Day 92 (of 189) thoughts on Range by @davidepstein “Compare yourself to yourself yesterday, not to younger people who aren’t you.”

Day 92 (of 189) thoughts on Range by @davidepstein

Compare yourself to yourself yesterday, not to younger people who aren’t you.

I like the introduction – especially the reflection on Tiger Woods and his rise to fame – specializing early and exclusively on golf compared to Roger Federer has no pressure to do tennis – and did a lot of other things early on; along with a championship soccer team that was also made up of “late bloomers” – while early focus makes sense in theory, the “one in a million” tigers may indeed be the exception and not the norm – if anything generalized skills may be better than highly specialized focus…. in sports…medicine (if you’re having a heart attack, best to have it during a cardiologist conference so the specialist will likely be away….) …. and life???

Chapter One: the cult of the head start

While “head starts” can help in skills that are routine oriented (chess golf and firefighting being examples) is is seen that when chaos disrupts the expected patterns, sometimes the ‘experts’ struggle….

“Our greatest strength is the exact opposite of narrow specialization. It is the ability to integrate broadly”

The world feels like we would do “better” on a single lane of focus, but it is those who have an “8 lane highway” of broad experiences help them avoid ‘the same old patterns’ and flourish.

Educators talk a lot about getting a head start. It’s humbling to have to rethink this…..

Chapter 2: How the wicked world was made

Modernization has impacted things such as IQ scores (which need to be “restandardized” every so often because each generation has done ‘better’ on the tests) by raising awareness of cultural understanding – right answers may be different based on context – such as a sorting exercise asking which doesn’t belong: bullet gun bird knife – some will see all as mutually connected.

As it were: “To use a common metaphor, premodern people miss the forest for the trees; modern people miss the trees for the forest.”

Modern work requires: knowledge transfer (abstract thinking)


“This is not to say that one way of life is uniformly better than another. As Arab historiographer Ibn Khaldun, considered a founder of sociology, pointed out centuries ago, a city dweller traveling through the desert will be completely dependent on a nomad to keep him alive. So long as they remain in the desert, the nomad is a genius.”

How many “majors” are working within their field of study – even though so often that specialized subject focuses only on a narrow set of tools that work best with that discipline? When I was upon university the joke was Arts majors will get good work at the McDonalds counter, with the rebuttal being the Science majors get to operate the fry machine….. and thinking about how Alberta is looking at funding post-secondary based on outcomes, woe be thee who wishes to study philosophy….

“The more constrained and repetitive a challenge, the more likely it will be automated, while great rewards will accrue to those who can take conceptual knowledge from one problem or domain and apply it in an entirely new one.”

Chapter 3: when less of the same is more

Baroque music hit a literal high note thanks to a bit of forgotten history – talented musicians that were orphans and (gasp) females who learned a wide cross section is musical instruments- some of which have even been lost to time – but only formally practicing a couple times a week – a far cry from the self proclaimed tiger mom who limited her children to violin or piano only. And five hours of practice a day…. a sharp difference between “getting to do music” and “having to do music”…..

But after all YoYoMa was a prodigy cellist…. except he also started on violin then the piano and finally to cello because he didn’t like the first two instruments / his “sampling” was just a bit quicker than a typical student… whereas tiger parents want to choose the passion for their child – much as parents will approach coaches wanting their kids to do the skills olympians were doing now….not what the olympians were doing when they were younger… a sampling period is important which is why I am okay in geniushour when learners pursue a passion and discover it isn’t what they actually enjoy…..

“The jazz musician is a creative artist, the classical musician is a re-creative artist”

“Compared ya the Tiger Mother’s tome, a parenting manual oriented toward creative achievement would have to open with a much shorter list of rules.”

Creativity may be difficult to nurture but it is easy to thwart.

Wow wow wow wow wow wow:

Chapter 4: Learning Fast and Slow

“Students do not view mathematics as a system,” Richland and her colleagues wrote. They view it as just a set of procedures”

“When younger students bring home problems that force them to make connections, Richland told me, “parents are like, ‘Lemme show you, there’s a faster, easier way.’” If the teacher didn’t already turn the work into using-procedures practice, well-meaning parents will. They aren’t comfortable with bewildered kids, and they want understanding to come quickly and easily. But for learning that is both durable (it sticks) and flexible (it can be applied broadly), fast and easy is precisely the problem.”

