This is a test post to see how Jiffy Post plugin works.
This is a test post to see how Jiffy Post plugin works.
This morning I was joined by dozens of hungry children during breakfast. We were at Edison Elementary bright an early, before classes started for the day.
Hundreds of children eat school lunches every day, and many of them also eat breakfast. So I’ve started to do some reporting on what our city’s kids are eating in school, by eating with them for a few days.
Last week I ate at Blue Ridge Elementary, but the breakfast sandwich I chose, although good, didn’t look like a popular choice among the children, given the quick glance I gave around the cafeteria. Most had grabbed the favored “pancake on a stick.”
Today at Edison I was really excited to give the pancake on a stick a try. It’s basically a breakfast corn dog. That’s a breakfast sausage, I believe made with turkey meat, dipped in pancake batter and baked. It was good with syrup, and the chocolate milk I chose. I also got some applesauce (not too sweet!), some canned peaches, and a slice of really tasty watermelon.
I have to admit I’m more of a coffee and toast person, or even oatmeal, but it hit the spot. It was also a bit more fruit than I’m used to in the morning.
I’ll be eating at area schools a few more times, getting to talk to some of the older students and also getting a peak at what goes on in the kitchens each day. I’m also hoping to hear from some parents who feel strongly one way or the other on what our schools are dishing up for lunch and breakfast. Maybe you’d like to join me for lunch one day?
This week I’ll be back at Edison for lunch. Lunch time is when the real variety is dished up and children get to make lots of different choices.
I welcome reader input as I get going on this story, and if there’s something you think I should ask or look into please let me know.
And if you’d like to be interviewed for the story, send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Last year was a period of adjustment for local students, considering the results of the new state standards exams, which were released Tuesday. The new exams — the Measurements of Student Progress for 3rd-8th graders, the High School Proficiency Exam for 10th graders — were given to students for the first time last year (the 2009-10 school year) and replaced the Washington Assessment of Student Learning.
Students had to adjust to a new exam, but locally were also handling new boundaries that shifted the attendance school of hundreds of children in elementary and middle school. So results were mixed, to sum it up. Some grades did well in some subjects. We’re above state average in some categories, below in others. Check out my stories on the results, along with data from past years, at Union-Bulletin.com.
Although the state results are big news, Walla Walla Superintendent Mick Miller wanted the public to remember that the state assessment is just one way to measure student success in a school year. The district conducts its own assessments throughout the years, and puts in a lot of time to evaluating individual students and collaboration among teachers to help children succeed.
The state scores go hand in hand with another topic making education headlines this week, which is a continued look at the value-added approach to evaluating teachers. The Los Angeles Times recently released a database of the LAUSD’s most effective and least effective teachers, based on the model. Value-added analysis takes children’s test scores from the last year, and makes predictions on how they will perform on the following year. So a third-grade student who enters the fourth grade meeting 60 percent standards in reading, would be expected to meet about the same standards in fourth grade. If the student ends the school year meeting 80 percent standards, that teacher is then rated as highly effective, for helping that student improve standards significantly. The formula would also apply to a student who at the end of the year only met 40 percent standards, therefore assuming the teacher was not effective.
The LA Times stories, and the method itself, are highly controversial within the education world. Some see it as an essential way of rating teachers, although not the primary way. Critics feel it unfairly passes judgment on teachers who are often facing significant barriers in the classroom depending on their school’s demographics. The New York Times has this story on the topic this week.
This weekend a community member asked me if I knew what had happened to the planned skills center for Walla Walla Public Schools. As I told her what I remembered off-hand on its development, I thought it would be worth a blog mention.
Under former superintendent Richard Carter, Walla Walla Public Schools started the process to build a state-supported basic skills center to serve high school juniors and seniors. The center was proposed as a satellite of Tri-Tech Skills Center in Kennewick, and one way to help students reach graduation with good skills, and also relieve some of the crowding at Wa-Hi. The school district worked with Walla Walla Community College, which offered land on its main campus where the skills center could be built.
The district qualifies to have 90 percent of the project paid through state funding. The other 10 percent is the district’s responsibility, and the value of the land where the center is to be build covered the district’s share.
At the May school board meeting, one of Carter’s last, he informed the board that the district had secured money from the state for the pre-design of the center — a general sketch of what the center would look like. The next phase, which would be securing money for the actual design, will be determined in 2011. Money to actually construct the facility could be secured in 2013-14 if the district remains a priority for the state.
It’s still a long ways before the skills center is off the ground and opening its doors to students, but the chance is still there. The skills center would draw students from throughout the region, not just Walla Walla, and offer a few precise disciplines, like medical assistant skills or auto technology, that students could then continue to pursue in college.
There’s a couple of ways to help students this week. On Sunday, some eighth-grade students from Pioneer Middle School will be hosting a car wash at the Elks Lodge, 351 E. Rose St., from 1-5 p.m. The washing is free, but students are hoping to secure donations to pay for a learning trip to Washington D.C. and Gettysburg tentatively planned for spring break.
