The past 6 weeks or so have been among the most challenging of my career as an educator. I feel as though I have lost faith in some of what should be innate decencies in humanity. It is not fair to lump all of humanity into a pile because of three or four people, but social media sure makes it easy sometimes.
That said, with so many ‘this is your top priority’ items on my plate, HR challenges, time crunches, and being buried in 2 feet of snow, I persevere. This morning’s tweet was about being patient and persevering mainly because I felt that is what I needed to do. With patience, I would be reminded why I do what I do.
Many hours later, as I finally have time to look at today’s mail in my office, I find a small envelope addressed to me. Inside, a thank you card. A parent, with whom I have worked closely to help get both of her sons graduated, sent me a thank you card. She stated, “I know this is long overdue…I just want to thank you so much for helping my sons get through high school.” Both her sons have issue with depression and have each attempted at times to take their own lives. Many nights were spent not at my home with my family but out searching for one of the boys, being at their home talking to one of the boys, and encouraging them, supporting them, and sometimes getting help for them.
Her note continues, “Thank you for being so dedicated to your job and helping my sons not only graduate, but stay alive. Keep up the GREAT work!”
Today I will conclude the Understanding Accountability series with a post about the Additional Readiness component and the Participation Rate indicator.
The Additional Readiness component is derived from three parts; Hathaway Levels, Overall Tested Readiness, and 9th Grade Credits Earned. Hathaway levels count for 40% of the overall score and come from the Hathaway levels students obtain upon graduation. There are four levels of Hathaway (Honors, Performance, Opportunity, and Provisional) and the requirements for these vary with student GPA, ACT composite, and success curriculum completion. Tested readiness is not only the 11th grade ACT but also the performance on the 9th and 10th grade Aspire test. The score here is based on % proficient in all three tests. Finally, 9th grade credits earned come from determining 1/4th the number of credits required to graduate (RSHS = 24; 1/4 = 6) and calculating the percent of 9th grade students who earned that number of credits during the 9th grade (including summer school). Each of these items, along with participation rate, are discussed in the video below.
We all have those days, days we think will never end or that were just awful. In administration we sometimes see or hear things that make our stomach drop or our eyes fill with tears. But we all have those days…you know, the days that make it all worthwhile.
Some days are tough…
its 5 degrees for a high temperature today
my teachers are feeling the pressure of finals next week
my students are feeling the pressure of finals next week
Some days I struggle…
I have worked with this kid for weeks to get them on top of their work, to be here and be on time – then a fight with her dad changes all of it
he should graduate, and graduate on time, but his dad thinks he ‘needs discipline’ so he will send him to military school and teach him right
Some days I just wonder why…
if all parents really are trying their hardest, why won’t they come to us when we offer help
all adults don’t behave like adults – amazing to me that some behave like their students, or worse
the Diet Coke seems to run out in my refrigerator when I need it the most
Some days I know…
we do everything we can to make our kids successful in life
its so obvious that my staff loves and cares for our kids
its going to be ok
Some days I smile, cry, laugh, and ponder…
my kids make me laugh with their honesty, wonder, and pure joy
my teachers make me think, every day, about decisions we make and how they impact kids
my team makes me smile as I see them work with teachers and kids toward a common goal
if you know me, everyone makes me cry – with joy, pride, sometimes a tragedy, but a continued bond that holds us together
Every day I am certain…
we are the safest place for many kids – they need us to love them, be proud of them, talk to them, and be there for them
regardless our feelings or where our minds might be, we will fight for every kid – especially those who have nobody else fighting for them
I love what I do and the opportunities I have to make a difference in the lives of kids
We all have those days, the ones that make it all worthwhile. If you keep perspective on it all, try to, after the day settles, remember that you make a difference every day in the life of a kid (even if it is ONE kid it MATTERS). We all have those days – make all those days one in which you make that positive impact on a kid’s life.
Today, while observing in a classroom, I listened to the story of Dr. Ben Carson. It was essentially a summary of an interview with Ben. Dr. Carson was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan and, at one point, was a very troubled young man. Early in his elementary school life, Ben considered himself the class dummy and believed he was destined to a life of prison. His mother served as his inspiration and, armed with only a 3rd grade education, continued to push Ben to pursue education as his one big chance at success. Ben’s mother pushed both her sons to study and, as a result, Ben found a deep interest in science. He quickly went from class dummy to the head of the class due to his dedication to studies and new found love of science. Ben went on to attend Yale, majoring in Psychology and ultimately the University of Michigan medical school to study neurosurgery. Dr. Carson is a world renowned neurosurgeon specializing in separation of conjoined twins.
I tell this story not because of Ben’s success or because I found it quite fascinating (although I do) but rather because of a small part of the story which genuinely hit me as the most powerful message from his journey.
As the story concluded and the students discussed the plot, theme, and characters, the teacher called attention to something Ben believes strongly and made a point to have students reflect on this topic. MINDSET – yes mindset – in the interview, Ben talked about how everyone will face obstacles in their life and they will face them frequently. The key, according to Ben, is not what the obstacle is but rather how you view the obstacle.
