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Thursday, March 31, 2011

An Edutopia Piece on Assessment

Hotter Than You Think: The Brave New World of Student Assessment

By Edutopia


Edutopia's first Schools That Work installment about comprehensive assessmentfocuses on a New York City school that has changed the game of student assessment. Think: more rigorous, more relevant, more fun.
While that may not sound terribly sexy, don't be fooled. These techniques -- and what New York's Manhattan-based School of the Future has achieved with them -- have the potential to change how we understand and learn from our successes and failures.
Because when you break down the learning process to its fundamentals, there is one question every teacher or administrator must ask herself sooner or later: did the kids get it? Did they understand and retain the knowledge? Not just in some big, high stakes, summative way, but every day, every week, every month. Why embark down the bumpy road of educating young people if we are not keen to pause -— and pause often —- to see if the learning process is working?
The teachers, administrators, and students of New York City's School of the Future make it their business to answer those questions at a granular level just about every day. Early and often, they deploy a strategy of "authentic" assessment (using everything from end-of-class exit notes, to large-scale presentations and exhibitions, to more traditional tests and exams) to measure progress. And they really lean into that authentic part.
School of the Future staff ensure that both the knowledge they are assessing and their techniques for measuring it are relevant to the student's lives, and reflective of the real-world challenges they they will face when their formal educations are behind them. And while authentic assessment requires some extra effort in prep time, the end result actually speeds up the learning process. As one teacher told us, "Now when I go home at the end of the day, I am much less tired than I used to be."
I have visited my share of impressive schools and this one ranks among the best. I hope the video below (and the other videos in our Schools That Work package) paint an inspiring picture. More importantly, I hope the tipsfree resources, and community connections will prompt you to try similar innovations at your school. As our story suggests, your students will salute you.
-- David Markus, Editorial Director, Edutopia
Now check out our latest installment of Schools That WorkComprehensive Assessment, A New York City Success Story.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

ROAR SC - Have You Heard About It?

Taxes are complicated. ROAR SC seems to be focussing on the many tax exemptions that are on the books. Something last year's legislature commissioned a group to look into and this year's legislature has decided to ignore (although everyone must admit that redrawing districts, as required by law, is an all consuming task).

I'm sure at one time there were good reasons for exemptions - and maybe so for today as well. A local example is the AbitibiBowater mill. They pay no sales tax on the raw materials going in to their product and pay no sales tax on their products because the products are not sold directly to consumers. When they have a major capital project, they ask for and receive a sales tax exemption on the major construction parts.  They have some of the highest paid paper mill employees in the world - but work for a company that has just come out of bankruptcy due to a market which is in steady decline. If they didn't get the $30 million dollar sales tax exemption, how long could they stay in business?  As much as we'd like it to be easy to reduce/eliminate exemptions, none of these issues are.

ROAR SC will have a presentation at South Pointe High School on Monday, April  11, 2011. A short video and introductory letter is below.

Click here to read the ROAR SC presentation on South Carolina's Tax Problem.

Also, Cindi Scoppe, with the State Newspaper has an article in Wednesday's paper about taxes in SC. Click here to view.


Two weeks ago, the S.C. state House of Representatives passed a state budget that offers no real tax relief, while it cuts essential core services. This $5.2 billion budget is 30% less than 5 years ago. Have your tax rates gone down by 30% in the past 5 years?South Carolinians are paying some of the highest tax rates in the country (5th highest Business Property taxes; & 13th highest top-income & sales tax rates)…while this state is “Broke?” We should be asking Where is my tax money going?

Did you know that S.C. actually exempts more in taxes than it collects?
  • We collect $300 in sales taxes on the sale of a used 2006 - $5,000 Hyundai; but we also only collect $300 on a
  • $385,000 Lamborghini ($152 million exemption); &
  • Million dollar Yacht &/or Lear Jet ($6.2 million exemption).
  • We collect taxes on your funeral… literally taxing you into your grave;but we have a tax exemption for criminals to purchase a Bail Bond and get out of jail, tax free!
  • Our state is “Broke…” your tax rates remain high… basic quality of life services are cut… and yet we even have a tax exemption for stuffing deer heads (taxidermy).
 Evidently, S.C. can afford to give billions of dollars of your tax money to special interests through numerous tax exemptions/loopholes! (for additional examples, go

ROAR(Reduce Our Awful tax Rates) is a statewide coalition of citizens, local chambers, community groups… all dedicated to the single issue of reducing our tax rates & improving the quality of life for all South Carolinians through honest, comprehensive tax reform. ROAR has held ~180 events across S.C. over the past year (14 just this month)! Thanks to your efforts spreading the message, we are beginning to change the conversation in Columbia.

