Woods' Weekly

Woods' Weekly

Woods' Weekly is written by Superintendent Brian T. Woods and is sent to Northside ISD staff every Monday to keep them updated on local and state education issues.

September 152014     

Good morning!  I hope you had a good weekend and were able to enjoy the change in the weather.  As the legislative session is only a few months away, I want you to be aware of some of our priorities in the upcoming session.  It probably won’t surprise you that many deal with funding.  Outside of the issues that are still being litigated is the notion of funding to deal with growth.  As you know, we have been a fast growth system for a long time and that looks to continue for quite a while.

What you may not know is that the cost for that growth falls completely on local taxpayers.  In other words, the state contributes nothing to help us manage growth either on the facilities construction or the day-to-day operations sides of the equation.  Currently around 1,000 people move to the state of Texas every day.  However, that population growth is not evenly distributed.  The suburban areas around Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio take in the bulk.  In fact, only 85 school districts of the over 1,000 in the state deal with over 80% of this growth!  It is no secret that a major player in which areas grow is the quality of the schools in that region.

Part of the challenge for fast growth districts, including Northside, is that our tax base is primarily residential (67% of NISD’s total tax base) rather than commercial.  In other words, we have a lot of students, but we are not “property wealthy” school systems.  However, the bigger challenge for Texas’ fast growth districts is the state’s lack of willingness to financially support the districts that are educating the fastest growing student populations.

There are many potential legislative fixes to this issue including funding school construction debt assistance, fully funding the instructional materials and technology allotments and temporary assistance for supplies and materials to open new schools.  However, there are also those who will fight this type of assistance to fast growth districts.  Hiding behind buzz words like “transparency” and “local debt” some people in our state have demonized the very districts that attract growth.  I sincerely hope 

that we can make progress on this issue in the coming session.  We will certainly push for it!

On the topic of grit, several of you have sent me a post by Salman Khan found on the Khan Academy website.  While I don’t want to advertise for the Khan Academy, there is no doubt that this individual is a deep thinker about education.  In the post, Khan writes about reading with his five year old son.  Reaching a word he struggles with the boy says to his father, “Dad, aren’t you glad how I struggled with that word? I think I could feel my brain growing.”  That is a fantastic example of Carol Dweck’s concept of growth mindset that I wrote to you about recently.  As I’ve been saying, a growing area of research tells us that the willingness and ability to struggle in our learning and keep at it helps all of our brains “grow.”  Khan writes, “Between the deep body of research on the field of learning mindsets and this personal experience with my son, I am more convinced than ever that mindsets toward learning could matter more than anything else we teach.”  I couldn’t agree more.

As I think and read more about teaching grit, one of the ideas that comes up is how it is measured.  I actually found an individual measuring test developed by Duckworth.  It can be found at:  http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~duckwort/images/12-item%20Grit%20Scale.05312011.pdf  However, I suspect that most teachers already know which of their students have grit and which are lacking.

More important though is how we measure that we are actually teaching this skill to our students.  The best way I know to measure that is in the work product our students create.  The rigor and grit our students display can be seen in what they produce.  This is true in the band hall, art room, mathematics class and on the field.  As reflective practitioners we need to regularly ask ourselves - are we getting the most out of every student?  And, if not, how do we alter to get to that goal.  If we can all have students producing at the maximum of their potential we will have given them a skill and work ethic that will serve them well for a lifetime.  Have a great week! 

    Have a great week!