A fence is something designed to keep objects, animals, people, and so forth on either side of its structure. It may be built to keep you out, it may be built to keep pets in the yard, it could be in place to protect what is behind its structure. Either way, the fence is a barrier, very difficult to breach. If you view what stands in your way of your goal, your dreams, you plans, (the obstacle) as a fence, you may easily see success in these areas as next to impossible.
A hurdle is an obstacle, a portable barrier over which contestants must leap in certain running races. Hurdles tend to tip over when kicked or struck during a race. Hurdles could be walked around, climbed under, or jumped over. When something impedes your path to your goal, viewing it as a hurdle may cause you pause, practice, or determination but undoubtedly will not cause your to believe it next to impossible.
In the story of Dr. Ben Carson, I found our students quite engaged and saw they reflected upon it with ease. All of us will face challenges in our lives and will have to determine the best course of action when the obstacle rears its head. But, if we attack the obstacle with the appropriate mindset, one that allows us to view it as a hurdle rather than a fence, success is waiting on the other side of that challenge.
My hope for all our students, and all my staff, is simply this – when they are faced with a challenge, I hope they have the ability to hold the mindset of the hurdle not that of the fence.
In this post, I will talk specifically about graduation rate, how it is calculated (both currently and in the past), as well as how a cohort is developed, measured, and finalized.
Graduation rate is a topic that many in our community are asking about and wondering where we stand. In the 11 years I have been at RSHS, we have seen our graduation rate climb from essentially 70% to now, usually, well over 80%. Our most recent rate, which is for the class of 2015, was 77.23%. This is a drop from the previous year’s rate of 83.55% in 2014. The two highest rates recorded for RSHS are 83.55% in 2014 and 81.6% in 2012. Yes, we actually are having a great deal more success with graduation than ever before. The drop to 77% was disappointing for all of us at RSHS, but we believe we are on the right track and are focused on the right work to ensure even higher graduation rates in the future.
In the video below, I will walk through some historical data on graduation rate, explain how the rate is actually calculated, and describe how it used to be calculated. Additionally, I will share what a ‘lagging indicator’ is and why it has to be that way in the WAEA calculation model.
Some key terms from the video:
Graduation cohort – a group of students who enter high school at the same time (fall of their freshman year), students who move into our high school who started high school at the same time, students who conclude their senior year at RSHS either as a graduate or non-graduate
Clean transfer – student who is not counted in the final cohort due to moving away (with records requests), entering an accredited home school program granting a diploma, or who died during the four years of their cohort
Graduation rate – number of ‘on-time’ graduates divided by the expected graduates (those still remaining in the cohort)
As always, thanks for reading – have a great day on the #RoadToAwesome
“To the world you may just be a teacher, but to your students you are a HERO.”Unknown
As educators, we don’t often enough hear of the impact we’ve had on the young men and women we touch during our careers. I have been an educator for nearly 22 years, which means I have had over 2,000 students as a teacher and countless thousands as a building administrator. As a coach, hundreds more spent time with me on the bus, at practice, and competing in numerous games.
Yesterday I was met with a great surprise. One of my former students, whom I also coached in basketball and tennis, tagged me in the following post on Facebook:
Darrin M Peppard, here is to you. Anatomy and physiology class you got me fascinated with school and learning. I Thank You! (Great coach too!!!)
Watching this video, it is difficult not to be teary-eyed and have your heart swell with joy. This time of year, I would ask that you reach out to a teacher who made a difference for you.
I want to say a true thank you to all my teachers at Rock Springs High School. You are truly amazing and make unbelievable impacts on the lives of kids each and every day. I may not say it enough, but I really appreciate all you do and love each and every one of you.
Ideal teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross, then having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create bridges of their own”Nikos Kazantzakis
Thank you to all educators, this special time of year take a minute to reflect on what your life’s work truly is and how it makes a difference in the world.
A lot has been made recently about test scores and graduation rate in both Sweetwater One and at Rock Springs High School. It was suggested I put together pieces of the presentation made to the school board in October to clarify for any one who may have missed the meeting or had further questions. For this post, the focus will be on the overview of the first page of the Wyoming Accountability in Education Act (WAEA) school performance report.
The opening page of this report has the overall score, the two categories that are used to develop this rating (Academic Performance and Overall Readiness), and the score for Participation Rate. In the video below, I will walk through the first few pages outlining the indicators inside each category, share the target score for each, and explain both what a ‘lagging indicator’ is and how these indicators are calculated. Hopefully this, and the following videos & blogs in the series, clarify for our community exactly what reality is in connection to these scores.
Have questions? Feel free to call me at the high school (307-352-3440) or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
So, I will open this post with a question…do you tend to find yourself being negative, running down others, or jumping into conversations where others might be griping and chiming in with your own complaints? If so, I apologize, but I am going to be challenging you to take another route. If you are not, maybe you want to manage complainers in a manner similar to this..