Two weeks ago, Governor Haley announced that she would have a comprehensive tax reform proposal by this summer. And last week, a lawsuit was filed against the state, charging that exempting more in sales tax collections ($2.7 billion) than we collect ($2.5 billion) is unconstitutional.

Our grassroots ROAR movement is building momentum for reform! If you would like to learn more… or want information to share with your friends & colleagues, please follow the links below to the ROAR website: . What five things can I do?
  1. Forward this email to 10 friends;
  2. “Friend/Like” us on Facebook;
  3. follow us on Twitter;
  4. forward a short YouTube video clip found on the ROAR website;
  5. encourage everyone to click “Start Roaring,” sign-on & join us!ROAR needs you!

In the next 2 weeks, I will be ROAR’ing with you in Berkeley (March 28); Greenville(March 29); Columbia (March 31); Greer (April 1); Summerville(April 5); Anderson (April 7); andRock Hill/York County(April 11th). I look forward to continuing to work with each of you in your local community… as we continue to take this conversation across South Carolina.


Michael W. Fanning, Ph.D.
P.O. Box 2043
Chester, South Carolina 29706

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rock Hill School Board March Business Meeting Notes

The Rock Hill School Board had their regularly scheduled March Business meeting on Monday, March 28. 2011. Dr. Sharp was absent due to an illness.

The following action was taken:

  • Approved agenda by a 6-0 vote
  • Approved consent agenda by a 6-0 vote. (previous months meeting minutes, Vining's March Board compensation to the Early Learning Partnership of York County, Personnel recommendations and contract renewals, the use of Rawlinson Road Middle School for another month by Impact Community Church)
  • Approved the 2011-2012 school calendar by a 6-0 vote. (School begins on Monday, August 15, 2011 for students and ends on May 31, 2012. Graduation will be on Saturday, June 2, 2012)
  • Approved Transportation policy (EEAC & EEA)changes by a 6-0 vote for first reading.
  • Voted to have a board retreat on July 15 and to cancel the July work and business meetings. Any personnel actions needed will be taken at the beginning/end of the retreat. Vote was 6-0.
  • Approved a field study request for a group to go to Greece during the 2012 spring break. Vote was 5-1 with Brown voting against because of safety concerns.
  • The board rejected the Administration's request to forgive the last bad weather make-up day by a vote of 2-4. Moe, Douglas, Vining, Norwood -  against.
The board recognized the following:
  • State Superintendent Writing Award Winners Emily Greer from Sunset Park Elementary and Hayley Doyle from Sullivan Middle School.
  • State wrestling champions Weston and Seth Beck (twins) from Rock Hill High School and Jonathon Cloud from South Pointe High School. Weston and Seth have one 5 state championships between them which brings their family total to 7.
  • The District's "Distinguished Climbers" for March.
The board heard the following reports:
  • 600 people have tried out the Budget challenge so far.
  • School of choice requests have been received for over 290 students so far. Thursday will be the last day to request a school of choice.
  • A report on progress being made in the districts 5 middle schools.

Monday, March 28, 2011

2011 Rock Hill High School Band of Distinction Golf Tournament

Dear RHHS Band of Distinction Friend:

On behalf of the Band Students and Parent Boosters of the Rock Hill High School Band of Distinction, I would like to thank you for your continued support and participation in our annual golf tournament. It is through support such as yours we are able to continue providing musical opportunity for our kids. Thanks to you, this tournament raises funds which not only help with operating expenses, but it provides scholarship opportunity to students who could not otherwise be involved in musical programs.

 As we prepare for the 2011-2012 year, we ask you to sincerely consider once again supporting our kids through this year’s golf tournament and fund raising event. This is the eighth year for our event and it has become a great way to provide support to our students and musical programs.

The Band of Distinction has a proud history and represents our School and Community throughout the Southeast, and 2010 was no exception. During the Marching Band season, the Band of Distinction took honors such as:
  • Town of Blythewood Tournament of Bands - Best Percussion, Best Music, 1st Place in Class, Grand Champion
  • Boiling Springs Festival of Bands - Best Drum Line, Best Horn Line, Best Color Guard, 1st Place in Class, Grand Champion
  • 2nd Place SCBDA Class 4A Upper State Championship
  • Silver Medalist SCBDA Class 4A State Championship with High Music Award
In addition to the Marching Band program, your support provides for Concert Band, Jazz Ensemble, opportunity for individuals to achieve Region Band honors as well as State Band honors, Winter Percussion and Winter Guard programs. It is a gift that keeps on giving for a lifetime.

