Thanks Coach Bob Miller!

0520_miller_sp_05-20-08_C1_RVA8G0PAccording to the Bureau of Labor statistics and Forbes magazine, the average worker stays in his/her job for 4.4 years.  No one has ever accused Bob Miller of being average.  After 49 years of coaching interscholastic basketball, Coach Miller announced his retirement last Friday afternoon.

For the past 31 years Coach Miller has been the varsity basketball coach first at Worthington High School and then beginning in 1992 at Thomas Worthington High School.  Over that time his teams amassed a record of 423 wins and only 269 loses.  They won numerous league and district championships.  During his career Coach Miller was named the AP State Coach of the Year, he’s been given the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s Sportsmanship, Ethics and Integrity Award, and he has been inducted into the Ohio Capital Conference Hall of Fame for his longevity, success and his commitment to youth.  Before coming to Worthington, Bob coached the Groveport-Madison Cruisers for 18 years.  Wow!

I was a high school student at Worthington High School in the late 80′s.  I never had the opportunity to play basketball for coach Miller because he smartly chose to cut me from the freshman team.  However, not only was Bob a basketball coach, he was a dedicated and successful teacher.  I was a student of Bob’s in 10th grade health class as he attempted to navigate and tackle difficult subject matter with high school students.

In Worthington we think so highly of Bob Miller that we named the basketball court at Thomas Worthington after him.  But, it’s not just his coaching success that makes Coach Miller special.  Great coaches like Coach Miller are molders of young men and women.  They care more about their athletes and their athletes’ overall success in life than their success on the court.  The discipline and work ethic they seek to instill translates into both wins in the athletic arena and wins in life.  They are the ultimate teachers of grit, resilience, and toughness.  Bob was all that and more.

You’re likely very familiar with the plight of Thomas Worthington baseball coach Steve Gussler.  As coach Gussler has battled cancer treatments over the past several years his attendance at school was dependent on his treatment schedule.  Several years ago, after Bob had officially retired from teaching, he asked our human resources department if he could volunteer without pay to be the substitute health teacher anytime Steve needed to be out of class for treatment or recovery.  His only interest was self-less- how could he help a colleague and how could he help make sure the kids in Worthington got what they need.

Many people know Coach Miller better than I do, but my belief is that it was his self-less dedication to others that allowed him to dedicate 49 years of his life to coaching and teaching.  Coach Bob Miller retired from basketball Friday having made a positive difference in the lives of students in Central Ohio for three generations.  Worthington will be forever grateful for his faithful service!  Thanks Coach!

 - Trent Bowers, Assistant Superintendent

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The Liberty Elementary Confusion

Dear Colleagues and Parents,

I want to clarify that the Liberty Elementary School referred to in yesterday’s news is Liberty Elementary in the Columbus City School District  which is located at 2949 Whitlow Rd. in Columbus.

According to news reports,  a 14 year old boy and a 20 year old  male were shot on school grounds around 3:30 pm.

More information is available at NBC4i.com.

Please have a great weekend!

- Dr. Thomas Tucker, Superintendent

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either/or v. both/and

BothAndTitleIt’s logical to believe there is an either/or approach to choices we must make in public schools.  However, either/or is often used as a logical fallacy.  It’s a fallacy when we present only two options when it is possible to have more.  For instance it is an either/or fallacy when we present dilemmas such as “if we don’t do ‘A’, our way of life in Worthington will be tarnished forever.”  In Worthington we strive to stay away from either/or approaches and instead we want to take a both/and approach.  Both/and applies to all areas of our school district.  Let’s examine a both/and approach to the classroom.

Some argue schools should focus attention on students who are most at-risk. This approach holds that because resources (time, energy, staffing) are limited, the most good can be done if efforts are targeted toward students who are living in poverty, who have a disability or who are learning English. This approach emphasizes equity through taking into account that these students require a much more intensive and focused effort than the typical student.

A second approach is that every student should learn in an environment of high expectations and rigorous academic standards. This approach emphasizes a different view of equity, holding that every student receives the same options and opportunities, all at a high quality and challenging level.

