Thursday, July 29, 2010

Leadership Day

Our new Assistant Superintendent, Chris Lindholm, invited ISD 191 principals to participate in Leadership Day. Leadership Day is organized by a professor at Iowa State University, Scott McLeod. The purpose of Leadership Day is the following: On Friday, July 30, 2010, blog about whatever you like related to effective school technology leadership: successes, challenges, reflections, needs, wants, etc.

I readily admit that I don't know everything about technology and some of the Leadership Day blogs that I read included vocabulary and terms that are new to me. I do believe that technology is an important instructional tool that, when used effectively, can have a positive impact on student achievement. We are making strides at Sioux Trail to increase access to instructional technology and the essential professional development that must go with the hardware or software purchase. Additionally, I'm observing positive changes throughout the district in regard to instructional technology.

Many of the Leadership Day blogs that I read (I admit that I didn't read them all) seemed to have a negative bend toward them so I'm going to go in the opposite direction. I'm going to take a couple minutes to share some of our recent successes in related to technology in ISD 191.

Dedicated tech funding: We continue to have a small, but dedicated source of funding for technology. I believe the amount varies slightly from school to school, but this stream of funding provides resources for a five year rotation of computers and the opportunity to introduce other
instructional technology tools. At Sioux Trail we have been able to maintain a five year rotation in two student computer labs as well as staff computers, offer teachers a choice between a laptop and a desktop, add document cameras to classrooms and begin purchasing interactive white boards.

Collaboration: At Sioux Trail we have a very active PTO who work hard on behalf of all Sioux Trail families. Our PTO Board collaborated with staff to purchase and install LCD projectors in every teaching space within two years. We have accomplished the purchasing part and now the electrician has to complete his part (we submitted the work request in December . . . ). Every teaching space will have an LCD projector and we will have accomplished the goal in just over one year! The PTO set aside every extra cent they had, dedicated fundraisers to increased access to technology and we focused building funds on the same purpose. While it was very frustrating to see the district elementary magnet schools provided with classrooms sets of LCD projectors, interactive white boards and other tools while we had to pinch pennies; it feels very good to know that we can accomplish something like this and I have a great deal of pride in the fact that we worked hard to provide these tools.

New leadership with a focus in instructional technology: Our new Assistant Superintendent is a techie! I have had more conversations about technology with a cabinet member in the last month than I have had in the previous three years I've been a principal in ISD 191. Chris has taught me some new things, I now have all my blogs set up in a reader account and I'm sure there will be a lot more new and exciting things to come. In previous years, several elementary principals had advocated for the inclusion of professional development around technology in the district professional development plans, but despite the presentation of data, repeated conversations and the obvious need for technology professional development (I thought it was obvious!) our pleas feel on deaf ears. I do not expect miracles, but I am excited to hear what this conversation sounds like with a techie leading district professional development.

Access to professional development: Despite the fact that technology is missing from the district professional development plan there are some areas of success. When the district put out a bid for new interactive white boards the director of professional development and the director of technology asked vendors to include professional development as a part of the bid. The result at Sioux Trail is that the six classroom teachers who have access to an interactive white board will get a formal introduction to the tool. This is a small, but great step, in the right direction.

Opportunities to experiment with different types of tools: Our district is trying to establish guidelines for a what a standard ISD 191 classroom looks like. They haven't quite put the money behind the ideas, but while the work is underway there are opportunities to experiment with different types of sound field technologies, various brands of interactive white boards or other tools. This freedom promotes the opportunity to constantly explore and learn about new technologies and new opportunities.

My personal and professional goal is to keeping making forward progress and to keep learning. I hope that by doping that I become better instructional leader and set the example for others.

Thanks to Scott and Chris for getting for getting my synapses firing!

Monday, July 26, 2010

"The Countdown"

Yes, it is back up and counting - counting down! 8 of you guessed correctly, the mystery number on the marquis in front of Sioux Trail is the number of days left until school starts. As of today's blog post that number has dropped to 43! Enjoy those summer days and make every day a wonderful day!

I'm always excited about school and if I could, I'd have a much shorter break and keep school in session longer than 173 days. Why am I excited about school? I'm excited because when we are working together around a common goal we can do incredible things. I'll use the 2009-10 Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) results as an example.

Here our overall MCA results

2008-09: 78.65% of Sioux Trail students were proficient
2009-10: 82.6 % of our students were proficient, an increase of 4 percentage points!

But we didn't stop with reading, there was also noticeable growth in mathematics:

2008-09: 76.16% of Sioux Trail students were proficient
2009-10: 85.4% of Sioux Trail students were proficient, an increase of 9 percentage points!

Under the "No Child Left Behind" Act all public schools are required to make annual progress towards having all students proficient on the MCAs by 2013. Here is additional good news -
at the end of the 2008-09 school year we were identified as not making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in 6 areas.

In Reading we did not make AYP for the following subgroups: Black Student and Special Education students
In Math we did not make AYP for the following subgroups: Black, English as a Second Language students, student eligible for Free or Reduced Price Lunch and Special Education students

Are you asking how this is good news? The answer is in the the 2009-10 results.
We are making Adequate Yearly Progress in 17 out of 18 areas, great improvement from 2008-09. The one area that we are not making AYP in is Special Education Reading.

I'm excited to get back to work and to keep guiding students on the TRAIL to student success and we do have some work to do. Because are not making AYP in one area we will be writing a federally required school improvement plan, families may choose the sent their child to another ISD 191 school and we must keep moving forward. I welcome these challenges and I'm excited to continue working together as a large team with one goal - student success.

I'm counting down to another successful school year and I look forward to working with all staff, students, families and our community to make it happen again.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Marquis Mystery

As you drive by Sioux Trail during the summer months you will hopefully notice two things about our marquis.
1. We continue to keep it up to date with ongoing school activities
2. One of the numbers doesn't belong

If you look at the sign you'll notice a number is out of place - it isn't a date so what is it?

Use the tool on the right to enter your guess! The answer will be presented in a future blog post.

Here is a hint - the number changes every day and it gets smaller!