Donald Shively's Blog Page
Innovation Hub Part 1: Connecting to the Goal of Student Learning
Posted 3/17/2017 at 9:21:00 AM by Donald Shively [staff member]
Have you ever heard a band or orchestra when it is warming up? I was walking by the band room at Paducah Middle recently and got to hear the band in “warm-up mode”. It sounded pretty terrible! All the students were playing different melodies at different speeds and volumes, and it was pure noise. However, once Ms. Williams ended the warm up and began to rehearse the band, as all the musicians began to play their part at the speed in harmony, and the different parts converged to create a sound that sounded good. But for that to happen, all the musicians had to have a plan (music to work from) and everyone had to be committed to working together to create a harmonious sound.

Over the past few months, I hope that many of you have heard about our plans to build a regional Innovation Hub at Paducah Tilghman High School. In February we applied for and received a $3.8 million dollar Kentucky Work Ready Skills Initiative grant to help with construction, and we also partnered to with WKCTC to secure a grant of $408,000 to buy equipment and machinery that will help with immediate upgrades at the Paducah Area Technical Center (PATC) and ultimately be placed in the Paducah Innovation Hub.

If you haven’t heard about the Innovation Hub, or if you’ve heard of it, but aren’t sure what it’s about, I’d like to show you how many different moving parts in our city and our school district are aligning to build something that will be a key asset for our students, our faculty, and our community.

In this blog post and the next I want to give you a little background so you’ll see how the Innovation Hub lines up with our district vision, mission, and values and the focus area of student learning. (I am including our vision, mission, values and focus areas here so you can refer to them.)



In Part Three I want to show how the Innovation Hub aligns with the focus area of Engaging Paducah.

In Part Four I want to talk about what the “makerspace” is, specifically, and explain the “what”, “why” and “how” of the Innovation Hub.

Before we decided to take on a project like this we wanted to count the cost. We knew that building a new Innovation Hub would not only require a lot of time, money, and effort- we also knew that it would be a a game changer in the way we educate students. So we wanted to ensure that the concept of an Innovation Hub was in line with the district’s vision, mission, and values. Beyond that, we wanted to make sure that it was what’s best for our students, and what’s best for our community.

Our vision is to know each and every student by name and need. Our mission is to inspire all students to achieve excellence, explore opportunities, and realize their full potential with the goal of preparing every student to be college and career ready upon graduation. We achieve our vision and mission through relationships.

As we developed our strategic plan in 2015 and 2016, we settled on five areas of focus. I want to spend a little extra time here, because we haven’t talked about the focus areas of our plan as much, but they are the compass that guides the ship, so they are very important to our thinking about the Innovation Hub.

Our first focus area is Student Learning. Our first student learning goal is to have 100% of our students graduate from Tilghman college and career ready by 2020. We are well on our way to that thanks to the hard work that is going on in our elementaries, our middle school, and our high school. The Innovation Hub will help us achieve this goal because it will provide the environment and the resources needed to facilitate the connections between courses of study in industrial maintenance, art and design.

As it’s designed right now, our career pathways are stand alone courses of study, with little overlap between the pathways.

For example, right now if you’re interested in Auto Body Tech/Collision Repair, you take classes at the PATC in painting and refinishing, which leads to an ASE certification in Collision Repair.

But what if your interest is in fiberglass design and sculpture? What if you want to make something like this and become an artist living in Lowertown?


Then the question becomes, “how do we take these disciplines and intertwine them with the goal of being able to find a job that you can do in Paducah with the knowledge and skills you have?”

If that’s the goal, then the process needs to change from one stand alone auto tech pathway to multiple ways to grow through an auto tech pathway. It becomes not just taking auto body tech and welding and art classes separately because those things interest you but finding ways to make connections in those disciplines so you can create your own pathway to the vocation you want to pursue. So the Innovation Hub gives us that space where the disciplines can overlap and those connections can be made.


I want to quickly point out an essential component of the Innovation Hub- Art and Design. Art and Design are the fundamental disciplines that connect all these pathways together. It is the “oxygen” in the Innovation Hub atmosphere that makes everything else work. When you start looking at industrial maintenance, whether it’s auto body, auto tech, carpentry, or welding, there’s an essence of art and design in that.

If you look at IT and what you can do in multimedia- you have to be a visual thinker to see patterns and spot trends. Art lends itself to that.

When you go into engineering and design technology, art and design are a big piece of that. Even in Logistics and Health Science I see connections to Art and Design. In my thinking, Art and Design are ligaments that bind all of these disciplines together.


So as the Innovation Hub allows us to customize educational pathways for students, they become more committed to their education. As they become more committed to their educational path, their odds of success improve, and we move closer to our target of having 100% of our students college and career ready.

In Part Two I’ll talk about how the Innovation Hub will help us reach our other two Student Learning goals, and how the Innovation Hub aligns with the focus area of Engaging Paducah.
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Building A Better Paducah
Posted 11/2/2016 at 5:44:32 PM by Donald Shively [staff member]

At last week’s mayoral candidate forum that was hosted by the PTHS speech and debate team, moderator John Holtgrewe asked a timely question. He noted that PTHS was classified as a “distinguished” school on the Kentucky school report card and that 79% of Tilghman students were college and/or career ready, according to state standards. His question was:

What are your plans to ensure that there will be jobs for the students who stay in Paducah and for those that wish to return after college?”

This is an urgent, highly relevant question. It’s a question addressed not just to our candidates for office, but for every citizen in the region. What are we doing to ensure that there will be jobs for students who stay in Paducah and for those who wish to return here after college?

As mayoral candidate Harless noted, when she moved back to Paducah eight years ago, she found a few jobs, but she went on to say, “when I really got to the point where I knew I wanted to develop my career, I had to start my own business...” She had to do this because the kind of job that fit her knowledge and experience didn’t exist in Paducah.

Paducah is an exporter of talent, and that is not what we want to be. Many of our students go away to school, find jobs in Louisville, Lexington, or Nashville and never return. For many students it’s not because they wouldn’t like to come back. It’s that they can only find secure, good-paying jobs in the larger cities.

At Paducah Public Schools, we want to join community partners in turning that around. We have realized that our mission has not been fulfilled if we provide a quality education to our students but haven’t done our part to provide educational pathways that give them the opportunity to move into good jobs. We want to give the talented students who go through our schools the opportunity to pursue career paths that are a good fit with local businesses. We want to join community partners in creating an economic foundation that allows us to retain and even import talent. If we can achieve this goal, it helps everyone- our businesses, our schools, our churches, and our civic institutions.

Here’s what we’re doing to turn Paducah from being an exporter of talent to being an importer of talent.

  • We have built a strategic plan that’s focused on aligning with local business and industry needs. Our first objective is that every student engage in meaningful and relevant learning that prepares them to pursue college and career aspirations. Another of the objectives of our plan is to have 100% of our students either college or career ready by 2020. Another is to expand our public/private partnerships. Specific strategies for expanding public/private partnerships include aligning our curriculum with workforce needs, partnering with WKCTC and MSU to expand offerings, and making Paducah Middle students “Tilghman Ready” by offering high school courses like Geometry, Spanish and French at the middle school.
  • We are working with CSI to create a computer tech pathway for students who are interested in the fields of coding and computer technology. Mayor Kaler was on target in her response to John’s question when she said, “We have a lot of jobs that we can't fill here in Paducah, so it's very important to bring young people back here, especially in technology jobs.” Many of the available jobs at local companies like CSI, Kalleo, and KEE Force require a specialized knowledge base that is hard to find locally. We are working to build a kindergarten-to-career pathway to provide qualified local applicants for tech sector jobs.
  • Our Health Occupations class in partnership with Baptist Health Paducah is a big step forward in providing real world education for real world jobs. Having our classes at the hospital gives our students the chance to see the healthcare culture and environment, which helps them make informed vocational choices.
  • Paducah Barge is working with us to strengthen our career pathway for students who are interested in the marine industry. We are taking our first step by partnering with Paducah Barge, who is bringing a truckable barge to the PATC so welding students at the Paducah Area Technical center can practice on it.

These examples illustrate how crucial our business partners are in helping Paducah Public Schools achieve the goal of building a better Paducah. We’re constantly grateful for how this community has supported us financially through taxes. I’m asking you to raise the level of commitment to the future of this community by giving your talent and time. Here’s how you can help:

  • Become a business and industry partner. To find out more, contact our Business and Industry Relations Coordinator Monica Bilak at monica.bilak@paducah.kyschools.us
The state slogan for our commonwealth is true: United, we stand. Divided, we fall. Let’s all work together to build a better Paducah.

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All Time Best
Posted 9/19/2016 at 8:37:33 PM by Donald Shively [staff member]
If you are a parent of one of our students, you may have seen a stamp on some of their work. The stamp is our Tornado mascot with the letters, "ATB", which stands for All Time Best. We want our students to be encouraged and motivated every time they exceed their baseline, whether it is an Accelerated Reader test, an Accelerated Math test, or a math fluency test because our goal for each and every student is continuous improvement.

