The Only One Club

51QnvHjHDIL._SX383_BO1,204,203,200_A few weeks ago I had breakfast with my friend Rick Kellner.  Rick is a Worthington parent and a great supporter of education in our community.  He’s also the senior rabbi and spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Tikvah in Worthington.  I always enjoy talking with Rick and learning from his perspective.

As the holidays were approaching when we met, Rick shared a book with me titled “The Only One Club.”  The story in this book is about a young Jewish girl who realizes she is the only student in her classroom who celebrates Hanukkah.  At first this young lady is saddened by the realization that she is different from others and so she forms her own club: the only one club.  Over time she realizes that everyone in her class is the only one at something.  She has a friend who is a different color and another friend with red hair.  You can see where this is going.

I really enjoyed the moral of this story because it’s critical this time of year and throughout the entire year.  Over the holiday season we all celebrate differently.  We have students who may not celebrate at all, or who, while they would like to celebrate, they can’t afford to, and certainly many cannot afford to, to the level of some of their classmates.

In Worthington Schools today we serve students who were born in 65 different countries.  You read that correctly, 65 different countries!  Each family comes to Worthington with their own unique traditions, understandings and customs.  With the political rhetoric in the United States today it is becoming more and more difficult to be different.  At the same time in Worthington Schools our students blend together and truly become a melting pot.  We want each of our students to be in their own one and only club and be free to be themselves in a safe environment where they’re supported and nurtured.

For all of us the challenge is to step back and recognize how others may feel when we implement the things that excite us about the holidays. How can we better explain our customs and why those customs are important to us to those who have different customs?  How can we make certain that all students are included and can enjoy the season?

The diversity of our school district is one of our great strengths.  We have students from all walks of life and from across the globe.  Sometimes that diversity is uncomfortable.  We may think differently about an issue and we may express ourselves in unique ways.  As a community of learners this provides us with yet another opportunity to learn from one another and without question these experiences will help our students as they leave us eventually and go off to compete in the global workforce.

For now, we want our students to know it’s OK to be who you are and we want our staff and parent base to work hard at being sensitive to the beliefs and customs of all our students.  We’re all in our own Only One club.

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent
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Next Generation Assessment Results

74251e2e-9d66-44c4-84a8-6f6e048bbc2dRecently we have begun to send home score reports from last spring’s mandated Ohio assessments  (PARCC and AIR).  In addition sometime in January or February the Ohio Department of Education will release all district results and the local report cards.  

We’ve had tests in Ohio for accountability purposes for several decades now and this is not the first transition in testing.   Proficiency testing began with the class of 1994 and the class of 2006 moved to the Ohio Graduation Test.  Now the class of 2018 must meet new graduation requirements including end of course exams.  Each iteration in testing is designed to “raise the bar” and make sure each new generation of students is learning more than the generation before them.

When transition occurs it is very difficult to compare the new results to the results of previous years.  They were different tests, testing different material and in Worthington, in a new way (all tests were taken on the computer).  Likewise comparing scores between districts is more difficult than ever before.  Some districts gave only paper and pencil tests.  Others gave some paper and pencil tests and some computer-based tests.  Finally, a few districts, like Worthington went “all-in” and gave all tests on the computer.  Many wonder whether taking tests on the computer will increase or decrease a student’s success.  For now, the question is unanswered.

In Worthington we want our students to succeed in everything they do and that includes how they score on standardized tests.  Our students will take tests throughout their life and the skills they learn throughout their K-12 experience should benefit them moving forward.  That said, it’s important that we keep standardized tests in perspective.  They are tests of academic content knowledge.  Some have said that the value of academic content knowledge has dropped to almost zero.  Knowledge has become a free commodity when answers can be googled in a nanosecond.  What we should care about is what our students can do with what they know.  These tests cannot assess a student’s ability to ask a good question, apply what they’ve learned, or their ability to create new knowledge.

The challenge is in the old business maxim that ”what gets measured gets done.”  In education this translates into what gets tested gets taught.   While it’s important that our teachers teach the academic content standards, we strive not for our students to memorize knowledge based facts in order to do better on tests.  Instead we are striving to produce students who have strong skills in critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creative problem-solving, agility, adaptability, curiosity and imagination.  These are the skills that business leaders across the country tell us they value in their employees and these are the skills that will allow our students to compete in the global marketplace.

As we evaluate the results of last spring’s assessments they provide one data point on the academic content knowledge of our students.  If your student scored accelerated or advanced that’s great!  But remember, it’s only one limited measure and there may be very little correlation between what is examined on our predominantly multiple-choice, factual recall, computer-scored tests, versus the education outcomes that matter most to business leaders.  Likewise as a district we’re striving to find the right balance for our schools.  We want Worthington students to score well on these assessments but equally, if not more importantly, we want our teachers to collect student work that is evidence of progressive mastery of the skills like critical thinking, oral and written communication, collaboration and creative problem-solving.  We want to teach our students a process for continual learning, persevering when things get hard and help them develop the ability to think and act creatively.

This is the balance of public education in 2015.  We’re actively working to help our students learn the academic content knowledge measured on state tests, but more importantly we’re working to help our students apply what they’ve learned and develop the skills necessary for success in the 21st century.

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent

 

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Mission and Vision Feedback

imagesDo you know what the mission and vision of Worthington Schools are?  As I began my time as Superintendent I realized that I couldn’t answer this simple question.  As a school district we hadn’t clearly articulated a clear direction and thus this year one of our goals is to work with our community to create mission and vision statements for our district.

The goal of the process for developing a mission and vision is to clearly identify why we exist and the values that will guide decision-making and the work of the district.

The mission should be short and memorable. It should answer these two questions:  

Why do we exist?  

Who do we serve?

In order for the mission to truly guide the work of the organization, every staff member should be able to cite it quickly from memory. The mission should be visible everywhere in the district from signs in classrooms, to the website, to meeting agendas. The goal is for the mission to be a guiding force in daily district work and decisions.

The vision describes what the organization wants to be and how they want to operate. In other words, the vision breaks down specific key areas of focus and outlines guidelines for each area. The vision provides guidelines and inspiration for completing the daily work and decision-making in the district.

In order to create the mission and vision a community steering committee was assembled.  This team was made up of parents, engaged community members, board of education members, teachers, administrators, support staff and recent graduates of Worthington Schools.  There were 40 different individuals who met throughout October and into November in order to set the direction for the new mission and vision.

After many revisions the next stage in our process is to release these draft statements for broader feedback.  We’re asking that community members, Worthington Schools staff members, and Worthington students take a few minutes to reflect on our draft mission and vision statements and provide feedback.  Our drafts will be revised again based on the feedback we receive and eventually presented to the Worthington Board of Education for their approval.

By developing clear, focused mission and vision statements we will have a shared road map to lead Worthington to continuously adapt and improve.

Mission (draft):

  • To empower a community of learners who will someday change the world.

Vision (drafts):

  • We will engage each student with diverse opportunities to maximize every student’s potential.
  • We will provide consistent communication and promote dialogue with our community.
  • We will provide a safe environment where every member can grow emotionally, socially, physically and intellectually.
  • We will be responsible and transparent with our community’s resources.

Please take a few minutes to complete our survey and share the survey with your friends and neighbors.

Here’s the link to complete the survey! http://www.worthington.k12.oh.us/survey

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent
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