• Bullying

    Posted by Tim Farley at 2/19/2014

    I was asked recently by someone passionate about school bullying to write a “blog” about it.  Specifically, I was asked to provide my expectations of school personnel in dealing with the problem.  Let me state unequivocally that the moral, ethical, and legal expectations align perfectly.  I expect every reported situation of bullying to be heard and acted upon.  School officials have a legal expectation to follow law and policy when it comes to dealing with school bullying.  But, there is a higher “moral” authority that addresses a child’s right to be taught in a safe, nurturing environment.  I have no intention of waxing on legally about bullying.  I’d like to write this by citing something I recently read and two personal experiences.

    I read a column in the Durham paper about a boy who was tormented to the point of committing suicide all because he liked a show called “My Little Pony.”  The show is normally associated with little girls.  You get why he was bullied.  Some fellow students teased him because they believed he shouldn’t watch the show.   Apparently, real men don’t watch “My Little Pony.”  Last I checked he had the right to watch and enjoy what he liked without fear.  Usually, in these situations, there is an insidious “boys will be boys” excuse for this inexcusable behavior.  The notion that “boys will be boys” provides “cover fire” for children/adults to behave badly.  We should never excuse inexcusable behavior.

    I can lend personal perspective on two levels to this conversation.  Firstly, I was bullied incessantly as a middle school child in Catholic School.  I know what you’re thinking; I wasn’t bullied by nuns.  No, I was a child, who at 5’4” weighed 240 lbs.  I was an obese child.  I quickly became the target of every fat joke and epithet there was.  I was miserable; to this day I have body image problems such that I rarely appear anywhere without a coat or hoodie.  I have a mental image that still sees me as a fat boy.  Secondly, my son was bullied in middle school.  A red-headed kid with glasses and braces somehow seems to be a magnet for bullies.  It was difficult to deal with as a dad who is the superintendent, but the principal and staff handled it beautifully.  I know that bullying goes on, but my advice is for the child to report it to a trusted adult and for that adult to report it to the appropriate people. 

    Parents, I advise you to monitor social media like a hawk.  The bulk of bullying comes via Facebook (less so now because children have moved away from Facebook), Twitter, Instagram, Snap chat and whatever other media there are.  Check the cell phones, computers, tablets, etc. of your children.  Help us help you.



    If you have a topic you'd like me to address, please email me at farleyt@gcs.k12.nc.us or call my office at 693-4613.  Past issues of this column can be found at our school system website at http://www.gcs.k12.nc.us.



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  • Christmas

    Posted by Tim Farley at 12/20/2013 6:00:00 AM
    Greetings! As we stand on the precipice of a much needed break, let me take this opportunity to thank all of our educators for all that they do. As my pastor stated recently, the Christmas season is a season of joy, peace, and hope with the latter being fundamentally and personally important. Sometimes I get lost in the frustrations and obstacles presented to me on a daily basis. I'm only human. Today I choose to focus on the myriad opportunities and "points of light" that appear every day. Most of those are created by the miracles you perform and successes you make possible in your classrooms, on your buses, and in your buildings. You all provide me with the sustenance I need to face the challenges we will face in the future. As the Rev. Jesse Jackson states often, I'm just trying to keep hope alive." Such is it with you all. You keep hope alive. Again, thanks to all of you.
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  • Where is the joy you ask?

    Posted by Stan Winborne at 11/15/2013

    I read with interest the editorial in the Ledger entitled, “Where did the joy in teaching go?” Curiously, placed directly beside the editorial was a cartoon that juxtaposed the State School Board’s (I hope) dismay at less than positive student outcomes and what is happening to teachers in NC (low pay, job security, and a heavier workload). I agree with the premise of both. Things in education are not very joyful and certainly not good for teachers. I would, however, point out that it’s not just the State Board that is responsible for these troubling circumstances for teachers, but also the Legislature and our own Department of Public Instruction (DPI).

    It was the Legislature that chose to impose its collective will on education by reducing funding and not providing raises. I want to point out quickly that my “bailiwick” with that body is totally bipartisan since the failure to provide adequate funding and raises existed when the rival party was in control. Incidentally, both parties have been disingenuous. The Democrats lied when they sold us the lottery. Designed theoretically to “supplement” education funding with additional financial resources, the lottery money has instead been used to “supplant” funding and even used for non-educational line items. If you believe for a minute that Granville County Schools benefits from the lottery, you are delusional. What confounds me is that the Republicans have a chance to rectify the situation by changing it or by telling the truth. Yet, the lie continues. Furthermore, the party currently in charge tells the public that they have increased funding to education to its greatest level in recent times. They are telling the truth “prima fascia” but that’s not good enough. Let’s use common sense to dispute the notion that we are getting more money. Granville County Schools was cut $2.5 million this year. All 115 districts received such cuts. Some were cut more, some less. Yet, all were cut. You can “slice” (pun intended) this however you wish, but cut we were. The significant reduction in funding is important. It falls on the heels of several years of reductions in funding. The cumulative effect is a reduction of personnel at all levels. For schools it means larger class sizes, fewer assistants, and a decrease in instructional supplies. The “doing more with less” sounds okay until you see how this plays out in the classroom. I taught English with class sizes above 40 and I can tell you from experience, it was hard and very stressful.

