Common Sense

Thomas Jefferson Feeder Pattern News - January 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

Saldivar School Store

Saldivar ES Scholar Store Open for Business

Saldivar ES teachers and staff created this commercial for students celebrating the opening of the Scholar Store. Students will earn Scholar Dollars for good behavior and displaying good habits of mind that they can redeem for items from the store during the second semester.

Executive Director's Message

Team TJ,

ACP and Climate Survey results are in. They both demonstrate that great progress continues to be made in the TJ Feeder Pattern!

Fall 2015 ACP results indicate that the TJ Feeder exceeded district average in all 6 elementary math assessments! Furthermore, even with a significant population of English Language Learners, TJHS exceeded the district average in English I. The feeder pattern also exceeded district average in all climate survey domains once again, indicating that we have a strong culture in our schools.

Your campus' ACP scores are a reflection of the level of instruction that is going on in your building. Your duty at this time is to take FULL RESPONSIBILITY for your mid-year results by giving KUDOS for outstanding achievement and taking immediate action in the areas in which improvement is needed. One sure way to accomplish this is to observe classroom instruction regularly and to GIVE FEEDBACK to teachers in a timely manner with specific polish points for change and improvement.

Student achievement results are expected to be analyzed this week with your teachers and ACTION PLANS should be created so that you can have a written expectation of what your campus agrees to in order to improve. Utilize parent conferences this week to invest your students' parents in the goals that your teachers and students have set.

Let's begin the second semester strong by setting a strong instructional tone beginning Monday. Here's to a great week of teaching and learning!

Have a great week with students!

Timothy J. Hise

Executive Director, Thomas Jefferson Feeder Pattern

TJ Feeder Literacy Cadre Corner

During Cycle 1, school leaders can expect to see the following moves in literacy teachers' classrooms. A data walk will look for these moves at the end of the third six weeks, but these moves should begin to appear in your classrooms now.

Learning Cycle - Week 1

PLC Focus

  • Three considerations for choosing texts
  • Focus on quantitative measures

Observable Teacher/Student Moves

  • Teachers familiarize themselves with their student’s Lexile levels

  • Teachers find Lexile levels of texts selected for the next 5th six weeks of instruction
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A Teacher Shadows a Struggling High School Student

from Marshall Memo #617

In this Kappan article, Margery Ginsberg (University of Illinois/Chicago) describes how a high-school math teacher observed Ahmed, one of her students, for his morning classes and then followed up with a home visit. Ahmed loves soccer and his dream is to play on the Somali Olympic team. He is in supportive ELL classes and his conversational English is better than that of his mostly Latino classmates, but he continues to struggle with academic work. Each year, teachers have been frustrated with Ahmed’s chronic tardiness, lack of effort, and goofing off and have pushed for him to be evaluated for special education. However, Ahmed’s family won’t allow it – they want him to be strong and work hard to achieve success.

Observing Ahmed in the first three classes of a regular school day, Ahmed’s teacher took careful notes. In the first-period language arts class, the teacher said that it was Valentine’s Day and asked students to read several quotations about love, select one, and draw a visual image of what the quote expressed. At first, Ahmed seemed happy, joking with the other boys, but then he stared at his paper in silence, clearly unsure of his drawing ability. The teacher spoke to him about completing the assignment, but by the time the bell rang, Ahmed had produced virtually nothing. His second-period writing teacher had a similar reading and drawing assignment, and as soon as Ahmed began to make mistakes, he slid lower in his chair, crumpled up his paper, asked for a new one, tried to get another student to draw for him, but was told by the teacher to do his own work. Things didn’t go any better in the third class.

