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VaccinesPosted by David Jeck on 1/14/2021 12:00:00 PM
Fingers crossed, but perhaps with the sooner-than-expected rollout of the COVID vaccine things may get back to “normal” sooner than expected. Our staff's flexibility and responsiveness regarding the vaccine administration has made a HUGE difference and FCPS1 is leading the way! Maybe this is the light at the end of a very long tunnel? Maybe yes and maybe no but, in either case, the vaccines will make our students and staff safer and will hopefully instill confidence. We desperately needed a “shot in the arm” (pun intended…sorry) and, speaking only for myself, I am greatly encouraged.
I can’t say enough about our local VDH folks. Daniel Ferrell and April Achter have been amazing! They have been instrumental in terms of keeping us informed and in regard to expediting the vaccination process. Many well deserved “thank yous” to them and the other professionals at VDH.
To the FCPS staff: I don’t know about you, but I am looking forward to the day when we can all look back on these awful times and congratulate ourselves for a job well done! I appreciate you all so very much, and I have deep respect for each of you. Individual differences are normal and healthy, so our occasional disagreements and frustration are to be expected. We need to remind ourselves daily that we are all trying to accomplish the same thing: helping students and families. This is why we do what we do. How we accomplish this is often the debate, but we need to take comfort in the fact that we have a passionate, child-centered school division that is rising to perhaps the greatest educational challenge in our history. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Here is to a great 2021!
The Zero DilemmaPosted by David Jeck on 1/5/2021 1:10:00 AM
I can remember, quite vividly, the first time I was challenged regarding my attitude toward the "awarding" of zeroes to student who failed to submit assignments. Rick DuFour was the man who challenged my thinking and ultimately caused me to change my attitude. Two of his illustrations remain burned into my memory:
1) If you choose not to file your taxes, does the Federal Government simply assign you a zero and hope that you file the following year? No, of course not. They REQUIRE you, under penalty of law, to file. We, as educators, should establish frameworks wherein students MUST complete assignments, period. The non-submission of assignments should be unacceptable.
2) If a particular student's grades were based on five assignments only, all weighted equally, what would this student's grade be?
Assignment one: zero
Assignment two: 70
Assignment three: 80
Assignment four: 90
Assignment five: 100
Final Grade: 68 (D)
Zeroes are devastating to a student’s grade and, perhaps as importantly, do not reflect what a student has actually learned. This is a controversial issue for many, but it is worth considering.
Our "Why?"Posted by David Jeck on 11/17/2020
This is it! This is our why: to give every student a genuine opportunity for success, which, for high school seniors, begins the day they walk across the stage. This is why we do what we do! Credit goes to the teachers and the students, first and foremost. THEY made this happen. Our overall graduation rate is 95.5%, but the real story is told within the sub groups:
• 96.7 percent among students with disabilities, up from 91.4 percent in 2019.
• 96.3 percent among Black students, up from 89.6 percent.
• 93.5 percent among Hispanic students, up from 88.2 percent.
• 91.6 percent among economically-disadvantaged students, up from 86.5 percent.
How did this happen? Because of COVID? Nope! The Pandemic actually made things more difficult. Graduation standards were lowered? Nope! They were actually raised for this graduation class. The answer is not simple, but it is also staring us right in the face.
Students and teachers work exceptionally hard. Parents and the greater community support our kids. Our School Board remains focused on outcomes. Our school administrators hire good teacher and keep raising the bar and...wait for it: we focused like a laser beam on providing equity for all students over the past five years ago. Coincidence? No way. These kinds of results do not occur in a vacuum. They happen, to a significant extent, as a result of a very intentional goal of meeting the needs of all kids (aka. providing equity).
Gloating? You bet I am! I am gloating for these kids. There have been naysayers over the past two years who were, perhaps, misinformed regarding what it is we are trying to accomplish via our focus on equity. A evening talk show host from one of the "big five" national networks even made our efforts the centerpiece of one of his coast-to-coast broadcasts (and not in a positive way). Us, little Fauquier County, Virginia. The results, however, now speak loudly for themselves.
GREAT, GREAT, GREAT job class of 2020! You deserve to have your story told coast-to-coast as a reminder of what happens when you look every kid in the eye and figure out what their needs are!
Life is good!Posted by David Jeck on 11/13/2020 2:05:00 AM
My sons have an amazing ability to keep the day-to-day grind in proper perspective, as evidenced by this thought provoking quote posted by my son David (Instagram):
”Some poor, phoneless fool is probably sitting next to a waterfall somewhere totally unaware of how angry and scared he’s supposed to be.”
Makes you wonder what life would be like if we, even occasionally, disconnected and took time to appreciate the beauty and innocence that surrounds us.
Life is, indeed, very good!
What to thinkPosted by David Jeck on 10/21/2020
It is not our job to teach kids what to think. That is the responsibility of the parent. Our job should be to teach kids how to think. More specifically: How to evaluate, interpret, synthesize, draw conclusions, deduce, think critically, etc. That is our responsibility. One could make the case that sharing chunks of information with kids and then asking them to regurgitate what they've heard IS teaching them how to think. I'd offer that, in some cases, it's not "teaching" at all. It's sharing info and asking students to remember it for the next test. We've got to continue to work to change this paradigm.
I've been reading the headlines offered by various news sources and there is no question in my mind that each endeavors to make me think a certain way, to accept their version of reality without actually digging deep enough to get to the impartial truth. Not a problem for me as I am a grown, educated man who is able to engage in abstract thought and to think objectively...but I worry about how we are preparing our students.
My wife and I are NOT the poster children for great parenting. We've made plenty of mistakes, but our kids have turned out pretty well. They are good people and we are so proud of the young men they've become. We raised our kids to, ultimately, think for themselves. To recognize that individual differences are normal and healthy. To respect the views of others even if we don't agree with them. To project kindness and generosity, and to care for one another.
