The Most Important Reason to Test…

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Just the mere mention of the words “standardized testing” is enough to set off debates about testing pros and cons, as well as complaints from students, teachers and parents alike about the time spent preparing for and administering these tests. Many public school districts have adopted a merit-pay system whereby teachers whose students show growth in standardized test scores are financially rewarded with bonuses and/or pay increases. Proponents of this system feel that this acts as an incentive for teachers to ensure that their students are adequately prepared on the material being tested. Those who are against this system frequently present the case that the teachers are being held accountable for past failures or students who do not come to them with adequate prerequisite knowledge.

Regardless of which side you may favor, both arguments fail to address a crucial element behind the case for standardized testing. A point that is often not addressed is that the results of such testing allow administrators to make valuable inferences about students’ abilities and achievements, and to use these resulting conclusions to further increase the efficacy of classroom instruction. In our nearsighted race to the top, too much emphasis is often put on individual student scores, percentile rankings, and stanines; and not enough on what the scores themselves are telling us about the overall curriculum and instruction in our classrooms.

By viewing standardized test scores as a window into the school’s curriculum, instead of solely as an expression of a student’s individual performance, the result is classified as a “win-win” situation for everyone. A striking example of this took place at Posnack School over the last few years as the lower school math curriculum underwent a tremendous reform by placing a greater emphasis on mathematical word problems and new problem solving strategies. This month’s issue of Hayidion, a journal published by RAVSAK, the Jewish Community Day School Network, contains more detailed information on the changes implemented by Posnack . I am honored to have the opportunity to share with the community the details of Posnack’s success, and look forward to upcoming school-wide standardized testing to continue to determine how we, as a school, can best serve the needs of our student body. This single reason, meeting our students’ needs, is clearly the most important reason for ongoing standardized testing.

Click here to read the complete article in Hayidion.

Counting Down…

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Countdowns are always exciting – whether it be for a New Year’s toast, a space launch, or in this case, the beginning of an exciting NEW school year at Posnack. Our NEW Fischer High School building and RAM Gym continue to exceed all of our expectations with impressive classrooms, science labs, a lecture hall, and a black box theater equipped with the latest in comfort and technology. Exciting programming is planned for all divisions as we integrate NEW electives into our curriculum including digital photography and theater production.

As you continue to enjoy your summer traveling, relaxing and spending time with family and friends, join us as we count down to what promises to be an amazing school year ahead. Thank you too for all the emails and texts I’ve received this week wishing me well as I embark on an exciting journey as the Middle School principal. The countdown continues as we move towards the best year yet!

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Many parents have asked for summer book suggestions to keep their children engaged in reading over the summer. Penguin© Young Readers has put together a wonderful list of suggested books at all grade levels for summer reading. Many of these books are my own personal favorites and may be yours too! Their website for young readers is also filled with titles listed by category and reading levels for easy reference. Encourage your child to try new genres and authors, and to recommend the books they love to their siblings and friends.

Don’t forget to have your child log his/her reading minutes at the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge™ site using the screen name and password assigned by their teacher. Together we can help set a Posnack reading record!

Be sure to sign up for summer updates to track Posnack students’ progress towards reading ONE MILLION MINUTES!

Simply send a text to 81010 with the message @3a398

Summer Reading Suggestions

Penguin© Young Reader site

Guided Reading Leveled Books

It’s Almost Here…

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It’s hard to believe, but the official end to the 2014-2015 school year is just around the corner! Along with plans for summer vacations, sleep away camps, and relaxing at the beach, comes the realization that students still benefit from reading and practicing learned math skills in an effort to reduce what we refer to as the “Summer Brain Drain!”

This year, I am once again promoting the M4thodology Summer Sampler math workbooks which align with what your children learned this year in our Singapore Math curriculum. Links to purchase each workbook directly from Amazon.Com can be found on the righthand side of this blog post. The workbooks are designed to reinforce skills learned for the grade your child has currently completed, and I encourage you to purchase the next grade level as well so that they can begin applying their knowledge to even more challenging assignments.

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Our Lower School Summer Reading Program this year promises to be exciting as we team up with Scholastic in our quest to see if Posnack families can break a record by reading a MILLION minutes this summer. More information will be sent home this week with your child’s log-in information and a link to receive reminders and updates all summer long about our progress towards that million mark! Encourage your child to read for pleasure and knowledge. Teachers will be sending home lists of books that are “just right” for your child, and we encourage you to read together as a family to build a love of reading throughout your home,

When we return to school, all students are invited to bring in their own drawing of their favorite book cover. These drawings will proudly decorate the walls of our newly renovated

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Don’t forget to follow the directions above to receive text messages this summer with updates from our reading contest and suggestions for new books. Take a photo of your child reading while wearing their Posnack gear, and they may be featured in our weekly Ram News under the section,

Posnack Reads Everywhere!

Wishing all our Posnack families a relaxing summer filled with reading memories that will last a lifetime!

Doing Math…

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IMG_2602What is a Noetic Challenge? According to Merriam-Webster’s website, the combined definition of these two words would translate to “a difficult task relating to intellect.” This may be true, but to a group of 13 fifth-grade math students, the term Noetic Challenge means logic puzzles, math games, and a collaborative effort to determine how many pencils make up a “gross!”

