Wolcott's Weekly "What's Up"

Office of Teaching and Learning Update 2.3.2014

Quote of Note

Thoughts on Data Usage

While designing a presentation for IL ASCD, I found myself constantly thinking about a statement Tom Hierck made at the Professional Development Center several weeks ago while working with curriculum writing teams... "Data must be used as a flashlight and not a hammer." Although a simple statement, the meaning behind the message can be very powerful.

As I thought about the words, I reflected upon times when I felt I used data most effectively and least effectively. I thought of times when data helped a situation and times when I intentionally or unintentionally used data as a hammer and hurt the situation.

Although I am comfortable now admitting to my mistakes of the past and saying, "my bad", that alone won't move me forward. What will move me forward is using this quote as a constant reminder of the power and pitfalls of data usage in schools.

Some specific feelings around the statement:

  • Data as a flashlight. What is the purpose of a flashlight? The purpose of a flashlight is to make visible that which would not be seen without illumination. Once lightened, we begin questioning the item's existence. Why is that object there? What is it's purpose? Does it help me?, etc. In other words, data shines light on a particular object/subject and a game of 20 questions ensues. This is where I see the power of school based data... the development of questions. Data: 35% of students are not reading at the targeted level. Questions: What does classroom reading instruction look like in that room? Is small group instruction occurring on a consistent basis? Is that small group instruction tailored to student needs or just round-robin reading? Is it a phonics issue? Are students fluent? Do the 35% receive tiered intervention? Is that intervention effective? Are the students coming to school on a consistent basis? The list could go on and on. Again, good data starts the questioning process.
  • Data as a hammer. Wikipedia says the following about hammers: "A hammer is a tool meant to deliver an impact to an object. The most common uses for hammers are to drive nails, fit parts, forge metal and break apart objects. Hammers are often designed for a specific purpose, and vary in their shape and structure. The term hammer is also used for some devices that are designed to deliver blows." The "impact" data can have is very obvious. Teachers, administrators, adults, etc. can feel beat down by data very easily... and we often do. What really "hit" me though when I reflected upon "data as a hammer" is how the hammer can be swung by one to inflict pain upon another or self- inflicted. As a type A person, I often hit myself over the head for less than exemplary data, rather than use that data to illuminate and start the conversation. I see this happening more and more over the years, staff beating themselves over the head for not getting the desired result. What is done is done, inflicting pain doesn't help the situation.


Moral of the story: Be cognizant of the impact data has on staff members and use it to add light to a situation rather than pain to the process.

Spanish Announcements?

Not only do we have self-contained bilingual classrooms in each of our elementary schools, but approximately 24% of our students speak Spanish. These facts led one teacher at our ELL Meeting on Thursday, January 30th to ask, "Should we have a portion of our morning announcements read in Spanish?" I thought this was an awesome question and one for all buildings to seriously consider. Think about it...could your main message each morning be read in Spanish by a student or staff member? Consider how valued our Hispanic students might feel hearing their home language each morning at school. Further, if we truly feel multilingualism is an advantage in the 21st century, does this promote that concept?

PARCC Updates

  1. Parent Letter. State Superintendent Chris Koch will be sending us a letter template to use to inform parents about the upcoming PARCC Field Testing. Once the letter arrives, we will adapt to fit our needs and send home to parents. We expect to send this letter home to parents by February 14th.
  2. Scheduling. Below you will find a link to the scheduling guidelines for the upcoming field tests. Although Chrome is developing an app for PARCC, it is not ready yet. Please plan on using your computer labs for testing if at all possible.
  3. Headphones. We recently spent $8,000 on headphones for the field testing. Headphones required for testing cost about $20 a piece. For field testing we will need to carefully share headphones. Once testing is completed, we will determine a plan foe next year.

Food For Thought

Upcoming Curriculum Writing

February 19th

  • Kindergarten Math (Reps- not entire grade level)
  • Gifted Math (Reps- not all gifted specialists)
  • Elementary Art
  • JJHS Social Studies
  • JJHS Science
  • JJHS Physical Education

February 20th

  • Math Curriculum Writing

Math Parent Letter

A letter went home to District 68 parents regarding the new Common Core Math Curriculum at the end of the first quarter, providing them with an overview of changes this year in the area of math. I have drafted a new letter, borrowing a sentence and some ideas from Lori Cook, author of a chapter in a new book from the Leadership and Learning Center (see below). This letter should be copied and sent home with report cards on Monday at all grade levels.

PS. The letter is currently being translated by Angelica Herrera and will be ready by Wednesday.

Principal "To Do" List

  • Begin planning for February 28th County Institute Day for classroom teachers. Instructional coaches are available to help you if needed.
  • Begin scheduling PARCC Field Testing for selected grades at your school using the PDF document attached above.
  • Continue giving staff permission to take risks and reminding them that failure is ok!

On the Radar

Please keep the following items on your radar to accomplish over the next month or so:

  • Tentative budgeting
  • Class list development
  • Cluster grouping of gifted, ELL and special education students