College Readiness

I had that privilege to speak with the team from Schoolinks a few weeks ago about how my school structures our college readiness systems.

College

I wanted to share the podcast with you below, and also thank the people at Schoolinks for inviting me to join them. If you work at the secondary level and have not checked their site out – you should. It is one of the most simple (and powerful) college search platforms available to students.

Check out my podcast interview here.

While you’re at it… be sure to check out Raise.me (and prepare to have your mind blown).

Michael Meechin, M.Ed.
@mikemeechin

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Michael Meechin is a high school principal, writer and speaker. Mike works with schools and districts by providing grassroots professional development, high impact speaking topics, and consulting services on education reform initiatives. For more information check out our Work, or Contact Us.

Shame

Disclaimer:

This is not a political post. This is an “I am passionate about education and kids” post. I am an independent and selfish voter. Meaning I vote based on candidates views on issues important to my life and my family.

I was in my car the other day listening to the White House press briefing from Mick Mulvaney about the proposed budget cuts.

A photo by frank mckenna. unsplash.com/photos/EgB1uSU5tRA

As I was listening to the piece there came a point where I almost drove my vehicle off the road. Mulvaney was speaking about proposed cuts in the HUD Department by way of block grants being defunded.

Block grants are provided to states to fund programs such as school based free meal programs and other services to special citizen groups such as Meals on Wheels. The states decide how to use these block grants; so the federal government’s claim is that they technically are not defunding the programs – but rather the block grants. Spin zone.

Mulvaney said, “They’re supposed to be educational programs, right? Guess what? There’s no demonstrable evidence they’re actually doing that. There’s no demonstrable evidence they’re actually helping results, they’re helping kids do better in school.”

He went on to say, “The way we justified it was: these programs are going to help these kids do better in school and get better jobs. And we can’t prove that that’s happening.”

My mind was blown. Clearly Mulvaney has never set foot in a public school where there are high numbers of students on free and reduced lunch.

Well… I have. I lead one of those schools. I see it every day.

When he spoke about “demonstrable evidence” – I am left to wonder what he is looking for? Did we (the United States) begin feeding students at school because we thought that it was going to increase test scores? (which there is research to back – but I digress)

How about the fact that regardless of test scores – there are students in this country that are fed by our federal government through their public school. For many, this may be the only meal that they get. We are looking at defunding this type of support – because there is no demonstrable evidence that shows it works!?

How about the real fact that millions of students are served each day through our school breakfast, lunch and after-school programs – their only source of food.

I ask Director Mulvaney to really think before he speaks. I would challenge him to visit any of the Title I schools in DC and speak with the students whose only source of food come from those schools. And, I recommend he brings Betsy DeVos along for the visit.

This is an issue that we need to challenge. I would recommend that you call your Representative and/or Senator to ask them to challenge this thinking.

To find your Senator or Representative please visit: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials

To Director Mulvaney… #Shame.

Michael Meechin, M.Ed.
@mikemeechin

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Michael Meechin is a high school principal, writer and speaker. Mike works with schools and districts by providing grassroots professional development, high impact speaking topics, and consulting services on education reform initiatives. For more information check out our Work, or Contact Us.

Failure to Launch

Failure to launch… it’s a complex problem, that can end with catastrophic results.

I have been hooked on these space analogies lately because they seem to fit the education space so well. The concept of “failure to launch” is one that is so real for us in classrooms across this nation.

The disastrous results that are outlined so profoundly in the video above equate to the struggle that many educators, schools, districts, and administrators, like myself, deal with on the regular. #thestruggleisreal

Imagine with me for a moment that our students are the rocket. Schools and districts play the role of design, engineering, manufacture. States and the Federal Government, they are command and control.

When these systems do not work together…

141029045534-nasa-rocket-explodes-on-launch-virginia-00003006-story-top

Disaster.

Mars Ready

Are our systems aligned so that our students are Mars Ready?

I recently was speaking to a group of educators at the Future of Educational Technology Conference (FETC) in Orlando, Florida. During my talk I outlined, as I often do, that our students change by the second. They do that as a form of survival. The world around them changes so quickly that they are forced to adapt.

Sadly, one area that has greatest impact (and on in which they spend a great deal of time) on our children – schooling – has not really experienced major changes.

Lets look at recent history.

