Friday, March 20, 2009

It's a great day to be a Thunderbird!

I am bursting with pride at the outstanding report we received this afternoon from the Corrective Action Study Team made up of Public Education Department consultants and APS staffers. The four member study team spent all day visiting classrooms, interviewing teachers and parents, and reviewing documents. The visit’s purpose was to assess our progress toward completing our Educational Plan for Student Success. The team visited twenty classrooms and observed student and teacher interactions. The team met with the Instructional Council after school to present their preliminary findings. The following were quotes from the exit meeting:
• “Taylor has an amazing parent component. The parent representative who was interviewed (Tanya Lattin) really did a good job. She obviously likes Taylor.”
• “You have a wonderful student body. The students were very well behaved in class and in the hallways. We did not see students having to be redirected once by the teacher.”
• “There is a strong foundation of respect by the students. “
• “Student work is being honored throughout school.”
• “The school is very student centered.”
• “We are impressed by how much the staff cares about the students.”
• “We saw lots of good things. In chorus class the kids were having a ball.”
• “You have an amazing instructional coach (Lindsay Estes) and the job Ann Hawks did with her class was incredible.”
• “The work you are doing with Monday’s Data Dialogues is really quite remarkable. Your staff is to be complimented for their willingness to collaborate.”
• “Taylor right now ranks somewhere between good and very good with the possibility of being great.”
In addition to the areas of strength, areas of improvement were noted. We were advised to continue to zone in on improving the curriculum and scheduling. We were reminded that teachers need to differentiate instruction to address the individual needs of students – particularly those with disabilities and language differences. The study team, headed by Dr. Patricia Woodard, APS support principal for Restructuring Schools, will deliver their final report on the visit to us sometime in late April. Copies will be made available at that time. My thanks to all of you for the work you did to make today’s visit a resounding success.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Is your child getting enough sleep? Are you?

I don’t know about you but the time change to Daylight Savings kicked my rear end this weekend. You wouldn’t think losing an hour of sleep would matter but it sure did for me. This got me thinking about sleep needs of our students and it led me to an article in the New York Times by Perri Klass, M.D. published March 9, 2009.
“ “The literature really strongly suggests the average early to mid-adolescent needs 9 to 9.25 hours a night,” said Dr. Judith Owens, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University, who directs the Pediatric Sleep Disorders Clinic at Hasbro Children’s Hospital. “It’s a bell-shaped curve,” she said, with just 2.5 percent of the population needing significantly less sleep than average. “The problem,” she went on, “is that 95 percent of us think we’re in that 2.5 percent. You should assume until proven otherwise that your kid needs that much sleep.””
“As children move into middle school, Dr. Owens said, they still need plenty of sleep, but it gets harder for them to follow the schedule that the world demands.”
““Sleep needs don’t change all that dramatically from late elementary through middle school into high school,” she said. “What changes is the circadian rhythm of sleep and wake, and typically as you go into and through puberty your sleep and wake time shifts by as much as two hours. They simply can’t fall asleep as early as they did when they were 7 or 8 years old.” That is why many experts say the high school day should start later.”
“Mary Carskadon, a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown and the director of chronobiology research at E. P. Bradley Hospital, says that in the sleep lab, researchers can assess a child’s sleep drive by looking at EEG recordings of the brain, and monitor circadian rhythm by testing saliva.”
““We assess the amount of melatonin that’s produced, an excellent marker of brain timing: when we see the melatonin signal turn on, that’s telling us it’s nighttime for the brain. We’ve measured that signal at different developmental stages,” she said, and “as kids are passing through puberty, we see this push for nighttime to be later.” “
“Even as we’ve come to understand more and more about the importance of sleep, for brain function and learning, for mental and physical health, the world has gotten to be a harder and harder place for a child to go to sleep. The basic advice pediatricians give to parents of young children about bedtime routines — turn off the television, take her on your lap, read a book — is important for older children, too: spend time together, wind down, turn off electronic devices, read a book.”
“Let’s face it, even if you keep the television out of the bedroom (which you should absolutely do), the nursery is now pretty fully wired in many families, and most children are aware of entertainment and communication possibilities that go on all evening long. I may have let my children stay up too late (O.K., I did let my children stay up too late), but at least I pushed hard for reading, being read to and just plain hanging out. And as we try to take account of the new research on the importance of sleep, the bedtime routine may remain every bit as important as the bedtime.”
So I hope you will make sure your student gets a good night sleep tonight. If in doubt, consult your pediatrician for specific sleep needs. Now if you’ll excuse me (Yawn!) I have to get to bed because it’s past my bedtime. Sweet dreams.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Ten reasons I would enroll my child at Taylor

Business Week just released their list of the Ten Unhappiest Cities in America. I was surprised to see my old hometown Portland, Oregon ranked #1 as the saddest city in the US. But as I read the summary, I remembered the 222 cloudy days per year, the unending rain, and the high divorce rate and understood. We all love top ten lists so I compiled my list of the Ten Reasons I Would Enroll My Child at Taylor MS. In no particular order, they are:

Reason 1: Small and personal: Compared with our neighboring middle schools west of the river, we have a fraction of the enrollment. With an enrollment of 630 students, we are big enough to offer excellent programs but small enough where I know most of the students by sight.
Reason 2: Positive behavior is supported: The Great Kids recognition is but one example of how we are trying to “catch kids being good”. Our Celebrate Success Committee has been instrumental this year in creating a framework for recognizing student academic success.
Reason 3: Outstanding teachers EA, and support staff: Taylor has great teachers. I have worked in a number of NM schools and we have some of the best teachers in entire state. Our EAs are simply superb!
Reason 4: Strong Parent Teacher and Band Parent Organizations: Our parent organizations are there to serve the school as volunteers whether selling Candy-grams or restocking our uniform pantry. They are selfless in their service of our school.
Reason 5: Small town community feeling: Taylor doesn’t feel like an urban school. To me, it has an almost “Our Town” feeling. I am always refreshed when I drive down Rio Grande and turn toward Taylor.
Reason 6: High academic expectations: Our teachers expect excellence from their students. Toward that end, we are upping our expectations even more next year with the creation of Pre-AP courses.
Reason 7: Strong instructional support: The school leadership team believes our most important task is to support good teaching in every classroom. Our instructional coach, CLC coaches, literacy leaders, instructional council, and grade level teams collaborate weekly to make sure we improve student learning.
Reason 8: Safe well-maintained campus: We aren’t the newest school around but we are one of the best maintained. Our full time campus deputy constantly monitors our campus to ensure safety.
Reason 9: Up-to-date technology: We have invested thousands this year in computers, Elmos, and clickers this year to make sure our teachers have the tools they need to teach effectively.
Reason 10: We are a school on the rise: Sure I am biased but I think we have made and are making changes that will lead to improved instruction and student success in the years to come. Watch us SOAR!