Schooling in an age of accelerations

vwYou’ve likely heard of Moore’s law.  In Thomas Friedman’s latest book Thank You for Being Late he provides this explanation.  In 1965, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore first postulated that the speed and power of microchips—that is, computational processing power—would double roughly every year, which he later updated to every two years. Moore’s law has held up close to that pattern for fifty years. The doubling has gotten so big and fast that we’re starting to see stuff that is fundamentally different in power and capability from anything we have seen before—self-driving cars and computers that can think on their own.

To demonstrate, Intel engineers did a rough calculation of what would happen had a 1971 Volkswagen Beetle improved at the same rate as microchips did under Moore’s law.  Today, that Beetle would be able to go about three hundred thousand miles per hour. It would get two million miles per gallon of gas, and it would cost four cents! Intel engineers also estimated that if automobile fuel efficiency improved at the same rate as Moore’s law, you could, roughly speaking, drive a car your whole life on one tank of gasoline.

However, even though human beings and societies have steadily adapted to change, on average, the rate of technological change is now accelerating so fast that it has risen above the average rate at which most people can absorb all these changes. Many of us cannot keep pace anymore. This creates a number of challenges, including the way we educate our population. Friedman argues that when the pace of change gets this fast, the only way to retain a lifelong working capacity is to engage in lifelong learning.

Technology can create demand for totally new jobs even as it transforms the skills needed for some very old routine jobs that would seem to be made obsolete by computers and robots but actually aren’t. And it can vastly increase the skills needed to practice old jobs that have been transformed by technology. Friedman argues that at a minimum, “our educational systems must be retooled to maximize these needed skills and attributes: strong fundamentals in writing, reading, coding, and math; creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration; grit, self-motivation, and lifelong learning habits; and entrepreneurship and improvisation—at every level.”  

What does all this mean for our students, staff, and families, in Worthington Schools?  Certainly it means we have to become comfortable with change.  We can’t do what we’ve always done as a school district and expect that our students will see the results they have always seen.  The pace of change in society is accelerating and thus the pace of change in our school district must accelerate as well.  Secondly we must focus on these important skills: fundamentals in writing, reading, coding and math; creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration; grit, self-motivation, and lifelong learning habits; and entrepreneurship and improvisation.  If we can accomplish these things our students will continue to see success into their future.  

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

  • Special thanks to Jim Mahoney Executive Director Emeritus, Battelle for Kids, whose book notes were the source of this post.
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Learning didn’t stop over break

K. HallWe have only 25 school days until the class of 2017 graduates at the Columbus Convention Center on Sunday May 21st.  It’s a sprint towards the finish of the 2016-2017 school year.  Hopefully you had some opportunity to enjoy Spring Break last week.  The grass is growing in Central Ohio and it does finally feel like spring in Worthington.

While some of our students, teachers and families were out of town over break, many others were here in Worthington.  On a rainy Tuesday over Spring Break, Math teacher Kevin Hall had five students in his classroom working on mastering some difficult material. He patiently sat on a desk talking to one student about parabolas while the other four worked independently. Two of the students said they are in the class to stay eligible for spring sports and Mr. Hall offered his break to help. While others in class were taking time away to refresh for the end of the year, Mr. Hall reached out to parents and students setting up individual times for students to come into school and work on their math.

This type of thing happens regularly with Mr. Hall. You will see him at school on Saturdays with students providing the support they need to be successful in his class and beyond. After going home after the school day, Mr. Hall will often return to the building at 8:00 p.m. or 9:00 p.m. to record a lesson. He will post these recorded notes online so in class he can spend his time working with students individually or in groups. There are countless examples of his dedication to students and families.

Kevin is unassuming. He does not seek accolades or credit. He won’t appreciate this blog post but he works tirelessly to improve his craft for one goal – helping students learn. His efforts, like the efforts of many of his Worthington colleagues, give kids confidence and a belief in themselves. He is a trusted adult for many kids and in Worthington we believe that every student should have a trusted adult who they know believes in them and cares about them. Kevin helps make his school and our school district a special place for students and families. On a rainy Tuesday over Spring Break, Mr. Hall was making a difference.

Let’s make it a great month and a half of school!  Happy sprinting!

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent
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Finding the intersect between student interest and the Ohio Standards for Learning

911 classStudents learn best in context and when they can relate their classroom learning to real-life situations.  We know this to be true unequivocally and yet it’s not always an easy thing to accomplish in traditional schools.  One of our non-traditional schools has a long history of designing courses to fit the intersect between student interest and the Ohio Standards for Learning.  

