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One of the best essays I have ever read!

Earlier today, I was catching up on Diane Ravitch's blog . If you have not checked it out, I highly recommend it! She is a Professor of Education at NYU. She blogs about issues in education and ways to improve our schools. Definitely worth the read! She shared this essay, written by John Tayor, Superintendent of schools in Lancaster, South Carolina. It's such a powerful piece of writing that I couldn't help but repost it. Here it is:

Improving Dentistry: A Metaphor for Teacher Evaluations

My dentist is great! He sends me reminders so I don’t forget checkups. He uses the latest techniques based on research. He never hurts me, and I have all my teeth, so when I ran into him the other day, I was eager to see if he’d heard about the new state program for measuring the effectiveness of dentists. I knew he’d think it was great.
“Did you hear about the new state program to measure the effectiveness of dentists with their young patients?” I said.
“No,” he said. He didn’t seem too thrilled. “How will they do that?”
“It’s quite simple,” I said. “They will just count the number of cavities each patient has at age 10,14, and 18 and average that to determine a dentist’s rating.Dentists will be rated as Excellent, Good, Average, Below Average, and Unsatisfactory. That way parents will know which are the best dentists. It will also encourage the less effective dentists to get better,” I said. “Poor dentists who don’t improve could lose their licenses to practice.”
“That’s terrible!” he said.
“What? That’s not a good attitude,” I said. “Don’t you think we should try to improve children’s dental health in this state?”
“Sure I do,” he said, “but that’s not a fair way to determine who is practicing good dentistry.”
“Why not?” I said. “It makes perfect sense to me.”
“Well, it’s so obvious,” he said. “Don’t you see that dentists don’t all work with the same clientele; so much depends on things we can’t control? For example,” he said, “I work in a rural area with a high percentage of patients from deprived homes, while some of my colleagues work in upper-middle-class neighborhoods. Many of the parents I work with don’t bring their children to see me until there is some kind of problem and I don’t get to do much preventative work. “Also,” he said, “many of the parents I serve let their kids eat way too much candy from a young age, unlike more educated parents who understand the relationship between sugar and decay. “
“To top it all off,” he added, “so many of my clients have well water which is untreated and has no fluoride in it. Do you have any idea how much difference early use of fluoride can make?”
“It sounds like you’re making excuses,” I said. I couldn’t believe my dentist would be so defensive. He does a great job.
“I am not!” he said. “My best patients are as good as anyone’s, my work is as good as anyone’s, but my average cavity count is going to be higher than a lot of other dentists because I chose to work where I am needed most.”
“Don’t get touchy,” I said.
“Touchy?” he said. His face had turned red, and from the way he was clenching and unclenching his jaws, I was afraid he was going to damage his teeth.
“Try furious. In a system like this, I will end up being rated average, below average or worse. My more educated patients who see these ratings may believe this so-called rating actually is a measure of my ability and proficiency as a dentist. They may leave me, and I’ll be left with only the neediest patients, and my cavity average score will get even worse. On top of that, how will I attract good dental hygienists and other excellent dentists to my practice if it is labeled below average?”
“I think you’re overreacting,” I said. “Complaining, excuse making, and stonewalling won’t improve dental health. I am quoting that from a leading member of the DOC,” I noted.
“What’s the DOC?” he said.
“It’s the Dental Oversight Committee,” I said, ” a group made up of mostly lay persons to make sure dentistry in this state gets improved.”
“Spare me,” he said. “I can’t believe this. Reasonable people won’t buy it,” he said hopefully.
The program sounded reasonable to me, so I asked, “How else would you measure good dentistry?”
“Come watch me work,” he said. “Observe my processes.”

Author Mr. John Tayor, Superintendent, Lancaster Schools, Lancaster, South Carolina

Blogs by State

Hey bloggers in the Northeast, Diane over at Fifth in the Middle has set up a "blogs by state" directory. She has started with the Northeast, and has a listing of each NE state where you can add your link. I added mine! Check it out and add your link.

Thanks again, Diane, for setting this up!

Fifth in the Middle

Happy Saturday!

Good morning! Just happened across this picture and loved it- thought I'd share.

