Monthly Archives: May 2014

“Food for Thought” Served Up By A Reader…

A reader recently floated an idea in the comments section, and backed it up with solid research from the University of Maine.  Whatever your views, we need more of this sort of thinking!  Many thanks to our featured reader and to others I hope will follow with other innovative ideas to optimize opportunity for kids with the resources at hand.

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Skier1996 | May 30, 2014 at 12:56 pm | Reply | Edit
If we are really looking to save money, why don’t we work on implementing a four day school week. That is 35 whole days in a year in which the building would not have to be heated, lunch would not have to be served, lights would not have to be on, a janitor would not have to clean, and buses wouldn’t have to run. These are just a few ways in which it would save. This would save our district a lot of money annually and it would not require consolidation. Plus that would be better for students and staff. Just some food for thought. http://www2.umaine.edu/mepri/sites/default/files/CEPARE%20Brief%20on%20the%204-day%20school%20week%202.10.pdf

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Maine Schools Get More Time To Comply With Proficiency Based Standards via MPBN

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Listen to the full MPBN segment:  Maine Schools Given More Time To Implement Standards-Based Education

Study: Despite claims, many textbooks not aligned to Common Core

“Don’t spend your money until [instructional materials] arrive that actually fully line up” with the new standards, Mr. Schmidt said he advises districts.

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/03/05/23textbooks_ep.h33.html?cmp=SOC-SHR-FB&fb_action_ids=10202226679648084&fb_action_types=og.likes

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“It is a shame that all these snake-oil salesmen” say textbooks are aligned with the Common Core, Schmidt said of publishers.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt did not return calls seeking comment. Polikoff also analyzed enVisionMATH, published by Pearson, and Math Connects, from MacMillan/McGraw Hill.

Brian Belardi, a spokesman for MacMillan/McGraw Hill, said of the research, “In some sense, its not terribly surprising.”When the Common Core was pitched in 2010, Belardi says they worked quickly to put out a book, resulting in Math Connects. They’ve since developed another book that Belardi says is fully aligned. He said he was not aware why Math Connects was marketed as such.”We did the best we could under the time frame.”

via Study: Despite claims, many textbooks not aligned to Common Core | Tampa Bay Times.

 

What is wrong with our schools? | Rethinking Education

What a timely piece by Kathreen Harrison, who answers this question so perfectly for our own policymakers.

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“The simple answer to ‘what is wrong with our schools’ is to be found not in studies about brain research, analyses of how to configure schools, or debates about curriculum – the simple answer is to be found in the serious dysfunction with which many schools and school districts are run.  A few examples?

~Teachers who are given continuing contracts despite overwhelming negative feedback from parents, students, and other teachers.

~School boards that vote to change educational programming for the sole purpose of reducing taxes and without evaluating impact on student outcomes.

~Hierarchical decision-making that excludes input from specialists on the teaching staff.

~Failure to collect feedback from teachers on administrative performance.

~If we are to improve student educational outcomes we need to start with addressing what is most obviously ‘wrong with our schools.’”

Read the original post:  What is wrong with our schools? | Rethinking Education.

A Look At the RSU #50 Budget

“Where is the money?”, tops the list of ‘most asked questions’.  It deserves answers, don’t you think?  …and not from me, necessarily — I am sure there is quite a bit I miss.  So, here is the Annual Report and Proposed Budget for FY 2015.  Please read it carefully, and, perhaps improve it!  They’re your children, your schools and your tax dollars…Learning-How-to-Living-on-a-Budget

Line items that are the most vital to students are also, sadly, the most visible and vulnerable to those wielding the budget ax.  While less important things consume precious tax dollars in relative obscurity.

Taking leave from my habit of posting figures without comment, I feel compelled to point out a couple of things about the budget, that, as a parent, I find troubling.

