The following speech was given to the staff in Becker Auditorium by Superintendent Gary Pflueger on Aug. 27, at 8:30 a.m.
I started my school career in 1958 at St. Bernadette Elementary in Seattle. On this year there were 48 stars on our flag, Eisenhower was president, and Elvis Presley and the Everly Brothers were rocking the networks. Intel marketed the Microchip and Wham-O introduced the Hula Hoop. And yes we were all black and white back then.
Some things change over time, some things do not: In my 1958 Kindergarten class I was introduced to a 26 figure alphabet and an infinite number system that could do real cool things. I was also introduced to the paddle when I fell out of order. Thankfully learning the way to the principal’s office early in my school career saved me time in my professional career.
What I am getting at is … school use to be so simple. I did my thing at school, I came home to my stay at home mom, I did my homework, read a little, played outside, had a meal at the supper table when dad got home, then watched Gunsmoke before bed. Things were simpler.
Today is so different. Beside an increased break down in the traditional family, education includes so many more things. At a meeting I went to this summer, Dr. Michael Schmoker, educational researcher and writer … pointed out some of the more: increasing technology, RTI, standards based grading, personalized learning, differentiated instruction, 504’s, strategic circulating, the Charlotte Danielson teacher evaluation system, social and emotional learning and an extensive growth of professional development.
Then Dr. Schmoker went in another direction. He said we need to simplify. He quotes: “complexity kills” Forbes; “complexity is the enemy of implementation” Pfeffer and Sutton; “75 percent of educators feel that their job has become too complex” Fullan; “less is more” Maeda. Then Schmoker spoke to something that could conflict to our PEAK strategies: hold less unstructured group work. More quotes about this: “group work is prone to overuse and abuse” — Marzano, “…it often occupies up to 70 percent of the school day” — DeWittthe; “Group work is often disguised inactivity … hidden in a smog of collaborative effort” — Bennet. Here is my challenge to you… the use of student discussion and collaboration is an art form, it is a learned skill. Be very careful to use it correctly and only when the discussion is core to the learning objective. We cannot afford to waste instruction time in the classroom.
Schmoker then pointed to the answer to simplify: the three most effective strategies that holds the greatest impact on teaching and learning are: 1) a common content-rich curriculum, 2) quick and specific meaningful discussion, and 3) 90-120 minutes of purposeful reading, and writing per day. I have always valued the strength of writing and the written word. I encourage more reading in school, brief conversation about what was read and active writing to summarize—even in math!
I was a special education teacher. That being said, I never was a fan of the standardized tests. As a principal and now superintendent, I understand the value of a good score for the district and the community. Though we have increased in many areas, we need to do better. There was a clear increase in student scores from the teachers who used the interim assessments. The interim assessments do not just need to be viewed as another test—they can be used effectively as a teaching tool through group review. Please plan on this. The ISAT does matter, if I can convince the principals and the Board the final test results will be used as a part of our student’s final grade; they should count! As for the ACT test, we need to learn why these scores were low. The excuse of “the scores don’t matter” needs to change. Pride in doing a good job is still important.
A few notes to share: we are responsible for every student that walks in our doors. The students and their parents have some options— to walk the path of advanced opportunities and college credit, or they can go the vocational way with CTE courses, they might choose military service which we will proudly support or they might just do enough to get by. It is our responsibility to take them where they want to go. And we will.
So, in true PEAK style we will make a pledge..please stand and raise your dominant hand and repeat after me, “I promise to do the best I can … to make a safe, civil and productive environment for all students … I understand I work for the students… and that they will work for me … if I earn their trust … I also understand the importance of the first three weeks… as I promote safety, success and valued purpose … we are in this together … we have Badger Pride! Amen
In closing, a few last notes: a private alumni on “donor’s choice” has funding available again, among other projects they would like to support our school libraries and secondary athletic programs.
Please thank the Mountain West Folks for breakfast. Please thank Amber Miller and Life flight for allowing BCSD a group rate.
Finally note … please be careful with Facebook and social media. Every year I say this. In past years Facebook comments have had a negative effect on employees and employment. Yes, we all have “free speech” but if your free speech works against the mission of our District, the District has rights also!
I hope to see many of you at more athletic and extra-curricular events. I promise the students will work harder for you, if you work harder for them! Enjoy a great school year!
Finally, and please with the help of the older Valley View staff, “Make today a great day with kind words and respectful choices.”