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.

August 22, 2016     

Good morning and welcome to the first day of school. For many of us this day is both exciting and a little nerve racking. Even after all these years, I still get nervous for the first day. All of us want to start the year by making a great first impression of our classroom and our school and I know you will. This is also the day to start building relationships with students that will drive them to think deeply and work hard all year long. Thanks very much to our Facilities and Maintenance staff who have worked all summer to improve our campuses. Thanks also to our custodians who really make our schools shine. Have a wonderful first day.

Last week, TEA released state accountability ratings for all public schools. I am pleased to say that out of the well over 100 NISD schools rated in the system, all of ours met standard. That is the result of the hard work and dedication of our Curriculum and Instruction team and thousands of teachers and administrators. Congratulations!

A closer look at the accountability ratings reveals some interesting trends. For many years now, so called “traditional” ISDs and schools do better in the ratings than do charter schools. In 2016, 95.5% of ISDs met standard compared to 83.6% of charter operators. At the campus level, 89.3% of ISD schools met standard compared with 76.5% of charter schools. This is just more evidence of the falsehood of the myth that somehow charter schools are better for Texas students.

Thank you all for your attendance and enthusiasm at convocations last week. I know it takes away from other things you could be doing, but I still believe that it is important for us to be together as a family when we can. It is one of the ways we fight back against the circumstances that come with our size. One of the points I made last week that I really want to drive home is the notion of continuous improvement. I really believe in the idea that “good is the enemy of great” and that we have to do everything we can to push back against that human tendency. The best way I know for us to do that is

to work together in high-performing teams. The idea of a high-performing team implies several things: that we know our areas where we need improvement and the root cause of what is keeping us from getting better in that area; that we set goals together; have a concrete and measurable plan for improvement and that we hold each other accountable for that improvement. That last part is particularly important. We all get tired and need the help of our teammates to bring us along.

I also want to reinforce the power of grit for our students. Over the summer, I reread Angela Duckworth’s Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. The book is available in the NISD professional library. One of the concepts that I have mentioned many times, including at convocation, is the notion that, as educators, we serve a higher purpose. In other words, most of us were drawn to this work because we have a desire to be a part of something larger than ourselves and serve a greater good. So, when Duckworth wrote about her study of the correlation between a sense of purpose and grit, I was very interested.

In a survey of over 16,000 American adults, there is a significant correlation between being purposeful and being gritty. Duckworth says, “…grittier people are dramatically more motivated than others to seek a meaningful, other-centered life.” That must be why there are so many gritty teachers. 

I know it won’t come as a surprise to hear that gritty adults (including teachers) build grit in young people. However, it might surprise you to know that Duckworth found that grit and happiness are correlated. What’s more, her studies showed that the combination of grit and happiness is also correlated with improved student performance. This research really unpacks a notion that many of us have held as truth for a long time. That is, the most important variable in a child’s education that we can control is the talent and characteristics of the teacher in the classroom. I know that puts a lot of pressure on teachers, but it also conveys tremendous ability to make a positive difference every day!