Friday Focus

December 5, 2014

What does engagement look like in your building?

First of all, I hope everyone had a relaxing and memorable Thanksgiving holiday. It's hard to believe that we have two short weeks til Winter Break. Hang in there...there's light at the end of the tunnel. As I pondered on what to speak about this week, I thought it would be beneficial and timely to review the importance of student engagement, especially being that we just completed the first observation cycle for probationary teachers. While doing focus walks in each of your buildings, it is evident that we have teachers that know how to embrace TM Indicator #9 and involve all learners. Conversely, we have some teachers that may need a little more coaching or encouragement on student engagement. Consider asking these two questions from Dave Burgess, author of Teach Like A Pirate, while conducting observations. 1) "If your students didn't have to be there, would you be teaching in an empty room?" 2) "Do you have any lessons you could sell tickets for?" I challenge you and your team to reflect upon this observation cycle and closely examine Indicator #9 to see if there are any discrepancies or trends that need to be explored or improved upon.

Also, I have attached a recent article from Principal Leadership that you might find interesting. It focuses on student engagement and the principal's role in understanding the components of engagement and how to spot it in teacher instruction.

I hope that everyone has a great day of learning during Early Release Friday!

Have a great weekend,


Central HS will possibly get their own football stadium!

Subtle Reminders

1. TLE: The deadline for career teachers is December 12th. Be sure to review your roster and confirm signatures and observations are finalized. The deadline for the Assistant Principal Rubric is December 19th.

2. Open Out of District transfers become available January 5, 2015

3. The next LDD is scheduled is for Tuesday, January 13, 2015

4. Transfer applications for 2015-2016 Magnet schools/programs close on January 16, 2015

5. The next ILD Team meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, January 21, 2015.

Thank you for sharing Mrs. McAnany

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Demand that students create their own learning...

Michael Towne 2014 Fishman Prize Teaching Video

The 3-minute Teaching Challenge

Michael Towne is a 2014 Fishman Prize winner and physics and engineering teacher in Perris, CA. Today, we’re going inside his classroom (on video, that is) to see what it looks and feels like to be one of Mr. Towne’s students.

Do you think it’s possible to spot good teaching in three minutes? What about great teaching? Do you think you could see enough in three minutes to know that a teacher is exceptional? I do.

Here’s why. Like all exceptional performances, it’s not just about what you see; it’s also about what you don’t see that builds up to what you see. So when we’re looking for great teaching in action, that means looking not at the teacher, but at the kids. What are they saying? What are they doing? How are they doing it?

Let’s test this out, using this three-minute video of Fishman Prize winner Michael Towne in action with his students. In the video, Mr. Towne’s students discuss a simple physics demonstration. Here are three things I see in three minutes that clue me into Mr. Towne’s excellence as a practitioner:

His students do the heavy lifting. Over the course of the three minutes, Mr. Towne gives about 30 seconds of directions. He asks seven very short questions throughout the segment. What you’re not seeing is a teacher doing all the talking, holding students’ hands through every step of the lesson or asking leading questions.

He gives nothing away. Mr. Towne doesn’t nod when students are positing their theories. He never says, “That’s right.” And he never accepts a simple answer without pushing for clarity. He doesn’t tip his hand. He doesn’t own the answer; his students own the question. That’s how we know—even in a short video like this—that Mr. Towne didn’t just get lucky with a room full of model students. He created model students, by demanding that they own their learning.

He pushes them to extend their mastery. At the end of the video, Mr. Towne gives a quick redirect, to point his students toward an extension task. Just when his students think they’ve mastered the content, he identifies an opportunity for them to get that much more out of the lesson.

As we move into the deep end of more rigorous content standards, we have to challenge our definitions of excellent teaching. And we need to see lots of examples of teaching so that we can build a shared understanding of what does and doesn’t meet that high bar. When you watch Mr. Towne and his students in action, what do you see?

Fall SRI Testing 2014

REMEMBER: Each school in the portfolio shall screen 95% of eligible students during each of the SRI screening windows in 2014-2015. The results will be reported by Portfolio Report in Student STAT. Don't forget the next SRI Testing Window is scheduled for February 9-20.
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How are you monitoring instruction and performance during December and January?

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