Friday, June 28, 2013


Two couples arrive in New York City.  Each has about the same amount of money to spend.  One couple goes out to a fancy restaurant, the other one heads to the nearest national chain restaurant.

Why?  Opportunity?  No.  Random chance?  No.  Personal Invitation?  No.  Advertising?  No.

It turns out that the most likely explanation has nothing to do with anything that happened after they arrived in New York City.  The decision had largely already been made, though they may not have even realized it themselves- and it was based on their preconceived notions and plans. 

Their point of reference.  The frame through which they viewed eating in relation to their trip to the Big Apple.  The stories they told themselves.

Was eating out part of the adventure, an opportunity to add to the tapestry and richness of the trip; or was eating just something they needed to do for common sustenance?  Were they, by nature, adventurous eaters, or were they the type who liked the tried and true?

What stories are we telling ourselves?  How are we framing situations?  Are we missing opportunities as a result?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Guest: Seth Godin on Parenting for a New Economy

I recently attended a one day conference with Seth Godin in New York City.  Loved it- and there will be some of my own thoughts in the near future.   For now, please allow me to share a post from one of the many interesting people I met there- Cate Lazen.

Cate writes a blog filled with interesting posts (check it out @ play buffet).  This post is from an interview she had with Seth.  Great stuff.

Common Core

Common Core

The Common Core is the name for the new curriculum that schools across the nation have been implementing over the last couple of years. It represents the work of a diverse group of folks operating under the premise of creating, just as the name suggests, a "common core" of essential learning targets to prepare students across the country for post secondary opportunities- in the workforce or continued schooling.
The Common Core has received mixed reviews.  While I am generally supportive, I have my own doubts and concerns.  My biggest fears are that we will botch the implementation and end up with an overly prescribed set of standards that judges success/failure through test scores.   I worry that we might be sacrificing creativity and innovation at the altar of the industrialists.  Industrialists want everything to scale, to be repeatable, to be efficient.  A great education is messier than that.

If any of those things happened, it would be the result of poor implementation and training, not because the Common Core Standards themselves and inherently flawed, 
Suddenly, the Common Core is under attack from those who believe it is a plot designed to bring about One World Government, that schools will be using assignments to covertly collect data on students and families, and other- equally bizarre- claims. 
I recently watched a film at the office of local State Assembly Representative Don Pridemore.  The film was filled with half-truths, disconnected pieces of information connected in a way that resembled a Picasso painting, and claims that simply cannot stand up to fair and honest scrutiny.  The film was followed by a community member who railed against the Common Core.  In fairness to Representative Pridemore, the community member went further in her claims than the film- but it is all fruit of the same tree. 
The claim that schools are supposed to collect 400 data points on your child is not true.
The claim that the Common Core is a dumbing down of the curriculum is not supported by empirical evidence.  
The claims that a child's answer to a 5th grade question could somehow be used to gather medical histories on an entire family, or could prevent him or her from one day purchasing a gun- are patently false. 
The claim that school administrators have all been given 'talking points' to say to parents who question them about the Common Core is also false.  Well, if it is true, I sure missed the memo- and so did every colleague I have subsequently asked. 
The people who developed the Common Core, their motives, and the final product are all fair game for honest questioning.  I'm hopeful that a serious national dialogue about curriculum will be good for all of us.  If it helps us in public education to "sharpen our saw," then it's a form of Mission Accomplished.
The Common Core goals and objectives are easily accessible.  Go check for yourself.  Eliminate the middlemen, just go read them.  Seriously.  Read them.  Please.  Read them.
The Milwaukee Journal had a great article in the crossroads section of the Sunday paper- "Common Core: conservative to the core."  The authors are Chester J. Finn, who worked for President Reagan, and Michael Petrilli, who worked for President Bush.  Both currently work at the right-of-center Thomas B. Fordham Institute.  Please read what these gentlemen have to say about the Common Core.
If you have questions, great.  Let's talk.  If your conclusion is that the Common Core represents a step backwards in terms of rigor and a step towards One World Government.... Well, we're just going to have to agree to disagree.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

21st Century Learning

One of the people I follow is Ian Jukes, who posts on the Committed Sardine site.  The Committed Sardine is one of my favorite sites for ideas on forward thinking educational practices.  This is an excellent post full of ideas and challenges:

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Rules of the Game: Vouchers

As the legislature continues to push for an unprecedented expansion of vouchers, a few of us continue to write articles trying to shed some light on what we believe is a misguided effort.  This article was written collaboratively with Dr. Lisa L Olson and Dr. Susan Borden, the District Administrators of Hartford Union High School and the Germantown Public Schools, respectively.  Mr. Scott Sabol, the District Administrator of Neosho School, also agreed to sign his name to this article.

