Adults In Our Learning Organization

Learning–the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being taught.  For what seems like forever, schools have talked about developing students who are life long learners and yet, we loosely support professional development by sending teachers to some conferences or signing off on hours spent learning “Google classroom” or strategies for using YouTube in the classroom or “behavior strategies for elementary students”.

I’m guessing, or better said hopeful, that all of the professional development hours our teachers engage in are meaningful. I’m wondering how much time is spent after that Master’s degree continuing to learn about learning–the very reason we exist?

In the book And What Do YOU Mean by Learning?, Seymour B. Sarason talks about productive learning.

And by productive I mean that the learning process is one which engenders and reinforces wanting to learn more. Absent wanting to learn, the learning context is unproductive or counterproductive.

In schools, we are often focused on the acquisition of knowledge or skills that help students achieve on a NYS test. I challenge that helping our students to acquire that level of learning is the bare minimum we should expect of ourselves.

I taught for eleven years, one year of grades 5-8 Science, Spanish and literature in a small Catholic school and ten years of grades 7-12 Spanish and business in a small public school. I was as much of an adult learner then as I am today–constantly reading professional publications and attending relevant conferences when possible. Still, my students acquired enough knowledge to do well on the NYS exams. And you know what? Very few of them wanted to learn more and fewer acquired/retained the knowledge beyond the exam.

I did the best that I knew how, every day. Just as all of our teachers and employees do every day at SGI.

However, in leading this school district, I’m committed to working with everyone within our school community to consider what a Springville-Griffith education means. We’re not complacently settling for the status quo. And the only way I know how to bust the status quo?–

We’ve got to keep learning about learning. Every adult in our system. If you listened to me or to our keynote Will Richardson on opening day talk about the need to change public schools and thought, “I like school the way it is now” or “thank goodness they’re here to correct all of these other people” or “this too shall pass”, then you’re missing the point. It’s not about a prescriptive plan of “if we do/buy/implement this, then we’ll have changed”. That plan would end two minutes after I walk out of the door to retire some day.

We’re asking you to learn. We need to learn more about the acquisition of knowledge and skills today, in 2017. The world has absolutely changed and the access our students have to vast, incredible amounts of information has too. We have to do more than prepare our students for the exams. Our students need to have ample opportunities within every school day to discover, create, develop their talents and curiosity, to explore, ask questions and connect. I didn’t offer enough opportunities in my classroom for students to do any of those things. Are we now? Some days. In some classrooms. For some students. 

That’s not good enough. Our leadership team is going to share resources with our teachers–articles, books, podcasts, and feedback– throughout this year. We’re going to continue our own learning. We’d like to support you in your learning. We’re going to work with all of you in our school community to develop and communicate what it means to be a learner at SGI. We’re going to reimagine what school can be for our students at the same time that we meet the expectations of a NYS public school district.

I think we can do this and do it well. We all come here every day to make a difference. Let’s make sure it’s the very best difference that every SGI student deserves in 2017. Please be thinking about what YOU can do to learn more. And I promise, we will do our very best to support you.

 

Studying a Musical Instrument

Last week marked my tenth year opening school as a superintendent. All of our school employees are invited and it’s my chance to make an impression. I try hard to inspire and to set the course for the coming year.

This year, I challenged everyone by saying that if what we most want for our students is that they be agile, curious, interested, independent LEARNERS, we must be that very thing first. We can’t talk about developing a learning community committed to creating learning environments where modern learners discover, connect, contribute and adapt to the changing world– if we’re not doing so first.

What I didn’t count on from that first day is the meeting I had last week with one of our newest music teachers, Miss Jamie Newman. Miss Newman scheduled a meeting with me after opening day and at that meeting she invited me to join her fourth grade introductory band lessons. Her reasoning was simple, come and learn what it is that music teachers do, first hand. I heard her saying, “I so believe in the importance of music in our schools that I want to share it with you. Here’s a place where curiosity, discovery, creativity–those goals we have for every learner–happen every day”.