For example, plans to “upgrade” to new Common-Core aligned versions of curricula:  Publishers, including those used by this district, have come under fire by researchers  for slapping “Common Core” stickers on old material that is not aligned at all, in their haste to claim premium market share and YOUR dollars.  I am not alone in urging the Board to exercise the utmost caution, and bring the expertise of our teachers themselves into the fore of the alignment process.  In high-performing districts, teachers retain a high degree of autonomy… Researcher and Common Core supporter William Schmidt urges Boards to spend their money only when material is fully aligned.  More on that in a subsequent post, but here is a start:  Washington Post “Are Math Textbooks Ready for Common Core?”

In another area, concerns have been raised about the amount of teacher time and money increasingly claimed by rather expensive Marzano programs and workshops.  I can only speak for myself, but this is the closest thing to peer-review I am able to find.   I wholeheartedly support teachers and expenditures toward their professional development, through reputable channels, are worthy investments.  After speaking with teachers in other, high-performing districts, I increasingly share other parents’ concerns.  Purchasing expertise, in general, be it programs or consultants, especially to supplant that of the bright, educated people already in our employ, is a point of contention.

So, without further ado, here is the budget as accepted by the Board.  How does it line up with YOUR priorities?  What would you cut?  What do you like and want to retain?

RSU 50 Annual Report with the Proposed Budget Information for FY15

 

 

 

 

 

..an Invitation to Join Representative Rick Long to Discuss RSU Concerns

 

“Anyone interested in withdrawal from RSU 50 is invited to join us for an informational meeting with Representative Rick Long at the Sherman Town Office tomorrow night (Wed.) at 6:00. We apologize for the short notice, but hope you can attend or know someone else that could. Please help us spread the word!”

See you there!

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Our children, our tax dollars, our schools…”

 

 

 

 

Teachers Need a Seat at the Table | Rethinking Education

there_is_an_apple_on_the_table-1“…schools that include teachers as equal players are the ones that soar above the others in terms of student achievement. Those are the schools where teachers love to work, where they are energized, hopeful that they can meet the needs of their students, not just devoted to them but confident that what they do will make a difference…” ~Kathreen Harrison

 

via Teachers Need a Seat at the Table | Rethinking Education.

Katahdin Schools/RSU 50 Budget: Concerns & Questions

 Timbered Classrooms is proud to welcome a VERY popular community author back to the fold.  On any well-run Board, these questions would surely be answered; in any healthy, civic-minded community, there would be a reckoning if they were not…

Cougar-EyesAs we approach the big budget meeting, I think back over the last two years and realize how much of a disconnect there is between parents and administration, the superintendent, and the RSU 50 board.  A good education should have parental involvement and ideas, after all who knows best for their children, their parents.  I have a list of questions for the people to think about as you prepare to vote for this monstrosity of a budget, which will raise our taxes, and I see no benefit for our students. 

  1. Why does the superintendent take a raise and ask our towns to give more money?  Why does the board agree to this?  Why did we waste money on Great Schools Partnership? To further the agenda?  Why are we told we saved money by joining the RSU when it is not true?
  2. Why does the board agree with whatever the superintendent wants?  Aren’t you supposed to represent your towns and kids?

  3.  Why would the board and the superintendent want to consolidate our schools into one and send them to Southern Aroostook?

  4.  Why would you want our children to have to ride on a bus that long? How much money would that cost?

  5.  Why would you want to take our schools out of the community?

  6.  What does taking schools out of our community do to our local businesses?

  7.  Why don’t you think you have to answer people’s questions?

  8.  Why have you let the buildings fall into disrepair?  They are not old.

  9.  Why would you even consider building a new school, which our communities cannot afford?

  10.  Why aren’t you transparent with what you want to do with our schools?

  11.  Why did Katahdin roll out Standards based Grading this year for freshman with no preparation and little communication with the parents, when you did not have to?

  12.  What would ever make you think sending out a 42 page report card to freshman parents is a good thing?  What does it tell people?

  13.  When parents have concerns about a science teacher at the high school, why are they not listened to?  Why did she expect the freshman to do the same science fair project, not being able to take it home, not enough time or direction? Why would she cook at school for the kids?  Teaching?