“Excessive hint-giving, like in the eighth-grade math classroom, does the opposite; it bolsters immediate performance, but undermines progress in the long run.”

“Struggling to generate an answer on your own, even a wrong one, enhances subsequent learning. Socrates was apparently on to something when he forced pupils to generate answers rather than bestowing them”

“they were shown only the definition and given a little time to think of the right word, even if they had no clue, before it was revealed. When they were tested later, students did way better on the definition-first words. The experiment was repeated on students at Columbia University, with more obscure words (Characterized by haughty scorn: Supercilious). The results were the same. Being forced to generate answers improves subsequent learning even if the generated answer is wrong.”

Wow – I even did a separate blog on this chapter:

Chapter 5: Thinking Outside Experience

I like this one: “Deep analogical thinking is the practice of recognizing conceptual similarities in multiple domains or scenarios that may seem to have little in common on the surface” <- a powerful tool to use on wicked problems

It’s kinda why UDL – Universal Design Learning that influences education came from the study of….. architecture. And yes, I was a doubter at first. But much of UDL has ended up fitting nicely into my own work around Personalized Learning…. but looking at a topic from a variety of lenses and directions gives deeper insights and connections than the rather less reliable rote memorization.

Some neat looks at projects and designing curriculum et al – “a widespread phenomenon. If you’re asked to predict whether a particular horse will win a race or a particular politician will win an election, the more internal details you learn about any particular scenario—physical qualities of the specific horse, the background and strategy of the particular politician—the more likely you are to say that the scenario you are investigating will occur.”

Which made me think of an old Richard Dreyfus movie “Let it Ride” where a gambler uses a unique strategy to win a series of bets – he asks a bunch of people for their opinions and crossed off the ones that people were most certain of….. having used to go to horse races with my family, I appreciate the success of that strategy….

It’s also along the reason why so often budgets are always gone over – it’s hard to consider (and be honest about) outlier influences that those not-involved may be able to better see (as my wife points out on some of her HGTV shows – he always goes 10% over budget and everyone gets upset – they should know by now it is a pretty consistent 10% so why haven’t they dealt with that expectation ?).

“Evaluating an array of options before letting intuition reign is a trick for the wicked world.”

Flies in contrast with the more usual:

“This time will probably be like the last time, so extensive narrow experience works. Generating new ideas or facing novel problems with high uncertainty is nothing like that.”

Analogies matter. And I’m glad I read that in this chapter as I have an affinity for making connections to education to a variety of weird and wonderful ideas (not just “how this will help in the real world”)

And this look at Kepler trying to figure out the orbit of Mars rekindled a wonder of mine when our “cookbook” science experiments went wrong (once even with the teacher directly supervising myself and my lab partner)

“Faced with an unexpected finding, rather than assuming the current theory is correct and that an observation must be off, the unexpected became an opportunity to venture somewhere new—and analogies served as the wilderness guide.”

Chapter 6: the trouble with too much grit

(I love this title because during class reviews just a day prior to me starting this chapter, a common theme of my teachers were worries around grit – persistence – perseverance – rigor – etc so my ears are metaphorically open)

“found that college graduates in England and Wales were consistently more likely to leap entirely out of their career fields than their later-specializing Scottish peers. And despite starting out behind in income because they had fewer specific skills, the Scots quickly caught up. Their counterparts in England and Wales were more often switching fields after college and after beginning a career even though they had more disincentive to switch”

Might help rationalize why I was a double major in university (and enough credits for a double minor) as I didn’t like to specialize even though I thought I ought to….

Forget about “work experience” in secondary – try “sampling experience” and explore more, specialize less!

“Switchers are winners” – and this can include teachers switching schools (ties in with Andy Hargreaves studies too)


Chapter 7: Flirting with your possible selves

“a community that valued inclusiveness should answer “yes” to the question, ‘When they look at us, can they find themselves?’”

“At the first ever Girl Scout training event Hesselbein attended, she heard another new troop leader complain that she was getting nothing from the session. Hesselbein mentioned it to a dress-factory worker who was also volunteering, and the woman told her, “You have to carry a big basket to bring something home.” She repeats that phrase today, to mean that a mind kept wide open will take something from every new experience.”