Vacation & Planning

This week was February vacation for my school district. It always comes at the time you need it most, doesn't it? Grading is piling up, my planbook is looking empty, and my energy is dipping. Then, right smack dab in the middle of the coldest month of the year, we get a week off. Since it's so cold, there isn't much I'd like to do outdoors. We save our traveling for April vacation, when chances for snow getting in the way of our plans is minimal. So, what do I do over February break? Work, mostly. I think it's that way for many teachers. It's a week not in the classroom, but generally not a week without school work.

Speaking of planning, I have to give a shout out to the online planbook I use, planbookedu. If you are thinking about making the switch to digital, you have to give them a try. Check out how organized my plans look!

There is so much to love about it. I can attach files in my lessons, which helps keep my paperwork organized. The standards attach to the lessons- AND they are searchable! I can type in "fossils" and it will pull up the standards in my grade level that relate to fossils. Seriously. The plans are easy to move around if something changes, as it inevitably does, and you can store templates in certain blocks of the day if you frequently have the same plans. If there is a school cancellation  the system can automatically bump all your plans ahead a day for you, too. I have to admit, I don't use this feature though. I program in all my meetings and after school activities, so bumping my plans ahead a day automatically often changes things that shouldn't change. Manually moving plans forward is a breeze, though- just drag and drop.

Seriously, I can't say enough good things about this website. They do charge for "premium" service, but there is a free trial available. Even after the free trial is over, the basic features are free. Check it out!

"I Can" statements

Check out these Common Core 5th Grade Math “I Can” statements I made. The statements are set up two per page so they can be printed on standard 8 ½ x 11 sized paper and hung in your classroom. The statements are color coded by domain.

Operations and Algebraic thinking- black and green rosette
Numbers and Operations in Base 10- black, pink, and green polka dot
Numbers and Operations- Fractions- pink, green, and white stripe
Measurement and Data- green and pink rosette
Geometry- pink and green argyle

The standards have been made a bit more "kid friendly,” however, some of the language is intact to ensure vocabulary rigor for the students as prescribed by the CCSS. Each statement also contains the standard in the lower right corner in small print for teacher reference.

I use these in my classroom as I teach lessons. The students and I talk about the “I can statement” at the beginning of the lesson, then revisit it at the end of the lesson. I also post them on my math wall, which I refresh at the beginning of each new unit.

Like them? Download them (free!) at TpT.  I hope you find them useful as well! 

A change in name, a change in place

As I've been trying to find my way in the overwhelming world of blogging, I think I've learned a few things. First and foremost, finding a regular time to blog is hard! Being a teacher leaves so little free time that sometimes when grading is piling up and lessons are waiting to be polished, blogging gets put on the back burner. Second, usernames matter. I don't think that my blog title "Fabulous in Fifth" was an accurate representation of my blog. I do teach 5th grade, yes, but I think that much of what I talk about is universal education truth. Can't we all relate to pencil sharpeners and common core? Finally, the platform you choose to blog on matters. There is an almost endless list to choose from: wordpress, blogger, tumblr, livejournal, and so on. I initially chose wordpress because some of the articles I had googled told me how good it is for customization, and how the writing that I create will remain in my control. Well, that may be true, but there is something to be said for an easy, user-friendly format- especially when you are often on the go. So with all that being said.... Fabulous in Fifth is no more. I'm now the new and improved...

Hope you like! :) 

Decimal Computation Cheat Sheet

My students struggle with decimal computation. Grid paper helps with addition and subtraction, but they struggle with division and multiplication. To help, we did a few interactive journal entries from the math journal guide that Runde's Room published. That still wasn't quite enough, so I made this decimal computation cheat sheet for them to tape in their math notebooks. Follow this link to download it at TpT (free!).

decimal computation cheat sheet picture

Free address labels!

Today only, shutterfly is offering 1 free sheet of address labels! The coupon code is FREELABELS. You will have to pay shipping ($1.99) and tax ($0.05 for me in MA), but for $2.04 these are a great deal. Instead of address labels, I sometimes just personalize them with "From the library of..." and put them on the spine of my professional books. Great way to keep track of them! 