If we are asking our students to strive for continuous improvement, it is imperative that we - faculty, staff, administrators, parents, and community partners - lead the way. This is my 20th year in education, and I am committed to making the 16-17 school year an All Time Best. I have challenged every employee of our school district to make the same commitment.

Is an All Time Best achievable for Paducah Public Schools in 2016-17? I am convinced that the goal is achievable because we're building on the right foundation- relationships.

About a year ago we shared a new vision for Paducah Public Schools. Our vision was "To know each and every student by name and need." But any vision is meaningless if it is not embraced by the entire organization. I was excited to see our vision being lived out when I read a recent story in the Paducah Sun about our district's summer feeding program. One of our food service employees, Danna Myrick, talked about how she believes her work makes a difference for the children she serves.

Mrs. Myrick said, "You know what these kids' stories are, you watch out for them and help them along. I wouldn't ever do anything else; it's what I was called to do. We're keeping in touch with them and letting them know we're not just there during the school year, we're there for them no matter what."

This is a vision that is alive. What I appreciate about Mrs. Myrick's words is that it points us to the essence of our vision. The essence of "knowing each and every child by name and need" is the relationship - building relationships with our students, our families, and our community. I am encouraged that this vision is becoming the heartbeat of our district.

Recently we received a letter from a parent who was asking to transfer their child into our district. When asked to share the reason that they were requesting a transfer, they said “…we feel that our child will be more successful at your school as we appreciate your mission to know each and every child by name and need, which is not something we can expect at a larger school.”

Parents in our community are blessed with educational choices. Students can choose to come to our district, or they can choose to attend a different school. There are lots of options. I believe that when someone is trying to make that decision, they look at us and see 13.3 million dollars in offered scholarships for 183 graduates. They see ACT scores that are the highest we have ever had. They see a College and Career Readiness rate that is the highest we have ever had. They look at our AP passage rate, our Arts offerings, which are second to none, our extra-curricular activities, and our athletics.

All of those factors intrigue them but I don't think that's why they choose Paducah Public Schools. I believe that they choose us because of the relationships. It's the relationships they care about. It's the relationships that they hear about from their friends, their neighbors, and co-workers.

Each of us plays a part in building those relationships, each day, with every conversation and interaction. No matter what our role- whether we drive a bus, sweep the floor, serve a meal, coach a team, or teach a class, it's about the relationships we are building. When this vision is the heartbeat of our district, achieving our mission becomes easy.

You may be wondering why these things matter. Why do we want to build the relationships that flesh out the vision of knowing each and every child by name and need? Yes, we want our students to be successful academically. We want them to be college and career ready. We want them to be well rounded, able to think, problem solve, and work in diverse circles. But beyond the individual student, our greater goal is this: to build a better Paducah.

Our focus is on students, but it's larger than that- it's about how we are building a better Paducah. Many of our students graduate, but they don't stay here. That makes us a huge exporter of talent. We want to change that equation by working together to build the type of community and have the types of jobs that will make our graduates want to return here once they have gone to college.

Our board meetings will be traveling to our schools beginning in September. One of the questions we want to ask you is "How do we align our curriculum with the Paducah workforce needs?" We want to be sure that we are supplying Paducah with students who have the skills and knowledge to join us in the task of building a better Paducah. Please be thinking about this and give us your input. Together, we can build a better Paducah.
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Make Your Mark
Posted 5/27/2016 at 9:37:02 AM by Donald Shively [staff member]

After their last day of school, the PTHS class of 2016 placed a banner in the lobby that proclaimed “We Made Our Mark”- and indeed they have. The class has been offered a record 11.1 million dollars in scholarships and will be attending 39 post-secondary institutions in 20 states. The class includes two National Merit Semifinalists, 1 National Merit Commended student and 16 Advanced Placement Scholars. Eight members of the class have signed college athletic scholarships. We have a girls golf state champion, two members of the All Purchase football team and three members of the All Purchase basketball team in this class.

The sign that the class made reminded me of a valedictorian’s speech at a PTHS commencement a couple of years ago. The student said that his class could lay claim to being the “best class ever” based on their accomplishments. As he was saying this, I could see a distinguished alumnus from an earlier class shaking his head in disagreement.

Which class in the long history of Lincoln High School, Augusta Tilghman and Paducah Tilghman is the best? Certainly each class has its own share of achievements in athletics, academics and the arts during their four years of high school and that is to be applauded. But I think the best way to take the measure of the greatness of a class is not what they accomplish while they are at PTHS, but what they accomplish after they leave PTHS.

When you visit Tilghman, take a moment to walk and look at the portraits of the alumni in the PTHS Hall of Fame. You find alumni who have made their mark in every field. Our alumni include Nobel Prize winners, politicians in the highest levels of government, professional athletes, military officers, and artists who are known world-wide. To walk through the Hall of Fame is to see that the tradition of excellence extends from PTHS and on into the vocational lives of our alumni. Beyond this elite group, there are multitudes of alumni who are a credit to their profession and their community. They are nurses, policemen, teachers, entrepreneurs, and business owners who are actively engaged in the civic, spiritual, and cultural life of the communities where they live.

When Paducah Middle principal Stacey Overlin was addressing the PTHS class of 2020 at their 8th grade promotion ceremony, he explained his preference for using the word “promotion” instead of “graduation” for their celebration. He said graduation wouldn’t happen until they finished four years at Tilghman, but then he went on the say that he hoped that for some of the members of this class that they would not have truly “graduated” until they earned their degrees as medical doctors and professors and lawyers.

It may be helpful, as Mr. Overlin said, to think of each step in our educational path as a “promotion” rather than a “graduation”. Each step of the journey gives each of us the opportunity to pursue excellence, and in doing so to honor our families, our schools, and our communities.

So, PTHS Class of 2016, you’ve made your mark here. But it’s just the first step of the journey. Honor the tradition of excellence that so many alumni have established as they have moved through life and continue making your mark as you move out into the world.

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Paducah Middle Attendance Takes the Lead
Posted 3/30/2016 at 3:50:04 PM by Donald Shively [staff member]

One of the regular parts of our monthly board meeting is the presentation of a traveling trophy to the building with the best attendance. Troy Brock, our Director of Pupil Personnel, keeps the attendance records for the district, so he announces the school with the highest attendance percentage for the month and presents the trophy to the winning school. Typically one of our elementary schools – Morgan, McNabb, or Clark- wins the trophy. However, in October, November, and December a new school- Paducah Middle- broke into the long history of best attendance domination by our elementary schools and won the attendance trophy. And it appears that this is not just an anomaly. For all of our schools, Paducah Middle School currently has the highest percentage attendance for the year at 96.42%.

Believe it or not, the trophy for best attendance is a fierce contest between our principals, so naturally, the question has been why Paducah Middle’s attendance has broken through to the top. I think there are three main elements – atmosphere, academics, and extra-curriculars- that are fueling the rise in attendance.

There have been some fundamental changes to the atmosphere at Paducah Middle. The implementation of “The Leader in Me” program has provided a framework to empower students to help them take charge of their own learning as they learn leadership and life skills. The celebration of “All Time Bests” on an individual, classroom, and school-wide level is encouraging students to strive for continuous, incremental improvement. As they see their own growth, they develop a growth mindset. They begin to believe that intelligence is not fixed, but can be developed. For them school can be an exciting place because it gives them the chance to learn and grow.

Another feature that has contributed to the growth in average attendance at Paducah Middle is in the area of academics. More specifically, we are trying to give students opportunities to accelerate their learning. For instance, eighth grade students can take Spanish 1. Students who want to accelerate in math can take Geometry at PTHS their eighth grade year. This has a dual benefit. It offers more of a challenge to those students who are ready for it, and since they are earning high school credits, it frees up room in their schedule once they get to PTHS so they can take more electives.

A final feature that has contributed to the growth in average attendance at Paducah Middle is extra-curriculars. Like we noted in our cover story on the Paducah Middle band in the last issue of the Blue Line, 44% of the students at Paducah Middle are involved in band or orchestra. Twenty-one members of the Paducah Middle speech team advanced to the state speech tournament. Eleven members of our academic team recently participated in the Governor’s Cup state academic tournament.

 Paducah Middle has gone beyond the traditional extra-curricular offerings this year however, and has required that every student be part of a club and that every adult sponsor a club. As a result, Paducah Middle offers clubs ranging from checkers to frog dissection. This gives our students more opportunities to explore areas of interest and develop deeper relationships with our faculty and staff.

