Through the Telescope…Volume 13

THE NOAH PRINCIPLE

Building An Educational Ark: The Discovery Charter School

“It’s easy to be smart when deep down in your heart, you know that people care about what you say.”   My Dream School –D. Price

I KNOW THE ANSWER DANCE

Oh, oh, oh- Please, please call on me; Oh, oh, oh- Please give me a chance

Yes, yes, yes, Please call on me and watch me do the I know the answer dance.

I know, I know, I know!  It’s as easy as can be.

I know, I know, I know, so please, please call on me.

I’ve been listening the best that I can and reading everything I see.

I think and think and think and think until the answers become clear to me.

I’m amazed how smart I really am and at the new things that I learn each day.

I could win a quiz show prize and all the money that they pay.

My arm is busy waving around and I’m bouncing here in my place.

You can tell that I know the answer by the smile here on my face.

Oh, oh, oh- Please, please call on me; Oh, oh, oh- Please give me a chance

Yes, yes, yes, Please call on me and watch me do  the I know the answer dance.

I know, I know, I know!  It’s as easy as can be.

I know, I know, I know, so please, please call on me.

These lyrics were written to provide initial answers to the pressures that the public schools are under to report the progress of students in the terms of standardized test scores.   It seems a simple enough matter to decide what you need to teach children, step by step, grade by grade–then teach it until they have mastery, test it and report it in terms of progress that the public and politicians can understand.  Standardized test scores in many schools and school districts across the country are not where educators would like them to be, and in the resulting spotlight placed on the ever increasing costs of education, a confused finger-pointing circle has resulted.

The media, the politicians, the public, private enterprise, and other stakeholders in America’s future are pointing at the failure of schools to demonstrate adequate learning levels in the basic skills, both locally and internationally.

Many educators have taken it upon themselves to play the great reactive, defensive game, pointing back to lack of funding, the decline of the family, increased television time, the influence of gangs, lack of morals, lack of parental support, and a never ending list of real enough excuses.  Our excuse list and the list of criticisms are both long enough to make us all wonder how we make any progress.

So we have list against list, critique and excuse, all real enough in their factual or emotional bases, posing extensive reasons for our problems.   I found my philosophical answer to the dilemma posed by this battle of lists in the early 1990’s when I first came to Las Vegas.  Here in the dramatic growth of the Clark County School District, you can find an example of almost every criticism pointed at public education today, and educational voices to every lament and excuse on the public school list.

Here, also in the rapid transitions of growth, I found many educators who don’t have time to make excuses, they have all they can do to scramble for answers; creative, paradigm breaking solutions to problems that are far too big, too real, and growing too quickly, for excuse making.  I found people so busy with problems that creative solutions were their only choices. These people were the “Ark Builders” called for by Louis V. Gersten, Jr., who was at the time, Chairman and CEO for the RJR Nabisco Company.  Gersten, speaking at a national education conference said:

“TO TURN OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS AROUND, WE NEED TO ADOPT THAT LEGENDARY NOAH PRINCIPLE:  NO MORE PRIZES FOR PREDICTING RAIN, PRIZES ONLY FOR BUILDING ARKS”.

I have found many ark builders throughout the public schools and I had a poster made with an ark and this quote on it an I use it to express my answer to the criticisms and challenges of today’s public schools.  I realize there are a lot of problems and roadblocks to our being able to teach children today, but we have to reach beyond the problem identification or rain prognostication mode and become problem-solvers and ark builders. Charter schools are just more examples of new attempts to build boats.   Often when teachers come to me with descriptions of situations that seem to be overwhelming as obstacles to learning, I listen closely and then say, “I know it is raining, now build me a boat.”  Many times I don’t even have to say a thing for as they finish their analysis of whatever is frustrating them, they just look at me and say, “ I know, I know, build a boat.”

I Know the Answer Dance, was written to use with elementary school students to demonstrate the fun of learning and to take the fear and stress out of test-taking.  It was written from what I see in classroom after classroom each day, children excited about learning, children who know the answers and children who are excited to share their ideas and knowledge with the teacher and each other.  It is a model that we need to nurture, and keep alive as students move from early school experiences up through the learning process.  The words to this song are intended to be sung in the assembly halls, classrooms, hallways and playgrounds of schools everywhere, and especially to be sung on an ark or in any school who envisions itself as an ark.

So here we are, with an opportunity to build our own ark, the Discovery Charter School, and if we truly value and care about what our students are saying and thinking, we can make it much easier for them to “be smart.”

Circular Things and Learning Rings: Spirals Of New Experiences

1. A great small group project includes students choreographing their original dance steps and gestures to the I Know the Answer Dance, song.

