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.

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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.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sometimes, Dr. Stock, I wonder if you are an advocate for school improvement and change or for the status quo. Your posts seem to reflect a synical view of things -- and even an inclination toward the view that since our community thinks our schools are okay, we should continue doing what we've always done.

At other times, I hear you speak about the need to grow and about the importance of growth processes such as NCA,yet the common impression among staff seems to be that you won't take a risk or follow through.

I wonder how much things would improve if you really advocated the change that is necessary to meet current state and federal demands.

And I wonder if other advocates of change, incuding myself, would like it if you did.

Dr. Mark J. Stock said...

Thank you for your candid comments. They are very thoughtful. In a nutshell - The reason I post a variety of articles like this, is that I believe schools are actually better then they ever have been given the expanded mission they have been given in the last 30 years. (Whether that should be the future mission is a different question.) No one ever gives them credit for that and I find our staffs to be by-and-large demoralized about this and most superintendents say the same. Are we perfect? Of course not.

Does this mean we should not be open to change, reform and improvement? Nope. Whether or not the country can be as successful the next 30 years with the same school structure is a different question.

The last 6 years we have tried to operate school improvement plans under the umbrella of each school's PL 221 improvement plan. Preliminary results look modest in some areas and no progress in others. I will be around this winter to each school to share this information in staff meetings to look at the next steps.

I believe the next break through in improvement will require restucturing the "system" of how schools operate and sacrifices on the part of the community and staff. Whether they are willing for these sacrifices is yet to be determined. Americans by-and-large do not want to give things up - only add things. Hence, our ever expanding missions with declining resources.

So my question back to you is...what are the "risks" you want me to take that will bring about the reform that YOU have in mind?

Anonymous said...

'scuse me...but I think you mean "cynical"..

Anonymous said...

Cynical would have been a better choice, I agree.

I would like to see a curricum focus on skills over content -- not to eliminate content but to make it a result of the study. For example, it would be appropriate to use the text in a social studies class, at elementary through high school, as a literary piece with the instruction focusing on how to read that text. This is not what occurs, but it naturally would increase the instructional time dedicated to reading while ensuring that students develop an understanding of the content. The same is true with regard to science.

What I often hear from teachers in these areas at the secondary level is that they don't require the kids to read because they won't. So they lecture the students so that they get the information. This is contrary to the standards-based instruction that is in place. At the elementary level, teachers tell me that they don't teach social studies -- because there isn't time. But I challenge this theory with the above-mentioned method.

An additional item that you could implement is the removal of "dead weight" from the teaching staff. There is a freshmen teacher in an ISTEP subject area at the high school that everyone knows is incompetent -- she can't even control the studnets' behavior, let alone teach them. Get rid of her...and others who won't teach the standards or give them more than lip service.

Finally, I know people say we don't waste instructional time -- but I offer two examples from yesterday. 1) At the high school, a student took a twenty minute test and then had the remainder of that class period as study hall prior to lunch and another class completely used as a study hall. This is a waste of instructional time. 2) At the elementary yesterday, the day was filled with an "holiday" assembly, a Christmas party, and a variety of activities -- no academics occured in my child's class.

What it boils down to is this: require teachers to focus on the skill sets identified by the state; require classroom time to be dedicated to learning; eliminate the 'fluff' to focus on the 'stuff.'

And this can be done without taking the fun out of school. This can be done without making all content appear to be about language arts and math -- though it might, in effect, be. This can be done while recogizing holidays and birthdays and looking at the days of the week and weather charts. It requires some 'outside of the box' thinking instead of doing things the way we always have.

I think back to my elementary years in this district and look at my children's educational experiences here -- they aren't very different. I guess since the experiences are the same, the results would be, too... now back to the article.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous seems to know so much about how to run a school and a classroom, I suggest the corporation hire this person as a consultant to solve all the problems of education. Perhaps anonymous should run for office as, like the politicians he/she seems to have all the answer, orrrrr has this person actually ever spent any time in a classroom lately. Sounds like much of his/her comments are based on hearsay.

