Principals can be pretty creative when it comes to motivating their
students to learn. For 20 years, NAESP Board Member and Michigan principal Bill Rich has been visiting classrooms as “Zero the Hero” to inspire his K-1 students. When Zero the Hero is around, dates that end with a zero become very special days as the children become engaged in all types of counting activities.
“Like most schools, we have a big celebration for 100 Days, but it is important to celebrate each Zero Day to give the students a shorter time between celebrations,” says Rich. “As the students become excited about an upcoming Zero Day, the teachers can use that motivation for asking questions about numbers during the daily calendar times. On Day 47, for example, teachers can ask questions like: “How many days since we last saw Zero?” or “How many times has Zero visited us this year?”
“While I have never admitted to a parent or student that I dress as Zero, I can’t walk into our middle school or high school and not have students say, ‘There goes Zero the Hero,’” says Rich. “We all do some crazy things to participate in the education of our students. Hopefully we can leave students with some enjoyable memories.”
NAESP created the Read Aloud Award this year to recognize and support quality children’s books, develop a love of reading within students, and encourage principals to read to children. Principals from across the country voted for their favorite book from a list of nominated titles and (drum roll please)…NAESP’s inaugural Read Aloud Award goes to The True Story of the Three Little Pigs! (written by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Lane Smith), a memorable parody of the fairy tale, "The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf," told from the perspective of Alexander T. Wolf.
The presentation of the Read Aloud Award will be made during NAESP's Annual Convention and Exposition in Seattle on March 31 at 10 a.m.
What are you willing to do in the name of school spirit . . . and the Super Bowl? The Northwest Indiana Times reports that the principal and assistant principal of Churchill Elementary School in Homewood, Indiana will paint their faces and sing the Chicago Bears’ fight song at the scheduled Super Bowl pep rally if 95 percent of the students turn in 100 percent of their homework within the next week. Principal Cece Coffey says, "There's already so much excitement among our kids about the big game that we thought we'd try to channel some of that energy into their schoolwork." Stay tuned and have a wonderful weekend!
Vincent Ferrandino, NAESP’s executive director, and Sally McConnell, NAESP’s associate executive director for Government Relations, along with NASSP counterparts, met with Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings last week to discuss the upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. You can read more about this visit on NAESP’s Federal Legislative Action Center.
Principals continue to share their thoughts about NCLB on the Principals’ Office. Pat Hould says that his school has been mostly impacted by the notion of sub group reporting and the thought of testing special education students at their grade level versus their ability level. “While I realize that this is somewhat a state by state issue, I struggle with the notion of testing students with, for example, a 5th grade reading level with an 8th grade test,” says Hould. “I fully accept the thought of being held accountable and having my students held accountable for what they know and should be able to do. However, I object to the thought of my school not reaching AYP because a member of a particular sub group, that has an identified learning disability, drives down our scores. These wonderful students, whose gifts are many and contributions to our school great, are placed in special education because of their ability. My wish list for change to NCLB would include: 1). Multiple assessment measures and 2). A model that compares children to their own abilities and their individual academic achievement growth.”
Hould provides some wonderful insights. Tell us what you think. How has NCLB impacted your school? What would you say to members of Congress about the reauthorization?
In October, the Principals' Office wrote about a campaign to encourage more principals to blog. Scott McLeod, from the UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education, launched the project “100 principal blogs in 100 days” to increase the number of principals in the blogosphere. Although McLeod hasn’t reached the 100-day goal yet, 54 principals have asked him to set up blogs. One of the participants reported that updating a blog was easier than updating the school’s Web site and very similar to writing an e-mail message. (Believe it or not, it really is that simple.) Before McLeod started the project, which ends January 31, he found only 12 principals among 125,000 U.S. schools who were using blogs to post information, calendars, pictures and their own personal observations online. McLeod believes more principals will sign on once they see the value of blogging.
Some principals never stop giving to their students. Dalia Jimenez, a retired principal in Tampa, FL donated $54,000 to help fund a covered play court for her former school Anderson Elementary. The Tampa Tribune reported that Jimenez, who was principal of Anderson for 20 years, raised the money by selling Publix stock. Her donation will be supplemented by PTA contributions and matching funds from the school district in order to fully fund the project that may cost upwards of $150,000. Jimenez’s motivation for such exceptional generosity was to provide a play area for the students that shielded them from the brutal sun. “I’m spending my children’s inheritance, but I wanted to do something for the school,” says Jimenez.