  14.  Why do kids get to take tests over? What does this teach our kids about working hard?

  15.  Why aren’t kids graded on their homework in some classes?

  16.  Why are teachers out for training during the school year?  How does this help our kids?

  17.  Why is the communication so poor from administration?

  18.  Why are all kids put in the same educational box?  Why don’t you offer AP courses, online classes?  Why can’t we bring shop, welding, drafting, culinary, automotive, and childcare  back to Katahdin?

  19.  Why do you apologize to the freshman for their limited course offering?

  20.  Why did we spend so much money on a math curriculum that is has been ineffective for 10 years?  If it was so great, why are this year’s freshman and next year’s taking math everyday when there is block scheduling?

  21.  Why do we use declining enrollment as an excuse to consolidate?

  22.  Why does administration nitpick at the high school for foolish reasons? Why can’t boys play touch football at lunch to burn off some energy?  Perhaps it would help them focus better in the afternoon?  Why do we pick foolish areas in which to discipline, and not concentrate on education?

  23.  Why did you waste money on iPads that are toys, which are used for games and non educational purposes?

  24.  Why are you afraid of kids opinions?

  25.  Why can’t we educate our students cheaper?  Why not cut the budget in half?

These are some of the questions that bear thinking about as we approach the budget.  I think we deserve answers.  Will we get any?

 

 

As School Budgeting Season Heats Up Remember the Crucial Middle School Years | Rethinking Education

Kathreen Harrison’s advice for Board members is pure gold, especially as they contemplate (or march toward!) school closure… Our gratitude to Kathreen Harrison for sharing her wisdom in “Rethinking Education”, and, YOU! …our readers for sharing, and discussing it with your Board representative….

“…Student achievement at the eighth grade level in higher poverty schools is better statewide in K – 8 schools than in middle schools. This is particularly true of K – 8 schools with a sizable percentage of teachers holding master’s degrees.

The data about K – 8 schools should impact school board discussions about merging, closing, and consolidating schools. Before school boards move to close any community schools they should be prepared to explain to their stakeholders why student achievement in the case of their particular schools will not suffer….”

Timbered Classrooms...

frenchgirlbyrichardvanek “…high poverty K – 8 schools seem to be doing a better job of educating their older students than high poverty middle schools. Student achievement at the eighth grade level in higher poverty schools is better statewide in K – 8 schools than in middle schools. This is particularly true of K – 8 schools with a sizable percentage of teachers holding master’s degrees.

The data about K – 8 schools should impact school board discussions about merging, closing, and consolidating schools. Before school boards move to close any community schools they should be prepared to explain to their stakeholders why student achievement in the case of their particular schools will not suffer.

Overall in Maine the trend is for achievement in students in higher poverty schools to begin to decline after the elementary school years. The middle school years, in other words, are the vulnerable point in our system.

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KMHS Concert Tonight

KMHS Concert Tonight

See you there – 6:30#!

 

(No, not 6:30 “hashtag” – 6:30 SHARP 🙂

Cougar News Update, Including Maine DOE Report Card Analysis

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“…Mrs. Marquis and I had a successful evening with parents of 8th graders. We talked with parents and students about what to expect in high school along with the many changes for the class of 2018. One change will be for freshman to have math and English every day, so their class choices are at a minimum. Sorry Freshman🙂 “… ~KMHS Principal Eryn Schmidt

So, “minimal class choices” are “successful” when served up with a smiley face emoticon…. …even if it did only show up in its current form after I cut and pasted the colon/parenthesis into WordPress…. Why?

And so ends this “Monday Moment of Sarcasm”.  We now return to our regularly scheduled programming, with the “Cougar News” May 19th edition:

 Cougar News May 19

 

 

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Education; An Intensely Human Endeavor…

Education; An Intensely Human Endeavor...