Anonymous said...

Just so you know, I am the same anonymous to whom you refer.

I am both a parent and an experienced teacher in the Wawasee School Corporation. My comments are not based on hearsay but on observation from both perspectives.

So yes, I have spent time in the classroom recently -- even this week. Yes, I do know what WCSC looks like from the inside. And yes, I do believe that it is reasonable for us to do better.

Our ISTEP scores speak for themselves -- and for us.

Dr. Mark J. Stock said...

There is truth in what "anonymous" says. Until every school's "house is in perfect order" we will always have to be open to criticism.

If some staff do not use time well or manage classrooms and students properly, we cannot hide from this reality.

However, the reform I thought was being referred to was on a larger scale of how should a school be organized differently?

Comments made about ISTEP scores remains a concern. We need to do better. However, there are some bright spots here and there. In Math we set or tied records this fall in 5 out of 8 grade levels tested for the percentage of students who passed the Math ISTEP. In Language Arts we have struggled some. This too is a state-wide phenomenon. My theory on this is that in Math we have a more direct influence because students begin school a lot closer together in what they know or don't know about Math. But in Language Arts the differences in K students is amazing. Some students will come to school reading "Little House on the Prairie" and some cannot talk. So much language development is a result of the "culture of literacy" in a home. It is hard work (but often doable) to close these language gaps at schools.

But, if we keep doing what we are doing we will keep getting what we are getting....this fact the commenter is correct on.

I would encourage this person to talk personally to the individuals indirectly referred to.

Anonymous said...

It is always best to start at the bottom and work your way up...and to use your name if you complain.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous says that the ISTEP scores tell us about ourselves. However, ISTEP scores reflect more than just the efforts of the educator. They also reflect the home environment, the capability of the student, the economical and educational background of the community, the parents' attitude toward school, the constant mobility of a number of households in the community, and other variables that the politcians fail to mention. When an elected official who has decided to feed at the public trough states that he is for improving schools....who in their right mind is going to disagree? Everyone wants better schools. The schools are an easy mark. The fact is, however, that what the parents do at home in teaching their children the value of hard work, respect, responsibility, and putting forth their best effort is just as important a factor in higher ISTEP scores as what takes place in the classroom. Another factor is the way the tests are graded by the state. Warsaw experienced extreme inconsistancy in their scored tests this year. Some of their scores would seem to indicate a problem with the scoring process and the subjective factor in the process in Indianapolis. It's strange that with all the hoopla about how poor our public schools are, that these same schools produced the people who have invented the greatest advances in science, and medicine
in the last 100 years.

Cherie Martin, WHS Teacher said...

I would like to offer a comment to the "Anonymous" who complaioned of "study hall time" in high school classes on Tuesday, the 19th.

I know my Basic Skills students worked on a percents lesson, my Geometry students took a quiz and worked on a lesson on angles of circles, and that my Calculus students took turns explaining to their classmates how to solve various review problems that all were required to write on their papers.

The day before a long vacation is probably not the best time to "get a snapshot" of what goes on routinely in the school. It can be challenging to plan a meaningful lesson on the day before vacation. We all try. Some plan to give tests that should require the entire period. In other classes, though, it may not be an appropriate time for testing within the instructional sequence.

The most challenging part of the day before vacaton process is that students are exchanging gifts and eating candy in the halls during the passing periods. They are already excited about the time of year. The extra sugar doesn't make it any easier for them to focus.

Yes, the situations you mention could have been better planned, but please be careful here. Should the test you mentioned have taken longer than twenty minutes for the student to thoughtfully complete? Was the study hall period you mentioned in a class administered by a substitute?