Interesting perspective on reflection and projection – for instance people looking a decade in advance would pay over $100 to see a band they currently enjoyed. But would pay less than $80 to see a band that was their favourite ten years ago.

How does this:

“At first, all career changers fell prey to the cult of the head start and figured it couldn’t possibly make sense to dispense with their long-term plans in favor of rapidly evolving short-term experiments. Sometimes they tried to talk themselves out of it. Their confidants advised them not to do anything rash; don’t change now, they said, just keep the new interest or talent as a hobby. But the more they dabbled, the more certain they were that it was time for a change. A new work identity did not manifest overnight, but began with trying something temporary,”

Connect with the number of teachers who leave the profession in their first five years?


Chapter 8 – The Outsider Advantage

“Alph Bingham’s critics were aware that clever outsiders and dilettantes had made technical breakthroughs in the past, but they assumed it was purely that, an artifact of the past that would not translate into the era of hyperspecialization”

“Pedro Domingos, a computer science professor and machine learning researcher, told me. “Knowledge is a double-edged sword. It allows you to do some things, but it also makes you blind to other things that you could do.”

“Undiscovered public knowledge” “Swanson wanted to show that areas of specialist literature that never normally overlapped were rife with hidden interdisciplinary treasures waiting to be connected.”

Why you shouldn’t stay in one place too long…? “Sometimes, the home field can be so constrained that a curious outsider is truly the only one who can see the solution.”

“The more information specialists create, the more opportunity exists for curious dilettantes to contribute by merging strands of widely available but disparate information—undiscovered public knowledge, as Don Swanson called it.”


Chapter 9: lateral thinking with withered technology

Fabulous brief history on how Nintendo leveraged lateral thinking on its way from making playing cards to producing the GameBoy….

Though it was a tough fight to keep leveraging the use of “old technology in new ways”….

“There is, to be sure, no comprehensive theory of creativity. But there is a well-documented tendency people have to consider only familiar uses for objects, an instinct known as functional fixedness. The most famous example is the “candle problem,” in which participants are given a candle, a box of tacks, and a book of matches and told to attach the candle to the wall such that wax doesn’t drip on the table below. Solvers try to melt the candle to the wall or tack it up somehow, neither of which work. When the problem is presented with the tacks outside of their box, solvers are more likely to view the empty box as a potential candle holder, and to solve the problem by tacking it to the wall and placing the candle inside. For Yokoi, the tacks were always outside the box.”

“As the company grew, he worried that young engineers would be too concerned about looking stupid to share ideas for novel uses of old technology, so he began intentionally blurting out crazy ideas at meetings to set the tone. “Once a young person starts saying things like, ‘Well, it’s not really my place to say . . .’ then it’s all over,” he said.”

“Specialization is obvious: keep going straight. Breadth is trickier to grow.”

Hmmmm…the comics code authority: “The comic book industry afforded a well-defined era of creative explosion. From the mid-1950s to 1970, comic creators agreed to self-censor after psychiatrist Fredric Wertham convinced Congress that comics were causing children to become deviants. (Wertham manipulated or fabricated aspects of his research.)”

“Toward the end of their book Serial Innovators, Abbie Griffin and her coauthors depart from stoically sharing their data and observations and offer advice to human resources managers. They are concerned that HR policies at mature companies have such well-defined, specialized slots for employees that potential serial innovators will look like “round pegs to the square holes” and get screened out. Their breadth of interests do not neatly fit a rubric. They are “π-shaped people” who dive in and out of multiple specialties. “Look for wide-ranging interests,” they advised. “Look for multiple hobbies and avocations. . . . When the candidate describes his or her work, does he or she tend to focus on the boundaries and the interfaces with other systems?” One serial innovator described his network of enterprise as “a bunch of bobbers hanging in the water that have little thoughts attached to them.” Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda painted the same idea elegantly: “I have a lot of apps open in my brain right now.”

Hmmmmmm. “how to identify potential innovators. “We think a lot of them might be frustrated by school,” he said, “because by nature they’re very broad.”


Chapter 10: Fooled by expertise

Forecasters are notoriously wrong in predictions – both short and long term views…..yet:

“Many experts never admitted systematic flaws in their judgment, even in the face of their results”

Victories are always full wins and defeats are “near misses” or bad luck….

