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District Day



Welcoming our teaching staff back to school each August is one of our favorite days! District leaders take the opportunity to celebrate and share our vision for the upcoming school year with our staff. Dr. Pedro Noguera joined us at a Community Breakfast and then with teaching staff to share his work around equity in schools and communities to help us fulfill our mission statement of "ensuring the equity of all students achieving at high levels." Our leadership team also revealed the Theory of Action to unite our work: "If we are relentless in our pursuit of of creating schools that engage students in learning that is authentic, deep, irresistible and exciting, then we will succeed in preparing all students for success in the innovation era and success in life."

Transcript for Video:
[music with clips from Community Breakfast]

Nancy Merrill, School Board Vice President
You nurtured and helped make that happen. So I want to say thank you to you and how important you are. And the ripple effects that you will never always know, but it's incredibly important. So thank you for being here this morning. Welcome to your new school year, and especially welcome to new teachers out there.

Keri Marquand, Student Support Services Director
According to a Gallup Poll, the percentage of students that are engaged in school goes down every year. Just imagine if we could turn this graph upside down and see our students more engaged every year that they are in school instead of less.

Dr. Pedro Noguera
And I want to say that many of the comments and themes that were already raised certainly resonate with me as if we planned this together because I think that you are going to find that my message is very aligned with what the district is encouraging you to think about for the year. A lot of what we've been doing hasn't been working. How often at the end of the day do your students tell you I was inspired? You ever meet people who say they are really good, but they are only good at helping kids who don't need much help? Like going to a doctor who's good for healthy people, right? Not that helpful.

Jill Burnes, Teaching and Learning Director
We really hope that at the end of today you as an adult in our system have experienced some deep, irresistible, exciting and authentic learning for yourself as well. We really need to take a good hard look at what kinds of people and what kinds of skills are needed for this extraordinary technologically advanced society that we are living in.

Dr. Pedro Noguera
You have the power when the classroom door closes. How do you use that power? The alternative to focusing on achievement, and you've been given license from your district leadership saying: look, we're not going to be fixated on test scores. And I'm glad to hear it. We should be concerned about outcomes -- grades, test scores, college graduation rates. If you wanted to lose weight, would you go out and get yourself a really good scale and weigh yourself as often as possible? Or would you focus on diet and exercise? Well in education we've been focused on the scale and we forgot all about how to get kids excited about learning.

Mike Nelson, Superintendent
We've kept the same four initiatives from Whole Child, System Capacity, Tiered System, and Instructional Improvement, but the piece that you'll see that's different is that gray block that you probably can't read in the middle. Authentic, deep, irresistible and exciting learning. In many of the areas we are five or more percentage points above the state average because of the work that you're doing.

Dr. Pedro Noguera
I'm going to say right now that one of the problems in many of our schools is that we don't teach kids the way they learn. We expect them to learn the way we teach. If they can't do it, we blame them. If we taught them the way they learn, learning would look different. Teaching would look different. How does a student or child learn to play a video game? Who has ever played a video game? Are they going to download a lecture first? They try it. They learn by doing. How often in your classrooms do kids learn by doing?

Chris Beals, Deputy Superintendent
How about these three -- Facebook, YouTube, Twitter? So as we think about kind of the work that has happened in our educational world, and the social changes that have occurred, and then also look at the technological advancements, it leaves us wonder, so what? What does it all mean for students? What experience does that put them into?

Dr. Pedro Noguera
If they struggle they can go on YouTube to get lessons on how to play that game. They can call a friend. Some classrooms that is cheating. Kids learn through collaboration. They learn by asking questions. They learn through mistakes. When you're playing that game, you make lots of mistakes. You die occasionally. But you get to come back. Is your classroom a place where it's safe to make mistakes? Will we actually invite their questions? Because what we know is that education can be powerful. So powerful it can change a person's life. And so since you've signed up for yet another year, make this be the year where we make more of a difference for a greater number of kids. I wish you all the very best on your journey. Thank you. [applause]