Representative Susan Fagan met with Whitman County superintendents in Colfax on Thursday, September 26, 2013 at their regular September meeting.
Representative Fagan was open to discussing a variety of topics that included the following:
I personally appreciate Representative Fagan’s willingness to hear diverse perspectives on these and other issues.
On Monday, September 23, 2013, the Pullman Public Schools principals attended their first monthly meeting of the school year for the purpose of learning and practicing to perfect their teacher evaluation skills for and knowledge of the new state-wide teacher and principal evaluation systems. The meeting was hosted at Jefferson Elementary School and Principal, Craig Nelson. Our invitation drew Chris Sodorff of the College of Education and member of the Pullman Education Foundation to attend and observe two classroom lessons along with the principals. The observations focused on state teacher criterion #1, centering instruction on high expectations for student achievement, and criterion #5, fostering and managing a safe, positive learning environment.
We extend a special thank you to Margi Vogel and Kelly Pollestad for inviting the group to observe their lessons. The lessons were excellent and provided an opportunity to practice observational skills in an authentic setting. The teachers joined the group for a brief reflection after the lesson. The principals followed up with a discussion in which they identified evidence for their own evaluation criteria.
In October, the group will meet at the high school and a limited number of community members and parents will be invited to participate. Lesson observations will focus on state teacher criterion #6, using multiple student data elements to modify instruction and improve student learning. Principal evaluation discussion will center on principal criterion #5, monitoring, assisting, and evaluating effective instruction and assessment.
Chris Sodorff reviews her notes in discussion of classroom observation with principals Pam Brantner and Craig Nelson
Assistant Superintendent Bob Maxwell, PHS Principal Joe Thornton, Superintendent Paul Sturm and WSU’s Chris Sodorff discuss their observations
This week is teacher appreciation week and we take this opportunity to say thank you to each of our teachers for all you do for the kids.
Teaching, in part at least through the political process and the media, has become less than the revered profession it once was. However, in my opinion, it remains one of the most important, difficult and complex of professions.
Our schools, with teachers being the key service providers, continue to gain exceptional results in student achievement and development. It is the ongoing dedication of special people who teach our children that make our schools successful. Thank you teachers for all you do for the kids every day.
Pullman School District is fortunate to have a Pullman police officer that serves as a full-time School Resource Officer (SRO) in the Pullman Schools. The Pullman Police Department has been proactive toward school and community safety by assigning this officer to serve the community and youth of Pullman. The SRO occupies an office in Pullman High School as his “home base.” The SRO is the only person regularly in any of our schools who is legally armed (other law officers with business in the schools may also be armed but are not regularly in the schools). Though the SRO is based at Pullman High School, he makes himself available to other schools (elementary schools and middle school) when called and he makes regular visits to each school to teach safety and awareness curriculum. Each year the SRO teaches DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) curriculum in each 5th grade class.
Pullman School District is in the process of making WIFI access available exclusively to Pullman Police Department officers in specific areas of our school parking lots so that officers can be present at schools while also performing job related tasks such as completing reports, answering email, making phone calls, etc.
A good deal of discussion is taking place within the community about the need for and plans to improve security at Pullman High School through a redesign and construction of PHS if supported by the upcoming bond election. A joint Pullman Police Department and Pullman School District meeting is scheduled on Monday, January 14 to review security measures and interactions. This joint meeting is a continuation of that discussion and planning toward our fundamental goal of maintaining the safest environments possible for students.
The table below summarizes enrollment comparisons between September 4, 2012 and last year’s September count day (the September 2012 count day is this Friday, September 7th). Steady and positive enrollment trends appear to continue again this year.
District Student Enrollment 2011/2012 Comparison
Sept 2012 (unofficial)
Two kindergarten sections have been added beyond last year. Class sizes are trending a bit larger at the elementary grades in particular because of limited classroom spaces. Because enrollment in grades 1-5 is consistent at about 200 students per grade, there is no particularly large elementary grade level, except for kindergarten, to which it makes sense to add staffing at this time. Actual class sizes in grades 1 -5, without considering support staff such as special education, Title, counselors, PE, art, music, etc., are at just under 25. With specialists the staffing ratio is about 21:1.
At the middle level, math/science, language arts/social studies and PE staffing has been added along with some internal shifting of staff assignments.
High school enrollment is down somewhat from last year with students moving or choosing other programs/districts along with a small class moving from 8th to 9th grade for a net reduction in enrollment. Even so, added instructional and support staff have been added in ESL, Spanish language, English CTE, along with some internal shifting of staff. Because of the variety of electives, staffing is a bit less efficient at the secondary level.
A Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) has been added to assist with the implementation of RTI and utilizing data to inform instruction, a significant development in the new teacher and principal evaluation requirements.
So far 5 new paraprofessional educator positions have been added, mostly in special education. The special education preschool program is expanding into the afternoon with the addition of a certificated teacher.
