Several years ago a colleague of mine posed a question to a high school principal candidate during an interview. I had never heard a question quite like "If you were in a court of law, what evidence would you present that would allow the court to convict you of following a plan to increase student academic progress? What about nurturing their social development?" Since that time I have had an obsession with finding evidence of practices and results that would "convict" a school of doing whatever it takes to increase student academic performance and nurture students' social development. My school visits to Northview High School and East Campus Alternative High School provided plenty of evidence today.
The School Improvement Plan at Northview High School has a strategy to increase student proficiency on the PLAN/ACT/WORK KEYS tests. These are the tests that are the gate keepers for entrance to higher education and the world of work. The science department was trained in a strategy (EBLI) to help students decode frequently used vocabulary on the ACT test sequence and in vocabulary common in reading science text. I witnessed the strategy being implemented in a Chemistry class being taught by Mr. Kammers. I then switched Mr. Hendricks and Ms. Scholten's classes to observe a consultant on the strategy working with students and staff, demonstrating how to implement the strategy. Mr. Wojciakowski and Mr. Thomas were observing along with me. Students were really engaged and the science department staff will use the strategy each day of class as a warm up activity to help students become more literate in science vocabulary throughout the year.
NHS Athletic Director Rick Albro informed me 20 captains of athletic teams (and a few others) would be working with nationally renowned sports psychologist Dr. Greg Dale on leadership behaviors. Dr. Dale is a full professor at Duke University and is in town today. He donated 40 minutes of time for our students to help prepare them to be problem solvers and ready for career success.
Mr. Vargo's class was deeply involved in a problem solving process as teams of students developed "egg drop" devices. I saw evidence of W. Edwards Deming's Continuous Quality Improvement problem solving process in action. Students were using the Plan/Do/Study/Act process to build devices to protect eggs from breaking during a 20 foot drop. I asked students how they researched prototypes they immediately took me to the internet via the computer on their desks. This led to a discussion of whether or not we should use "on-line" or "hard copy" books in the high school setting. The majority of students favored "on-line" access vs. lugging around heavy books. Later on this afternoon Lucas,a high school sophomore, shared that Mr. Spetoskey asked his History class students to use their phones to text their parents asking the parents to share a favorite historical person. The two conversations caused me to think we have a gap between student voice and adult voice on the topic of using available technology in the classrooms.
Over at East Campus Alternative High School similar strategies are being employed to build academic vocabulary. Words are posted on walls and each class begins with another new academic word found on PLAN/ACT/WORK KEYS. Principal Jamey Vermaat visited each classroom over the past two days speaking with students about personal accountability and respectful relationships. I spoke with three students - Miles, Chelsey, and Hillary - about their view that a new building is needed for alternative students. They gave very compelling evidence that the current school is too crowded. They then began problem solving on how we might bring the message of need to the voters of the school district. All three students commented about the dedication of the staff at East Campus. Once conversation with a teacher illustrated how all staff are valued and contribute to the success of students. He referenced the work of the cooks in bringing breakfast and lunch to students and how the cooks knew something about each student. Evidence was provided of a respectful relationship between students and staff. The evidence was clear that the School Improvement Plan was being followed.
I am convinced that a court of law would have convicted each school of moving toward the accomplishment of our vision and mission.
Northview Public Schools and its community inspire and develop literate, creative problem solvers, ready for continued learning and career success, while becoming productive, respectful members of society.
Prepare students for life’s next step.
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