What has contributed to the rise in attendance at Paducah Middle? If you ask me, the key causes are positive changes in atmosphere, academics, and extra-curriculars.  But there’s one more critical element that has fueled the increase in attendance that is the “oxygen” that sustains everything else. We have dedicated teachers that are focused on meeting their students where they are, and we have an innovative and progressive thinking leadership that not only sees what is right in front of them but also keeps on eye on the horizon to see what opportunities are there to continue the mission of knowing each and every child by name and need so that they are “Tilghman ready”. 

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Be The Best Version of You
Posted 1/29/2016 at 5:29:22 PM by Donald Shively [staff member]

Way back in November, before this year’s college basketball season had barely begun, UK basketball coach John Calipari was asked what his message was to his recruiting classes. He said his main message to potential recruits was “Be the best version of you, whatever that looks like.” 

When I heard that, I was struck by how well it fit with our vision. As we have attempted to build a framework that helps us move toward our vision of knowing each and every child by name and need, we have put a process in place. Basically the process is this: we know our students, we know their needs, we meet their needs by taking them as far as we can as quickly as we can, we work as a team, we monitor them and we problem solve together in short cycles.

 

I’ve included a photo that illustrates how this works for our students in Star Reading and Accelerated Math. Periodically, students will chart their latest scores to see how well they did against past performance. If they hit an “all time best” compared to their individual past performance, that’s celebrated. Our students benchmark themselves against themselves. They have a baseline, and every time they do better, we celebrate that. Reflecting on their performance and thinking about how they might do better the next time is also a part of the process, which helps teach them that they are in control of their own learning.

I was recently in a classroom where students were working on their data folders. As the students received their latest result and were charting those scores, one student noted that he was “ten points away from being distinguished”. His teacher noted that that score was really close, and asked him to think about what he might do before next test time to boost that score.

 

This small conversation captures two important features of how data folders help our students be the best version of themselves. First, this process puts students in charge of their own learning. As they take the tests, they begin to see and talk about how they can improve. Second, as they see their progress, students move from having a fixed mindset to having a growth mindset.

 

As I’ve mentioned before, some of our students come to us with a fixed mindset. They believe that intelligence is a fixed trait.  School for them is about judgment and performance.  If schoolwork is difficult or challenging, they conclude that they are struggling because they are not "smart" and give up when they fail at a task because they think they are not good at school.

 Other students have a growth mindset. They believe that intelligence is not fixed, but can be developed. For them school can be an exciting place because it gives them the chance to learn and grow. These students enjoy challenges and respond to failure by working harder or by trying different strategies.

The data folder process helps each and every student see that they can grow. It helps them see that setbacks are not permanent. They begin to understand that what matters is their own incremental progress over time.

 

We believe this process captures our goal for our students: we want them to be the best version of themselves, whatever that looks like.

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Shrek Connects!
Posted 11/19/2015 at 9:00:25 AM by Donald Shively [staff member]

It’s only a few days until the opening of Shrek: The Musical at PTHS! My family and I are excited to see the show. They had a great time at last year’s production of Cinderella and I know that this year’s show will be just as good.

It’s always amazing that all of the different elements of a show- songs, choreography, music, set, and costumes- can come together in such a short amount of time to produce a show of such high quality. 

And it’s the same for the cast and crew- the performing arts like band, choir, and drama have a great ability to bring students from different grades, with different interests and different circles of friends together for the common goal of creating a quality show. Some of those connections will only last as long as the show lasts, but other friendships begun during the show may blossom and continue on through high school and beyond.

 I’ve seen this happen with my nephew. He came to Tilghman from Paducah Middle this year and is a member of the PTHS choir. Choir has given him the opportunity to establish connections with upperclassmen that will support him as he continues at PTHS.

The performing arts have a marvelous potential to connect students with the community and with their school history, too.

A show like this brings in a number of partners and volunteers from the community. From her work as Director of Education at the Carson Center, Tilghman choir booster president Mary Katz brings a wealth of knowledge and skill and is tireless in organizing the marketing and logistics of the production. Director Al Knudsen brings his years of experience with Market House Theatre as he guides the performers. Joshua Wadley, (father of Alec, who plays Shrek) built many of the set pieces. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but I hope you can begin to the see how a production like this fosters meaningful connections between our students and our community partners.

A show like Shrek: The Musical also connects our students and our audiences with a long rich history of musical performances.

While musical productions and concerts have been a part of the history of Paducah Schools since the 1860’s, the staging of musicals flourished under the leadership of Loretta Whitaker Stackhouse, Marsha Beaton, and Art DeWeese. Under the direction of Loretta Stackhouse, PTHS staged musicals in the 60’s and 70’s, including Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music, and West Side Story. Art DeWeese, who directed the vocal music program at Tilghman for 20 years before retiring in 2012, staged top-notch productions of Les Miserables, Jekyll and Hyde, and Fiddler on the Roof.

Please join me this Saturday and Sunday as we have the opportunity to enjoy and support the arts in our schools. Show times are at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, November 21 and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 22. Tickets will be available at the door.

As you enjoy the show, I hope you will take a moment to think about the power of the performing arts to create connections for our kids and to give them the chance to do something that they love. If you have school age children, encourage them to be involved in the arts, and look for ways to support that involvement.

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Above and Beyond
Posted 11/16/2015 at 4:51:52 PM by Donald Shively [staff member]

At Paducah Public Schools we are pursuing the goal of preparing each and every student to be college or career ready upon graduation. Every day I see examples of extraordinary dedication to that mission by our faculty and staff. I want to share one of those stories with you.

Shelley McGregor, one of our chemistry teachers at Paducah Tilghman, welcomed a new child into her family. Shelley planned to take maternity leave following the birth of her son, which meant that she would miss the first nine weeks of the school year.

The plan was for a long-term substitute teacher to fill in for Shelley while she was out, so she began making the lesson plans that would be used during her absence. 

 As Shelley talked with her mentor teacher, Amy Cox, about her leave, they knew that it would be very difficult to find a substitute with a working knowledge of chemistry to teach her classes for nine weeks.  So there was a big problem: if Shelley didn’t come up with a way to effectively teach her students, even though she couldn’t physically be there, they would likely be behind when she returned to the classroom.

 “We started researching what different options were for ‘flipped classrooms’,” Shelley said, “and I knew that I wanted to be able to teach while I wasn’t there. I was able to find that on a Microsoft Surface, you can write and record on PowerPoint. I recorded myself teaching just like I would be in the classroom and saved the video. I uploaded the video to YouTube so students could access it both in the classroom and at home.”

 But the preparation didn’t stop there. Then Shelley put together note packets to go with the videos.  Mr. Owens, Shelley’s substitute, would give the students’ work to her so she could take it home and grade it. Then she gave the work back to Mr. Owens to return to her students.

How did it work out?   Here's what one of one her students, Max Overlin, said.

“We’re not behind at all,” Max said. “You would think that we would be, because Mrs. McGregor wasn’t there the first nine weeks, but since she had put all the lessons together over the summer, it was almost like she was there with us.”

As a former chemistry teacher, I know the difficulty that a teacher faces in helping their students master the material and stay on pace when they must take an extended absence. While Shelley would have fulfilled her duties with less time and effort, she went above and beyond what was expected because she was devoted to the mission. 

Our mission of equipping each and every child for life after high school requires dedication and sacrifice, not only from our teachers and staff, but also from our parents and the citizens of this city and county.  I’m grateful to Shelley for the extraordinary dedication she has shown. Let’s follow her lead in pursuing an extraordinary mission with extraordinary dedication.

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Guest Blog: Palmer Stroup, The Tilghman Bell
Posted 9/28/2015 at 4:32:08 PM by Donald Shively [staff member]
I was glad to have the opportunity to talk with PTHS senior and Bell staff member Palmer Stroup about our vision and mission and why it matters. I know you will appreciate his perspective on the advantages that our district has in building relationships and personalizing education. – D.S.

Shively Updates District Goals
by Palmer Stroup, The Tilghman Bell
September 2015

Superintendent Donald Shively has revised the Vision and Mission statements of the Paducah Public Schools just after completing his first year on the job and as his first major decision of the new school year When asked about why he felt the revision was necessary, Shively replied “As a first year superintendent, I believed that it was essential that our school district develop a stakeholder driven strategic plan. The strategic planning process allowed me to listen and hear what our students, employees, parents, and community want and need our school system to become. Out of the strategic planning process, we developed our new vision and mission.”

Superintendent Shively recently posted in his blog that in this past year the district gathered over 1,600 survey responses from students, parents, and employees. He listened to the business community to get their feedback as well. Shively states, "All of this was done to try to answer one question: how do we design a school system that meets our community’s needs?"

He distilled this feedback into a vision: to know each and every student by name and need. The surveys received stressed the importance of relationships - the relationships of student to teachers, of teachers to parents, of school leaders to community leaders. Shively stated, “Education has always been, and always will be, about relationships with the students that we're serving.”