“the narrow-view hedgehogs, who “know one big thing,” and the integrator foxes, who “know many little things””

….. “tried on ideas like Instagram filters until it was hard to tell which he actually believed.”

….. “volunteers drawn from the general public beat experienced intelligence analysts with access to classified data “by margins that remain classified,””

“Researchers in Canada and the United States began a 2017 study by asking a politically diverse and well-educated group of adults to read arguments confirming their beliefs about controversial issues. When participants were then given a chance to get paid if they read contrary arguments, two-thirds decided they would rather not even look at the counterarguments, never mind seriously entertain them. The aversion to contrary ideas is not a simple artifact of stupidity or ignorance.”


Chapter 11: learning to drop your familiar tools

Carter Racing Case Study. Very interesting….

Do you have all the right information that you need to be looking at….or just the data you want to be looking for….

Wonder; “Is this the data that we want to make the decision we need to make?”

“Karl Wallenda, the world-famous high-wire performer, who fell 120 feet to his death when he teetered and grabbed first at his balance pole rather than the wire beneath him. He momentarily lost the pole while falling, and grabbed it again in the air. “Dropping one’s tools is a proxy for unlearning, for adaptation, for flexibility,” Weick wrote.”

“Dropping familiar tools is particularly difficult for experienced professionals who rely on what Weick called overlearned behavior”

“When all you have is a volcanologist, I learned, every extinction looks like a volcano.”


Chapter 12: Deliberate Amateurs

“Saturday morning theoretical experiment”

Doing things that may be thought of as a “waste of resources during the week” but help with lateral thinking with withered technologies…..

“I do not dig deep—I graze shallow”

“compared the current system to medieval guilds. “The guild system in Europe arose in the Middle Ages as artisans and merchants sought to maintain and protect specialized skills and trades,” he wrote with a colleague. “Although such guilds often produced highly trained and specialized individuals who perfected their trade through prolonged apprenticeships, they also encouraged conservatism and stifled innovation.” Both training and professional incentives are aligning to accelerate specialization, creating intellectual archipelagos”

“The flu annually kills hundreds of thousands of people worldwide while humanity fights it with a cumbersomely produced vaccine from the 1940s. Casadevall’s mother is ninety-three, and on five medications that were available when he was a medical resident in the 1980s. “Two of them are older than I am,” he said, and two others are barely younger. “I cannot believe we can’t do better.”

“The interface between specialties, and between creators with disparate backgrounds, has been studied, and it is worth defending.”

“To recap: work that builds bridges between disparate pieces of knowledge is less likely to be funded, less likely to appear in famous journals, more likely to be ignored upon publication, and then more likely in the long run to be a smash hit in the library of human knowledge.”

“I always advise my people to read outside your field, everyday something. And most people say, ‘Well, I don’t have time to read outside my field.’ I say, ‘No, you do have time, it’s far more important.’ Your world becomes a bigger world, and maybe there’s a moment in which you make connections.”

“Casadevall’s overarching point is that the innovation ecosystem should intentionally preserve range and inefficiency. He is fighting an uphill battle.”

“Japanese biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi closed his Nobel lecture ominously: “Truly original discoveries in science are often triggered by unpredictable and unforeseen small findings. . . . Scientists are increasingly required to provide evidence of immediate and tangible applications of their work.”


Conclusion: Expanding your Range

“Creativity researcher Dean Keith Simonton has shown that the more work eminent creators produced, the more duds they churned out, and the higher their chances of a supernova success.”

“Sandwiched between King Lear and Macbeth, Shakespeare quilled Timon of Athens.”

“Compare yourself to yourself yesterday, not to younger people who aren’t you.”


Some great thinking and reflecting during this book. I’m gonna re-read chapters 4,6,11 and copy the conclusion so it’s always somewhere close to me!

Definitely a powerful book for reflection in order to better move forward!

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Day 91 (of 189) to share or not to share – @keithbaldrey

Day 91 (of 189) to share or not to share – @keithbaldrey

A leaked memo from the @bctf leadership made some waves…..

Also led to some interesting questions about whether or not leaked information should be shared….particularly timely when thinking about the impeachment proceedings south of our border….

I’m not worried about the contents of the memo – when I retweeted it I received information that it was full of inaccuracies (but no info as to what the inaccuracies were) and comments hopeful that it might move negotiations forward.