A third option emphasizes providing accelerated and enriching experiences for students of exceptional academic ability. This approach holds that high achieving students deserve the same sort of customized learning opportunities that at-risk students get. This approach emphasizes equity by saying that these students learn differently than typical students and we do them a disservice by not acting to provide these students accelerated and enriched learning experiences.

Conventional thinking (either/or) convinces us we must make a difficult choice between these three options: Do we focus on at-risk students so that we provide every child (regardless of background or demographic) the opportunity to succeed and have a shot at the American dream? Or do we focus on providing quality academic programming for all students, ensuring that we’ve treated all students and families fairly?  Or finally, do we focus on our “best and brightest” — those students who demonstrate giftedness or exceptional talent, making sure that these students maximize their potential greatness?

These choices are difficult because each one of these comes with a compelling reason to choose it and also a painful trade-off in what is not chosen.

In Worthington we reject the notion that these three choices are mutually exclusive. Instead (utilizing a both/and approach), we begin by making sure academic instruction is aligned to robust academic content standards. All students are put in learning environments that push students to learn at high levels and demonstrate higher order skills like collaboration, critical thinking, creativity and problem solving. Many students will struggle in this high expectation environment. However, all of the comparative educational research tells us we are much better off if we place students in this high expectation environment versus a low expectation environment.

As we establish a high-level learning environment as our core, some students will need additional support while others will excel. We rely on the expertise of classroom professionals to identify both of these groups and provide customized supports depending on individual student needs.

This approach seems intuitive and direct: Have high expectations for all students, teach them in a quality environment and then tailor supports to students who need help or are ready to move ahead.

This means that our efforts are centrally focused on teaching to high academic standards for all of our students. It also means that we are working to put in place a system of supports for both at-risk and gifted/talented students so that all of our students are encouraged and challenged.

Most of this work happens in the schools by our caring and talented teachers. They are teaching to high standards and then providing supports where they are needed. We use formative instructional practices to assess students each day. In most cases, teachers modify instruction within their classroom to help students succeed. In other cases, at-risk students may need additional support from specialists, as do gifted students. In our schools, a continual scaffolding of supports happens to support learning. This could be catching one student up to reading on grade level or reaching the proper challenge state for a gifted student. Meanwhile, the majority of students continue to learn at a high level. No student gets less than a high level of academic challenge. Some get more support to arrive at the universally high level and others receive enrichment to go deeper than the high level, but no one is left behind.

Importantly, our schools can’t do it alone. We also need the support of many groups in our community to help us in meeting the needs of at-risk students and accelerated students. Poverty is the single biggest issue dividing academic performance. We strive to make schools a respite from the stresses of poverty and our community works hard to provide further supports. We must remain committed to doing everything we can to combat the impact of poverty on learning and the general well-being of our children.

By keeping our focus on quality teaching to high standards for all students and then supplying supports for students who need it, we are putting a both/and approach into action in all Worthington schools.

(Note: Jason Glass is the Superintendent of Eagle County Schools in Vail, Colorado.  He formerly worked in Ohio with Battelle for Kids.  Much of this blog post was taken from an opinion piece Jason published in The Vail Daily.  His thoughts on education captured well what we are attempting to accomplish in Worthington and thus were worth sharing with our twist.)

- Trent Bowers, Assistant Superintendent

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Putting First Things, First

WES Leadership DayAs adults, we struggle balancing our have-to’s with our want-to’s. But, one group of Worthington students showcased their commitment to this habit among others to a room full of special guests. Worthington Estates Elementary has adopted The Leader in Me as a foundation for the school, which helps students to become leaders of their own learning. The Leader in Me is an educational adaptation of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits.

The day included musical performances by students of all ages, tours of the school where student work had been hung proudly in each hallway, and classroom visits. It was a great day at Worthington Estates. The entire school community was engaged in celebration and reflection of a truly special place. Children are learning the basic principles of taking care of each other and balancing their individual lives. These students are well on their way to becoming great leaders!

