Gems Computer Science Camp for Girls

From Heather Zike at @IllinoisCS:

 

For the first time ever we will be offering our camp to females in high school.  This camp will be for two weeks so that they will be able to work in more depth with a CS counselors on a project.  We know high schoolers have busy schedules and they do not have to commit to all day every day.  Once they register they can come during our open hours.

 

We have 4 themes for our middle schoolers, girls going into 6th, 7th or 8th grade.

Those themes are: Game Design, CS & the Environment, Wearable Computing, CS & the Arts

Students should rank in order of which camps is their top priority.  We may not be able to accommodate every student into all camps requested.  Themes might be the same or similar to past years, but it is a new curriculum that is developed each summer.

 

To apply and find out additional information please go to our website: http://cs.illinois.edu/cs-illinois-k-12-outreach-programs/gems-computer-science-camp-girls

 

 

Follow our Facebook for current info.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/210233006027957/

 

We are also hoping to create more outreach opportunities within our community.  If you school or organization would like to work with us or would like help planing something CS related for the next school year please feel to contact us.

http://cs.illinois.edu/outreach

Finding the good: the many names of social justice

I found this post hard to write because there is so much awesome wrapped up in the broad label of “social justice” that it is hard to convey a sense of scope while trying to provide some details as well. And perhaps most vexing is how to convey why exactly I think “social justice” should be viewed by the community as an extremely high priority.

 

I’ll cut right to the chase – each of these efforts give an example of what a child-centered approach looks like. In my opinion, if public education is not child-centered, it has no place being funded by the public. Or in other words, you and I are are throwing our money out the window if it does not benefit the whole child, every child. I’ll come back to that.

 

In a Feb 19th U4 Board Corner post, Kathy Richards shed a little light on the social justice efforts going on within Unit 4, specifically focusing on the English learners of very diverse backgrounds. Ms. Richards closed by talking about the Social Justice Initiative; let me quote from the webpage:

During the 2012-2013 school year the social justice committee focused on learning about social justice by studying relevant literature and engaging in collaborative learning sessions. The committee generated a definition of social justice and a social justice framework for our district. Having met the two goals of creating the definition and framework, the planning group now provides professional development and project opportunities via social justice seminars and topic specific task forces.

At the February 8th BOE meeting, Dr. Wiegand and Dr. Taylor presented on the state of the high school curriculum; starting with page (slide) 35, they cover other social justice initiatives and partnerships (like “Culturally Responsive Education”, aka CRE), followed by this list of “action groups” on page 37:

  • Special Education Action Group
  • English Language Learners Action Group
  • LGBTQ Action Group
  • Homeless Action Group
  • Social Justice Educators’ Collaborative
  • RISE – Racial Identity Student Experience
  • Choose Kindness and Real Talks

 

We have some really amazing staff involved in these efforts. I have had the honor and privilege of meeting some of them and sitting in classrooms – I hope to spend more time learning about these action groups. Since many of these groups are student-organized and student-led, they don’t just allow any stranger (or blogger for that matter) to sit in, so it might be a while. *grin* I love it that students are taking these responsibilities seriously, and that the staff sees the vital importance of student voice and provide for these spaces to happen. That just blows my mind.

 

I’ll let another little secret out as well. Those that are following along with CTRL-Shift (notice the nice NSF grant they recently won?), it might be easy to get distracted by the focus in technology. I might be going out on a limb here, but I don’t think computers were ever the main focus of this group; instead, they strive to empower learners, regardless of finances or ability, by giving them the computational skills to tackle problems. I believe the “shift” is away from teachers monologuing to students, and instead providing a path where teachers transition to facilitators and create environments of student inquiry.

 

Which is a very common theme when I talk to teachers involved in social justice as well. Each of these adults realizes the importance of truly listening to the kids, of trying to learn from the child. I paid a visit to a local Montessori school, and was pleasantly surprised to learn that this is essentially the magic sauce behind what makes Montessori so attractive (there are other details the flow out of this methodology).

 

At this point in time, I feel strongly that as we look to hiring a new superintendent in 2017, one key priority of this new superintendent should be to maintain (the current efforts) and enhance (where we are lacking) a district-wide atmosphere of student-cenetered learning. And unfortunately for the folks at Pearson, this means we should turn away from standardized testing in bulk as a means of assessment; too much of what we currently do is adult-centered, and it is making me sick.