Organizers of the “Picture Lady” program, which brings art instruction to local elementary schools, are gathering donations to help support the program.
Donations are being collected at the Walla Walla County Fair between Sept. 1-5, in the Education Pavilion. A Picture Lady program drop off box will be on site.
A drop box will also be located outside the program offices, upstairs from the Walla Walla Post Office.
Here’s a list of art-worthy materials being accepted:
Earlier this week I wrote a story reminding drivers and families to be careful traveling through town as children head back to school. Today, the Washington State Patrol released an advisory reminding drivers to always follow school-bus rules. Not doing so can yield a whopping $394 ticket that drivers would apparently have a tough time reducing, suspending or waving, the agency reports.
“If you get a ticket for failure to stop for a school bus you will pay the full amount,” writes WSP Sgt. Freddy Williams in the release.
To help Washington state drivers, the patrol offers an informal video online, “School Bus Stop Rules” to help inform the public.
Good-bye, summer — hello, school!
The 2010-11 academic school year kicks off this week for most area schools. Get ready to see school buses, kids with backpacks, and lots more activity around school zones starting this Tuesday. I’m putting together a report on Monday on safety tips for driving, walking and riding by schools and in school zones.
I’m excited to interview a Wa-Hi grad who joined Teach for America several years ago and is being profiled in a new book as a highly effective teacher. The topic of identifying and learning from highly effective teachers is a hot topic this year. It got a huge boost last week with an in-depth study by the Los Angeles Times that shows a child can thrive and make tremendous gains academically in just one year with the right teacher. The report has prompted LAUSD, the country’s second largest school district, to consider using the value-added approach to gauge teacher quality. The controversial system uses students’ test scores from previous years to measure how well a teacher instructs.
I hope to keep this blog up-to-date each week, and I welcome tips, ideas and suggestions for coverage in the UB. Here’s to a great school year for our teachers, school staff, administrators, and especially our region’s children.
It may be summer, but there are still some exciting things happening in education locally. By the end of this week, Walla Walla Public Schools will have selected a new principal for Walla Walla High School. This week, a team of district and community people will be helping with interviews of candidates. The selection of the new leader is scheduled for this Friday.
Walla Walla schools is also preparing to launch a new online course offering for middle and high school students. The district is looking to partner with Greenways Academy with the goal of making the district a partner. The popularity of online schools has grown in the last few years, particularly as hybrids of public and online schools. There are a few schools now in Washington state that are tuition-free, thus public schools, because of partnerships they have forged with other local districts. So a child in Walla Walla could potentially earn a diploma from a different school district through such an online schools. Walla Walla hopes to do the same, by drawing potential students from across the state (and locally). There’ll be more on this topic as it develops, but so far students will have the option to take classes through the online academy this fall.
In Milton-Freewater, the biggest change is the sudden announcement of its kindergarten programs being cut to a half-day program. There is no board meeting in July, but I anticipate some discussion during the August meeting. The topic of half versus full-day kindergarten programs is highly debatable. For many families, the full-day program is a necessity because of the burden half-day programs create to seek child care. Other feel full-day programs are too demanding on young children.
The NY Times this morning has an interesting article on the phenomeon of children being harrassed through cell phone text messages and other online or electronic means. The basic argument of the article is whether parents should be able to ask schools discipline children who are caught harassing other children through online sites or “texting.” The basic idea of the article seems to be that if harassing texting or other online bullying is occurring outside of school, it is not the school’s responsibility to step in. Other alternatives offered were going to the police, or simply approaching the family of the suspected bully.
The article brings up a few thoughts: Is middle school too young to give children liberty with texting, where short messages, and also photos and videos are sent from phone to phone is seconds? As the step-mom of a 15 year old girl, I have to say that when texting has consumed my daughter, we have made the decision to disable the feature until things get back to normal. She’s had a cell phone since the sixth-grade. Now that my own children are getting ready to start school, I feel like waiting until at least 9th grade would be best. And I strongly believe online time should be limited for children, as well as supervised.
Bullying is not a new phenomenon, but the introduction of the online world and technololgy has added new wrinkles. Has anyone heard of Formspringme.com? It’s basically a site where users answer questions posed by often anonymous people. Popular with teens, it is likened by some people to an online bathroom wall smeared with nasty comments.
Any thoughts out there on the topic?
With the departure of Walla Walla High School Principal Darcy Weisner to become superintendent of the Clarkston School District, the Walla Walla School District is working to find a replacement. The district hopes to have a new principal hired by mid-July, and ready to report for work in early August.
The district, under the guidance of incoming superintendent Mick Miller, has laid out a timeline for the hiring process that is to take place in the next few weeks. Miller, who joins Walla Walla Public Schools officially on July 1, has recommended a comprehensive process, that will include a hiring committee made up of staff, parents, students, administrators, and community folks.
The timeline to hire a new principal for the district’s largest school is as follows:
July 9: Application deadline
July 12-16: Interviews with candidates.
July 16: Top candidate picked.
Aug. 9: New principal’s first day of work.
More information on the open position is available online at wwps.org under Jobs.