Thursday, May 9, 2013

Our Schools Are In Crisis: Assess Where we are: Put the Train Back on the Track with a Destination...

The proposed Mission and Vision statements below were created with the input of Englewood public School Administrators and Teachers. We would now like to solicit input from the community.

Please read the statements below. If you would like to make a suggestion or comment, please email them to Rosandra Cece.

• The mission of the Englewood Public School District is to provide educational excellence in a safe, engaging, and challenging learning environment that empowers all students to demonstrate mastery in the Common Core State Standards at all grade levels.

• The vision of the Englewood Public School district is to provide life-long learning that yields success and creates and environment in which students are able to integrate information and learning that will prepare them with vital 21st Century and career skills.  

(Taken from the Englewood Public School District website.

We already pay these people to help. The New Jersey School Boards Association. They are under utilized by the school district. Perhaps as we learn more, we will be able to steer our Board Members to information outside of the district. We cannot continue to use the same old ineffective strategies that have historically failed us and our children.

Even more information is available from the National School  Boards Association.

My 2 cents...We must know where we are before we may go anywhere... Assessments must be made...

I am not impressed. Mission statements should include measurable objectives. What is mastery? Have you checked out how broad the Common Core State Standards are? The average parent/community member knows nothing about the Common Core State Standards and that they are not as vigorous as what we had before in the NJCCCS. (New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards) Did our Governor accept the Common Core to get the dollars attached? Does anyone else remember that he was highly resistant in the beginninG? Common Core State Standards are more general and were created to insure that all states have a similar road map to follow. It is what each state decides to do with these very general benchmarks that makes a difference. Individual School Districts have a great deal of freedom when writing the curriculum that incorporates the standards. That is of utmost importance. How do the Common Core State Standards look in the classroom? That is what really matters.

In order to make an informed statement about that Mission Statement, a parent must have knowledge of the extremely broad based Common Core. Also, to even include that means that one is pandering to the creators and supporters of the Common Core.

Take a look at some sample Mission Statements from around the Country. You will note that not one school mentions the Common Core. What is the purpose in that? To coin a phrase from a movie, "the core is more like guidelines", if a school was involved in delivering the pertinent information all along, it is not necessary to pander thus. I call it lazy. Is that laziness trickling down to our students?

The sample Mission Statement below is a bit overlong, but it reminds me of something that Englewood should embrace if the school leaders are truly interested in bringing about change. This does not take Rocket Science. We assess the real problems in the district. We know that our high school has been designated a FOCUS School. (contrary to what most folks think, this is a national designation. The states just give the schools the unwelcome tag.) We know the dangers of this school becoming a PRIORITY School.

We also know that the problems that have caused the school to be so designated did NOT begin in the high school. Problems just become bigger and more noticeable when students step onto a campus strangled by apartheid educational practices. These Practices begin in the 3rd grade with the Ivy Program. Every child in the District must be held to the same high EXPECTATIONS as Ivy students. A lot of talk has gone on about the Asian population out distancing everyone else in the district in terms of achievement. Let us just say for the sake of this argument, we conduct a study/survey without School Choice Students.
  • Is there a common denominator among children who all live in Englewood? For instance, do children who attended preschool have higher literacy and math skills? 
  • Do children who attend preschool fare better on standardized tests? 
  • Are the low income students who are traditionally shut out of preschool in Englewood scoring lower in Math and Literacy?
  • Do students who read before 1st grade maintain an advantage throughout school life?
  • Do Ivy Students score higher on tests in 8th grade and 11th grades? 
  • Are Ivy students better students than non-Ivy? Do they score higher on the SAT?
  • Do Dual Language students fare better on tests? 
  • Do "Point of Entry" students who are involved in the Dual Language program fare better on tests than those who are not in this program?
  • Do houses named for Ivy League schools inspire students to achieve? Is this model working? 
  • How closely does this middle school model adhere to the suggestions given by the highly successful  retired Blue Ribbon Principal who was paid $600 per day as a consultant?
  • Are all students accepted into the Academy up to the vigorous standards? How vigorous are those standards? Should admission to the Academy be changed to reflect admission criteria of successful Academies across the state?
  • Will a strong Campus inclusive Student Government improve student relations in the high school?
  • Does the current configuration of the entire district in terms of where each grade level attends school affect student learning and achievement? Is it time to reverse this model to perhaps:
  • Pre k Quarles (then maybe that pretend lottery may be thrown away and all Englewood eligible children may take advantage of preschool.)
  • K- 2 Grieco
  • 3 - 5 McCloud
  • 6 - 8 Middle
  • 9 -12 HS 
Is it time to call the Referendum experiment a failure and move on? Are we forever flying a plane as we build it?