I spent a short time working in a small town newspaper (fitting since Ma Murray lived down the street from me before she passed away – and I remember my dad first pointing out who the lady walking the block was). When you have information it is always a question of what to do with it (similar in the principals office – some info is actionable, some is interesting but unreliable and a lot is somewhere in between).

Keith, who has spoken to our @bcpvpa group sessions in the past, has always had a good link to “what’s going on” though (from my viewpoint) has always filtered that same range of “actionable vs interesting but unreliable” very well. Even today, when criticized for sharing the memo….

It’s not like “any and all” info is shared, but sometimes interesting news… news….

And is the memo “the” plan? Doubtful. Lots of thinking’s are thought during any negotiations – and change. Reconsiderations due to timelines, impacts and ideas from those involved mean everything is (or should be) a real time document – able to be edited and adjusted along the way. Keith even points out some of his thoughts about it:

If I had been the recipient of the memo, and I easily could have been sent a copy by someone who might very well ask what I thought of “this” – but I would not have shared it. That is because as a principal, I am not an independent person; I am an agent of our school board – and it would be irresponsible of me to pass a memo like this on (kinda like gossip – it has to stop somewhere). Keith is a reporter. His job is to determine if something is newsworthy – even gossip if it has a glimmer of truth (and Ma Murray would always take even a sliver of truth and run with it!)

Thank you Keith for sharing your thinking during this thread. Especially knowing that education is always a complex subject to report on!

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Day 90 (of 189) on my sons birthday

Day 90 (of 189) on my sons birthday

It is wild to reflect on the changes since my son was uninvited from a middle school “that had tried everything” (we still had some ideas … but… it was clear they were done) and he entered an alternative system that as a colleague pointed out “is supposed to have a re-entry point….maybe he’ll be the first….” but a fresh school district and approach that considered everything from a different alternative program (with options in the school or at the local college) to a program to lead to an evergreen (but not help with grad rate numbers) to a willingness to try some things even more different (starting with allowing him to get used to being back in a big school community and not rush things) and get him on path to graduate “on time” (aka with others of the same birth year) with an adult dogwood – maybe not exactly the same as a traditional full-credit dogwood but graduating with dignity and with hard work – even if it’s not quite the same hard work as other “in the classroom” learners.

Math 11 ✔️

English 12 credits – in progress

Active Living 12 – in progress

Photography 12 – in progress

Elective TBD for term 2 (possibly a Philosophy 12 credit because of how he thinks)

Quite the journey for this “boy” who has worked with anxiety and autism on his personalized learning journey and had some amazing educators who looked past what he wasn’t doing….and saw what he was learning!

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Day 89 (of 189) gender affirming care and diversity

Day 89 (of 189) gender affirming care and diversity

Training via our local SOGI team – with a sidebar that I like that the “singular use of they/them” that I used in my writing at the end of secondary/start of university much to the detriment of my final grades, has found a place and use in everyday lexicon!

I do feel good that most of the first items on the agenda are very familiar- though I am still coming to terms with the “retaken” words of Queer and Trans as umbrella words for lgbtq+ because the words are still associated with negative uses. I know I’ll get over it – just admitting my internalizing.

Mind you – when it comes to pronoun use/declaration – I like to say that while I use he/him/his, there are many other descriptors used in reference to me – the most endearing remaining AF (awesome father to my kids, asshole face to my friends – especially when I tease about the weather) but if you make a mistake

Apologize (if necessary)

Correct yourself

Move on


We also need to be aware of the high risk for self harm of our Queer and Trans students – not because of the sexual orientation but because of the segregation isolation and other social conditions that many will experience that can lead to distress, anxiety and depression.

But supportive parents and schools (with GSAs established as an example) can reduce risk to self harm (and ideations) by 50%

Positive factors that create a supportive environment:

  • Using correct names/pronouns
  • Being able to live in felt gender
  • Sense of belonging
  • Parent/family connectedness (caring, warmth, satisfaction with relationship)
  • Peer supports

So….kinda like every kid❤️

Policy of respect

People should be treated according to their self-identified gender.

Gender affirmation model

  • Gender variations are not disorders
  • Gender variations are healthy expressions
  • Gender presentations are diverse and varied across cultures
  • A persons gender nah be binary, non-binary, fluid or multiple
  • Distress connected to gender most often stems from negative reactions from the outside world.

