Monday, January 27, 2014

The end of the world! But we will survive!

The rivers have frozen!

Snow is piled higher than a person is tall.

The roads are two snow covered ruts.

The wind whips snow across roads and makes it feel like the temperature is well below zero.

Yet, dogs are happy!

I am happy!


Because it is winter in Michigan. We know that it is cold and icy and snowy.

We also come to work every day and teach great students, work with great colleagues, and work in a wonderful community.

Life is good, almost great!

Although I would like it to warm up just a little!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The MEAP fails the "timeliness" test

Four months ago the students in grades 3-8 in my school district were given the state MEAP assessment. Students in grade 9 were given the Social Studies MEAP assessment. 

Results are still unknown.

The state of Michigan has not released the results and I have been given no indication of when they will release the results.

This is unacceptable.

The MEAP assessments, along with the state MME assessments, form the basis of our accountability system. 

The system lacks accountability.

In my school district we have an accountability system. The MEAP is not a significant part of it because it is not timely.

The results from the MEAP assessment, taken in October, have little to say about the performance of the students in my district today. My teachers and students have moved on. The results of the MEAP will not shed any light on the performance of my students in January (or February or March or whenever we receive the results.)  

Assessments are an important part of teaching and learning. They help us measure student growth. Assessments give us a perspective on whether or not students are learning the lessons that we are trying to teach. They give insight into the relative strengths or weaknesses of a student.

But the MEAP with its lack of timeliness does not help us. 

In Novi, we are attempting to create what we call a “robust internal accountability system.” We believe that parents want a system that gives them accurate information on the progress of their children. 

Parents will point to the MEAP but we say to them that is not who your child is today. That may have been who your child was but they have had four months of instruction since that assessment was given. The child is different now.

Perhaps some would argue that the MEAP is not about individual student accountability. They might say that the MEAP is about school accountability. Are schools teaching the standards that the state has identified as important? Schools can look at strengths and weaknesses and identify what they are doing right and what they can do better. The MEAP reflects the relative position of the school not the student.

If that is true then why give individual results at all. By giving individual results the state is saying that the MEAP has important information to give to students, parents, and teachers. 

But the information is now at least four months old. My teachers know their students. The MEAP will not shed any more light.

We are required to give the MEAP but I do not believe that it provides much insight. Novi's good teachers know their students. Test results that are four months old will not give them additional insight.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Football, student engagement, and success

Today, I read this:

"One thing Tony Dungy told me is that, if you can make individual players better, then they're going to listen," Kelly told me. "So I think when you're dealing with anybody, no matter what business it is, if people understand that you care about them and you want to help them, then I think they're going to take to it." (


What do I learn from this?

Whether it's football or school, people need to know you care. Part of caring about people is working to help them improve.

In schools, we don't work with people who make millions of dollars. I am not giving direction to someone who has signed a contract that ends in lots of zeros.

Instead, I work with students. Students who on occasion may not be all that interested in school. But if I can connect with that student - if I can get that student to understand that I want them to be successful - then I have a shot.

And that's all I need. I just need a chance.

I get that chance when I convince that 1st grader or that 8th grader or that senior in high school that I care about them.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Let's honor what's important this year

A new year started today.

Even though it's a new year, priorities that have been set will continue to drive us forward.

No doubt there will be distractions. Much like years gone by, people and projects will pull at us.

We will get frustrated and overwhelmed. We will wonder how we can get it all done.

As we survey the horizon and chart our course, we need to remember that work is not our life. Even though our work is important and what we do matters, we need to remember that we have other priorities that we cannot ignore.

My hope is that we can find our balance this year and lead the life that honors both our family and our work.