Site Meter Josh's Blog: July 2007

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Orlando, day 4

Today was a great day at the GE College Bound District Program conference. We attended different sessions on a variety of subjects, such as PLC's, math standards, leadership practices and coaching. I attended a session on the role of Teacher's Unions in driving instructional reform, facilitated by Pat Dolan. Some of you may have met Pat, as he's been working with Stamford for the past few years. Pat's thoughts were intriguing, and I can't relate all of them in this space, but I was left with a few questions that I'd like to share. One is around data. I'm not referring to state test data. I'm thinking about data that helps us understand what's "really happening" in schools and classrooms, and with individuals. I'm constantly told about something that happened, or something that someone is upset about and I don't always have a way to verify it or understand the full context. So how do we develop a way to get good information about what's "really happening" that we can then act on?

Another question I have is about standards of practice. It seems to me that we'd avoid a lot of conflict if we had explicit standards of practice regarding teaching and learning. We all know good instruction when we see it, but have we all agreed that X,Y and Z equal excellent instruction? I think that's an important area of work for us to collaborate on. Yesterday we heard Mike Rutherford talk ( about 5 things that great teachers do. He described the set of practices that great teachers use to improve student achievement. Most of them are common sense, and I've certainly seen wonderful examples throughout the Stamford Public Schools. I wonder if we can all agree on what excellent teaching is for us in Stamford, and then use that as an anchor for our work.

Tomorrow we'll be meeting as a team to discuss the implications for our work and communication strategies. After that I'm going on vacation with my family for two weeks. I'll be sure to post some more when I return. Please let me know what you think!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


We went to NASA today for a tour arranged specially for the GE CBDP conference. The day started with a talk by Lt. Commander Jerry Carr, who headed Sky Lab in the early 1970's. He gave a great presentation on what it's like to be in space. What I found the most interesting was his response to a question about what in his K-12 experience influenced him to become an astronaut. He said that he always liked Math because he enjoyed solving problems. That statement stuck with me all day. As we toured the launch pad and the area where NASA scientists assemble the shuttle - and marvelled at the scale of the operation - I was struck by how many problems there are to solve. Each one of the physicists, mathematicians, chemists and engineers is solving a complex problem that enables NASA to launch enormous machines into space. Someone has to figure out how to move the shuttle, someone else has to build the machines to manufacture the unique parts, others have to calculate when the weather is right to stand the shuttle upright. Then, when the shuttle or another spacecraft is finally launched, it gathers data to send back so that we can expand our understanding of the universe. I started wondering whether our students see math and science as tools to help them solve problems, or whether they see it as discrete procedures to memorize in order to get a right answer. I was then reminded of a story I recently read about an alleged meteorite that fell in New Jersey. After tons of press and attention from the scientific community, it turned out to be man made. A scientist who was involved said that science is the only profession where it's okay to be wrong and that's how knowledge is created - by building on each other's ideas, most of which turn out to be wrong. So is it better to teach our students that there's one right answer, or should we teach them how to solve problems in teams?

NASA has some wonderful resources for us. Check out for tons of free resources. Everyone from Stamford who's at the conference is bringing back materials to share.

Please let me know what you think of these posts.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Monday in Orlando

Today was the first full day of the GE College Bound District Program annual conference in Orlando. I arrived late and met everyone at Pat O'Brien's. Folks seemed to be excited about today's presenter and about going to NASA tomorrow. I'm looking forward to having an opportunity to talk at length with SPS educators as well as those from around the country.