----------------------------------

A comment to Mark:

I have read books in which school life at the turn of the last century is described. I did recognize the situations described as those of "fifty years ago" in the article. I also was born at just about the same time the article was written. As an elementary student in the 1950's and a high school student in the 1960's, I can well remember the push at that time for all of us early baby boomers to be well-educated. It was an important aspect of the Cold War. Given that societal culture, we students did approach school more seriously than do many students today. I doubt that the War in Iraq will bring such significant societal pressure. If, however, we are to improve the outcomes of our students on standardized testing barometers and graduation rates, then we will need a more systemic change. It can't be done by putting more onto the backs of teachers. Parents and communities need to hold students accountable for learning. School has to be the main priority in students' lives, not jobs, not sports, not hanging out with friends. Those responsible for tracking progress with NCLB and state graduation requirements need to determine if every child truly and appropriately should be required to complete a college prep track of classes. Would we be better off incorporating methods from models of more successful European and Asian countries? Would we be better with schools that held classes from 10:00 until 5:00 to better fit biorhythms of students' sleeping/waking patterns? Would we be better holding classes with students four days a week and including a fifth day when teachers could work uninterrupted on other duties? We need to think outside the box of what has been a pattern of many decades.

Have a blessed holiday. We can all look forward to a new year and hope that it will be THE year that brings us all the answers.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is the responsibility of all of us(Parents and educators)to work together to improve our children's academic potential. However, remember that everyone learns at a different pace. One student may only take 20 minutes of class time to complete a quiz, while others may require more time to complete the same task. Above all, we need to remember that they are not machines, they are kids and need to be able to act like kids once in a while. Pressuring students constantly sometimes works in the opposite direction that you are trying to go. It seems as if a lot of students are becoming burned out at an earlier age due to pressure to perform well.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting how a person can read so many different comments and agree with most of them -- even when they appear, on their face, to disagree with each other.

I am in this quandry.

Of course, some teachers use their class time well.
Of course, some teachers waste their class time.
Of course, some students need more time than others.
Of course, some students do their best.
Of course, some students don't do their best.
Of course, parents and the way they raise their children impact a child's success in school.
Of course, politicians abuse educators and education to meet their agendas.
Of course, NCLB puts unfair pressure on teachers and students.
Of course, standardized testing isn't perfect.
Of course....

But, as Mark suggested, we must ALL do our very best to insure that every student have the best, most appropriate education every day.

Of course, we will disagree on what that looks like.
Of course, some will say we should focus on the basics.
Of course, some will say we should provide a well-rounded liberal arts education.
Of course....

But, of course, we should prepare kids to find success where society is today...and though inventors have come from American schools -- those references are to the few...and there are millions more who are left behind.

Of course, we care.
Of course, we are frustrated.
Of course, we want to pass the buck.
Of course, we could do more -- only if....
Of course, we can do better.
Of course, we should.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting how a person can read so many different comments and agree with most of them -- even when they appear, on their face, to disagree with each other.

I am in this quandry.

Of course, some teachers use their class time well.
Of course, some teachers waste their class time.
Of course, some students need more time than others.
Of course, some students do their best.
Of course, some students don't do their best.
Of course, parents and the way they raise their children impact a child's success in school.
Of course, politicians abuse educators and education to meet their agendas.
Of course, NCLB puts unfair pressure on teachers and students.
Of course, standardized testing isn't perfect.
Of course....

But, as Mark suggested, we must ALL do our very best to insure that every student have the best, most appropriate education every day.

Of course, we will disagree on what that looks like.
Of course, some will say we should focus on the basics.
Of course, some will say we should provide a well-rounded liberal arts education.
Of course....

But, of course, we should prepare kids to find success where society is today...and though inventors have come from American schools -- those references are to the few...and there are millions more who are left behind.

Of course, we care.
Of course, we are frustrated.
Of course, we want to pass the buck.
Of course, we could do more -- only if....
Of course, we can do better.
Of course, we should.

Anonymous said...

Of course, you didn't have to post that twice...