Virtual School Now Available Here in Goochland

We continue to be excited that Goochland County Public Schools (GCPS) is piloting an online, virtual school program for the 2014-2015 school year.  We know  a few of our homeschool parents have expressed an interest in online courses provided by GCPS recently due to rising costs from some of the current providers of online homeschool curriculum.  GCPS is utilizing an online education program, Edgenuity, to provide an appropriate education for 6th through 12th grade virtual school students.  Students can complete all core academics, foreign language, health & physical education, as well as elective courses online while at school or at home. Upon completion of diploma requirements including verified SOL credits, students can even be awarded a GCPS high school diploma.

Even as we begin the month of October, students may still be accepted into our new pilot program.  We are accepting students on a first-come, first-served basis this year only. We are starting with ten full-time and five part-time students. Those accepted into our virtual school are required to maintain grades of A’s or B’s each quarter and to report to the middle school or high school only for SOL testing as part of these courses. Students must enroll at least part-time through GMS or GHS and pass all SOL exams with a score of 500 or above to remain in the virtual school program.

GCPS staff will regularly monitor each student’s progress in Edgenuity and inform parents and appropriate staff if standards are not met each quarter.  If standards are not maintained, the child must return to a home school or public school setting.

If you and your child(ren) have an interest in the program, please contact Mr. Tom DeWeerd at 804-556-5627 for more information.

Mrs. Moore

Walking by Mrs. Moore’s class, you notice a smell of sawdust in the air. It reminds me of my dad’s garage in the summer time: the buzzing of the saw, wood chips flying, and sawdust blowing in the breeze. This time, however, it isn’t my dad, but our eagles busy constructing!

Our eagles are amazing. They designed, planned, and engineered 125 wooden board games that were distributed through the Goochland Family Services in the Holiday Meal distributions.  What a way to tackle 21st century skills!

If you see Mrs. Moore, please thank her for affording our eagles the opportunity to help our community.

Payton and Kade cutting the game boards to size. Tyler finishing off a game board.

Want to find out more about Mrs. Moore’s classes? Click here.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Regarding Social Media

A Goochland Schools Hosted Roundtable for Awareness

  •  How aware are you about the impact social media has on your child? 
  • How aware are you about how to use these tools safely? 
  • Are you interested in knowing more about how your son or daughter is using their cell phone?
When:  April 10, 2014 at 6:30 p.m
Where: Community Room, Reynolds Community College, Goochland Campus. We’ll cover this and more in a roundtable event with guests that includes GCPS teachers, principals, the Goochland Sheriff’s Office, and GCPS students. This event is free with light refreshments served.  

Rural Substance Abuse Awareness Coalition

GMS completed a poster contest for the Rural Substance Abuse Awareness Coalition (RSAAC) of Goochland and Powhatan…..  and we have a winner! Rilie Bass -6th grader.
Attached is a photo of her and her poster. The poster will remain in the main hallway until the end of the school year. We had a total of 76 entries! We have chosen a few posters to display in our hallways.

Congratulations GMS Cheerleaders

We are so proud of the GMS Competition Cheer Team. The girls competed in and WON their very first cheer competition EVER!  The team not only placed first in the Middle School Division, but also won the County Cup, awarded to the school team with the HIGHEST SCORE of the day!

Great job Goochland Middle School Cheer Team!

The award-winning Cheerleaders of Goochland Middle School

Creating Creators — Creativity is One of our Values — Is it one of yours?

A team of Goochland educators attended a talk this morning, “Emerging Educational Technology” by Richard Culatta, Director of the Office of Educational Technology for the US Department of Education.

He made sense and challenged us.  Earlier this year he gave a similar talk “Reimagining Learning: Richard Culatta at TEDxBeaconStrett.”   Please listen to him.

Our technology team here in Goochland accepts the gauntlet he has thrown down about personalized learning.  While we acknowledge the challenges facing us, we get excited imagining the future.

The Value of Optimism — one story

One never knows how much we can change the life of our students.

After fleeing violence in Liberia, Shadrack Boakye arrived in the US at the age of nine. He started school with limited English skills, and quickly fell behind his peers. By age 14, he was placed in special education with little hope for graduation.

Entering Mrs. Murphy’s READ 180 class changed everything. Shadrack’s skills improved, as did his confidence once he discovered an “addiction” to success. He started writing about his experiences and hasn’t stopped since. He’s now a college student, public speaker, and playwright

Although Mrs. Murphy is not at Goochland Middle School (GMS), we  have a read 180 program at GMS.  And although Shadrack was not a Goochland student, the real meaning of this story from the Read 180 Community is what can happen when teachers are optimistic about students and don’t give up on them.  