    Contributing to the stress that teachers are experiencing is the lunacy concocted by DPI and the State Board. The implementation of the Common Core has been overly stressful on teachers. Given the standards and no further help, they were asked to write, teach, tweak, assess and be evaluated all in one year. It’s one thing to ask teachers to write a new curriculum and teach it. That’s a difficult proposition given how new and different the Common Core is. It’s quite another to evaluate them on its implementation. Stressful? You betcha. By the way, the number of tests given our children not just to evaluate their learning, but the teacher’s ability to teach has risen exponentially and shows no signs of abating, the Governor’s commercial notwithstanding.

    I could go on with more details and reasons why teachers are stressed. They are beyond a doubt woefully underpaid and underappreciated. And yet…I disagree with the editorial that the teachers’ job is impossible and that they are “sad.” I see daily the miracles that teachers perform with children. I see teachers teaching and students learning. I see teachers providing opportunities for success and outposts for hope for our children. I see teachers courageously forging ahead in spite of circumstances. I see them make possible the impossible.

    Lastly, I want to concur with the notion that I do not say thank you to the teachers and others with whom I serve. I must do better. Let me begin by echoing the editorial’s concluding sentence. Thank you for what you do.

    If you have a topic you'd like me to address, please email me at farleyt@gcs.k12.nc.us or call my office at 693-4613.  Past issues of this column can be found at our school system website at http://www.gcs.k12.nc.us.



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  • Let not your heart be troubled

    Posted by Tim Farley at 10/23/2013
    I recently bumped into a dear friend. The occasion for our meeting was a sad one; we met at a funeral. After a brief sharing of events that had transpired in our lives since we last met, she asked my opinion on the Common Core and testing. My friend is an English teacher and a darn good one.  I know.  I hired and supervised her when I was a principal.  Her outcomes were always good and her caring for students was even better.  But... she's frustrated by the implementation of the Common Core.  To recap... it's been my contention all along that the CC was a flawed roll-out.  The curriculum was written, taught and tested in year one of implementation.  I have written and commented extensively that the CC should've been written, taught, tweaked, taught again AND then assessed over a period of at least two years.  Alas, that wasn't the case and the stress it created for teachers is palpable... especially when they're evaluated on outcomes.  Well, now the outcomes have arrived and will be released on Nov. 7.  I guarantee that the results will create even greater stress... on teachers, parents, and students.
    Any time there is a change in curriculum, there is naturally a change in assessments.  There is invariably an adjustment period with much lower test scores and lower proficiencies.  The curriculum is new to the teachers and students and the tests are different. In the case of the CC, the change is radical.  Students who scored in the 90s and 80s will have scores in the 50s and 40s. Students and parents may be angry or worried that something negative is afoot with their child's teaching and learning.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  What has changed are the demands and the rigor attached to the new CC standards.  The standards demand more and the assessments are accordingly harder.  If we know and understand this, we can explain it in a way that will not stress out our children.
    You'll read and hear more about the changes. What prompted me to write this piece was a text and a phone call from my English teacher friend.  She was absolutely devastated by her results... to the point of considering leaving teaching.  She's a good teacher but could not grasp how "poor" her results were.  I explained all that I wrote above to her and assured her that with all the changes, the results she had were common.  I assured her that she is a good teacher and that things will get better, what with her greater familiarity with the standards, how to teach them, and how they're assessed.  I write this today to my teachers.  They are good teachers and good at their craft.  I hope they view these results as a "benchmark" on how to move forward and not a judgement on their abilities.  I hope that the CC and its assessments will not drive away good teachers.
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  • New Test Scores Coming Soon...

    Posted by Stan Winborne at 10/7/2013
    North Carolina students now have a higher proficiency standard to meet on the state's end-of-grade and end-of-course tests. New standards were approved by the State Board of Education to bring expectations for student performance in line with current career and college expectations.  In other words, the state has raised the bar for our students.

    When these scores are released, it is likely to be somewhat shocking to some at first.  Our scores will indeed be much lower than in years past. With a new curriculum and new tests, it will be like comparing apples to oranges - but the bottom line is we can and will improve as our students and teachers become more accustomed to the new standards and the higher level of expectations that come with them.