 

It doesn’t matter if you use words like “social justice”, the bottom line is that we are talking about people, not numbers. And young people at that. People with lives, backgrounds, personalities and gifts. We have a moral obligation to ensure that these young people (every single one of them, not just the privieleged) have an nurturing environment that promotes success at life. It comes down to relationships, of getting to know other people, and other people’s children, enough that you can care about them.

 

It’s easy to not care. But it is expensive.

 

UPDATE:

“Tell me the truth! If you cannot tell me the truth, we cannot trust each other. If we cannot trust each other, we cannot have a relationship. If we do not have a relationship, we have nothing.”

— Dr. Joy DeGruy “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome

 

PS

Some things that have influenced my thinking:

  • Ted Dintersmith and Tony Wagner “Most likely to succeed”
  • Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish “How to listen so kids will talk and talk so kids will listen”
  • Nikhil Goyal “One size does not fit all”
  • Jose Vilton “This is not a test”
  • Edna Olive “Positive Behavior Facilitation”
  • Trevor Eissler “Montessori Madness”

 

School district report card

At the Jan 11th BOE meeting, Dr. Wiegand presented the district report card (an annual event). The report card is available in several places, but the one submitted to ISBE can be found on ISBE’s website:
http://webprod.isbe.net/ereportcard/publicsite/getReport.aspx?year=2015&code=090100040_e.pdf

Additionally, Dr. Wiegand shares a little more on the district website:
http://www.champaignschools.org/pages/district/district-report-cards

 

I asked a few questions on the U4 Board Corner prior to the meeting, most of which were addressed during the Jan 11th meeting. My goals in “sharing back” here are:

  1. report on the public answers made at the board meeting (since they are not explicitly documented, one would have to watch the entire video otherwise)
  2. provide a little heads-up for the Feb 8th BOE meeting
  3. show you how you can engage the board with your own questions, and listen for answers:)

 

Note: the number in parenthesis denote how far into the video I found these items.

And a caveat: if you disagree with my interpretations below, feel free to leave a comment. Especially if I made a factual error – I would appreciate having that cleared up ASAP.

 

Question 2

According to page 1, the district has a higher school dropout rate, higher chronic truancy rate and a lower attendance rate than the state average; what can we do about those stats? (My question was a bit more oblique when I first posed it)

Answer

(43:58) Dr. Wiegand addressed the high rate of mobility and poverty, saying that these are certainly areas of concern that affect how the district responds and supports such situations. I did not hear anything about dropouts, truancy or attendance, however.

 

Question 3

How is it that we have 100% parental contact?

Answer

(44:38) It comes down to how “parental contact” is defined. The ISBE says that any type of communication, including any type of mailing or flyer sent home in backpacks, can be considered “parental contact”.
I would love to see us break that down an aim a little higher. For instance, what if we define parental contact as a phone call or face-to-face visit?

 

Question 4

I asked several questions about how much time we actually devote to teaching subject matters. I note that most of our high school periods are 47 minutes long, but everyone know you don’t teach every single second of the period.:) I am also curious about how much time is taken out for test prep and administration. (for a related but different can of worms, I am not a fan of how we do testing at all)

Answer

(45:20) Again, it comes down to what ISBE defines as time spent teaching, and apparently for the sake of consistency, it is purely by bell schedule.

 

Question 5

I asked several questions about the budget, specifically why we spend more on Operation than Instruction, and why we have a $8+ million Debt Service.

Answer

(47:47) I appreciated that both Dr. Wiegand and Mr. Lockman took the time to delve into this a little more. According to Mr. Lockman, “the devil is in the details.” Apparently, due to the district-wide Schools of Choice system for grades K-8, we have a larger-than-average bill to foot for transportation costs (Operational budget).  We also have a number of service professionals that have instructional capacities but are listed under the Operation category, such as librarians, social workers, psychologists, etc. And lastly, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that a bulk of the Debt Service ($7 million) is actually covered by the 1-percent Sales Tax, and our property taxes cover the rest (roughly $1.6 million). Of course, the obvious downside is that all the 1-percent money is tied up until 2025, affecting the conversation about the future referendum and how we do Capital expenditures.

