Facebook
Edutopia on Facebook
Twitter
Edutopia on Twitter
Google+
Edutopia on Google+
Pinterest
Edutopia on Pinterest Follow Me on Pinterest
WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

How do you start reform where it's needed?

How do you start reform where it's needed?

Related Tags: Community Bulletin Board
More Related Discussions
11 Replies 1496 Views
I am the proud principal of a small middle school in NW Ohio. How small? 240 students in three grades. It's a terrific size - I know our families and students well. I will start my eighth year at this school in August and really feel that if reform is going to start ANYWHERE, this is the place. I have a terrific staff, parents who are rather supportive, and kids who will do what is asked. Now you're asking why we haven't accomplished GREAT reform. It's because we have a terrific staff, parents who are rather supportive, and kids who will do what is asked (I love cut and paste!). There is no great need!!! 80-95% of our students score "proficient" or higher on our state tests, many of our students go to college and do rather well - our board of education, parents, and community feel that our schools are great. Here's where I am so very conflicted... our school IS great. However, I know that we could engage our students at higher levels and go beyond test prep and set higher local standards than our state standards. I'm not certain my colleagues at the elementary and high schools would agree with me. How do I do this? Where do I start? Help!!!

Comments (11 Replies)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Jay Clark's picture
Jay Clark
Principal - Van Buren Middle School (Van Buren, OH)

Thanks Rebecca! In fact, our teams are starting to really incorporate PBL; all at different rates (which I appreciate). Because of staffing, our eighth grade team has actually designed an interdisciplinary PBL 'block' that our 8th graders will be assigned to daily. They've done some terrific planning and I'm excited to see how things go.
I hope this creates a "springboard" toward real-life problems and begins steering us away from one-size-fits-all test prep!

Rebecca Alber's picture
Rebecca Alber
Edutopia Consulting Online Editor
Blogger 2014

Hi Jay,
How fantastic -- a interdisciplinary PBL block! At your site, is a block 90 minutes? Please share with us as the year gets underway. This sounds very exciting.

Best,
Rebecca

Mary Kate Land's picture
Mary Kate Land
Montessori 4-6th grade teacher
Blogger 2014

Do you have schoolwide SEL programming? Does it have a parent involvement component? Some SEL programs (the better ones) specifically address issues of campus climate and home-school partnership. These can be a philosophical center around which the reforms which would be most efficacious can emerge.

Mary Kate

Jay Clark's picture
Jay Clark
Principal - Van Buren Middle School (Van Buren, OH)

Hi Mary Kate (and everyone else) -
I work hard to include parents at a time when their children no longer want them around "at school". I hold quarterly parent advisory meetings that have always had decent attendance (15-25 parents, which represents at least 10% of our families). These are great for me to gather parent feedback and share ideas. We also bring parents in for some non-traditional volunteer opportunities, something I think would be worth another conversation in a different topic.
As far as overarching SEL programming, we also have a advisory program that began last year with about 15 students: 1 staff member. This has worked out well, but I think it's an ever-evolving beast to try to solve some of our kids needs that aren't always met in a content class.

I think you're right - the parent meetings can really be the start of this; especially if I can bring some staff members in to add to the conversation. We're in a very conservative community and so the thought of standards-based reporting over 'letter grades' or really moving to true PBL is tough. According to the state department of education, we're 'excellent' because I have great teachers AND the majority of our kids do what is asked and work hard on the state testing.

Great thinking - I appreciate your ideas and if I'm missing something further with SEL, please let me know.

Jay

Mary Kate Land's picture
Mary Kate Land
Montessori 4-6th grade teacher
Blogger 2014

Hi Jay,

It sounds as if things are going really well at your school. In that sort of an environment, SEL programming serves as an opportunity to celebrate connections and extend support to those in need.

My situation is similar. Many of our students have been with us as long as they can remember and it just feels like home. We still use systematic SEL instruction in order to maintain that climate and to help new students transition into the social structure, but we don't have problems like physical bullying or drug/alcohol use to contend with. Our students are well fed and the vast majority have very involved parents. We have found that SEL programming helps us to bond as a class, make group decisions and address problems which arise. My students also report that it's lots of fun to do the activities which promote social/emotional learning. They feel good and bring us closer.

Mary Kate

Bob Charles's picture
Bob Charles
I am in search of definitions for "Quality Eduction" and "Great School".

