Monday, November 29, 2010

Grades: The letter doesn't tell the story.

A colleague of mine challenged me today and asked me:

"How would you feel, Mr. Administrator, if a teacher in your building had 10 D's/F's?" (out of a team of 100 students)

After a long pause, surprised by the question, my response was: "Where did they start?  Are they ready for this content?  Are they finished learning?"

(A little background here:  I am a 6th grade teacher and I am a proponent of standards-based grading and use it daily in my classroom.  A D/F is reported based on student knowledge of specific content or objectives scoring at the beginning level of a rubric.)

Where did we start?

Considering the gain in students is so much more important to me than the final product shown on the report cards.  Although every teacher and school is evaluated by the standardized assessment and the final product on the report card, considering where a student began and charting student growth throughout the quarter is what is so important to me.  Seeing these students as "D/F students" is missing the point.

Understanding a few things about them is key: (Isn't this indicative of every student?)

1.  They each came in to my room with a very different starting point than other students.

2.  They each have VERY different needs.

3.  They each have shown tremendous growth.

4.  They each are receiving VERY different services and interventions, none of which support my content.

5.  They are all wonderful, motivated, and successful students at what they do.  It's a shame they are all measured by the same stick.

6.  Grouping them as a D/F student right now is a disservice to them.

Bottom line, have these student's shown growth...Yes!

Is it as much as I would have liked, No...But we aren't finished....

The beauty of SBG

That's the beauty of standards-based grading.  We're not finished yet so there is ample time to make that D or F (the beginning range of our rubric scale) higher.  The most important question is not, how would I feel about it as an administrator, the more important questions are.....

True differentiation

1.  What am I doing about it as a teacher to continue to care for and nurture learning in my classroom to continue to see growth through the last three weeks of the quarter?

2.  How can I connect with these 10 (and the other 90) students to propel their learning past the beginning stages?

3.  What support can I ask for outside of my classroom to make the gains necessary in these students, while of course, never losing sight of the other 90?

4.  What tools can I tap into to personalize their learning?

Let the last three weeks of 2nd quarter continue...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Is it really a problem?

Isn't your job hard enough?  Why do you continue to make it harder on yourself by stressing out about the things that happen during your day?

Do me a favor, the next time something "bad" happens, ask yourself:

Is this a problem, a constraint, or an opportunity?

The next time someone says something can't be done, ask yourself: what's the problem, are there constraints, is there an opportunity to think differently about something?

The trick to great leadership is recognizing the difference.

In a recent post from Seth Godin (yes I read him a lot) and he talks about problems and constraints.  I'd like to also propose another option: opportunity.

Seth defines both for us:  

A problem is solvable.  There is a solution to every problem.  Even though every solution may not be the best, or is feasible, there is always a solution.  A solution has to be made in the light of what's best for that specific student.  As we know, not all solutions are the same for all students (and in my opinion all solutions should be made after a progression of collection of data through a response to intervention process).

A constraint is something to be lived with.  Gravity is a constraint.  It is inevitable, it is something that cannot be avoided.  Like the one student in your class that causes the most trouble, he/she wil never be absent.  Like a student with inconsistent parenting, the bottom line is you have to take that parenting issue out of your conversation, that is something that you cannot control and you can only do whats best for the student between the hours of 8-3 (or whatever your school day is).

I'd like to add.....the opportunity!

An opportunity is something that can (and should) be improved.  (I always struggle using the word "should" because really, who am I to say.)  Things around your school building are broken (see my blog post on things that are broken, and also enjoy the This is Broken website).  Every chance you get to make improvements in your classroom, school, facility, or environment as a leader we can capitalize on that opportunity.  I try to find one thing each day to make better.

When faced with an obstacle, Identify it.  Is it a probelm, a constraint, or an opportunity?  

One of my favorite quotes of all time is, "If someone says it cannot be done, then they should not interrupt someone who is doing it."  I know this quote is a tad bit audacious and a little arrogant but I love it.  I love it becasue it reminds me to always evaluate the situations in front of me, see them for what they are, and seek to overcome them, live with them, or improve them.

As leaders we can use this evaluation method to alleviate stress and move our organization forward.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Edublog Awards

Edublog nominations just came out today, directions to nominate others are found here:

Here are my nominations:

Best individual tweeter: @justintarte
Best new blog: Wm Chamberlain
Best resource sharing blog: Richard Byrne
Best school administrator blog: Robert Dillon
Best educational use of a social network: Connected Principals
Lifetime achievement: @kylepace,

Friday, November 19, 2010

5 for Friday 11/19/10

Here's the best of what I found this week through twitter (@cmcgee200) and through my google reader.

Tools to become a tech savvy educator

Ten Top Technology Tools for Teachers

12 Fun hacks for getting more out of Youtube

Better teaching can help shrink achievement gap between black and white students

web 2.0 project ideas  (replace your old projects with 21st century projects)

Video of the week:

Love letter to Albuquerque schools

Thursday, November 18, 2010

6th graders commenting on student work

Continuing the work of my students to try and integrate 21st century skills into the reading classroom I wanted to have student comment on other student's work.  I did this through a reading strategy we typically cover call "Reading a Graph."