My reason for agreeing was also simple. If I’m going to walk the talk, push boundaries and ask our educators to move beyond what we’ve always done, well then, I suppose I’d better be doing the same thing. I’m a voracious learner, curious and hoping to learn from everyone I can about how to be better. I’m unafraid to tackle hard subjects, have difficult conversations, or accept a new challenge.

But this? I can assure you that there is likely no learning experience that would push me, my own boundaries and limitations, my own insecurities and feelings of ineptitude like this one. I’m in a full body sweat just writing about it here. 

I’ve never studied a musical instrument. When I was a kid, growing up in Pittsburgh in the seventies, my parents said no when I came home from school and asked about studying an instrument. I don’t know if it was a financial decision or why, I just accepted that they said no. I also don’t remember any basic music or chorus classes other than a teacher in the 7th grade who sat at his desk while we sang songs from a textbook on our desks. He was less than enthusiastic and certainly didn’t teach me a thing. I also can’t read music. Suffice it to say that I’m unlikely very evolved in music appreciation as nineties rap is my favorite playlist.

Because of my early education, I have little to no knowledge or understanding of music. When a friend comments that someone is singing off-key, I have no idea what they mean. I’ve observed music teachers as a school administrator and focused on the ways in which they teach the class with virtually no idea of the quality of their content. This is a weakness for me.

I sincerely hope Miss Newman knows what she’s getting herself into. I did go online and use an app that promised to identify if I’m tone deaf or not. I’m not. I scored an 86%.

I was encouraged to learn that a very small percentage of the population is actually tone deaf and more likely they just lacked a musical education. I also learned from the app that “everyone else is perfectly capable of becoming an excellent musician!” That may be overly optimistic.

My first band lesson is at 2:30 today. Clarinet. I’m sure our fourth graders will help me if I need it.

If I can do this, maybe everyone can find 30 minutes per day to read about modern learning or listen or try something new? I promise it’ll be worth it. At Springville-Griffith Institute, we are committed to developing curious learners–including our educators.

Rugby Life Lessons

Updated August 9, 2017: I’m headed to the SGI Coaches’ meeting held with our Athletic Director Joe DeMartino this morning and I’m thinking about this post from 2012. Seems worth publishing again, given our Fall sports season kicking into gear. It’s five years later and I believe that it’s these lessons that have served our son well and led to success in his occupation today–more than anything he learned within the walls of his college classrooms.

Reposted from original, October 10, 2012. 

Everything my kid needs to learn to succeed in the future, he’s learning on the rugby field. I’m sure every athlete on every athletic team in the country probably thinks that my premise is true for his sport. Maybe so. I’m just not sure I’ve seen anything quite like this before.

This is a team of young men so dedicated to each other, to their coaches and to their alumni that winning is the only acceptable outcome. They practice once to twice per day and the matches are grueling. Pushing through physical pain for the good of the team? Not a problem. Every man doing his job well, to the best of his ability and then some? A requirement. The technical aspects of the sport are amazing to me—including how each of those 15 men must get it right for everything to go as planned, with a check in the win column.

I cannot believe how much our son loves this team and this game. Especially given the fact that we thought he was going to play hockey at St. Bonaventure—a sport he’s played since first grade. We had barely heard of rugby when he called us three days into his freshmen year to tell us he was going out for the team. But what an ideal sport it wound up to be for our young man.

I’ve watched him learn some critical lessons on this team—lessons that will serve him well for the rest of his life. Lessons that for the most part hold true in my own work within a public school team.

Tallon Moritz’ lessons learned on the rugby field:  

1. It’s all about the team. You can’t be selfish. Ever. That goes for everything from scoring to missing practices.

2. The alumni built this team, we owe it to them to carry on their traditions and to win. They also support us financially. Show them respect and gratitude. And aspire to be successful so we can give back in the same ways.

3. Our coaches aren’t paid to be there. They come because of their dedication to us. We owe it to them to show up and work.

4. There’s no glory, no money. We do it for each other, the coaches and the alumni, that’s all there is.

5. Every game day, every guy needs to think he’s the worst one on the field. That means working even harder so that I don’t let the rest of the team down.

6. On film day, same thing. Watching film isn’t about seeing some great play you made, it’s about  analyzing what mistakes we made so that we can avoid making them the next time.