The United States launched the Space Shuttle Program into service in the early 1980s. Thousands of technological advancements took place in the decades that the program was in place. After the Program was shut down, private companies, driven by many young innovators, do things like this…

SpaceX… launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral and landed that same first stage rocket back to Cape Canaveral less than 15 minutes later.

My question is – are our schools and districts using systems that are build up the future innovators that will take us to Mars? Or, are we on a path to “failure to launch”?

Is your school or district getting your students #MarsReady?

Our schools and districts need to reflect on how we engage kids; how we immerse them in technology rich, problem-based environments; how we align systems to avoid “failure to launch”.

At the surface, there are easy things that we can do. Like I shared with my friends at FETC we can begin exploring tools that can engage students and help us take them to higher levels.

Check out my 60 Instructional Technologies in 60 Minutes Master List here.

At deeper levels, these questions lead us to a path of reform. A path that will force us to reflect on how we do school.

A path that will prevent “failure to launch”?

Are our students #MarsReady?

mars_2445397b

And… will you help me get us there?

Michael Meechin, M.Ed.
@mikemeechin

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Michael Meechin is a high school principal, writer and speaker. Mike works with schools and districts by providing grassroots professional development, high impact speaking topics, and consulting services on education reform initiatives. For more information check out our Work, or Contact Us.

Why Are You Questioning Me?

Why are you questioning me?

This is the thought that runs through my 1750+ students minds each day as their teachers push them to dig deeper through the line of questioning thrown their direction.

Rigor. Probably one of the most overused terms in the educational arena.

You see, when people talk about rigor in the classroom they often fail to define it. To me it is simple. Rigor can be defined as effective teaching and learning. In my building it means the type of teaching and learning that makes the student’s brains hurt. I want to share with you, as I did with my faculty this past week that getting there – getting to this place of terrorizing student brains – is not that difficult.

It begins with questions.

  • What does an effective question look like?
  • How does an open-ended question have a greater impact on rigor?
  • Why do both the follow-up and persistence of the questions you ask matter?

What Does an Effective Question Look Like?

It is about the hook.

tankman

Take this image from Tiananmen Square, for example. Put this up for students to view and you can begin to dig deep on several elements in the photography – I could ask about the people, the setting, the engagement, etc… The more provocative the image – the better questions you can build.

Some questions I might ask:

  • What is happening in this image?
  • Why do you think someone might do something like you see here?
  • What do you think happens next?
  • If you were there, what do you think you would have seen or heard?
  • Is there anything in your lives that you would stand up for to this degree?

You can lead the students exactly where you want them to go with the line of questioning you ask. This can be done in any subject area as well. I might show an Ebola ravaged village when questioning about cell reproduction in Biology; I might show a Matthew Brady image from the Civil War when directing the Emancipation Proclamation in English; I might show any one of Dan Meyer’s 3 Act Math images in Mathematics.

How Does an Open-Ended Question Have a Greater Impact on Rigor?

Open-ended questions allow us to open up the conversation in the classroom. Sticking with my Tiananmen Square image… lets look at these two questions.

  1. Is the subject of the photo standing up for something?
  2. What are some reasons that you think might make a human being stand in front of an armored tank?

Q1 is simple. The most common answer – Yes. You may get something a little more – but the conversation and answers are likely to be low level and lead to nowheresville.

Q2 will take you to great new heights. Students are going to engage in answers that are going to lead to new questions about the topic. This is the sign that you are asking the right questions and taking students to deeper levels.

Why Do Both the Follow-Up and Persistence of the Questions You Ask Matter?

Do not let students off the hook. When questioning in the classroom – make a habit of asking follow-ups. This is especially true of students that often give the “I don’t know”. Come back to your “I don’t know” students often with follow-ups.

Persistence. Letting students know that they will not ever be let off the hook is essential. Persist with your students – especially those whom are hesitant of answering. Building a culture of comfort and safety when answering questions will also help. If students know that when they enter your classroom that you are persistent – they will be on their toes.

Try these simple strategies when questioning students in your classrooms. I promise that it will push your conversations deeper into content and take students to higher levels of thinking.

Go ahead, make their brains hurt.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
@mikemeechin

For more information about having Mike speak at your school or district, click the “Book Mike” link under Work With Me.

Honored.