 

Question 6

I asked about this strange thing called a “5-year graduation rate”, since our high schools are grades 9-12 (four years).

Answer

(53:12) Dr. Taylor responded that we have contingency plans and intentional support for two groups of students, 1) those with IEP plans that need to take things a little slower, and 2) those are highly mobile and enter (or re-enter) the system needing some remedial work to catch up. I found it interesting that Dr. Taylor would not provide raw numbers, even though Dr. Wiegand was kind enough to ask.:)

 

Question 7

I asked what the PARCC results really meant, since they show that the average school in Illinois has about 60% (or more) students not meeting expectations.

Question 8

And finally, what are going to do with all this information moving forward? What are we working on this coming year?

Answer to both

(55:50) I appreciate that Dr. Wiegand suggested to the board that there be a more in-depth reaction to the PARCC results at the February 8th BOE meeting. Dr. Wiegand has also indicated that she will be providing a report of Superintendent Goals to the Board in the near future (she did not specify a date, but I wonder if maybe we will see some of that on Feb 8th). I look forward to learning more on the 8th.

School Board member applications

The school board is hoping to receive a large number of applications to fill a current vacancy on the school board. I would encourage you to consider this opportunity, especially since now is an excellent time to be a part of the board. Most notably, there is already an excellent cast of characters on the school, so you would be joining a synergistic team.

 

Applications are due this Wednesday (January 27th). For more information, read the Unit 4’s news item:
http://www.champaignschools.org/news-room/article/12101

 

If you have any questions, I implore you to ask.

 

Update: Here are the applications of the eight that were selected to be interviewed on Feb 1st:

G. David Frye: http://www.boarddocs.com/il/champil/Board.nsf/files/A6KMD654E1B8/$file/Frye.pdf
Virginia Holder: http://www.boarddocs.com/il/champil/Board.nsf/files/A6KMEJ54F88F/$file/Virginia%20Holder.pdf
Holly Wilper: http://www.boarddocs.com/il/champil/Board.nsf/files/A6KMJ5552469/$file/Holly%20Wilper.pdf
Heather Vazquez: http://www.boarddocs.com/il/champil/Board.nsf/files/A6KLPH552738/$file/Heather%20Vazquez.pdf
Jamar Brown: http://www.boarddocs.com/il/champil/Board.nsf/files/A6KPEG5B2F78/$file/Jamar%20Brown.pdf
Marisela Orozco: http://www.boarddocs.com/il/champil/Board.nsf/files/A6KPEY5B39AC/$file/Marisela%20Orozco.pdf
Gianina Baker: http://www.boarddocs.com/il/champil/Board.nsf/files/A6KT3575549C/$file/Gianina%20Baker.pdf
Bruce Brown: http://www.boarddocs.com/il/champil/Board.nsf/files/A6KUE97BA989/$file/Bruce%20Brown.pdf

 

UPDATE 2:

The video of the candidate “forum” is on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/153915577

 

UPDATE 3:

From the vimeo video, I have extracted the 7 questions that were asked of all the board member candidates, including timestamps of each section. I also took note of when Ms. Gianina Baker responded, since she was awarded the position; it is not my intent to sleight the other remarkable responses, I just have not yet bookmarked them all.

 

Opening Statements
Begin: 18:37   Baker: 18:37

Question 1: As a member of the board of education, you will be a representative of the community. How do you plan to communicate with various groups within the Unit 4 community?
Begin: 31:41  Baker: 41:08

Question 2: Expulsions ultimately rest on the shoulders of the BOE. What do you see as a strength and a weakness for you in this area?
Begin: 42:36  Baker: 50:15

Question 3: Please share what your experience and familiarity related to Unit 4 and the consent decree.
Begin: 54:10  Baker 1:02:11

Question 4: Please share what has been your level of involvement in community-based organizations.
Begin: 1:07:38  Baker: 1:13:49

Question 5: One hallmark of a successful school board is the ability to distinguish between board work and staff work. Please describe what this means to you.
Begin: 1:27:42  Baker: 1:30:16

Question 6: Do you support collective bargaining rights? Please explain why or why not.
Begin: 1:35:34  Baker: 1:37:26

Question 7: Describe the ideal relationship between the community, board, the administrations, and the union(s).
Begin: 1:44:45  Baker: 1:44:58

Closing remarks
Begin: 1:55:10  Baker: 2:04:33

 

 

#EdCampCU 1.30.16

edcamp2015

Photo from EdCampCU
September 2015

http://edcampcu.weebly.com/
 

WHAT IS AN EDCAMPCU?

http://edcampcu.weebly.com/what-is-an-edcamp.html

 

WHO SHOULD COME TO EDCAMPCU?