7. We get maybe four-five years of this and it’s some of the best years of our lives. Let’s do something great to remember it well. We can see it in the eyes of our alumni, they’d give anything to be back on that field with us. Appreciate it while we’ve got it. 

8. Good coaching does teach you something.  Respect what the coaches say. I thought I couldn’t catch a ball. Then I had coaches and team mates who showed me how, I practiced, I learned.

9. Hard work pays off. Starting without any knowledge of the game and hoping to play all of a B side game freshmen year can result in a starting position on A side as a junior if you want it and work hard enough.

10. Leadership means being the guy that no one wants to let down. I’d still do anything not to disappoint the guys ahead of me, guys like Nick Sylor, Nick Maurer, and Alex Brussard.

11. This sport teaches us how to be good men, not just good rugby players. We address the refs as ‘Sir’ or ‘M’am’ because of respect, it’s a brutal gentlemen’s game. As the premier Franciscan school in the country, we’re representing more than ourselves or one rugby team. Own that.

12. Our mindset is “anything for the team”–being the guy who would die for the team on the field–that’s called intestinal fortitude. That’s what separates good from great. We CAN be great.  Mental attitude is as much as physical ability.

As a public school administrator for thirteen years, I know that the lessons he’s learning on that field will equate to success in any work place. The very best members of any organization know that listening for feedback, analyzing and self assessing, hard work and dedication all lead to tremendous success. Each of us doing our part for the team, the organization as a whole, so that none of us lets the rest down? If public schools understand the concept of team, school improvement success will be a given.

 

Agility in Response to Constant Change

I was talking with someone the other night who works for my nephew. My nephew owns his own internet design and marketing company. Both men are in their twenties. The company has been hugely successful and we were talking about the future of the company, where they’re headed and what’s next.

As I listened to Stephen talking about his world of work, I was struck by his thinking. The entire conversation was about the constant changes within the internet that affect their business. He calmly and without fear revealed what was an obvious flexibility and agility in thinking about the future of the company. Change is a normal, every day part of what they do. It’s a constant, daily factor.

Then I thought about our son who works for a company that is constantly redesigning and improving the spinal implants their surgeons are using daily in operating rooms. His training and need to  learn about the next device or procedure is constant and intense. He has to be flexible in his responses to the various surgeons he serves and agile in his own abilities and knowledge. Change is a constant, daily factor.

I’m not sure we think in this way within our public schools. We complain about change that is barely change at all.

Public schools, by their very design, are institutions built to last–to withstand whatever outside pressures or changes occur. And we’ve stayed the same, with a “that’s the way it’s always been” mindset for far too long. There’s absolutely no way that anyone can believe that the system that prepared my parents in the fifties and me in the seventies and my kids in the nineties should remain the same forever, is there? And yet the lessons I observe today are not substantially different than those I observed as a student. Some of that is good and important and necessary–like teaching our youngest students how to read–but some of it, well, just isn’t.

We’re safe here. We take care of our students, respond to our families and are responsible to our taxpayers. We work incredibly hard and do our best to connect with our students and to teach well. Those of us within the system probably like the system, we’ve been successful here. I like it here. But I believe our own complacency is limiting us and therefore limiting learning for our students.

If we can become more of a learning organization, one in which we are all learning from each other and sharing ideas, lessons, and risks that we’ve taken, we will model the very system that our students are likely to work within. We’ll teach our students that it’s okay to take a risk, to be vulnerable and try something new or hard, to fail and to begin again. We will teach them, through the learning experiences that we provide, how to be flexible and agile thinkers who expect to collaborate, communicate and change. We are already doing this at times, in some classrooms and in some lessons. Let’s figure out what those things are that we most value about learning and then let’s do those things MORE. 

Public school systems need to be the biggest part of fostering and teaching curiosity, creativity, civic responsibility, collaboration, problem solving and communication–not a place where we do those things from time to time, when we have time. We need to rethink our priorities and goals for all students and refuse to allow “the way it’s always been” to be an answer for why we do anything.

On Monday, August 7, our Springville leadership team–BOE members and administrators–will spend the entire day evaluating what we believe about learning and what we think our mission, our purpose for existing, should be. I can’t wait for the day of deep thought, collaboration and communication!