People outside our district are quick to point it out, but as we go through our school days at PTHS we do not notice nor care that we are one of the most diverse school districts in the state. Our administrators and teachers however are faced with the challenge of how to teach and provide a range of opportunities for students of all incomes, races, and educational levels. The Vision and Mission of the Paducah Public Schools have been revised to address this challenge and build these relationships.

Our district is small enough that our teachers know us by name; even our principals know our name. Teachers you’ve never had for a class know you and speak to you in the hall. Teachers check on your grades or how things are going at home although you may not realize it. We are fortunate because that does not always happen at bigger schools and districts. High schools are mandated by the state to get every high school student prepared for either a career or college by reaching certain benchmarks on standardized tests. But here in Paducah schools, the goal is to also personalize the education of every student. "Students are so much more than just a number based on a test score. We must be focused on developing the entire student! I believe that message is conveyed in our new Vision and Mission." Shively added.

It was certainly time for a change. The previous Mission and Statement of Beliefs were compiled during a strategic planning session in 1991, then were reviewed and confirmed by the Board of Education in 2005. Superintendent Shively recommended this new Vision and Mission to the Board in August 2015 – it was approved unanimously. It is now displayed in all school buildings.
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Laying Foundations
Posted 9/15/2015 at 3:34:20 PM by Donald Shively [staff member]

I want to thank the Carson-Myre foundation for their recent grants to Morgan Elementary and Paducah Middle music to help with the purchase of musical instruments. Their donation is a great example of an important principle: successful learning builds on a foundation. We’ll have to scratch below the surface a little bit to see how the Carson-Myre donation illustrates this principle, but hang with me.

If you've had the opportunity to come to a Tilghman football game, or been part of the Labor Day or 8th of August parades, you've had a chance to hear the Paducah Tilghman Band of Blue. The band's quality musicianship and enthusiasm always adds an extra element of excitement to any event. But this year’s band had its foundation laid many years ago.

First, there’s a community that values the creative arts. You can stand downtown and throw a rock in any direction and hit a building that reflects the priority that we place on the arts, from the Paducah Symphony to The Carson Center to the Yeiser Art Center to the America Quilt Museum to the Paducah School of Art and Design. The Carson Myre grant is a reflection of our community’s willingness to put their money and time into nurturing the creative arts.

Next, there are parent of our students who want their children to participate in band. They encourage their kids to sign up for band, they buy the instruments, they get their kids to practice and they show up at the concerts and performances. 

Next, when our kids enter elementary school, music education is an integral part of the curriculum. We’ve got some of the best elementary music teachers in the state in Kim Davidson, Dale Julian, and Natalie Krupansky. Their dedication to sharing not only the skill of music but also sharing a joy of music lays the basic foundations for understanding music.

So when our students arrive at Paducah Middle School, they have seen the value our community places on the arts. Their parents have shown them the importance of learning music. Their elementary teachers have taught them rudimentary skills and encouraged them to take those skills to the next level by enrolling in band or orchestra at Paducah Middle.

There’s all this momentum behind them pushing them in the direction of continued growth as musicians, and the enrollment numbers reflect that. There are five classes with 212 students in middle school band. There are 50 students in orchestra. With a total enrollment of around 600, that means 44% of our middle school students are involved in band or orchestra.  Under the capable direction of Lindsey Willams and Doug Van Fleet, we get to see the end results of a long process of musical education that reaches maturity as our students progress through Paducah Middle to Paducah Tilghman.

As I’ve said before, our school district is mirror image of our community- a community that values education, extra-curricular activities, and the arts. So the next time you see the Band of Blue, think about all the foundation that’s been laid by our community, our parents, our elementary schools, and our middle school. When we all work together on behalf of our students, great things will happen.

 

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Celebrating Mistakes
Posted 8/31/2015 at 11:00:50 AM by Donald Shively [staff member]

As each new day begins, a question at the front of our teachers' minds is "How can I engage and motivate my students?"

 

I recently read an article titled "Three Ways to Cultivate a Growth Mindset"  by the Stanford University Project for Education Research that Scales (PERTS). It proposes that the way students think about intelligence has an effect on their ability to learn.

 

Some of our students come to us with a fixed mindset. They believe that intelligence is a fixed trait.  School for them is about judgment and performance.  If schoolwork is difficult or challenging, they conclude that they are struggling because they are not "smart" and give up when they fail at a task because they think they are not good at school.

 

Other students have a growth mindset. They believe that intelligence is not fixed, but can be developed. For them school can be an exciting place because it gives them the chance to learn and grow. These students enjoy challenges and respond to failure by working harder or by trying different strategies.

 

As you would expect, students with a growth mindset tend to outperform students with a fixed mindset. Students develop mindsets based on the messages they receive from their environments. So the good news is that research shows that mindsets can be shifted, and when they are, students do better in school.

 

The article goes on to offer three things teachers and parents can do to help students cultivate a growth mindset. They can:

 

1) Teach students that the brain is malleable,

2) Praise the process, not the person, and

3) Celebrate mistakes.

 

I was reminded of the value of celebrating mistakes when I watched a video of students at Clark Elementary learning to skate.  What's great is how the kids respond to the process of learning to skate. Their arms flail as they try to keep balance. They take tiny steps as they try to stay upright and going forward. They fall down.  But they seem to know, almost intuitively, that just because they are not zipping around the gym floor in the first five minutes it doesn't mean that they are "bad skaters" who will never learn to skate. They fall down, they get back up, and they try again. And you can almost literally see the synapses firing and forming new networks as eyesight and muscles learn to coordinate.  And it’s fascinating to watch is how engaged they are in the process.

 

Here's how the article puts it:

Students learn the most when they do challenging work, make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes. Unfortunately, many students think that making a mistake is one of the worst things they can do in school. To help change this attitude, parents and teachers can change the way they talk about and respond to mistakes, and they can show students that they value the learning process over getting the right answer.

Productive struggle- not just repeating careless mistakes but trying to make sense of a problem, exploring different approaches to the problem, asking questions, making educated guesses, and trying out different ideas to move a problem forward - creates an environment where mistakes can be celebrated because they move us closer to the solution.

This is the kind of culture we want in our classrooms, in our school district, in Paducah, and in West Kentucky.

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Investing in Paducah's Future
Posted 8/18/2015 at 10:06:23 AM by Donald Shively [staff member]

This is the time of year when our district looks at our financial status to determine what to ask for in terms of the tax levied on personal property that goes to support our schools.

School boards determine the upcoming year’s tax rates annually. The board usually considers two options: the district can take the compensating rate, which is handed down by the Kentucky Department of Education, or it can take an allowed four percent increase in overall revenue. The compensating rate is the rate that ensures that the district will receive the same amount of revenue as the previous year. The four percent revenue increase seeks to increase total revenues from taxes collected by four percent.

After requesting the compensating rate for 2015, in a working session with the board of education we explored the reasons to take a four percent increase in revenue for 2016. The General Fund tax levied in fiscal year 2015 was 77.1 cents. If the district decides in favor of a four percent increase, the proposed General Fund tax rate would go up to 80 cents. The potential increase would generate additional revenue of $243,365 in 2016. 

That means that for a house that is assessed at $100,000, real property taxes would increase $29 per year, or $2.42 per month. 

The additional revenue, if approved, would be allocated as follows: cost of collections, $20,000; building fund, $15,000; instruction, $168,365; transportation, $20,000; and maintenance of plant, $20,000.

Requesting an increase in revenue is not a step that is taken lightly, because I am aware that it reduces the amount that families in our community have available to spend on their own needs. However, I believe that the revenue increase is an investment by our community that is needed to meet the needs of our students.

State support for local districts has decreased over time, placing the responsibility on local school districts to make up the difference. According to The Council for Better Education (CBE), a consortium of 168 of Kentucky's 173 school districts, funding for Paducah schools is now roughly 54 percent from the state, and 46 percent from local revenues. Only five years ago, the ratio was 61 percent state and 39 percent local.

There have been multiple areas been hit by dwindling support from the state. For example:

·         In 2014-15 the state paid only 59% of the total cost of student transportation. 

·         The state pays for only ½ day of kindergarten. Local districts like ours that choose to offer full day kindergarten were expected to pay costs and salaries associated with that. Additionally, there is a loss of revenue due to the state only funding a half day of kindergarten.

·         The state mandated a pay raise for our employees of two percent in 2015-16, but only funded approximately half of the raise at the state level. The remainder of the money required to provide the raise must be raised at the local level. If you would like to explore the impact of diminished state funding on our local school districts, here is a link to a reprint of the Paducah Sun’s story from March 22, 2015, “Educators, Taxpayers Getting the Squeeze”.

The decrease in state and federal funding is the negative side of the funding equation, but there is a positive side too. We are exploring the possibility of seeking more revenue because we want to expand the opportunities that our students are offered in order to meet their educational needs. As we listened to parents, students, community partners and other stakeholders last year, one of the consistent messages we heard was the need to continue to build and increase the educational offerings we offer our students.