A bit of as ramble today, but this subject is constantly on my mind, especially during campaign seasons. This subject also reminds me of a scene from one of my favorite movies: "The Paper Chase," specifically, Professor Kingsfield's description of the Socratic Method of instruction:
“At times you may feel that you have found the correct answer. I assure you that this is a total delusion on your part; you will never find the correct absolute and final answer. In my classroom there is always another question; another question that follows your answer.
We do brain surgery here. You teach yourselves the law but I train your mind. You come in here with a skull full of mush and you leave thinking like a lawyer.”
They are not all going to Harvard Law School, but they will all end up in a place where they must think for themselves.
Ten words I hope I never hear again (once Covid goes away)Posted by David Jeck on 10/7/2020 4:00:00 AM
8. Social Distancing
6. Condensed Learning
5. Hybrid Learning
4. Blended Learning
1. Nasal Swab
Remembering 911Posted by David Jeck on 9/11/2020 10:00:00 AM
I was a young principal at Louisa County High School on 9/11. I, like everyone else, remember that day as if it were yesterday. We pulled a TV into the main office from the library and watched in horror. Our School Security Officer entered the office in a panic exclaiming that his daughter worked in the World Trade Center. He was in an absolute panic. I remember the look on his face so vividly (she, btw, was not in either building that day). As the day went on, some students and staff came to the office looking for information and help: they had loved ones who worked in DC, the Pentagon, and Quantico. Cell phone service pretty much came to a halt. People were panicked. My athletic director was able to speak to his daughter who worked in the Pentagon. She was on foot, fleeing the building. I remember the look of relief on face.
I've made my share of mistakes over the years, and I made a big one that day. I told teachers not to turn on their TVs for fear that the images might be overwhelming....that panic might ensue. I shouldn't have done that. The kids and teachers needed to absorb that moment in time and been able to monitor what was happening. We were indeed under attack. I've always regretted that.
No point or points to make...just my memories from that awful day.
I'd be very interested in hearing what you remember.
On top of everything else...Posted by David Jeck on 9/3/2020 10:00:00 AM
...we have a state budget "crisis" to contend with. There are essentially three streams of school funding: state, local and federal. We've already dealt with a reduction in federal funding which is impacting us currently. The local funding situation for the current fiscal year is unknown at this time, but the state budget woes are gradually coming into focus.
Lottery Funding: Lottery revenues have plummeted in Virginia since March. This will impact our state funding mid-budget
Sate Tax Revenues: Same ....but worse than had been anticipated. We expect a significant reduction in state funding mid-year
ADM (enrollment) funding: We, like most school divisions, are experiencing a loss of enrollment primarily due to the fallout from COVID. Unless the GA holds us harmless (uses our 2019-2020 enrollment), we will see an additional loss of revenues.
No easy answers or solutions here. We will be presenting a plan that outlines how we might back fill these budget holes, or reduce expenditures (or both) very soon.
The Sanctity of Human LifePosted by David Jeck on 8/28/2020 8:00:00 AM
This is not a political statement, but rather a reflection regarding the lessons we pass along to our kids. They are my views and don't necessarily reflect the views of the Fauquier County School Board.
Decisions made that can, ultimately, impact people's health and well-being are incredibly hard to make. As a young educator, I never imagined that I'd be making decisions that would impact people so profoundly and so directly. A neighbor shared this with me recently, and it made a huge imprint on my heart: "God put you here because He knows that you are the right person for this job and this community." That is the ultimate challenge for me personally and professionally: making good decisions that don't intentionally harm anyone.
The greatest gift that God has given is human life. Life is precious. Steps to preserve life are beyond essential. Showing honor and respect for ALL lives is paramount. When I hear individuals spout off statistics about the number of deaths due to COVID vs. the "ordinary" flu, or how just as many die from car accidents, or who share stats regarding violent deaths in order to make a point politically feels obtuse, callous, and uncaring. It doesn't feel right because I don't think it is right, and I am afraid that our kids are being indoctrinated into viewing some loss of life as less important than other loss of life.
We live in a society that, unfortunately, has forgotten just how precious life is. Every unnecessary death is the loss of someone's child, parent, sibling, or friend. If you've experienced the loss of a loved one, you know exactly what I am talking about. Moreover, death resulting from violence and lawlessness should NEVER be tolerated, tacitly or directly excused, or marginalized based on the color of the victim's skin and/or their neighborhood. Tragic is tragic, no matter who you are. A tragedy is a tragedy, no matter which political party you support. I am afraid that we are missing an opportunity to share this lesson with our kids based on recent events, and that would be yet another tragedy.
Potential game changerPosted by David Jeck on 10/9/2019 2:00:00 PM
This story will probably received little attention outside of the sphere of those interested in, or impacted by, ACT testing, but it is an important breakthrough hinting that retesting "strands" in SOL tests is possible.
Years ago, when I was a division testing coordinator (Greene County), I asked why high school students couldn't be retested only within the strands that they struggled with (example: one of the strands in the Algebra I SOL test is fractions. If a student did poorly in that section only, causing he or she to fail the test, why couldn't they be given time to review fractions, and then retake only that part of the test?). The answer back then was no, it was not possible. The Commonwealth wasn't ready for it...but this story tells me that it may now be possible. If it is possible, we need to do everything we can to make it happen. It is absolutely devastating for many students to face the prospect of retesting, particularly if the attainment of a verified credit is at stake. Moreover, and now that we allow retesting of students beginning in third grade, it makes so much sense to lessen the trauma associated with testing and retesting...and make no mistake, it is traumatic for many students (and teachers).
This just makes a lot of sense, and it sounds like it now may be possible.
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