Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011


Superintendent’s Column
November 21, 2011

Friends of CCS:

Thanksgiving:
Here are a few of the things for which I’m giving thanks this holiday season:
I’m thankful for: Family and long weekends; My parents and their good health; Teachers and  their service--to NHS students, writing grants to deepen students’ learning, spearheading Blessings in a Backpack--which will soon spread beyond Andersonville Elementary, and Angela Comp at Andersonville about whom a parent wrote kind and appreciative words; Bus Drivers who look out for kids and stuff buses with food for those in need; Custodians who take time to recognize one another for the little things they do for kids; Alumni who make world connections in England and remember their teachers back home (including theater, IB, poetry slams, and sharing strategies for current high school students to prepare for life beyond school); CHS Theater and for the first time in 51 years a CHS student signing a contract to perform a named role on Broadway (Nic Thompson, CHS ‘03--Mary Poppins); Food Service personnel who ably and carefully serve our entire district and who recently worked with chefs at Andersonville and Independence Elementary Schools through the Fuel Up to Play 60 grant which is sponsored by the National Dairy Association and the NFL to promote healthy nutrition and physical activity; Marching band in the state finals; Athletics in tournament play, including volleyball in the quarterfinals, girls’ swimming in the state finals, and girls and boys’ cross country in the state finals; Collaborative efforts and countless hours on Title I audits; finish lines; Board Members; Veterans; Multiple Intelligences; Kevin Bickerstaff--a Transportation Director who thinks and acts to enhance students’ learning; turkey and dressing; Thanksgiving; the life of Amber Bell; CJHS students who collected 5,000 canned goods and non-perishable items--along with $1,800--for service men and women; big thinkers like Ron Ritchhart and Tina Blythe who work with CCS on Cultures of Thinking and Alan November who will be at CJHS on November 23 to talk about technology and learning; active and supportive parents; kids (every single one of them); great public schools and a citizenry who support kids and schools, just like their fore-parents did for them; and endless Possibilities.

CCS’s Learner Profile:
The Clarkston Community Schools’ learner profile reads:
Clarkston Community Schools’ students are thoughtful, contributing members of society who possess the behaviors, skills and attitudes to continue to learn and adapt to a diverse and dynamic global society.  Our curious and imaginative students exhibit critical thinking and problem solving skills, are effective oral and written communicators, and can access and analyze information. Clarkston Community Schools’ learners, as successful 21st Century citizens, effectively use technology.  They nimbly apply these skills throughout life in academic, social, and emotional situations.  

One of my goals as the superintendent of schools is to, by 2014, ensure that every building in the district is equipped to allow every student to use a 1:1 technology device to enhance his/her learning. Further, it is my goal next school year to have one building in the district that is equipped to allow for every student in that building to use a 1:1 technology device to enhance their learning.

Why have I worked with our board of education, administrators, teachers, parents, and community members to establish this learner profile and this goal? Here are four reasons:

1. In 2006, Thomas Friedman wrote in his book, The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century, that (paraphrasing): Any job--blue or white collar--that can be broken down into a routine and transformed into bits and bytes can now be exported to other countries where there is a rapidly increasing number of highly educated ‘knowledge workers’ who will work for a small fraction of the salary of a comparable American worker. And it seems that this prediction is moving toward the truth in 2011.

2. Beyond school (e.g., in the workplace, college, life) much (if not most) of our working and learning involves technology (think of a job in 2011 that does not use technology), and more specifically a computer device. Think about your cell phone in 2001. What could it do then? What does your smart phone do now? What will it be able to do in 2015? 2016? 2030? 2050? 2083 (when there are 10 billion people in the world)? And our students require access to similar learning tools in school.

3. Therefore and in order for CCS graduates to compete globally for jobs, our schools must demand that our students really think--both orally and in writing--as opposed to merely memorizing and regurgitating; develop their own well-reasoned interpretations of pieces of literature and significant events in history; develop and test hypotheses in science classes and explain their thinking about how they solve complex math problems; work in groups to wrestle with and explain their thinking--every day--regarding really big issues facing our world today; (Paraphrased from The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner, 2008); and use technology to communicate, create, interact, and dig deeply into really big issues facing our world today, in 2015, 2016, 2030, 2050, and 2083 (when there are 10 billion people in the world).

4. If we believe--and I mean truly believe--that “The future of our economy, the strength of our democracy, and perhaps even the health of the planet’s ecosystems depend on educating future generations in ways very different from how many of us were schooled” (Wagner, 2008, p. xxviii); and if we further believe items #1, #2, and #3 above, then it is our responsibility and obligation to ensure that every single student who attends and graduates from the Clarkston Community Schools has the skills and dispositions listed in our district’s learner proflie and that he/she uses technology to communicate, create, interact, and dig deeply into really big issues facing our world today, in 2015, 2016, 2030, 2050, and 2083 (when there are 10 billion people in the world). Hence, our learner profile is more than just words on paper, it is a commitment to every single student we serve.

I invite you to join me in future discussions of our district’s vision, mission, and learner profile. I invite you to join me in doing all that we can together to ensure that every CCS student becomes a thoughtful, contributing member of society who possess the behaviors, skills and attitudes to continue to learn and adapt to a diverse and dynamic global society. That each student is curious and imaginative and exhibits critical thinking and problem solving skills, is an effective oral and written communicator, and can access and analyze information. And each learner, as a successful 21st Century citizen, effectively uses technology. And further that every student nimbly applies these skills throughout life in academic, social, and emotional situations. Let’s make this our collective commitment to our students, our teachers and administrators, our support staff, our community, and our future.

