Friday, September 12, 2014

New Blog from the Superintendent

What you'll find here are occasional musings on educational issues. I may respond to a question from staff, students or community members. I may respond to comments left on the blog by a reader. I may write about a hot button issue in the community. Or, I may simply tell a story from my experiences.

For instance, as Director of Instruction, communications was one of my many responsibilities in rural Pocahontas County, West Virginia in the mid-80s. This was challenging. The County had a total of 9000 residents in 1000 square miles. There was one tiny weekly newspaper. TV news came over the mountain from Roanoke, Virginia. We had no local radio until a group of enterprising folks got together and wrote some grants to fund a "public radio".

They built the radio station on land next to our high school. There was one paid staff member and the rest of the work was done by volunteers. A friend of mine, the County Agriculture Extension Agent, did a couple of hours on Wednesday morning as a volunteer DJ. With his assistance, I did a weekly call-in live radio show on education issues. I'd start a topic, he'd ask a few questions, then we'd open up the phone lines which could be quite risky.

One day I mentioned that the athletic boosters were looking for donations to help with the development of a new baseball field. One lady called and requested the DJ play a special song. She is live - on the air. He advised her that he'd play her song if she'd pledge some money to the new ball field. She responded that the chickens had been laying really good of late and she had extra eggs to sell, so sure, she'd give the extra money to the baseball team.

Pioneering live call-in radio in the 80s has now been replaced with blogs.

On a blog, people can read what's been posted any hour of the day or night. On a blog, they can comment at any time as well. On a blog, they can say what they want and remain anonymous.

It is for that reason that I'm going to reserve the right to review comments before I allow them to be seen by all. I assure you that I won't be editing the critics. I'll just be watching for inappropriate language and personal attacks on employees. Those won't see the light of day.

Otherwise, we'll see what happens. Let's get the blog thing started!


  1. I love the idea of a superintendent having a blog. What a great way to open the lines of communication.
    I am a Maryland native and moved to Calvert County from Prince Georges County because of the schools, rural atmosphere and closeness to the Chesapeake Bay. Glad to hear that you are enjoying the area.
    I use twitter for professional development and follow many other educators and authors blogs that have some of the same beliefs as I do about education.
    I look forward to reading your posts!

  2. Okay,
    So I'd like to just throw this out there and maybe get a topic going to generate some conversation. I was wondering about what are some of the views that educators have about grading and grade reporting? I have recently been reading some different articles as well as books, and following some educators on blogs and twitter that approach grading very differently then we do here in Calvert County.
    Mark Barnes' book, Role Reversal-Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom focuses on a Results Only Learning Environment (Role) that encourages students to take control of their own learning and their own assessment. It was quite an eye-opening book and it truly made me think about how learning is assessed. Another educator Pernille Ripp also has some good books that have been recently published and she applies this same concept in her classroom. I like the fact that these people are educators and are using these ideas in their classrooms.
    So, I was just kind of wondering if anyone else has either read any articles or books or has an opinion about how learning is assessed and how we use grades in the classroom and to communicate to parents. I'm kind of curious as to what other educators are thinking.

  3. That's a good topic. Honestly, I haven't read the authors you mentioned, however, I have always held this radical theory that a grade should reflect only one thing, a student's progress toward's mastery of the course objectives. Sounds simple but is very difficult. Teachers want to give opportunities to earn extra credit and want to give some value to effort. My experience has shown me that every time a school district tries to find a more meaningful way to communicate student progress, the parent requests the teacher to translate it into something they understand. Is that an A, B, C, D or F?

  4. I too, believe that a grade should reflect a student's progress towards understanding an objective and I see both parents and students wanting that letter grade as a measure of understanding. The educators that I follow approach it a little differently and use a feedback model that summarizes what the student has done, explains key points, provides redirection on where improvements can be made and encourages the student to resubmit their work for further evaluation.
    I believe that if we truly are preparing students to be college and career ready that we need to reevaluate how we are measuring their level of understanding.
    What is even more interesting is the feedback that students provided and how they appreciated the opportunity to reflect on their learning, make changes and work towards mastery of a learning objective.
    Here is a section on one of Mark Barnes' post that comments on using traditional grades:
    6-Use traditional grades

    Arguably the easiest way to kill the joy of learning is to punish students with numbers, percentages, and letter grades. Like the worksheet and homework, traditional grades are a crutch that educators have been using for centuries. It’s the way we’ve always done it, but we now have the power and the insight to stop. When learning becomes a conversation, and students are redirected to prior learning and given a chance to resubmit activities to continue the conversation, the result is mastery learning. Rather than place subjective numbers or letters on our students’ work, teachers need to use a feedback model, like SE2R, to create amazing conversations about learning. This approach alone can revolutionize your classroom and instill a joy of learning in your students.
    By the way, love the background pictures!