Meeting weekly with our math enrichment specialist, Mrs. Feldman, these top math students finished their successful elementary school years by competing in a national math competition. The Noetic Math program is designed to challenge students’ mathematical thinking by strengthening problem-solving skills. All Lower School math classes incorporate a variety of challenging word problems to Posnack’s already advanced math curriculum in order to prepare students for an accelerated rate of learning in mathematics. Since their introduction to Singapore Math last year, students in grades K-5 are focusing on the importance of relating math to real-world situations and identifying problem-solving strategies to tackle higher-order thinking word problems. Whether it’s preparing a shopping list to stay within a given budget, or calculating the square footage of classrooms in our new Fischer High School building, students are learning to recognize that math touches everything in their lives. Posnack students have become quite adept at using bar models and algebraic thinking to solve authentic problems with a variety of strategies and as a result, have learned that success in mathematics IS something to brag about.

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When presented with the idea of a math contest, Mrs. Feldman’s fifth-grade groups were excited at the idea of showcasing what they’ve learned. Over 24,000 students from more than 600 schools in 47 states participated in this contest, and Posnack students received commendations in the categories of participation, national honorable mention, and team winner. The celebration began with the awarding of certificates by Mrs. Feldman, followed by ice cream and the presentation of mini calculators to the fifth-grade math team. Certificates, ice cream, prizes? When I asked one student what the best part of the afternoon was, he replied, “We get to do even harder math now!” This student’s enthusiasm reminded me of the accomplished mathematician Paul Halmos who was quoted as saying, “The only way to learn mathematics is to do mathematics.”  I can honestly say that it’s been a thrill and an honor to watch these talented students “DO” mathematics.

Click here for more information on the Noetic Math Challenge and to see a complete list of national winners.

 

An Apple a Day…

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Last year, Apple® sold almost 5 million Macs and I am certain that almost as many people purchased an Apple® mouse to go along with their computers.

Now the students in one of Ms. Spunt’s math classes have literally given new meaning to the Apple® mouse. Using challah, a bagel and yes…… even a real apple…..these young engineers found a way to create their own computer mouse complete with working right and left click controls.

Sixth grade student Jacob W. led the way attaching wires to a circuit board and gathering his classmates together as they explored the basic principles of engineering. Strawberries, bagels, challah, and a shiny red apple all became the electrical conductors needed to control the movement of the cursor on the computer screen. Within a short period of time they succeeded in proving that their apple mouse was just as effective as the one first developed in the mid-1970s.

One might argue that a GOOD school is defined as a place where teachers deliver lessons and provide answers to students so they can learn. But I believe that a GREAT school is a place where teachers guide the students towards self-discovery of the answers through hands-on activities and real-world application of learned skills and concepts. Engaging students in the creative process of learning is as valuable a lesson for the teachers as it is for the students.

This is just the beginning for Jacob and his classmates as the excitement of engineering makes its way to the Posnack middle school in the Fall. As Albert Einstein so eloquently stated, “Education is not received. It is achieved.” And creating a working computer mouse out of your teacher’s lunch is a really great achievement indeed!

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Be a Champion…

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Although I no longer spend my days in one classroom or teaching a specific subject area, I still search for ways to make a connection with the students I encounter daily. Whether it’s through the implementation of a new program that makes learning more engaging or simply giving a “high five” to students passing by in the hallways, making that connection is at times even more important for me than it is for the students.

No one enters the field of education looking for fame or fortune. Some of us may have always felt the desire to teach and inspire, and knew long before entering the workplace that this was where we belonged. Others like myself, entered through the back door – unsatisfied with an alternate career choice and looking for a chance to make a difference. Regardless of how we arrived, the objective remains the same — make a connection with students, inspire the leaders of tomorrow, be a champion to a child. 

One of the greatest champions to children for over 40 years was Dr. Rita Pierson. Her belief that “every kid needs a champion” continues to be a mantra for teachers everywhere and reminds all educators of the real reason we go to work every day. Sadly, Dr. Pierson passed away in June, 2013 – but her spirit and inspiration remain thanks to a TED Talk that has been viewed over four million times. Her Ted Talk can be viewed below. If you’re a teacher, I know you will feel inspired and perhaps even recognize yourself or your students in her meaningful words. If you are not an educator, you will still feel that connection, knowing that teachers everywhere continue to strive to be a champion to a new generation of learners.

So….When IS Cheryl’s Birthday???

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I absolutely LOVE seeing a Singapore Math problem in the news! This challenging word problem taken from a recent Singapore and Asian School Math Olympiad (SASMO) contest has stumped people worldwide, and continues to go “viral” across the Internet. In case you haven’t yet seen it, the problem looks like this:

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Now that you’ve probably read the problem several times over, how is it possible that a math problem contains no numbers other than the dates? The answer to that question is actually much more simple than the solution itself. Math doesn’t have to be limited to problems involving natural numbers or integers.

  • Math is about logic and reasoning.
  • Math is about creating order and patterns.
  • Math is about making sense of something that initially appears senseless.

Tackling problems like this can help children of all ages build number sense – a skill critical to mathematical achievement and success. But even more important, problems like this help to create the thought process required for rationalizing and finding solutions for problems that span subject areas and curricula. The satisfaction gained from attempting and ultimately solving these types of puzzles creates an attitude where “I don’t get it” is replaced with “let’s try another one!

So when IS Cheryl’s birthday? If you haven’t figured it out yet, watch the video below, courtesy of the BBC. And if you’re still not sure of how they came up with the answer, ask your kids. Chances are great that their exposure to Singapore Math strategies can make solving this problem easier than blowing out the candles on Cheryl’s birthday cake.