Friday, August 29, 2014

Where we are going, not where we have been!

It is attributed to Lou Holtz, famous football coach and sports announcer, to have once said:

The good Lord put eyes in the front our your head
rather than the back
so you could see where you are going
rather than where you've been.
The new school year starts in my district on Tuesday, September 2nd.
I am committed to looking forward trying to see where we are going instead of worrying about looking back to see where we have been.
The new school year beckons all of us.
We could all waste time looking back.
We could mourn the loss of last year because we had the best teacher, the best team, the best lunch. We could mourn leaving last year behind because it was the best year of our life!
We could also be eager to leave last year behind because it was, like Alexander's day, a horrible, no good, very bad year. We had a horrible teacher, a bad bus route, a no good lunch. So we look back eager to leave last year behind.
But instead of looking back. I want us to look forward.
Right now it is a clean slate.
My hope is that as we look forward we are anticipating the best, not fearing the worst.
My hope is that as we look forward we are committing ourselves to solving problems, not creating them.
My hope is that as we look forward we will find the joy inherent in learning new things, not dread the work that comes with learning.
A new school year starts Tuesday. I am looking ahead to see where we are going.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Our unexceptional schools are really quite extraordinary

The official school data website for the state of Michigan (, lists 51 districts/charter schools for Oakland County.

None are exceptional.

At least that is the impression given by the Michgan Department of Education's school accountability report cards. Official scores were released last week. Scores for Oakland County districts, like every county in the state of Michigan, were perceived to be lackluster.

No Oakland County district/charter school received the state's highest rating of green.

Over half of the districts/charter schools earned a rating of yellow.

In Novi, over 86% of our students were proficient in math. Over 95% of our students were proficient in reading.

For each district and school the state calculates its "bottom 30%". That is the state creates a group that is comprised of the lowest achieving 30% of the students in the district.

In Novi, over 54% of our "bottom 30%" were proficient in math. Over 85% of our "bottom 30%" were proficient in reading.

Yet, the Novi Community School District earned a "yellow" rating.

The state would argue that Novi has achievement gaps. That is true. We do. that appears to be the most powerful indicator of performance and the one the determines the overall rating of any individual school or district.

As a result, districts that are diverse. Districts that are large. Districts that have groups that the psycometricians can slice and dice will have a hard time being rated highly.

I am not opposed to accountability. I understand that parents want to know if their schools are being successful. Politicians want to know if the money that they are spending is being used wisely.

Schools need to be able to demonstrate that students are learning.

Any rating of schools should use test data.

But rating schools using test data alone ignores many of the good things that schools are doing.

Novi has a marching band of over 170 members. Novi has athletics and clubs that create opportunities for students not only to be engaged but to learn how to lead, how to work hard, how to set goals. Novi has a freshman orientation program that links upper-classman with incoming freshman. Novi sends fifth graders to camp and eighth graders to Washington DC. Novi teaches our elementary students about the seven habits. We have computer labs and laptop carts.

The Novi Community School District is exceptional in many ways. We have work to do. Of that there is no debate.

And Novi is not alone. There are many excptional districts and schools throughout the state of Michigan.

Can we get better? Of course.

I appreciate the state attempting to rate schools. But, in my opinion, the rating ignores many of the factors that make schools truly great.

In my opinion, many Michigan schools are quite extraordinary. Even though we are colored yellow!