 My son Harper just started kindergarten this week.  In one sense Harper is blank slate as he begins his educational journey. He has arrived at Clark Elementary with innate talent and personality but those talents are latent and they await the right people and opportunities to help them grow and bloom.  And of course there are many skills and areas of knowledge that he needs in order to be a capable adult.

What I want our schools to offer Harper, and to each and every student as they as they progress through our schools, is the opportunity to develop their talents, to cultivate and refine skills, and to explore their interests. Our goal for each and every child is that they find that intersection of talent, skill, and interest that will lead them to success in life.

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Looking Ahead, Part 2
Posted 7/1/2015 at 8:17:59 AM by Donald Shively [staff member]

Recently I gave a speech to the Rotary Club of Paducah. In that speech, I attempted to outline a vision and a plan for the next five years for Paducah Public Schools. I would like to share some of the speech with you as we look toward the 2015-16 school year. In the previous post, Looking Ahead, Part 1, I shared a new vision for Paducah Public Schools. In this post, I want to share a new goal and the vision for a new partnership with our community.

 

The Goal

Our five year goal is to have 100% of the PTHS class of ’20 walk across the stage and be either college or career ready. "College ready" means that a student meets the basic benchmarks in English, reading, and math on the ACT so that when they go to college they don't have to take a remedial class. "Career ready" is a designation for students who take a sequence of at least three classes in an industry area and pass an industry certification test or an occupational skills standards test. This qualifies them to go into the workforce in that area.  In practical terms, it means 100% of our graduates are ready to be productive members of society.

But it is not enough to just have test scores, and I think you know that as employers in our community. We need problem solvers. We need critical thinkers. We need to be able to work in a diverse setting. We need students that can communicate. I think we all can agree on that. It's not enough to just have the test scores. You must have the soft skills as well.

 

A New Partnership

Our goal is for 100% of our students to be college or career ready when they graduate. However, if we don't recruit them back to Paducah after they finish college, we will have met the needs of our students, but not really served the needs of our community. We've got to hold on to that talent, and we've got to make sure that we are feeding it into the businesses that need employees in Paducah and McCracken County. 

Keeping our graduates in Paducah means building community/business partnerships.  We have to maximize the opportunities in this community to connect our students.  We have been discussing future job trends with Paducah Economic Development because we want to change the curriculum at PTHS to be able to flow into those future workforce needs. We want to make sure that we are recruiting middle school students into those curriculum areas at PTHS so that we can meet those future workforce needs. We've got to be able to make those adjustments. Sometimes that's hard to do in public education, because we've got a few laws about what we have to do and how we have to do it. But I have good news: Paducah Public Schools can customize education. We are one of the few districts across the commonwealth that can do this. We have applied for and received a waiver that will allow us to customize education for the senior year for Tilghman students. This gives students the opportunity to do an independent study with partners in our community. If you are college ready going into your senior year (which means you've met the minimum benchmarks) we can waive graduation requirements and completely customize your high school senior year to meet the needs in this community and to get our students connected and engaged.  

For this project we are looking for internships in our business community for our seniors. 

Here’s an example. In February Stan Eckenberg approached me and said "Hey, we really are interested in this (Capstone Project)." And I said, "We've got the waiver. We can make this happen." We are still in the developmental stage, but I want to walk you through what CSI and not only Paducah Public Schools, but also other schools in the area, are working on right now.

CSI has evaluated the curriculum at WKCTC and created pathways to create employees that they need through a two year program. We have the Community Scholarship, so that would be free. Once these students have graduated from WKCTC, CSI wants to offer a CSI academy where for a year they would teach students exactly what they need to be able to work at CSI. CSI is going to guarantee them employment if they complete the academy.  So what we have is an example of a customized pathway to employment from high school through college that's free that our students can take advantage of to start at a good paying job. But what we have to do is align our resources and our community needs.

I ask you as community leaders and business leaders to be thinking about those types of opportunities. There is a huge economic advantage for us aligning our resources and working together on this in the school system and our community.

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Looking Ahead, Part 1
Posted 6/22/2015 at 4:23:39 PM by Donald Shively [staff member]

Recently I gave a speech to the Rotary Club of Paducah. In that speech, I attempted to outline a vision and a plan for the next five years for Paducah Public Schools. I would like to share some of the speech with you as we look toward the 2015-16 school year. In this post, I want to share a new vision for Paducah Public Schools. In the next week’s post, I want to share a new goal and the vision for a new partnership.

D. Shively

The culmination of our relationship with our students is their graduation from Tilghman, and where they go from there. By that standard, we have much to be proud of.    

  • In the last four years, approximately 800 graduates have been offered $20 million dollars in scholarships.
  • In the last four years, 84 students have been recognized as AP scholars.
  • In the last four years, there have been 20 students selected to participate in Governor’s School for Arts. There have been 23 students selected to participate in the Governor’s Scholars program. This year we have our first student selected for the Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs.
  • In the past four years, we have had three National Merit finalists and two National Achievement Scholars.

In this year’s senior class we have a student accepted into New York University to study drama and creative writing. We have a student accepted into the Savannah College of Art and Design for photography. We have a student receiving a full scholarship to Bellarmine University for choir.

The PTHS class of 2015 received $6.8 million dollars in offered scholarships and KEES and will be attending 31 different post-secondary institutions.

But for all these successes, there are many challenges that lie ahead, and there is much to do. The current state of education today is one of constant change and constantly moving targets that we have to meet as a district. With new standards and new accountability standards being implemented every year for several years straight, it is easy to lose focus.

 

To prevent this loss of focus from happening to us, in this past year we completed a strategic planning process that was research based and stakeholder driven.  We gathered over 1,600 surveys from students, from parents, from faculty and staff. We listened to the business community to get their feedback. All of this was done to try to answer one question: how do we craft a school system that meets our community’s needs?

We have distilled all of this feedback into a vision. Our vision is to know each and every student by name and need. The surveys we received stressed the importance of relationships- the relationships of student to teachers, of teachers to parents, of school leaders to community leaders. Education has always been, and always will be, about relationships with the students that we're serving.

To know each and every student by name and need is a great vision, but what does that mean? And what does that mean particularly for our school district, which is one of the most diverse in the commonwealth of Kentucky?

I think the best way to illustrate our vision is to offer some examples from our school system where we see this vision already taking shape.

We had a fourth grade student at McNabb that started out the school year reading at a second grade level. I'm happy to tell you we were successful with this student and they finished the school year reading on a fifth grade level, so we were able to catch this student up on 2 ½ years of reading in the course of one school year.  The path to this student’s success started with the relationship. In technical language, we used

·         research-based instructional strategies,

·         with data driven instructional decisions,

·          coupled with a systematic monitoring process,

·          where we know the student's needs, and

·         we know their learning progression at all times.

We personalized the student’s instruction, then we monitored that short cycle and we problem solved that as a team.

In everyday language, it means:

·          knowing the student,

·         having a relationship with that student,

·         going and meeting that child where they are,

·         taking them as far as possible, as quickly as possible,

·          monitoring that progress consistently, and

·         making sure to problem solve as a team.

That's what we want to happen with students in our district. It’s what we mean when we say we want to know each and every child by name and need.

Here’s an example of a classroom that’s meeting the vision. Mrs. Robert’s kindergarten class at Clark Elementary has 22 students. Out of those 22 students, every single one of them is at the 84th percentile or higher in reading, nationally.  20 out of 22 are at the 90th percentile or higher nationally in reading.  Before you say "Well that's Clark, and that should happen at Clark," I want to tell you that 56% of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch.  What makes the difference? The difference is:

·         there is a teacher that knows each and every child by name,

·         they are meeting their students where they are,

·         they are taking them as far as they can as quickly as they can,

·         the students’ progress is being monitored, and

·         when there’s a problem, they problem solve as a team of kindergarten teachers.

That's meeting that vision.

Here's an example of how a grade level is meeting that vision.

This time last year at Morgan Elementary, 46% of our students in first grade were reading at the 50th percentile or better nationally. We call that "proficient and distinguished" in education terms. This year, 76% of those children in first grade are reading at the 50th percentile or higher nationally. We are seeing very similar results in math in that same grade level, with 77% of the grade at the 50th percentile or higher nationally. How does that happen? We know those kids, we meet their needs, we take them as far as we can as quickly as we can, we work as a team, and we monitor them and problem solve in short cycles.

Here’s an example of how we're meeting the vision as a school. 

At Paducah Middle School, we have Jobs for America's Graduates (JAG).  It is the only JAG program in a middle school in the state of Kentucky. It's targeting at-risk students. It's giving them a mentor. What we have seen this year is that the students in the program have had a 60% increase in their GPA's.  We have seen a 90% decrease in the number of absences and an 80% decrease in the referrals for students in this program. It works because we know each student’s name, we know their need, and we meet that need - it's the same process.