With that in mind, I loved seeing that last week we sent a class of Linworth Alternative students to New York City as they completed experiential learning of their social studies elective course focused on September 11, 2001.

Linworth teachers Rosanne Nagel and Lilly Yap led this course and they explained it to me like this… “Students ask so many questions, but it can be hard to divert the curriculum without a better sense of what happened and is happening in our world. Our high school students know about 9/11, but not really.”

Throughout the semester, the course has looked at various sociological, political, and practical changes that have occurred as a result of the events of 9/11. “We look at everything from understanding terrorism and risk to current cultural and geopolitical issues with connections back to 9/11. While we do also explore many aspects of what happened that day, a great deal of the course looks at what came next for Americans and the world. For example, we look at the debate over security vs privacy that many students recognize but don’t realize takes a new path after 9/11.”

Part of the class (including students from 9th, 10th, and 11th grade) traveled to NYC from Sunday morning through Wednesday night. “For the trip, we’re extremely fortunate to visit the 9/11 Museum and Memorial along with a special meeting with a local curator. We’re taking in many iconic sites along with ones that connect directly to the novel that we read as a group. Finally, the timing is so fortunate because we’re taking in a new Broadway show called “Come From Away,” centered on the way communities of strangers came together to support one another on 9/12.”

It’s great to live and work in a public school district that believes learning happens in places other than just the classroom.  I hope our students had a great trip!

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent
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Congratulations Olivia!

OliviaIf you were able to attend our State of the Schools presentation in February (you can watch it here) you heard Worthington Academy Senior Olivia LoGuidice share her story.  Olivia talked about her struggles as a Freshman and Sophomore at Thomas Worthington and how the opportunity to learn in a different way at Worthington Academy has changed the direction of her future goals.  Her story was inspiring.

Last week Olivia’s story got even better.  On Wednesday Olivia completed her coursework and graduated from Worthington Schools.  I’m hopeful that Olivia will choose to attend our official graduation ceremony on May 21st because I would love to be able to shake her hand and congratulate her officially.  Late Wednesday afternoon Olivia sent me this simple tweet: “@TBowers3 @wcsdistrict it’s been such an honor to be a first gen. Academy student. So grateful for this district and the Academy family”  She brought tears to this old man’s eyes.

In Worthington, we work hard to help every student find their place of connection.  I can’t say that we’re always successful but when we are, and when a program that has been developed and supported by our school board, works to help a young lady change the direction of her future it’s totally awesome!

As we’ve been growing as a school district (877 students since 2012 and another 800-1,000 projected in the next five years) we are engaging in a master facilities planning process in order to make certain we have the space needed to serve all of our students and have a plan to address aging facilities.  In almost every one of these conversations, someone says to me “just move Linworth, Phoenix, Worthington Academy or Rockbridge out.  We shouldn’t support programs that are specialized when we have space needs.”  I understand this thinking and it is rational thought.  Unfortunately, I also think it’s potentially dangerous.

Students today learn differently than students did in previous generations.  As a school district, we believe that whenever possible we should be providing educational options for our students that will engage their unique needs and help put them on the path to a prosperous future.  Our choice-based programs help us accomplish those goals and as we plan for our shared future I think it’s very important for us as a community to think long and hard about these programs and if at all possible protect them to serve future generations of students.

Olivia’s story tells you why that is so very important.  Congratulations Olivia!  Welcome to our Worthington Schools Alumni Family!

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent
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Sometimes it feels like we’re playing “Whac-A-Mole”

WHACK-A-MOLE-2Most people in Worthington know that I grew up attending Worthington Schools.  My family moved to 790 Ashler Court in 1983 and as I get ready to turn 44 years old, I’m able to look back and reflect on how lucky I and those I grew up with were to have the opportunities we did in this school system.  Worthington has always been a community that placed a very high value on the education of kids.  It’s a community that pioneered alternative education in Ohio and it’s a community that has worked to protect a wide breadth of curricular and co-curricular options.  

Last week I was reminded that Worthington is still a community that places education at the forefront.  We held community meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday evening and I’d estimate that 600 to 700 people chose to brave single digit wind chills to help shape the future of our school district.  Each night, as community members continued to stream into our high schools, I was struck by the realization that our community really cares about providing a first rate education for our children and that people want to set Worthington up for success now and into the future.

As we’ve worked on a long term plan for our land-locked school district that will address our aging facilities and our growing enrollment I’ve likened it a bit to the old game “Whac-a-Mole.” It’s a really complicated challenge.  When we think we’ve created a solution in one area, it seems like that solution often creates a problem in a different area of the district.  Thus, “Whac-a-Mole.”  

