When You CARE Enough to Send Your Very Best

Don’t be afraid to give your best to what seemingly are small jobs.  Every time you conquer one, it makes you that much stronger. If you do the little jobs well, the big ones will tend to take care of themselves. ~Dale Carnegie

You have to love a corporation who has a mission that is similar to our school.  Like Benton High School, Hallmark works to makes the world a “more caring place by helping people laugh, love, heal, say thanks, reach out and make meaningful connections with others. Through moments big and small, and through both happy and challenging times.”

These are happy times at Benton.  We are returning from a short but thankful break to spend the next 20 days finishing off our first semester of the 2012-2013 school year.  We have a focused, prominent school improvement plan which lands squarely on our work with data teams for our EOC/TSA courses and for improving literacy, increasing attendance and engaging students in our classrooms and school activities.

When we CARE  enough to send our very best, we could easily talk about differentiation of instruction. We all know that it is a life skill for all adults to be able to work and learn as a large and small group, but there are times when “different” works better.  I found a few great reminders using Bloom’s Taxonomy (get out your magic wheel this week) of ways to differentiate products of learning as well as learning outcomes that you may find handy as you are looking for ways to improve engagement and learning in your classrooms.  Remember, differentiation works for teachers too.  Because one teacher can make magic with a certain technique or assignment doesn’t guarantee its success for another teacher. I will put charts for differentiation based on Bloom’s as well as the Multiple Intelligences Theory.  Something may spark your instructional interest.  In addition, I will include a chart on the top nine research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Sprinkle in a few of these ideas in your lessons.  You will enjoy the sparkle they give your instruction.

This Monday we are celebrating the opening of the Enright-Morgan Fieldhouse – the two-year long result of Coach Tabor’s dream to build a place for Benton athletics and activities to grow.  We are proud of the result, and we are proud of Benton athletes and students active in making our school a great place to learn and work.

Look back at your department commitments to join in building our school.  The winter months offer great competition in basketball, wrestling, speech/debate and academic team.  Talk to the students about their involvement, and if possible, attend a game with your colleagues.  We will also be sending out the information for our staff Christmas party on Monday.  It’s going to be a little different and tremendous fun this year.  I hope you will all be able to attend.  This is a great moment to get to know the staff members you don’t see regularly during the year.  Let’s take a little time to celebrate together and really show how we CARE for each other.

Week 15 – A Look Ahead

Remember our administrative look fors are going to be more focused.  We will start meeting with data teams to note areas to improve and determine how we can pinpoint exactly what we need to look for to get better and get the results we know can be achieved. EOC testing courses, make sure admin has your meeting schedule ASAP.

Monday – Enright-Morgan Fieldhouse Ribbon Cutting @ 0930

Tuesday – EOC Assessment training for notified parties @ 1:30 in Westfall’s Office

Wednesday – Government EOC/Clardy 2nd block (No student passes during testing)


~Excellence is a journey, not a destination.~

Images are available in CC from Flickr: “Royal Splash” by ecstaticist; “Abstract Red Glitter” by shaire productions; “Enright Morgan” by jetwestfall; “roboto” by .robbie.








Giving CARE and Thanks

I feel the capacity to CARE is the thing which gives life its deepest significance. ~Pablo Casals

I’m always so grateful for this time of year.  Every Thanksgiving holiday break reminds me strongly to be cognizant of the multitude of blessings in my life.  I was reminded this morning in church how good it makes everyone feel to take stock in all that we have to be thankful for each day.  For the life of me, I don’t know why we don’t reflect on that more often.

I am so thankful for how much all the people I work with CARE about what they do and how they do it.  The outpouring of support and loyalty I received and heard last week after our staff meeting made my heart soar.  Your determination and dedication to CARdinal Excellence humbled me.

We live in a new age of education.  It is tough to navigate our newly found waters with seemingly insurmountable expectations and changes at every turn.  I realized more than ever this week how much we rely on each other.  I find myself humming, “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.” That is what makes a difference in our school and with our kids. Day by day, we are there to make a difference.  We are making a difference.  We found out great news about several of our students scoring in the 30s on this last ACT.  We also heard that a record number of our students were selected as Cotillion finalists.  Your excellence is showing up as our students’ excellence.  It’s CARdinal Excellence.  Thank you for giving every day.