I wish I could say this is happening with every kid, in each classroom, at each grade level, at each school, but we're just getting started. But I'm going to promise that this is going to happen and this is where we are going, because I have a team that is committed to making sure that happens.

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Making Our Schools Talent Incubators
Posted 4/20/2015 at 3:22:07 PM by Donald Shively [staff member]



I'd like to introduce you to some students.  In the top photograph is one of our newest clubs at Clark, the Clark 4-H Speech Club. In the middle photo is, appropriately enough, the Paducah Middle speech team. The bottom photo is of Micheal Hassel, a junior speech team member at Tilghman.

I wanted to introduce these students because they illustrate one of our district’s goals:

  • We are intent on creating a place where each and every student can develop their talents, whatever their talent might be. This district will help you develop what you’re good at, whatever your talent.
  • We want to be a district where students start developing their individual talents early.

Micheal is a junior who has already earned 1,000 National Speech and Debate League points, and he is on track to break the Tilghman record of 1,024 career points. Students like Micheal are the ideal that we have for all of our students. Students like Michael who reach the highest level of performance in their area of interest don't appear overnight, however. Most of them find a talent that they enjoy early in their school careers, and then are given opportunities to develop those talents. This is true whether their talent is in an academic, athletic, or artistic area.

 To continue using speech as an example, the Tilghman speech team was almost dead ten years ago, but Martha Emmons took it over and breathed new life into it.  Now the team regularly draws 50+ students on the speech team, has won the regional tournament three years in a row, and is one of the top ten teams in the state.

The reinvigorated speech team led to the creation of a speech team at Paducah Middle.  This year the team had 14 members, placed third in the region, and qualified every member of the team for the state speech tournament.

As the Paducah Middle speech team has developed, a speech team at Clark has begun. This year, Clark fifth grader Paige Kight decided to participate in the McCracken County 4-H club speech competition. When Clark FRYSC director Robyn West learned of this, she decided to organize a speech club for other students who wanted to compete, and they began meeting after school to practice.  The entire team participated in the 4-H Communications Day competition. Clark 5th grader Cameron Dorris was runner-up in his event and was able to participate in the regional when the first place winner was unable to attend.  Additionally, PT freshman and speech team member Anna Grace McGee was named regional champion and will advance to the state competition.

What has happened in speech is a process we want to see replicated in every area- arts, athletics, and academics. We want to be a district that offers students the opportunity to discover the talents they have been given, and to develop those talents as far as their ability and dedication will take them.

I was a student athlete and chemistry major in college, but in high school I had some artistic ability.  I was able to develop that ability, thanks to four years art classes and the encouragement of teachers like Henrietta Scott.  As it turned out, I won a national award for an art project and was offered an art scholarship, but I’m confident that would not have happened if I had not been part of a school district that gave me the chance to explore that talent.

Beginning next fall, all three of my sons will be attending school in our district. It is exciting to know that regardless of where their talents lie, Paducah Public Schools will help my sons discover and develop their talents to their fullest potential.

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Moving Civics Out of the Classroom and Into the Board Room
Posted 3/30/2015 at 4:29:30 PM by Donald Shively [staff member]

Last week’s conclusion of the 2015 Kentucky legislative session reminded me of the value of citizenship. “Citizenship” is an old-fashioned word that used to show up on report cards, but I believe that the concept of citizenship - that we are all part of a larger community that we have obligations to – is still an important idea.

Citizenship is a concept that we want to not only teach, but practice, in Paducah Public Schools, so it’s been encouraging to see our students and faculty putting “hands and feet” on the concept of citizenship through civic engagement. Here are some recent examples:

  • 115 competitors from Clark Elementary, McNabb Elementary, Paducah Middle, North Marshall Middle, and Paducah Tilghman presented papers, websites, performances, documentaries, exhibits, and elementary projects on March 20 as PTHS hosted the regional National History Day contest, which is sponsored by the Kentucky Junior Historical Society. The projects ranged from a Brothers Grimm game show to a documentary about Copernicus to exhibits about the Paducah Floodwall.
  • Todd Ross, who teaches English and Speech at Tilghman, was one of 11 educators and community leaders who were honored by the office of the Secretary of State for their work to promote civic education and engagement across the Commonwealth.
  • Students from Paducah Public Schools regularly lead the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of meetings of the Paducah City Commission.
  • At the March 16 meeting of the Board of Education, our board members were joined by two students from each of our schools who participated in the Bobby L. Jones Future School Board Members program, which is now in its 15th year.

Bobby Jones was a member of the board when I was a teacher at Paducah Tilghman, and I had his son, Bobby, Jr. as a student, so it was gratifying to talk with the junior board members and answer their questions and see them be part of the meeting.

One of the agenda items at the meeting was proposed changes to the grading scale. While most of the things that our junior board members say at the meeting are planned in advance, Rachel Benzing, a senior at PTHS, offered an unscripted comment when the opportunity came to ask questions and offer input on the proposed change. She said, “I feel like this new grading scale will continue to push kids and all of us will continue that tradition of excellence and work hard, because that’s what our teachers instill in us from the very beginning. It would really help – every point helps – especially for those kids that go the extra mile. I really support it.”

For Rachel to say this about a decision where there were strong opinions both ways was a big encouragement, especially since she was speaking from a student’s perspective. But beyond that, it was reassuring to see her, along with all of the junior board members, be genuinely engaged in an activity like a board meeting that is a basic foundation of civic engagement.

Civic engagement, like so many other forms of learning, should begin early. Our goal is students who not only know “civics” but are “citizens” in the full sense of the word, committed to and working for the good of the communities that they are part of.

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Proposed Changes to the District Grading Scale
Posted 3/17/2015 at 2:46:45 PM by Donald Shively [staff member]

Many of you are aware that we have undertaken a review of the district grading scale over the past nine months. I really appreciate the process we put into place to gather input from our parents and community members. It has been very helpful to hear all sides of the issue as I have met with parents and teachers and listened to your comments and questions in our traveling board meetings.

When I was first approached about changing the district grading scale, I asked two questions:
What is the perfect grading scale for our school district? Under the current grading scale, are students who should be getting A’s receiving A’s? After listening to early input from board members and parents, I felt that we could improve our grading scale. Also, I personally felt that the pass/fail score of 62 should be higher.

As we listened to input, two groups have emerged: there has been a vocal group that has advocated for a “10 point college grading scale”, but there has also been a silent majority that have spoken to me privately asking that the scale not be changed because our graduates have proven to be very successful in college under the current grading scale.

With input from these two groups at opposite ends of the spectrum, I have been trying to marry the tradition of excellence of Paducah Public Schools from the past with the vision and passion I have for our school going forward into the 21st century.

I believe that the current grading scale does have some deficiencies. They include:

·         The 62% pass/fail cut off is too low. My goal as superintendent is to ensure that each and every student graduates from Paducah Public Schools with the skills necessary to be a productive member of society. With our current scale, I believe that students who barely pass every class at 62% will not have the necessary skills to be either college or career ready.

·         The B scale: 93% vs. 84%.  In our current grading scale, both a 93% and 84% are assigned the letter grade of “B”. This letter grade is communicated to the students and parents. At the high school level, a “B” goes on the students’ transcripts. Transcripts are used to communicate student progress to colleges. This letter grade is also assigned the value of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale and is used to determine class rank. I believe that there is a drastically different level of achievement between a 93% and an 84%. However, the two grades are treated the same on student transcripts. What is even worse is that we sometimes have students who have an 86 average half way through a semester do an “opportunity cost analysis” and determine that it is mathematically impossible to obtain a 94 average in the class to get an “A.” The result of that “opportunity cost analysis” is that the students do not try to improve their grade; they just try to maintain it.

·         KEES and PTHS weighted grades: With today’s economy our parents and students need every dollar they can get from the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES) program, so I want to maximize every dollar our students can get from KEES. The KEES system gives students money for their yearly GPAs. It is important to remember that KEES takes weighted grades; thus, we do not want to lose weighted grades at PTHS. (Remember, weighted grades at PTHS are a SBDM decision.)

 

·         P-12 vs. P-20: We need to recognize that our students will have better opportunities in life if they have some post high school training. The P-20 movement recognizes the importance K-12 education and post high school training have in improving communities and local economies.

Here’s the revised scale that I intend to propose to the board of education:

Scale             Weights for PTHS GPAs         AP Weights for 
                                                                        PTHS GPAs*
A+    98-100   4.0                                            5.0
A      94-97     4.0                                            5.0
A-     90-93     3.67                                          4.67
B+    87-89      3.33                                         4.33
B      83-86     3.0                                            4.0
B-     80-82     2.67                                          3.67
C+    77-79     2.33                                          3.33
C      73-76      2.0                                           3.0
C-     70-72     1.67                                          2.67
D+     67-69    1.33                                          1.33
D       65-66     1.0                                            1.0
F        64-0       0.0                                           0.0

*Note: The AP weighting system is a PTHS SBDM decision. This will be my recommendation on how to weight AP classes to Mr. Davis and the PTHS SBDM.