    Our teachers are working harder than they ever have before, and doing so with fewer resources.  While these results will be upsetting and discouraging to many, it is important to remember the tremendous challenges our dedicated teachers are facing.  They remain committed to our students and their learning, and they should be commended for their herculean efforts. 
    Below are charts showing what we might expect from the state averages in Reading, Math and Science.  As of today, we have no indications on how Granville County students will fare in comparison.  In year's past, we have shown significant and steady increases when measured against the state averages for testing. 
      Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4 Percent Proficient
    GRADE 3 ELA/Reading GENERAL (44 Total Number of Items)  
    Recommended in September 20.20 33.16 34.58 12.06 46.64
    Score Ranges ≤431 432-441 442-451 ≥452
    Approx Raw Score ≤24 25-35 36-40 ≥41

    GRADE 4 ELA/Reading GENERAL (44 Total Number of Items)  
    Recommended in September 21.55 32.96 37.90 7.58 45.48
    Score Ranges ≤438 439-447 448-459 ≥460
    Approx Raw Score ≤25 26-33 34-40 ≥41
    GRADE 5 ELA/Reading GENERAL (44 Total Number of Items)  
    Recommended in September 22.18 36.69 33.02 8.11 41.13
    Score Ranges ≤442 443-452 453-463 ≥464
    Approx Raw Score ≤24 25-33 34-40 ≥41
    GRADE 6 ELA/Reading GENERAL (48 Total Number of Items)  
    Recommended in September 15.04 36.44 36.07 12.45 48.52
    Score Ranges ≤441 442-453 454-464 ≥465
    Approx Raw Score ≤22 23-34 35-42 ≥43

    GRADE 7 ELA/Reading GENERAL (48 Total Number of Items)  
    Recommended in September 14.12 35.96 38.12 11.80 49.92
    Score Ranges ≤444 445-456 457-468 ≥469
    Approx Raw Score ≤22 23-34 35-42 ≥43

    GRADE 8 ELA/Reading GENERAL (48 Total Number of Items)  
    Recommended in September 18.55 38.93 33.25 9.27 42.52
    Score Ranges ≤448 449-461 462-472 ≥473
    Approx Raw Score ≤22 23-33 34-41 ≥42

    ENGLISH II GENERAL (1st Edition) (56 Total Number of Score Points)
    Recommended in September 16.50 31.61 46.65 5.24 51.89
    Score Ranges ≤140 141-150 151-164 ≥165
    Approx Raw Score ≤22 23-33 34-47 ≥48
      Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4 Percent Proficient
    GRADE 3 Math GENERAL (44 Total Number of Items)    
    Recommended in September 23.54 28.20 32.30 15.96 48.26
    Score Ranges ≤442 443-450 451-459 ≥ 460
    Approx Raw Score ≤20 21-29 30-37 ≥38

    GRADE 4 Math GENERAL (44 Total Number of Items)    
    Recommended in September 27.04 23.73 32.57 16.65 49.22
    Score Ranges ≤443 444-450 451-459 ≥ 460
    Approx Raw Score ≤18 19-27 28-37 ≥38
    GRADE 5 Math GENERAL (44 Total Number of Items)    
    Recommended in September 26.16 24.22 32.86 16.75 49.61
    Score Ranges ≤443 444-450 451-459 ≥ 460
    Approx Raw Score ≤17 18-25 26-35 ≥36
    GRADE 6 Math GENERAL (50 Total Number of Items)    
    Recommended in September 37.13 22.35 25.98 14.53 40.51
    Score Ranges ≤446 447-452 453-460 ≥ 461
    Approx Raw Score ≤19 20-27 28-39 ≥40

    GRADE 7 Math GENERAL (50 Total Number of Items)    
    Recommended in September 37.24 22.62 25.36 14.78 40.14
    Score Ranges ≤446 447-452 453-460 ≥ 461
    Approx Raw Score ≤18 19-27 28-39 ≥40

    GRADE 8 Math GENERAL (50) Total Number of Items)  
    Recommended in September 37.10 27.44 25.52 9.93 35.45
    Score Ranges ≤446 447-453 454-462 ≥ 463
    Approx Raw Score ≤18 19-28 29-40 ≥41

    MATH I GENERAL (1st Edition) (49 Total Number of Items)  
    Recommended in September 40.01 23.54 28.24 8.21 36.45
    Score Ranges ≤246 247-252 253-263 ≥ 264
    Approx Raw Score ≤18 19-25 26-38 ≥39
      Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4 Percent Proficient
    GRADE 5 Science GENERAL (60 Total Number of Items)  
    Recommended in September 17.80 35.23 36.73 10.24 46.97
    Score Ranges ≤241 242-251 252-262 ≥263
    Approx Raw Score ≤26 27-39 40-50 ≥51