Report Cards Deserve an “F”

And now, but some thoughtful and astute perspective on the Maine DOE’s education report cards https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2014/05/15/mdoe-report-cards/

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images-1Yesterday schools in our state (Maine) were given their grades by our department of education.  Under our current governor’s administration, a brilliant idea was cooked up to grade our schools on an A to F system.  According to our DOE website.  “All parents and community members deserve to understand how well their children’s schools are performing and what is being done to improve them.”  So all of the intense work, strategic planning, collaboration, intervention and effort of a school gets boiled down to one alphabetic symbol to represent some of the most complex work you can imagine. For most parents and community members their understanding of grades will overshadow any and all explanations of the process or analysis of the data.  A=good, everything else =not good enough.  For the staff who dedicate their lives to the children in their buildings, it minimizes and devalues effort, persistence, and commitment…

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Should our taxes pay for arts education in school? | Rethinking Education

…a wonderful, timely reminder of what real, child-centered priorities look like by Kathreen Harrison!

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“…In this world that seems to incline more and more toward standardization we should remember the benefits of project-based learning and artistic expression and we should remember that school subjects are best learned intertwined. The old labels of ‘core subjects’ and ‘specials’ are outdated. A complete education demands the benefits of all disciplines, academic and otherwise.

And when we work with children – and this is key to facilitating successful learning – a sense of joy should permeate the process – the kind of joy that usually accompanies artistic enterprise. All too often today the schoolroom feels like a workhouse, as attention focuses heavily on scores and data and school report cards.

Children want to learn. They are learning machines! Think of the enormous tasks they accomplish during their first years of life – how to walk, how to understand what others mean when they make sounds,  and finally how to talk themselves. Why do they do it?  The desire to learn is inborn in us. We need to be sure our schools keep that desire to learn alive.”

via Should our taxes pay for arts education in school? | Rethinking Education.

MDOE Report Cards…

bart-simpson-FThe Maine Department of Education has issued another round of school report cards.  Aware of the legitimate concerns and controversy surrounding the practice Timbered Classrooms offers them, sans comment (for now!  We want to hear from you…)

Below, please find a screenshot of RSU #50, and a link to the full report:

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MDOE School Report Cards

Here is a link to the Bangor Daily News article that brought the report cards to our attention:

“…Educators say the system is a better measure of school poverty levels than the effectiveness of a school.

“The formula disproportionately penalized communities with high levels of free and reduced lunch students,” said Bangor School Department Superintendent Betsy Webb on Wednesday.

A study by the Maine Education Policy Research Institute at the University of Southern Maine that was released in January backed that assertion.

“The level of poverty in a school is the single best predictor of average student performance,” the study states.

As a result, the report cards this year include the percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch at each school. However, that information was not factored into the letter grades.

Also new this year is information on school funding, average daily attendance rates and school and district contact information.

David Silvernail, director of the Maine Education Policy Research Institute and author of the report, said the changes add needed texture to the report cards and are a step in the right direction….”

http://bangordailynews.com/slideshow/more-than-150-schools-drop-a-letter-grade-on-maine-doe-report-card-while-93-improve/

 

Public Forum on the Future – June 3rd

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“..The RSU 50 Futures Task Force Committee will be conducting a community meeting on Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014 at 6:00 p.m. in the Katahdin Elementary School cafeteria.  The purpose of this meeting is to attain community input on the various scenarios being presented and to entertain other possible scenarios that may have merit.  Public will be provided with an overview of information that has been gathered, participate in group discussion and hear next steps in the process.  We encourage community participation in this process.”

Read the original announcement from RSU #50 here:  Futures Task Force Forum

Editor’s note:  I share the concerns of our readers surrounding the last public forum; the tightly controlled format that did not permit attendees the time or space for statements that reflect their views outside of the writing prompts and the failure of the committee to answer  written questions in real time.  …or at all to date.  (Of course, if any of you HAVE, indeed, received responses to questions submitted at that time, please, share them here.)  That said, I would encourage our readers to attend, and work toward solutions to this, and to the matters at hand, especially potential school closure.  Many thanks to our readers for your interest and advocacy.

