Visiting the IB School

AFter I decided to stick my foot in it at a PTO meeting last month, I offered to go reexplain myself to the parents this month. This involved me going with a group of people to visit an IB school here in the City.

The school is called Quail Run. When I compare our AIMS scores to their AIMS scores we’re basically in a dead heat and we both have about fifty percent of our population from out of district. Size wise we’re a lot larger, though they have more grade levels. We’re K-4 and Quail Run is K-6. Class size is roughly the same- between 29-32 kids in each class in the higher grade.

The environment of the school is what is really different. I’m having a hard time figuring out exactly what is different, but I’ll put down what I have found.

1. Peace Table. The school has an initiative called the Peace table. From Kindergarten on up the kids are taught how to solve problems between two people. They are allowed at any time to call another kid to the ‘peace’ table either in the office or in their own classrooms. There they follow guidelines that go Person A talk, Person B listen, Person B talk, Person A listen. Then they come to an agreement, then agree to it. The principal says that his behavior problems have gone down dramatically since then. The teacher can keep an ear out just in case they need to intervene.

2. The PYP Central Themes. The themes seem really thought out and fit well with the standards that we have to teach.

3. So Quiet! All of the classes were so quiet, even when the teacher was saying that the kids were going to “anarchy” because she’d left them alone for a while to talk to me. They were nothing like the anarchy that my class descended into when I got back.

4. The emphasis that not everything fits into the themes and not everything can be constructivist. That really resonated with me. I love constructivist teaching, but not everything works with constructivist teaching. When it comes to interventions for our lowest learners it is so important to deliver instruction in clear direct instruction ways.

5. It is going to be really hard. There is a lot of time that is going to be spent on this project. The principal of Quail Run said that on average the grade levels spent two hours a week setting up their themes and their lesson plans over a three year period.

There is so much more, and I’ll blog more as we keep going. I’m still very concerned that we’re going to lose a couple of teachers here at Simis because of the time commitment. None of us are lazy, but we do have a lot of people with families and it’s hard to meet outside of school.

Keeping you posted- PIO Phase!

International Baccalaureate – Primary Programmee

I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about this program. The problem right now is that I only know the abstract about the program and not the practical application.

Before I jump on board I really want to see the program in action and talk to teachers who have really bought into the program. I want to examine their documents and see how they match mine.

Is that too much to ask? I feel really nervous any time I turn something in that is half baked because I’m feeling unprepared.

Questions:
1. Are there separate central themes for each section?
2. How do the central themes change day-to-day teaching?
3. What kind of assessments are used?
4. What do lesson plans look like?
5. Is the lessson planning collaborative or individual?
6. Is there room within the themes to be able to put in book studies like The Phantom Tollbooth?
7. What impact does the themes have?
8. What resources are used do develop the day-to-day lessons the kiddos see?

I’ve got more questions, but I’m out of time. Do I have a right to be concerned?

Assessment for the sake of assessment

I love data.  I’ll spend hours staring at numbers and seeing what trends pop out.  I just enjoy it!  However, I do not enjoy giving my kids tests.  I’d rather grade a project than a test, but tests are just plumb easier to grade and take less time.

So, I give tests.  I keep them as short as possible so that I can get my data and the kids use their time wisely.  Now that we know I’ve got nothing against tests or data, I do have an issue with something our district is doing.

 

Every Wednesday is early release.  We then have an hour and half to meet with our grade level teams and talk about what we can do as a team to increase student achievement.  We usually do some collaborative planning, share resources, or take care of things like planning field trips, spelling bees or other such projects.

This year, the distrct felt that it had a better idea.  Instead of meeting with our grade level every time we are now meeting with our District grade level.  The objective for these is very fuzzy too- “Create a formative assessment to give to all 4th graders in the district.”  What this assessment was suppose to be about, or on, or like was left up to us.  We have spent HALF of the meetings just deciding we’re going to do math, and base it off of the Common Core Standards.  (This took us 4 sessions.)  Today we actually sat down and wrote questions for the standard we’d chosen.  They’re good questions, and I’d be happy to use them on a test to see if my kids can do that skill.

I’m not happy with what the distrct is asking us to do with this data.

They’re asking us to do……. nothing.

I’m going to give my kids a 5-question assessment, get it graded, submit the data to the district and then…. nothing will happen.  I taught this standard a couple weeks ago.  I’ve already had my own assignments they’ve completed to show me if they are able to show this skill.  I’ve worked with the kids who struggle.

Why must I give this “test” if it doesn’t produce data that I’m going to use to help inform my data?

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