Please, comment on how students did commenting on their peers work.  Give them tips, help us grow in our 21st century skills.

Lesson Plan

  • Introduce reading a graph
  • Practice reading a graph
  • Give feedback on student performance
  • Search and find graphs online that students can relate to
  • Have students publicly document what they learned from the graph itself (reading strategy)
  • Teach students how to comment and what make a "good" comment
  • Allow time for students to comment on student work.


Evidence of student work

Student name:Gabi
Graph URL:
What did I learn:When you tell your friend there breath stinks most people breath in your face more.
Comment/By whom?Good job, this is a vary funny graph and that most people breath in your face if you tell them there breath stinks. Ivan
Comment/By whom?Hey Gabi! I like your graph. It’s a fun way to know strange things like that. Here are some more graphs like that (click the link).

- Bridget

Student name:Ivan
Graph URL:
What did I learn:what part of the body someone gets hurt and how many people hurt that part of there body in skiing
Comment/By whom?                                            avery:: I like your graph. I did something simalar to yours. check mine out!
Comment/By whom?I really like this ivan because of how it really show’s what injury’s happen in the type of sports like skiing cause that is a really dangerous sport. -james

Student name:Katie
Graph URL:
What did I learn:I learned what the top ways that people die are.
Comment/By whom?Katie, I like your graph. It’s interesting to see that tobacco really IS bad for us. Here’s a link to Unusual Ways People die.

- Bridget
Comment/By whom?Katie that is very bad that tobacco takes a chunk of 6 out of 8 leading killer diseases are in tobacco. My grandpa smoked for 42 years or 35 I can’t remember but then my grandpa quit & got on the plane to visit me but then he died of lung cancer Kennan.

Graph URL:
What did I learn:that black is the most popular hair color and red is the last popular hair color
Comment/By whom?I think blond hair and black hair would be a very popular hair color but I think that something like purple or green would have a lower percentage than red. I think it’s too bad those colors aren’t on the graph. -Alison
Comment/By whom?I agree because lots of people like to have blond hair but then i would also think that different colors of hair would be a popular color like purple or green because it’s a different way to express them selves in lots of different ways. -James

Graph URL:rickrolling.com_uv_460.png
What did I learn:Hi Mr. Mcgee, In this graph it told me about the number of people that got rickroll’d in late 2009 and early 2010.  In december 09 only around 100 people got rickrolled and in mid april 2010, 4 thousand people got rickroll’d
Comment/By whom?
Comment/By whom?

Student name:James C.
Graph URL:
What did I learn:I learned that 75% of teachers allow there kid’s to have cell phones while in class. I also learned that 81% of teachers do not allow cell phones while in class but are aloud to bring them. lastly i learned 43% of kid’s make and revive calls in class as well as texting. I think we should really put a stop to this and teach kids not to text but pay attetion.
Comment/By whom?I leave my phone in my pocket all the time, but i rarely text during class. I do agree that kids should pay more attention. Link to how many kids have cell phones age 6-11 link right there---->,M-I-236682-13.gif-Kaleb
Comment/By whom?I am very surprised that only 24% cant have a cell phone at all in school. I thought more schools would not allow them. It reminded me of the infograph we read at the begining of the quarter. I found that pretty cool and interesting. Thanks for sharing.

Student name:Gillian
Graph URL:
What did I learn:In this graph I learned how kids get to school and what was the number one transportation.
Comment/By whom?Gillian: That is really cool. I ride the bus so it is easy for me to understand why that one has the most amount of people going to school. I don’t understand the fact that more people don’t drive to school.
Comment/By whom?It’s very interesting how more people get to school by a bus than any over way listed. I never knew that. Looks like I learned something today.

Student name:Carlow
Graph URL:
What did I learn:It tells me about the amount of books issued each year.
Comment/By whom?hey Carlow it is Naomi. i like your graph.
your graph reminds me that i love books. Once i read 93 books in one summer.

here is a link to another graph like yours.
Comment/By whom?I thought that it was interesting that around 3,000 books are issued in 2006.  
heres another book graph

Student name:Kaleb
Graph URL:

What did I learn:I’m not the only one who stares at the toaster waiting for it to pop.
Comment/By whom?I learned that really everybody just sits and waits for their toast I also found a good graph -Lauryn
Comment/By whom?Kaleb: That was really cool. I thought that I was the only person that stared at the toaster.  I learned that most people just wait for thier toast to pop.

Student name:Alison
Graph URL:
What did I learn:Native Americans make 7.9% of homeless.
Comment/By whom?I really liked the graph and i learned a lot from it. Is that out of 100%? If so, I would of guessed they would have a lower percent. -Izzy
Comment/By whom?