    GRADE 8 Science GENERAL (60 Total Number of Items)  
    Recommended in September 16.66 22.21 43.61 17.52 61.13
    Score Ranges ≤240 241-247 248-259 ≥260
    Approx Raw Score ≤22 23-31 32-47 ≥48
    BIOLOGY GENERAL (60 Total Number of Items)    
    Recommended in September 23.08 31.93 30.70 14.29 44.99
    Score Ranges ≤242 243-251 252-260 ≥261
    Approx Raw Score ≤29 30-41 42-52 ≥53
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  • New Year

    Posted by Tim Farley at 7/31/2013 8:00:00 AM
    Believe it or not, I have not written because I have been at a loss for words. Really. There is just too much to comment on that has transpired over the summer that I could/should write for days. What's difficult is finding and disseminating something positive. The last thing that I want to see is a level of negativity at the start of the year. It simply would not be right to taint the excitement of our teachers, students, and families. That being said, there is much I can comment on that is positive.
    I have spent the last several weeks meeting with new teachers and plenty of our veterans; all whom I have encountered have been very upbeat and very excited about beginning the new year. That is the way it should be. The attitude seems to reflect one of my favorite quotes, "Don't worry about the things you can't change, worry about the things you can." Much of what we've seen come our way this summer, we can't change. The things over which we have control, our caring, our professionalism, our abilities, our expertise in preparing students for success in life, are things upon which we must focus. It's what we've always done well in GCS and what we'll always continue doing well. I look for great things to continue happening in our schools.
    Good luck and Godspeed.  
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  • Doing too much, too quickly...

    Posted by Stan Winborne at 7/15/2013
    The NC Department of Public Instruction has been reacting to the overwhelming backlash of parents, students and educators who feel that the state has gone overboard with a new wave of standardized testing.  Dr. Farley recently took up the fight to protect students and teachers in an email he sent to representatives in our region.  In his email, he responded to a memo sent to Superintendents by State Superintendent Dr. June Atkinson about this dilemma.  
    The issue centers around "MSLs", or tests called "Measures of Student Learning".  These tests were rolled out this past year in an effort to measure teacher effectiveness.  Instead, they burdened districts by nearly tripling the amount of standardized testing that was required.  Many teachers felt the tests were not well-written or not aligned to the standards that were taught.  Many parents complained their students were overly stressed with a huge load of high-stakes tests.  Here is a copy of the email Dr. Farley sent:
    The original memo "hit" me wrong. I felt the tone was sophomoric as it seems to imply "Fine. You don't like MSLs. Here are your limited and deliberately poor choices." Notions like districts or consortia developing their own MSLs provided reliability and validity can be shown don't bother or surprise me. Districts have done the heavy lifting on CC [Common Core State Standards] and I remain unconvinced that current MSLs can show either.

    Here's the gist of what I see. DPI is taking personally the belief that MSLs are fraught with issues. They confuse the rancor over MSLs with a desire to do away with the CC. Not so...and not even close. THE CC is fine. My concern is that we have started developing a curriculum around the new standards (we're not even partly finished); teachers are teaching it for the first time; they're using myriad tests to assess what they've taught for the first time with a still unfinished curriculum; and, oh yeah,the tests are used to assess...teachers. I get angry when I write this. It is all so rushed, slammed together, and feels like the proverbially "cheap suit." The teachers are leaving in droves to other professions and charters (where they don't have to put up with this nonsense). Why not use the federal one year moratorium to slow down the process, finish the curriculum, tweak what's been done, then see where we are. Oh, now we have ASWs...Really?! I'm amazed that while the Legislature tears us apart, DPI is a hand maiden to them. 
    If I had to choose from the list...I would choose using the EOCs and EOGs...and to heck with how they populate Standard 6. No offense, Tim, I feel that querying the "big districts" is a bit arrogant. The costs in sweat equity and in actual real costs impact small districts as much or more so in that we don't have the economy of scale y'all do.
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  • Common Core - Fact vs. Myth

    Posted by Stan Winborne at 6/11/2013
    Below is the text from a recent article by Caroline McCullen, Director of Education Initiatives at SAS Institute.  Dr. Farley asked that this be shared in this blog.

    Some things are just common sense, and having common academic standards for all states is one of those things. In a national milestone event, 45 states and the District of Columbia recently coalesced around a common set of standards for math and English/language arts. The process did not happen overnight, and there were many detours and roadblocks along the way. Nevertheless, this year states began to implement the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and classrooms are beginning to change for the better.

