One of her quirks was a penchant for hypochondria (jargon for complaining about mystery illnesses.)

One day on the way to recess she stopped me, "Mr. Stock, I can't take recess today because I have a hole in the bottom of my heart." This was a new one I thought to myself.

I patted her on the head and said, "Well go ahead outside and take it easy at recess."

The next day on the way to recess she reached over, put her arm around my waist and said, "Mr. Stock, I love you from the bottom of my heart."

I smiled, gave her a squeeze and said, "That's flattering Pam, but how is that possible with that big hole in the bottom of your heart?"

Have a great weekend. Go Warriors beat the Rockies. Good luck at state to the XC team.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Better parent/school relationships

Here is a short article describing 10 things that parents and schools can do to have better parent/school relationships.

They give examples in the article, but here is the really short version:

1. School People - Stop Using Educational Jargon
2. Visit Parents on Their Turf
3. Ask Parents to Teach What They Know
4. Welcome Complainers
5. Hire Parent-Friendly Principals
6. Seek Parent Volunteers
7. Offer Educational Activities For Parents and Kids
8. Get Parents to Observe Classes
9. Provide Courses for Parents
10.Create a Great School

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The need to think deeply...

One of the most important school functions is to teach children to think deeply. In the big rush to memorize information and learn the "basics" it is possible to overlook the importance of helping students look in depth at important issues.

Here is a brief glimpse into an activity currently taking place in Mr. Gause's 5th grade classroom at North Webster Elementary. We offer this example, not to call undue attention to Mr. Gause, but to share it as a sample of many writing activities teachers are learning through Writer's Workshop.

Click here and you will visit Mrs. Ayers blog, called Inspiring Readers and Writers where she shares Mr. Gauses's classroom writing lesson using Veteran's Day as the topic.

Wawasee Success!

Wawasee Cross Country will run in the IHSAA State Championships this next weekend in Terre Haute. For the third time in Wawasee's history, a boys' Cross Country Team will be running for a State Championship. The team is shown in this photo taken following their Regional Runner-up finish a week ago. Get after it, guys!

Congratulations to the IHSAA Regional Soccer Champions! The Warriors finished their season this past weekend in the opening match of the Valparaiso Semi-State and were defeated by Mishawaka Marian. This season, the program had first time ever Sectional and Regional Championships! Congratulations!

The Football Warriors travel to Plymouth this Friday to fight for the right to play in the Championship game the following weekend! Good luck guys. Beat the Rockies!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

What tests can't measure!

Many of those personal qualities that we hold dear—resilience and courage in the face of stress, a sense of craft in our work, a commitment to justice and caring in our social relationships, a dedication to advancing the public good in communal life—are exceedingly difficult to assess. And so, unfortunately, we are apt to measure what we can, and eventually come to value what is measured over what is left unmeasured. The shift is subtle and occurs gradually.

Robert Glaser and the National Academy of Education.
In Lamar Alexander and H. Thomas James The Nation’s Report Card: Improving the Assessment of Student Achievement, 1987.



This list taken from information provided by Dr. Gerald Bracey.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Is the American infatuation with high stakes testing fading?

The Washington Post indicates that in some corners of the country, high stakes testing is becoming a major political issue.

The educational pendulum never stays in the middle. It swings from side-to-side in a never ending sweep.

Maybe we should have high stakes testing for all policy-makers?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Have Fun Reading

For many people reading is an enjoyable activity and is one that that is used every day for work or relaxation. Reading is an essential skill that students must have in order to be successful in school and in life. For many students, however, reading does not come easily. There are a number of resources that are free and accessible on the web that can help parents as they work with their children to develop and encourage good reading habits.

Click on the U.S. Department of Education website to find a variety of links. "Reading Tips For Parents" and "Put Reading First: Helping Your Child Learn To Read, A Parent Guide" are great sites to access. Most importantly, take time to read to and with your children every day!!

Submitted by Wendy Hite, Director of Special Services

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Support Our Warriors

You have many opportunities over fall break to support our varsity teams from Wawasee in state tournament action.

Tonight at 7 p.m. our varsity girls' soccer team is in action at Goshen High School against Goshen in regional play. When we win the regional, plan on supporting them on Saturday for semi-state at Valparaiso! Our first match will be played at 10:30 a.m. our time with the championship match at 7:30 p.m. our time

Friday at 7 p.m. our varsity football team takes on East Noble here at Wawasee in sectional action.

Saturday at 11:30 a.m. our varsity boys' cross country team is in semi-state action at The Plex in Fort Wayne.

Saturday at around 12:30 p.m. at Northridge High School, our volleyball team competes against Northwood in sectional play. The sectional championship match will be at 7:00 p.m. that night.

Get out and cheer on our Warriors!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Raising Children With a Wild Streak

Mark Pruett, an Assistant Professor in the Walker College of Business at Appalachian State University talks about his experience interviewing high school seniors seeking scholarships to attend Appalachian State University. His suggestions might surprise you. You can read the article here.

