Shots Fired in Branstad’s War on Education

I am sorry I have not been posting much. My wife and I moved into a bigger place across town shortly after I returned from my grad school program. Right after we moved, my paternal grandmother passed away and band camp started. We are finally settled in; the kitchen remodel is done, and we have internet! Pardon the sensationalist, clickbait title to this post. I thought I would steal a bit from the Fox News rhetoric to add some irony to the situation.Last week, Governor Branstad decided to blame school district superintendents for what he views as poor performance in Iowa schools. From an article in the Des Moines Register:

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VanderSummer 1 is Done!

I spent the past six weeks working on the first of two residency summers working on my Masters of Music Education from VanderCook College of Music in Chicago. The program consists of three 12-credit semesters, two of which must be done as residencies. The other semester involves taking continuing education credits in their MECA program. These credits can be taken online or in person throughout the school year. I completed this portion of my program last year:

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Math on Educational Funding

Our legislature finallypassed a supplemental growth rate of 1.25% on June 5, 113 days later than required by law. Our governor finallysigned this legislation today, on July 2, another 27 days later.

Here is the thing: Not only did the governor veto the $55.7M passed by the legislature as a one-time spend from our state's more than $450M surplus. The legislators hid $50M of Teacher Leadership funding within the School Foundation Aid budget.

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Changing the Conversation

I had an outstanding "last day of summer" yesterday: boating with friends, enjoying the sun, making wood-fired pizzas outside. I wish I had thought to take some pictures. I say "last day of summer" because tomorrow I leave for my first residency semester for my Masters of Music Education program at VanderCook College of Music in Chicago. While at this Wednesday Night Boat Party, I had very interesting discussions with my friends and host's parents about how education is changing in Iowa and around the country, particularly in regards to funding. I have been operating in a world where I am surrounded by people that either agree with or are diametrically opposed to my thoughts on educational funding. It was a good experience to get to converse with people whose thoughts are in the middle of the issue and whose stakes are different than my own. My friend and colleague, Pat Kearney, has written quite a bit about the conversation (or lack thereof) that has been going on about educational funding in Iowa. His most recent post talks about our purpose as educators.

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Iowa's 2015 Education Budget

Iowa's 2015 Education Budget is still not settled. As of June 5, 2015, the Iowa Legislature finally passed State Supplemental Growth for Iowa schools. We now await the governor's signature. Let's take a look at what they passed: State Supplement Growth at 1.25%SF 171 originated in the Senate on February 5, 23 days after the governor proposed a budget in his Condition of the State address. This falls within the 30 days required by law in Iowa Code 257 Section 8.1. The deadline for passing this legislations was February 12, 30 days after the governor proposed his budget. Amendments, discussions, messages, and votes appear along the history of this bill which continues well past the February 12th deadline. Most importantly, Amendment H-1009, adopted on February 24, changing state percent of growth to 1.25% from the Senate's original proposal of 4%. Finally, on June 5, the Senate passed the amended version of the bill 45-5 and the House passed it 53-36.

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Standards for Jazz Band - TQ Project

This past week, our Vertical PLC chose to use Teacher Quality funds to spend some time developing standards for our 7-12th grade jazz bands.

Much of the time we spent worked backwards from the top high school group (Jazz Collective) to our first groups (7th Grade). As team, we identified the skills we wanted students in Jazz Collective to be able to do. We then worked backwards from these skill sets through our different ensembles (Jazz Studio, 9th Grade, 8th Grade, 7th Grade) to identify what was going to be taught when.

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Reflection: 2015 IBA Conference

I typed this post shortly after the conference ended on May 16th, and then forgot about it with all the business leading up to graduation and the end of the school year. Over the past two days, hundreds of Iowa band directors descended on the Marriott Hotel in Des Moines for the Iowa Bandmasters Association 2015 Conference. This is the tenth conference I have attended, and it was the best overall. There wasn’t a single hour in either day that there wasn’t a clinic or performance I didn’t want to attend. Let’s try that sentence without all the negatives: There was something I wanted to attend every single hour of both days of the conference. IBA President Jacqui Meunier hosted outstanding clinicians and performances throughout. I wanted to get my thoughts out on “paper” quickly, so I could begin to implement them in my classroom.

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Reflection: Sound Reinforcement and Recording Techniques

This semester, I took a hybrid course through VanderCook College of Music called Sound Reinforcement and Recording Techniques. The course was three weeks long: two weeks of online build-up to an 8 hour day onsite at VanderCook with a one week follow-up. Our final assignment was to submit a reflection. Here is that prompt:

Please submit a brief (1-2 page) summary and reflection paper detailing what you've learned from taking this course, and how you plan to utilize the information in your particular teaching situation.

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What We do Matters

I am currently working on a post that traces the history of funding public education in Iowa. I am curious just how the funding formula has changed since the 1950s. This is taking a lot of research and as a "break" (HA!), I thought I would respond to a post my friend and colleague, Pat Kearney, wrote last week entitled A Community of Educators. Pat wrote an outstanding post about his thinking around the challenges facing educators today. I can't encourage you enough to go and check out his writing.

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An Update on Educational Funding and Start Dates in Iowa

I have written, tweeted, Facebook-ed, and talked quite a bit about education in Iowa over the past few weeks. Our governor has started an uproar over school start dates and state supplemental aid, the magical formula for funding our schools. We have still not arrived at a solution, and the timeline is getting tighter. I wanted to write a bit more in the hopes of maybe easing my frustration with it all.