Have you heard for ProTeacher? It's a great forum for teachers to share ideas, ask questions, vent about frustrations, and just chat. I'm a big fan- check it out!

Equivalent Fraction name tags

A few weeks ago, I learned a shocking statistic. Fractions are traditionally the weakest area in mathematics in America. In fact, on the 2004 NAEP fewer than 30% of 17-year-olds correctly translated 0.029 as 29/1000. True to this statistic, the students in my class have vocalized their fear of fractions repeatedly to me. "They're just hard, Mrs. B!" One girl said to me. Most of the other students nodded in agreement, supporting her statement. I was surprised to find that only three students in the class could correctly describe to me what a "denominator" was beyond "the number on the bottom of a fraction." I took a giant step back from our 5th grade curriculum, and did a few days of fraction intervention. Today, we had "equivalent fraction day." The students all got a name tag with a fraction on it. The students adopted this name for the day. Here is the kicker though- they had to simplify the fraction before they could say it! For instance, my name tag said 33/36, but the students called me Mrs. 11/12. How fun! Once we all received our name tags and simplified our own fractions, the students raced around the room and tried to simplify as many of the fraction names as they could. The student with the most, won some "hoot loot" - our classroom currency. We had a fun day!

Snowy weekend

So, early last week we Bay Staters began to hear rumbles of a snow storm coming our way. "Don't worry," they told us, "it won't be a big one." So, life went on as planned. Around Tuesday we got the word that it may be a foot of snow. Well, that is inconvenient but manageable. After all, we have experience in this category! By Wednesday night, they were predicting over 3 feet of snow.


photo (3)


See that cute little 37.3" prediction? That is right over my city....


So, Thursday we had parent teacher conferences. School was released early, and we had afternoon and evening sessions for appointments. During our afternoon session, the principal announced that there would be no school in our district on Friday. Woo! An unexpected day off is great for getting things done.

So, during the beginning of the storm on Friday I graded 80 tests, uploaded grades into our online data server, cleaned my house, and caught up on TV shows. Excellent. Then, I looked outside....


This is about halfway through the storm. My car is under there- somewhere!

my car


The snowdrift in front of the car, and many others, was taller than me. Unreal! The snow kept on coming, and didn't end until Saturday night. All said and done, Nemo (as it was named by the Weather Channel) became a historical blizzard in Massachusetts. In fact, school was canceled again today for most of the state. Sidewalks aren't shoveled, snow banks are too high to see past at intersections, and parking lots are atrocious.


All being said, I am ready to get back to school. There is only so much grading, planning, and cleaning a girl can take!

Dear student

I found this online, and can't take credit for it, but it absolutely deserves a repost. Love it!


Dear Student,

Resistance is futile. I am your personal, designated brick wall. 

If you write "111" as the answer for half the math assignment, I will tell you that I only send students to recess who have done their best on the assignment...and I WILL check. If you miss every single question on the science quiz because you're unhappy that you moved your number because of that inappropriate gesture in line, then I will calmly reply, "You know, I give science tests over and over and over and over again to students until they miss no more than 5." I wasn't really surprised that a student who could get every question wrong when they wanted could also ace the test when they tried. You were only 1 of 3 to receive 100%, by the way.

But most of all, my dear student, I wish I could whisper this truth into your soul: You really should let me win, because when I win, so do you.

So, tomorrow is Monday, dear student, and I'm prepared to communicate to you once again that resistance is futile. You may not know it, but I'm fighting for you.


Your Teacher

Timeline of my weekend:

Friday: WOO! it's finally the weekend. I have two whole days off. I'm not doing any school work tonight!

Saturday morning: Ahh, so refreshed. I have today and tomorrow to get things done. I'll start by doing some housework and relaxing.

Saturday night: Oh, I'll just relax a bit longer. I'll do school work tomorrow, I'll have all day!

Sunday morning: The whole day is ahead of me, why correct papers now?

Sunday afternoon: Hmm.... I should start grading soon.... Hey look, a movie I wanted to watch on netflix!

Sunday night: stress and grading prevail. :( 

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