Teaching history to gamers!

A group of teenagers click a mouse and begin "bombing" England. Across the room, the English prime minister -- a teenager looking grimly at another screen -- attempts to figure out a counterattack in the midst of World War II.These teenagers aren't at home playing shooter games on the Xbox. They're in a high-school classroom learning the dynamics of World War II in a game called Making History. Their video-game-savvy world history teacher, David McDivitt, incorporates video games in his history and sociology courses at Converse, Ind.'s Oak Hill High School.

Rest of article here.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Wawasee Spirit Award

Click here Wawasee for the area Spirit Award Poll.

Now I know there are a lot of non-Wawasee readers of this blog - so I guess it will be ok if you vote for your high school if it is listed...but of course then I will have to add a "Wawasee Surcharge" to your internet bill! :-)

Look in the top right corner where it says "Poll"

Another unintended side effect to NCLB

Here is a story of a teacher with a doctorate in classics studies whose students evidently have done extremely well in their Latin studies, yet must leave the profession because he doesn't meet the definition of "highly qualified" under the No Child Left Behind Law.

The next time you read a newspaper article talking about how numerous states are having trouble meeting the "highly qualified" standards of NCLB, just remember that those standards may have nothing to do with how good the teacher actually is in the classroom.

My opinion? They should expand the teacher licensing rules to allow a much wider group of degreed individuals into the profession under an "Apprentice" label of some kind and allow them to be licensed teachers based on proving themselves.

Current laws have loosened the rules somewhat but a person with a bachelor's degree is still looking at a minimum of another year of college under the " transition to teaching" programs.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday's Funny

Here is a link to an article from educational comedy writer Regina Barreca.


If competition for supplies and niceties in the classroom is tough, then competition in the teacher's lounge turns us feral. Teachers' lounges everywhere have only one thing in unlimited supply: napkins from Dunkin' Donuts which, although they look new are nevertheless suspiciously crumpled, thereby carrying a faint threat of infection from some unknown, possibly infectious, previous user. In addition, there are sometimes coffee mugs reading, "I 'heart' Teachers" which fester on windowsills unclaimed. In the refrigerator you'll find yogurt dating back to 1987 and fat free half and half, which since it is made from petrochemicals, has no expiration date.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Board Election FAQ's

Here are some frequently asked questions about school board election procedures at Wawasee.

1. How many board members are there and how are they elected?
There are five school board members. Three are elected as "regional" or district seats and two are elected as "at-large" seats. Wawasee school board elections are held every two years during the general elections in November. Some school districts hold theirs during the primary elections in the spring.

2. How long are the terms and how are they seated?
All terms are four years. Three members are seated this year in the election and the two at-large seats will be up two years after that. The terms begin in January.

3. How many board members can be seated from one district?
No more than two board members can be from one district. This year the top vote getter from each district will be seated. Meaning someone from the Milford area, Syracuse area and North Webster will all be seated.

4. What happens in the at-large election in 2008 if the top two vote getters are from the same district?
Then the number one person from that region would get seated and then we would skip to the next highest vote getter from a different district. The school board policy does not allow for three board members from one area.

5. Do I only get to vote for a board member in the area where I live or can I vote for people running from the Milford, Syracuse or North Webster areas also?
All registered voters in the Wawasee school district can vote for one (1) person in each district AND no more than three (3) total in this year's general election. In the at-large election in 2008 you can vote for no more than two (2) candidates.

6. What happens to the votes when people do not follow the ballot instructions and they vote this year for two people in one district?
Their votes are invalidated (thrown out).

7. Wasn't there some ballot controversy here a few years ago?
Yes. It was before I came here so it was at least 11 years ago. There were a lot of votes invalidated due to confusion with the ballot. Every year now the school board attorney and I review the ballot construction to make sure the directions are as clear as possible.

8. When are the elections this year?
November 7, 2006.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Top 10 things you didn't know about Wawasee

...but won't hear on David Lettermen either!

Back by wildly popular ten things you didn't know about Wawasee...

1. Property wealth per student…
Wawasee ranks #2 among 292 school corporations in the state in assessed valuation per ADM (student enrollment)
State average $275,542
Wawasee $561,810

2. Tax Rate
Wawasee is ranked LAST (lowest) among public school corporations in the state of Indiana in school tax rate
State average 1.4457
Wawasee .8605

3. State financial support
Wawasee ranks #279th out of 295 school districts in the amount of state financial support per student
State average $3,844
Wawasee $2,619

4. Student Enrollment
Wawasee ranks #90 out of 300 school districts listed on the IDOE website
State average 3,182
Wawasee 3,434

5. SAT scores
Wawasee ranks #81 out of 293 school corporations in average SAT scores
State average 1012
Wawasee 1016

6. Suspensions and Expulsions
Wawasee is ranked # 123 out of 294 school districts in the number of suspensions and expulsions per 100 students
State average 14.7
Wawasee 8.9