EdCampCU is a place for teachers, pre-service teachers, administrators, community members, university students and faculty, high school and middle school students, as well as anyone else who is interested in talking and learning about education and ed innovation. EdCampCU is free professional development for you, by you.

 

WHERE IS EDCAMPCU

EdCampCU will be held at the University of Illinois
College of Education

1310 South Sixth St.
Champaign, IL 61821

 

Folks will start gathering at 8, the fun starts at 8:30. Coffee will be provided – courtesy of Mid-Illinois Computing Educators (MICE). There will be bagels and light pastries from Pekara as well.

I’ll see you there.

Posted in Community. Tags: . 1 Comment »

Another HS referendum option to consider

The details are not yet public, but according to the agenda published by Unit 4, it looks like the board is chewing on an another option for the voting public (and the newly formed Special Board Committee to Develop Facility Plan) to consider: refurbishing and expanding Central HS at its current location.

 

Please note that none of these details are set in stone by any means; they are just ideas, options for us all to consider. Board President Chris Kloeppel mentioned to me that he talked to several land owners in the area around Central, and to his surprise found that with only a few willing sellers, Unit 4 could easily expand the footprint of Central to the north, with cooperation and blessings from the City to close off Park Street and maybe even create a foot bridge over Church Street. This certainly opens up a number of ideas in regards to what can be done at the existing location, and keeps the Interstate Drive area essentially as a land-bank, or even possibly as one way to consolidate outdoor facilities for Central. Again, just ideas. Hopefully a map will be made available soon. And I expect Nicole Lafond and others will be getting a word in with Mr. Kloeppel as well. (UPDATE: Lafond’s article is now online: http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2016-01-23/new-options-agenda.html)

 

I am lead to believe that the Board and Unit 4 administration have been approaching this carefully and ethically, talking to interested parties and addressing legal issues with the intent of making this option public at the Jan 25th Board meeting. As such, I believe that steps have been taken to legally secure an agreement with some of the various landowners in the suggested area. In fact, look at the Jan 25 agenda items:

D. Approval of Real Estate Purchase Contract – 711 Sherwood Terrace: Tom Lockman 

 

E. Approval of Real Estate Option Agreement – 603 W. Church Street, 606 W. Park Street, 201 N. Lynn Street, and 203 N. Lynn Street: Tom Lockman 

 

F. Approval of Real Estate Option Agreement – 605 W. Hill Street and 602 W. Church Street: Tom Lockman  

 

G. Approval of Real Estate Option Agreement – 500 W. Church Street and 606 W. Church Street: Tom Lockman   

 

In the end, the district has a strong desire to address the very serious and real needs of the physical buildings; the whole maintenance issue has been “kicked down the road” for far too long, and now the price of fixing buildings has snowballed. There is also an oft-repeated need for “capacity planning”, and we have frequently been told of the dire need to create more learning spaces as we are currently over capacity in our high schools, and quickly nearing capacity in other buildings. It seems like such an option is meant as a way to address all these concerns and make a future referendum more acceptable to voters.

 

One thing I hear others asking, which I would ask myself, is “what is the plan to make sure we don’t end up in this position again?” What are we going to do differently so that maintenance is not deferred to such an extreme in the future? It would be my expectation that the new special board facility committee will tackle that one.

 

UPDATE: According to twitter, Nicole’s article about this new option is on the front page of Saturday’s paper. It is not yet online.

Kenwood presentations

I had the opportunity to contribute (in an exceptionally small way) towards the work of an University class on Advertising that focused on Kenwood. I also received some of the cool products they generated, and am excited to share them.

 

PistolShrimp-KenwoodCampaign

Veer-KenwoodCampaign

TheAgency-KenwoodCampaign

FRESH-KenwoodCampaign

Posted in Community. Tags: . 2 Comments »
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 219 other followers