Common Sense

Thomas Jefferson Feeder Pattern News - April 11, 2016

About the Title

Common Sense was a pamphlet authored by Thomas Paine in 1775-76. It was written to inspire American colonists to declare independence from British Rule at the beginning of The Revolution. This weekly, modern, online relative of that pamphlet documents the news, events, updates, and celebrations of the TJ Revolution - the educational sensation sweeping through northwest Dallas.

TJ Feeder Pattern News in Brief

Welcome 2016-17 Jose "Joe" May ES Principal, Israel Rivera

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Joe May Elementary School opens in the Fall of 2016 and will enroll more than 700 students from throughout the community. Mr. Israel Rivera, veteran Dallas ISD administrator, will lead the new campus.

Mr. Rivera currently serves as the Principal of Harrell Budd Elementary School in the Roosevelt Feeder Pattern, where he will continue to serve through the end of the 15-16 school year. Mr. Rivera has led the campus turnaround efforts at Budd for the past 5 years, moving from an "Improvement Required" rating 3 years ago to earning a TEA Distinction for "Student Progress" in 2015.

Please join me in welcoming Mr. Israel Rivera to "Team TJ"!

Thomas Jefferson Collegiate Academy

The Thomas Jefferson Collegiate Academy is now accepting nominations and applications for Fall 2016. Approximately 125 rising 9th graders will be selected to join the first class of TJCA students who will have the opportunity to earn up to 60 college credit hours (for FREE!) and an Associates of Applied Science degree while also earning their high school diploma in only 4 years!

Thomas Jefferson Collegiate Academy will partner with Brookhaven College to offer 3 pathways:

  • Visual Communications
  • Computer Information Technology (Software Program Development)
  • Business Administration

Access the application at

For more information, head to If you have questions, email Ms. Massey, Principal of Thomas Jefferson HS, at

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Evaluating and Planning Effective Professional Development

from Marshall Memo #631...

In this Journal of Staff Development article, professional development expert Thomas Guskey (University of Kentucky) revisits his well-known criteria for assessing professional development experiences:

  • Level 1: Participants’ reactions – Did they like the PD? Did they believe their time was well spent? Did the content and material make sense to them? Were the activities well-planned and meaningful? Was the leader knowledgeable, credible, and helpful? Did they find the information useful? Were the amenities satisfactory? Questionnaires are the best way to gather data on this level of satisfaction.
  • Level 2: Participants’ learning – Did they learn what they came to learn? What new knowledge, skills, attitudes, and dispositions were acquired? Gathering information on this level is a little more difficult than gathering information on the “happiness quotient” at Level 1.
  • Level 3: Organizational support and change – These are key elements that must be in place “back home” for a professional learning experience to bear fruit. For example, if teachers attend a workshop on cooperative learning, master the key principles and practices, and return to their district full of enthusiasm, only to find that their students will be graded on a curve in a highly competitive environment, the PD won’t have much impact.
  • Level 4: Participants’ use of what they learned – Did the new knowledge and skills make a difference in teachers’ professional practice? Data on this question can be gathered only by thoughtful classroom observations in participants’ schools.
  • Level 5: Student learning outcomes – This is the true bottom line: Did the professional learning benefit students in specific, measurable ways? It’s important to look at a broad range of possible outcomes, measured in valid and reliable ways that are linked to the intervention. Data could come from student test scores, performance tasks, grades, student surveys, staff questionnaires, and other measures. Suppose, for example, that students’ test scores went up as a result of changed professional practices – but more students dropped out.

Guskey closes with three important implications from this model for evaluating professional development:

  • Each of the five evaluation levels is important.
  • Tracking effectiveness on one level tells very little about impact at the next level.
  • When planning professional learning, the order of these levels must be reversed. “The most effective professional learning planning begins with clear specification of the student learning outcomes to be achieved,” says Guskey, “and the sources of data that best reflect those outcomes. With those goals articulated, school leaders and teachers then work backward.”

“Gauge Impact with 5 Levels of Data” by Thomas Guskey in Journal of Staff Development, February 2016 (Vol. 37, #1, p. 32-37), no e-link available

Making Good Use of the Final Minutes of Class

from Marshall Memo #631...