7. Percent of Special Needs students
Wawasee is ranked #263 out of 294 school districts in the percentage of students with special needs
State average 17.9
Wawasee 13.5

8. Minority students
Wawasee is ranked 79th in the state out of 300 school districts in the percentage of minority students
State average 22.3
Wawasee 11.0

9. Students Eligible for Free Lunch
Wawasee is ranked 166th out of 300 school districts in the percentage of students eligible for free lunches
State average 26.6
Wawasee 19.1

10. Limited English Students
Wawasee is ranked 42nd out of 300 school districts in the percentage of students with limited English speaking skills
State average 2.98%
Wawasee 3.89%

Question: Why do the total number of school districts in the state listed above vary by item?
Answer: I have no clue. It is how the IDOE website lists them. Generally speaking there are 294 "public" school districts listed in the majority of state reports.

School Board Meeting Highlights

At tonight's board meeting, the WCSC Board of School Trustees:

Heard from Lisa Glon, spokesperson for the Northern Lakes Area Concerned Citizens Association, a local group that has been publicly opposing the proposed ethanol plant near the town of Milford. The group asked the school board to consider writing a letter to the county commissioners expressing their concerns about the proposed location. Three members voted to send a letter opposing the plant and one member abstained stating that he didn't have enough information since the board only heard from those opposed.

Accepted donations from the Pamida Foundation, Shoop Foundation and Women of Today

Approved the minutes, claims and personnel items

Heard a report from the Dr. Stock titled, "The Top Ten Things You Might Not Know About Wawasee.... but won't hear on David Lettermen either."

Approved the financial report

Approved wage increases for certified and classified employees and the WCEA master agreement.

Heard a report from the superintendent on the months activities
Announced that the January meeting has been moved from the 9th to the 17th.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

US Science the best in the world

276 Nobel Prizes in Science: U.S. Science Education the World's Best

The United States leads the world in technology, scientific research and the quality of its scientists because U.S. science education is the world’s best. From 1950 to 2006 Americans have won 206 or 58% of the 357 Nobel Prizes awarded in Medicine, Physics and Chemistry. In October 2006, Americans were awarded all five of the Nobel Prizes for science achievement. The American winners are in Medicine: Andrew Z. Fire Stanford University and Greg C. Mello, U. of Massachusetts Medical School. Physics: John C. Mather NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and George C. Smoot University of California and Chemistry: Roger D. Kornberg Stanford University.

This is the second time Americans have made a complete sweep of Nobel science prizes, the first was in 1983.

Editorial Comment (sarcasm intended): Now...if Margaret Spellings can just get all American Universities to take more standardized science tests we will have even more Nobel prizes right?

Monday, October 09, 2006

10 Myths about school shootings

MSNBC provides a concise breakdown here of ten myths about school shootings.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

School Violence

The tragedy of recent school shootings has left the impression that schools are more unsafe than ever before. Not so, reports a joint effort by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and National Center for Education Statistics.

Key report findings include:
(1) The violent crime victimization rate at school declined from 1992 to 2003.
(2) In the 2002-03 school year, there were 15 student homicides and 8 student suicides in the nation's schools, figures that translate to less than one homicide or suicide per million students
(3) In 2003, 5 percent of students ages 12 to 18 reported being victimized at school during the previous six months: 4 percent reported theft, while 1 percent said they were victims of a violent crime;
(4) In 2003, 21 percent of students reported that street gangs were present at their school during the previous six months;
(5) In 2003, 33 percent of high school students reported having been in a fight anywhere, and 13 percent said they had been in a fight on school property during the preceding 12 months; and (6) In 2003, students in urban schools were twice as likely as students in rural and suburban schools to fear being attacked at school or on the way to and from school.

I am not sure what the trends would say since 2003 - but even a few of these tragedies is a few too many.

The population is increasing so the number of events is bound to go up. Plus...the 24/7 news media makes one incident anywhere in the world seem like its right in your living room.

My big fear is that I see no way to make things safer in America without continuing to take away individual freedoms and liberty, infringing upon the open society that has made America the greatest nation in history.

So...what to do...

Friday, October 06, 2006

New Process for School Delay Decisions

Dragging these weary old bones out of a nice warm bed at 4:50AM when the Transportation Director calls and says it is snowy or foggy out can get old.

Maybe I will pilot my new decision making tool. I will put up this little device on the blog site and tally up the votes!

Come to think of it, that might be the only way to get a teenager up early...just tell them they get to vote on school delays!

What if there is a fog delay Monday?

Looking ahead to Monday:

If we have a 2-hour fog delay on Monday, we will not have the early release inservices for staff as currently scheduled.

This means students will have a regular school day on the 2 hour delay schedule if there is a fog delay Monday morning.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Should there be a national test?

