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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

School Dropouts-Everyone's Problem

Representatives from Talladega City Schools, Hoover City, Shelby County, Sylacauga City, Chilton County, and Coosa County received a wealth of information about a growing epidemic, STUDENT DROPOUTS, from Jim Toney, a State Department Educational Specialist.

Mr. Toney shared how discipline, safety, and attendance directly affects academics. He asked some important questions such as:
Is there a model of discipline in each classroom?
What is the climate of the school in regards to bullying? Are reports of bullying being ignored or taken seriously? Are policies for attendance being followed? Is school a good place to be? He said our school climates should allow students to learn without fear of failing, feel physically safe, and want to come to school.

Jim referenced a report done by Civic Enterprises entitled "The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts." You can download the report by visiting: www.gatesfoundation.org/nr/downloads/ed/TheSilentEpidemic3-06FINAL.pdf The report contains information gathered from surveys of students who chose to dropout. According to the surveys, the top five major factors for leaving school included:

Classes were not interesting 47%
Missed too many days and could not catch up 43%
Spent time with people who were not interested in school 42%
Had too much freedom and not enough rules in my life 38%
Was failing in school 35%

At first I viewed dropouts as a high school problem, but I quickly learned from his presentation that it is a problem that starts much earlier. As an elementary or junior high teacher, it might be helpful to know that student retention of one grade increases the risk of dropping out by 40% to 50% and if there has been more than one grade retention the risk rises to 90%. These retentions usually occur before the student reaches high school. These students need to be flagged so additional support can be offered.

Jim shared that a poor pattern of attendance is the first indicator of a potential dropout. This is a problem seen at the elementary and junior high level every day. He revealed many students who might dropout will begin exhibiting significant signs such as negative behaviors or poor academic performance as early as third, fourth, or fifth grade. Many students aren't ready for the departmentalization in the third or fourth grade and need the added security of a stable personality for the entire day. Being aware of attendance at every grade level is one way we can assist the high school. The report suggests that every day, schools create a reliable list of students who failed to attend school, notify parents or guardians immediately, and take appropriate action. When you look at your students today, those who have had attendance issues throughout their school career could be the next dropouts when they reach the high school level.

According to the 2006-07 Adequate Yearly Progress Status Report, Talladega High School reported a 67% graduation rate. That means for the 2005 seniors only 135 out of the 203 made it to the finish line. 48 students were unsuccessful in completing their education. Twenty members of the class of 2005 only received a certificate of attendance because they did not pass the AHSGE or did not have enough units to pass. Mr. Toney shared that 75% of day crimes are committed by juveniles. Do you see a connection between the dropout problem and the daytime crime rate?

As a former classroom teacher, it was very sad and disturbing to actually read the list of dropout students reported last year from Talladega High School. I recognized many names of children who were students at R.L.Young, my former school and those I knew in the community. It is so easy to just assume they make it to graduation.

So what might help students stay in school? According to the report, most dropouts blame themselves for failing to graduate, but there are things they say schools can do to help them finish.

  • Improve teaching and curricula to make school more relevant and engaging and enhance the connection between school and work.
  • Improve instruction and access to supports for struggling students.
  • Build a school climate that fosters academics.
  • Ensure that students have a strong relationship with at least one adult in the school.
  • Improve the communication between parents and the schools.
So what is happening in Talladega City? The efforts of Talladega High School in reaching out to struggling students should be recognized. Faculty members have "adopted" teens who have not yet passed the graduation exam. An excel sheet created to track the progress of students and the graduation exam has been shared with the faculty. A computer program (USA Test Prep) was purchased and is now available for students to practice for the exams 24/7 at home or at school. Colorful signs have been posted around the school to clarify the cutoff scores needed to pass different parts of the exam. Graduation Exam flashcards are available as a tool to review. To prepare for the December testing week, tutoring has been made available on Saturday, during the school day, and after school in all subject areas. Practice books with the answer key attached can be checked out for student use. A motivational assembly was held today to help students prepare mentally for the exams.

All schools in the district are taking a closer look at their daily attendance. The high school and junior high and elementary schools send letters to parents concerning unexcused absences. Many of our schools make calls daily to parents when their child fails to come to school. Mr. Wilby Wallace, the District Truancy Officer, reaches out to the students on a regular basis. This team effort of administrators, faculty and staff will pay off in helping our children succeed. It will also help with AYP scores which will be released on August 3rd.

As Helen Keller said, "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." As a district we can pull together and keep our students in school. Dropouts are everyone's problem.

American Education Week at R.L. Young

The students and staff at R.L. Young had a great time during American Education Week. They participated in many different activities during the week. Students "kicked-off" the week with Mayor Brian York as the guest speaker. He did a great job talking to the students about their future and the importance of a good education. On Wednesday all retired teachers were invited to a luncheon. Students wrote essays about "Why Education is Important to Me." Some students wrote poems, drawings and paintings. Students were encouraged to write "Thank-You" notes to anyone who serves in our school. Friday was the big IRON BOWL READING contest. Everyone was encouraged to wear orange/blue or red/white. Students read for one hour and recorded the number of pages read for each team. Parents were invited to come to school and read to and listen to students read. Fifty parents showed up to help out! After adding all scores together the winner was AUBURN!!!
All of the activities were planned by Cathy Thornton.