Ok, no I’m not advocating you do this to those who complain. The video actually comes from Jon Gordon, the author of ‘The No Complaining Rule’. If you haven’t read it, you need to read it. Jon has such awesome insight on positive energy, including his first big hit, ‘The Energy Bus’ (again, you should read it). Baruti Kafele, a powerful educational speaker and author, tweets daily that he is ‘ON FIRE’. He spreads a inspiring message and radiates positive energy. I tag everything I do with the #RoadToAwesome because I believe, like Jon and Baruti, that I have a calling. Mine is to lead our students and staff to heights they never thought they could reach. None of us can achieve what we set out to do without maintaining a positive mind set and keeping positive energy flowing around us.
We are one day from election day, and I have found myself more and more befuddled by the extreme negativity we find in our society today. Not only has it found its way into political advertisements but increasingly it has become prominent with people who choose to vent frustrations on Facebook. Why are so many people so negative? One of our local business owners, and the parent of a student in my building, recently told me of a page on Facebook set up simply to gripe and say terrible things about local businesses in Rock Springs. She was on the page, made a post filled with positive feedback on many local establishments…they kicked her out of the page. WOW… Remember, it takes only one negative post on social media and rapidly there is a firestorm that someone has to put out. Her solution, she and another local business man started a positive feedback page for our local merchants. This is a great way to positively use a powerful tool. I truly love social media, just check out my twitter feed (@DarrinPeppard) or our school’s Facebook page (Rock Springs High School (authentic)), it is such a powerful tool. Consider, however, when using social media how easily a post spreads unintended consequences of negative statements.
You could ask, how might this connect to our work in education? Negative energy spreads in a school or classroom, just as it does across social media. One cannot have a positive impact on a student, build quality relationships with students, parents, or other staff when negative thoughts or energy consume their daily lives. So, if you have those negative tendencies…stop it. Students are watching and they pay attention!
I suppose you might read this post and consider it a rant about negativity, or that I am being negative about being negative (ah, but two negatives make a positive right). The effort required to be positive rather than negative, to focus on what is right in a situation over what is wrong, to find opportunities instead of barriers, is very minimal. l challenge all those who read this to take some time to share the positive things in your life, even small things. Say hello, thank you, buy the person behind you in line at Starbucks a coffee. It’s amazing how staying positive can quickly become a habit and how it radiates to those around you.
So, simply put, be positive.
Enjoy your journey on the #RoadToAwesome,
(follow Jon Gordon on Twitter @JonGordon11 – follow Baruti Kafele at @PrincipalKafele)
Reflection is a powerful thing. Without it, we are doomed to repeated the mistakes made in previous attempts at whatever we might be trying to accomplish. Having just spent several days with like minded individuals, all hell-bent on doing what is best for kids, I am compelled to think about the great work each of them is doing, the great work we at RSHS are doing, and wonder…where do we go from here?
The last thing any staff wants is for their principal to return from a conference and make sweeping changes to processes already in place. That happens to be the same way I feel about it, so no big changes right now. I was, however, able to reflect on some current practices that are not as effective as I would like, some practices that are quite effective, and some things that I’ve wanted to do but, for various reasons, have not yet implemented.
What might be some next steps for leadership at RSHS?
Enhance Communication – I talk a lot about us needing to communicate more with parents and get frustrated when we don’t. If we are to make a move from information starvation to information feast I HAVE TO MODEL it. It will take even greater transparency from me to staff, parents, and students. How can I do this??
further control the message via social media – but not just what we post on Twitter and Facebook. That’s too easy and is not hitting them all. I would like to follow the model I learned from Dwight Carter (@DwightCarter) of using Storify to cluster all #RoadToAwesome references. This can then be both linked in our staff newsletter (or Friday Focus blog, more on this in a minute) and emailed to parents.
Friday Focus blog – great opportunity to take the best of what’s happening in our building and community and shine the spotlight on our hard working staff
Emailing parents with positive information, making calls to parents to share good news, and recognizing students for the great things they do with a ‘fancy lunch’ once per month for leaders of the week.
Push positive climate and culture – right after student and staff safety, my most important work is, and needs to continue to grow, in the area of positive culture. We have taken some excellent steps in this area during the course of this year, but we can and will improve.
Finally, ONE THING…
Working with staff, in a very structured matter, we will identify the ONE THING that we can make our common focus, unify the efforts of staff, and be genuinely striving to achieve.
Sitting in a session on blogging – a learning lab session to be precise. Below are my thoughts from the session:
Blog because you have things to share, experiences
Brave-be not afraid to share your thinking – model for others bravery by putting yourself out there
‘Share your story before someone shares it for you’
be more dog – YouTube video
Sorry, that became more of a note taking than a thought model. It was really amazing to get to listen to Craig and Jennifer – it was something that is rather motivating. As well, I met Glen Robbins, one of this year’s Digital Principal’s of the Year. It is always very humbling when you meet someone who has been following you on Twitter and they say they like your work! Thank you Glen and congratulations on your award!!
My big takeaway is to not let fear, availability, and the belief that you have to post something earth shattering keep you from writing for yourself and for feedback. As I told Glen today #ChallengeAccepted.