Here is an interesting article by conservative Bill Bennett and former Education Secretary Rod Paige, titled, "Why there should be a national test."

I have been very public about my growing concerns about the overuse of standardized test data for ranking and rating schools in the media. But this doesn't mean I am against standardized testing. It has its place.

Bennett says in the article that some states have created easier tests than others.

You might find it interesting to know that Indiana's academic standards have been rated among the highest in the nation. Comparing our state's results to other states may not be fair.

He says America's federal government should create high national standards and a national test to go with it and then "Butt Out" of education.

Now that I might agree with.

Syracuse Youth Resource Center

Bowen Center has opened the Syracuse Youth Resource Center at the old Enchanted Hills Playhouse.

The facility is open to anyone between the ages of 4 and 17 years old and is open Monday-Friday after school until around 6:30 p.m.

Students who attend have a chance to receive homework help, participate in sports, receive cooking help, and participate in games, educational groups, and crafts.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Wawascene clears 100,000 per month

The Wawascene is now averaging over 100,000 hits per month!

Thank you to everyone for staying in touch with educational issues at the local, regional and national level through The Wawascene.

The last 30 days we had 100,634 hits!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Making sense of it all..

I guess you can't really. My stomach turns over reading what happened in the little Amish School in Pennsylvania.

Article here for those who haven't seen it over and over.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Saturday Satire

Indiana Announces New Testing Program

Indiana Education officicals have announced a new standardized testing program that will go farther than any previous testing efforts in an attempt to hold schools accountable for student learning.

The testing efforts will begin before the student's birth and end with college graduation.

State Testing Director, I.M. NumBr Krunchr explained, "This is revolutionary! We will be testing parents before they are permitted to have children. They must pass a standardized parent test that will be used to predict their child's future success in school. This way we will be able to ensure that children are getting an optimum chance at success in school. There is no secret that certain parenting behaviors give students a better chance. We have correlated those behaviors to school success and created test questions that identify those core parenting values. Now the government will simply not allow those parents to birth children unless they can get a certain score."

Critics of the new program have accused the state of "draconian measures" to which I.M. Numbr Krunchr replied, "Hogwash, the business community is worried that we will fall behind China and they already limit parents to one child per couple. It's a global world now. We might as well go a step further."

The new test, which will be an on-line version using technology will be titled, "Indiana Statewide Test for Education and Pupil Proficiency Emphasizing Diplomas IN Instructional Technology (I. S.T.E.P.P.E.D IN I.T.)

Friday Football

Friday, September 29, 2006

More calls for standardized testing in college

A recent federal report is now calling for more "accountability" from universities and colleges, including a call for standardized testing.

I guess it was inevitable. But...aren't college students already tested enough?

Most professions already test their incoming people. Lawyers take the bar exam; Doctors pass their residencies and other exams; teachers take their NTE's and PRAXIS tests; accountants pass the CPA exam; cosmetologists take their state exams; airplane mechanics pass the Airframe and Powerplant tests; nurses take the nursing exams ...etc.

Presto... the magic answer to every educational issue ... another test.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

More from Daniels on county tax boards

The Star continues in this article on the issue of county tax control boards.

Here is a quote and my comments:
Property tax rates in recent years have climbed for many homeowners statewide, in large part because school boards and other local agencies have greater and more expensive needs.
This is true in part. Yet absent from the discussion AGAIN is, "Where do these 'greater and more expensive needs' come from? I'll tell where much of it comes from...unfunded mandates from state and federal government, pushed down to the local school boards. Once again, the discussion deflects attention away from state and federal lawmakers who continually expand their influence and then push the responsibility to fund these laws to the local school boards.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Daniel's proposes tax control units

In this Indy Star article, Governor Daniels proposes "tax control units" whose job would be to control property taxes.

I don't know enough about how such a "control unit" would work to know whether or not it is a good idea. Like they say, "the devil is in the details."

However, I do take exception to Governor Daniels statement that towns, schools, and libraries etc. have "broad control" over their taxing capacities.

This seems like pure "pass the buck" political speak.

I can't speak for municipalities, towns and libraries, but I can speak on behalf of schools. Most schools do not have "broad control" over their property tax rates.

In actuality school boards do not "control" very much of the property tax rate at all especially when you consider the state and federal controls that exist over public schooling and the continual mandates that expand our mission.

How about a "de-control board" that actually returns local control to schools and school boards?

I thought Republicans used to stand for more local control and less state and federal control?

That is not what most of are seeing across America these days.

My .02.

2-Hour Delay on Monday, September 25th

Wawasee Community Schools is on a two-hour delay with the alternate kindergarten schedule today due to fog in our area. Drive safely!

Writing Matters

Students taking the new SAT exams have noticed that writing skills matter.

Students are even being asked to write short answers on unlikely subjects like Math and Science.