School Bus Safety Program

Hal Henderson Elementary enjoyed learning about School Bus Safety from their new friend, Buster. Buster the School Bus taught children and teachers what everyone needs to know when it comes to riding the school bus. Buster discussed the danger zone, the emergency exit, loading and unloading the bus, and how to be a safe bus rider.

Through this wonderful program, Mr. Bryan Nash and Buster imparted knowledge that could save lives and made learning school bus safety rules fun. Students and teachers enjoyed the program!

THS--Graduation Exam Item Specs Without Answers Marked

The set of items specifications for each of the five parts of the graduation exam gives teacher a great tool. Now that so many of you have projectors, you can use the item specs without running off copies or making overhead transparencies. If you have the specs in digital form on your computer, you are one double-click away from having sample questions on the wall (or digital whiteboard) for the whole class to see.

The problem is that the answers are already marked with an "*". Since three of the five subjects are available in PDF form only, getting rid of the * beside each correct answer presents quite a challenge. We have, however, figured out another way to skin the cat.

We were able to create a black band that covers up the * beside the correct answer as well as the spot where the * would be beside the wrong answers. (Pay no attention to any small red squares or letting that may appear in the black band. It has nothing to do with right or wrong answers. It simply has to do with the trick we had to play for us to be allowed to change the PDF file.)

You can download these item specs to your computer by going here. If asked for a password, just hit cancel.

The link above takes you directly to these documents. You could also get to them by doing this:
  1. Clicking on the link to the right that says "Downloadable Documents."
  2. Click on "Curriculum"
  3. Click on "Graduation Exam Preparation"
  4. Click on "Item Specifications Without Answers Marked."

I hope you will find this set helpful.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

State Superintendent's Visual Arts Exhibit

I have just received the information for the State Superintendent's Visual Arts Exhibit. Rules for the exhibit can be found here. (If you are asked for a password, just hit "cancel.")

As in years past, each school holds its own school-level exhibit. The best entries from that level progress to the district level. Each school may submit up to one entry per grade level in the drawing/painting division and one entry per grade level in the graphic arts/photography division.

As a teacher, here is what you would need to do:
  1. Await word from your principal as to whether or not your school will be participating, and if so, the date of your school art show.
  2. Read the guidelines from the link above.
  3. Work with your students to create their artwork.
  4. Display the artwork in the halls of wherever the judging is going to be at your school.
After your school art show has been held, here is what needs to be done for the winning entries:
  1. Fill out the "Student Entry Form" for each winning entry. That form is included in the guidelines. It asks for identifying information, your signature, and the student's signature. You may simply paper clip that form to the artwork.
  2. Be sure that the artwork is delivered to the central office by the end of the day on January 11. (Judging will be held on January 12.)

After the district-level judging, here is what will happen:
  1. I will take the entries selected to go to Montgomery and have them matted, make the labels, attach the form you had submitted to the back of each one, and deliver them to Montgomery.
  2. The entries not going to Montgomery will be returned to the school.
  3. I will provide you with information for the parents on where the location, dates, and times of the exhibit in Montgomery in case any of them wanted to visit the exhibit.
  4. After the exhibit is over, I will see that the artwork is returned to the district.
  5. We will arrange a time for the students to come to the central office to have their picture made for the paper.
  6. The students will be given their artwork at that time, which they can take home.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Technology Course of Study

Kudos to John Locklin for putting together a user-friendly version of the Alabama State Course of Study for Technology. Each grade from K-8 has its own set of standards. You can download yours from here. To navigate from this blog to them, you would click on the "Downloadable Documents" link. Open the "Curriculum" folder and then the "Course of Study" folder inside. There you will see a folder labeled "Technology." Each of the K-8 documents is housed there.

Talladega High School would like for everyone to be aware of the scholarships we have available. Each year our goal is to help parents and students make attending college more affordable by helping our deserving students apply for and receive scholarships. We have listed the scholarships we currently have available below, along with the deadlines and links, if available.

Lousiana State University (LSU)--deadline December 15, 2006--http://www.lsu.edu/lsu4me

Gates Millenium Scholars--Funded by Bill & Melinda Gates--deadline January 12, 2007 http://www.gmsp.org

J. Craig and Page T. Smith Scholarships--deadline January 15, 2007--http://www.jcraigsmith-foundation.org

2007 Sam Walton Community Scholarship--deadline January 12, 2007--http://walmartfoundation.org Please use access code SWCS

Spirit of Auburn Scholarships--deadline December 1, 2006--http://www.auburn.edu--Please see your guidance counselor for information and levels of scholarships

Alabama Bankers Association--deadline March 1, 2007--http://www.alabamabankers.org

2007 Burger King Scholars Program--deadline December 15, 2006--http://www.sms.scholarshipamerica.org/bkscholars

University of Alabama Scholarships--deadline December 1, 2006--http://www.ssc.ua.edu/scholarships

STIClassroom Problems

Several schools are unable to access STIClassroom from home. John Locklin is aware of the problem and is working on it. The schools that he knows are having this problem are: Ellis, Henderson, Salter, and Young.