Week 14 – A Look Ahead

Our administrative look fors are going to be more focused.  We will start meeting with data teams to note areas to improve and determine how we can pinpoint exactly what we need to look for to get better and get the results we know can be achieved.  

Tuesday – Pep Assembly schedule; UMKC Data Teams JEPD in library each block; Basketball Jamboree @ Civic Arena starting at 3:30.

Wednesday – 2 Hour early out schedule (turn in your lunch menus to Ms. Anita)

Thursday/Friday – Happy Thanksgiving!

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

All images available in CC on Flickr:  “Belated Turkey hand” by bschmove; “Join our team” by CraigTaylor1974.

Measuring CARE Fully

True teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create their own. ~Nikos Kazantzakis

This is one of the weeks our school is measured by others.  Oh, there are many of those times in Benton’s near future, but this week our school will go through our bi-annual District Data Consult and Walkthrough.  The process is simple.  District officials, usually our Associate Superintendent and Assistant Director of Secondary Education, visit Benton for four hours to discuss areas of celebration and improvement for our school.  The conversation, which in the fall takes upward of three hours, is followed by a walkthrough our building where the officials will talk to you and to our students to verify topics discussed in the consult.  Most often, your administrative team selects the topics of conversation.  If we select incorrectly, our district officials set the conversation.  We prefer to choose wisely. 

This fall, our topics of conversation will center on our celebrations and hard work realized in our data teams focus.  We have collected the data from Power Standard 1 along with assessments from almost every team.  It was stupefying how much we all learned, from team members to administrators, in our conversations this first round.  The magnitude of having data teams in every department is a celebration of its own.  To have them all operational is amazing. Other topics we will discuss include our focus on assessments and grades, ACT Academy, EOC scores, attendance and alternative referrals.  We feel it’s just smart to be open and honest about our work and talk through our plans.  The most rewarding part of a data consult is to have our plan affirmed and get ideas for solutions.

Following the consult, your admin team will debrief and create a letter to inform everyone of the results of our consult and walkthrough.  The information in this letter is our self-report to our staff of where we shine and what we need to work on together.  It’s a great letter.  The reflection always makes me realize how fortunate I am to work at Benton.

Data Teams – Power Standard #2

As you move into the next round, please remember the high points of our learning from the first Power Standard.



  1. A Power Standard cycle is from pretest to posttest.
  2. Start with your posttest (you know what you want to measure) and create your pretest to measure similarly but by scaffolding (breaking down the process and/or content needed prior to learning what you are asking them to learn) the questions.
  3. Your power standard MUST be grounded in curriculum objectives.  Know what those are – especially the operative verbs and the content expectations.
  4. Bundle (taking several part of different objectives) or chunk (breaking down a large objective into small manageable chunks) your power standard and create your instructional time frame by topics of instruction and amount of time needed for mastery (or almost mastery).  Those points of instruction become your CHECK POINTS (which may or may not be a graded check for mastery).  Your checkpoints are a required part of the Power Standard #2 cycle.  Make sure you identify the topic(s) you are measuring.
  5. Measure your Power Standard success through your formative and summative data.
  6. Look for trends and concerns.  If your students are less successful after you instruct, ask why.  If your students are all successful on your pretest, question your approach.

Week 13 – A Look Ahead

This week our administrative walkthrough will focus on instructional objectives.  We will look and ask to see if students know what they are learning and how that applies to them as a learner.  Do you post your objective each day?  Do the students write it down so they can refer to it when you remind them?  Do they know what and why they are working on in your classroom?  We will ask them to tell us. 

Monday – 2 Hour Early Out for Veteran’s Day.  Thanks to MAJ Stackhouse and MSG Rivera for their service.

Tuesday – 7:00 a.m. Benton Leadership Team Meeting with Dr. Dial in Room 106.  8:00 – 12:30 District Data Consult & Walkthrough

Wednesday – 2:50 p.m.  Staff Meeting in Auditorium (30 minutes); Regular BLT Meeting canceled due to Tuesday meeting.