Stay tuned for opportunities to join us in the work of determining how SGI can focus our incredible resources–our teachers, employees and students–on innovative instructional practices that change our learning environments to give SGI students a more modern learning experience, preparing them for their future.

 

Are You Curious About Learning?

Last week I asked members of our Springville school community to share their stories of learning at SGI. I heard from parents, teachers, support staff members, BOE members, and former students. I’m incredibly grateful for the time that so many of you took to write and tell me your stories!

Please consider adding YOUR voice to the story of Springville-Griffith Institute. You can email me at kmoritz@springvillegi.org–don’t let worries of length, spelling or grammar quiet you–no judgment here. I just want to read what your experiences have been. And check this out! Students who aren’t interested in writing to me during the summer but love selfie videos–you can tell me your story here, on Flipgrid! It’s super easy–give it a try!

Here’s what I’ve learned about our story of learning so far.

We value encouragement of every student, opportunities to try just about anything through clubs, sports, PE, and technology classes, respect for everyone within our school community and beyond, and finding the joy in learning. Our students are polite and caring, respectful of each other and of adults. Students feel loved and safe and connected to the adults who include our teachers, administrators, support staff, bus drivers and families. We see a Springville education as a time to help students develop a love of reading, to find a sense of self, of confidence and tribe, while feeling valued, encouraged and loved.

Our teachers often find ways to teach that make learning meaningful–examples include Mr. Karb and Mr. Beiter’s middle school social studies classes where students learn by doing with project based units and real world connections about “how to take action to address problems, not admire the problem”.

From more than one person I heard compelling stories of Mrs. Laurel Rugh’s elementary classroom, “In fourth grade, I was lucky enough to have Mrs. Laurel Ruch as my classroom teacher.  Her room was unconventional…a table with benches, couches, easy chairs, a loft running around the outside of her space, a wood workshop, kitchen, and “Corner Store”.  She taught fractions through the doubling and tripling of recipes, and then we executed the recipe.  Running the store (which sold school supplies, snacks, wood projects) we learned to count change, keep track of inventory, interact with customers.  She used the architecture of Buffalo to teach the history of our region and relate it to that of other cultures.  Our year came to a close using the money we had earned, to journey to Buffalo for a 3 day field trip.  She was creative, constantly pushing the envelope and thinking out side of the box. To say her room was “hands on” would be an understatement.  I believe the education I received in fourth grade was influential to the remainder of my career as a student (and an educator).  My hope is that SGI can encourage teachers to place students in authentic learning environments as much as possible, to think outside of the box, and to create!

I heard from a mother who’s son felt incompetent after receiving a 2/4 on a NYS math test in 3rd grade and hated math until 5th grade when Mr. Noeson taught Math through fantasy football and therein made a connection that worked for him. I heard about a note attached with the gift of a Harry Potter book by Mr. Scarpine, current SES principal/former teacher, that inspired a lifelong love of reading and Harry Potter.

I’m guessing we have 1000 other stories about meaningful learning experiences –please share them with me, there’s no deadline here. 

I was deeply affected by the words of a teacher who said that he knows a percentage of our students are succeeding academically while many are nice and pleasant to work with but don’t necessarily see the importance of learning. He spoke honestly of the many creative lessons he’s developed on his own, that often fell short with a number of his students and he asked, “what methods can we come up with as a district to get all students interested in learning?”

And there it is. Exactly the work we can do to move forward as a district. We will be a learning organization in which we develop a vision centered on learning for all students. We’ll  collaborate and create a culture of inquiry, innovation and exploration. We can do this together–learning what other ways there are to learn and then taking a risk and trying them. Our leadership team starts on August 7 and then we’ll move that work out to everyone else in our school community when school starts.

We’ll do what our Springville Middle School students are taught in their social studies classes. Instead of admiring (or blaming or commiserating or relishing) the problem that our current traditional educational system isn’t good enough, let’s take action to address it. Let’s make school at Springville a place where the really meaningful learning I’m hearing about in your stories is valued, talked about, learned from and expanded. Let’s determine what’s best about what we do now and figure out a way to do more of it. It doesn’t have to be bad to get better.