So much is internalized. Contextualized it can be an expected reaction.

It is a multi prong approach to successfully create safety and access to all

  • Education
  • Language
  • Forms
  • Physical space
  • Signage

Sidebar – much like a friend of our family whose child found a book they wanted to share at school because “it’s me!” And brought ‘Princess Boy’ to school but was then informed it was not on the approved reading list for the district. As I explained: there is no list of approved reading books.


And even a reading g break during lunch brought forth an important mention:

“a community that valued inclusiveness should answer “yes” to the question, “When they look at us, can they find themselves?”

Excerpt From

Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

David Epstein

This material may be protected by copyright.

Mindsets matter: what was called sex change surgery shifted to sexual reassignment and most recently sexual affirmation surgery – because it affirms the gender feeling of the person. There is no “one way” to transition.

But as with all positive interactions that are person-centred for ALL

  • Consider power in all interactions
  • Trust
  • Collaborate
  • Feedback informed

Affirming practices:

  • Listening (can be scary for them; take them seriously; sometimes we ask too many questions – use wait time and allow them to fill in the silence)
  • Confidentiality (be clear who gets to share -them- , what is/isn’t confidential up front, share only with permission)
  • Referrals (that youth want; not assumed; call ahead; ask if youth have Qs)

First conversations

  • How can I help
  • What names pronouns should I use
  • Would you kind me to use other names pronouns around other people
  • What information would be helpful
  • What is helping right now? What is not helping?
  • Is there any information you need?

Even MyEd has a section below “gender” in student demographics called “preferred gender”

The new norm for greetings? (I kinda like it!)

Hello – what name and pronouns do you use?

Overall a good day for our SOGI team to get some alignment before we meet again!

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Day 88 (of 189) #bluemonday vs #mlkDay

Day 88 (of 189) #bluemonday vs #mlkday

It a tarted as a marketing campaign to sell holiday – an equation led to the the third Monday in January being declared the most depressing day of the year. By “coincidence” #bluemonday also lands on the day the USA recognizes Martin Luther King Day.

The date was made up. The person was real. Both are kind of about “what might be”. What is their impact schools? Well, the end of January and start of February are tough times because of the amount of darkness , even though the days are getting longer – heck I have an annual reminder around Day 113 being one of the toughest days in education.

It is easy to get too focused on the “bad” this time of year. Heating bills and Christmas bills hurt the wallet. Snowstorm warnings and “bad” weather. It can admittedly take some work .

As Dr King said: education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.

We can see that Blue Monday may not be real, but there are some things to be aware of:

  • There is no “24-hour depression” – it’s not about a day, mental health is not a virus.
  • There is a 2009 Japanese study that indicated suicides were higher on Monday than other days of the week
  • SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is real – which is why it is important to get outside when the sunlight is present – or lights that mimic sunshine
  • I want to attach the phone calls from MCFD as part of “blue Monday” but the precursors to these calls are weeks in process
  • I want to say that it’s because of today that the kids are struggling to stay in class (along with foul texts from one of my own who would rather not have “one kid” in the room he works in….

But I know it’s correlation not causation….right?

After all, blending in another Dr King quote: education must also train one for quick, resolute and effective thinking.

Dr King has some powerful quotes about key topics around equality and education. One of my favourites remains: I look to a day when people will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but the content of their character.

Overall, it is just a Monday. If you choose to focus on the #bluemonday ideation, then the sadness will probably weigh on you; if you opt to look to the message of #MLKDay and its push for racial equality (and sexual biases as well!) we can see that as a society, positive changes are continuing – thanks in no small part to both the #metoo and #blacklivesmatter movements.

Thoughts and words are just that…until put into action.

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Day 87 (of 189) what do 1-4 proficiency scales “mean”


Day 87 (of 189) what do 1-4 proficiency scales “mean”



A good question was raised by the Calgary Board of Education as they look to refine the meanings of the proficiency scales….