What struck the teacher/observer was how Ahmed managed to stay busy and out of trouble and yet remain disengaged from the learning activity and produce virtually no work. During one 15-minute period, she saw Ahmed organize the papers on his desk, ask to go to the bathroom three times (denied), ask a series of questions (“How many minutes do we have?” “How many words do we need to write?”), open and close his notebook four times, put the date on his paper, stare out the window, stare at the clock, speak Somali with a classmate, stare at the overhead and copy the quotations, ask “We have to write 200 words?”, flip through his notebook, read previous entries, put dates on future papers, look at his watch, talk to the student next to him, ask more questions, and write, “Half way is good enough for me.” She wondered, How can Ahmed stand this day after day? How can he remain so agreeable?

The teacher’s home visit filled out the picture. Ahmed’s family of five boys and six girls is very close, bound together by their Muslim faith. The parents rarely speak about their lives in Somalia and the dangers they escaped. They owned their own home and had a store that sold food and other merchandise, but lost everything when they fled the country. Now they are having financial difficulty – the father can’t work because of a back injury and the mother is incapacitated by diabetes. Ahmed’s education is very important to his parents and they hope he will become a doctor or engineer. As they talk, it becomes apparent that Ahmed has been successful in hiding his academic problems from his parents – they believe despite some skill problems, he’s on track to graduate from high school on time. Ahmed knows this isn’t true and that he’s not in mainstream classes, but he doesn’t want to let his parents down and is intentionally positive (though vague) about what’s going on in school.

The teacher comes away from the shadowing and home visit deeply troubled. How can a student who is enrolled in classes designed specifically to provide extra help learn so little? “In spite of rich life experiences,” says Ginsberg, “the education of immigrant and refugee youth who have not had comparable educational experience in their country of origin is a ticking clock. Once they age out of the school system and are adults, their options for a job that is rewarding and pays a living wage for a family are limited.” Ahmed’s teachers believe the problem is his own lack of motivation, but it’s clearly much deeper. The school is not providing four key elements essential to academic success:

  • Inclusion – A learning environment in which students feel respected by and connected to teachers and classmates;
  • Mindset – Creating or affirming a favorable disposition toward learning through personal and cultural relevance and student choice;
  • Meaning – Creating engaging and challenging learning experiences that include students’ perspectives and values and potentially serve the broader community;
  • Competence – Helping students understand that they are becoming proficient in ways that further their personal goals.

Chastened by this realization, the math teacher resolves to pass along key insights to her colleagues and improve her own classes in several ways: incorporating skills involved in owning a small business; using project-based learning to scaffold Ahmed’s thinking about the uses of mathematical reasoning (perhaps using his interest in soccer); and getting Ahmed doing a self-assessment so he can realistically communicate about his development as a student, especially with his parents. She also plans to suggest questions for other teachers who make visits to the homes of their immigrant students, including:

- What aspects of school has your child enjoyed thus far?

- What do you see as your child’s greatest strengths or skills? Can you tell me about a time when you saw your child demonstrating these skills?

- What are some of the skills, talents, and interests that your family has developed over time?

- At the end of the year, what do you hope your child says about his or her experience in school? What’s the story you hope to hear?

- How and when would you like me to be in touch this year? What would you like me to communicate about?

- What are some of the things that are different in schools in the U.S. and schools in your home country?

- What is something you have learned since coming to the U.S. or moving to the community that you might not have imagined?

- Are there members of your family who were not able to come with you when you moved here and to whom you hope your child will remain close?

- What gives your family strength?

“More than ever,” Ginsberg concludes, “students need teachers who are stewards of deep and respectful learning and who are hopeful and critically curious learners themselves.”

“Shadowing a Student Shows How to Make Learning More Relevant” by Margery Ginsberg in Phi Delta Kappan, December 2015/January 2016 (Vol. 97, #4, p. 26-30),; Ginsberg can be reached at

Making Failure Harder Work than Passing

from Marshall Memo #617

In this Edutopia article, high-school science teacher Angela Campbell says that “Chemistry seems to inspire a ‘D’ mentality. A significant number of students just want to pass the class, meet their graduation requirement, and do it with as little effort as possible… Many students will avoid working hard in a class that they see as challenging because of the risk involved. If they work hard and fail, then they’ve proven their inadequacy. But if they don’t work hard and manage to get a ‘D,’ then their pride remains intact and they haven’t lost anything. That’s the reason why, in my class, I make failing harder work than passing.”