    Change is never easy. Although some resistance to the CCSS was expected, we are now seeing more organized efforts to block the implementation of the standards. Several groups are either misinformed or intentionally misleading the public about the process used to develop the standards, the organizations that initiated this effort and the standards themselves. In response, I would like to debunk several of these myths about the Common Core State Standards.

    Myth No. 1:  The CCSS is a national curriculum.

    Fact: The CCSS is NOT curriculum. It is a set of standards … a framework for teaching and learning. The curriculum - learning activities, lesson plans, teaching materials - will be developed by each state based on each state’s preference. Schools will base their teaching on the standards by selecting lessons and learning strategies that meet their individual needs while ensuring that students demonstrate an understanding of the standards. This approach will lead to more consistent quality of teaching, student learning and equitable accountability across all states.

    Myth No. 2: The CCSS effort was started by the federal government in an attempt to force every state to teach the same concepts in exactly the same way. This is federal intrusion on states’ rights and parental rights.

    Fact: The federal government did not start this effort. In fact, the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) led the effort. Both organizations are nonpartisan and their members come from state agencies. The federal government was not involved at ANY level in the development of the standards. The states initiated the effort as a means to address the problem of inconsistency in what students were learning and when they were learning it. This inconsistency has become a serious problem in our mobile society in which families frequently move from one state to another. Since some states standards were weaker than others, learning expectations and outcomes varied from state to state.

    Myth No. 3: States must sign on to the CCSS in order to get federal funding.

    Fact: Federal grants do not require endorsement of the CCSS. The recent Race to the Top grants gave 40 points out of a possible 500 if states documented that they were implementing standards that were internationally benchmarked and would prepare students for college and career.

    Myth No. 4: The standards are less rigorous than those we now have; they are mediocre and were created without input from teachers.

    Fact: The CCSS were developed collaboratively with input from teachers, school administrators, university faculty and state curriculum leaders. The community at-large had several opportunities to provide input during comment periods when the draft standards were posted on the Web. The final draft was vetted by a committee of experts in the field. There is a growing list of local, state and national organizations that support the standards, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the College Board, the American Statistical Association, the U.S. Army and many more. A host of leading corporations have also signed a letter of supportfor the CCSS.

    Myth No. 5: Students will be learning “fuzzy math” and offbeat methods for computation. They won’t take algebra until ninth grade, which leaves no time for advanced math courses required by universities.

    Fact: The traditional math pathway in the United States requires students to take Algebra 1 in eighth or ninth grade, then geometry and then Algebra II. The United States is one of the only industrialized countries in the world that segments courses in this way. Other countries teach “math” by integrating algebra and geometry concepts throughout the middle and high school years. Since the CCSS are internationally benchmarked, algebra and geometry concepts are now integrated in the lower grades, especially grades six and seven.  Students will dive deeper into the concepts and have more opportunities to apply what they have learned. North Carolina and many other states are aligning with the rest of the world by calling the newly developed courses Math I, Math II and Math III. Since students may begin this sequence when they are ready, they will have the time they need to take more advanced math courses. This approach aligns with programs in other countries that currently surpass the US on international assessments.

    Myth No. 6: Students will be reading more “informational texts” and will have less time to read classical literature.

    Fact: Schools have a great deal of choice as to what students will read. CCSS focuses on reading for different purposes and comprehending texts with a wide range of complexity. Informational texts are included as only one part of a much larger body of literature. Teachers are provided with lists of books that include many of the classics traditionally included in text books. Each district has the freedom to consider these examples, but the list is not exhaustive and it is up to the districts to determine what they teach.

    Myth No. 7: Our state standards are just fine. There is no reason to have shared standards.

    Fact: Currently, states have no valid means to compare their performance with other states. According to the American Institutes for Research, the difference between standards in states with the most rigorous standards and those with the lowest standards can be as much as four grade levels. This is a serious problem that plagues our education system and limits our ability to compete internationally.  Once students are all taking the same assessments based on shared standards, it will eliminate the apparent inconsistencies of higher scores on state-authored tests. For example, NC students did almost 40 percent better on the state math test than they did on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). CCSS will pull back the curtain and tell us how we are really doing in comparison to other states and other countries. Reality and transparency are important steps to improving our education system.

    Why this is important

    The world economy is becoming much more connected and competitive. Our children deserve to be as prepared as other country’s children, so they can compete for well-paying jobs as adults. The United States is at a very critical moment in history. We must do all we can to ensure our schools are preparing our future generations to compete against the world’s best and brightest. CCSS is a major step in the right direction to help us accomplish this goal.

    We can all do our community a service by spreading the facts about CCSS, rather than the rumors and misinformation currently circulating in blogs, email, Twitter and print media. Please join the “corps” of citizens who are supporting this effort to improve our education system. You can start by talking to your neighbor!

    Become an advocate today by sharing these useful CCSS resources for parentseducators andbusinesses.

