Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Read to first grade?????

Just read the latest version of the bill Senate Sub for HB 2140 that has changed from a third grade retention for failure to meet reading goals to a first grade retention for failure to meet goals....WHAT?

So what does the bill do now?
  • It is no longer a 3rd grade retention bill. Senator It was amended to apply to 1st graders based on the belief held by many that third grade was too late to begin interventions.
  • The parents of the child can override the retention and have the child promoted to 2nd grade.
  • If a parent does not request a meeting to discuss the issue within 15 days of getting notice of the child's performance, the teacher will make a recommendation to the principal who will review it and make a recommendation to the superintendent. The superintendent then makes the decision.
  • Exceptions to retention also include demonstration of reading skills on a teacher developed portfolio or a promotion recommendation from the teacher that is supported by both the principal and the superintendent.
  • The original bill provided grants to non-profits to provide intervention services. It now makes those grants available to school districts as well.

First grade?

As a kindergarten teacher I am often using the phrase "developmentally appropriate." Is that bill even developmentally appropriate? Students need time to grow and learn at their own pace. Teachers help give the tools, but the pace is often determine by the student. We often see those "aha" moments in younger grades when a student "gets it."

How devastating it could be to young six and seven years old students to be retained because they weren't quite up to the same level as their peers....which could possible be for a whole host of reasons.

Students begin their school career at all different levels....preschool, no preschool, daycare or not, home full of books or no exposure, single parent, split family, grandparent raised....and the list goes on and on. It is near to impossible to expect all students to be on the same level in 18 months of formal education.

I am disappointed in our senators.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


This is a disclaimer...if you do not like politics, red tape, etc. please stop reading now.
My current assignment is to blog about the current state of affairs in Topeka from multiple sources and so that is what will be happening for a few posts to come.

I read a recent letter (March 6, 2013) that the Kansas School Superintendent's Association (KSSA) wrote to the Kansas House committee regarding collective bargaining and then read a letter in response regarding that bill that the KNEA (state teachers union) wrote and I just felt angry after reading both of them. I don't know a more delicate or professional way to say that.

Our state received a waiver from state assessments, but as a condition of that waiver we must develop a new evaluation system and procedure, which is now called the KEEP (Kansas Educator Evaluation Protocol). KSSA would like to be able to collaborate outside of the negotiation process on items with the bargaining team. The KNEA responded with confusion about why they weren't involved in the discussion about this potential deal. Why bargaining now includes only five mandatory topics, a list of permissible topics (that board may refuse to negotiate) and an outright ban on a number of other items.

 I am confused as to why there needs to be discussion outside of negotiations? I am not a part of that team, but why is it a bad thing? It appears from reading the superintendent's bill that negotiations are not the way they want to handle things....why not? And why ban items to negotiate? Don't we want what is best for the people working closest to the people we are all working for....our students!?!?

Our job is kids. OUR JOB IS KIDS. I do not understand why people in those positions do not stop for just a moment and think about what they are really fighting about.....on all sides.

I must admit that all of this is completely confusing. I don't follow the politic side of education very close....I don't like the red tape...the paperwork...the more and more "stuff" piled onto education.

I enjoy teaching! I enjoy helping students learn! I truly enjoy being in my classroom with my students being involved in education. My students need advocates for their future. They need the people with power to think about what is best for them! What will help them...what will inspire them...what will drive them to do great things.

The rest....

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


I went to a district meeting last week. Usually these meetings leave me filled with regret for missing the time in my classroom...missing teaching time with my little gems, time spent on sub plans. Well this meeting did contain all of those things. Missed time with my gems, substitute plans, etc. but there was something awesome that came out of it.

Another teacher shared an amazing website that I have absolutely fallen in love with and cannot wait to use it with my kiddos. It is called InstaGrok and maybe it has been discovered by most already and I am late to the game but I am really enjoying plugging all sorts of search terms to get all sorts of wonderful results.  You simply plug a search term into the search bar and it instantly creates a web map for you, complete with key facts, websites, videos, images and a glossary. There is also a toggle bar on the top that allows you to change the level as well so it works for lower elementary all the way to higher elementary. Check it out!!!


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Innovative Schools Bill

There is currently a bill in debate in our state's capitol about whether or not 10 lucky schools (or districts?) in Kansas can become "innovative." Basically meaning that they are exempt from the same rules, regulations, etc. that all other state public schools are responsible for. It gives these chosen schools a little more freedom, a little more flexibility to decide what is best for their school versus a mandated version.

I teach at a charter school, which in TONS of ways is very innovative. School barn, farm animals, chore boots lining the hallways....things are different. But there are many challenges as well. We are part of a larger district; four other elementary schools, two middle schools and a large high school. Our district still expects (for the most part) us to be in line with the other schools. We still have many district requirements, assessments, meetings, etc. that we are responsible for. A lot of times there are misconceptions about what we are and are not. We are still very much responsible for all state standards, we just teach them in a different way. We integrate as much as possible. We do not get paid more (although rumor has it we do). We do work hard (weekends are a must, animals must be fed, integration takes work, etc. etc. etc.). We truly do want what is best for our students. The path we chose was not an easy path. Curriculum had to be us. We couldn't purchase textbooks to go along with our new charter. Roadblocks were often in our way...and often still are.

Flexibility and freedom to be different would be a very freeing experience. We are different and different is difficult when your school is still expected to be the same.