Superintendent's Scoop January 2016 - The Power of Student Voice in School Decisions – September 2015

The Power of Student Voice in School Decisions – September 2015

A slogan that hangs in my office states Teaching is a Team Sport! Research has demonstrated the positive influence of collaborative teams on student success. Where do students fit on the team? Are we listening to students? It seems likely everyone would agree that students are our most valuable resource and are the key stakeholders in our education systems. Are we giving them the opportunity to sit at the tables in our schools where decisions are being made that directly affect them?

According to the research of Russel Quaglia, when students have a voice in their education, they are seven times more likely to be motivated to learn. Student voice can be encouraged in many ways. Simple discussions between students and adults are a start but more organized methods such as surveys or student focus groups could be more valuable. Regardless of the method of soliciting student voice one thing is clear, the feedback can be eye opening for teachers and staff. When asked for, student opinion can help school leaders understand more about the schools climate than they thought possible. One student suggested, “You can talk to teachers and other administrators, but students are the brutally honest ones. They’re the ones who will tell you what they’re really seeing or feeling.”

Advocates for student voice have found that teachers and school leaders receive valuable feedback when they build students’ competence and confidence to participate in focus groups. School leaders must trust what students are saying and then be willing to make changes based on their ideas even though it often feels uncomfortable at first. School personnel must simply embrace the fact that all students have something to teach us. “The biggest shift we’ve seen so far has been cultural, with every convening we’ve held, a few more educators and administrators see the immense value of incorporating student voice into their decisions,” says Erik Martin, a student voice advocate. “We’ve got to change hearts and minds before we can change whole institutions.”

When we reach out to students and then act on their feedback and suggestions we improve our system by empowering the very core of our existence. We offer the value and power of mutual respect and create a culture of feedback focused toward the opinions and feelings of the people with the most significance... the students. They are speaking, are we listening?

Perry, G. (2015). Are We Listening to Students? ASCD Education Update, 57(8), 1,4-5.

Superintendent's Scoop September 2015 - Putting the Best Interest of Utah Students First

Putting the Best Interest of Utah Students First

 Last week Utah Governor Herbert held a press conference to discuss the Utah Core Standards in Mathematics and Language Arts. You can read the text of his speech here http://blog.governor.utah.gov/2014/07/governors-remarks-strengthening-utah-education-for-our-students/.  As part of his plan, Governor Herbert has created a task force to review the mathematics and ELA cores. He is asking for input regarding the standards. You can participate by taking a survey at http://utah.gov/governor/standards/.  Please note that the governor is asking for specific feedback, not general impressions.

I urge each of you to get involved and voice your opinions concerning the Common Core Standards. I have attached the link to the governor's survey to teachers, parents, and community stakeholders on our district website as well as Twitter and Facebook. There are also many links to factual information and frequently asked questions on our district website. I would encourage each of you to study the facts and voice your honest opinions. 
 
There is much to learn from states who have dropped out of the Common Core and the time and funding lost. My personal opinion is that if we will stick with it and continue to improve upon it, overtime we will improve our system. I believe that if the standards were dumped and Utah put together a group of educational experts to create a Utah Core in ELA and Math, we would end up with a very close match to what already exists. I also believe that educational leaders and teachers from Utah will continue to be involved in efforts to improve and build upon Utah Core Standards. One of the worst things we could do is continue to move the target and lose focus. 
 
It is imperative that each of us become more involved in supporting quality educational initiatives in the political arena. Please feel free to share this information with family, friends and neighbors. 
 
Thank you. Thank you for all that you do to improve our community and our schools. 

Superintendent's Scoop March 2015

Assessment and Data Use to Improve Schools

A wise friend of mine once taught me that you get what you “expect” and “inspect.” I have found this to be true in parenting and education. Expectations are clearly the single most influential factor in the success of any system, classroom, or life. Steven R. Covey said, “Treat a man as he is an he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be.” Inspecting progress towards expectation outcomes is equally as important. If one fails to “inspect” what one “expects” there will surely be disappointment.

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