Board of Education sets meeting dates for second round in superintendent search

The Board of Education has set the following open public meeting dates in a second effort to fill the superintendent position, which will be vacant as of July 1.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017
7:00 pm
Administration Building
Review and selection of applicants for interviews; preparation of interview format and questions
This will include a closed session at the request of at least one of the applicants.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017
6:00 pm
Early Childhood Center Multi-Purpose Room
Interview applicants for superintendent

Wednesday, May 24, 2017
7:00 pm
Administration Building
Final selection

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Michigan study affirms the foundational work of our human-centered design

Screen Shot 2017-04-29 at 7.27.49 AMA new report by Lou Glazer’s Michigan Future Inc. has affirmed the excellent work of our Human-Centered Design (HCD) Learner Profile team being led by Dr. Carol Lautenbach with the help of Mr. Dave Koetje and East Lee Campus Principal Jim Jensen.

The report’s conclusions, titled and available to read or download at A Path to Good-paying Careers for all Michiganders: A 21st Century state policy agenda, are built on the premise that Michigan for the first time in recorded history is a state with low prosperity, despite a strong auto industry.

The report goes into great detail as to the state’s problems, how technology is changing the nature of work, and a number of suggested policy solutions. I highly encourage everyone to read it. Beginning on page 15, the report focuses on education and is critical of the current outdated and ineffective school model we all seem to hang on to. It goes on to highlight a set of critical skills called the“6Cs” taken from an excellent book every educator and parent should read, titled “Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children.”

Our district HCD work this past year has been expanding on what we learned in the first year of our Steelcase Foundation grant and developing a Learner Profile built on those 6Cs. This past Monday, our Board of Education, administrative team, and leaders of both employee associations began laying in a foundation for a strategic design that brings the 6Cs and human-centered design to the forefront of our plan for transforming our traditional school system into one that prepares learners for a rapidly changing 21st century. We’ll be sharing this work with everyone in the community in the coming weeks and months asking for your input as well.

Here’s an excerpt taken from pp. 15-17 of the Michigan Future Inc. report that focuses on the transformation all schools should engage in to be relevant:

Preparing people for one job, and one job only, creates a temporary and rigid work force. … Your education must prepare you for a long career that meets constant changes in the job market, and supports your own growth. The only constant during a life-long career is that you’ll need to adapt. (emphasis added)  The important question for our education system: Are you prepared for all the changes that may come in the future? (Ann Arbor software entrepreneur Bill Wagner)

To thrive in the new economy, workers have to be adaptable, have a broad base of knowledge, be creative problem solvers and be able to communicate and work well with others. In other words, workers need to be really good at all of the non-algorithmic skills computers aren’t good at yet.
becoming-brilliant-book

The best definition we’ve found for this complex set of skills comes from the book Becoming Brilliant, by learning scientists Roberta Michnick Golinkoff and Kathy
Hirsh-Pasek, who label these skills the six Cs:

1. Collaboration, the ability to work and play well with others, which encompasses a wide range of soft skills necessary for success in the modern workplace.

2. Communication, the ability to effectively get your point across and back it up with evidence, both verbally and in writing, and the ability to listen and be empathetic.

3. Content, deep understanding and a broad base of knowledge in a range of subject areas, rather than simply surface knowledge of reading and math skills.

4. Critical thinking, the ability to sift through mountains of information and get a sense of what’s valuable and not and to solve unanticipated and unpredictable problems.

5. Creativity, the ability to put information together in new ways.

6. Confidence, which encompasses capacity such as grit, perseverance and a willingness to take risk.

Becoming Brilliant

Source: Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Ph.D., and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek Ph.D. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-author-speaks/201608/becoming-brilliant

These are the skills students will need to complement rather than be replaced by machines, solve today’s problems, and create new solutions to problems we can’t yet envision. (emphasis added)

If Michigan is going to be a place with a broad middle class, if employers are going to have the supply of skilled workers they need and if Michigan is going to be a place once again where kids regularly do better than their parents, it will happen because the state made a commitment to provide an education system for all from birth through higher education that builds rigorous broad skills that are the foundation of successful 40 year careers.