Article here.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Friday's Funnies

A small boy is sent to bed by his father. Five minutes later:
"I'm thirsty. Can you bring me a drink of water?"
"No, you had your chance. Lights out."
Five minutes later:
"I'm THIRSTY. Can I have a drink of water?"
"I told you NO! If you ask again, I'm coming in to spank you!"
Five minutes later...
"Daaa-aaaad...When you come in to spank me, can you bring me a drink of water?"

One day the first grade teacher was reading the story of Chicken Little to her class.
She came to the part where Chicken Little warns the farmer.
She read, "...and Chicken Little went up to the farmer and said, "The sky is falling!"
The teacher then asked the class, "And what do you think the farmer said?"
One little girl raised her hand and said, "I think he said: Holy cow! A talking chicken!"
The teacher was unable to teach for the next 10 minutes.

What do you say to full day K?

Star likes it . (Just remember though, this is the same mathematically challenged editorial board that thinks 84% on a driver's test is more difficult than a 61% ISTEP cut-score. If they only would have had full-day K!!)

Gazette likes it but wants the guv to talk more about the benefits.

My prediction is that Wawasee won't see it for awhile because the first money will go to schools with higher free and reduced lunch counts.

Go Warriors beat Plymouth!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Are their brains really different?

There is a growing number of researchers saying that our children's brains are indeed different.

Ask any teacher who has been in the business for 15 years or more and they will likely tell you that the students have changed. Yet the educational materials industry struggles to respond to these changes. Do kids really have short attention spans? I don't think so. Does your son or daughter play video games for hours on end? Is that a short attention span? I suspect the "new brains" just aren't easily captivated by a lecture ( no matter how passionate) about a speeding vehicle when they can simulate driving one in their NASCAR racing game, complete with making the car adjustments necessary to eke out every bit of speed from the vehicle. Think of the physics lessons there!

Most people believe that the fast paced, interactive world of MTV, video gaming, iPod's, cell phones, instant messaging, text messaging and connectivity have truly created differences in the way our children learn. Despite the doomsayers out there, this might not be all bad.

Every teacher should read this article about "digital natives" and "digital immigrants."

The author also says in another article, "Perhaps the most important difference is that the "stuff" to be learned - information, concepts, relationships, etc. - cannot be just "told" to these students. It must be learned by them, through questions, discovery, construction, and above all FUN."

In the old way of thinking, learning is hard work. In the new age learning may be hard - but it may not always be work.

When the video gaming industry learns how to structure their products for the school environment and market, and tailor those simulations and experiences to specific course content, it will sell and it will work. It will also INCREASE the need for quality teachers, not decrease the need.

I talked to a teacher recently who has gotten some notoriety for publishing articles about the increases in unit test scores for students who conducted video gaming units versus those students who learned in traditional textbook units. His comment?

The greatest fear of his colleagues is that they would be obsolete and no longer needed.

Those colleagues are wrong. The careful use of gaming simulations to teach content in an interactive environment INCREASES the need of careful reflection that a skillful teacher can bring to the class. In fact, it may actually free the teacher to spend more time on the reflection and higher order processing when the content to be learned is actually imbedded in the game.

It is precisely this REFLECTION and processing that the high paced world we are in living in is neglecting.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

ISTEP and testing FAQ's

A recent commenter posted several questions about how ISTEP scores are used in the schools. I will post some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQ's) that I hear about ISTEP and testing in the schools.

How can you compare ISTEP scores from several years ago to today’s students? Aren’t those different tests now? Aren’t the students different too?

Yes, and that can complicate matters but not near as much as conventional wisdom would have one believe when schools are trying to do program evaluation. Several years ago, each school “weighed-in” in their goal areas (math computation for example) and tried to get a well-rounded measure of how students were performing in that specific area. They collected many different assessment scores from a variety of assessments and a variety of grade levels in order to establish a baseline for math computation. They may have had 10-15 different measures or more, including ISTEP. In cases where the ISTEP test changed, the old test scores are replaced with the new so that “apples-to-apples” comparisons are made.

Then, each school put in place an improvement plan targeting that area and went to work over the years implementing improvement strategies. After lots of hard work the schools this year will "weigh-out" by repeating those 10-15 different measures spread over those different assessments and different grade levels and try to determine if the overall pattern of achievement in math computation among the new students is different. This method is used for trying to determine if the program changes the school has made is changing the patterns of student achievement.

Yes, these are different students. However, when sample sizes get large enough on each assessment (generally speaking, the research says 70-100 students per sample size) the statistical probability of the group of students being “out of norm” is a lot less. Then by spreading this risk over multiple assessments and multiple grade levels, we can generally use this information to make some basic decisions about our curriculum and methods.

Then the tough questions come up.

Are the new students so different that the results are not comparable? This can happen but it is not as likely as most believe.

Was it the interventions we used that made the biggest difference or was it something else? If so, which ones? Should the staff continue with the strategies they were using or will another one make a bigger difference for our students?