Blog has been a little quiet lately. I have been busy handling some changes…

Tonight I was honored to be named Principal of the lowest performing comprehensive high school in Osceola County… on paper. But, my students and staff are anything but. I have 1700 students that, when the bar is raised, will rise to meet and exceed. My staff works long hours educating students on ever changing standards, meanwhile filling in gaps of years worth of knowledge. Lots of people think that they can teach – and the truth is they can’t. It’s not an easy gig. The work we have ahead of us is hard and long – but when complete our students, staff, and school will be all the better for it. 

As for the low performing part – this past year we doubled our FAFSA completion rates, saw a double digit increase in percentage of four year college acceptances, and have students immersed in a college going culture.

I could not be more excited for this journey to begin. It’s going to be hard work, but… It’s what we do.

Thanks to my mom, my wife, Angela Meechin (the best teacher I know) for all her sacrifice for me, and some profound educators that left a mark on me – Wendy Venza, Jane Nagle, William McGuinness, and Katrina Burnot.

Here we go.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
@mikemeechin

For more information about having Mike speak at your school or district, click the “Book Mike” link under Work With Me.

Signing Day

On May 1, my school held one of our most important days of the school year. It was Signing Day.

Many people may say, Signing Day? Did they choose the Gators, Seminoles… who are they playing for? But, I have to stop them. Our Signing Day is not about athletics, but rather academics. May 1st every year is College Decision Day, and we celebrate our Seniors that have been accepted to college or have post-secondary plans.

Signing Day

We are in our second year of this tradition and we doubled the number of acceptances from last year. The process is simple. We invite all of our accepted students to our Signing Day ceremony. There they meet with their peers and we acknowledge each post-secondary institution and those accepted. Students sign a certificate that states their commitment to the importance of post-secondary education.

Each signing we cheer, celebrate, cry, and lift each other up. It has become one of the most important events to me personally. I hope that you can take this idea and bring it to your school. In the meantime, check out my College and Career Counselor, the @theeducounselor on Twitter.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
@mikemeechin

For more information about having Mike speak at your school or district, click the “Book Mike” link under Work With Me.

Research: Grad Rate vs. Fail Rate

I’ll say it. I love grading and assessment. I do. I love it.

I have been wanting for a while to complete some research on grading practices, their impact on failure rates in high schools, and further – how those failure rates impact high school graduation rates. I am preparing for a session for the ASCD National Conference (which I am hoping will be accepted) on my beliefs about how fail rates are an overlooked key data point that can be used to predict high school graduation rates.

But… I need you help (and the help of your network).

Below is a very informal (100% anonymous) research input form. I am not using all of the formalities that you will often see associated with educational research (that will come later). If you are an educational leader or know an educational leader please share this post with them. I need their input.

I am really hoping that ASCD will realize the importance of this data and accept my proposal – I think that this work is so important. If you are able to help, I would greatly appreciate it. The simple form is below.

If you would prefer to share the link please use: http://bit.ly/mcgfailresearch.

Questions? As always you can contact me using the contact information on my site.


Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
@mikemeechin

For more information about having Mike speak at your school or district, click the “Book Mike” link under Work With Me.

Power of Immediate Feedback

The most important support that I can provide to my faculty is feedback. It is essential in all that we do in my building. It is something that I work to do more – provide faculty with quality, timely feedback on what I see in their classrooms.

Like many schools, out leadership team focuses on getting into many classrooms per week. Because time is something that is an issue in every school – we developed a system that we think meets everyone’s needs. We developed a Google Form, which you can see a demo of below. The form is customized to what we need for our teachers, students and school. We love Google Forms for two major reasons:

  1. The form is 100% customizable and can be adapted as our needs change
  2. The analytics and metrics that we receive are invaluable; we can walk classrooms and look at data in our admin meeting the same afternoon

Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 10.28.39 PM

However, we had a major issue. While the administration was getting the data, the teachers were not getting the feedback. We were often having to do additional work by sending an email or typing feedback into our evaluation system to get it to the teacher. This process takes too long and required double the work.

Enter, autoCrat; an add-on that lives in Google Drive.

This add-on takes a feedback form template that we created and merges all of the data from the Google Form right into that document and emails it to us as soon as we click submit. We can then simply forward the email to the teacher of the classroom that we walked and done. Often, the teachers have a PDF document sitting in their inbox before I ever leave the classroom.

It is like magic. You can try it out below. Click the link and complete the Google Form, which is modeled off of the WT protocol that we use in my building. Once you submit, you will receive an email with the PDF feedback form instantly.

