A report was published this week about the way in which the state of Texas tests students. If you have kids, then you’ve heard of STAAR. STAAR is the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness. STAAR replaced the previous assessment called TAKS, Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.
The state replaced TAKS with STAAR to increase the rigor for which students were being assessed. STAAR was supposed to be higher rigor with the test focusing mostly on critical thinking skills. The new STAAR test has received much opposition from school districts throughout the years… from 15 high school assessments in order to graduate to the requirement that 3rd, 5th, and 8thgraders pass their tests in order to be promoted to the next grade. These concerns came mostly from educators and from what they felt were unfair expectations.
This week, the argument of the fairness of STAAR brings in actual research. Recent research explained by Texas Monthly shows that STAAR reading levels are well above grade levels. For instance, for a student in 8thgrade to reach the “meets grade level” designation, he/she must read on a Lexile reading level of 10th grade.
What does this mean for students?
As a parent, this infuriates me. I have two sons who were held to these standards that are now being revealed as unfair. I am infuriated because for these years, my state harmed my sons… because at the end of the day, placing unfair expectations on powerless children is doing them harm. The state of Texas must be held accountable for harming our children.
What can we do? We can call, email, and/or write our local politicians. The legislators make the laws concerning education. Change must start with them… and we must speak up for our children.
Time for the Teacher to BLOOM!
I liken teaching to that of a juggling act. You have 22 students in the classroom (during a good year… more than that in a not so good year). 22 students mean 22 different personalities, 22 different names to remember, 22 sets of parents with whom to communicate, 22 different allergies to keep up, and 22 different ways of learning. The one thing that can make or break a school year is how well a teacher plans and organizes.
While searching for ways to help organize my life, I found a planning company that seems to truly understand the teacher’s life. Bloom (bloomplanners.com) offers an array of items to meet all of your planning and organizational needs. I blogged a few weeks ago about their yearly planner I started using this year. While surfing their site, I also noticed what I thought to be a gold mine for teachers… a teacher planner.
The teacher planner is not just a good place to stash lesson plans, it also has an area to track student data, a communication log to keep documentation of parent conversations, and an area for important dates (for all of those important faculty meetings and school parent nights). I envision this being sort of the teacher’s bible. Everything that is important to a teacher is in this planner and it would be a great way to keep up with all of it. I see teachers using this at PLCs, RTI meetings, or for any other meeting where student progress is discussed. No more searching for data before your meetings.
Because teachers are professional jugglers, organization is key. How do you organize all of your important tasks? Leave a comment with your organization challenges or tips on how to keep it all together for a chance to win a teacher planner!
Check out bloom products by clicking on the social media icons below. I know they have certainly changed my life!
It's Not About You!
In my search of a good inspiration keynote speaker, I watched a video of Inky Johnson. The title of the speech was “It’s Not Just About You”. The next day was Sunday and while in church I kept hearing a recurring theme of “it’s not about you”. I realized then, that this is a message worth blogging about.
Education is considered a service profession. A service profession can be described as any occupation that primarily helps others. Education is considered a service profession because educators’ goals are to help students learn what is needed to become a law-abiding, contributing members of society.
Most educators enter the field because of a strong sense to help in some way. I really don’t think educators enter this field with a mind to harm children. I really don’t think educators enter this field just to fill their time, either. Yes, there are some educators who decided to teach to have summers off… to have banker’s hours, etc. However, those are also the ones who leave after a few years because they quickly realize that education is far more work than they expected and were simply not willing to put in the work.
This recurring them that “it’s not about you” provoked me to reflect on if I am truly living out my job in education knowing and understanding that “it’s not about me”. I often say that we adults have already made more decisions in our lives than our students and they haven’t even begun theirs. We adults must remember that we are in education to provide a service to our communities. We are in education to make lives better for our students and their families. We are in education to break cycles of poverty. We are in education to break cycles of illiteracy. We are in education to make the world a better place.
In understanding that “it’s not about you”, I will accept challenges a bit differently. When I run into a roadblock and may wonder if it’s worth it, I will remember that “it’s not about me”. When obstacles are placed in my way (by outside forces I cannot control), I will remember to continue to fight the good fight… because “it’s not about me”. The theme “it’s not about you” should give us all a renewed call to do whatever is needed to make sure every child for which we are responsible has access to a quality education and has someone to make sure they reach their potential.
When you feel like giving up, remember, “it’s not about you”.
We have officially begun the second month of the year. Hello, February! We had 31 days to begin our transformation in the year 2019. After the first month, how did you do? Are you living a healthier life? Are you spending your money more wisely? Are you being more positive?
In my quest to be more balanced, I found a gem. I decided this year to use a planner. I faithfully use my Outlook calendar (which is all electronic). I haven’t used a paper planner in many years. I’m not sure what motivated me to use a paper planner, but I am so glad I decided to try it. I went on Amazon and searched planners. After looking at a few, I decided on the Bloom calendar. What a great resource this has been for me!!
The planner helps me with goal-setting and also with tracking my health.
There is a page for a vision board for the year. There is also a page to note how you plan to “bloom” for the new year. Each month, there is a monthly vision… helping you make goals each month. Each week, there is a place to state your focus for the week. There is also an area to track your goals each day. Remember, in order to meet your yearly goal, you must meet monthly goals, and you must meet your weekly goal, and you must meet your daily goal.
For me, as I look at the planner each morning during my prayer and meditation time, I am reminded of my small goals that will eventually lead to reaching my larger goal.
At the bottom of each week’s page is a tracker. I use this area to track my weight (I weigh in every morning to track my keto progress). I also use this area to track my workouts and meals. It helps me stay on track each week, but more importantly, each day! I don’t always stay on track, but reviewing my goals and tracking each day helps me jump back on the right course.
The great thing about the journey to improve yourself is that there is always “tomorrow”. If you have not attained all of your goals in January or had a rough start to the new year, it’s never too late to start again.
Paula Patterson is a Superintendent of Schools who shares practical points on leadership.