In this Chronicle of Higher Education article, James Lang (Assumption College) says he’s observed two things in college classrooms over the years: students starting to pack up their things in the last five minutes (intensely annoying to instructors), and instructors hurriedly covering a few more things. “[M]ost faculty members eye the final minutes of class as an opportunity to cram in eight more points before students exit,” says Lang, “or to say three more things that just occurred to us about the day’s material, or to call out as many reminders as possible about forthcoming deadlines, next week’s exam, or tomorrow’s homework… We’re still trying to teach while students’ minds – and sometimes their bodies – are headed out the door.” Lang suggests using a mixture of these closing techniques over time:

  • The minute paper – The teacher wraps up the formal class a few minutes early and asks students to respond in writing to two questions:

-What was the most important thing you learned today?

-What question still remains in your mind?

The first question gets students thinking about the whole class, making a judgment about something important to them, and articulating it in their own words. The second question asks them to consider what they haven’t understood. “Most of us are infected by what learning theorists call ‘illusions of fluency,’” says Lang, “which means that we believe we have obtained mastery of something when we have not.” To answer the second question, students must dig for any confusion or weakness that remains in their own comprehension of the day’s material. Collecting students’ responses (on paper or in electronic messages) gives instructors valuable information on how well the class went and, if things were unclear for a majority of students, a starting point for the next class. Even if the answers aren’t collected, Lang believes that students benefit from retrieving information about the class from memory and clarifying points of confusion and uncertainty.

  • Closing connections – The instructor finishes class five minutes early and tells students they can leave as soon as they have identified five ways the day’s material appears in contexts outside the classroom – current events, personal experiences, popular songs, debates in the school or college, and so forth. “You’ll be amazed at how quickly they can come up with examples,” says Lang. These might be handed in, jotted on the board, or posted on the course website.
  • The metacognitive five – “We have evidence that students engage in poor study strategies,” says Lang. “Likewise, research shows that most people are plagued by illusions of fluency. The solution on both fronts is better metacognition – that is, a clearer understanding of our own learning.” Once a semester, Lang has his students jot down how they studied for a test they’ve just taken. He follows up by comparing test results with study methods: invariably, effective approaches (like self-testing and flashcards) correlate with higher scores, while less-effective methods (like reviewing notes and re-reading material) correlate with lower scores. “Imagine what a difference we could make,” says Lang, “if we all took five minutes – even just a few times during the semester – to offer students the opportunity to reflect on their learning habits.”
  • Closing the loop – If the class began with questions, put them back up on the screen at the end and have students use what they just learned to answer them. If the class began with a question about students’ prior knowledge on the topic, end by asking students to explain how the class confirmed, enhanced, or contradicted what they knew before.

“We have such a limited amount of time with students,” Lang concludes, “– sometimes just a few hours a week for 12 or 15 weeks. Within that narrow window, five minutes well-spent at the end of class can make a difference.”

“Small Changes in Teaching the Last 5 Minutes of Class” by James Lang in The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 1, 2016 (Vol. LXII, #29, p. A36-37),; Lang’s book on this subject is Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning (Jossey-Bass, 2016); Lang can be reached at

Testing At-A-Glance


4-22--STAAR ALT 2 Assessment Window (3-8 & EOC)

12-15--Student Survey Window (Grades 3-12)

18-19--ES Gym ACP (Grade 4)

18-29--Secondary Band Performance ACP (Grades 6-12)

20-21-ES Music Performance ACP (Grade 3)


9-24--Middle School Gym Performance ACP (Grades 6-8)

16-19--Middle School Art Performance ACP (Grade 7)

2-6--STAAR EOC Algebra I, Biology, US History (9-12)

9--STAAR Math (Grades 3,4,6,7)

9--STAAR Math Re-test (Grades 5 & 8)

10--STAAR Reading (Grades 3,4,6,7)

10--STAAR Reading Re-test (Grades 5 & 8)

11--STAAR Science (Grades 5 & 8)

12--STAAR Social Studies (Grade 8)

2-27--Istation's ISIP Assessment EOY (K-2)

18-26--ACP (Grades 3-5)

27-June 2--ACP (Grades 6-12)

Leadership Quote of the Week

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Week At-A-Glance

Monday, April 11, 2016
  • Student and Staff Holiday (Inclement Weather Day)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

  • Student Survey Administration Window Opens
  • Campus Visits

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

  • Campus Visits

Thursday, April 14, 2016

  • TJ Collegiate Academy Site Team Meeting (Hise) - 7:30-9:00am
  • Campus Visits

Friday, April 15, 2016

  • 5th Six Weeks Ends
  • ED School Leadership Meeting @ Haskell (Hise) 8:15-10:15am
  • Campus Visits