Character Education Counts!

October 21-27 is National Character Counts Week

This is a fantastic time to increase our awareness of best practices for developing positive relationships and  promoting a positive school culture.

During our annual CAMLE Schools to Watch Conference, held on Saturday, November 3, Russell Middle School will be presenting a session on Unleashing Student Performance by Improving Attitude and EffortRussell Middle School was designated as a National School of Character in 2012.

According to the Character Education Partnership, comprehensive Character Education addresses many tough issues in education while developing a positive school climate. Schools that focus on character are able to transform their school cultures, reduce discipline referrals, increase academic achievement for all learners, develop global citizens, and improve job satisfaction and retention among teachers. Character education includes a broad range of educational approaches such as whole child education, service learning, social-emotional learning, and civic education. All share the goal of  helping young people become responsible, caring, and contributing citizens.

Learn more about Russell’s innovative approach to support character education at the CAMLE Conference.

Register online!

Smart Phones in the Band Room? Why Not!

CAMLE Annual Schools to Watch Conference

Stuart Middle School ~ Commerce City
Saturday, November 3


Over 35 Sessions!  Here is Just One Sample!

Session Presenter: Wayne Hoey, Jenkins Middle School

Session Title:  Smart Phones In The Band Room?…Why Not!

Session Description: Is your school struggling with a policy prohibiting students the use of smart phones and iPods and at the same time feeling the push to incorporate technology in your classroom? Why can’t we teach students using the mediums most comfortable to this generation? Many of today’s electronic devices have apps to make life’s chores a little less complicated and a little more fun. Learn some of the ways to incorporate technology in the orchestra, choir, band, and general music classes. You will see the value of students (and teachers) who can use iPhones, iPods, iPads, MacBooks, and other smart devices. We will discover scores of apps like metronomes and digital musical instrument tuners. Then explore the myriad of websites to aid in learning and teaching music. The future is here, let’s embrace it!

Duncan: Middle grades ‘misunderstood, overlooked’ — ED DAILY

By Jean Gossman

Middle school education is receiving more attention as educators and policymakers examine its connection to success in high school and beyond. Stakeholders welcome the focus, given that middle school is “sometimes called the Bermuda Triangle of K-12 education, a time when students sink or swim, sail through choppy waters, and have few pedagogical stars by which to navigate their course.”

Secretary Duncan at the National Schools to Watch Conference in Washington, DC

Education Secretary Arne Duncan offered that comparison in his first major address on middle grades reform at the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform’s Schools to Watch conference last week. He expressed concern that fewer than 25 percent of middle school teachers receive special training in “misunderstood and overlooked” early adolescent education. He added that middle grades education needs more research, rather than “continual tinkering” with excessive debate on grade configuration and curriculum.

Duncan observed that early warning and intervention systems like those used by Schools to Watch are particularly needed in high-poverty schools, because “early intervention is more effective and cost-effective” in the middle grades rather than waiting until high school. Duncan cited research by Robert Balfanz, research scientist with the Center for Social Organization of Schools at Johns Hopkins University, which showed a relationship between middle school success and high school completion.

Duncan said the Schools to Watch model, which also relies on school leadership coaching and mentoring, is similar to that of Shanghai, China, which he said has the highest performing educational system in the world. Although U.S. elementary students’ achievement compares favorably with their international peers, “performance of our 15-year-olds is mediocre,” Duncan said. Accordingly, he told the educators the $6 million Investing in Innovation (i3) grant awarded to Schools to Watch “was not a gift, it was an investment.”

The National Forum honored 100 exemplary middle-grades schools designated as 2011 “Schools to Watch” in the 19-state recognition program. Thirty-nine of those were recognized for maintaining or increasing their performance after applying to be redesignated as a School to Watch. Peter Murphy, past president of the National Forum, told Education Daily® that the re-designation process is “a key point of the program” that encourages continuous improvement.

Renewed focus

“It’s very encouraging that [Duncan] is stating the importance of middle grades,” Deborah Kasak, National Forum executive director, told Education Daily®. “We’ve been overlooked for so long, and we have a vital role to play in the K-12 continuum.” A former middle school counselor for 18 years in Illinois, Kasak also spoke to the connection identified in research between a student’s poor middle school experience and later dropping out of high school.

Although middle school students are unlikely to form a concrete wish or plan to leave high school, she said, middle school students start to “become disengaged and seek their self-worth [out of school].” Additionally, “they begin to feel they can’t do [the work] when they really can, but we need to do better instruction with them. They begin to see themselves as not being successful, confident, or able. We have to advocate for them,” Kasak said. She added that keeping students “engaged and connected in the school experience” and building strong relationships with them “really makes a difference” in dropout prevention.