My life is blessed many times over. I am thankful every day to work and learn in Clarkston.
Thank you for allowing me the honor of serving kids with you.

Happy Thanksgiving,
Rod Rock, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Charter School Information

Friends:

Please follow this link to information on the expansion of charter schools in Michigan: https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0B3AibfSN0ZSXMzFkMGI4ZDAtMzA4My00YWQ0LWEzY2ItODMzODMzNzZlNDZm&hl=en

As superintendent, I believe that the expansion of charger schools is not in the best interest of Clarkston's students. Further, I believe that the expansion of charter schools diminishes the quality of public schools in general.

It's an important time to contact your legislator regarding your opinion on this issue.

Thank you,
Rod

Motives Questioned: Who is Served by Educational Changes

Friends of Excellent and Locally Controlled Public Schools:

I take my hair-piece off to Birmingham Superintendent, David Larson for his editorial from September 25. http://www.hometownlife.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2011109250322

It's a vital time for our state and federal leaders to hear an alternative to the test and choice agenda.

What do you think?

Rod

Friday, July 1, 2011

CCS's Role in Our Evolving World


Fareed Zakaria's book, The Post American World, 2.0 (2011, W. W. Norton Company), discusses the following:

Soon, the United States of America will no longer lead the world in the number of patents or citations in scientific journals. Countries like Germany, with a population of nearly 120 million fewer people than the USA, exports more goods than we do. The world’s tallest building, fifty largest factories, highest ferris wheel, and biggest economy will reside in Asia.
(hear more at: http://www.npr.org/templates/rundowns/rundown.php?prgId=13&prgDate=6-30-2011). Our aging infrastructure of bridges, power, and transportation, along with our lack of internet access and our government's declining investment in discovery industries and education are putting us behind.
The good news is that our population is growing, unlike many other countries in the world. This, in large part, is due to the fact that we allow immigrants in, which many other countries do not. Population growth means that many young people will continue to enter the work force. These people offer great hope for our future.
At the same time, there is a shortage of engineers in the United States. Many jobs are going unfilled. (http://www.mlive.com/jobs/index.ssf/2011/02/employers_finding_a_shortage_of_engineer.html). In response, President Obama established an Advanced Manufacturing initiative with several companies and universities, including the Ford Motor Company, Dow Chemical, and the University of Michigan (http://www.mlive.com/business/mid-michigan/index.ssf/2011/06/obamas_advanced_manufacturing.html)

It seems that we posses the knowledge to lead the world in manufacturing, engineering, research, ingenuity, entrepreneurship, creativity, and design--yet according to Zakaria (2011), we're in danger of falling out of this dominant role.

The Clarkston Community Schools can and should lead the way in preparing our children to meet the needs of the future. What do you think? What is our responsibility? What are the possibilities?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Part Foray into Reform

Here's Part Foray into Reform of my Call to Action Series:

https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1Yf2GuoUboxvjijaEKehczzTpmu3_iVpmmkA--RxZB1k

I look forward to your responses.

Superintendent's Call to Action (Manifesto) Part III

Here's the link to Part III: https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1r30lWwjqUabIFs4pjlVUqJZ14rJcCTQ66uA4UockEBU

I look forward to your responses.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Superintendent's Call to Action II

Here's a link to part II of my series. I look forward to your comments.

https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1omyLjvfNdWiAyIpYiax1-RsJJ5IwDD6Roj3d-stqGIQ

Superintendents Call to Action I

Here's a link to part I of my four part series. I look forward to your comments.

https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1069XkV7nb3jOBcqT_QE1MMA3lVBO-VEMQV9Bb7OrH5I

Monday, May 23, 2011

Less Bad Budget Reductions

There is enough money in the Michigan School Aid fund to maintain per pupil funding (and perhaps even to increase it). Additionally, last week, Michigan’s Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference confirmed an unexpected increase of $400+ million. The Governor and Republican leaders tentatively agreed to reduce the reduction (I guess this makes it less bad) to each school district by a reported $200 per student. Districts that meet certain “best financial practices” may have their reductions reduced (even less badly) to $100 per student. A vote on this at the state level will come on May 24, with the hopes of passing a budget by May 31. 

We are appreciative of the lowering of the reduction (lessening the bad--it’s akin to feeling good about paying $3.95 instead of $4.20 for a gallon of gas), although any reduction is unnecessary. I’m concerned that districts must meet arbitrary qualifications in order to receive a (lessened bad) portion of the reduction. Why punish the students in this way? Why punish schools? Why not work with us? Why not include us in the process? Why not engage in discourse with us? Why not delay the “best practices” requirement for one year to make sure all schools can qualify and all kids can benefit? What message does this convey regarding the value Michigan places on education? Our economy does not have enough money to award grants. 

This is exactly what the Obama administration did with Race to the Top--they forced us to implement certain “best practices” and then provided funding to qualifying states through a competitive process--the mandates are with us and we have no additional revenue to implement them. Providing more money to some school districts perpetuates the existing have-and-have-not status. I’m for all kids. This means every single one of them (first, middle, and last names).