It is great to know that our Godfrey-Lee district’s leading-edge work is being affirmed by others, that we’re on the right track in redesigning and transforming learning in our schools and classrooms, that our Board of Education is supportive of this transformation through the HCD process, and that we have strong leadership to keep that momentum going. Great things are happening throughout Godfrey-Lee and you can be proud to be a part of it.

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You can read more about our HCD work at Godfrey-Lee in these and other posts:
HCD21: Year 1 report on redesigning our educational system

Reminder for May 2 Millage Election

On Tuesday, May 2, all of the school districts within the Kent Intermediate School District are providing voters with the opportunity to consider a 0.9 mill enhancement millage which, if approved by a majority of voters county-wide, will provide approximately $211 per student to each of the 20 districts to improve academic learning for the next ten years. This includes the Godfrey-Lee Public Schools.

As your superintendent, it is my responsibility to ensure all of our voters are aware of this proposal. In addition to previous posts on this blog site, we have a link posted on our district web page that can provide you with the answers you need before heading to the polls on May 2.

I encourage you to go to our website at www.godfrey-lee.org and click on the Strong Schools, Strong Communities link for detailed information and ballot language. You can also read my previous blog posts for more specific information relevant to our district:

Strong Schools, Strong Communities: Kent ISD Regional Enhancement Millage 2017

Strong Schools, Strong Communities – Update

Strong Schools for a Strong Godfrey-Lee Community

Thank you for taking the time to be an informed member of our school community and please participate in the May 2 election.

Thank you,

David Britten, Superintendent

Screen Shot 2017-04-14 at 9.15.06 AM

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Strong Schools for a Strong Godfrey-Lee Community

In just a few short weeks, the Strong Schools, Strong Communities proposal will be on the ballot. If approved, this 10-year, 0.9 mill increase for a regional enhancement millage will allow local school districts to strengthen our future workforce and develop and attract strong talent right here in West Michigan.

2016-10-11 09.17.52

If approved, the proposal will allow local districts to:

  • Expand career training and technical course offerings that will give students real life, on-the-job training and a head start on their careers.
  • Give students exposure to the world of work and business with partnerships that prepare them for careers.
  • Give students living in poverty a good start, and surround them with the support needed to keep them in school.

What every taxpayer should know:

  • By law, if this proposal is approved, every penny generated from this proposal will be distributed to local school districts to maintain programs and improve services for students. Our Board of Education has indicated we will dedicate 100% of the dollars raised from the enhancement millage to our classrooms for teaching and learning, with emphasis on supporting academic achievement K-12. This will include:
    • Teacher Quality – attracting, retaining, and training highly qualified teachers
    • Class Size – keeping class sizes lower at the K-6 level
    • Math and Science (STEM) – providing program enhancements for achieving the county-wide 8th grade Algebra readiness goal
    • English Learner Support – ensuring our youngest students become proficient on the WIDA test
    • Curriculum materials such as textbooks and other resources
    • Early/Middle College and Dual Enrollment tuition and fees
  • If approved, all millage dollars will be publicly reported on our district’s website to ensure transparency and accountability.
  • If approved, the proposed rate of 0.9 mills will cost the average home owner in the KISD region $6.70 per month ($3.75 in our district) with 100% of funds going to local schools.
  • For Godfrey-Lee Public Schools, if approved it will generate an approximate $415,000 annually beginning this next school year.

Please share this information with your friends and family so they are informed about what’s on the ballot Tuesday, May 2, 2017.

Learn more at: strongschoolsstrongcommunities.com

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2017-18 School Calendar

The link below contains a one-page listing of key dates for the 2017-18 school year to assist with planning family and school events.

Parent Calendar 2017-18

I previously wrote two posts discussing the pre-Labor Day start of August 21. You can find these at the following links:

2017-18 School Calendar

August School Starting Date: Frequently Asked Questions

Parents and students will be provided with a final calendar prior to the start of the school year.

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Open Letter to Parents on Michigan’s “Testing Season”

Spring break is coming up and warmer days are ahead. Unfortunately, this time of year state-mandated tests bloom about as rapidly as the wildflowers. As you might guess, I do not support the growing regimen of testing that has come to define public schools and learning ever since President George W. Bush forced through his No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act. President Barack Obama poured gasoline on this fire when he used his Race to the Top initiative to force states into more rigorous but narrow curriculum and testing, and ranking schools from Top to Bottom as a result. In Michigan, our legislature has been up and down, in and out about our curriculum and requirements for testing leading to frustration and a substantial waste of our children’s classroom learning time.