NAESP is a proud founding member of a coalition of organizations that started No Name-Calling Week, an initiative that seeks to focus attention on name-calling in schools and provide students and educators with the tools to launch an ongoing dialogue about ways to eliminate this problem in their communities. (We hope you’re reading Rosie and Donald.)
This year, lesson plans were created as an additional resource to use during the week (and even after the week is over) to provide elementary school students an opportunity to engage in activities that teach them about tolerance, respect, and understanding. The lesson plans can be downloaded for free at www.naesp.org/client_files/NNCWElementaryLessonPlans.pdf.
We continue today with reflections from principals about how NCLB is impacting their schools. Principal Olaf Jorgenson moved from public to private school leadership in large part because he disagreed with NCLB, especially as it was administered in Arizona. “My current school does not accept a penny of federal funding, or any federal grants, even though we are on a shoestring each year and are able to operate only based on our tuition (which covers about 70% of our costs), our ability to attract groups to use our facilities during vacations and summers for revenue, and our (my) ability to fundraise,” said Jorgenson. “But I see my fellow principals in my former district really struggling with NCLB as it impacts children and teachers.” Jorgenson said that if he could speak to members of Congress about NCLB he would tell them: “If we must rely on test scores so heavily, then I'm a huge proponent of gauging a teacher's success (a school's success) based on how much a child grows in an academic year. If the teacher gets 100% of kids to progress at least one academic year, that's impressive.”
Yesterday, Principal Jan Borelli shared how NCLB has impacted her school. Borelli says that if she could speak to members of Congress about NCLB, she would tell them: “I think if anyone really looks at what makes a great class, it’s all about what the teacher can bring out of his or her students. I think if anyone really looks at what makes a great school, it’s all about what the principal can bring out of his or her teachers. I would like to see more support for the training and continuing development of principals.”
Jorgenson and Borelli offer some profound thoughts on NCLB. Tell us what you think. How has NCLB impacted your school? What would you say to members of Congress about NCLB?
“A New Day for Learning,” a report released today by the Time, Learning, and Afterschool Task Force (TLA), calls for immediate action to design a comprehensive learning system throughout the day, early to late, and year round. The TLA Task Force was chaired by NAESP’s executive director, Vincent L. Ferrandino, who says that, “All stakeholders involved with the development of children—whether it is educational, emotional, physical, or creative—need to tear down the barriers we’ve imposed on ourselves and partner more effectively to create a new learning day for children.”
With the reauthorization looming, we asked some principals how NCLB has impacted their schools. Principal Dean M. Warrenfeltz commented that he was present in Washington, D.C. for the ceremonial signing of the NCLB legislation and very excited to see the bi-partisanship backing of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the promised support for public schools. “However, the punitive nature of NCLB implementation and the lack of funding have not lived up to the promise," said Warrenfeltz. "The current legislation’s tone does not promote teaching as a profession or recognize the efforts put forth by educators. (You can read the rest of Warrenfeltz’s comment under the excerpt “All Eyes on Congress for NCLB reauth.”) When Principal Jan Borelli took the helm of her elementary school three years ago, the school had been on the state’s low performing list for five continuous years and was in danger of being reorganized or closed. “The pressure was unrelenting,” said Borelli. “After my first year there, we came off the low performing list by the hair of our chin. This year we performed very respectably in the top 10% of the 68 elementary schools in our district in over half of the tested grades. NCLB has really brought accountability (or at least a ‘feel’ of it) to our school since we had not provided evidence of progress until the last couple of years. It’s very demoralizing to work under such pressure and negativity; however, we decided to focus on the positive aspects (i.e., using data to tell us what we need to teach). It required (and enabled) us to professionalize our practice so that we no longer taught to the middle (couldn’t afford to) but actually began differentiating our curriculum so all children would make progress. By using best practices and research-driven practices, we began to find the way to teach so that our 99% free/reduced lunch and 68% ELL population could learn to read and develop language competencies more quickly. I have not liked being under the gun, but I have loved the constant data that flows my way and the ability to evaluate our practice as we go along instead of a stamp of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ at the end of the year.”
Join us tomorrow for more reflections on the impact of NCLB. We hope that you will also take the time to share your thoughts on the Principals' Office about how NCLB has impacted your school.