All in all, positive enrollment trends continue to develop and we have been able to respond with additional staffing.
The community in and surrounding Pullman values and gives high praise to Pullman Public Schools. Thanks to the hard and smart work of its employees, students and families can find tremendous educational advantages in their schools.
As I went around to classes on the first couple of days of school I was pleased to see kids engaged in intentional learning activities. Class discussions, writing, reading, listening, and computing are just some of the activities I saw. Very few students were sitting passively. Instead, as it should be, most of the time kids were doing.
Teachers and principals continuously demonstrate a commitment to using the time with students productively. I saw many relevant and meaningful activities happening in classrooms and kids seemed to be enjoying what they were doing! For example, I saw students doing a pre-write exercise for a paper based on a unique topic that they were able to choose - one of their interests.
Way to go, teachers! Way to go principals and para-educators! Another school year has begun successfully, and importantly, meaningfully for students.
Way to go to all the support staff for making the school buildings and grounds, the food, and getting to and from school clean, pleasant, healthy and safe.
When preparing for students to arrive back to school the first thing teachers often do is deal with classroom procedures and rules.
Setting the classroom climate and culture are keys to a successfully managed classroom and to enhancing student learning. Establishing classroom rules or procedures that influence students to act in ways that enhance learning for every student in the class is the goal of every teacher. Nancy Flanagan in her EdWeek Teacher Blog asserts that, “We want kids to behave appropriately because they understand that there are rewards for everyone in a civil, well-managed school.”
Here’s to a wonderful school year!
There is a lot of buzz going around about the “flipped” classroom described on the ASCD website reviewing new books including Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day, by Jonathan Bergmann, and Aaron Sams.
In her blog teacher Mary Beth Hertz discusses the pros and cons of a flipped classroom. Ms. Hertz points out that whatever the flipped classroom is or is not, it has become an important catalyst for people to reflect on and refine their instructional practice.
Bergman and Sams, authors of the new book, Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day, along with several co-authors have created a three-part series of articles about the “flipped classroom.” In the first article, The Flipped Class: Myths vs. Reality, they discuss “what a flipped class is and what it is not.”
I trust you are enjoying the sunny & warm days of summer!
Over the past four years it seemed as though we would never hear good news again. However, even in times when the financial future has been uncertain, Pullman Schools have achieved some very important things.
Some examples in 2011-12:
We are still awaiting word from Olympia about the state 2012-2013 budget. However, the trajectory prior to the special session was more positive than we had expected earlier in the session. This is probably due in part to the McCleary decision and a slightly better state revenue forecast.
Assuming there are no surprises coming out of the legislature in the next days or weeks, I personally am more optimistic. The community has given us a huge vote of confidence in the nearly 80% passage of the M&O and Technology Levies. There are reasons to hope that the economy in our state may have hit bottom. Many in the community are talking about opportunities instead of disappointments. People are expressing more interest than ever in making comprehensive improvements to the high school. The entire atmosphere seems more positive.
I hope each of you can relax and enjoy spring break and get some needed rest and recreation with family and friends, or maybe solitude is your recipe for renewal. Whatever the case, enjoy!
Wednesday this week was an early release day for students to allow for teacher and principal collaboration. I was able to visit several groups working together at both Pullman High School and at Jefferson Elementary School.
The high school staff was fine tuning a school-wide rubric for evaluating paragraph writing. I gathered from the discussion that it will serve as a spring board for the development of a school-wide rubric for essay and research paper writing.
Comments from teachers included such things as, “the kids will have consistent expectations for writing in every class,” and “it will save us instructional time because we won’t have to spend time teaching so many unique expectations in every class.”
Discussion could be heard about whether there needs to be a different rubric for every grade level or one rubric that sets a single expectation for the entire high school. There was discussion about adding conventions such as spelling, format, and punctuation. In addition, one group discussed adding model paragraphs so that student will have access to examples of the expectations.
At Jefferson, each grade level of teachers were together combing over assessment data for each of their students, identifying common weaknesses and strengths and making plans together to help student struggling with specific skills and concepts. One group will have a paraprofessional, assigned to one of the teachers because of a large class, work with small groups of students from their three classes that have not mastered specific skills. Another group was exploring how to better align classroom core instruction with intervention specialist time. Still another group included one of the specialist in the discussion about how best to provide extra help for individual students.
I heard teachers speak about the gap between the highest and lowest achieving students. They discussed ideas about how to make sure each student is able to make progress. The conversations were not about getting through the content, but it was about each student’s learning.
These are only samples of many similar discussions I heard. It was evident that the teachers at these two schools put the time today to exceptionally good use. Every discussion I heard was evidence that the teachers and principals are entirely focused on helping students succeed and make progress from wherever their current skill level. They were not simply discussions; plans were made for actions that are expected to improve learning and student achievement and performance.