Click here for a link to the brochure for this year’s event which will be on Friday, June 3 at Waterford Golf Club in Rock Hill. Team entries, auction items, non-monetary gifts, and prize award items are due by May 27. Monetary donations are due by June 3. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at We do request that Sponsors supporting at $100 and above contact us as soon as possible in order for us to provide proper recognition on hole signs, flyers, etc. Thank you in advance for your support and I look forward to hearing from you in the very near future.
Jimmy Campbell
2011 Band of Distinction Golf Tournament Chair
Rock Hill High Band Booster Club, Inc.
2255 Drawbridge Court, Rock Hill, SC 29732

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Myths Legislators Want To Believe About Teaching

Great item in the Washington Post. Click here to read the full details.

Myth #1: Teacher preparation matters little for student achievement.
Myth #2: Teaching experience matters little for student achievement.
Myth #3: Removing incompetent teachers will fix our schools.
Myth #4: Teacher tenure rules make it impossible to get rid of poor teachers.
Myth #5: Merit pay will motivate teachers to teach more effectively.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Using facebook? You Need To Read This

The Cool Cat Teacher Blog has a post about the concerns with using facebook. If you use facebook, you need to read this by clicking here.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Rock Hill Schools March Business Meeting Set For Monday

The Rock Hill School Board March Business meeting will be held this Monday at the District Office. Biggest item is to approve a calendar for the next school year and the administration is requesting the last snow make-up day (now scheduled for Memorial Day) be forgiven.

I have received the following concerns about the schedule:

  • Furlough/Teacher work day(s) scheduled for the day of high school graduation
  • Make-up snow days scheduled for after state testing
  • Spring break scheduled for the week of Easter
  • School year starting at first of week instead of middle of week.
  • If we believe in education, we'd take the first available days for make-up - holiday or not.
I have never voted to forgive snow days or to have half days for school when those have been the only issue. While I recognize they are popular with staff and some parents, doing so devalues the importance of a school day. How can you argue we need 180 days for  instruction when we drop days every chance we get?

The proposed agenda is below:

Meeting of the Board of Trustees
Monday, March 28, 2011
6:00 p.m. – District Office Board Room


I. Call to Order
Approval of Agenda
(Under consent agenda, all action items will be voted on after one motion and second to approve them without discussion. If a board member wants any action item discussed or voted on separately, the board member, before the agenda is approved, must ask that the action item be moved to the discussion item section.)

II. Special Business
    1. Recognition of “Distinguished Climbers”
    2. Recognition of State Superintendent’s Writing Award Winners
    3. Recognition of State Wrestling Champions

  1. Citizen Participation
IV. Consent Action Agenda
A. Approval of Minutes
1. February 28, 2011 business meeting
2. March 14, 2011 work session
B. Approval of Personnel Recommendations
C. Approval of Contract Recommendations for 2011-2012
D. Approval of Field Study Requests (2)
E. Approval of Use of Facilities (Impact Church)
F. Approval of Distribution of Jim Vining’s Board Compensation
V. Communications
A. Legislative Update

VI. Report of the Superintendent
A. Announcements
B. Budget Challenge
C. Schools of Choice
D. Middle Schools Update

VII. Review of Work Session
VIII. Action Agenda
  1. Approval of 2011-2012 School Calendar
  2. Approval of Forgiveness of Snow Day
  3. Approval of Transportation Policy
  4. Approval of Change in July Board Meeting Schedule
  1. Other Business
  1. Executive Session
A. Personnel Matter Concerning Request for Hearing
  1. Adjournment

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rock Hill School District News

Rock Hill School District News:                                              

  • Everyone is invited to participate in the Budget Challenge to learn ways to balance the districts budget which is currently projected to be $8.5 million dollars short. You may click here to practice through March 31. 
  • Teachers Sandra Thompson (Ebinport Elementary School), Nia German (Sullivan Middle School) and Arcielo Letigio (Sullivan Middle School) have been selected to attend the Science PLUS Institute at the Roper Mountain Science Center in Greenville (SC) this summer. They will receive training in science teaching methods and activities. 
  • HOSA advisers Janie Collins and Laurel George and 12 students from the Applied Technology Center won top honors (including eight first-place awards) at the state Health Occupation Students of America Conference.  
  • South Pointe High School choral music teacher, Beverly Laney, and the South Pointe High School Concert Choir have been selected to perform at the SC Teacher of the year banquet on April 27 in Columbia.
  •  Saluda Trail Middle School's annual musical production by the Related Arts Department will be Disney's Aladdin Jr. Show time will be 7:00 p.m. on March 31 & April 1 in the auditorium. Admission will be $5. 
  • The District Three Honors Drama students, directed by Tamara Altman, will present the musical extravaganza, Hairspray, in the Northwestern High School Auditorium at 7:00 p.m. March 31-April 2 and at 3:00 p.m. on April 2 & 3. Tickets will cost $15/adults and $10/students. They can be reserved by e-mailing
  • The Rock Hill High Theatre Dept. and the Musical Theatre class will present the family musical Honk, Jr. at 7:30 p.m. April 7 & 8. Tickets will be $8/adults and $6/students. Directed by Stephanie Daniels, Honk is a contemporary comic adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's The Ugly Duckling.   
  • Northwestern High School's cheerleaders will be selling bales of pine needles from the gym parking lot on Saturday, April 9, from 8:00 am -2:00 pm. Bales will sell for $4.75. 
  • The district's first "Battle of the Books" competition will be hosted by India Hook Elementary School on Saturday morning, April 9. Students from 14 of our elementary schools, all who have read 3-7 award-winning books selected by our media specialists, will participate. 
  • South Pointe's School Improvement Council is sponsoring an event on Monday, April 11, from 6:30-7:45p.m. to inform educators, parents, and the community on the funding crisis. Dr. Mike Fanning, executive director of the Olde English Consortium will be the speaker.  
  • A Community Youth Forum will be held on Thurs. evening, March 31, in the Rock Hill City Hall Council Chambers. A reception with food and prizes will be held from 5:30-6:00 pm, and then the program will be held from 6:00-7:30 pm. Teens will share ideas about the challenges of building self-esteem, improving body image and confronting bullies. Keith Wilks, executive director of student services with Rock Hill Schools, will serve as facilitator. Jane Alleva, director of the York County All On Board Coalition, will be the guest speaker. The forum is titled "Get Your Swagger Back." 
  • Spring plants are now available in the Applied Technology Center's greenhouse. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Support South Pointe High School's After-Prom Activities