A Mission Statement is a giant waste of time when elements of it cannot be integrated into the daily lives of students, teachers, staff, and administrators in the school district. It is meaningless to throw together a set of aspirations/words that will never be dealt with ever again. The Goals and Objectives for the district on which the Superintendent's Annual Evaluation is based should grow out of the Mission and Vision Statements. That is, in Districts designed to work.
"Mission Statement: The multi-ethnic community, parents, business partners, administrators, students, and staff work together to create an academic, physical, emotional, social, and safe environment where everyone can learn and respect one another. We care about ourselves and others to create, support and maintain powerful, engaged learning in the Arts and Sciences. We dare to use innovative techniques to enhance life long learning through technology, the multiple intelligences, varied instructional strategies, and interdisciplinary units. We share our cultural backgrounds to nurture growth responsibility, and productivity by celebrating our diversity within a positive school-wide atmosphere and by promoting sportsmanship, school spirit, and pride in ourselves through our daily studies and our educational accomplishments. href="
101 Elementary School Mission Statements
Vision And Mission
A Mission Statement is a reference point or a reminder. It helps teachers and school leaders stay on track so they are always cognizant of where they are going... Administrators and faculty across the country are making an effort to design a creed that identifies the goals, policies, and aspirations their school communities seek to achieve...
 "We do refer to the mission and belief statements when we are discussing or debating programs and decisions," says Toy. "Our school organization tends to reflect our mission and belief statements. I have it posted in my office to remind me of the context for the many issues and decisions I work through each day."
Look at our/Englewood's proposed Mission Statement again. What did you learn about where the district is going? Did you learn anything about the makeup of the district? Did you learn anything about the challenges that have been identified? 

Check out Lake View Public School's Mission Statement and Vision Statements and the integration of Wayne State University. They both appear to have been written with real live people in mind.


Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD)
  • We have our Mission and Vision Statements. 
  • Our Long Range District Goals and Objectives grow out of and are reflected in these statements. 
  • Then we have have our short term goals and objectives for the district. (yearly)
  • Then we/Principals School Leaders have goals and objectives for each school for each school year.
  • Then the Teacher must have goals and objectives for each course, each unit, each lesson
All of this ties together. If not, the train will forever remain wrapped around that mountain of no direction and the district goes nowhere. Hello Mission Control, we have stagnation.

Sample Vision Statements for School Districts:  This link includes some very good sample Mission and Vision statements that only require the names of the schools be inserted. Note the language in both the Mission and Vision Statements. These statements are about real people, real children and include desires that may be measured by simply looking at how the school population achieves academically, interact socially with each other, faculty, administration and the community at large. The writers have embraced and agreed upon what they think students should be able to do when they emerge from their schools.

I used to tell the 9th graders that came into my classes that they were there to be changed, because growing up is all about change. Where do we go from here?  We have not embraced a destination. We have not even assessed where we are. We have been disingenuous with ourselves. What is up with that? Is stagnation the super objective? Okay, there it is, my 2 cents as a Community person and a grandparent of 3 children who must attend Englewood Schools.

                                             How are the children?


Friday, May 3, 2013

ATTENTION...ATTENTION!!! Scholarships Available!

Shawn Carter (Jay-Z) Scholarship Fund
Deadline to apply: May 31, 2013
The Shawn Carter (Jay-Z) Scholarship Fund offers scholarship 
opportunities to any under-served student across the United States Please share.

Scholarship Notification Shawn Carter Scholarship Foundation APPLICATION 

DEADLINE is May 31, 2013 Eligibility Requirements Qualified applicants must be a high school senior, college student, and/or between the ages of 18-25, pursuing studies at a vocational or trade school. 

All applicants must be a US Citizen and complete the on-line application no later than the published deadline date, which is May 31, 2013. The Shawn Carter Scholarship Foundation is unique in that it offers scholarships to single mothers, children who attend alternative schools, students who have earned a GED, students with grade point averages of 2.0 and students who have previously been incarcerated, etc. but desire a higher educational opportunity. This group is generally not the recipients of college and is typically ignored by the Board of Education. The Shawn Carter Foundation offers scholarship opportunities to any under-served student across the United States who desires a higher education. 

One of the key questions asked by the Foundation when students apply for a scholarship is: What are your plans to give back to the community?. 


This scholarship is open to the public.