Personal Best Bulletin

Vol III, No. 3 November 14, 2014

Schools to Watch Designation

I have become friendly with a middle school teacher who works in upstate New York through an App called Voxer. I was talking to him recently about a video that I made in the office with Joseph to let parents know information about Back-to-School Night. You can see the video here.


I commented that we should have put the Schools to Watch banner in the background. This teacher said, “You’re crazy, if I had that designation, I would never leave home without that banner. I would wrap myself up and sleep in it at night.” (I have since put hooks in the wall so that I can hang the banner in my office anytime I make a short video. ) When I went to the New York State Middle School Association conference in Verona last month I got similar feedback from people when I spoke to them about our status as a School to Watch. To be designated a School to Watch means that we have implemented with a very high degree of fidelity the Essential Elements of Standards Focused Middle Level Schools and Programs. People who understand middle school know that it is a tremendous accomplishment to have earned this designation because these Elements set an extremely high bar for exemplary practice with these very challenging learners.


Next week we will be privileged to host David Payton and Brian Sherman from the New York State Middle School Association who will visit with us and give us feedback on our program and practices as part of our process to re-designate as a School to Watch. Schools re-designate every three years. David and Brian are expert middle school practitioners with many years of experience as middle level teachers and leaders. If you embrace the growth mindset then nothing facilitates growth better than honest and thorough feedback. So I look forward to aiming high and hearing feedback on what we can do even better!

Best Practice

Michelle Malyniak’s class used Bitstrip to create story sketches using the elements of a narrative she’d taught in class. Bitstrip allows kids to create their own high-quality comic strips. This was a great use of technology to activate student engagement. Students created some terrific stories.

What we do with you students’ questions and their responses are critical to promoting the growth mindset. Diane Stile and Danielle Schwirzbin do such an effective job of validating students’ questions. In a recent observation, when a student gave an incorrect response, they said, “That’s OK, you’re close, I know you’re trying.” They are especially enthusiastic when students ask good questions, “That’s such a good question, I love it.”

Beth Riccuiti differentiated a math lesson so that she could direct instruction to those students who needed particular math examples reviewed. She grouped students according to which math problems they answered incorrectly. Students checked the answer sheet then put an “X” on a chart at the board next to the numbers of the items they got wrong. They reviewed only those problems. Great differentiation strategy.

Resources and Links

Cause that's helpful

A student gave Kerri Schmitt and Michelle Vevante copies of Donald Trump's book autographed by "The Donald" himself. Kid's father is Trump's lawyer. The inscription, "Adam needs to get "A's"; he's going to be my next apprentice." Guess "The Donald" doesn't know about our Standards based Grading Policy.
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