Proposed 2011-12 Rock Hill School Calendar

The Rock Hill School Board will most likely vote on a calendar for next year at the monthly business meeting on Monday, March 28, 2011. Interestingly, in spite of the barrage in the newspapers in January, there has been no feedback to the board on this calendar. I have received one email and that concerned having a teacher work day on the same day as graduation. Clarification and a link to the calendar are below:
Furlough days--There has not been a  recommendation to the school board about furlough days. However, in determining the calendar, the board requested information on which "teacher days" would be designated as furlough days, if needed. Therefore, they have been listed.
Make-up days--By law, three days must be designated as "make-up days." In the calendar, make-up days are at the end of the school year. If no make-up days are needed, school will end for students on May 29 and for teachers, on May 30. Graduation would still be on June 2.
If two make-up days, for example, are needed, school would end for students on May 31 and for teachers, on June 1.  Graduation would still be on June 2.
Click here to see an example of the calendar.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Letter From Rock Hill School Board Member Jane Sharp

This is to alert you to this year’s effort to pass a voucher bill in our state enabling public funds to be used for private school and home schooled students.  Because of your interest in education, I ask that you read the linked information and contact our legislators to ask them to vote against these bills.  The House bill (3407) is, in fact, sponsored by some of our own representatives. 

My blog entry at  has perhaps more information than needed.  However, the details are there if you wish.  The basics of the bills are that SC income tax credits of up to $2700 would be given to whomever pays the bill for any public school child transferring to private school.  Those (people, businesses, etc.) contributing to Scholarship Organizations set up for private and religious schools can receive a 100% SC income tax credit for any contributions for sponsoring a “poor” child.  In effect, the state pays the scholarship.  An additional component would provide up to $1000 SC income tax credit for each home-schooled student.  The bill counts as “savings” to the state the money that they would have sent to a public school, except now the child is withdrawn, minus the tax credits given to those funding private, religious and home schoolers.

The basics of our state are that “poor” children’s families would not be able to qualify for significant amounts of this so-called “Equal Educational Opportunity” bill.  In order to qualify for the $2,700 tax credit a family would have had to pay that much in state income taxes.  This amount might require a yearly family income of over $60,000.  A family with three children in York County can receive full meal supplements if their income is $22,000 per year and will pay state income taxes of about $100, and so can qualify for only that much tax credit.  That amount would not fund tuition costs at either of Rock Hill’s two largest private schools which are currently listed at $4600 and $7600 annually.  Full matching for “scholarship organizations” would further delete tax contributions to our General Fund which also funds highways, public health, etc. for our state.  These bills by no means seem aimed at supporting “needy”  families and have strong issues of equity, accountability, and constitutionality.

Please send a brief email or phone call to our county’s (York) delegation.  You really need to say only, “I am against H.3407 S.414 and I want you to vote NO.”  I also ask that you send a message to the members of the Senate Education Committee who have already had one Public Hearing concerning their version, S.414.  Wes Hayes is chairing that committee but Sen. Grooms (Charleston) is also a member and he is the one who authored the bill.  I explain in my  blog how a single email can be sent to all members of the Education committee.  It is the sheer numbers of people saying NO that will sway our representatives.

Thank you for your work in behalf of our children.  Should anyone want continued updates on local and state education issues please let me know by  emailing

Jane Sharp
Rock Hill Schools
Board of Trustees

Can you Opt Out of State Tests?

