Monday Memo

April 4th - 8th

And then the day came when the risk to remain tight, in a bud, became more painful than the risk it took to blossom. -Elizabeth Appell


I am sorry that I have been out so much. I'm not sure if you are aware, but I had an earache Wednesday morning and by 1:30, my eardrum had ruptured. A week ago, I would have found it hard to believe that I could have felt worse than I did with the flu, however, I now have a new measure of feeling bad. In fact, I went to find my laptop to send out the newsletter and was worried that it had been packed in effort to get the house "show ready". Much to my surprise, it was still in back of my Jeep from when I came home on Wednesday. All that to say, I'm still not feeling well, but I am grateful to at least be making progress and having the energy to send out an abbreviated newsletter.

We are asking everyone to wear a white t-shirt or button down tomorrow. The jeans are optional, but we thought that would be a nice treat. PTA has made this request because they will need to take your picture at some point during the day. While I don't have all of the details, I can share that this photo will be used for something they have planned for us during Teacher Appreciation Week.

As we continue to pray for The Prugh Family, count your blessings and make today count!



Teacher Scales for Reflective Practice

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Easing Into ELM

Common ELM Misconceptions

1. The teacher doesn't teach in a learning model.

On the contrary, the teacher is the most vital aspect of the learning model. Unlike a whole-group, direct-teach classroom where it might be argued that the teacher (as the conveyor of information) could be replaced by a virtual or online solution, in the Engage Learning Model, the teacher role is crucial; there is no substitute for a responsive, highly qualified teacher who understands the standards and the content and can model the Future-Ready Skills every day. The teacher designs standards based, challenging, relevant learning experiences. The teacher reinforces the protocols and models the communication skills, collaboration skills, creativity, and professional ethics that students need to acquire for college and career readiness. The teacher asks questions to guide student thinking and problem-solving in response to observed needs. The teacher provides small group workshops to teach students information essential to the challenge. The teacher evaluates student mastery of the standards on a daily basis and provides valuable feedback. The teacher models and teaches the critical thinking necessary to properly critique student’s research questions, resources, project plans, solutions and processes. Finally, the teacher is the leader of the classroom and creates the systems and the environment that support a successful learning process.

2. The students get a group grade.

While this may be true in some project-based learning models, the Engage! Learning Model is based on individual mastery of the standards. Period. Teachers are trained to both formatively and summatively assess individual student mastery of the standards from day one through the end of every unit. Prior to a unit, students are pre-assessed to determine where each student has individual needs relating to the standards for mastery for this unit. Once the unit is launched, the five Engage! protocols are designed to support that ongoing assessment process and grades are based on student mastery of those standards through evidence in each of the steps of the protocols. For most units, individual student mastery of the standards would already be established prior to creation of a product. If the product is a group effort, a grade for that product or part of that product may be the same, but this grade would only be appropriate if the product demonstrated individual student mastery of the standards for each of the group members. Besides teacher observation, workshops, and practice materials that students complete, teachers provide progress checks throughout a unit to determine individual student mastery of the standards for that unit.

3. One student does all the work.

Once again, this may be true with doing “projects” in some classrooms, but the Engage! Learning Model has structured protocols for teaming, conflict resolution, and interventions when one or more group members are not doing their “part” of the task list. The idea of collaboration is to divide and conquer so that the work is done efficiently and to learn to interact in a productive way with people we may not choose to work with voluntarily (sound familiar?). However, clearly, productive collaboration is not automatic just because students’ desks are turned toward each other. In fact, this skill is one that is very highly prized by employers and reported as rare in employees. (See “Are They Ready to Work, 2006 report or Forbes 2013 “10 Skills Employers Most Want in 20-something Employees.) ELM provides a clear structure for teachers and students to follow as they learn how to collaborate productively. Recently, a high school student in Corpus Christi told her class, “Y’all need to start paying attention to all this collaboration stuff. I got fired this weekend from my job because I can’t get along with others.” In ELM, students can get fired from a group after appropriate interventions and have to complete the unit alone..

