Tuesday, January 7, 2014
 Volume I, Issue 5
Principal Matters!
Top Story

The REAL Story of America's PISA Scores

 National Headline:  America's Falling Scores on PISA Test


Truth :   Not so fast.


Here's what a more accurate headline would state:


Students in American schools, when compared to similar cohorts in other nations, outperformed nearly everyone.


When comparing the scores of American schools with comparable poverty rates to those of other countries, a more accurate picture is revealed.  Overall, America's poverty rate is 21.7%- significantly higher than other nations in the study


Schools in the United States with less than a 10% poverty rate had a PISA score of 551.  When compared 

to the ten countries with similar poverty numbers, that score ranked first. 



Poverty Rate

PISA Score

United States
























Czech Republic




It only begins there.  US schools with a poverty rate between 10-24.9% had a 527 average on the PISA, higher than the other comparable countries.  US schools with greater than 25% poverty rate?  There aren't nations with a comparable rate with which to compare.


If you'd like to read (and we hope you will) this exposition in detail, please follow this link to our friend from NASSP Mel Riddile's blog where he explains the impact of poverty on the inaccurate reporting of performance on the PISA test.  http://nasspblogs.org/principaldifference/2010/12/pisa_its_poverty_not_stupid_1.html 


As Mel explains in his blog, a faulty read of the PISA scores can give "reformers" steam to push school efforts in an erroneous direction.  Chasing practices in countries that are completely dissimilar to the US is the wrong direction for our efforts and a bad use of our limited resources.  Mel states, "Instead of labeling all schools as failing, we must find a way to raise the performance of our students in under-resourced schools. Instead of looking to low-poverty countries like Finland for direction, we should be looking to take what we already know about educating students in high-performing, high-poverty schools."


~ MW for PM!


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This Week in MSSAA!  
Highlights from your state association!  
 NASSP Conference: Ignite 14

Join NASSP, 

February 6-8, 2014, in Dallas, TX.  

The only national conference devoted to the unique needs of middle and high school leaders. At Ignite '14 you can immerse yourself in an innovative, relevant, and practical professional learning experience that you can customize to fit your needs. Register today at www.nasspconference.org

NASSP Conference: Ignite 14
NASSP Conference: Ignite 14



2014:  What's New With Social Media?


Last week, we shared with you the basics on 3-D Printing, and in our ongoing awareness journey in the world of technology, we take a stop at Social Media Street.  The trends for 2014 in social media are reported here in an article by Katie Lepi that runs at edudemic.com.  


You can read it in its entirety at this link:  http://www.edudemic.com/social-media-changes/   Please enjoy the graphic as you plan your presence for 2014!




Successful Practices from Our Nation's Best:  Building School Culture


Sheena Alaiasa is the 2014 MetLife/NASSP National Middle Level Principal of the Year.  The principal at Samuel Wilder King Intermediate School in Kaneohe, HI, Sheena shared some of the practices that led to her selection as the nation's top middle level principal recently with NASSP's Jan Umphrey, Editor of NASSP's Principal Leadership.  Here's what Sheena shared about the culture at her school.


Principal Leadership: The climate and culture at Samuel Wilder King Intermediate School in Kaneohe, HI, strongly support learning and positive behavior. How have you fostered that environment?


Sheena Alaiasa: Collaboration is of the utmost importance. Schools are charged with preparing adolescents for the rigor of college and career so that they may become contributing members of a global society, but schools are only brick-and-mortar institutions. It is the people who believe that those outcomes are possible with shared vision, commitment, and passion who ensure that every student matters. Samuel Wilder King Intermediate School's success is based on valuing students, teachers, and community members and the work they do together.


At the onset of my tenure at King, I established a leadership team of department heads. Today, we continue to practice collaborative leadership through the leadership team, where decisions are made on the basis of data and the needs of the students. Teachers know that whatever is decided will be done, and they are deputies in keeping the integrity of the decision. A major task in this leadership role is to gather and analyze real and perceptional data to determine priorities for our next steps. Student performance data is analyzed to look for areas of strengths and weaknesses. Behavior data is analyzed to see if systems are working and to ensure that our response to intervention results are clearly being addressed.


As we have worked through this journey of building a collaborative leadership team, we have seen the growth and unity within our school as it focuses on learning. Team decisions have been centered on what students need instead of what's easier as a teacher. As we've gotten better at collaborating within the leadership team, we have witnessed our school leaders follow that model to create departments that have learned to share the decisions and remain focused on students. The snowball effect has truly been a tool in leading through collaboration.