That’s how Evelyn, a junior in her class, boosted her grade from 60 percent to 85. As the course began, Evelyn didn’t see chemistry as relevant to her present or future life, kept her head low in class, was absent one day a week, and aspired to scrape by with a D. How was this girl transformed to sitting in the front row, volunteering to solve problems, working hard, taking risks, and showing real annoyance when she didn’t get an A? Here’s Campbell’s method:

  • Clear objectives – She presents students with a concise list of “I can” learning objectives up front. In a unit on dimensional analysis of the mole, here’s what it looks like:

- I can identify the mole as the unit used to count particles, and use Avogadro’s number to convert between moles and particles.

- I can calculate the molar mass of an element or compound.

- I can perform molar conversions.

  • Guided practice Each of these objectives has do-able work activities and formative assessments (homework, quizzes, or labs) that count for very little in the overall grade. “The point of these assessments is to give kids a lot of practice with the material in a low-risk environment,” says Campbell, “and to provide feedback on their progress toward mastering the objectives.”
  • Checks for understanding – After a period of guided practice, students take a short assessment, get feedback, and review for the summative assessment, which carries the most weight in final grades. This puts the incentive on understanding the material and preparing for the type of question that the final test will contain.
  • Summative assessments The passing grade on these is 70 percent, and students who don’t clear the bar get feedback on which items they didn’t master, an “intervention worksheet” to get them up to speed, and are required to take the assessment again.
  • Differentiation and incentives All students can shoot for a higher percentage on summative assessments, and Campbell reports that a significant number of students who scored in the 70-89 range choose to study the intervention worksheets to retake the test. “Students who are content to score at or below 60 percent are faced with extra work that they would not have to do if they were scoring just ten points higher,” she says. “The cycle helps students begin to understand that, if they can do the work required to get 70 percent, it’s not much more work to get an even higher grade. And the progress is addictive.”

Campbell creates her own tests, quizzes, test maps, intervention worksheets, homework assignments, and labs, using state tests as a guide for rigor and content. “I do all of the grading and fill out the test maps by hand,” she says. “It’s time-consuming, and I have to take work home with me every single day. I do my grading while my own children do their homework.” But she says her students’ results make it all worthwhile.

“Making Failure Harder Work Than Passing” by Angela Campbell in Edutopia, September 30, 2015,

Resources to Assist with Preparation for Parent/Teacher Conferences

Leadership Quote of the Week

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Week At-A-Glance

Monday, January 11, 2016
  • Tier 1 School RLA CIC Training with T&L @ Buckner (8am-4pm)
  • Cigarroa ES - Mid-Year Review (8-10am)
  • Polk ES - Mid-Year Review (10:30am-12:30pm)
  • AP Focus Group @ Haskell (4-6pm)
  • High School Parent Conference Night (4-8pm)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

  • ED Meeting @ Haskell (8:30-10:30am)
  • Unannounced Campus Visits
  • Middle School Parent Conference Night (4-8pm)
  • Mandatory Naviance Training for MS and HS Counselors @ Buckner Building

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

  • Unannounced Campus Visits
  • Mandatory Naviance Training for MS and HS Counselors @ Buckner Building
  • TEI Campus Expert Meeting @ Foster ES (4:45-5:45pm)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

  • Tier 1 & 2 School Math/Science CIC Training w/ T&L @ Buckner (8am-4pm)
  • Feeder Pattern Customer Service Training @ Admin Bldg. Auditorium (10-11am)
  • Elementary Parent Conference Night (4-8pm)

Friday, January 15, 2016

  • Unannounced Campus Visits