Optimism — A value in Goochland Schools.

Listen to one young man recount  how optimism changed his life.

 

 

And the GMS 2013 Teacher of the Year is (drum roll, please!)…….

MR. HENRY JONES!

Mrs. Burdette congratulates Mr. Jones!

Mr. Jones is not only adored by his students, but it seems that his colleagues feel the same way.

Mr. Jones was chosen as GMS Teacher of the Year by his colleagues because he “is a steady, kind, and knowledgeable teacher who always has time for kids and coworkers,” “puts in extra time after school to do tutoring,” “blogs regularly, allowing (another teacher) to access the material he is reviewing and to collaborate more efficiently,” “is an all-around nice man who is concerned about each and every one of his students despite their differences.” Mr. Jones also “gives to our students by coaching track.”

PLEASE GIVE IT UP FOR MR. JONES!!!

 

Budget Workshop

Last night’s budget workshop was a positive departure from past practice.  From the format of the meeting to the delivery of information from key stakeholders (principals), the new budget software, and finally, the positive interaction between our school board and our new superintendent, Dr. Lane, and our new director of finance, Ms. Deborah White, this evening workshop demonstrated the new day in GCPS.

While we remain in a flat funding mode which requires more belt tightening as there are naturally some increased costs and needs, the thrust is positive and the outlook clearly toward continued improvement in student achievement and academic progress.

One area that Mr. Lumpkins highlighted after the breakout session with the secondary budget is the need for more science equipment and supplies.  While apparently, there is no possible way to meet the total need in this year’s budget, there is clearly an understanding of the necessities.  The knowledge of our school board on our needs is based on the transparency of reviewing our budget line-by-line and by providing more staff involvement in the process.

Working Tuesday nights in January to get constructive involvement in budget building can be difficult; however, last night confirmed support for the dynamic energy and hard work of our team.  Our GMS principal, Johnette Burdette, and our new GHS principal, Mike Newman, made crystal clear presentations on their school budgets.  Thanks … school board and Dr. Lane for making this all possible.

Of course, the budget is not the only way to meet our needs.  An announcement this week at GHS demonstrates the creative way our teachers work.

Kelli Bratton has received grant funding from the Math Science Center.  She will be purchasing supplies to help our science department incorporate nanoscience and technology into our curriculum.  Congratulations, Ms. Bratton!

What Do GHS Teachers Think?

What do GHS teachers think … about engagement?  The recent publication of the Goochland Instructional Newsletter  featured short quotes from teachers on page 5 detailing what they thought about engagement.  One was from Jennifer Abbott, teacher of English at GHS.

When I asked her for her definition of student engagement, she wrote, “It’s so interesting that you should ask this because I introduced my students to Edmodo today, and I feel like the level of student engagement shot through the roof.  If a teacher can successfully engage his or her students, the majority of the battle is won in that classroom.   Engagement leads to less classroom discipline and more productive interaction between one’s peers and teacher.   Edmodo is offering just that.  It’s offering my kids a unique opportunity to interact with me and with one another in a way that they can not only understand but relate to.  They’re accomplishing the same thing that a worksheet can do, but they’re not fighting me the whole way.  They want to answer the question or complete the task.”  One way you can see her engaged ideas is through her blog. Ms. Jennifer Abbott uses active strategies to keep her students thinking, participating and writing; she enjoys the tools of technology and so do her students.

Another high school teacher, Preston Gordon, who teaches mathematics had thoughts about this subject as well: “Student engagement is the ability to provide a learning experience that allows a class to participate and enjoy instruction.   A teacher can evaluate the engagement of students by their performance in class through one-on-one questioning, group activity, class discussions, projects, along with numerous other activities that allows for student participation.  Teachers need to sell themselves, their class, and lessons everyday, so the students will have the best learning opportunity available.  I have found that being energetic and entertaining has helped me improve student engagement.”

Mr. Preston Gordon when on to say, “One of the best teachers that I have been around at GHS is Ms. Erin Yearout-Patton, and the kids love her along with her teaching methods.”  Erin is on the cover of our recent instructional newsletter.