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Best Practices for Using Rubrics

Spurred by part of a PLC discussion, I have been reading through our district’s document, Best Practices for Using Rubrics to Determine Grades. We currently formatively and summatively assess student performance using our Wind and Percussion Rubrics. Each criterion (tone quality, technique, etc.) has four different levels of performance (currently: exceeds standard, meets standard, making progress, not making progress). Our PLC discussion sprung from the completion of our 6-Week Assessment, transitioning into our 12-Week Assessment, and some professional development occurring at one of our middle schools. The big question for us is: does the rubric accurately portray what a student knows/is able to do?

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Solo and Ensemble

This weekend, students at my school performed at the Perry Band Olympics, a solo and ensemble festival in Central Iowa. We have a write-up of how they did over on the Ankeny Bands website. During this six-week grading period, our vertical team of teachers selects a solo for each student from a database of graded literature (below grade level, at grade level, above grade level) we developed over the course of several years. We help the students prepare this solo for a summatively assessed performance around the time of the Perry Band Olympics. All students prepare for this assessment, regardless of their attendance at the festival.We are now beginning this process for our sixth through eighth grade students and their middle school solo festival in mid-April. As a professional-learning community (PLC), we are reflecting on better ways to help these students prepare. One of the results of this reflection process has been the development of a "checklist" for the students to complete before their 12-week assessment, approximately 2 weeks before their performance at the festival.

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Funding Education in Iowa

We are in an interesting predicament in the state of Iowa. A 2013 education bill (HF 215) has made several changes to education in Iowa, many of which I detailed in a post for my VanderCook class, Teaching Music in a Common Core Word. One of the changes from HF215 that I did not detail in the post is how education is funded within our state. After the break is a detailed explanation of the new funding formula. To cut to the chase early, the Governor and the House have proposed a 1.25% rate of state supplemental aid. This is an inadequate amount of funding for our students. The Iowa Association of School Boards is advocating for 6%. The Senate has put forth a bill authorizing a rate of 4%.

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An Update on Iowa's New Start Date

The Iowa Department of Education and their Director, Brad Buck, released the criteria necessary for receiving a waiver under Iowa Law requiring a start date no earlier than the week where September 1st falls. On December 12, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad director Mr. Buck to no longer automatically grant waivers of the school start date, a common practice in Iowa after the governor originally signed the law in 1983. I have previously blogged about this decision to begin enforcing the law more than 30 years later.To briefly recap, the governor wrote a letter to Director Buck requesting the IDOE stop automatically granting waivers to school districts applying to start school earlier than September 1st.

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2014 in Review

I know that I am 3-4 days late, but the stomach flu will do that to you. 2014 was a big year for me. I began blogging about my teaching experiences in October of 2013. The spring of 2014 is where that began to pick up as our professional learning community looked into curriculum and assessment and I began my Masters of Music Education program at VanderCook College of Music. Here is a review of all I posted over this past year: Vertical Teaching - October 10, 2013 While I know this isn't part of 2014, it is the only post on this blog that occurred before 2014, and it is a pretty critical part of several of the posts that followed! I discussed the vertical nature of our professional learning community: 5 teachers that teach lessons and rehearse instrumental music groups in grades 6-12 across three secondary schools.

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Reflecting on the 2014 Midwest Clinic

This past week, our school district sent 9 of the 14 instrumental music teachers to the Midwest Clinicin Chicago. Much or our trip was paid for by a Teacher Quality grant for which each of us applied. We were there Wednesday through Saturday and attended several outstanding clinics, heard some amazing performances, bought quite a bit of literature, and ate a lot of great food! As part of the Teacher Quality grant, we are asked to reflect on the clinics we attended and what we learned while at the conference. Below is a rough sketch of the different things I learned while at Midwest this year.

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Reflecting on Standards-Based Grading

For our final assignment in my VanderCook class, Teaching Music in a Common Core World, we were asked to look reflect on the work we did for our choice assignment earlier this week. I chose to look at standards-based learning, grading, and reporting. PromptComplete a comprehensive reflection paper. Include a recap of the concepts and strategies learned from the assignment that you created and completed over the last week. Please explain why this project was important to you and how it helped deepen your understanding on the topic you chose.

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Standards-Based Grading and the Common Core

For the final week of our class, we were given the opportunity to choose a topic of our choice to research based on the work we have done in this class. Below is the prompt we were given:

For this assignment, you have the "choice" of creating a project of your own from any of the educational initiatives that we have covered in this course or choose a new educational topic you would like to learn more about.

Now, it is your turn to create your own project based on your interests. The goal is to give you time to continue learning about a topic you feel that you want or need to learn about.

I chose to do my project on the implementation of standards-based grading in my classroom.

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Reflecting on Implementing the Common Core in My Classroom

For the past three weeks, my VanderCook class, Teaching Music in the Common Core World, has been looking at how to implement the Common Core State Standardsin the music classroom. We were provided a wealth of resourcesto begin our study in the first week. The second week focused on the specific implementation of the English Language Arts CCSS. This week focused on the implementation of the CCSS of Mathematical Practice. At the end of each unit, we are asked to reflect on what we learned.

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