Statistics and GradesPosted by Jeff McDaris at 9/3/2015 9:00:00 AM
I remember a story from my youth overheard at a family reunion picnic. It was the first time I heard the oft used description of data in the context of disagreement. "There are statistics, and then there are darn statistics" said the commentator (albeit perhaps a tad more colorfully). How true this is. Statistics and data tell us many things. The wisest use of data is most often an analysis of many variables viewed through a lens of seeking honest improvement or validation. The researcher or reader can use the initial collection to determine what more he or she needs or hopes to find. It is a snapshot in time. The more you know, the more you realize you may not know.
Unfortunately, incomplete data can also be used to "prove" or disprove a position, direction, or idea. When this occurs it is akin to taking that picture at such a close up angle that the sides are lost or unseen. I can photograph a lovely flower so close that you can see the flakes of pollen upon its soft petals. Perhaps the flower grows among others in a beautiful garden. Perhaps the flower grows alone in the middle of a city landfill. The close up view elicits pleasant thoughts. The wide angle version that includes the landfill likely doesn't. In fact, I can argue that the flower in the landfill has overcome the obstacles of the surrounding environment to bloom forth. As with data, it is important to know as much of what you are "looking at" as you can. Only then can a better analysis be offered.
Transylvania County Schools is not perfect. But we continue to work toward that and to be as good as we can every day. We have committed educators, a supportive community, and dedicated parents. But most importantly, we have wonderful students. We can't afford to merely pick low hanging 'data' fruit to satisfy some unknown agenda here or far away. We have to look at the entire orchard to celebrate its successes, and determine its areas for improvement.
Every day in our school system I witness small miracles. Success is measured in millions of ways. From the 1st grader who masters another level of word comprehension all the way to the 12th grader who has been accepted to college after 13 years of hard work. From the 8th grader who has learned to apply the principles learned in algebra to a robotics experiment to the young student with a disability who smiles at knowing they have overcome an obstacle. Success is measured many ways.
This week our state begins releasing preliminary report card data. It is an important measuring stick for us as we look into our successes and identify improvement. It is important and it matters. But it is only a small close up snapshot in time. We will use it. But we will also continue to look at the wide angle view for children. There are statistics and there are darn statistics. Children are neither. They intricate, special, bright, talented, beautiful, and exhilarating. They are our future. And Transylvania County Schools offers them the best education in our county.
Foundation for SuccessPosted by Jeff McDaris at 8/20/2015 3:00:00 PMOn Monday, August 25 our school doors will open for the new term. The smiles of our educators eager to welcome their students will only be surpassed by the smiles of our wonderful students ready to learn. This is a great time of year. Despite the challenges we encounter over funding and resources, beginning on Monday we get to do what we do best: help children learn and succeed. The public is increasingly bombarded with negative information. But despite the rhetoric and misinformation out there, we know that Transylvania County Schools is the home for the very best in K-12 education in our county. Our traditional public schools are unsurpassed here. Accept no lesser substitutes. Welcome to Transylvania County Schools. I look forward to another awesome year!
NC Public Schools - Imagine the FuturePosted by Jeff McDaris at 7/21/2015 10:40:00 AM
North Carolina's public schools are the backbone of success for our state. From Murphy to Manteo they serve as the educational, cultural, and social center of the great communities of the old North State. Time may pass and society may change, but our traditional public schools remain the catalyst for learning and opening the door to the future. North Carolina's real public schools - the traditional public schools - are an integral and leading part of what makes America itself great. America is often compared to other countries, while at the same time those countries are trying to emulate what makes us special. When 'performance' indicators are judged, they are most often the proverbial apples to oranges. We try our best to educate everyone, regardless of ability. We encourage students of all backgrounds, socio-economic conditions, race, color, gender, or political belief to go forth and be anything they choose to be. We teach them that everyone can succeed. We educate them to become lifelong learners. We open their minds to unlimited technological horizons. We remind them that they are our next leaders. What is frequently lost in this process of comparison is the simple truth that many of those other counties we are compared to do none of that. And one of the most important skills we help students develop is also the one thing many of our 'competitors' cannot understand or imitate.