2. Teachers and Parents need add these five books to their required reading lists:  Frames Of Mind, The Theory Of Multiple Intelligences, by Howard Gardner, 1983, Basic Books, Inc., New York

Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century, by Howard Gardner, 2000, Basic Books, Inc., New York

Designing Brain Compatible Learning, by Terence Parry and Gayle Gregory, 1998   Skylight Training and Publishing, Arlington, Ill.

The Way They Learn, How To Discover And Teach To Your Child’s Strengths, by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias, 1994, Focus On The Family Publishing, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Human Brain and Human Learning, by Leslie A. Hart, 1983, Longman Inc., White Plains, New York.

All five books talk of Multiple Types of Intelligences, how to recognize them, and   how to teach to the strengths of individual student learning styles.

3. Teachers will find learning style identifiers in the books listed above and others in the current research literature.   Students enjoy providing data and answering questions that assist teachers, parents, and themselves in determining the best ways that they can learn new information, and remember key skills.  These projects will assist everyone in targeting learning to the appropriate learning styles and modalities.

4. Students can be introduced to the six levels of learning defined by Dr. Benjamin Bloom, described as Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Students can discuss, and identify their own levels of learning on any given assignment.  This process can be expanded by introducing the students to the six groups of verbs that Bloom assigned to each of his levels of learning.

Starting at the bottom with the simplest form of learning and working the way to the most complex, Bloom identified the levels as follows:

•Evaluation: Students can appraise, assess or criticize on the basis of specific standard and criteria.

•Synthesis: Students can originate, combine, and integrate prior knowledge into a product, plan, or proposal that is new.

•Analysis:  Students can examine, take apart, classify, predict and draw conclusions.

•Application:  Students can transfer selected information to a life problem or a new task with a minimum of direction.

•Comprehension:  Students can grasp and interpret prior learning.

•Knowledge:  Students can recall or memorize information, concepts, and ideas in the approximate form in which they were learned.

•Students must be encouraged to recognize the higher levels of the thinking process and to work hard to expand all of their learning experiences to the top three levels of thinking whenever possible.

5. Students need to be introduced to the Classic writings very early in their education, and a good book to get them started is Plato For Beginners, by Robert Cavalier, 1996, Writers And Readers Publishing Company, New York.  This book is part of the Beginners Documentary Comic Book Series that includes collections in both History and Philosophy.

6. Leonardo Da Vinci: Master Of All Trades, by Donald Colors Patria, 1963, Readers Digest Treasury For Young Readers, Readers Digest, Pleasantville, New York.   This short story provides a very interesting look at a great mind at work well over 500 years ago.

7. Another look at a creative and highly intelligent mind at work is the story, The Peanut Wizard, by Florence Crannell Means, 1965, Houghtin Mifflin Company.  This story features a look at the genius and dedication to help others that marked the life of George Washington Carver.

8.    Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. This book is a perceptive look at the evolution of true genius and how he was driven by his own creativity.  His unique strength of character and unbending commitment to his personal beliefs allowed this genius to persevere.  His life is a testimony to the importance of valuing the uniqueness of creativity in all of our schools.

AS WE TALK ABOUT MEASURING INTELLIGENCE AND LEARNING, we need to remind our families that as a public charter school we participate in all required testing mandated in the Nevada Public Schools.   We recently completed the Nevada Writing Proficiency test for 5th and 8th graders, and we are now scheduled to participate in the academic measure of progress, the Criterion Referenced Tests.  We will test in a formal structured setting for our grades 3 through 8, and our test administrators have been trained in maintaining a high level of test protocol and security.  Our general test window is from April 9th through May 7th, and we have identified our test dates as April 16th through May 3rd.  We will be sharing our specific grade level test dates later this month with guidelines for proper rest, nutrition, and test taking stress relievers.

MARCH IS SCHEDULED AS THE OFFICIAL NEVADA STATE CHARTER SCHOOL AUDIT MONTH, and we are very busy gathering our reporting data on all phases of our school operation.  We are responsible to account to all Nevada State Laws pertaining to school operation, and all Revised Education Codes that have been set in place to ensure legal operation of program and facility.  We understand that we are allocated public tax dollars and that we have a responsibility to account for our use of those dollars as we attempt to identify a unique way to teach your children.

THE STATE OF NEVADA WILL PREPARE AND PUBLISH OUR ANNUAL DISCOVERY CHARTER SCHOOL REPORT CARD and it will be available on line from the State of Nevada, comparing us to all public schools in the state.  Data gathered from our March audit and our summarized test results will be included in our Report Card by September of 2012.

DOOR DECORATING PROJECTS FOR NEVADA READING WEEK were featured at both the Mesa Vista and the Hillpointe campuses.  The Mesa Vista campus included judging and completion in their project with Ms. Ayala’s class featuring the “Giving Tree.”   Ms. Ayala was very proud when her Kindergarten class chose to share their winning honors with a pizza and ice cream party for the whole school.  Ms. Ayala’s Kindergarten students obviously understood the message of the Giving Tree story.