Thursday – Intruder Drill @ 9:15 a.m.

Friday – Wizard of Oz – 7:30 p.m

Saturday – Wizard of Oz – 7:30; JROTC Ball – 6:00 p.m.

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

All images are available CC from Flickr: “Measuring Time” by aussiegall; “Measuring up 3” by chris runoff; “Vertical Speed Indicator” by Barnaby Kerr Photography; “Balance Scale” by Sepehr Ehsani

CARE to Change

I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them. ~Thomas Jefferson

This is indeed the season of change.  The time changes. The weather changes.  The season changes. We change our sports seasons from football, volleyball, cross-country, soccer, golf, tennis, and softball for basketball and wrestling. The leaves change color and then leave altogether.  We live in an era of change.  I guess I don’t have to tell you that.  But what I do feel compelled have you reflect upon is how prepared you are to embrace change.

At Benton, despite the anxiety caused by the process of change in education, our staff has engaged in the change process often enough to understand not only the need to change but to have embraced a process that allows you personally and us as a staff to navigate the differences and come out stronger and smarter.

The process is this:  research the change needed, create a plan for change, collaborate and learn about how to facilitate the plan, and measure the results in order to start the cycle over again.  In our courses, we use data teams.  In our departments, we used data teams. In our school, we use our School Improvement Plan (SIP).  In our district, we use our Comprehensive School Improvement Plan (CSIP).  In our state, we use Missouri School Improvement Plan – MSIP 5.  In a few months, our school’s summative assessment will  be shared with everyone  to see how Benton measures up in our ability adapt to change in educational expectations.  I look forward to those results; I know our work is solid.

Another exciting change I see in our school is happening internally. Not only can you see the positive climate growth, you can feel it.  Last week, I was able to spend significant time talking to our students.  First of all, it made me very happy.  We have amazing kids at Benton!  Oh sure, they certainly come with all the elements attributed to teenagers, but their words of affirmation of things happening at Benton speak volumes.  Children get their cues from the adults in their lives.  Despite the difficulties at home, in their classes, and with their friends, our students believe we are helping them be successful.  “Empowering Success,” they say. So simple and so smart.  I’m glad to be a small part of this change.  The students want the adults in their lives to believe in them.  They say you do.  They want to know they have a voice, have someone listen, and have what they say matter.  They tell me you do that.  I know you do.

They believe at Benton, we are a family – or perhaps better stated – a team.  We don’t have all the plays down perfectly, but we are willing to research and try better ones.  We are not afraid to look ahead and plan a course to make learning more valuable.  We are trying hard to make what they learn more meaningful and efficient.  We listen to what they need to be successful, and we make changes in order to get them on that path.  You know I like to call that path our journey to excellence.  Never a flat path. Never ever downhill. We have to CARE to change in order to maintain an upward journey.  Like anything worthwhile, that journey is rarely easy.  Change is never easy.  But when you CARE, it makes change much more navigable.

Week 12 – A Look Ahead

After our great work in JEPD last Wednesday, I think we need to continue our administrative walkthroughs looking for and providing feedback on use of technology.  Is your lesson today something a student would want to archive digitally?  If not, why not?  If yes, why?  Are your students using their laptops for appropriate educational activities?  What would change in their behavior if the instructional time with the laptop open/being used was specific, limited, guided and measured quickly? 

Monday – STUCO Blood Drive (passes only, not from Core classes); Data Team meetings/Red days (see schedule) preparing for District Data Consult (DDC); BLT Meeting @ 3:00 in room 108

Tuesday — Data Team meetings/White days (see schedule) preparing for DDC; Election Day

Wednesday – New Staff Meeting at 7:00 a.m. in Room 108

Friday – Opening Night for the Wizard of Oz

Reminder: Monday, November 12th is a two hour early out staff and students for Veteran’s Day.

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

Images are all available CC on Flickr: “SAF#2” by Roby Ferrari ; “Your Finest Moment” by Thomas Hawk; “Sign” by hlkljgk.