Sir Richard Livingstone (1880-1960), a wise and learned British educator, found the whole enterprise of testing requirements forced on schools, teachers, and of course the students themselves, revolting and a curse against authentic learning. In a 1943 publication, he stated very succinctly his view of this type of testing.

“Something no doubt is happening; but it may not be education; it may be the administration of a poison which paralyses or at least slows down the natural activities of the healthy mind. The healthy human being, finding himself a creature of unknown capacities in an unknown world, wants to learn what the world is like, and what he should be and do in it. To help him in answering these questions is the one and only purpose of education.”

Note: In his writings, he referred to testing that is forced on schools as “examinations.” Livingstone was not against all testing admitting that the types of tests devised by the school and the teacher are necessary for measuring student progress.

All this being said, state and federal law requires that for a period of time each spring, we disrupt the learning environment and administer the Michigan Merit Exam (MME) and the SAT college entrance test along with the ACT WorkKeys to all 11th graders, the PSAT (pre-SAT) to all 9th and 10th graders, and the hotly disputed M-STEP to all 3rd through 8th graders. Students in each of those latter grade levels will take an English language arts and math test. Certain grades will also take a social studies or science test. The State Superintendent has penned a letter to parents that you can read at your leisure. Additional information is available in a two-page summary of Michigan’s high-stakes testing program titled Michigan’s Education Assessment: What It Is, What It Means, And What It Offers.

I take exception to some of the points he makes including the illusion that narrow, high-stakes testing will lead Michigan to become a “Top 10 education state.” If we truly were interested in that, our first focus would be on equitable school funding while we develop more holistic, local assessments that measure student growth not only in content, but also in the very critical skills of collaboration, communication, critical thinking, creative innovation and confidence. But there is no statewide effort being made in this direction despite the overwhelming research and examples across the country that support my position. Below is a chart that serves as sort of a rubric as to what our learning and assessments should measure.

Becoming Brilliant

Source: Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Ph.D., and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek Ph.D. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-author-speaks/201608/becoming-brilliant

The most important thing parents and students can remember going into the spring testing weeks is that they are just tests and just one small, narrow measure of a child’s real learning in school. Each and every day your child comes home from school and most often can talk about something exciting he or she did that day, or something they might have learned. Most of that will never be tested but all of it is important to life’s journey and that’s why we stress at Godfrey-Lee the 6C’s of learning illustrated in the table above. How will the SAT or M-STEP ever measure those critical learning skills? They won’t. Economy and efficiency drive our state and federal testing machines and mass-produced, standardized tests cannot adequately measure most of the skills your child will learn throughout their K-12 years.

Never the less, there are some things you as a parent can do to assist your child through this annual testing cycle. Those are in the graphic below and I provide them not as an endorsement for this type of testing but in hopes they might ease your concerns and help you reduce testing stress in your child.

If you have any questions regarding the upcoming testing, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with and talk to your child’s teachers, principal, or me. We are all going to do our best to ensure testing goes smoothly for everyone and that any useful results we might receive be not only communicated with you but also inform our district’s strategic human-centered design work.

Screen Shot 2017-03-24 at 8.39.54 AM

This will be the final time I write to you as superintendent about my concerns with over-testing our kids since I will be retiring at the close of this school year. I will admit that I’m disappointed that many of my efforts the past nine years to reduce, eliminate, or even re-direct testing towards more useful purposes have fallen flat. Our legislature, due in part to a failed policy of “term-limits” in Michigan, has focused mainly on their individual agendas, or has fallen influence to outside money and lobbyists who do not have the best interests of your child or your public schools in mind. I can tell you that despite retirement, my efforts will continue through other channels to work towards ending the standardization movement, the inequity of Michigan’s school funding, and the efforts by extremists to close public schools and put an end to public education.

With my utmost sincerity,

David

Post script: By the way, much of the nonsense with state-mandated, narrow, standardized testing has been driven by the wildly absurd myth that our public schools are failing. There are mounds of evidence that prove this wrong but the mainstream, corporate-owned media tends to fall in line with the wealthy promoters of this rot. I would suggest you take the time this weekend or during your spring break to read “U.S. Public Schools Are Not Failing. They’re Among The Best In The World.”