Erin Yearout-Patton regularly presents lessons that model engaged learning.  She comes at teaching from the perspective of being a student herself.   “As educators, we too remain students, because many of us have a commitment to lifelong learning. As a student myself, I know I am engaged when the professor ends class, and I find myself wanting to continue the class discussion or activity. Sometimes, I will stay after class or email my professors because I am very interested in the concept.  As a teacher, I apply the latter to my own classes. When my students compliment the lesson, provide ideas to improve it, tell me how the lesson applies to a principle from another course, or an event in their daily life, I know I have made a connection. A more concrete example: students will send me emails or tweets on events they want to cover in class. They also send me copies of letters they write to their Congressmen, concerning legislation, and the response they receive. Last year, it was SOPA. They also enjoy bringing in political signs and banners to support their political ideas. Furthermore, I know they are engaged when I go to vote and they are working the polls, ensuring a just and fair election. This is exactly what the Class of 2012 did, thanks to our community partnership with the Registrar’s Office. Every year our students complete their Senior Projects. The Class of 2011 raised over $15,000 for charities. It will always be an honor to be a small part of the process that engages our nation’s future, our children, in creating superb and dedicated public servants!”

Finally, our secondary instructional technology resource teacher (ITRT), Bea Cantor, who helps teachers connect technology with their lessons, knows first hand what engagement looks like. “Students are engaged when they are learning by doing, when they are active in a meaningful task rather than repetitive busywork: using technology, collaborating with their peers, applying knowledge to solve problems. This engagement is most meaningful when students are aware that what they are learning is not just to pass a test, but something that will be useful somewhere beyond the classroom walls”  Bea Cantors blog reveals the many engaging lessons she assists with from the 6th through 12th grade.  She is also writing a eBook about the photography of insects.   All of us can learn more about engaging lessons from Bea Cantor’s blog, Tech Salad.

Invested… Stakeholders in Learning

In the upcoming newsletter from our schools, Explorations in Learning, one GMS teacher, Leona Barnes is quoted — “Student engagement occurs when students are actively invested in their own learning . . . they see themselves as stakeholders in their own learning.”

This statement is the tip of the iceberg for Ms. Barnes.  She is the epitome of the teacher/facilitator who works daily to keep ‘her kids’ involved in learning.   When she was asked to define engagement she wrote:  ”Tom, thanks for asking me.  It really allowed me to step back and analyze what I do with the students.”  She appears to reflect frequently about the way she teaches.  Her full statement describes her philosophy of engagement.

Definition:  From my vantage point, student engagement occurs when students are actively invested in their own learning.  In other words, at this point in the learning process, they see themselves as “stake-holders” in their own learning.  I feel like I’m in “teacher heaven” when this happens in my classroom. 

 As I was reflecting on this question, I realized that there were several strategies that I keep in mind to foster student engagement:

1.  Each unit begins with a big question.  Students have to view their learning with a sense of “wonderment.”  Giving them an opportunity to express what they would like to learn in relation to our unit engages them right at the beginning.

2.  Material is presented in small “chunks.”

3.  Students are given a variety of ways with which to work with these smaller pieces of information.

4.  Once students have mastered all of these pieces of information, they have to put it together to make sense of the whole. (Sometimes, I start with the “whole” and then we analyze the “pieces.”)

 Because the lesson was broken into smaller steps, students will arrive at #4 feeling a sense of confidence and security, so it’s easier to take risks when learning.  I’m also very careful as to what kind of feedback I give when students are engaged.  The feedback must always be stated positively, so that students will continue to feel confident and secure during this learning process.

Thanks Mrs.Leona Barnes for your exciting teaching and your visionary instructional leadership at GMS.

Low Retention Rate in STEM Majors?

Dr. Richard Carchman, an active member of  the Goochland Public Schools STEM advisory committee, posed the question, why a low retention rate in STEM majors?  His question is based on an article Low Retention Rate in Stem Majors Prompts Study.

This is a good question for America but specifically for Goochland County Public Schools.

The answer may come from this research: “A new study being conducted by researchers from the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) and the University of  Colorado Boulder will attempt to answer this question and look at what can be done to encourage more students to remain in  those fields.”

We need to look for some answers from this study.  Even without this research, good preparation from our K-12 schools remains a wonderful start.  I applaud the support of STEM by our Goochland School Board with the hiring of a STEM focused CTE director, Bruce Watson, and an active STEM advisory committee adopted by them last year. Our efforts in the secondary schools continues to be part of a larger emphasis on engagement and 21st Century skills.  John Hendron, our supervisor of instructional technology, addressed this at an advisory meeting last year by showing what we are doing with project based learning such as our G21 initiative.  We need to continue our exploration for answers to Dr. Carchman’s inquiry while we seek ways to inspire students to follow their intellectual curiosity.  
 
Additionally, I suspect from my personal experience with two daughters graduating from college in STEM areas, that an increased emphasis on aiding students with the rising cost of education will help. By offering more scholarships and assistance like Pell Grants and by finding ways to address the massive school loan debt issue, Americans can encourage students to enter and stay in expensive STEM related fields. The Goochland Educational Foundation (GEF) that meets tonight at 6:30 p.m. at our school board office is committed to providing more scholarship opportunities.  This is another exciting local response.