We are also having the same problem with accessing SETS from home in all schools.

Missoula Children's Theater

When polls are taken everyone agrees that the arts are important in the education of young people. No Child Left Behind lists the arts among the "core" subject areas. In practice, far too little time in devoted to this area of the curriculum. Time demands in other areas and the lack of teachers being adequately prepared in this area are usually the culprits.

What we can do is take advantage of opportunities that are available within the community. The Missoula Children's Theater is one of those wonderful opportunities. For complete information you can go to this link. Students and parents can also access this information from home.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Alternatives to Using Food as a Rewards

Guidelines from the State Department of Education and our own Nutrition Plan discourage the use of food as a reward for students. If you are looking for alternative ways to reward students, this link provides some suggestions.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Hal Henderson participates in the Talladega County Farm-City Poster Contest by Alfa

The theme for this year's contest was "Farm-City: Partners in Progress." Fourth grade students in Ms. Williams' and Mr. Smith's classes presented some very creative art work. The winners are from left to right:

Bottom row: Monquise Lawson-First Place; Ashley Cameron-2nd Place; Ward Perry-not shown-3rd Place; Back row: Theo Miller-Honorable Mention; and Kendalin Brown-Honorable Mention.

Congratulations to our winners and to all of the participants.

American Education Week and "The Blueberry Story"

Jamie Vollmer used to be one of public education's biggest critics. Propelled to fame when People magazine proclaimed his blueberry ice cream to be "the best in America," Vollmer was fond of telling everyone that "schools should be run like a business." The Blueberry Story is all about the day one of public education's biggest critics became one of its biggest supporters. I invite you to read that story by clicking here.

Vollmer's message today is that of the incredible responsibility placed upon our schools, and that educators cannot do it alone. During American Education Week, there is perhaps no more appropriate message than this need for each of us doing what we can to help American public education.

"There is a place in America to take a stand: it is public education. It is the underpinning of our cultural and political system. It is the great common ground. Public education after all is the engine that moves us as a society toward a common destiny... It is in public education that the American dream begins to take shape."
—Tom Brokaw

Friday, November 10, 2006

Let's get blogging...

The Talladega City Schools Roundtable Advisory Board met on November 9th to continue discussions and make plans concerning improvements to our system.

This powerful board consisting of school representatives and members of the community believes we have a strong school district and is actively involved in making it even better. Their efforts are very much appreciated!

One plan of action you will soon notice is additional blog postings from within the schools. Principals will receive a hand in "sharing the good news" with the help of school bloggers! No one knows more about the wonderful things happening in our 7 schools than the employees that walk the halls each day. If you know of something you think is worth "blogging about" please share it with your school blogger.

Those dedicated people are as follows:
Hal Henderson- Sandy Sims
Young- Joy Bittle
Graham- Jody Parker
Houston- Leah Stephens
Salter- Jenni Griffin
THS-Dr. Trellys Riley and Monte Abner
**Ellis Jr. High contact will be announced at a later date.

Another way you can assist in our efforts to promote TCS is by helping parents find the community blog (www.talladegacityschools.blogspot.com). Posting the web address on newsletters, parent notes, progress reports, and various other forms of communication will really give parents something to talk about!

Graham Hadley, managing editor for the Daily Home, took time out of his busy schedule to share tips on how we could better promote our school system. One bit of information he shared was that schools can not only send in A and AB Honor roll names, but they may also send the names of students who make an A in conduct. This would be a sure way to recognize more students for their success in school.

A special thanks goes out to Dr. Frank Buck who began the blogs as a means to connect every person in our school system and community with instant information. All one needs is access to the internet.

Thank you for visiting the blog today! It is making a difference in Talladega City Schools.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Recruiting prospective teachers

Recruiting the very best teachers we can find is a factor critical to the success of our school system. It's not just something to think about in June. Instead, it is an ongoing program. There is part of that effort where I can use the assistance of anybody reading this post.

Please take a moment to think of who know that is either:
  1. Going to be looking for a teaching job in the near future; or
  2. Is around people who are in the market for teaching jobs (college professors, college students whose friends are nearing graduation in education).

Once you have those people in mind, please send me their e-mail addresses.

I have begun a putting together a bank of e-mail addresses of people just like I just described. Each time we have a job vacancy, we will be able to compose one e-mail message and send it to the entire bank of names.

Think about the possibilities for a second--If you knew of a young person looking for their start in education or a veteran looking to make a change and you received an e-mail about a job in their area of expertise, wouldn't you pass it along? For many of us, that's exactly the way we got our start. Somebody heard of a job opportunity, knew that we were looking, and took the time to tell us about it.

You can send those addresses to me at: buck@mail.talladega-cs.net


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Sample Questions from the NAEP

The National Assessment of Educational Progress or ("NAEP") is often called "The Nation's Report Card." The tests is given to 4th and 8th grade students in selected schools across the country. This website allows teachers, students, or parents to see sample questions from the NAEP. The pull-down menus allow one to choose the subject and grade level. The questions make good "bell ringers" or serve as review questions.