Some students in Pensylvania are opting out of tests required for No Child Left Behind. Schools will be penaliszed if a lot of students don't take the tests. Watch the CNN report below:

Monday, March 21, 2011

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

The New Boy in School

A short film with an interesting message.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Who Wins The Basketball Graduation Rate March Madness?

Update On State Education Budget Crisis on Monday, April 11

Get an update on the education budget crisis facing South Carolina at South Pointe High School Auditorium, on Monday, April 11, 2011 beginning at 6:30 pm.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Teacher Merit Pay

Teacher merit pay is being discussed by the SC legislature and the SC Superintendent of Education. The last time both groups were so sure they had a solution to education was when they passed the Education Accountability Act in 1998. We all know how much that has helped!

The video below explains when reward systems work and when they fail. Then, read the article on what one Superintendent thinks of the proposed merit system.

From Dr. Frank Morgan.:

Some Thoughts On Merit Pay….

I’ve been doing this work for almost 36 years. Having been around public education for that long, I’ve seen just about every solution to increasing student academic performance that has ever been thought up, usually more than once. In the case of merit pay, this is about the third time around for me. Déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra once said. Legislation pending in the South Carolina General Assembly would freeze teacher salaries at current levels and require State Superintendent of Education Dr. Mick Zais to have a merit pay plan ready to present to legislators in December. At the federal level, both President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have made merit pay one of their signature education reforms.
On the surface, merit pay makes a great deal of sense. The idea of rewarding teachers for performance seems intuitively fairer and more productive than the traditional way of compensating teachers, which is based on experience, degrees and certifications such as National Board Certification. Over the years, I’ve listened time and again to the rationale as to why this approach should work. Unfortunately, the track record hasn’t lived up to the hype. The overwhelming majority of plans that have been implemented over the past 30 years have ultimately been abandoned.
As recently as this past September, a study by Vanderbilt University concluded that merit-based bonuses did not raise student achievement, as measured by standardized tests. (We could have a long discussion as to whether standardized tests are an accurate measure of achievement, but we’ll save that one for another time.) The study looked at 5th through 8th grade math teachers in the metropolitan Nashville area public schools over a period of three years, from 2007-2009. Teachers could receive between $5,000 and $15,000 per year, based on how their students performed on standardized tests.
The money; however, didn’t result in a significant difference in academic growth.
If merit pay is going to be seriously considered in South Carolina, here are some points that need to be a part of the discussion:
• If done right, merit pay will actually cost more in the long run. (A plan that was implemented in Denver, Colorado, required a $25 million property tax increase to implement.) The worst mistake that could be made is to structure a merit pay plan that limits the number of people who can earn it because of inadequate funding. Doing so would severely damage the kind of collegiality and cooperation that are hallmarks of any good school. Would teachers continue to freely share ideas and strategies with each other if they were pitted against each other for the same dollars? I’m not sure that a school where this does not occur is the kind of school parents want.
• An effective merit pay plan should focus on multiple measures of teacher effectiveness and not simply on standardized tests. Aside from the fact that standardized tests aren’t a completely dependable measure of teacher effectiveness, the performance of many teachers—those in the arts, teachers of severely disabled students or media specialists for example—cannot be measured by these tests. A plan that does focus on multiple measures; however, will require more administrative manpower to implement, which will also have additional cost.
• Pay in and of itself is not the single motivating factor for teachers. Certainly, fair pay is an important part of the equation, but so are professional development opportunities, reasonable class sizes, good facilities and access to technology and supportive leadership. If a merit pay plan is being viewed by our state leaders as a single solution to improve teacher motivation and quality and improve student achievement, it will fall short of the mark as other plans before it have. There are multiple areas other than pay that must also receive attention and support.
An alternative approach to traditional merit pay may be one that rewards schoolwide performance rather than individual. I hope that this idea might be considered because it would recognize all members of a school staff, including instructional assistants and other support personnel, and acknowledge that excellent schools are not just the result of individual effort, but more importantly, collective effort. I have worked in and with many schools, and the very best ones were the ones where the staff that saw itself as a team and functioned that way.
If South Carolina is going to pursue merit pay, it should use the opportunity to do it right rather than recycling approaches from the past that haven’t worked all that well. I hope that any group that might be convened by the State Superintendent to develop a proposal will utilize the best minds and thinking from both the private sector and education, including teachers. Teaching children is different than producing or selling widgets. I’m not sure that someone who has not taught in a K-12 classroom fully understands this. A process that is not thorough and thoughtful and diverse in terms of those involved will not result in a product that will move us forward.