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  • Teacher Appreciation Week

    Posted by Stan Winborne at 5/9/2013

    In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, I thought I'd share with you a speech that was recently made by our outgoing Teacher of the Year, Ms. Lauren H. Piper, 3rd grade Teacher at Wilton Elementary.  I think it is perfectly appropriate timing to share.... 

    To all distinguished guests, educators, family and friends, Good evening. Let me begin by saying that it has been an honor and privilege to have served as Granville County’s Teacher of the Year this past year. This experience allowed for many valuable opportunities. I especially enjoyed the opportunity to observe all of these amazing educators in their classrooms. As I began to think about my speech tonight, I decided that I wanted it to be short and encouraging.


    As educators, we are facing difficult times. There are many obstacles and increasing challenges with a seemingly decreasing appreciation. It is easy to become discouraged in the midst of increasing mandates and requirements. Our love for teaching and the students is the only reason we remain and continue. I would like to spend the next few minutes reminding you how important you are.


    This week, I gave my third grade students a writing prompt - What is a teacher?

    The responses were very interesting and amusing as you probably would assume.  I would like to read from several.


                “A teacher is a person who takes their time to plan stuff that’s fun for kids. They could be having fun with their friends and their family but they don’t. They make sure that their class has some fun. They don’t sit and do nothing. They find ways to help their students learn.”

                “A teacher is a friend. They help you when you need it. They care about what you do. They take time to sit down and help you. They cheer you up and cheer you on. They are very important.”

                “A teacher is caring. They are caring because they use their own time to think about teaching us. It is extra work for them. When they teach, they keep on teaching and teaching until everyone gets it.”

                “Teachers are people who help us learn. They teach us stuff that we don’t know. If it weren’t for teachers, I wouldn’t be writing this paper! I wouldn’t know anything if teachers weren’t around. Everybody would be cave people who say Ogga Ogga! That’s one of the many reasons.

                Teachers take their time to help us learn stuff on THERE TIME! They don’t have to do it. They just want to. We should be nice to teachers and thank them for making people go to college and helping us. If it weren’t for teachers, the world wouldn’t be what it is. Teachers should continue to do what they do!”



    As teachers, we can never fully determine our impact on our students. Someone once said, “ Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions.” I fully believe in the truth of this quote. We are educating the future doctors, lawyers, researchers, engineers, scientists, inventors, mothers, fathers, and citizens of our country. In the midst of all the demands, we may lose sight of our importance and purpose. My goal tonight is to remind you that you are a teacher. You educate students in content areas and life skills. You work. You work hard. You give your all. You love. You care. You are a role model. You are valued. You are important. Thank you for all you do. For every time you didn’t hear it, thank you.


    I would like to conclude with a poem by Joanna Fuchs (Fooks) :


    If I Could Teach You, Teacher



    If I could teach you, teacher,
    I'd teach you how much more
    you have accomplished
    than you think you have.
    I'd show you the seeds
    you planted years ago
    that are now coming into bloom.
    I'd reveal to you the young minds
    that have expanded under your care,
    the hearts that are serving others
    because they had you as a role model.



    If I could teach you, teacher,
    I'd show you the positive effect
    you have had on me and my life.
    Your homework is
    to know your value to the world,
    to acknowledge it, to believe it.
    Thank you, teacher.



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  • Homework

    Posted by Stan Winborne at 4/29/2013

    Homework or Not? That is the (Research) Question.

    Weighing the conflicting evidence.


    Alison DeNisco

    District Administration, March 2013


    Woe unto the administrator who ventures forth into the homework wars.

    Scale it back, and parents will be at your door complaining about a lack of academic rigor. Dial it up, and you’ll get an earful from other parents about interference with after-school activities and family time.

    If you’re looking to bolster your particular position with research results, you’re in luck, because there are studies that back the more-is-better approach and others that support the less-is-better tack.

    “Homework has been a hot topic for a number of years now because it affects so many people,” says Robert H. Tai, a professor at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education who has researched the topic and conducted a 2012 study, “When Is Homework Worth the Time?” After studying transcripts and data for more than 18,000 sophomore students nationwide, he found no significant relationship between time spent on homework and grades, but did find a positive relationship between homework and performance on standardized tests. “Homework should act as a place where students practice the skills they’ve learned in class,” Tai says. “It shouldn’t be a situation where students spend many hours every night poring over something [new].”


    In Favor of Homework

    A 2004 national survey conducted by the University of Michigan found that the amount of time spent on homework had risen 51 percent since 1981. Most of this increase was found among younger students, with daily homework for 6- to 8-year-olds increasing, on average, from about 8 minutes in 1981 to 22 minutes in 2003.