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August School Starting Date: Frequently Asked Questions

UPDATE: List of starting dates by districts has been updated.

I previously announced the decision by our Board of Education to begin the 2017-18 school year on Monday, August 21. This is the result of a county-wide waiver request from the Department of Education to begin the year prior to Labor Day. You can read more about that decision in my previous post: 2017-18 School Calendar.

Below are responses to frequently asked questions regarding this decision. These questions come from throughout the county so some may not pertain to our decision to begin on August 21:

Why are some schools within Kent ISD starting the 2017-18 school year before Labor Day?

  • The 20 school districts served by Kent ISD asked Kent ISD to petition the Michigan Department of Education for approval to start before Labor Day because so many districts, and students, are involved in early and middle college programs. Student participation in these programs is much easier if their school start times align with college start times.

What programs are these?

  • The Kent Career Tech Center features many programs that have embedded college opportunities for students, but two – the Health Sciences Early College Academy, which is aligned with Grand Valley State University, and the Hospitality Fellowship program, with Ferris State University – require concurrent enrollment in high school and college programs. In addition, Cedar Springs, Kenowa Hills, Rockford and Wyoming all have early/middle college programs that require students to have class calendars that align with the college they are attending.
  • In addition, Kent ISD and Grand Rapids Community College recently announced the creation of “Launch U,” an exciting new middle college program that will offer participating students three career preparation options for the rapidly expanding advanced manufacturing corporations in West Michigan. These programs offer the opportunity to earn an industry recognized credential or a specialized associates’ degree in a high skill, high wage field such as industrial technology.

Why do schools want all students to start before Labor Day if just some attend early college programs?

  • Creating a calendar that allows students to complete their entire first semester of study prior to their holiday break is very beneficial to students, as they can focus on their coursework and complete end-of-term tests before taking a break. This is the norm in college and should be the norm in secondary schools, as it is beneficial to the student.   Having a uniform start for students of all ages is more convenient for families, as many rely on older siblings to care for their younger brothers and sisters after school.

Which districts are starting before Labor Day?

  • Nine districts and the Kent ISD are starting the week of August 21. They are Comstock Park,  Grandville, Godwin Heights, Godfrey Lee, Kentwood, Kent City, Lowell, Wyoming and Thornapple Kellogg.
  • Six districts are starting on August 28. They are Caledonia, Forest Hills, Grand Rapids, Kenowa Hills, Northview and Rockford.
  • Five districts are starting on September 5, which is the Tuesday after Labor Day. They are Byron Center, Cedar Springs, East Grand Rapids, Kelloggsville and Sparta.

Why are some choosing to remain with the post-Labor Day start?

  • All petitioned Kent ISD to seek approval from the Michigan Department of Education for a pre-Labor Day start but some, because of construction or bargaining agreements were not able to start before Labor Day for the 2017-18 school year.

Is this the new normal? I thought there was a “common calendar.”

  • Districts are in a transition period. The Michigan Department of Education waiver allowing a pre-Labor Day start came when some already had plans in place for construction or a contract that called for a post-Labor Day start. We are working toward a common start date in future years as we recognize this is best for families. Under statute, the “common” portion of the calendar relates to holiday and spring breaks. All schools throughout the ISD will have substantially similar holiday and spring breaks.

My student attends programs at the Tech Center and our school does not start until after Labor Day. Will he/she still have the same programming as the students who started earlier?

  • The Tech Center and local districts will make every effort to provide transportation and/or other accommodations such as online programming to make sure no student misses instruction due to the staggered start to the school year among Kent ISD districts.

My student attends a special education center program. Will he/she have programming even if my school district is not in session?

  • Yes, we will follow the Individual Education Program in all aspects. Transportation will be provided if it is specified within the IEP.

What happens if I have already made plans for a family vacation in the two weeks before Labor Day and my school district is now starting early?

  • Please meet with the building principal and discuss what you can do to ensure your child does not fall behind. All will work with their students and families to make sure students have every opportunity to keep up with their classmates and do not miss important programming that could set them behind.
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