Bus SafetyPosted by Jeff McDaris at 7/14/2015 4:40:00 AMIt is the call you never want to hear over a school radio. A student has been hit by a vehicle while loading the bus. Each school day in North Carolina there are thousands of stop arm violations. Drivers in a hurry or not paying attention fail to stop for the red flashing lights and extended stop arms on buses. Last year in our own county several students were hit while crossing the road to load a stopped school bus. Fortunately, they survived, but the few precious seconds saved by hurrying drivers are not worth the risk of hurting young children. There will be more on bus safety as school approaches. For now here is an article on our state's new measures aimed at making school bus travel, already the safest way to travel for students, even safer.http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/education/article26888380.html
AcronymsPosted by Jeff McDaris at 7/13/2015 3:35:00 PMSecond only to the military, law enforcement, or science, education has perhaps more acronyms and abbreviated descriptors than any other entity in America. And the list continues to grow. In a technological era of shortened words and tiny 'urls' (internet page locations), each one of merely a few letters often describe very complex spheres of knowledge. However, just as they do in other organizational settings, these acronyms provide key conversation options for lengthy constructs. They number well into the hundreds, so perhaps a few of the most used in North Carolina are in order . Here are just a handful, in no particular order:
There are many more. And the list continues to grow!
- ABCs - NC Accountability Model - School-Based Management and Accountability Program
- ACRE - Accountability and Curriculum Reform Effort
- ACT - American College Test
- ADA - Americans with Disabilities Act
- ADHD - Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
- AIG - Academically and Intellectually Gifted
- ADA - Americans with Disabilities Act
- AP - Advanced Placement
- ARRA - American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
- ASL - American Sign Language
- BMP - Behavior Management Plan
- BOE - Board of Education
- CBA - Curriculum-Based Assessment
- CCP - Career and College Promise - North Carolina’s dual enrollment program
- CEDARS - Common Education Data Analysis and Reporting System
- CIHS - Cooperative Innovative High School
- CTE - Career and Technical Education
- DD - Developmentally Disabled; Developmentally Delayed
- EC - Exceptional Children (also known as Special Education)
- ELL - English Language Learner
- ERIC - Educational Resources Information Center
- ESL - English as Second Language
- ETS - Educational Testing Service
- FAPE - Free Appropriate Public Education
- FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions
- FERPA - Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
- FSP - Family Support Plan
- GED - General Education Diploma
- GPA - Grade Point Average
- HI - Hearing Impaired
- HS - High School
- IDEA - Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
- IEP - Individualized Education Program
- IQ - Intelligence Quotient
- K-12 - Kindergarten through 12th Grade
- LEA - Local Education Agency
- LD - Learning Disability
- MS - Middle School
- NAEP - National Assessment of Educational Progress
- NCDPI - North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. Also called DPI
- NCLB - No Child Left Behind Act of 2001
- NCVPS - NC Virtual Public School
- OCD - Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- OCR - Office for Civil Rights
- ODD - Oppositional Defiant Disorder
- OHI - Other Health Impaired
- OT - Occupational Therapist; Occupational Therapy
- PT - Physical Therapist; Physical Therapy
- PTA - Parent-Teacher Association
- PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- READY - North Carolina's new standards and accountability model preparation
- RTA - Read to Achieve
- RttT - Race to the Top - Federal Educational Reform Grant
- SAT - Scholastic Aptitude Test
- SED - Severely Emotionally Disturbed
- SPED - Special Education
- SSI - Supplemental Security Income (related to Social Security)
- URL - Uniform Resource Locator [website address]
The Increasing BurdenPosted by Jeff McDaris at 7/8/2015 1:35:00 PM
Public Schools are increasingly under society's microscope. In an era of high stakes accountability and rising costs, the investment in our schools on the national, state, and local level has become a political minefield. Just as technology is increasing exponentially in doubling its capacity, the burdens and expectations placed on our schools and educators is also expanding more rapidly. One of the challenges in meeting those expectations is in how we collectively view what our schools should do.