Please have a relaxing Spring Break with your family and friends and take time to “Sharpen the Saw.”

- Thomas Tucker, Superintendent

 

 

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Spring Break

photoIt’s that time of year again: the birds are beginning to return to Worthington, the first buds of spring are sprouting on trees and hordes of families are fleeing the winter weather of Columbus, Ohio.  Ah, spring break.

In Worthington spring break separates our third and fourth grading periods.  It signals that we have not only survived a winter for the ages, but that when we return from break graduation for our seniors is right around the corner.  In Worthington sixth grade students are anxiously awaiting their transition to middle school and 8th grade students and casually acting like high school is of no concern.

The first spring break is often attributed to a swimming coach at Colgate University who in 1935 brought his team to train in Ft. Lauderdale during spring break. An annual aquatic conference followed, as did swimmers’ less athletic friends.

As a 41 year old adult I grew up with MTV  broadcasting their annual spring break special from Daytona Beach. In 1986 Mr. Mister and the Beastie Boys performed.  In 1988 I was on a Worthington High School Lacrosse spring break trip to play games on Long Island, NY when the famed Guns-n-Roses song, “Patience” made it’s debut.  I can still remember where I sat in my hotel room with Keith Poss, Will Morris, and Dave Bickell.

This year the Thomas Worthington Baseball team is playing games in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  The Worthington Kilbourne Bands will be in Los Angeles, California and many elementary families may run into on another on the gulf beaches of Ft. Myers, Clearwater, or Siesta Key, Florida.  Other students and families will find a little more time to connect with one another at home.

No matter what spring break holds for your family.  Enjoy the short break.  Spring is coming to Worthington.  Graduation is right around the corner!

- Trent Bowers, Assistant Superintendent

 

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The Worthington Academy

LOTHhilliardchair-2In March of this year State of Ohio Superintendent of Public Education Dr. Richard Ross stated that “One million Ohioans have never graduated from high school, and we are adding roughly 24,000 youngsters to their rank each year.”  In an effort to decrease this number and to better meet the needs of all Worthington students Monday evening (3.24.2014) at the Worthington Board of Education meeting I (along with many others) will share with the BOE a new concept for Worthington Schools that we are calling the Worthington Academy.

As planned the Worthington Academy would provide personalized, evidence-based educational programming for Worthington City Schools students at risk of dropping out. This programming will directly affect our ability to (1) improve educational outcomes for at-risk students, including high school graduation and college and career readiness, (2) meet or exceed our district-wide goals for graduation rates and measures of student academic growth, and (3) connect at-risk students to our community’s robust network of businesses and civic leaders for enrichment and support.

Worthington City Schools operates two large high schools that currently serve a tier of students who are not succeeding in our traditional programs and, consequently, are at risk for underperformance or dropping out. An analysis of our district’s student performance and outcomes data highlighted a significant barrier to student success: a substantial number of our at-risk students have either dropped out of school entirely or withdrawn to attend a 100% online charter program.

During the first semester of the 2013-2014 school year, Worthington High Schools lost 38 students to alternative school choices. Over the past four years, Worthington has lost 211 high school students to alternative schools. With Worthington Academy in place, our district would be able to provide choice to these students. Three comparable districts, Hilliard, Olentangy, and Westerville, serve their students in their own programs. Hilliard City Schools currently serves 71 full-time students and numerous flexible on-line options. Olentangy Local Schools OASIS program currently serves 125 students. Westerville City Schools serves 158 credit deficient or high risk dropout students at their Education Opportunities for Success (EOS). Looking at our first semester withdrawal numbers, four year trend data, and comparable school districts there is a growing need in our district to provide a viable choice to the Worthington school community.

The barriers to success that result in these outcomes vary: some students simply feel disconnected from a learning system they see as impersonal and inflexible; some fall behind on earning credits toward graduation due to gaps in academic knowledge; others struggle to balance home and job obligations with a traditional school schedule; and still others are part of an increasing trend of our students whose school anxiety leads to problems with attendance, work completion, and socialization.  We custom-designed our program to address these local barriers to success while simultaneously leveraging evidence-based programming aligned with the six recommendations outlined in Dropout Prevention: A Practice Guide (Dynarski et al., 2008).