These are the questions that professionals must wrestle with. Data will NOT make the decisions for us, but I am proud to work in a district that will at least use some professional decision-making processes to guide our discussions.

Ultimately our decisions still end up being professional judgments, but at least we are using information and data to help inform our practice.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Dumbest Editorial Ever?

This ranks right up there with some of the dumbest editorials I have ever read.

Click here.

The basic premise? ISTEP is easy because you only have to get 61% on some sections/grade levels to pass. The Indiana drivers' test is harder because you have to get an 84% to pass.

Say what?

With this logic it is easier to be a baseball player because you only have to average 1 for 3 at the plate to be in the Hall of Fame but a basketball player has to shoot 50% from the field to be considered good.

My premise? This editorial writer doesn't have a prayer of passing the 6th grade Math problem-solving portion of the test!

On a side note...I checked with our school attorney. He recalls needing to get at least 70% on the essay questions on the bar exam. Using The Star's illogic, the bar exam "lacks rigor" due to the 70% cut score. According to The Star it is easier to pass the essay section of the bar exam than it is to get your driver's license.

Quick update on Milford School

We took a few calls regarding Milford School being in "lock-down" so I thought I would post the real story this morning to squelch any wild rumors.

Milford School went into "lock-down" this morning as students were entering the school. A student had allegedly made a "threat" and left the building indicating they might return shortly. The school immediately went into lock-down procedure as they are trained to do. The police immediately went to the home and took the child into custody.

The school came out of lock-down and started their normal schedule.

Thank you to the school administrators, teachers, employees and students for handling the situation quickly and professionally.

Thank you to the parent who called here immediately to get the real story.

Monday, September 18, 2006

ISTEP this week

This is the week that ISTEP tests are given throughout Indiana in grades 3-10. It is especially important in Wawasee Schools this year because this is our "documentation year." That means that we must "document" our students' achievement this year and compare it to our students' achievement from several years ago and see if the students have improved in certain goal areas.

Our goals are NOT to improve test scores. Our goals are to improve the skills of our students.

Yet we continue to be asked the important question, "How do you know if they are getting better in their skills?" Of course we then go back to different assessments and look for patterns in the data.

There are people in the school district who are trained to do fairly complex data analysis in order to try and answer these two questions:

Did our students get better in the school's goal areas?
If so how much better? A little, A lot?
If students declined in their achievement was it a little or a lot?

Then the hardest question of all for a faculty to answer is..."If they got better in the goal areas, what interventions did we use that made the biggest difference? If they declined why did they decline?

This is the heart of what all professionals do in any profession. Analyze their own performances for feedback so they can better serve.

ISTEP is not only used for assessment at the individual student level, but it is just one part of a school-wide multi-faceted assessment plan that is being used to reflect on our own professional practices.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Friday's Funnies

The following is supposedly an actual question given on a University of Washington chemistry midterm. It really is a silly test question that the professor was clearly being funny with. I hope it is not offensive to anyone. It is "tongue-and-cheek" even though I personally consider the subject itself a serious matter.

The answer below is by one student on a chemistry exam and was so unusual that the professor shared it with colleagues, via the Internet, which is, of course, is why we now have the pleasure of enjoying it as well.

Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?

Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle's Law, (gas cools off when it expands and heats up when it is compressed or some variant).

One student, however, wrote the following:

First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate that souls are moving into Hell and the rate they are leaving. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving. As for how many souls are entering Hell, lets look at the different religions that exist in the world today. Some of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there are more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can safely project that all souls will go to Hell.

With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle's Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added. This gives two possibilities:

1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.
2. Of course, if Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.

So which is it? If we accept the postulate given to me by Ms. Teresa B. during my Freshman year, "...that it will be a cold day in Hell before I go out with you," and take into account the fact that I still have not succeeded in going out with with her, then, #2 cannot be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and will not freeze.

The student received the only "A" given.

2-Hour Delay

Wawasee Schools are on a two-hour delay today due to dense fog.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Board Meeting Highlights

At Tuesday night's regular monthly meeting, The Wawasee Board of School Trustees:

1. Approved claims, minutes and personnel items
2. Heard a report on the Wawasee Middle School Mentoring Grant and Program
They learned that the grant ends next year. The goal is to expand the number of adult mentor volunteers. The number of student/mentor matches is still higher than the other mentor grant programs that are operating. Students, parents, and Bowen Center representatives attended the meeting to express their thanks for supporting the program. The next big hurdle is continuing the program after the grant ends.
3. Approved the financial report
4. Approved the 2007 budget
5. Authorized Mr. Evans to make reductions in appropriations at the budget hearing
6. Approved the tax neutrality resolution (which essentially states that the tax rate to annually fund pension bonds is being taken from other funds and is not an additional tax)
7. Heard a report from the Superintendent on class sizes, Primetime funding history, ISBA conferences and upcoming insurance meetings.
8. Heard a report from the Director of Curriculum on ISTEP testing and upcoming professional development activities

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Parent involvement is the key

Here is a great article, forwarded to me by Mr. Duncan, Principal at Jefferson Elementary in Warsaw Schools. One of his teachers tipped him off about it. Here is an excerpt:

A 1994 report by Anne Henderson and Nancy Berla, for example, compiled results of 66 studies and concluded that family involvement was the biggest predictor of student achievement, and that family involvement not only helped students, it also improved teacher morale, helped teachers earn higher ratings from students, and bolstered the reputation of the school in the community.