    There is a positive relationship between the amount of homework students do and their achievement outcomes, according to a 2006 study by Harris Cooper, director of Duke University’s Program in Education, which analyzed and combined the results of dozens of homework studies. The studies found that students who had homework performed better on class tests compared to those who did not. Twelve studies linking the amount of homework to achievement and controlling for other factors, such as socioeconomic status, also found a positive link. Of 35 studies that simply correlated homework and achievement, with no attempt to control for student differences, about 77 percent also found a positive link between time on homework and achievement.

    However, says Cooper, there was one group in the study for which homework was not correlated with achievement: elementary school students. For these children, the report states that “the average correlation between time spent on homework and achievement … hovered around zero,” or no relationship. This may be because younger students have less-developed study habits and are less able to tune out distractions at home, Cooper says.


    The Case for Less

    Other research has yielded other interpretations about the usefulness of homework. The authors of “Reforming Homework: Practices, Learning and Policies” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012) evaluated homework research and concluded that it does not significantly impact achievement— and can even be detrimental. One study from Penn State that analyzed data from the late 1990s found that, in countries with high homework demands, student performance on the international test of achievement known as Trends in Mathematics and Science Study was poorer than those with less rigorous after-school assignments. The authors, both professors at Australian universities, do not call for a homework ban, but they do recommend less homework, as well as homework assignments of a higher quality, rather than large amounts of drill and practice work.

    Further, Tai and colleagues’ study, “When Is Homework Worth the Time?” also found that sophomores who spent more time on after-school assignments did not fare any better or worse with grades, but did perform better on standardized tests. “Based on our research, it appears that the most effective use of homework may be to help students sharpen their skills with things that they already know how to do, rather than trying to use homework as an extension of class time,” Tai says. Issues often arise when students and parents do not understand the aim of the homework assignments, Tai adds, and it is imperative for teachers to make the purpose clear.

    A 2011 study in the Journal of Advanced Academics found that it was the sense of self-effcacy students felt while completing homework assignments, and the availability of resources (such as a quiet place to work and access to a computer) that led to increased mathematics achievement on an international exam. And students who spent more time on homework performed worse on the exam, the researchers found. “Although this was a surprising finding, a lack of understanding of a subject can lead to ineffcient and disproportionate effort, as well as diminished motivation,” the study states. The researchers add, “This observation fits the notion that students who have low mathematics scores and spend more time on mathematics homework do it precisely because of low self-effcacy and fewer support resources.”


    International Debate

    In 2012, Finland and South Korea came in at numbers 1 and 2, respectively, on the Global Index of Cognitive Skills and Education Attainment, which ranks countries based on international test scores, literacy, and graduation rates (the United States was ranked at number 17). Though their students occupy the top spots globally, these two nations approach homework and learning in radically different ways.

    Finland follows a European educational model, characterized by short school days and few homework assignments. South Korea, like many East Asian countries, in contrast, has long school days followed by tutoring sessions and a focus on rote learning assignments. “It is hard to find two education systems more different,” says the rankings report “The Learning Curve: Lessons in Country Performance in Education.” The report adds, “Closer examination, though, shows that both countries develop high-quality teachers, value accountability and have a moral mission that underlies education efforts.”

    France, ranked at number 25, is considering a different approach: last fall, the French government proposed doing away with homework in elementary and junior high school altogether, arguing that it puts poorer students and those with difficult home situations at a disadvantage. “Education is priority,” French President Francois Hollande said in an October speech at Paris’s Sorbonne University. “An education program is, by definition, a societal program. Work should be done at school, rather than at home.”


    Nontraditional Models

    Now, the very concept of homework is being disrupted by the advent of the flipped classroom, which involves a teacher’s presentation being delivered outside of class, via a video that students view at home, while class time is used for active problem solving by students (which would traditionally be considered ‘homework’) and one-to-one or small group tutoring with the teacher, says Kari Arfstrom, executive director of the Flipped Learning Network, a national clearinghouse on the method.

    Clintondale High School in the Clintondale (Mich.) Community School District uses flipped learning, which helped students make strides in homework. The district has 75 percent of its students receiving free or reduced-price lunch. And three years ago, the school began transitioning to a flipped model to try to engage a struggling student population. “Homework completion rates were around 30 percent, and kids were struggling when we asked them to practice at home,” says Principal Greg Green. “We decided to look at reversing it, and doing homework in school.”

    Today, Clintondale students complete miniature lessons at home, which could involve watching a presentation, reading, or reviewing information, Green says, but most of the work, such as writing essays and performing math problem sets, is done in class. Students will have a half an hour of work per night on average, Green says, often watching two or three videos that are five to seven minutes long each.