In order to create a long-term plan, we need many eyes and many different voices.  There is no simple solution in Worthington.  There are positives and negatives for each option.  I don’t believe that any of the four current options will be selected as a stand-alone option.  It’s my belief that likely some positives will be pulled from multiple plans to create a final plan.

Our community task force is made up of almost 50 different members who were each chosen to represent a different group in our community.  That team needs feedback from as many members of our community as possible before making recommendations to our Board of Education in late May or early June.  The 600-700 people who showed up face-to-face provided their feedback.  We’re hoping that the broader group will do the same.  Please review the options and complete the survey at http://www.worthington.k12.oh.us/Domain/989.  In addition, please ask those in your circle of influence to do the same.

Worthington has always been a community that places a high value on education.  We appreciate your continued investment in making plans for our shared future.

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent
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Every Saturday in Worthington

Processed with MOLDIVIn Worthington one of our goals is for our students to be connected to something positive outside of the classroom.  In order to do that there are an amazing array of different opportunities that Worthington students participate in.  Every Saturday in Worthington is jam packed.  This one was no different….

This week the regional Destination Imagination competition was held in Pickerington.  The mission of Destination Imagination is to teach students the creative process and empower them with the skills needed to succeed in an ever changing world.  As this mission aligns closely with the mission of Worthington Schools, we’ve placed a high value on helping our students participate in this program.  This year Worthington sent the most teams in the region and we had 22 teams with over 130 students competing. Team Scheme Busters was made up of seven students from seven different countries representing Worthington Schools.  We had a student from Japan, Palestine, Poland, Georgia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United States.  How cool is that!

Both Thomas Worthington and Worthington Kilbourne competed on Saturday in the regional Science Olympiad competition.  In Science Olympiad our students work on subjects such as: Invasive Species, Hovercraft, Wind Power, Remote Sensing, Forensics, Hydrology, Robot Arm and in many other categories.  The goal is to increase student interest in science, create a technologically literate workforce and provide recognition for outstanding achievement by both students and teachers.  Plus, it’s just fun to work hard with your peers on a team!  Worthington Kilbourne’s team qualified for the State competition on April 1st.  They’re led by sophomore Robbie Goldsmith who has created a Robotic Arm that is truly remarkable.  

In addition to these academic competitions, the TWHS Indoor Track team had athletes competing in New York City at the New Balance National Indoor Track Meet.  The TWHS Boys 4×800 and the Girls 4×800 both competed.  In addition we had athletes compete in the Boys 200, Boys 3200 and Girls 800.  I watched the competition at home via live streaming and our athletes competed against the best runners in the country and more than held their own.  The Boys 4×800 team finished 8th in the nation after last week winning the Indoor State Championship.  Sophomore, Gia Napoleon, finished 19th in the 800 after also winning the Ohio Indoor State Championship last week.  Amazing!

Finally, this weekend was Pancake Day.  For 15 years now both Thomas Worthington and Worthington Kilbourne have come together on a Saturday in March for a fun community event.  There’s food, SuperGames, entertainment and most importantly a chance to spend time together as one community.

Just another Saturday in Worthington!

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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Chop Wood, Carry Water

chopwoodMy friend, Trish Laughman, recently recommended that I read Joshua Medcalf’s book “Chop Wood, Carry Water.”  In it, Medcalf tells a story of a young boy who always dreamed about becoming a samurai archer. At one point in his life, he buys a one-way ticket to Japan and begins his schooling. The sensei, every day, had him chop wood and carry water, something everyone in the village did to survive.

Many of us get caught up in the end results of what we’re working toward or the way things will be when we finally achieve something. But the truth is, getting to where you want to go or being successful doesn’t mean that the work that lead you there goes away.

In Worthington Schools our most important goal is to empower a community of learners who will change the world.  This time of year we’re relentlessly focused on helping every student pass their third grade reading assessment or their high school end of course exams.  At times the task is overwhelming, but if we chop wood and carry water every day the end results will take care of themselves.  

For us in our school classrooms it’s about following the process of sound formative instruction in the teaching process.  It’s about setting appropriate learning targets for each lesson, making certain our students understand and connect to those learning targets, and providing them feedback as they progress.  It’s about effective and targeted guided reading lessons at the primary level, making meaning from informational text and writing daily to make thinking visible in every classroom.  It’s about creating formative and summative assessments that develop high rigor critical thinking, problem-solving and design thinking.  And it’s about engaging the students in their learning

If we chop wood and carry water each day the results will take care of themselves.  Our job is to focus on the process and what actions each of us should be taking daily.

Chop wood, carry water….

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent
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