What’s your positive-to-negative comment ratio?

What’s your positive-to-negative comment ratio?

A new year is underway, and that means it was back-to-school for “Mr. Rouch” in my day job as a 7th and 8th grade math teacher at David A. Brown Middle School in Lake Elsinore Unified School District. You may or may not be aware that teachers often receive a couple work days before the students step foot on campus. This is valuable time for preparing classrooms, setting up gradebooks, loading student rosters into other digital applications, and receiving professional development. This year, two Program Specialists from the district’s Special Education department visited my site and trained the teachers on how to support all students—not just those with diagnosed disabilities. The training came with a handout of research-based practices that support students’ behavior and social-emotional development (you can download the full handout below). One component, number 15, was highlighted in particular: Five positive comments, gestures, and interactions to every one correction, reprimand, or negative interaction (5 to 1 ratio). This ratio has been extensively researched and proven to result in “behavior contrast” for rapid learning of expectations. Negative intention to neutral stimuli is a thinking component for emotionally driven problems; negative intention is harder to form in the face of unremitting unconditional positive regard. This idea may seem obvious, but it’s actually very difficult to do without being intentional in our efforts. This is why I am going to renew my focus in this area in my own classroom. I will be physically tracking my positive-to-negative interaction ratio for all students throughout the year, especially with those students who would be classified as “difficult” or potential “behavior problems.” But what’s good in the classroom is also good in...
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...
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...
Middle school grades and attendance are highly predictive of high school success

Middle school grades and attendance are highly predictive of high school success

Test scores, schmest scores. According to a November 2014 study published by the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research (UChicagoCCSR): Grades and attendance—not test scores—are the middle grade factors most strongly connected with both high school and college success. In fact, grades and attendance matter more than test scores, race, poverty, or other background characteristics for later academic success. Key findings from the report include: Only those students who leave eighth grade with GPAs of at least 3.0 have a moderate chance of earning a 3.0 GPA in high school—the threshold for being considered college-bound. and Strategies aimed at attendance improvement could likely have as much or more of a payoff for high school and college graduation as efforts aimed at improving test scores because test scores are hard to move and do not show much variability throughout middle and high school. Meanwhile, attendance shows considerably more variation and middle school attendance is much more predictive of passing high school classes than test scores. What are we doing to ensure that our children maintain a B average (or better) from grades 5 to 8? How do we make sure they attend the most school days possible, year in and year out? How we answer those questions may very well determine how successful our students are in high school and...

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