The Worthington Academy is designed to dovetail with our district’s other specialized programs. Already, Worthington City Schools offers non-traditional educational options through our Linworth High School and Phoenix Middle School programs. But neither of these programs, unlike the Academy, is designed to target the specialized needs of our students who are credit deficient and are at risk of dropping out. Still, the Academy’s design preserves for at-risk students the option to participate in learning pathways, including the Project Lead the Way/STEM program, which are offered at our traditional high schools. Ultimately, the Worthington Academy will provide the targeted interventions necessary to make an impact with students at risk of dropping out while simultaneously better supporting their continued opportunities for participation in the rich array of academic and co-curricular offerings at our traditional high schools.

Our hope is to have the Worthington Academy operational for students as soon as possible.  Monday’s presentation will continue the discussion and will help us to refine our ideas to determine our course of action.  Please consider joining us and providing input at the Worthington Education Center, 200 E. Wilson Bridge Road, 7:30 P.M.

-Mr. Jeff Maddox, Director of Innovation and School Support

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Ohio Graduation Testing

testingpleasedonotdisturbThis week high school students in Worthington will take their Ohio Graduation Tests (OGT).  Students in Ohio must pass all five parts (Reading, Writing, Math, Science and Social Studies) of the OGT in order to receive high school diplomas.   Students have multiple chances to pass these sections beginning with their sophomore year.  In 2009, the Ohio legislature passed an education reform bill eliminating the OGT in favor of a new assessment system (Next Generation Assessments). The development and transition to this new assessment system will take several years and creates several unique challenges.

As you are likely aware Worthington and all other Ohio schools are teaching new content standards (content standards describe the knowledge and skills that students should attain, often called the “what” of “what students should know and be able to do.” They indicate the ways of thinking, working, communicating, reasoning and investigating as well as important and enduring ideas, concepts, issues, dilemmas and knowledge essential to the academic area of study) this year in Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies.  The Language Arts and Mathematics standards are the Common Core State Standards.  Because the standards have changed, this year’s OGT’s will align to both the old standards and Ohio’s new learning standards. Next year, both the OGT’s and Next Generation Assessments will align to Ohio’s new learning standards.

To accomplish this alignment questions on the OGT which were originally created and aligned to the 2001-2002 standards were reviewed by the Ohio Department of Education and American Institutes for Research staff, and then by committees of Ohio educators. During the review, each question was either aligned to a new learning standard or identified as having no alignment and therefore removed from the test bank.  This year’s tests are thus referred to as dual-aligned and are unique in the history of the OGT.

In addition to the challenge of assessing both the old and new standards, another challenge is that as the law stands today, schools must begin giving students in high school the Next Generation Assessments during the next school year (2014-2015). Not only will next year’s 10th-graders (the class of 2017) take the Next Generation Assessments, they must also take the OGT. Students will need the graduation tests to meet current legislative graduation requirements.  As a result, if the requirements remain the same, next year’s sophomores will take significantly more tests.

Currently a graduation requirements committee of the State Board of Education is working to develop new graduation rules. However, legislation will be needed to make the rules effective for the Class of 2018.   The Columbus Dispatch wrote about this challenge in the 3/9/14 edition of their newspaper.

The future of the OGT and Next Generation Assessments will sort itself out over time.  This week over 700 Worthington sophomores will take the exam for the first time and some juniors and seniors will seek to make the passing score that has eluded them in previous attempts.  A high stakes graduation exam is a stressful experience for 15-18 year old students.  Our students don’t need luck, they’re well prepared.  They will however need stamina and perseverance because five exams in one week would tax anyone.  If you know a high school student, cut them some slack this week.  They lost an hour of sleep over the weekend and they’re testing all week.

-Trent Bowers, Assistant Superintendent 

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