One of our first identified priorities was to systematize operations. That included setting up weekly professional learning communities (PLC) with agreed-upon norms and expectations that included individual accountability. These norms became the foundation that strengthened the culture of professionalism. Those norms existed not only in the PLCs but also were adhered to in faculty meetings, individualized educational plan meetings, team meetings, parent communication, and anywhere else we formally gathered.


You can read the entire article, written by Jan Umphrey, the editor of NASSP's Principal Leadership magazine , at this link:  http://www.nassp.org/Content/158/pl_jan14_poy_alaiasa.pdf 

Classroom Tips:  Five Ways to Say "I Don't Know"


"I don't know."


Every day in our classrooms, students are asked questions, and often they don't know the answers.  It can be a challenge to reply with the truthful, "I don't know."  Students who always know the answers are quick to reply and sometimes pleased to have the opportunity to step up with the correct answer after a classmate has stumbled.  For the student who didn't know the answer, their feelings about the class are negative, at least for that moment, and if gone unchecked, those feelings can be the norm.  Rather than push students away from instruction, perhaps we should share with them strategies on how to answer when you don't know the answer!


Jeff Dunn recently shared in Edudemic (here's a link to the article in its entirety) strategies that we can teach to our students to give them a better answer than none at all.  Here's a classroom chart depicting the methods, each of which, when rehearsed with students, can give them a new way to move forward in class.

 ~MW for PM! 


 Encouraging Reading By Taking It Away


When are we, as humans, most fond of something?  When we can't have it, or even more so when we have it and it goes away. 


What if we take that disposition and use it to encourage students to read?


Here's an excellent lesson plan from Read Write Think that takes our desire to have the freedom to do what we wish and converges it with an understanding of censorship. 


The full lesson plan (authored by Lisa Fink of Illinois and published by NCTE) is located at the link below; here's an overview from the site.


Any work is potentially open to attack by someone, somewhere, sometime, for some reason. This lesson introduces students to censorship and how challenges to books occur. They are then invited to read challenged or banned books from the American Library Association's list of the 100 most frequently challenged books. Students decide for themselves what should be done with these books at their school by writing a persuasive essay explaining their perspectives. Students share their pieces with the rest of the class, and as an extension activity, can share their essays with teachers, librarians, and others in their school.


(http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/case-reading-examining-challenged-410.html?utm_source=socmedia&utm_medium=updates&utm_campaign=tlg  )


It's a rich lesson that encourages analysis and critical thinking.  Check it out!  ~MW for PM! 

Professional Reading 

What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains


Finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction: "Nicholas Carr has written a Silent Spring for the literary mind."-Michael Agger, Slate


"Is Google making us stupid?" When Nicholas Carr posed that question, in a celebrated Atlantic Monthly cover story, he tapped into a well of anxiety about how the Internet is changing us. He also crystallized one of the most important debates of our time: As we enjoy the Net's bounties, are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply? Now, Carr expands his arguments to into the most 

compelling exploration of the Internet's intellectual and cultural consequences yet published. As he describes how human thought has been shaped through the centuries by "tools of the mind"-from the alphabet to maps, to the printing press, the clock, and the computer-Carr interweaves a fascinating account of recent discoveries in neuroscience by such pioneers as Michael Merzenich and Eric Kandel. Our brains, the historical and scientific evidence reveals, change in response to our experiences. The technologies we use to find, store, and share information can literally reroute our neural pathways.




On this date 

On This Date...

Jan 7, 1789:

First U.S. presidential election



On this day in 1789, America's first presidential election is held. Voters cast ballots to choose state electors; only white men who owned property were allowed to vote. As expected, George Washington won the election and was sworn into office on April 30, 1789.


As it did in 1789, the United States still uses the Electoral College system, established by the U.S. Constitution, which today gives all American citizens over the age of 18 the right to vote for electors, who in turn vote for the president. The president and vice president are the only elected federal officials chosen by the Electoral College instead of by direct popular vote.


Today political parties usually nominate their slate of electors at their state conventions or by a vote of the party's central state committee, with party loyalists often being picked for the job. Members of the U.S. Congress, though, can't be electors. Each state is allowed to choose as many electors as it has senators and representatives in Congress. The District of Columbia has 3 electors. During a presidential election year, on Election Day (the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November), the electors from the party that gets the most popular votes are elected in a winner-take-all-system, with the exception of Maine and Nebraska, which allocate electors proportionally. In order to win the presidency, a candidate needs a majority of 270 electoral votes out of a possible 538.  (From History.Com)