…because I regularly encounter questions such as “what about a 3+”  which leads to a discussion about the % debate and the 100 point scale – but if that is good, then wouldn’t a 1000 point scale be better and more specific? The key problem is that at all times, there is a level of subjectivity that imbeds itself in grading, assessing, and evaluating. (And even within scantron developed “tests” there is always a margin of error (let alone bias set for socioeconomic and racial reasons that remain hidden from many – but that’s a deeper argument/discussion)


….and I often have proficiency scales translated into grades in ways that bug me… specifically the “3” – a bunch of 3s connected to learning outcomes can legitimately translate into one of 3 different letter grades: A, B or C+


…its why I have become so much more of a champion for descriptive feedback rather than even proficiency numbers. And the more precise the percentage…the more I doubt it (and this started as a student when a friend ended a class with 85.4999999999% and even though he found an incorrectly marked question on his final test, the teacher would not change the B to an A, largely because of behaviour – he could get on nerves, heck we all could…I believe “we” had 3 teachers leave mid-year….mightve been more….

But what’s the difference between a B and an A? Lets check with the scholarship people….

Whats the difference between a 1 and a 4, well, here are the descriptors from the new CBE: and there are commonalities with other proficiency scales used…everywhere:



a “1” means the work/progress/skills/strategies are below what most students in grade X typically are able to do. Often if they are able to do independent work it is below…well below… what is identified as “grade appropriate work” or learning outcomes etc


a “2” indicates that the work is developing into independent work. Some supports may be needed; they may be at an “instructional” level (meaning there are struggles at various times when doing the learning)


a “3” means that things are going along well. The work samples are “where they should be” based on typical learners at that grade (keep in mind, I try not to say age, because I am having increasing discomforts with our sorting of students based on the year they were born – and I don’t mean december babies should be delayed entrance to schooling…)


a “4” indicates that there are no worries except perhaps for pushing for extending learning or going deeper into a subject area. It does not mean they are “ready for the next grade” as there are many social components to learning that are needed for “grade skipping/repeating” and it is rarely just about their achievement on tasks and learning outcomes.




To me, it makes more sense to have an artifact of learning and some descriptive feedback that can SAY that the work is at/above/below what typical grade X students would be working at/on and what the next steps could be – either for improvement or for future endeavours. Ideally attached to a performance standard or rubric so that there is information as to what was expected and the artifact can be compared to that. This way its not an average/summary of work that has been done but an authentic example of student work, and at times even exemplars could be included as well!



Good on Calgary to take a look at getting better alignment in making sure everyone knows what the proficiency scales mean! Always good to stop and reflect and make sure things mean what we think they mean…

Screen Shot 2020-01-17 at 4.52.52 PM.png


Alignment in words and use of those words and terms matter.

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Day 86 (of 189) to call a snowday…or not…

Day 86 (of 189) to call a snowday…or not…


It is not an easy question to answer. Very easy to ask:


What if the roads are undriveable?

What if the sidewalks are covered in ice?

What if there is no power?

What if What if What if….

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There are so many considerations that superintendents have to go through in order to determine if a school should be open or closed. Should the buses run? Can the buses run? Is it safe for them to stop and pick up students (I used to have to consider this when I had Busing as a portfolio) and in some cases, “what will the neighbours think….” –> this one came from Vancouver Superintendent Suzanne Hoffman at last summers UBC/BCPVPA ShortCourse when she took our new principals through the decision making process around closing schools – what if they stay open, and the neighbouring district closes.



Social media speaks loudly – both sides of the mouth as well: Why aren’t we closed when X district is?   Why are we closed while X district stays open?


There are always so many pressures and wonders. When I got stuck trying to drive into my school parking lot one year (literally misjudged the plowed/unplowed levels and knew that if I couldn’t get in, none of the buses would either (and we were an almost 99% bus school at that time) and when the power then went down….well that made it a much easier decision for my superintendent to make…



But what if you close for the day and the weather is not as bad as predicted. Meteorologists are not 100% accurate in long range forecast (which includes 24 hours) and if schools are closed and the sun breaks through – or the snow is not so severe…. you can take a lot more negativity for closing things too soon.  It really is not an easy task.



Always a tough call – this year we stayed open – though, as always “parents have the final decision whether or not it is safe and appropriate for students to make their way to school” – and this years snow impacted the ability for buses to make their runs which did lead to my own kids staying home – because while I (and my wife) could have gotten the kids TO school, we both were going to have busy afternoons and they would not have been able to get home without the support of the buses. So sometimes even “non-snow days” end up being “snowdays”.  Another good example of right vs right decision making!


Update via a blog by West Vancouver Superintendent Chris Kennedy via

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