4. ELM is doing projects.

PBL may be about doing projects, but the Engage! Learning Model is not about “doing projects”…it is a rigorous learning model. In ELM, students often complain of how much more the model requires of them in terms of critical thinking. One junior high student in an ELM school recently asked his teacher if he could go back to WBL (worksheet-based learning) because he was “having to think too hard” this way. In ELM, teachers design a learning experience based on a real problem (not hypothetical) in the local or global community. They collaborate with business and community leaders who challenge students to assist in solving the problem. Students collaborate to learn the standards as they research and provide solutions to the problem. Sometimes, the problem requires a product as part of the solution. However, the product is a result of a process of learning the standards and applying the knowledge and skills gained in that process to a tangible solution. It is not something that is assigned at the end of a unit. Teachers do not teach all the content in isolation and then give students a project to extend the learning. The challenge is given at the beginning and provides the catalyst for learning the knowledge and skills from the teacher and other resources vetted by the teacher that are aligned to the standards as students conduct research to inform their solutions. All learning is in context so that transfer of knowledge and skills is seamless.

5. The model doesn’t work for math.

This model is a great way for students to learn any content or skill that has relevance in the world. If the content or skill does not have relevance in the world, why would we waste time teaching or learning it? In fact, the most common reason students do not do well in a subject is that they do not understand the relevance, and the Engage! Learning Model makes the application explicit. Therefore, it is crucial that courses where students find challenging to apply and transfer the knowledge and skills, like math, be taught this way if we want students to understand, acquire the skills and be able to retain the knowledge and skills after the test. Does that mean that math in the Engage Learning Model is only “fluff” and that students do not master the standards? Of course, that is not the case. See some of our data here. In fact, students are required to master the standards at the exact level of depth and complexity required in the standards (TEKS) which is sometimes only possible to demonstrate in a real situation like responding to the challenges in the Engage! Learning Model.




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Did you know that each week I give out jeans passes to those who are one of the top three participants on Shoparoo? I know that many of you have already joined, but if you haven't, it is not too late. Simply go to to create your account. If you use veft4467 as a referral code, McGowen will earn money for you just signing up. Please feel free to push this information out to your parents as well. Once you sign up, Shoparoo will give you a referral code for your parents to use when they sign up. Schools with just 40 supporters are earning an average of $1,000 every year.

Congratulations to Donna Fabian and Barbara Peebles for being in this week's top three!


Focus for 2015 - 2016

In order to help every child their personal best, McGowen teachers and staff will:

  • Develop a common language needed to become High Reliability School.
  • Develop an understanding and process for effective Professional Learning Communities.
  • Engage in collaborative team planning and lesson design to promote higher level thinking and student engagement.
  • Present lessons in such a way that students understand and can speak knowledgeably about posted learning and language targets.


Remind for Staff

I have created a Remind for our staff in order to send out just-in-time reminders, last minute notifications of jeans/warm-up days, and/or emergency info. If you haven't already, please click on the link below to join the group.


Happy Birthday!


Vicky O'Brien - 8th

Lori Roof - 8th

Lisa Barton - 22nd



Sylvia - I am so grateful to have you as a partner! Thank you for the amazing job that you did on implementing this first round of STAAR. The amount of prep and planning that goes in to pulling this off is enormous and you always make it look so easy. You are the best! -JL


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McKinney ISD's Vision, Mission and Beliefs

Any time we have an idea, concern, solution and/or comment, this is the filter through which we should speak. Let's help each other live up to our vision, mission, and beliefs.


We are a cohesive, diverse community providing engaging learning experiences for all.

We will provide engaging learning experiences so students can become effective communicators, quality contributors and socially responsible citizens.

  • Partnerships between students, parents, community members and staff are foundational to educational success.
  • Positive school culture and a safe environment foster growth.
  • Everyone has inherent value and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.
  • Learning is an active process requiring engaging tasks and engaging minds.
  • Relevant and authentic experiences ignite continuous, deeper learning.
  • Meaningful relationships enrich learning.
  • Confidence fuels risk taking and higher achievement.
  • Financial stewardship ensures a tomorrow for education.