Rules of the Game

While it is less common today to find games of baseball and kickball being played in backyards during the summer evenings, many of us still fondly recall those memories.  The specific rules often varied depending upon the backyard, the players, and the evening.  In fact, the rules were sometimes challenged or even changed in the middle of the game.   

Sometimes special accommodations were made—four outs when the neighbor’s youngest brother was filling in or only one strike for the college kid home on break.  Whatever.  These were games and the art of negotiating terms and the joy of competition amongst friends were every bit as important, if not more important, than who won or lost on a given night.   

What’s great for a backyard game of baseball does not translate into other areas of competition.  American companies often complain over various loopholes that create unfair competitive advantages for companies in other states and other countries.  Competition is great, they say, but we’ve got to have a level playing field.  Amen.  And we’ll have what they’re having.  Competition is great, and we welcome competition with other schools, public and private.  Public schools have faced competition for generations; this is not a new concept. 

America is an exceptional country.  The American Government belongs to the people.  Our government is of the people, by the people, and for the people.  Our public schools are merely an extension of that—schools that are by and for the people.  All people.   Public schools welcome competition with parochial schools.   We don’t need to rules to be equal in order to compete.  But the rules have to be fair.

 The proposed voucher legislation from Joint Finance Committee will be moving forward to the Assembly and Senate next week.  Let’s be clear about what this proposed new legislation will do:

1.         This proposed voucher program is predicted to be the largest entitlement program advanced in Wisconsin within the last generation.

2.         Voucher schools are not accountable to the taxpayers as public schools because they are not required to have locally-elected officials, mandated programming and services, and public reporting of achievement and financial data.  

3.         The income tax credit will reduce the general operating dollars available to support the entire education budget, potentially transferring those budget gaps to property taxes. 

4.         The costs of the statewide vouchers will be unsustainable.   

5.         The parochial children receiving the vouchers are educated in public high schools across Wisconsin as most attend a public high school after a private or homeschool K-8 experience.  These public high schools will continue to cut programming that is valued and available to all of the children and families in the state as the students are preparing for higher education in order to support vouchers..

6.         The proposed voucher program provides the right for parents to shop for a school but not necessarily the right to a good education due to lack of accountability.

7.         The proposed voucher program allows for private, for-profit, and all religious schools to participate without any system of accountability to ensure quality. 

 Competition already exists for public schools—virtual charters, private, homeschooling, and religious.  Parents and taxpayers make decisions of where to live based upon many factors, including local community schools.  As public schools, we welcome the competition and feel we have services and programming that exceed expectations.  However, when the rules of the game are not fair and those rules are being decided without all the players at the table, competition is no longer about improving the product and service but other motives.

Public schools are the solid foundation on which to build.  We encourage you to look deeper at this proposed legislature and understand the dynamics of the voucher proposal on your local public schools.  

Competition and change are good.  Flexibility and innovation are great.  Discourse on education is excellent.  

Monday, June 10, 2013


A few disparate notes regarding COURAGE:

Seth Godin:      

Knock, knock.  Who's there?

Bruce Springsteen:

It's a sad man my friend who's livin' in his own skin, and can't stand the company

Wizard of OZ:

Courage! What makes a King out of a slave?
Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave?
Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk, in the misty mist or the dusky dusk?
What makes the muskrat guard his musk?
Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder?
Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder?
Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the "ape" in apricot?
What have they got that I ain't got?   Courage!


The problem is you can't have good ideas unless you're willing to generate a lot of bad ideas.  I asked a colleague how many bad ideas he has every month.  He said "none."  And there, you see, is the problem.

Knock, knock.  It's the future.

So, I ask myself:  Do I have the courage to publicly generate a bunch of ideas- knowing at least some of them are going to be "bad ideas," in order to potentially generate a few really good ones?

I hope so!

Do as I say, not as I do

Oh by the way, at the most recent Friess Lake School Board meeting- we passed a bunch of stuff that we had been talking about behind closed doors for a few weeks. Typical stuff really- secret negotiating between and among the various factions, with plenty of help from lobbyists.

Then, at about 3:30 in the morning, we all shook hands and agreed to the final terms.  Some of the key proposals had never been talked about- well, not publicly anyway.  But now it is all settled, so deal with it and get over it.  And, you're welcome.