Whoa. It's the biggest predictor. In other words, a kid from a supportive family in a mediocre school will fare better than a kid with an indifferent family at a great school.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Dropouts make less

While everyone argues over whose fault it is that so many students still drop out of high school in this modern day era, the question, "Who stands to lose the most?" doesn't get much debate.

It is the student himself/herself with the most to lose.

Here is another story with some statistics that seems to say that American dropouts take a big wage hit compared to non-dropouts, in fact a larger percentage hit than many other countries.

On-line Petition for NCLB

No Child Left Behind is a federal law which has created the most sweeping changes in American education probably since public law 94-142 brought about much needed change in special education service.

Along with these sweeping changes has come a new federal control over education in our country. Has this new phase of "central planning" in education been helpful? Like most things it depends on who you ask. Educators critical of NCLB have been accused of being defensive and afraid of accountability. I heard a Wawasee teacher last week say, "I think accountability has been good, but I think the curriculum has become so focused (narrow) that I am afraid we are giving up a lot that no one is recognizing."

Clicking on this link will take you to an open letter to federal legislators seeking changes in the way NCLB has been developed and implemented.

If you agree with most of what you see in the letter you can click on the link to submit your name as a "signer" of the petition.

As a parent, if you are unsure of how the local educators feel about how the current form of NCLB is changing classroom practices, consider asking your own child's teacher or teachers how they feel about it.

Like most things in life there may be some good in NCLB, but there are huge unintended consequences that affect the curriculum and methodologies in the classroom. Educators are now pondering the question, "What is America giving up in its push to raise standardized test scores, and do we know if it is worth it?"

Recently there have even been calls for a required standardized national test AND required standardized testing in colleges. How much is too much? Does this type of "central planning" and government control promote or inhibit innovation and creativity, previously the hallmarks of American ingenuity?

Click here and read the open letter to federal legislators.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Indiana gets B+ in college completion

The Journal Gazette points out the good news as well. Indiana does well compared to other states in graduating its college students. Fifty-five percent (55%) of Indiana's first time/fulltime college students completed a Bachelor's degree within 6 years.

Over the last decade it is also 10% more likely that an Indiana student will be enrolled in college by the age 19.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Indiana gets F in college affordability

The Star discusses a recent report that gave Indiana an F for a grade in college affordability. Evidently college tuition costs have risen faster than inflation, endangering student access to higher education.

If it is any consolation, the article goes on to say 42 other states flunked too.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Wawascene in the national blogosphere again

If you haven't been checking out The Education Wonks blog site every week, don't forget to do so. It is one of the best national blog sites for a variety of educational news around the country.

I give Mike the free plug because he cross linked to The Wawascene today in a reference to Indiana's behind the scenes proposal to link ISTEP to teacher incentive pay.

What no one will talk about

Here is a sensitive one.

Here is a link that shows student SAT scores by race and gender.

As you can see, some of Indiana's minority children are having some difficulty. BUT, did you know that virtually all minority groups in America have improved? Did you know that despite the fact that ALL of America's subgroups have improved that the TOTAL average for SAT's is relatively flat?

Say What??? How can every group in America get better but the whole group NOT improve?

It is a statistical phenomenon known to experts as Simpson's Paradox, named after Bart Simpson. (I'm just kidding about Bart.) However, Here is a link that discusses Simpson's Paradox and uses SAT data to explain.

Here is another link that shows the growing minority population.

Here is another one that shows the growing number of students who have limited English.

Here is a link that shows Indiana's increase in percentages of students passing ISTEP Math.

Here is a link that shows Indiana's increase in percentages of students passing ISTEP Language.

Now here is my point.

1. There is a fairly significant achievement gap among the races.
2. AND the percentage of minorities has increased.
3. AND the percentage of students with limited English has gone up dramatically.
4. YET, despite these barriers, ISTEP scores in Indiana have gone up in Math and Language

What am I trying to say?

Despite increasing numbers of students who have traditionally had more difficulty on such tests, Indiana has improved. While this could be a function of Indiana's subpopulations not growing as rapidly as the rest of the nation, it could also be that Indiana has improved enough to buck the trend and beat the odds. Let's hope that's true.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

What factors explain variation in student achievement?

One of our commenters asked the question, "What are some of the factors that influence the variation in student achievement that are NOT in the schools' control?"

Great question.

