Last week the Minnesota Department of Education made public the testing scores that each school district achieved this last spring. There is the usual flurry of press releases from both the state and local schools regarding their explanations as to why their scores either went up or down. Overall, the state showed very slight improvement but still faces a large gap in the number of kids of color who fall far below their white classmates.
While I historically downplay these results, it’s much easier to do so when your school is performing at a higher level than the local district as well as the state. These comparisons create some small level of coffee-klatch conversations for those that have that interest to do so. It does become a nice public relations piece to be on top for those times when these results need to draw a higher level of attention.
As always, these tests for any school, are only a few brief moments in the overall school experience of a child. Use these scores with caution but remain vigilant in your continued observations of them. They can and do send a message. We have reason at Schoolcraft to celebrate the good work that all our staff and kids do.
This last week we were notified that the 1st Grade Spring expedition entitled “Transportation, A Moving Experience” was selected to be published on the EL Schools website. Schools can submit these for review for consideration to be included in EL’s Center for student work. The work presented here is considered to be exemplary and used as a model for others to follow/share. The Service component of this expedition was the creation of posters that are currently located on several kiosks in the downtown Bemidji area. They identify safe ways for kids to travel and where these resources can be found. Stop by and take a peek when you get a chance.
This last year we also created as a staff a Social Contract that would serve as a guide to how we operate as a school and with each other. We identified that we are a safe and supportive community. We also committed to modeling a growth mindset and there would be respectful communication. Finally, we collaborate with professionalism. To test these goals the staff took a relational trust survey in both the fall and this last spring. Results were positive with further ways to “be better” offered for review. Does your school or organization operate under a social contract? If your looking for ways to make this happen or would like to know more please let us know. Just like 1st graders making our community a little better place we adults should take similar steps. Education needs to be a collaborative effort.
What decides a good school year? Im many conversations I’m asked that question. I’m thinking it depends on many different perspectives. From the Administrators view, I’m sure it ties into what the recent test scores are all about as well as how much money the state is (or isn’t) giving us the next year. If you’re a classroom teacher, its either a moment of quiet joy as the final days of “that class…the ones that added a gray hair” are winding down or a moment of reflection as “that class…the one with several U.S. Presidential candidates” is leaving. From the child’s perspective, it contains the biggest unknowns. They may or may not know who next year’s teacher will be and if their best friend will be with them or not. Their new class might even be at the other end of the campus or building. They’ve always turned right when they came into the building to get to their room……now I’ll need to turn left. How will I remember that? For the High School graduate, it will be a busy time of grad parties…..sleepless nights as they enjoy the final days of their youth. The days ahead will bring a slow change to all of us. Will you sign my yearbook?
Students here at Schoolcraft are at the mid-point in their testing season. For us, the spring testing season runs roughly 5 weeks long with different grade levels taking turns at showing what they know in Reading, Math and Science. Those that require us to take the test don’t know these kids as individuals. They don’t know that many of them can speak French or that they like to dance or paint pictures. They don’t know what happened at home over the weekend and that our kids like to write poetry, play songs and wonder about the future. They don’t know how great a big brother/sister they make as well as how they like to spend time helping out members of their families. They don’t know that our kids are trustworthy, kind and thoughtful. Our test scores will tell us something but not everything. We plan to enjoy our results but we will always remember that there are different ways of being smart.
On March 5th over 300 individuals from Charter Schools across the state came to St. Paul to visit our state’s decision makers. Schoolcraft participated in this event and a small delegation of staff members were able to chat with several legislators regarding matters of education. It is so encouraging to see how many folks representing our area are so supportive of what Charter Schools have done for the students in Bemidji. They told many stories of how they hear of the many good things happening in our schools and what wonderful opportunities Charter Schools provide to kids and families. Al of our local lawmakers appreciate what a good educational system means for our community and its future. Charter Schools play a large role in this success story.
We’ve reached the midpoint of another school year. It always seems that just yesterday it was Labor Day weekend or even Halloween! The Winter Break is over and so is MLK day. As in all sporting events, teams/players take stock on how the first half went. They review what was working and where more effort is needed. Schools are no different. Schools should always be examining their programs, staff and direction as a way to maximize potential and resources. Our students are constantly changing academically. We look forward to this on-going challenge to help keep ourselves fresh and energized. If we’re not stretching our comfort zones and those of our kids then we are not fulfilling our roles as educators. Think back to the day when you couldn’t sleep the night before a big presentation at school. You went over your notes time after time and when it was all done…..the audience really appreciated your efforts. When was the last time you had that same feeling? How small (or large) is your comfort zone? Where and when will your next challenge take place?
I’ve had the opportunity over the last few weeks to sit and listen to some younger students as they read their most recent book to me. We meet on Friday mornings and the kids share the book that they’ve been practicing with all week. It’s been a reflective time for me as the act of carving out a few minutes from a busy day is rewarded with the sheer pleasure of a child reading out loud to you.You struggle alongside them as they sound their way through a tricky word……wanting to shout out the right answer…..watching the wheels turn as the search for the right pronunciation. With delight, they share the pictures on each page as they progress through the story. All of this takes place during a 10-15 minute time span. My job initially has been to be the targeted audience and I was chosen by my two readers as an adult on campus that they would like to read to. To uphold this honor has been an easy task. Both of my readers are eager to show off their “harder” book each week when we meet. I find myself becoming really focused on the not only the story but sometimes feel I can actually see the learning taking place. I’m truly the lucky one on this arrangement. I can’t wait until Friday!
Our local school district is experiencing a growth in enrollment at the elementary levels. This had led to larger than desired class sizes at almost every school. For the second time in two years the voters are being asked to support the cost of building another elementary school. The designed proposed would house all the districts 4th and 5th graders. This would keep the other neighborhood schools as K-3 buildings and provide space for other programs.
The design of a building for just 4/5 graders has mixed reviews. Some argue that the addition of another level creates an unnecessary transition or school change. While the new building plans to be broken down into smaller pods with certain academic focuses the sheer number of proposed kids (900) creates a more “Middle School” feel. Many students at the Middle School level start to feel like “a number” in schools of that size which impacts future learning and social relationships. Do we need to have kids start feeling that way at even younger ages?
Some feel that adding on to existing schools (which do have space) keeps kids from having that extra transition and keeps them at their home school longer.
In order for this process to go forward, both questions on the ballot need to pass. The first deals with the actual construction costs while the 2nd asks for money to run it after it opens. I’m not sure this is the best option right now for our community but then again my kid isn’t sitting in a classroom with 34 others.
Yesterday it was announced that Schoolcraft Learning Community was in the top 15% of all schools in the state that receive Title 1 funding. The determination is based upon several formulas connected with state testing. Several of the key pieces involve the amount of growth that your students show and the level of success that student s of color or that receive Special Education services attain. If these kids are close to or even exceed the scores of “white students then this is viewed as decreasing the ever talked about achievement gap.
While it’s certainly nice to get this honor it does bring up the question of how schools measure success. If we (or any) schools didn’t have these state required tests….how would we say we are growing? Schools where teachers/students/parents work hard every day and try their best should be considered award schools as well. Labeling schools that are or are not successful can create false impressions that the general public uses for decision making.
One possible solution would be to actually experience a school. What does the school feel like? How does that schools’ culture express itself to you as you mingle with kids or walk the hallways? What are the smells and sights you experience? How wide are the smiles or how any greetings come your way?
I like that my school has been designated a Reward School. It does give a level of validation of the work we do. I also like the great big smiles and the excitement of learning that young minds (and old) experience here daily. Formal label or not we are a school that provides many rewards to many people every day. Is it time to measure your school?