Link to Demo Walkthrough Protocol Form: http://bit.ly/demowtprotocol

I work with schools and districts to customize this process to meet their needs and train their administrators on the process. For more info check out: http://www.meechincg.com.

For DIYers, you can check out @principaldurham and his article that details the process here.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
@mikemeechin

For more information about having Mike speak at your school or district, click the “Book Mike” link under Work With Me.

Stop the Cycle

So, as I begin this post, I am still not really sure how I want to craft this entry. However, it has been weighing heavy on me.

I have worked my entire career in schools that serve students of low socioeconomic status and high minority rates. In my more recent role over the past few years in administration, I have spent that time in Title I schools exclusively. I am also a product of a very diverse public education in similar settings.

Public education as a whole is broken. Education is not on the radar of any politician in this country. Let me clarify, I mean really on the radar of any politician in this country. Talking about it from time to time does not cut it. Saying you want improved test scores when you would not last five seconds in front of a classroom full of school-aged children is an empty message.

Public education within underserved communities is even further broken. I have been there. I have been a leader in a building where less than 50% of students graduate on time. Those schools exist. Every day, students, teachers, and administrators serve in these schoolhouses. For many, the process is simply cyclical. Others may from time to time be impacted by a great leader and have a chance to turn it around.

For most, however, the cyclical land of missed opportunity continues day after day. Because I believe that education can set you free – this bothers me.

How will these schools succeed?

I have heard over the past couple of weeks several politicians spout off about school choice. School choice is not how these schools will succeed. It is clear that anyone that would suggest that as an answer does not understand the logistics of schooling. For example, students from low performing school F choose to go to high performing school A. But, high performing school A is at capacity and does not have any remaining seats. So, where do you go from there? Terrible idea.

How about we spend time and money in low performing schools? I caught this tweet over the weekend…

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 10.05.41 PM

How do we make this happen? As a school leader, I try to hire with a purpose. I make it plain that I need educators that want to be at my school. It is not easy, but I need them to want to be there. Highly effective educators and leaders are leaving low performing schools. As @tgrierisd tweeted, “we must stop this cycle”.

If you know any great educators looking to serve in low performing schools please reach out and connect with me. If you have best practices or other strategies about hiring highly effective educators in low performing schools please share them here on this post – I look forward to reading them.

Thank you to all of those who serve in low performing schools and stay committed to those students, schools and communities.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
@mikemeechin

For more information about having Mike speak at your school or district, click the “Book Mike” link under Work With Me.

Teachin’ Ain’t Easy

This thing we do. It ain’t easy.

I am unapologetic about making that statement too.

I believe that education is what sets you free with every fiber of my being. The effective educator pours every thing that have into their students every day they are in the schoolhouse. I know this, because I see it every day in the classrooms of my teachers.

“Those who can’t do, teach.” Remember that.

It is actually quite the opposite. I meet potential candidates every year that are going to light up the world by dropping knowledge on wave after wave of students in their classroom. Those candidates often think that the profession is so easy… “I have a passion for “X” subject,” they say. Then you ask about the craft and they know nothing of the sort. I often know how these conversations end.

#Fail

You know, I was recently at a meeting with a high level District official who made a statement that was profound. He stated, “there are no more career teachers.” I was like – huh? At first, I though my hearing had gone – then I was overcome by anger. I took offense to that comment… great offense. I am a career educator. I am married to a career educator. Many members of my family, many of my friends are all career educators.

But, I thought, is he right?

Look, teaching’ ain’t easy. But, the answer is no. There are so many amazing career educators out there. My Twitter feed if full of passionate educators that live and breathe this craft that we call teaching. We, the career educators, constantly work at the art and the science of educating the masses. Many of us have devoted our lives to this. Many step into classrooms filled with students that are off grade level, have social/emotional issues, come from broken homes, and on and on and on.

These students need us. They need career educators. They need us to be there so they can go on to graduate and set themselves free of the chains that bound them. Education, and more importantly the career educator, has set them free.

We need career educators. I encourage you to talk to young people, talk to those students in your classrooms each day, talk to those potential career educators. We are the disciples for this profession and we need to encourage those that can do – to teach.

Reach out today and have that conversation. I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic… be sure to include me in on the conversation on Twitter @mikemeechin, #careereducator.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
@mikemeechin

For more information about having Mike speak at your school or district, click the “Book Mike” link under Work With Me.