The most common frame of reference for parents and adults is how school was "when they were in school." And that reference in their internal memory may be 20 years or more out of date. Just as with technology, the rapidity in change is exacerbating the perceptions. Grandparents and older Americans have a frame of reference that covers longer time frames than new parents of today. The changes over the last five years alone are more dramatic than the previous ten. As with the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back, many adults of today may not fully grasp all the 'straws' added over time to the backs of public schools.
What are our expectations for our schools? We hear of the good old days and how it used to be. We hear about how much smarter students were compared to now. We hear about discipline and accountability. But do we know what that means and how we arrived to this point in time? Performance now includes everyone; not just the students who decided not to drop out. Fifty years ago I’m sure the senior classmates for the majority was the cream of the crop. The ones who didn’t want to be there, were not going to college, or who went to work had already dropped out. Students with disabilities, students who spoke limited English, and even students of color may not have been classmates fifty years ago. A reminder that the “good old days” were not always so good for everyone.
Prior to the 1950s, schools were largely charged with teaching students in reading, writing, math, some science, and history. Over time vocational education made its way into the curriculum along with foreign languages, speech, drama, and Physical Education. School lunch programs began to appear as well as music and arts. By the end of the 1950s driver's education, tornado drills, expanded math and science, and even sex education in some schools joined the school day.
In the 1960s we saw the directed additions from the Federal government. Schools now were to include options for kindergarten, Head Start, AP courses, consumer and career education, and adult education. By the end of the 1970s special education, character education, gifted programs, environmental education and behavior education joined the fray. We saw courses, curriculum, and requirements introduced in women's studies, alternative education, Title IX for sports, school breakfasts, parenting, and free speech rulings from the Supreme Court.
During the 1980s the ball began to roll faster and larger. Education in keyboarding, anti-smoking, anti-drug, abstinence, teen pregnancy, multicultural education, pre-school for at risk students, expanded health and psychological services, and child abuse monitoring became required tasks and legal mandates added to the plate of educators. Let us not forget these were all in addition to all the previous additions. Not much has ever been taken away.
In the 1990s we saw the arrival of Tech Prep, computers, school to work, AIDS Education, conflict resolution, CPR training, anti-gang initiatives, bicycle, gun, and water safety. We first saw inclusion, mainstreaming, and the need for school safety. We also saw increased Federal directives through America 2000 (Republicans) and Goals 2000 (Democrats). As the 2000s signaled education's entry into the 21st century additional servings were added to the platter via No Child Left Behind, anti-bullying, credit recovery, distance learning, health and wellness, financial literacy, suicide awareness, obesity monitoring, social media, STEM, STEAM, and Race to the Top. We added common core standards, contextual learning, media literacy, internet safety, and of course more and more testing.
The ball continues to grow and gain speed. Meanwhile, we still need to find time in the day to make sure we address reading, writing, math, and history. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention we want to hold teachers accountable for more and more test results. So testing now must live within the daily psyche of educators. Somewhere along the climb we forget about the simple yet vital art and craft of teaching. Some of what we do was once done at home. That is no longer always the case. We are asked to do more and more of this alone, yet held responsible for the other 17 to 18 hours a day students are not with us.
Public schools are a mirror of society. We don't control what comes in. But despite the challenges we do a pretty good job of positively affecting what comes out. But we can't do it alone and without the resources to do it.
Digital mattersPosted by Jeff McDaris at 7/2/2015 4:15:00 PMAn interesting read on the importance of technology for student success.
New Web SitePosted by Jeff McDaris at 7/1/2015 9:05:00 AMWelcome to our redesigned web home. Transylvania County Schools continues to be the leader in technological innovation and learning in our county. This new platform offers enhanced web capabilities beyond previous designs. We are excited to bring this to you as part of our overall commitment to quality education and positive communication. We hope you enjoy the new look!Transylvania County Schools - the bridge to the future!