Let’s grow as a district, reimagining and redesigning what a Springville education looks like for every student. Together. Keep telling me your stories Springville, I’m listening. 

Seeking Stories from Springville

At this year’s high school graduation, Isobel Hooker, our valedictorian, talked about a memorable learning experience that she had in her middle school social studies class. From Isobel’s speech, I would go so far as to say she found that lesson life changing.

Isobel has me thinking. How many experiences do our students have like the one Isobel had in Mr. Beiter’s classroom? What are those things that happen here that stay with a student, far beyond the day, week or year in which it was studied? What are those lessons that change a child’s life?

What is the story of learning in the Springville-Griffith Institute Central School District? 

Our leadership team is meeting for a full day retreat on August 7 to talk about our beliefs about learning, our hopes and dreams for our school district, and our mission or purpose for existing over the coming years. Who do we want to be Springville? What do we want an SGI education to mean? From that day’s retreat, we will expand to broader school community conversations with our teachers, families, and students.

I’d like a starting point from all of you. Only through a sincere understanding of the narrative of learning in our school can we begin to develop a shared understanding of our mission moving forward.

What do you believe about teaching and learning? What is your story that you tell of learning here, as a teacher, SGI employee, student, parent or graduate?

Please take a few moments to email me at kmoritz@springvillegi.org. 

I promise you I will treat your stories with respect and that I will think about them deeply. I promise that I will honor any requests to keep your story anonymous if you ask me to do so because I know that sometimes people are afraid to tell their story. And I promise we will work tirelessly to rethink our story as a district so that all of the best learning stories continue and expand. I promise we’ll study those things that aren’t working and encourage our teachers and students to take necessary learning risks in which we rethink and rewrite our SGI story.

I can’t make us better alone. We can make an SGI education the very best gift that our school community gives to each of our students. Together. Tell me your story. Please. I care about what you have to say.

 

Ten Year Anniversary

Wow! I started writing in this space ten years ago as a new Gowanda high school principal– I called the blog G-Town Talks with no idea it would lead to anything more than a couple of information sharing articles. This blog became the space I used to process my own thinking, communicate with our school community and connect with other educators. I also hoped I would influence thinking and gain feedback from readers.

Here I am ten years later, four years as that HS principal and an 8 year superintendency at Randolph Central under my belt. I started as the superintendent at Springville-Griffith Institute Central School District on March 7.  Again I will use this space to process thinking and to communicate and connect with our school community. Hopefully I will influence thinking as a school leader and hear back from readers.

My main purpose in writing here will be to demonstrate transparency. There are lots of changes in the works and one of the surest ways for change to succeed is to clearly communicate what we’re planning and why. I heard loud and clear from the members of the interview committees–“trust us with information! Let us hear from you when something’s happening, not through the rumor mill or on Facebook” (goodness knows that’s NOT a reliable source of factual information!). When possible, I will share what’s happening here and then link it to Twitter (@kimberlymoritz), send to employees via email, and hope that the Springville Journal picks up anything of interest to their readers.

In the coming weeks, I’ll post here about our new principal of special programs position and what we hope to accomplish through that work, our planned 2016-17 intervention changes, and I will break down the components of the capital project we’re hoping to bring before the voters in early Fall 2016.

We are also bringing back a traditional newsletter, with the first issue to be delivered the week after school begins. ALL of our families and taxpayers, including those who do not access information electronically, deserve to see all of the great things happening here at SGI!

I’d love to hear what you’re thinking!

 

Learning Tech Tools

After 28 years of marriage I’m happy to say that I’m finally learning how to cook. It’s fun and challenging and I’m loving it.