Of course none of this happened at Friess Lake School, or any public school, or any public governmental entity subject to the rules and regulations of the legislature. 

Where did it happen?  The Legislature!  

Where could it happen in the future?  One of the new places about to receive a whole lot of public money- private voucher schools who, at least as of now, are not subject to the same open meetings regulations as public schools.



Eight habits of Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln is my favorite President and, arguably, one of the most interesting historical figures of all time.  I found this link via twitter and just felt like sharing.

All of these habits are choices that any of us can choose to make, or not, every day.  Great stuff:

Sunday, June 2, 2013

"The Rest of the Story" an article on vouchers

I recently had the pleasure of collaborating with Dr. Lisa Olson (Hartford Union HS) and Dr. Susan Borden (Germantown Public Schools) on one more article regarding the proposed legislation on voucher schools.

The article is titled "The Rest of the Story"

The Rest of the Story

The current questions around public schools center around parental choice, competition, and how one measures success. How we frame the questions is important. In what terms and on what grounds do we set the debate?

With another Wisconsin legislative session drawing to a close, the wheeling and dealing is accelerating at a fast and furious pace. We are inundated with data, statistics, and quotes to support or oppose specific legislative agenda items. It is a challenge to discern fact from opinion.  In our rush to quantify things, we forget to ask if we are quantifying the quantifiable and measuring the measurable just because they are quantifiable and measurable.  

Here is a story of a "day in the life" of a student from your local public school: His parents are able to drop him off at 6:15 AM on their way to work so he can access school facilities such as the weight room and the library media center. During the day, he eats both breakfast and lunch provided by the school food service program. He may have also visited his school counselor, school psychologist, school nurse, and social worker. He takes 8 academic classes during the day␣7 face-to- face classes and 1 online class. Those classes include band, physical education, and career and technical education. He also receives an individual band lesson during the day. He is able to see his teachers for additional outside help before school, during resource period, after school, and participates in additional academic assistance through a tutoring program. He participates in an athletic team after school each day. Depending upon the time of the year, he also participates in additional activities such as the musical or academic club meetings and activities. School-provided transportation then drives him home by 6:00 PM. 

And in each of these daily activities, there are relationships and more stories. We value relationships as part of a successful learning environment.  By developing nurturing, positive relationships with students, we can buffer the impact of some factors that may negatively impact a student's academic achievement.

In the story above, the costs associated with the student include transportation, pupil services, food service program, co-curricular programming, and career and technical education. These are services provided to all our public school students and are services our communities have come to expect. However, there are additional costs associated with these services our public schools provide, services not guaranteed in voucher schools. While there is debate on the aid voucher schools receive as compared to our local public schools, we need to look beyond the aid provided and determine what additional expenses are incurred and services provided.

When we compare our K-12 public education system to voucher schools, we cannot continue to use standalone statistics that do not tell the whole story. In the United States, we have chosen to educate all students with the same expectations through age 18 (or 21 in some cases) and provide services and opportunities not provided in other countries or in non- public schools. 

At the secondary level, we provide more than our counterparts in educational offerings, including advanced placement courses, technical college courses, fine arts courses, physical education and health courses, and elective core content courses. While we must improve student achievement for all students, we cannot select only certain data points to create mass reform. We must improve those areas which we need to improve but be sure the data provides the complete story.

The issues we are confronted with are complex. Conscientious citizens want to know the key issues but as the complexity increases, our human nature entices us to simplify in order to process.
In her most recent blog post, Elisa Carlson, Director of Instruction for Surrey Schools, writes, "When we fall victim to pursuing the data we can lose the story. . . In the information age, we are flooded with data. The data, however, is powerful only when embedded in the story..."  We're all busy, and we all come with some beliefs that make us inclined to quickly support some things, while vigorously questioning others. Consequently, we tend to select a single piece of a complex issue and that is all the "evidence" we need.  

There is seminal legislation being considered in Madison right now. The proposed voucher legislation would provide sweeping changes to the educational landscape. How will vouchers impact innovative, dynamic career and technical programs? How will vouchers impact broad programming and co-curricular opportunities? Will this become an entitlement program that we cannot support? How will we truly know whether the voucher schools are successful in serving students?

Public schools are the solid foundation on which to build. We encourage you to look deeper at this bill and understand the dynamics of the proposed legislation on vouchers to your local public schools.

Competition and change are good. Flexibility and innovation are great. Discourse on education is excellent.