Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Article from AASA - Starting the School Year Right - Thomas Guskey

The School AdministratorAugust 2011 Number 7, Vol. 68
| The Charter Movement|44
Guest Column

Starting the School Year Right

We soon will experience the most important time in the school year for all children — the first two weeks. What happens during this critical period pretty much determines how the rest of the year will go.
When children return to school after the summer break, their perceptions about school and about themselves as learners are mostly uncertain. It’s a new year with new teachers, new books, new classes, new schedules and new friends. All of these novelties come with the hope this year could be different and better than all previous years.
That uncertainty in their perceptions continues only until teachers administer the first quizzes and assessments around the end of the second week of school. When teachers assign grades to those first quizzes, the grades put students into categories. Getting out of a category is really difficult.
Students who receive a C on that first math quiz begin to see themselves as C students. Their uncertainty suddenly becomes fixed, and they begin to accept the idea they are likely to earn C’s in math for the rest of the school year.
When the second quiz or assessment occurs, they expect to receive another C. When they do, it reinforces their perception. Similarly, if they receive a failing grade on that first quiz, they think all ensuing grades will be the same. But if they succeed on that first quiz and receive a high grade, that too is their perception of all that might follow.
Student PersistenceFor school leaders, this means doing everything possible to help teachers ensure students’ success during the first two weeks. At every level and in every class, they must press teachers to do whatever is necessary to help students experience successful learning during this critical period — and not fake success, but an accomplishment on something meaningful and challenging. It should be something that makes students feel good about what they have achieved and confident in their abilities as learners.
The key to motivating students rests with that success. Students persist in activities at which they experience success, and they avoid activities at which they are not successful or believe they cannot be successful.
This is the reason truancy and attendance problems rarely occur during the first two weeks of the school year. They begin to occur after the first graded quizzes, papers or assessments. In students’ minds, the grades they receive on these first quizzes and assessments establish their likelihood of future success. And why come to school if there is so little chance of doing well?
Parent UnderstandingSchool leaders also must help parents understand the importance of this time and how essential it is for them to be genuinely involved in their children’s education during these first two weeks. Routines established at home in this critical period profoundly affect the likelihood of students’ success.
Daily conversations about school activities help children recognize that their parents value success in school. Providing a quiet place for children to work on school assignments and limiting the time they spend watching television or playing computer games further increase the chances for success. Checking with the teacher to ensure children are well-prepared and ready to succeed also can help.
Successful experiences during these first two weeks of school do not guarantee success for the entire year. But they are a powerful and perhaps essential step in that direction. School leaders, teachers and parents alike need to take advantage of this critical time and use it well. It can make all the difference.
Thomas Guskey is professor of educational psychology at University of Kentucky in Lexington, Ky. E-mail: Guskey@uky.edu

School Year 2011-2012 Has Started!

Our school year started yesterday with the teacher institute day and today with the first day for students. At school, the excitement is palatable, the energy high, and the shine on the floors bright! 

All of the expectations are fresh, all of the students are on an even playing field, and all of the school supplies are fresh! As the principal and I visited all classrooms K-5 and all 5-8 students at a welcome back assembly, we were warmly greeted and welcomed by students and staff alike.

One of the great benefits of working in a one-school school district as the superintendent is the true instructional nature of the leadership position! On a daily basis the principal and I are in classrooms, in hallways, in the lunch room, in the parking lot, basically "everywhere" students and staff interact.

Our aim is excellence. Our mission is:
At Pennoyer School, we are dedicated to the development of our children academically, emotionally, and socially. We must prepare our students to become life-long learners, positive contributors of our community and responsible citizens of a global society.

We are very happy to facilitate learning for our 400 students and we are happy to facilitate professional growth for our 31 teachers and 10 support staff personnel!

Stop by our district's website and Facebook and Twitter pages to stay informed!!