February 2017 Principal Chat... REVEALED

This month’s Principal Chat had a quicker pace, with more of a faster question and answer session.  This recap has been written in that style, to better demonstrate the material presented.



We’ve had another snow day since the reinstated days were released.  Do we have to make up another day?

No, we are still allowed one more snow day before BSD adds a day.


What should we expect from this year’s Artist in Residence?  

This year’s artist, Shuhe Hawkins, met with reps from each grade level to discuss how he can match the project to the curriculum.  The project involves paper mache animal masks.  He will be presenting in each classroom because it’s easier to hold students’ attention. Kindergarten will have two sessions.  Everyone else is blessed with four sessions.


What should we be expecting from the fifth grade reading curriculum?

Fifth graders are working toward middle school preparation.  Most of their work is done online using a google doc and the assignments generally focus on nonfiction.  A lot of their writing work surrounds science and history.


Our kids seem to be doing a LOT of writing.  Like-- it’s killing us.  Has the expectation grown?

Yes, the amount of writing has upped, especially K-3.  “Publishing” their work is no longer the ultimate goal, where young writers simply walked through the editing process.  Now students must  develop writing fluency-- which means writing PAGES a day.  The bulk of their writing is getting all their thoughts down, much more so than in the past.   Though our little hooligans are feeling the pressure right now, this type of work will become commonplace and second-nature as they progress.  


Yes, it’s a dead horse, but seriously-- this new math is annoying.  What’s its goal?

Schools no longer encourage “fast math,” where students just know math facts and not the reasoning and concepts behind the work.   Educators have recognized that fast math doesn’t make students mathematicians. Math fluency is a better predictor of success, where students are able to understand and manipulate numbers based on an understanding of how math works.  Students who struggle in middle school often math lack math fluency.    


It seems like the approach to education is constantly shifting.  Why can’t BSE teach the same way we learned as children?  

The changes in education are not haphazard.  There are reasons and research behind every change.  The new often-maligned Smarter Balance testing matches more closely to students’ classwork.   There is a greater connection to middle/high school.  

For example, 12 years ago, the District began focusing on early childhood literacy.  Training was brought into every school on how to teach reading, because so many teachers didn’t know key aspects.  That movement championed the idea that every teacher is a literacy teacher.  This workshop model, which is all about conversations with students, was a huge shift in education and literacy.


Homework.  Parents either love it or hate it.  What’s the deal these days?

The only reasons to give homework are as follows.

  1. To practice independently something you already know how to do.

  2. Make connections and build on what you already know.  

  3. Building background knowledge.

Research shows that homework outside of these reasons are not as effective.


Why aren’t our kids doing grammar worksheets?

The current word work curriculum does not focus on grammar.  A recent District meeting rolled out the stance on word work, with goals for every grade level and the reasons why.  Some teachers just starting to learn the method and the District is providing professional development.  Students are learning prefixes, suffixes, vocabulary and what to do when they approach words they don’t know.  Second to third grade is an especially hard transition, where students move into using a topic sentence with supporting details.  

Most students come school ready, especially at BSE.  However, Janet and the District are reaching out to those students who aren’t by advocating for early childhood learning in preschool.  


What is BSE’s future enrollment picture?

While this has been a growth year as our classes are getting bigger.  However, they do not necessarily come from the recent glut of new construction.  BSD actually hires someone who looks into future growth and they make a best guess.  It appears that in our ‘hood”, current trends support that new residents don’t have a significant number of elementary kids. We only have three sections of kindergarten this year, though Janet expects four sections next year.

Our past open enrollment continues to keep our numbers high. Three years ago, over 150 BSE students were open enrolled.  After this year’s fifth grade graduates, we will only have 39 open enrolled, keeping enrollment around 650.  The loss of open enrollment has allowed BSE to absorb any growth from the neighborhood.


What is the threshold to get another kinder section?

In October, if a school has more than 28 students in all kindergarten classrooms, BSD will grant another teacher.



Buckle up.  Again.  Winter is coming...


And that’s a wrap!  Join us for our next Principal Chat on Friday, 3/24!