Hi Jay,

I am a parent. I live in Central Ohio. I am interesated in State ODE statistics. Ohio does keep a lot of stats (EMIS,Report Card, etc.)

Is there any thing special about a the demographics of Van Buren that relates to your success? Since you have a great relationship with parents and the community are your programs geared toward some of those demographic attributes?

Does being near the University of Findlay contribute?

The only thing I gleened from the ODE stats for your school, that is surprizing, is the following. Gender gap goes away:

Science 8th grade 2010-11 % proficient or above
Female 52.5
Male 84.1

Read 7th Grade 2010-11 % proficient or above
Female 93.1
Male 78.3

Science 11th grade 2010-11 % at or above proficient
Female 95.0
Male 90.0

Read 11th grade 2010-11 % at or above proficien
Female >95.0
Male 92.5

http://ilrc.ode.state.oh.us/Downloads/2011/1011_LRC_district_gender.xls

http://www.ode.state.oh.us/reportcardfiles/2010-2011/BUILD/137455.pdf
http://www.ode.state.oh.us/reportcardfiles/2010-2011/DIST/047464.pdf

Jay Clark's picture
Jay Clark
Principal - Van Buren Middle School (Van Buren, OH)

Hi Bob -
Thanks for your questions!

As far as anything special about our students and community: The majority of our parents value education and work well with the school, appreciating efforts and helping us when we ask. We have very little transience and the bulk of our families are middle- or working-class (right now, about 11% are on free/reduced lunch).

The University of Findlay plays a unique role for us as far as student achievement - Findlay is unusual for its size of a community as we are home to Marathon Petroleum, Cooper Tire, the University of Findlay, and other smaller companies that employ professionals. Many of our supportive parents work for these companies as the Van Buren district is as close to a 'suburb' of the city of Findlay as it gets.

We are actually a professional development school for the University of Findlay, which is helpful in many ways, but that has occurred only in the past year, so I'm not sure if that is to credit with any success.

The ODE data can be helpful, but in looking at it, I've learned that having 80 students or so in a grade level can lead to misperception - that's just not large enough of a sample to use in making major decisions. One student is worth just over one percentage point! If two kids miss the bus and three others had arguments with their parents the morning of the reading OAA test, that is a major issue to us!

I believe in small schools and our community and its values are behind our success. I'm hoping to move 'beyond' the state testing (which provides very 'cheap' and shallow data in the big picture) and really begin challenging our students. There's just too much rote test-prep littering our schools (most times, forced upon teachers) and turning a generation into kids who hate school and have problems with anything that cannot be answered in multiple choice fashion. Just my soapbox... sorry to stray from the original questions!

Thanks,
Jay Clark

Crissy Cochran's picture

So refreshing to read your post! Have you tried blended learning--incorporating a LMS for collaborative online learning?

Jay Clark's picture
Jay Clark
Principal - Van Buren Middle School (Van Buren, OH)

All of our teachers use Moodle (all of our students have school netbook computers) - some use it much more than others, but all have some content on it. We are seriously considering using Google Apps to promote collaboration among students on projects - do you have any experience with LMSs or collaborative learning?

Jay

Jay Clark's picture
Jay Clark
Principal - Van Buren Middle School (Van Buren, OH)

We're about a month into school and all of our eighth graders rotate through an interdisciplinary, collaborative, project-based learning block called "extensions" daily. The 8th grade teachers and I have come to the conclusion that this is 'gifted education' spread amongst all kids.
Their first project is called "World" - our teachers found some units of study/simulations and we purchased them last spring. It's gone well - I witnessed a peace treaty being signed today while the created countries' flags hung on the bulletin board.
While this is an big picture educational vision we have, this also helped meet a goal of mine: To eliminate large group study halls. It's gone rather well and the teaching team is meeting to determine changes for the next unit. Stay tuned...

Jay

Discussion Easily create fun and cool-looking Jeopardy Games for your students

Last comment 2 days 1 hour ago in Community Bulletin Board

Discussion Non-Instructional Job Openings at TEP Charter School

Last comment 3 days 2 hours ago in Community Bulletin Board

Discussion Let the Kid Write!

Last comment 1 day 18 hours ago in Community Bulletin Board

Discussion Best way to learn math? And teach it?

Last comment 5 days 4 hours ago in Community Bulletin Board

Discussion What is Math?

Last comment 5 days 12 hours ago in Community Bulletin Board

Sign in and Join the Discussion! Not a member? Register to join the discussion.