On Netflix and PBS: The Address

On Netflix and PBS: The Address

This documentary from acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns follows students from The Greenwood School, a small boarding school in Vermont that focuses on educating young men with ADHD, Dyslexia, and other learning differences, as they attempt to learn and recite one of our nation’s most powerful speeches, the Gettysburg Address. Rated: TV-PG Time: 90 minutes Description (from the film’s official site): THE ADDRESS, a 90-minute feature length documentary by Ken Burns, aired on PBS in the spring of 2014. The film tells the story of a tiny school in Putney Vermont, the Greenwood School, where each year the students are encouraged to practice, memorize, and recite the Gettysburg Address. In its exploration of the Greenwood School, the film also unlocks the history, context and importance of President Lincoln’s most powerful address. Trailer:...
Cow weight-guessing and why community engagement matters

Cow weight-guessing and why community engagement matters

I heard the following program while driving to school this morning. You may wonder what a “guess-the-cow’s-weight” story could possibly have to do with the stock market—much less school board governance, but I actually see a pretty strong connection. Take a listen:   So why is this seemingly odd phenomenon so important to Romoland School District? Well, community engagement is more than just a feel-good idea. This clip is a great illustration of why community engagement matters so much. In fact, The Wisdom of Crowds would argue that: Large groups of people are smarter than an elite few, no matter how brilliant–better at solving problems, fostering innovation, coming to wise decisions, even predicting the future. Simply put, six parents attending an LCAP meeting isn’t as good for Romoland as 60 parents attending (which isn’t as good as 600, and so on). The more our community gets involved, the stronger we become as a school district. So what are we doing to stay engaged with our community’s schools? Are we trying to do it alone, or are we making the effort to bring others into the herd? That’s the challenge I place on myself, and it’s the same challenge I issue to anyone reading this post as well....
6 tips to help parents stay involved

6 tips to help parents stay involved

An incredible poster was recently shared with me that is definitely worth passing on. It contains six simple-yet-powerful tips for staying involved in our children’s lives. I’m sure we all agree that Romoland School District’s kids are worth our renewed focus in these areas. The poster was created by Gwinnett County Public Schools and you can check it out...
Transparent California

Transparent California

For those who might not know, transparentcalifornia.com is a site that allows you to look up the salary and/or pension of any California public employee, which includes those of us involved in K-12 education. From their About page: Transparent California is provided by the California Policy Center and the Nevada Policy Research Institute as a public service.   Transparent California is dedicated to providing accurate, comprehensive and easily searchable information on the compensation of public employees in California.   Complete and accurate information is necessary to increase public understanding of government and help decision makers, including elected officials and voters, make informed decisions. Just click the link or image above, and type the name of the employee in whom you’re interested. While the tool shouldn’t be “weaponized” or used as a “gotcha,” some questions may be worth considering, such as:   Does better pay make better teachers? That is, is there a correlation between teacher pay and teacher effectiveness? FWIW, Transparent California would argue the answer to this question is “no.” Check out their Consolidated 2014 K-12 Press Release to see the data. Should a teacher’s or administrator’s pay be tied to their performance? Obviously this is a hot-button topic. While much of the research in this area has pointed to the ineffectiveness of performance-based pay, one study conducted by Harvard University’s Roland G. Fryer, Jr., The University of Chicago’s John List and Steven D. Levitt (co-author of the bestselling Freakonomics), and the University of California San Diego’s Sally Sadoff offers a unique viewpoint, arguing that “framing a teacher incentive program in terms of losses rather than gains leads to improved student outcomes.” Click here for a quick Washington Post rundown of the...
Happy first day of school!

Happy first day of school!

I wanted to wish everyone a happy first day of school. The 2015-2016 school year is full of promise, and I know great things are in store for the entire district. As you prepare and transport your previous cargo to school today, please be extra cautious to ensure the safety of all of our students. Here’s to a great year!...
Ed-Data

Ed-Data

Ron Bennett, the gregarious president of School Services of California recently referred me to ed-data.k12.ca.us, an excellent resource that contains a wealth of publicly-accessible information about “student demographics and performance, staffing and teacher salaries, as well as information about financial reports for all districts, county offices of education, and state.” From their About page: Launched in 1996, the Ed-Data website is designed to offer educators, policy makers, the Legislature, parents, and the public quick access to timely and comprehensive data about K-12 education in California. It is operated through a partnership of the California Department of Education (CDE), EdSource, and the Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team (FCMAT). FCMAT’s California School Information Services (CSIS) hosts and maintains the site.   In addition to a wealth of data at multiple levels and over many years, Ed-Data also offers articles and explanations that provide important context for the data.   Click the link or image above, and you are granted instant access to all of the records the State of California requires of its public schools. I pulled a quick financial report comparing the per-student expenditures of all of the school districts in the state in the following categories: Certificated salaries (teachers) Classified salaries (these are positions like librarians, custodians, campus supervisors, instructional aides, health techs, etc.) Employee benefits Books and supplies Services and other expenditures A subtotal of the sum of the five categories listed above I’ve embedded a Google Spreadsheet with the data below (sorted from least to greatest by Column Q, the Subtotal Expenditures), but I really encourage you to pull your own information. If I’m being honest, these numbers paint a less-than-pretty...

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