    The results have been positive: The school’s average student failure rate dropped from around 35 percent to under 10 percent since implementing the flipped model, Green says, and state test scores increased in every subject. Attendance went up about 4 percent, now hovering around 94 percent, and the graduation rate increased from 80 to 90 percent. “It’s been quite an evolution here,” Green says, in large part because “teachers are there to offer effective feedback and clarify when students may be struggling. Research tells us we should have kids engaged in rigorous content, have access to technology, and give immediate feedback, and this allows us to give it to them.”


    How Much Is Enough?

    According to a parent guide released by the National PTA and the National Education Association, most educators agree that for K2 students, homework is more effective when it does not exceed 10-20 minutes daily; for students in grades 3-6, 30-60 minutes a day is adequate; and in junior and senior high, the amount of homework will vary by subject, with many district policies stating that high school students should expect about 30 minutes of homework per course. 

    Harris Cooper of Duke University concludes, in an op-ed piece distributed by the Duke University Offce of Communications:

    —Practice assignments improve scores on class tests at all grade levels

    —A little amount of homework may help elementary school students build study habits

    —Homework for junior high students appears to reach the point of diminishing returns after about 90 minutes per night

    —For high school students, homework is effective until between 90 minutes and 2-1/2 hours of homework a night, after which returns diminish.

    It remains diffcult to show causation between increased homework and higher achievement, due to influencing factors such as teacher effectiveness and class participation, researchers say. Most agree that homework should be purposeful, and that more does not translate to better.

    “Busy work turns students off from learning,” says Lynn Fontana, chief academic offcer of Sylvan Learning, a national tutoring chain that provides homework help for pre-K12 students. “If they can see the connection between what they’re doing as homework and what they need to know [for class], they are much more willing to do the homework.”

    Alison DeNisco is staff writer.





    The Equity Issue

    Working around and with the bumpy playing field.


    Alison DeNisco

    District Administration, March 2013

    Some say that homework favors more advantaged students who have access to technology at home and, likely, an engaged parent to help them complete assignments.

    Because of this inequality issue, last fall the French government proposed eliminating homework in elementary and junior high school, arguing that it puts poorer students at a disadvantage. Greg Green, principal of the flipped Clintondale High School in the Clintondale (Mich.) Community School District, agrees, and believes flipped learning provides all students a chance to succeed by doing school work under teacher supervision, and receiving immediate feedback. “It really levels the playing field for kids,” Green says. “Not all students have a support mechanism, when practicing and going through work. We want any student who’s going through the learning process to be with the expert, and understand things before they leave the facility.”

    With at-home assignments that increasingly require technology and internet access, districts must consider options for students who may not have such tools at home. At Clinton- dale, students can use school computers to complete their homework assignments if they lack the resources or a good working environment at home, Green says.

    At Florida Virtual School (FLVS), an online K12 public school, students have access to virtual learning labs in both classrooms and libraries as well, according to Michelle Licata, the 2012 FLVS teacher of the year award recipient. FLVS also implemented a Laptop for Learners program, Licata says, which loans laptops to students in need while they complete their courses.

    Increasing access to smartphones, on which students can do research or watch videos, across socioeconomic classes in recent years is also helping bridge the gap. “There are still concerns around the digital divide. But if you look at reports, we’re seeing that trend on the decline,” says Greg Levin, senior vice president of school solutions for K12, Inc. “It’s definitely not erased, and there are socioeconomically disadvantaged families who maybe don’t have access, but with cell phones, you’re seeing that not be as much of an issue.”



    Tutoring and Homework

    Services adapt to fit 21st-century assignments.


    Alison DeNisco

    District Administration, March 2013

    The changing nature of homework and increased use of technology in assignments have affected tutoring companies and the services they provide. Personalized learning is an increasingly important concept for homework help, says Lynn Fontana, chief academic officer of Sylvan Learning, a national tutoring center chain that provides homework help for pre-K12 students. “The degree to which the adaptive technology and computer technology enable us to meet the needs of students as they are clearly defined is really where everybody is going, including in homework help,” she adds.

    For example, with SmartTutor, a K5 online tutoring system, students take an assessment test to determine their strengths and weaknesses, and each child is then placed into a personalized learning program tailored to his or her specific areas of need to better target homework help. “We go back to where the gap happened, and assign lessons very specifically to that individual student that will bridge that gap, so they can quickly get up to speed,” says Robin Baker, president of SmartTutor.

    Parents often struggle trying to help their children taking higher mathematics, such as algebra and geometry, and these are areas where Sylvan sees the greatest demand for homework help. The company continues to look for better, more systematic ways to support students with after-school assignments. “There’s a huge opportunity to do more than just help students do their homework, to help them understand some of the fundamentals that may be interfering with their ability to do the work on their own,” she says.

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Last Modified on February 19, 2014