Rock Hill Schools March Work Session Notes

The Rock Hill School Board met at the District Operations Center (Soon to be the Facilities Services Center) on Monday, March 14, 2010 for the regularly scheduled March Work Session. These are my notes:
  • Board was given a demonstration of the energy management system and a tour of the facilities, including an area that Applied Technology students are using for their class on managing inventories.
  • Heard a report on the number of volunteers and the volunteer programs which are currently very successful. Dr. Kokolis suggested that Richmond Drive had a good volunteer link on their web site. If people are interested in volunteering, they should contact a school principal or check the schools web site for opportunities.
  • The administration reported they would be investigating  two items from the Superintendent's Positive Deviant Team and dropping one. (Teacher evaluations and grouping by skills will get further review while a boarding school will be put on hold).
  • The board got an update on this year's capital  spending and on the work going on with developing the 5-year facilities master plan (which the board had requested). In the near future, the board will have to discuss the desired size for our elementary schools. (neighboring districts have between 850 and 2,000 while Rock Hill's is between 300 and 700. This makes the Rock Hill elementary education more expensive than our neighboring districts)
  • The Board was informed of a possible trial at Ebenezer Elementary School for next year. A group of Ebenezer parents had suggested that adding a 6th grade would be beneficial over going to a big middle school. There are currently 56 students in the 5th grade at Ebenezer and if at least 22 decide to stay - a 6th grade class would be added. The school hopes to add some leadership components, and if successful, they will work through the  choice school committee to become a school of choice for the 2012-13 school year. The administration is still working on  potential costs associated with the trial and/or choice options for the future.
  • The Board heard a report on steps that have been taken to comply with last years Evergreen Consultant report on reducing the cost for maintenance and housekeeping (without reducing services). However, one Evergreen recommendation has not been implemented. School Athletic Directors agreed to take over maintenance of the their school's athletic fields instead of hiring contractors to perform the work.
  • Dr. Moody reported the administration was developing an informational survey about the budget and it would be on the web site soon.
  • Next year's calendar was discussed. There still may be some changes before being presented to the board at the March Business Meeting.

    Monday, March 14, 2011

    Should Rock Hill Be Discussing Testing

    From The Principal Difference Blog:

    Tests: Will they improve learning?