Here is why I believe that this grading scale is what is best for each and every student in Paducah Public Schools:

·         A plus / minus grading scale will better provide feedback to students and parents about their achievement in the class once it is turned into a letter grade. For example: in our current scale – a 93%, an 89%, and an 83% are all given the letter grade of a “B.”   In the proposed scale, a 93% would be an “A-,” an 89% would be a “B+,” and an 83% would be a B. Each one of these would be assigned a different weight to calculate a GPA. 

 

·         The plus / minus system and its weights would reward a student for incremental improvements in achievement. In the current scale, a student with an 85 average would have to improve to a 94% to change their letter grade from a “B” to an “A.” In the proposed scale, the student with an 85 average would be rewarded with a different letter grade if they improve to an 87% (B+), to a 90% (A-) or to the 94% (A). 

 

·         The plus / minus system would allow more differentiation between PTHS seniors when we are using class rank to determine valedictorian, salutatorian, and class rank. I hope that this will alleviate our parents’ frustration with our AP classes at PTHS. The perception of some parents is that there are a couple of classes that only a few students get “As” in so there are not as many valedictorian and salutatorians. 

 

·         The plus / minus system would alleviate some of the frustrations of the “93” students. As an example, on our current grading scale a 93% is assigned a “B” at PTHS which is weighted a 3.0. All A’s and one 93% (B) would result in a 3.86 GPA for the semester. In the proposed scale a 93% is assigned an “A-” which would be weighted a 3.67. All A’s and one 93% (A-) would result in a 3.95 GPA for the semester. Also, this shift will improve the amounts of KEES monies our students are rewarded.


·         With a majority of colleges not taking weighted grades for major college scholarships, the plus / minus version of a traditional college scale actually improves the unweighted GPA significantly. Using this year’s PTHS first semester students’ GPAs as my test, the suggested scale improved weighted GPAs by 0.20 on average for all students, and the unweighted GPAs were improved on average by 0.15 points. Again, this GPA shift will improve the amounts of KEES monies our students are rewarded. 

 

·         For younger students, the expanded A-, B-, and C- ranges will better help them develop their image as a student than the current grading scale. Students start defining themselves as “A” students or “B” students early in their K-12 careers; thus, I think the suggested scale will help our students build a better image of themselves as a student early on. 

I believe this scale perfectly marries the tradition of excellence of Paducah Public Schools’ past with my passion and vision for the district’s future. I ask that you look at the proposed scale, think about it, and give me your thoughts and questions. 

If you would like to see the Powerpoint presentation that I made to the board regarding the proposed change in the grading scale, you can see that here.


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Extracurricular Life Lessons Last
Posted 3/6/2015 at 3:17:01 PM by Donald Shively [staff member]

It's an exciting week for basketball fans at Paducah Tilghman as both the boys' and the girls' basketball teams have earned entry to the regional tournament and have won district championships. Our girl’s team in particular is having a strong season with a 27-2 record, a senior-heavy roster, and KABC Region 1 player of the year Karlee Humphrey and coach of the year Rod Thomas.

It is a lot of fun when a team has a great season like our basketball teams have had, but it gives me an even bigger thrill to see our sports teams and all our extracurricular activities accomplish the larger objectives that contribute to the long-term success of our students: building better people, learning leadership and teamwork skills, and dropout prevention.

 As a former administrator and coach, the way I've always evaluated our extracurricular activities with the question: 'Are we building better people'? Winning is right up there with it, but we want to keep the main goal in focus- building character and skills through participation in sports and other extracurricular activities.

Pew Research Center recently asked a national sample of adults to select among a list of ten skills with this question: “Regardless of whether or not you think these skills are good to have, which ones do you think are most important for children to get ahead in the world today?” Across the board, more respondents said communication skills were most important, followed by reading, math, teamwork, writing and logic.

If you've been part of an extracurricular activity, whether it's a sports team, orchestra, speech, mock trial, or Spanish club, I'm sure you can testify to the value of those activities in teaching teamwork and communication. When you are involved in a group effort like band, you learn to work together, to hold others in your section accountable, and to overcome obstacles in order to make great music. When you play on a sports team and have a loss, you learn to encourage your teammates, to stick together, and to continue to work hard. It's worth noting that the skills they need to succeed are the same, whether a student goes into the workforce, or goes on to college.

 Another essential ingredient that students need for success is obvious: they need to graduate from high school, and continue on with some sort of post secondary training.   One good way to do that, according to a recent study in Social Science Research, is participation in extracurricular activities with peers who are studious. According to the study, participating in any extracurricular activity during high school increased the odds of a student enrolling in college. When paired in those activities with peers who have higher-than-normal grade point averages, students are twice as likely to continue on their academic careers after high school. Our district was one of the first in the state to join the initiative to raise the dropout age to 18, but we want to do more than just force students to stay in school. We want to give them a connection to school that makes them want to be there. Extracurricular activities are one way to achieve that.

So, win or lose, whether you participate in a competitive activity like tennis or a cooperative effort like pep band, the big objective is the same: to keep students in school, to keep them engaged, to give them the opportunity to learn skills like teamwork and communication that will serve them well in life.

I know I'm biased, but in Paducah Public Schools we have a long, outstanding record of being excellent in all our extracurricular activities. We do that because that is what is best for each and every student. We can't do that without the support of our extracurricular activities by friends, family, and community. So thank you, moms and dads who drive your kids to games, to aunts and uncles who come to games, to community friends who come to band performances and plays. Every hour you give to show up at our kids' games and performances, and every dollar you spend to support our kids makes a difference.

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Putting Money Where It Counts
Posted 2/23/2015 at 9:29:08 AM by Donald Shively [staff member]

Sometimes changing the way you do things can help you save money. For instance, you probably know that to maximize the life of your tires you should rotate them every 5,000 miles, but you’ve found that you typically forget to take the car in for a rotation, so the tires get excessive wear, and you have to replace them sooner. So you change the “process” – that is, the way you do things- and put a reminder in your calendar. When your reminder goes off, you set up an appointment to get your tires rotated. This extends their life, and you save money. 

Our district is in the middle of doing the same thing. We are looking at the way we do things in order to reduce waste and inefficiency and thereby save money.

In 2013-14, the Kentucky Association of School Administrators, in partnership with the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), provided two grant opportunities to Kentucky’s school districts. The grants are designed to help school districts gain an understanding of process and performance management (PPM) and how to embed it into school and district operations for cost savings, greater efficiency of resources, and reallocation of funds back to classrooms.

In 2013-14, Paducah Public Schools participated in a Tier 1 Process Leadership Study. This year we are participating in a Tier 2 Comprehensive Improvement Effort. Both tiers were designed to assist school districts in achieving continuous improvement, scaling up benchmarks and best practice in various areas of operations or instruction.

We have received a grant from the Kentucky Association of School Administrators which provides training in process and performance management. We plan to complete four projects with identifiable savings. Those projects include:

·         Increasing the efficiency of the hiring process and reducing errors which cost lost time and wages.

·         Giving more structure to the flow of information from individual schools to public relations so we can prioritize and promote the unique accomplishments and offerings of each school.

·         Improving the work order procedure so work orders are completed quickly and efficiently.

·         Improving how we monitor and analyze student progress to make our classroom instruction as personalized as possible.

There were six school districts that completed projects for the Tier 2 Comprehensive Improvement Effort in 2013-14. The estimated savings from the projects they completed is $1,039, 106. I believe  we can realize savings which will allow us to put more taxpayer dollars into our top priority, which is increased student achievement for each and every student. Beyond that, our goal is to apply the process and performance management methodology to other operational and instructional processes to increase our efficiency and effectiveness.

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Capstone Projects Provide Real World Experience
Posted 2/16/2015 at 12:26:27 PM by Donald Shively [staff member]

PTHS senior Taylor Thompson spends his mornings in the pool and his afternoons at the dentist’s office. It's no surprise that he's at the pool in the morning, since he's headed to the state swim meet and has accepted a swimming scholarship at Lindsey Wilson College. You may be surprised that most afternoons find him at the dentist’s office, however. It's not because he needs a lot of dental work. Taylor is there to learn how a dentist’s office works. While Taylor's eager to be a great swimmer, his ultimate ambition is to be a great dentist.

In pursuit of that goal, Taylor has found a job shadowing experience that gives him practical knowledge on how to run a dentist's office. As Taylor pursues his undergraduate degree and works toward his goal of becoming a DMD, I'm confident that what he’s learning from his job shadowing experience will pay big dividends.