First it is important to understand that correlation is NOT cause-and-effect. Correlation simply means that two items seem to be " co-related," meaning they have a relationship. For example, poverty has a fairly strong correlation to test scores. They go together but poverty does not CAUSE low test scores. There are poor students with high test scores and rich students with lower test scores. The relationship is NOT cause-and-effect, but few people will deny that there is a relationship between these two items.

To demonstrate this I have provided a few links.

If you click here, you will see student SAT scores in Indiana by parental income levels.

If you click here, you will see student SAT scores in Indiana by parental education levels.

I will share more information later that could start a small ruckus. You see, there are some politically touchy things here that Democrats and Republicans both seem to shy away from addressing publicly, but most likely for different reasons.

Democrats run the risk of offending their political bases by trotting out some of these stats, and the Republicans run the risk of showing that public schools are doing a pretty darn good job given the social trends they are dealing with. And that my friends, doesn't help advance a privatization/school voucher agenda.

My .02. More later.

Two hour delay Wednesday

There is a two hour delay for Wednesday.

Medium to heavy fog blanketing most of the school district.

Drive carefully.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Indiana teacher pay could tie to ISTEP?

In what is sure to be a lively debate, Indiana Education Insight (8/21/06) has reported that the Governor, the Indiana Department of Education and key legislators are quietly negotiating a bill for 2007, that if approved, would link teacher salary incentives to test scores.

This proposal would create a performance-based compensation system under which teachers who improve student test scores, demonstrate good teaching methods, assume leadership roles, or complete professional development would be eligible for salary incentives.

Indiana Education Insight understands that the Governor has presented a plan to Dr. Reed, State Superintendent of Public Instruction as part of a plan to address teacher shortages and improve teacher quality and retention.

The ISTA (Indiana State Teacher's Association) has historically been opposed to performance-based pay systems and favored more seniority-based pay plans. The lobbying at the state level will be pretty intense.

I personally have concerns if the "pay for performance" incentives are too closely tied to specific ISTEP scores from specific students. Especially since most research attributes somewhere around 70% or more of the variation in student test scores to things outside a school's control.

I might be less concerned about the other items such as "leadership roles" or "completing professional development activities" since one could argue that those things are more closely under the teacher's control. Still, I would want to see the details.

I do believe some type of pay system that is not exclusively seniority-based could have some bearing on teacher retention. Public education loses a lot of teachers in their first 5-8 years.

Dr. Reed is reported to have some reservations to the plan but may be favorable to some type of incentive system in the school areas that report high turnover in teaching staff.

Two-hour delay

There is a two-hour fog delay this morning.

Dense fog blanketing most of our area.

Drive safely.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

ISTEP+ and Volunteers

Wawasee Community School Corporation is in need of some licensed teachers who would be willing to volunteer in our buildings during the mornings of September 19, 20, 21, 26, and 27 when we are administering the ISTEP+ tests to students in grades 3-10. This would be a great opportunity for retired teachers!

The ISTEP+ allows specific special accommodations that are permitted through a student's IEP (special education students), Section 504 plan, or LEP (Limited English Proficient) plan. The accommodations might include being tested in small groups. Having some extra licensed teachers in the buildings would greatly help us!

If you would be willing to volunteer to help with testing, please call Joy Swartzentruber at 457-3188.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Checking on your child's grades, attendance and discipline

The Harmony Parent Portal is up and running. Using the internet, each parent can keep regular tabs on their children's grades, attendance and discipline that has been entered into the system.
As the year progresses more of this information will be entered. The data will be "real-time" as it is entered into the system by the faculty.

Here is the latest information from the principals on when to expect the information:

Syracuse Elementary: There will be a one page "Parent/guardian ACCESS to HARMONY" section on the back of this week's parent newsletter explaining how each parent will be able to get access. Once e-mail addresses are obtained, access codes will be e-mailed to parents.

Milford School: The information will go home with students on Thursday, August 31 in a separate newsletter. The information will also be shared with the teachers at their next two meetings so they can include it in their weekly newsletters (elem) or as parents contact them (MS). At open house night September 7, the Computer Technician will also be available to collect e-mail addresses from parents.

North Webster School: The information and sign-up sheet for the Harmony Parent Portal will go home with the parent newsletter on September 8, after the grade level teams are trained in using the grade book. Once e-mail addresses are entered into the computer, an e-mail with a user ID will be sent to each e-mail address.

Wawasee Middle School: A paper will come home with advisory classes Wednesday to receive necessary information. Once they have updated e-mails, etc...they will begin creating user id's and sending information home via e-mails.

Wawasee High School: Parents were able to get their passwords following registration and it was also explained at the freshmen parent meeting. At the first parent teacher conference the information will be printed so each parent who attends will receive the information again. Teachers are currently reinforcing the use of the Harmony website for parents and for the students. The Dean of Students will also explain it to parents when he calls on attendance and discipline issues.