Is it really that important for students in Maine to learn a second language? | Rethinking Education

In a word:   “Oui”!…

image“…Language study is a key element of a 21st century education. Students in rural areas should not be left behind in the acquisition of these skills that will enable them to participate in the global economy. Funding elementary and middle school language programs does come with a modest price tag, but we cannot put our heads in the sand and pretend our way back to another century. We need to embrace the present….”

Another wonderful post from Kathreen Harrison of the Bangor Daily News’ “Rethinking Education”!  Read on, here:

Is it really that important for students in Maine to learn a second language? | Rethinking Education.

Futures Task Force News

tumblr_mbyjarrM6E1rwqnrwo1_1280-1The Futures Task Force will hold a public forum in the next few weeks or so, so watch this space, and the page above dedicated to it!  Below, please find the notes from a previous meeting.  Future configurations of buildings/scenarios affect our children a great deal.  Our thanks to Peggy White for sharing these meeting notes with our readers:

FuturesTaskForce

 

CURMUDGUCATION: Standards & Curriculum

With unmatched clarity, here, Peter Greene of this informative and entertaining blog explains many of the concerns surrounding the Common Core, Pearson, and other ‘reformy stuff’.  It behooves us to take these concerns seriously….

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“…Standards are your destination. Curriculum is your road map. Standards say “You will be at the corner of East 9th and Superior in Cleveland on Sunday at noon.” Curriculum is the directions you pulled up on mapquest and the travel plans you made with them.

The more specific my standards, the less freedom I have to create curriculum. What if the standards say that I will travel to Cleveland in less than three hours using only large highways, arriving with no food in the care and at least five gallons of gas in the tank? Now all manner of details about the trip, from vehicle to route to travel speed have all been pre-decided for me.

However, fuzzy standards also tend to limit freedom in writing curriculum, particularly when coupled with large penalties. …”

“…Supporters who say that the Core is just completely divorced from a national curriculum and of course all curriculum control stays local are being disingenuous. CCSS does not mandate a national curriculum, but it ploughs the road, opens the path, greases the skids, and directs traffic toward it. The Core Standards make it hugely likely that we will not only have a national curriculum, but also that it will created by some corporation (best bet– one whose name starts with “P” and end s with “earson”)….”

 

CURMUDGUCATION: Standards & Curriculum.

Where are the block buildings and the dress-up clothes? | Rethinking Education

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“…Reading will come easier to most if we just wait for the appropriate developmental stage. There is a reason Russia and Finland don’t present formal reading lessons in kindergarten.”

“Parents need to speak out to their local school boards and administrators if they do not want their kindergartens to be watered-down second and third grades. Childhood is precious. It doesn’t come twice in a lifetime. The work of young children is play. There is an enormous amount of learning that takes place in the worlds of dress-up and block building and outside pretend play.” ~Kathreen Harrison

 

What a worthwhile read! …a dose of wisdom, that is just what the doctor ordered. The piece, in its entirety, is available here:

Where are the block buildings and the dress-up clothes? | Rethinking Education.

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Timbered Classrooms Extends a Heartfelt Thanks For The Wonderful Teachers Of RSU #50..

Timbered Classrooms Extends a Heartfelt Thanks For The Wonderful Teachers Of RSU #50..

“There is no system in the world or any school in the country that is better than its teachers.” ~Sir Ken Robinson

Budget Meeting Tonight! …6:30 @SACS

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An RSU #50 budget workshop will be held tonight at 6:30 pm at SACS.  Now is the time to help shape a budget that reflects the values of your community as well as yourself.

“Timbered Classrooms” readers want to hear from you; your thoughts and observations on this year’s budget process and priorities.

We look forward to hearing from you.  Have a good day!

Budget Workshop Tonight: 6:30pm @SACS

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Don’t forget to attend the budget workshop tonight at 6:30pm, Southern Aroostook Community School.  

The budget moves quickly, so don’t blink….

Have a wonderful day:)