Student name:Tyler
Graph URL:potatobar.jpg
What did I learn:I learned that most kids eat french fries instead of anything else that you can make out of patatos and the least amount of kids eat baked patatos
Comment/By whom?Tyler
That is interesting because I love baked potatoes and mashed potatoes. I think I like them better than fries but I still love fries. It is a very interesting for me to know because potatoes are my favorite food. Thanks for sharing.
Gabi B
Comment/By whom?Good job Tyler that is a vary interesting graph , and this proves that people eat way to much french fries and should cut back on them and eat more healthy things, I myself do not like french fries because they are to salty.   

Student name:Carter
Graph URL:
What did I learn:We use the most Electricity in January, July, and August and the last amount of energy was from Apr.
Comment/By whom?That’s interesting  i guess it’s because some people use gas to warm their houses. I wonder what the chart would be like just for my house.-Kaleb
Comment/By whom?I thought that it was interesting that electricity is mostly used in July. Maybe it is because there is no school and kids use allot of electricity.  -Katie. I thought in Jan people would use alot of electricity because they need to heat their home because it’s freazing in Jan. Kennan Kolenda.

Student name:Kevin
Graph URL:
What did I learn:
  • Approximately 70 percent of all dog bites involve children.
  • Almost 50 percent of all children are bitten by age 18.

Comment/By whom?In your graph when it said 585,000 dog bite wounds require medical care each year I was really surprised. I didn’t think that dog bites even required hospital attention let alone 585,000. Thanks Kevin for showing me this interesting information. -Izzy
Comment/By whom?I strongly disagree that dogs bite more than cats because i’ve been bitten by my cat like 1000 times and so yeah.

~ Jimmy

Student name:James K.
Graph URL:
What did I learn:I learned that boys bully more than girls do.
Comment/By whom?it is Naomi
its strange to think that boys bully more then girls. because i bully my brother all the time. so i really don’t think that that is true, but i like it. we are in 6th grade and it is about the same. so if i bully someone here(which i won’t) that number will change.
Comment/By whom?This is Gillian and i can not believe that boys bully more because i have seen more girls bully than boys in middle school.

Student name:Bridget
Graph URL:
What did I learn:I learned that out of all the time you use to eat an orange, you use more than half of that time to prepare it so you can actually eat it.
Comment/By whom?Wow that’s crazy, except my brothers tack way longer pealing, don’t pick off the white stuff and scarf it down in about 5 seconds. ~Sabrina here is how to peel a orange video.       ~Sabrina
Comment/By whom?I think it is funny that you take more time peeling a Orange than you do eating it. If I was you ,I would just eat Mandarin Oranges already peeled because they taste the same as Oranges and you can spend more time eating than peeling.

~ Jimmy

I learned the leading causes of death for children ages 1-14 years of age. The leading cause is unintentional injury.
Student name:Avery
Graph URL:
What did I learn:I learned what sports you get injured the most
Comment/By whom?you should include what sport it is. but thats cool any way.=) from scott.
Comment/By whom?It scares me that injuries are more likely in basketball than in any other sport considering that is my main sport. I also noticed that even though there is no contact in running/jogging that is the second most likely sport to get hurt I also found a graph about concussion. -Lauryn

Student name:Lauryn
Graph URL:    
What did I learn:I learned that almost half the people around the world think that the Heat is more Dwayne Wade’s team than Lebron James’. Also 17% of the world think it is Chris Bosh,Lebron James, and Dwayne Wade’s team.
Comment/By whom?
Comment/By whom?

Graph URL:://
What did I learn:
Comment/By whom?Isaac is strange that 10.6 children get a(n) unintentional injury from the year 1-4 and 6.3 from the years 5-14
Carter I.
Comment/By whom?

Student name:Scott
Graph URL:
What did I learn:most deaths are unintentional.
Comment/By whom?avery I think your graph was instesting I was surprized that 500.000 people die each year because of suicide.
Comment/By whom? That is weird how there are more unintentional than homicide deaths. And that there are more suicides than homicide, I thought that there were more homicide deaths than suicide and unintentional combined.
Carter I.

Student name:Izzy
Graph URL:  
What did I learn:I learned that the average weight for a 12 year old is 82 pounds.
Comment/By whom?I’m 12 and I think I’m a little over that. But not by much. ~Miranda Hi it is gillian and i can not believe that the weight of an 6 year old is 45 pounds. I think I might do some research.
Comment/By whom?My little brother is 5 and he is definitely more then 45 pounds. ~ Sabrina

Student name:Sabrina
Graph URL:
What did I learn:I learned protean is usually a subside.
Comment/By whom?My mom makes chicken sometimes, but it is a subside. Same with the veggies. ~Miranda
Comment/By whom?I thought that graph was very interesting. It showed me a lot,and now I know that Protien is mostly a subside. I think you did great and keep up the good work! Tyler Hawkins here’s some more stuff about protien.

Student name:Miranda
Graph URL:
What did I learn:I learned that 0-36 months old, kids watch violent shows.
Comment/By whom?that is very supprising.from scott
Comment/By whom?That’s strange since they are only 3 years at oldest. I guess that’s where my cousin got such a bad mouth since he watches a lot of TV. -Alison