Just to put this into perspective, our adult son moved to Jacksonville last November. On one of his “FaceTime” calls home he told me that whenever he makes hamburger helper it reminds him of home. (EEK!) What’s working for me is something called “Hello Fresh”, a program where the company sends me all of the fresh ingredients for three meals per week. Previously if a recipe called for more than a couple of ingredients I didn’t even consider it. Now I’m peeling and mincing ginger and dill. I’m making catfish and salmon and sprinkling cardamon and cinnamon onto a chicken before I place it into the oven!  I don’t even know what cardamon is and farro? Whatever it is, I followed the recipe and the dish was terrific. The meals are delicious, healthy and affordable. I’m stretching and learning something new and my husband and I are trying foods we’ve never had before–never too late for that, right? 11942107_1019786778065483_4558108573972776341_o

This way of learning how to cook is working for me because it fits me. I can learn because all of the ingredients arrive perfectly measured and ready to go. I’m not intimidated by the name of an ingredient I haven’t heard of or scared away from trying it because I don’t know where to look for the things in the first place. This program might not work for my friends who love to cook because it would seem unnecessary to them.  They have the ingredients, they’re more experienced and they have had success with cooking for years. I need the step by step instructions on my Hello Fresh app on my phone and the convenience of everything arriving in an organized, ready to go manner. Nothing has ever worked for me before and so I’ve never liked to cook (Hello Hamburger Helper!) but this program and tool are meeting my needs and I’m being successful (finally!).

In public education we’ve always talked about differentiating learning for every student. With a class of 20-22 students, that’s actually very hard to do well. We now have technology tools available to us that will adapt to each child’s strengths and abilities. Tools like PEG Writing, iReady adaptive testing and diagnostic instruction, Dreambox, and IXL are valuable tools that can truly help to tailor instruction to each child.

Technology will never replace teachers. The most critical and important part of our work lies in those relationships that we form with students. But technology tools can enhance learning just as the apps on your smart phone enhance your life. I don’t drive anywhere new without entering the address into the Maps app on my phone. I electronically bank on my phone, constantly “google” for information that answers my  many questions, take pictures, check the weather, shop on Amazon, follow recipes on Hello Fresh, book air travel on Southwest and JetBlue apps, and read the news through Twitter feeds, the Buffalo News and Post Journal apps. These tools have made my life easier and they’ve given me access to information in ways that I need to be smarter and more productive.

I’m not talking about smart boards and other teacher tools that just replace what we’ve always done or better engage students. I also have Facebook and Instagram on my phone–they engage me but they’re not productive and they certainly don’t make me smarter. As we move forward with our District plans to spend our Smart Schools Bond money on devices for our students, we need to find technology tools that make our students and teachers lives easier and give them access to information in ways that make them smarter and more productive.

My own experiences as a student in the public schools significantly shaped my life and I can contribute the professional success I have today to the quality of the education I received and the fact that I kept going back to further my education. The full impact that each of our teachers has on our students cannot be measured. Our work is crucial and doing the very best that we can for our children matters—what we say, the attitudes and beliefs we share, every choice we make that shows our own work ethic and dedication to our jobs teaches our students something.  Carefully researching and analyzing our productive use of new technologies will be one incredible way that we can model what real learning looks like and will continue to improve our teaching and learning too.

If I can make Tandoori Chicken for dinner tonight through the use of an app on my phone, what more can we accomplish in our classrooms when we find the right tools??

 

NYS Growth Scores, how can they inform our decisions?

On August 21, 2015, school districts across NYS received growth scores for teachers and principals. The principal growth score is also considered a building growth score and will play a bigger part in teachers’ composite scores next year with the required changes to our APPR (annual professional performance review) plans.

As a superintendent I have been a vocal proponent for school improvement reforms including the alignment to common core standards, teacher and principal evaluation, data informed decision making, and NYS testing for an annual system check and alignment.

Reforms should actually help us to improve our systems. I cannot support the use of growth scores without a thorough and clear explanation of how the scores are determined—the video on www.engageny.org “Growth Scores Explained” sounds logical but it dioesn’t go far enough in helping us to understand and explain what we can do with this information. I also wonder if it’s still an accurate explanation of how those scores are determined.

Consider the story of school improvement in our district. Since 2012, Randolph Central has improved our academic achievement results on NYS tests significantly. In one measure our elementary school has gone from a Business First ranking of 174 out of 276 to 59 and our district has increased its rank from 74 to 44 of 96 Western New York districts. We have had the sharpest 3 year gain of any school district in WNY.