    New research may help school leaders with two important challenges that they face on a daily basis. First, in these tight budget times with fewer teachers, larger classes, and fewer resources, how do we improve student performance? How do we do more with less? What are some no-cost ways that we can improve our schools?
    Second, given the complexity of course content, particularly in high schools, how do we enhance our skills as instructional leaders? How do we give meaningful feedback to teachers that will enhance their instruction even though we may have little or no background knowledge regarding the content of the course? For example, how do we give feedback to a world language teacher when we have never studied the language and cannot understand a single word they said in the lesson?
    A recent study summarized in Science magazine and reported in a New York Times article titled To Really Learn, Quit Studying and Take a Test may be a key to unlocking some keys to the teaching and learning process. However, to find those gems, school leaders need to read between the lines.
    Practicing Retrieval
    When I read the abstract, my first thought was that this study would serve to support and defend the current obsession with standardized testing. The study concludes "practicing retrieval produces greater gains in meaningful learning than elaborative studying." In other words, the simple act of taking a test may improve learning better than any other studying technique including note taking and "concept mapping."
    Furthermore, the researchers concluded that testing might enhance learning far beyond the recall of simple facts. They report "retrieval practice is an effective tool to promote conceptual learning about science."
    The Times article went on to say, "The research, published online Thursday in the journal Science, found that students who read a passage, then took a test asking them to recall what they had read, retained about 50 percent more of the information a week later than students who used two other methods. One of those methods — repeatedly studying the material — is familiar to legions of students who cram before exams. The other — having students draw detailed diagrams documenting what they are learning — is prized by many teachers because it forces students to make connections among facts."
    Students who used intense review, also known as "cramming" for a test, as well as other popular methods to aid recall such as "concept mapping" or "mind-mapping" believed that they would have better recall of the content. On the other hand, those who took a test after reading a passage believed that they would remember less. In reality, the reverse was true. Ironically, those who took the test and believed that they had learned less actually learned significantly more than their hard studying counterparts.
    The real proof of learning
    The only evidence of learning is remembering. Notice that I didn't say "memorizing." Remembering is the key. In this case it is the practice of remembering (retrieval) that improves learning. Think about it, if a student cannot remember the essential concepts of the lesson, did the student really learn it?
    “I think that learning is all about retrieving, all about reconstructing our knowledge,” said the lead author, Jeffrey Karpicke, an assistant professor ofpsychology at Purdue University. “I think that we’re tapping into something fundamental about how the mind works when we talk about retrieval.” The Times reported that "several cognitive scientists and education experts said the results were striking.
    The researchers divided the students into four groups. One group simply read the content. The second group read and studied the text in four five-minute bursts. The third group used a widely popular strategy known as "concept mapping." The fourth group read the passage, wrote a free-form essay, reread the passage and then took another practice test.
    A week later the students were re-assessed and "the students in the testing group did much better than the "concept mappers." They even did better when they were evaluated, not with a short-answer test, but with a test requiring them to draw a concept map from memory."
    The experts were surprised by the results of the study. They cannot explain why retrieval testing helps. "The Purdue study supports findings of a recent spate of research showing learning benefits from testing, including benefits when students get questions wrong. But by comparing testing with other methods, the study goes further."
    This is a Big Deal
    Cognitive psychologist, Dan Willingham indicates “It really bumps it up a level of importance by contrasting it with concept mapping, which many educators think of as sort of the gold standard. Although “it’s not totally obvious that this is shovel-ready — put it in the classroom and it’s good to go — for educators this ought to be a big deal.”
    It Throws Down the Gauntlet
    Howard Gardner, an education professor at Harvard who advocates constructivism — the idea that children should discover their own approach to learning, emphasizing reasoning over memorization — said in an e-mail to the Times that the results “throw down the gauntlet to those progressive educators, myself included.” Educators who embrace seemingly more active approaches, like concept mapping,” he continued, “are challenged to devise outcome measures that can demonstrate the superiority of such constructivist approaches.”
    More Testing?
    After reading between the lines, my initial reactions to this article turned out to be unfounded. This study does not promote or denounce standardized testing. Nor does the study promote memorization or rote learning. This study simply supports quality classroom instruction, but how?
    Look 4s for School Leaders
    Closure and Learning - The focus of instruction is not what teacher teaches but what the students learn. The close of every lesson should focus on what the learner has learned not what the teacher has taught. The question is how does the teacher know that the students have learned and mastered the lesson unless there is some type of formative assessment--quiz, test, or activity.
    Remembering - The only evidence of learning is remembering. When observing a lesson ask yourself how does the teacher know that students will remember what they just learned?
    Checks for Understanding - Teachers should pause frequently during a lesson to check for understanding. How frequently? As a rule of thumb, teachers should check students understanding approximately every fifteen minutes, which approximates the attention span of the average adolescent. According to the Science study, one of the most effective checks for understanding is the quiz used as a formative assessment. Teachers can pause and ask students to write a summary or take a brief quiz on what they just learned. Immediately re-teaching a concept to a classmate may also be used to test practice retrieval.
    Timing is critical. When it comes to recall, tomorrow is too late. Teachers need to check for student understanding before students leave the classroom each day.
    Feedback - "Feedback is the breakfast of champions." Unless students practice recall (retrieval) and get immediate feedback they will not remember.
    Defined Instructional Practices - Some students absolutely need a highly structured classroom room environment characterized by identifiable instructional practices, smaller units of instruction, more frequent assessments, coupled with frequent and immediate feedback. However, students who can function equally as well in low or highly structured classrooms are not penalized in any way by the use of structure. In other words, when in doubt, use a more structured approach.
    Formative Assessments - How often should students be assessed? How frequently students are assessed or asked to practice retrieval depends on their familiarity with the content and the student's level of mastery. When students are introduced to new content or when they are struggling with a particular concept, they should be assessed more frequently. For example, the skills of proficient and advanced readers need only be assessed annually, while students reading at the basic level or below basic need to be assessed regularly. Frequent assessments mean more feedback. A quiz or summary essay at the close of a lesson will do more for student recall than extensive homework assignments.
    Mapping - Instructional strategies like "concept mapping" are effective, but they work better if they are used as part of "practice retrieval." The act of creating a "concept map" in and of itself does not improve learning unless the student makes use of the map as a part of the "practice retrieval" process. Teachers should show students how to use the concept maps to review for a test and not assume that the students know how to do so.
    What this study really says to school leaders
    This study emphasizes the critical importance that school wide defined instructional practices, which include frequent checks for understanding, play in the learning process. When the teacher asks students to reflect on the lesson by practicing retrieval and the students receive immediate feedback, learning improves by as much as 50%.
    Next: Checks for Understanding

    Sunday, March 13, 2011

    Saturday, March 12, 2011

    Rock Hill School's All District Honors Play

    March 12, 2011

    Rock Hill School District 3 All District Honors Play will present the musical, Hairspray, March 31 - April 2 at 7:00pm and April 2-3 Matinee at 3:00pm at Northwestern High School Auditorium.

    THE SHOW: Hairspray delighted audiences by sweeping them away to 1960's Baltimore, where the 50's are out -- and change is in the air.  Loveable plus-size heroine, Tracy Turnblad, has a passion for dancing, and wins a spot on the local TV dance program, "The Corny Collins Show." Overnight she finds herself transformed from outsider to teen celebrity. Can a larger-than-life adolescent manage to vanquish the program's reigning princess, integrate the television show, and find true love (singing and dancing all the while, of course!) without mussing her hair?

