The past three days I attended the Forum for Western Pennsylvania Superintendents. The Forum is housed in the University Of Pittsburgh. The Forum meets twice a year and provides the best professional development for superintendents that I have experienced. This year we conducted a simulation to create our own society. I was in a group that had no money, jobs, or ability to travel. For each one hour session our group concentrated so hard on just making sure we had a "subsistence ticket" so we would not "die", that we never managed to accumulate any money or assets. I learned how hopeless one can become when the "game" is stacked against you and there is no way that you can win. I realize that there are students and parents that experience the same thing because the game of life may be stacked against them. I can't say that I understand what they go through day in and day out in their life just because I was in a simulation, but I sure have a different perspective now. The school system must be a place where transparency is obvious and people have the information to make decisions for their lives. I hope Ridgway Area School District can move closer to this ideal.
I had an interesting discussion with a young woman that was helping me by a new cell phone. She was talking about the differences in schooling between the United States and New Zealand. She spent some time going to high school in New Zealand and I think she had some interesting insights. Her number one insight was that school s in New Zealand (at least the one that she attended) graded VERY HARD. She told me that her school over there did not believe that students should receive an "a" unless they were truly working hard and an outstanding student. Interesting… I know that we hear about our education in the United States that there is a lot of "grade inflation". Tackling that issue is complicated. Our school district is starting to look at our grading system both at the school and teacher level. The insights gained are starting to bear some from fruit. How to grade homework is one example of a discussion that was started because the teachers started to examine grading.