Monday, January 25, 2016

95th State Education Convention Review

Posted by Wayne Anderson in General  |  Post a comment

Last week, I had the opportunity and pleasure to attend the 95th State Education Convention in Milwaukee. This convention is held around the third week of January each year. The convention provides sectionals on community engagement, facilities, human resources, leadership, finance and student achievement where attendees can learn from other school districts and businesses across the state. The convention also has three main speakers that help inspire us to do better each day.

This year’s main speakers were Luis Cruz, John Medina and Chris Lehmann. Luis Crus is the former principal of Baldwin High School in Los Angles. He described how he and his staff changed the school culture at Baldwin High School from one known for great athletic teams, but low academics to one which produced not only great athletic teams, but also high academic achievement rates for all students. One story that he told us dealt with when his high school basketball team was beating the rival high school’s team. He remembers his students chanting, “Just like football” because Baldwin had crushed its rival at football earlier in the year. However, what made a greater impact was what the visiting team was chanting, “We go to college.” He remembers going home very distraught that night because he realized that most of the students from his high school not only didn’t go to college, but didn’t even see going to college as an option. He then remembers meeting with his staff to start the task of changing this attitude and creating a plan to help all students get the skills they needed to attend and graduate from college. He also relates that one of the greatest moments in his career was when the students from Baldwin High School scored better on the State of California’s proficiency tests than its rival academic high school. Though he cited many reasons for this change in attitude, the one that stuck with me was how staff members took a personal interest in students and supported them. I have always believed that if you believe in people, of all ages, and expect the very best from them they will work hard to live up to your expectations. This also works in reverse – if you believe that individuals cannot do something and have little value – they will also live up to this standard.

John Medina is a development molecular biologist. He shared how the brain sciences might influence the way we teach our children. He was upfront and stated that usually people in his profession have little to say to people in the teaching profession. He also informed us that many of the things we have been told about brain research were wrong. He told us that we actually still know very little about the brain, but what they do know is encouraging. I think the most important part of his presentation for me was an affirmation that the brain always continues to learn and develop – we never stop learning and are never too old to learn. The last keynote speaker of the conference was Chris Lehmann. Mr. Lehmann is principal of the Science Leadership Academy, which is an inquiry-driven 1:1 laptop high school in Philadelphia. Mr. Lehmann discussed how the educational and physical spaces in school need to change in order to meet the evolving needs of our students. He discussed how technology can be used as a tool to help engage students in their learning.

During the convention, I attended a variety of sectionals dealing with school technology, board governance, legal and legislative issues and new staff compensation methods. However, the sectional that had the greatest impact on me was one that premiered the showing of the movie “Reject: The Science of Belonging.” This movie was a documentary that showed the social, emotional and education impact that being left out has on individuals. When I left the sectional, I could feel the tug on my heart strings and left with a committed resolve to make certain that all of our students know that they are valued and important. This sectional had such a strong impact on me that I will write an entire blog on the section later this week and will also explore getting a copy of the film to show to all our staff and interested community members. Stay tuned for more to come on this topic later this week.

At our February 8 School Board meeting, I and the school board members who attended the 95th State Educational Convention will be reporting out what we learned at the convention. You are invited to attend and ask questions about what we learned and how this learning will impact our Williams Bay School District.

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