Saturday, March 30, 2013

New principal at Hoover Elementary

Our district has announced yet another new principal for my kids’ elementary school. Next year’s sixth graders will have had six different principals (counting interims) since they started kindergarten. You can read about the new principal here.

The qualities I’d like to see in a principal are almost impossible to assess through a Google search, so I’ll just hope for the best. I do think it’s interesting that he taught art for fifteen years, and that he is currently principal at a school that has a Montessori classroom. On the other hand, I was disappointed to see that many of his school newsletter articles focused on standardized testing. One example:
Is your child where they need to be academically for this time of year? This question is on our teacher’s minds continually, it should also be on yours. We have just completed our first quarter and our first parent-teacher conferences. Your next question should be: what would it take for my child to exceed the standards? Our current Standards will be fully replaced next year with the new Arizona Common Core Standards. These new standards are comparatively more rigorous. A child who achieves “Exceeds” on our current AIMS assessment will be lucky to score “Meets” on the new assessments that will be aligned with the AZ Common Core.

AIMS tests will be replaced in the 2014-2015 school year with the new PARCC assessments. Students who are currently reading at their own grade level by today’s standards will be expected to read at least 1.5 to 2 grade levels ahead of where they are now. Based on these new expectations, a 3rd grader who would finish the school year at grade level would need to be reading at an early 4th grade level at the end of the school year.

Our teachers have been working and preparing for these new rigorous standards for two years. Are you prepared to support your child and help them move towards these new standards?
With the ever increasing academic expectations of the new Arizona Common Core standards, 3rd Grade Move on When Reading, and soon to change AIMS assessment, your child’s future depends on our cooperative efforts.

We have created a process at Pomeroy over the last few years where our teachers and support staff continually review and monitor your child’s progress in reading and math and when needed, we provide as much extra support as possible.

Sometimes children need more review and practice then we have time for during the school day. This is where you play a key role. We have events during the school year when we try to give parent’s materials and training on activities you can do at home to help your child succeed academically. Gobble up Reading, Mornings with Mom, Dads on Deck and many others were devised to make learning fun and educational. I encourage you to do your best to attend all these events. . . . Help us make your child as successful as we know they can be.
More here. Notice that there’s no discussion of whether the new standards make more sense, or are more age-appropriate, than the ones that were so important the previous year. Whatever the standards are now is what we must care about. We have always been at war with Eurasia!

This stuff is par for the course now, and may well have been demanded of him by his central administrators, so I wouldn’t assume that it sheds much light on him as a principal. It’s standard procedure simply to assert that meeting arbitrary test score benchmarks is what school is all about, and to presume without discussion that all parents will naturally be on board. Needless to say, I’m not on board. I hope that if our new principal makes statements like these, parents will push back against them. He’s not responsible for the policy of high-stakes testing, but if he’s going to be the public face of that policy and advocate for it, he needs to hear how people feel about it.


FedUpMom said...

Wow! They get a new principal every year? You can't possibly have good leadership that way. There's no time to accomplish anything.

I personally have been surprised to find out how much difference a principal makes. They really can set the tone for the whole school.

My fondest hope for you (and the kids!) is that the new principal didn't actually write those articles. Maybe some underling threw something together at the last minute for him.

I like the stated goal "to make learning fun and educational!" Yeah, it's such a drag when learning turns out not to be educational.

FedUpMom said...

Your next question should be: what would it take for my child to exceed the standards?

I love this assumption by administrators that we parents occupy the same circle of hell they do.

Oddly enough, many parents aren't that interested in how their kids stack up against the standards. Maybe we want to know whether our kids are happy, or enjoy learning, or have actual interests in actual subjects.

Chris said...

Thanks, FedUpMom. It's not really a new principal every year, but we had three over the course of this past year, which throws off the average. But yes, high principal turnover certainly doesn't help matters.

I doubt any of these administrators mean to come off sounding as high-handed and presumptuous as they sometimes sound. I think that, as employees, they don't think it's their place to question the instructions they receive from above. Somehow they forget that parents aren't school system employees, and so might have thoughts of their own.

"Maybe we want to know whether our kids are happy, or enjoy learning, or have actual interests in actual subjects." You can say that again.