Mrs. Hood

Mrs. Hood invited me in to see the culminating presentations her students created for their Rikki Tikki Tavi unit. It was great seeing them present and even better when some of them wanted to present again…just for me! I asked Mrs. Hood to send me background information to explain what the students worked through to get to the presentation. Here is what she said,

“Mrs. East,

Thank you for coming to my B4 class yesterday to see some of the projects students made for the Rikki-tikki-tavi story.

To complete the project, students did the following things:

We read and discussed Rudyard Kipling’s story.  We talked about how a mongoose instinctively knows to fight cobras.

Students then worked in pairs on a cross-curricular Science project which included research on the mongooses and cobras, their average sizes, lifespan, habitat, etc.  One student concentrated on the mongoose, the other on the cobra.

Students worked collaboratively with partners on a Google Docs Presentation, creating slides to show their research and pictures of the animals.

Then, each pair continued their Presentation by telling the same story but from the snakes’ point of view.

Students concluded their Presentations with a Works Cited slide.

I think the students enjoyed the project.  It allowed for some creativity in developing their Presentations through background, font, and transition choices.  They also enjoyed finding the pictures that were required as part of the Presentation.  I  think they preferred re-writing the story this way because it seemed less like a writing assignment to them.

Diane Nichols actually found the project online while searching for an idea on what to do with the story.  Her class did it, too.  She had planned to have them create Powerpoint presentations but I suggested Google Docs which allowed the students to “see” what their partners were doing in real time, and it gave them opportunities to edit each other’s work.

Thanks for stopping by to see their final products!

Terry Hood”

And now for a few pictures:

hood1 hood2 hood3 hood4

 

Please check out Mrs. Hood’s blog here: Hood’s Neighborhood

Keeping My Kids Out of My Basement

That is a goal for education… yes, I want my kids to finish school and move out and find success as only they can define it.  I don’t want them in my basement!

This was one of the messages from Dr. Yong Zhao’s presentation last week at the Region I Superintendent’s study group.  Dr. Yong Zhao is an internationally known scholar, author, and speaker. His works focus on the implications of globalization and technology on education.

Although the goal of education to “keep my kids out of my basement” was said with humor, we all understood his message.  Sometimes it is hard to define what we want out of our educational system.  When we say we want our students to be successful, what does that mean?  Dr. Zhao convinced me that promoting creative entrepreneurship can be a positive outcome, and may well happen, if we pay more attention to the child than the content.  Mastering tests is all well and good.  We want mastery.  At the same time we need to build relationships, foster engaging and inquisitive study and promote growth.  As I continue to think about what I want for Goochland school students (and  for my own grandchildren) out of an education system, I am thinking about these three pillars: growth, relationships and engagement.  We have been talking about this in our leadership team meetings since July.  Dr. Yong Zhao reinforced this idea or ‘movement’ to go beyond test scores as a measure of our schools’ success.

I have asked a number of our GMS & GHS teachers to tell me what engagement looks like from their point of view.   For me, this is not engagement devoid of content but rather engagement encouraged by the relationship the teacher has built with each child and engagement created with the purpose of fostering growth in student thinking, content knowledge and self-awareness. In the next few weeks, I will share in this blog what our secondary teachers have told me.

 

PowerSchool? Can’t Get in? Grrrrrrrrr

You have the correct login and ID … it is just that you need to create a new account this year.

When you go to PowerSchool for parents from our web-stie… this is what you see:
Please note your AccessID and Access Password, when linking your students to your account, are CaSe SeNsiTivE even if it was not in the past.
Or here is a quick guide to help you! Parent SSO Guide

Create an Account

Create a parent account that allows you to view all of your students with one account. You can also manage your account preferences. Learn more. ——————
You must set up a new account this year.  There is a new upgrade to PowerSchool.  If you have problems following the directions from the web-site that says “Alert ALL Parents…. ”   Then you can go to the PowerSchool Blog for directions there:  http://blogs.glnd.k12.va.us/powerschool/
If these do not help, please email me again.   This is working for most parents and i certainly want it to work for you.  We know how good it is for you to keep track of Chloe’s academic performance.  Thanks for your email.  Tom
Thomas M. DeWeerd
Director of Secondary Education
Goochland County Schools

GHS named as Microsoft IT Academy

GHS has been approved and officially registered as a Microsoft IT Academy as part of the Governor’s IT initiative. Ms. Carol Washburn and the business department at GHS will work collaboratively to take advantage of over 200 multimedia courses, lesson pans, student projects and test bank items that will promote students’ understanding of the exciting and rapidly growing field of Internet Technology.