    Working with the Artistic Director, Tamara Altman is William Penfield (Music Director), Michele Greene (Scene Design) and Emily Herring (Choreographer). Ericka Collins (Asst. Director) and Melissa O’Mara (Stage Manager) are two students from Winthrop working on the show. The theatre teacher from Rock Hill High, Stephanie Daniel is working as the Costumer and Jimmy Chrismon, theatre teacher from South Pointe will be in charge of the Box Office for the show.
    Tickets are $15.00 adults and $10.00 students.

    Friday, March 11, 2011

    Rock Hill School News

    Congratulations to:

    • students and staff at Richmond Drive Elementary on collecting over $1,700 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Sally's DeWeese fifth grade Gifted and Talented students will volunteer at the Special Olympics on April 8.
    • students and staff at Old Pointe Elementary on donating over $3,100 to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Over the past nine years, the school has donated over $23,000. Counselor Suzanne Dalesandro coordinates this successful campaign.  
    • students and staff at Lesslie Elementary on collecting over $2,600 for the American Heart Assn. Coordinator and P.E. teacher, Trey McDaniel, says that over $25,000 has been raised in the last 10 years.
    • Mary O'Grady-Jones, at Sunset Park Elementary, and Charlotte Faulkenberry, at Sullivan Middle School, whose students are district winners in the State Superintendent's Writing Award competitions.
    • Old Pointe Elementary's Jacob Moree, assistant principal, and Lisa Baker, reading interventionist, for writing and receiving a $1,000 grant from PPG Industries. The money will be used to purchase nonfiction leveled texts for the school's literacy closet.
    • Celebrity Basketball Shootout To raise money for the Boys & Girls Clubs of York County, a "Celebrity Basketball Shootout" will be held from 6:00-8:00 p.m. on Mar. 18 in the gym at Sullivan Middle School. Celebrities include Winthrop President Anthony DiGiorgio, Police Chief John Gregory, York Tech President Greg Rutherford, S.C. House Reps. Ralph Norman and John King, and school superintendents Chuck Epps, from Fort Mill, and Rock Hill's own Lynn Moody. 
    • Northwestern High School's popular Jazz Discovery Music Festival Concert will be held at 7:30 p.m., March 19, in the auditorium. The concert will open with Winthrop's Jazz Ensemble and close with the John Riley Quartet. Tickets, at $20, will be available at the door or by contacting Mark Yost, associate director of bands and festival organizer.
    • Finley Road Elementary will have a Bingo Night & Silent Auction from 6:00-8:30 p.m. Friday, March 18, to raise funds for needs within the school. The school already has over $2,000 in auction items, such as vacation get-away baskets and free tuition for students to attend local summer camps.
    • The Charlotte Knights will host "Education Days" in April. A "Physical Fitness" day for grades 1-8 and a "Sport Management" day for grades 9-12 will be held on April 7, while "Math Day" for grades 4-8 will be held on April 12. Please check out for details.
    • Students in Edwina Gramuska's and Jennifer Molnar's classes at Rock Hill High are participating in a "delicious" fundraiser that will benefit Autism Speaks and provide financial support to the "Sweet Success" business run by Ms. Gramuska's students. 
    • Single parents with children with disabilities are invited to attend a workshop from 8:00-4:00 on March 12 at the Family Resource Center located at 410 E. Black. Sponsored by Family Connections, parents can find out what works, what doesn't, and get helpful tools to help juggle home and work. Call Yolanda at 803.366.4839 for more information.
    • Ebenezer Avenue Elementary will celebrate its 90th birthday on April 15. To raise funds for the celebration and for its courtyard beautification project, the school is selling bricks. Call 981-1435 for more information.

    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    Rock Hill Schools March Work Session Agenda For Monday, March 14, 2011

    LOCATION: Operations Center

    5:30 p.m.

    March 14

    1 Presentation by Facilities Services & ATC Vaughan / Gillman 30 minutes
    2 Communications / Volunteers Kokolis / Williams 15 minutes
    3 Positive Deviant Follow Up Luanne Kokolis 15 minutes
    4 Capital Budget Update Vaughan / Cox 15 minutes
    5 Facilities Master Plan Cox / Kokolis 15 minutes
    6 Working Dinner

    7 Evergreen Update - Facilities Services Restructuring Vaughan 15 minutes
    8 Evergreen Update - Custodial Services Restructuring T. Cox / M. Cox 15 minutes
    9 Budget Survey Lynn Moody 15 minutes
    10 Agenda Planning Bob Norwood 15 minutes
    11 Board Training Lynn Moody 10 minutes
    12 Proposed 2011-2012 School Calendar Elaine Baker 30 minutes

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