"Super" Spruce Scoop

Volume 2 Edition 23

Spruce Feeder Pattern Vision

Be the highest performing feeder pattern in Dallas ISD preparing scholars for the 21st Century.

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Leading Change

At a recent professional development opportunity provided by Region X, I was reminded of John P. Kotter's work around leading change. In his book Leading Change, Kotter lists the eight-stage process of leading change. While this book has been out for a while, the ideas are timeless and can be applied to our schools and be just what some of them need to move the needle. The eight-stages he outlines in Leading Change are:

  1. Establish a Sense of Urgency
  2. Create the Guiding Coalition
  3. Developing a Vision and Strategy
  4. Communicating the Change Vision
  5. Empowering Employees for Broad-Based Action
  6. Generating Short-Term Wins
  7. Consolidating Gains and Producing More Change
  8. Anchoring New Approaches in the Culture

When we consider the stages Kotter outlines, we can quickly make connections to our work. For example, we know having a sense of urgency is critical in this juncture of the school year with STAAR / EOC just on the horizon as well as the other STAAR / EOC exams not far down the road. Also, take stage 2, our guiding coalition in schools is the CILT. In some instances, CILT is just getting off the ground at our schools. The campus instructional leadership team is among the most powerful ways to create a vision, develop strategies and build buy-in. While I have briefly touched on two of the stages, it is easy to make strong connections with Kotter's stages and the work we do as leaders.

Good Work!

Throughout my visits in schools this week, I was very pleased with what was observed. I visited B. H. Macon, Gilbert Cuellar Sr., William Blair, Rufus C. Burleson and H. Grady Spruce. Teachers and staff members are exhibiting a commitment to ensuring our scholars are successful through good instruction. Also, I observed several acts of leadership and support such as Ms. Marshall providing small group instruction to students at Burleson as well as Principal Petters' team holding a senior data meeting. We have such a wealth of knowledge and leadership among our team! See pictures and captions below.

Single-Gender Schools

Well, we're doing it! Balch Springs Middle School is teaming up with Fred Florence Middle School to launch single-gender schools beginning in the Fall of 2016-2017. Due to the hard work and planning of many, our students will be afforded an even better learning experience in the very near future. Thank you to our elementary principals who are opening their doors to both middle schools as they work with students to complete choice sheets and share the single-gender vision with parents and students. Having the support from colleagues to connect with parents and students is critical so that strong communication can be made to our future parents and students.

In JIm Collins' book Good to Great, he makes the distinction of how good can be the enemy of great. In thinking about the current middle schools transforming into single-gender schools, the same idea applies. Balch Springs is a good school. However, transforming it into a single-gender middle school will make it great. As you think about your campus, would you categorize it as mediocre, good or great? What would make it great? Maybe becoming a two-way dual language campus would provide the spark to take your campus to the next level. If your school is not getting better, it is...

Marshall Memo - “I’m Just Not a Math Person”

In this Usable Knowledge article from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Leah Shafer explores the all-too-common dynamic of a student struggling with a math problems, giving up, and saying: “I just can’t get this. I’m not a math person.” Of course the idea that there are “math people” and “not math people” is a social construct, says Shafer: “It stems from the belief that math intelligence is a fixed trait, rather than something that grows and develops with hard work and opportunities to learn.” Students who believe they are not “math people” feel outside mathematics – that math doesn’t belong to them, that it’s not useful to interpreting and navigating the world; it’s just something they have to memorize for tests.

The good news is that it’s possible to change a student’s negative attitudes toward math. Some key steps:

Shift from a fixed to a growth mindset. Students can be taught to make this shift – that through determination and hard work they can be good at math.

Create opportunities for cooperative learning. “When students learn from each other by discussing problem-solving strategies,” says Shafer, “they discover new techniques for approaching problems and new attitudes that help them persevere.”

Give students the chance to productively struggle. Rather than simple right/wrong computational problems, teachers should assign meaty problems that invite students to find their own solutions. Teachers should give students enough time to wrestle with problems and try a new approach if they reach a dead end.

Encourage participation, even if the student doesn’t have the right answer yet. “If there’s a threat of being wrong every time I raise my hand, and being wrong is a bad thing, then very quickly I decide math isn’t for me, I don’t like this, I’m not a smart person,” says Noah Heller of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Teachers need to frame wrong answers as opportunities for learning and get students sharing tentative answers without fear of failure.

Re-envision math as a language. Math students should feel they can claim ownership over the language of math in the same way that English language learners claim ownership over English. Math students need to feel they are insiders, able to construct knowledge, and can gain access to skills and tools that will be truly useful in their lives.

“Becoming a Math Person: Why Students Develop an Aversion to Mathematics – and How Teachers Can Help Change Their Minds” by Leah Shafer in Usable Knowledge, January 16, 2016, http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/16/01/becoming-math-person

Events for the Week

  • Monday, February 15 - President's Day
  • Tuesday, February 16 - Middle School Writing PD 2:00 to 5:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday, February 17 - District Principals' Meeting 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, February 18 -
  • Friday, February 19 - End of 4th six weeks

District Principals' Meeting

Wednesday, Feb. 17th, 1-5pm

5151 Samuell Blvd Dallas, TX 75228

Please bring your technology.

Failure Rates

We are closing-in on the end of the fourth-six weeks grading period. This makes us think of many things, including how fast the year is moving. It should remind us of how important it is for our students to experience success and be reflected on report cards. So, please take time to remind your teachers of the importance of helping students be successful in their school work. When students fail, they become defeated and become less motivated. Let's instill the Growth Mindset in our students and staff.