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Because someone has to do it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

APR Watch

At this point, while the public waits for the release of the Annual Performance Report, everyone is busy behind the scenes.  Friday will be a busy day for any PR person.

Reporters have the data.  They are getting quotes and talking points from district administrators.  They are creating their graphs and charts.  They are figuring out how MSIP 5 is different from MSIP 4.  On Friday morning, there will be an article in the KC Star and probably the Examiner which compares the area APR results.  Most of the focus will be on Kansas City and whether or not it will be granted provisional accreditation.

The Examiner has an opportunity to do more than parrot talking points.  After Friday, they could really dig into the numbers and figure out what is going on - to some extent - in the district.  Fortunately, Missouri has a rich and public data portal.  Most of the information is there.  Anything else could be obtained by a Freedom of Information request.

A question that will go unasked - at least in the Examiner - is:  how big of a sack of "poo" did Dr. Hinson leave on the doorstep of the new administration?  For any who knows how that game works, you throw the flaming sack away - you don't stomp on it.  So far this year - there has been a lot of stomping on teachers, students and parents.  Hopefully, someone (on the Board perhaps?) will figure out that it is time to intervene before permanent damage is done.

Tick tock.  Tick tock.  Tick tock.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

MSIP 5 Data Release

Here are the administrative memos from DESE which provide the timeline regarding the release of the MSIP 5 data and the District's final Annual Performance Report.

The District will know its final APR on Monday.
The press will receive the data on Tuesday.
DESE will hold a press conference on Thursday.
And the data may be published beginning on Friday, August 23rd.


Dr. Streich named Chief Academic Officer for SMSD

Dr. Ed Streich was recently named the Chief Academic Officer for Shawnee Mission School District.  He will be a member of Dr. Hinson's "cabinet".

Here is the organizational chart for SMSD.  (Got to love SMSD - they put a lot of information out on the web for their patrons.)

Surprise! Another new elementary school needed.

Well, actually, to anyone who has stepped into overcrowded Korte Elementary, the situation is obvious:  a new elementary school is needed in Western Independence.  Parents, teachers, paras, custodians and bus drivers have not needed demographers to tell them that a new school would be needed despite the opening of Matt Abraham Mallinson Elementary.

Of course, Little Blue was built with EXCESS capacity in anticipation of continued building of homes in eastern Independence.  Matt Abraham Mallinson Elementary was anticipated to be at capacity when it opened.  At some point, the parents in Western Independence will begin making their concerns heard more publicly.

There was such a "difficult" time finding appropriate property on which to build Mallinson - we are sure that the next search will be as laborious.  Oh wait.  Isn't there a former Independence administrator who bought the old Rockwood Golf Course for $500,000?  Yeah - Ron Bruh and other undisclosed investors.

When - and seriously there will be no "if" - the District decides to buy Rockwood, we hope that there will be a full and OPEN disclosure of all investors and parties of interest in the property.

Some random thoughts:

How long will Sugar Creek Elementary remain open?  After the residents get to know Matt Abraham Mallinson Elementary, the pain of closing Sugar Creek will be less profound and intense.  Hopefully not - but there are several residents of that community who see this coming.

Isn't it interesting that the new elementary school is referred to as "Mallinson Elementary" rather than "Abraham Mallinson Elementary"?  Why not "Southern" instead of "William Southern"?  Why not "Chrisman" instead of "William Chrisman"?  Yes - there is inconsistency in the District about the naming of schools - but in this case it just seems a little more .... unseemly.  Wouldn't someone want to emphasize that the school is really named after Abraham specifically and not the Mallinson family in general?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Attendance: The New Scarlet Letter

In addition to a new interest in student attendance, each building must post the daily attendance rate of its certificated staff in the front foyer of the building.

Undoubtedly, students learn better when they are taught by their normal teacher - the one that they have developed a good relationship with and knows all the rules and procedures of the classroom.  The content will be more enriching when taught by a content-area expert rather than a substitute teacher - no matter how wonderful that particular substitute may be.

There are a variety of reasons why a teacher may be absent from school on any particular day:
1 - Pulled out for grading or calibrating district assessments.
2 - Pulled out for data talks and examination.
3 - Gone to attend district-approved professional development, sporting events, etc.
4 - Pulled out for collaboration or professional development.
5 - Personal and private reasons related to family or personal health.
6 - Long term sickness or pregnancy.
7 - Medical appointments.
8 - All the reasons listed in Board policy.

Principals will probably receive a report with their schools "ranking" and there will be great pressure to keep your teacher absences as low as possible.  This will probably lead to more "questions" being asked about a teacher's leave -making a staff member feel as if they need to reveal personal or private information to justify their absence.  Buildings with young teachers that take maternity leave will have their number skewed.  Teachers who have chronic illnesses or family members who need extended care may also feel guilty for bringing down the number.

Remember last year at Convocation when Hinson nearly teared up asking us to take care of ourselves and our families first?

Clearly, the District has an interest in making sure that employees are not abusing the sick and personal leave policy.  A healthy HR process would seek out information and attempt to understand why so many employees are using their leave.  Is it burnout?  Is it too much district-sponsored leave?  Is it something else entirely?  Does it depend on the building?  Are there buildings where the absence rate for teachers may indicate a problem with the school climate and leadership?

Whatever the reason, posting the attendance rate - in an apparent attempt to shame the teachers - is not an effective approach.  When employees are treated like adults - they will respond like adults.  When employees are treated like children, they will respond like children.


All the district coaches will be meeting tonight.  Last year's meeting was so inspiring (not), that it will be hard to beat this year.

Win or else will no doubt be the short version.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Beuller? Beuller? Student attendance is a BIG deal.

School attendance is important.  No one will argue about that.  If you are not in school, you are not learning the material.  And certainly, rates of attendance have been part of the Missouri accountability system for schools for many years.  A district like ISD gets the lion's share of its $$ from two sources:  local property taxes (based on assessed valuation) and student attendance (based on average daily attendance).

ISD's attendance numbers have historically been high - mid/low 90%s.  Probably about as good as a school is going to get.  However, if you watched one of Coach Herl's recent videos (and we are too lazy to link), he mentioned that the way average daily attendance is calculated has changed.  District leaders already have the MSIP 5 numbers - and apparently - based on the hubbub about student attendance - the numbers must be less than hoped for.

In the past, each school was evaluated on its average daily attendance for the school-as-a-whole.  There were certain loopholes that we've heard were used extensively in ISD.  Tutoring hours after school could count toward the average daily attendance. Summer school attendance could count as well.  There was a formula to weight these values.

Now, under MSIP 5, more than 90% of all students must attend every class at least 90% of the time.

This is probably the genesis of the new rule at THS that 10-25% of a student's grade must be based on attendance.

MSIP 5 results have been received by the district and will be released to the public at the end of the month.  DESE has a schedule about the release of the data.  (We'll find that and post later.)