Our incredibly hard working teachers have aligned their instruction, as a system, to the NYS common core learning standards. They have laboriously studied and then taught the Math modules from www.engageny.org. Teachers have modified inadequate ELA modules and struggled to put together a comprehensive ELA program that is aligned to the more rigorous common core standards. They have implemented adaptive testing with diagnostic instruction, participated in data team meetings to ability group all students for academic enrichment in Math and ELA daily, piloted and are now implementing technology based programs as tools for instruction and studied the NYS testing results, gap analysis and annotated released questions. They have done absolutely everything we have asked of them. 

At the same time our growth score has gone down every year. This year that same elementary school–that’s gone from 174 to 59 for its increases in academic achievement received a 10/20 for its growth score down from 14/20 last year and 16/20 the previous year. A growth score of ten puts this building principal at the lowest end of effective.  In the new mandated APPR plans that same ten will equal ineffective in teacher and principal evaluation.

We can basically conclude that the better we do academically the lower our growth score. If growth scores as a reform are meant to improve learning for students, someone needs to help me understand how.

Sharing Randolph’s Academic Performance Results

Here’s my annual update regarding our academic performance as a district, as measured by the publication Buffalo Business First using data from the NYSED website and ranked within the 96 school districts of WNY. There’s no mystery to the rankings, they are based on four years of Regents diploma rates, as well as four years of results from 24 grades 3-8 and Regents tests, considering the percentage of students who met or exceeded (achieved 3s & 4s or 85 and above) state standards on each. There is more weight given to the most recent of the four years. It’s data, plain and simple, and it is the one time per year we have a comprehensive review of how our students are performing as compared to all other students in Western New York.

For those of you who may ask, “why does it matter? Why are test scores important?” I would answer, “our performance results are one of the ways we can gauge if we are making good instructional decisions, if we are aligning our system to rigorous standards, if we are helping every child to achieve at the same levels, or better, than students in all other school districts.” In short, we want to do well by the children of the Randolph school district—to do our very best to prepare them for life after school. Here’s one way for us to know if we’re doing so.

Gail N. Chapman Elementary School,  led by veteran Principal Jerry Mottern, has seen the most significant gains in the school rankings as the are #59 of 262 public and private elementary schools in WNY. Our elementary students and teachers have increased their achievement results from the 2014 rank of #104, 2013 rank of #174, and 2012 rank of #202. How’s that for increased results Randolph?1620988_969211126456382_4810068027629205689_nNext we look at our Randolph Middle School, led by Principal Laurie Sanders, compiled using our 7th and 8th grade Math and ELA and Science results. The MS results rest squarely on the shoulders of a very few teachers and they have worked incredibly hard to maximize learning for their young adolescent students. Here Randolph is up to a WNY rank of #95 out of 194 middle schools. That’s an improvement over the 2014 rank of #121, 2013 rank of #123, and 2012 rank of #145. Nice!11427192_969211133123048_6464657500780077395_n

Randolph High School, also led by Principal Laurie Sanders and Assistant Principal Jason Halpainy, realizes improvement, ranking at #63 of 136 WNY high schools. That’s up from the 2014 rank of #66, 2013 rank of #68, and 2012 rank of #82. As our high school teachers begin to see classes entering much better prepared than ever before, we expect to see our Regents results climb as well. 11407077_969211129789715_5574215360471231538_nAnd last of course all of these gains positively affect our overall Randolph district rank, with district leaders: Director of Pupil Services Mary Rockey and Curriculum Coordinator Jamie Berg, which comes in at #44 of 96 districts in WNY–realizing a goal set by the BOE to be in the top half of all districts in WNY! Our district rank has climbed from the 2014 rank of #50, 2013 rank of #59, and 2012 rank of #74. 11243642_969211136456381_3847133671347664434_nMany, many thanks to everyone in our school community who has worked hard to take our students beyond our old expectations for learning–for every teacher who worked hard to learn the “new” math or dissect a new novel, to the parents at home struggling to help with homework or looking up lessons on the engageny website, to the students who have met every new challenge with aplomb and the administrators working every day to both challenge and support their schools–WELL DONE RANDOLPH! What an incredible time to be learning here!