Taylor's experience is an experience that we want to build on and replicate for qualified seniors at Tilghman. If our goal is to help graduates be college and career ready, we believe that offering them practical, real-world experiences in their chosen field is the best way to do that.

Our district has a waiver from the Kentucky Department of Education on the graduation requirements for students who have already reached their ACT benchmarks for College Readiness. This waiver will allow qualified seniors to pursue a "Capstone Project" in place of one or more of their classes.

This project could take one of two forms:

  • Students with a specific vocational interest could participate in an internship at a local business or non-profit. For example, students with an interest in vocal performance might pursue an apprenticeship in music with the Paducah Symphony, or students with an interest in an art form might be mentored by an artist in Lowertown. The internship would then culminate in a project and presentation.

  • Students with an interest that wouldn't work as an internship could design and pursue and independent course of study that would culminate in a project and presentation.

In our recently completed stakeholder survey, we asked students at Tilghman to rank their top five features of a good school. A school that offers career exploration, job shadowing, and internships was second on that survey. When we asked our faculty if they would support efforts to create a Capstone project option for PTHS seniors, 100% voted yes. We are committed to joining with Tilghman faculty and students to create a Capstone option because we want each and every child to be active collaborators in their education, not passive participants.

As we go forward, we will be looking for community partners who can join us in offering these experiences to our students. Last year’s graduates went to 36 different colleges, but most of them will not return to Paducah after graduation. Beyond the obvious educational benefits that they will receive, my hope is that students who participate in Capstone projects will create connections and build relationships that may help in bringing them back to our region after college graduation.


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Growing Future Entrepreneurs
Posted 2/3/2015 at 4:51:04 PM by Donald Shively [staff member]

There was a room full of adults at the McNabb library on January 22 as the Junior Achievement board, along with representatives from US Bank and Paducah Public Schools, met to initiate the Junior Achievement program at McNabb Elementary. But the most important people in the room that day were four second graders: Taeshawn Coffie, Lafredrick Bolen, Terrance Robinson, and Khadence Moore, who represented the students at McNabb who will be the initial participants in Junior Achievement in Paducah Public Schools.

A recent story in the Wall Street Journal titled "Endangered Species: Young U.S. Entrepreneurs" notes that the share of people under the age of 30 who own private businesses has fallen to a 24-year-low. The article notes that this is a worrisome finding because it could lead to a less vibrant U.S. economy, if the trend continues. 

John Davis, faculty chair of the Families in Business Program at Harvard Business School said, “We need startups not only for employment, but also for ideas. It’s part of the vitality of this country to have people starting new businesses and trying new things.”

It’s interesting that we have also seen this concern voiced at our traveling board meetings and in the recent stakeholder surveys that were done with students, parents, and community leaders. When we asked stakeholders to rank the top five knowledge areas and 21st century skills that students needed to be successful, “Consumer and Financial Skills” was ranked fifth by parents, fifth by Paducah Public Schools staff, and third by community members.

We want to reverse this trend, and we believe that programs like Junior Achievement can lead the way. All second and third graders at McNabb will participate in JA this spring. Second grade classes will participate in the "Our Community" program, which offers practical information about businesses and the jobs those businesses offer in a community. Third graders will participate in the JA "Our City" program, which introduces students to the characteristics of cities and how cities are shaped by zoning. As a part of this program, students will learn the role of an entrepreneur by exploring what it takes to open a restaurant. The program will expand to Paducah Tilghman in the fall as students receive the JA "Real Jobs, Real World" program.  Overall, the current plan is to provide 16 programs to reach an estimated 380 students in Paducah Public Schools.

We believe the Junior Achievement can lay a foundation for future entrepreneurs as they move through middle school and high school and have the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities like Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and Governor's School for Entrepreneurs. This training can continue in college with the opportunity to major or minor in entrepreneurship.

The initiation of Junior Achievement in our school district illustrates the importance of school/community partnerships.  While a non-profit like Junior Achievement has great potential to help in the task of preparing students for the 21st century, the financial support and volunteer involvement of business partners like US Bank is essential to provide the program to students.

The WSJ article notes a number of factors that may contribute to the decline of entrepreneurs under the age of 30, but it closed with a simple, but significant factor: the fear of failure.  In an annual survey conducted by Babson College professor Donna Kelley, she notes that more than 41% of 25-to-34-year-old Americans who saw an opportunity to start a business said fear of failure would keep them from doing so, up from 23.9% in 2001. “The fear of failure is the measure we should be most concerned about,” she said. 

Why were our four second graders the most important people in the room on January 22? Because they represent our future entrepreneurs.  When schools, non-profits, and businesses come together to provide training for our future business owners, it is my hope that they will be encouraged to take the risk, knowing that there is a community-wide partnership that stands ready to provide instruction, support, and encouragement.

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School Counselors Light the Way
Posted 1/26/2015 at 4:53:35 PM by Donald Shively [staff member]
If you look on the front of the auditorium at Paducah Tilghman, you’ll see this quote: “Along the winding trail may the light of knowledge brighten our way”. While the goal of Paducah Public Schools is to provide that “lamp” of a quality education that leads students forward, there are many “lamps” who contribute in different ways to the education of our students. Our school counselors are one of those “lamps” that brighten the way.

The role of counseling in a school setting has grown in scope and complexity. The old “guidance counselor” who only arranged schedules and offered some vocational guidance is a thing of the past. Today, school counselors oversee an array of services to help students with their academic, social, and professional development.

Since the job description of a school counselor has grown so much it scope, it is critical that there be enough counselors to serve students, particularly at the high school level. Genevieve Postlethwait’s story in the January 18 issue of the Paducah Sun titled “So many students, so few counselors” illustrates the problem. She points out that while the recommended ratio of students to school counselors is 250 to 1, the national average ratio is 478 students to 1 counselor. The average in Kentucky is slightly better, at 453 to 1, but it is still close to twice the recommended ratio.

At Paducah Tilghman we have two counselors on staff to serve a student population of 845. This is not where we want to be, but we are at work to provide every student with the resources needed to graduate and be successful in work and life. In addition to our counselors Alan Paul and Jonathan Durr,

• Assistant principal Jonathan Smith plans and implements student scheduling and monitors student schedules to ensure that they are earning the credits needed to graduate and getting the help they need if they are struggling in class.

• Assistant principal Alison Stieg works with students who are having behavioral issues to provide the resources they need to stabilize their behavior and return to the classroom.

• College and Career coach Chris Johnson arranges Compass testing (for students who didn’t pass one or more of the benchmarks on ACT), keeps up with data for students regarding test scores and College/Career readiness benchmarks, and works with WKCTC to ensure students are enrolled in the Community Scholarship Program.

• Tornado Alley Family Resource Director Lakilia Bedeau provides programs that promote academic achievement and the physical and mental well-being of at-risk students.

These professionals are working each day to help students chart a course that will lead to success in high school and beyond. If you’re not sure about what services are offered by our school counselors, I would also encourage you to look at the PTHS guidance page.

If you are a parent or guardian, I urge you to be proactive in working with your child as they plan their course work in high school and prepare to transition to college, work, or the military after graduation. Share what you learn with your friends and neighbors who have students in our schools. Let’s all work together to prepare our kids for life.
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Ears Wide Open
Posted 1/13/2015 at 4:34:26 PM by Donald Shively [staff member]

When I began working as an administrator at Paducah Tilghman High School ten years ago, I got some good advice from superintendent Vance Ramage.

He told me, “You make poor decisions from bad information, and you make great decisions from good information, so always make sure you have good information.”  Since I began serving as superintendent, one of my goals has been to listen and gather good information that will help Paducah Public Schools chart a course for the next three to five years.

I’ve made this a priority because I believe that the process to become a school system that meets the diverse needs of children in our community is based on hearing what our faculty, staff, students, parents and community members want from our schools. Our children and what they need from all of us is the common theme that binds us together.

It has been both encouraging and challenging to listen to our stakeholders both through more formal avenues like surveys and traveling board meetings and more informal means like morning coffee with parents and chats with alumni at games and school activities. 

While the questions I am asking may seem time bound and specialized, there is a big overarching question that guides it: What can we do to improve Paducah Public Schools? While I will be doing my best to steer the district as a whole toward continuous improvement, I realize that improvement doesn’t typically happen from massive district - wide changes. Instead, it happens incrementally. It happens when a community member decides to mentor a middle school student. It happens when a teacher spends his Saturday coaching the academic team. It happens when an elementary student works with her parent to make her science project just a little bit better. As we all work together and commit to this effort, I am convinced that our students and schools will improve.

My goal for this blog is that it will be another avenue to help me listen. I will do my best to keep the conversation going by talking about the issues that impact Paducah Public Schools as we move forward. I welcome your replies and questions and hope you feel free to talk with me, whether it’s online or face - to - face.

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