Learning at MESPA Winter Institute 2014

Last spring I was elected President-Elect of MESPA, the Minnesota Elementary School Principals Association. Last week I attended the MESPA Winter Institute for the 15th time as an elementary principal, my first in this new leadership role. Being out of the building is not always easy but Rice Lake has a great team who manage in my absence and the professional learning I received from Institute was phenomenal. I attended three inspiring keynote sessions, five informative breakout sessions, one board of directors meeting, an institute orientation to interact with first-time attendees, the yearly general membership meeting, an amazing awards banquet honoring the accomplishments of colleagues, and two networking receptions. I have to say this Winter Institute was the most engaging, informative, applicable, and motivating MESPA conference I have attended.

Some of my learning from the keynote and breakout sessions was on how “gaming” strategies can be used to engage our students, how important I am in affecting the culture of my school, how I need to share the successes and challenges with our elected officials, supporting and acknowledging the wonderful staff members we have, how to increase math achievement through teaching and learning strategies, how to honor and recognize the accomplishments of our school, how to use Twitter for communication and professional development and, probably the most exciting for me, how to use a new technology that supports augmented reality (a new term for me). I am working on a special staff project which I soon hope to unveil my learning on augmented reality.

I appreciate the opportunity to continue to grow and develop as a leader and learner and my desire is to bring that learning and passion back to Rice Lake to inspire staff members and students to achieve their dreams, contribute to community, and engage in a lifetime of learning.

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Conferences, Assessments, and Testing

This evening is the first of our three K-6 conference nights. This is a great time to do a mid-year check with families to share academic and social progress. Teachers gather and collect data on how their students are achieving regularly throughout the year. They assess their students to evaluate instruction, implement interventions, monitor progress, and provide feedback.

This is also the time of year we engage with practice assessments. Our students in grades 3-6 have been working hard on the Optional Local Purpose Assessment (OLPA) test of math, a practice for the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA). Students in grades 2-6 are also working on the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) in reading and math, a nationally normed test of the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA). Students will take the final versions of the MCA and MAP from March 10-May 30.

The assessments that teachers administer and the testing that we implement give us a good picture of how each individual child is progressing and achieving. This also helps teachers when it is time to record how students are doing in our Standards Based Grading (SBG) environment. We know what each child’s strengths and growth areas are so we can adjust curriculum and instruction accordingly.

It may seem like we are assessing and evaluating students a lot (we are) but this data helps us make sure we are meeting the needs of each and every student and making the best decisions for staffing, resources, scheduling, curriculum, and instruction.