Sunday, June 20, 2010

ImPACT Testing- A New Proactive Approach

I've heard some startling statistics recently regarding high school student-athletes and concussions. Roughly 1 in 5 student athletes experience one each sports season. Upwards of 85% of all concussions are never diagnosed. Fifty percent of all high school football players will experience at least one concussion during their playing tenure. The below short video clip from CBS News sheds more light on the topic:

Watch CBS News Videos Online

The Mansfield High School Athletics Department has purchased the ImPACT concussion evaluation software that is shown in the above clip.

ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) is the first, most-widely used, and most scientifically validated computerized concussion evaluation system.

Developed in the early 1990's by Drs. Mark Lovell and Joseph Maroon, ImPACT is an approximately 30-minute test that has become a standard tool used in comprehensive clinical management of concussions for athletes of all ages.

The ImPact program is a computerized neurocognitive test which evaluates verbal and visual memory, reaction time, and impulse control. The test provides baseline information which can be used to help determine the severity of injury when a student hits his/her head and is believed to have a concussion.

Please refer to for more information.

Baseline measurements need to be taken of each student-athlete. The Athletic Deptartment will begin baseline measurements at Mansfield High School on June 21, 2010 for all high school students who are planning to participate in the fall sports of football, boys' and girls' soccer and field hockey. Students will be given schedules of testing times this week.

Thereafter, only new student-athletes receive a baseline measurement while anyone who is suspected of a concussion is closely monitored according to his/her situation.

Please note that if you do not want your child to participate in this program, the Athletic Department needs to be notified by the student’s parent/guardian in writing.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Outliers and Schools... What are the Implications?

I recently finished Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers: The Story of Success, a fascinating exploration of what factors truly lead to success. This book studies exactly what creates success for any individual person. Gladwell uses the term “outlier” to describe men and women who do things out of the ordinary. These are folks who are really at the top of their game or the best in their chosen field, hence they enjoy success. Furthermore, he debunks the notions that people are “born into greatness” or there’s such a thing as a “self-made man.” Rather, all of us have an advantage in one particular area, and good old-fashioned effort and hard work make the difference.

Interestingly enough, Gladwell asks the following question in the book: How much practice do you have to have before you’re really great at something? Through fairly detailed research, he comes up with the answer which he calls the “10,000 Hour Rule” which is this: For you to become truly outstanding at any cognitively complex task, you have to commit 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to it. Outliers have lived up to the 10,000 hours and probably then some…

The book gives examples from throughout history of famous outliers. For example, Mozart began playing the keyboard and violin at age 3, and started composing at age 6, easily working on his 10,000 hours by creating over 400 concertos before age 12. The Beatles amassed roughly 10,000 hours of live performances in Liverpool, England and Hamburg, Germany when they were still honing their craft between 1960 and 1964. Bill Gates, as a geeky, awkward adolescent, had the opportunity to practice computer programming (his passion from age 12 on) for about 10,000 hours in the elite Seattle prep school he attended from 1968 to 1973. When all of these individuals were presented with the opportunity to follow a passion and improve, they put forth the effort and practiced with a vengeance. Gladwell's point about these outliers having sufficient opportunities to meet these 10,000 hours is well-taken. Imagine if all students could have opportunities such as Gates', where a student could follow a passion to the highest degree in a highly personalized learning environment!

A second major area Gladwell delves into is the relationship between achievement and culture as he aims to untangle long-standing puzzles about success and nationality.

"One of the puzzles that educators have thought about for years is why is it that kids from Japan, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and China vastly outperform their American or Western counterparts in math," Gladwell writes. "They score substantially better than American kids do."

Gladwell states that Asian children might be inheriting a particular cultural legacy from their parents and their society that was helping them succeed in math — and he says he found the answer in the agricultural tradition of rice farming.

"Rice farming lays out a cultural pattern that works beautifully when it comes to math," Gladwell hypothesizes. "Rice farming is the most labor-intensive form of agriculture known to man. It is also the most cognitively demanding form of agriculture … There is a direct correlation between effort and reward. You get exactly out of your rice paddy what you put into it."

While American students often say math skills are innate, Asian students more frequently attribute success in math to hard work. This was confirmed in a 2008 study by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania who dug deeper when looking at the TIMSS (Trends In Mathematics and Science Study) results for 4th grade students in the US and Singapore. They found that when students were interviewed after taking the TIMSS test, both the American and Singapore kids thought the problems were challenging, but there was a stark difference in attitude. Many of the American fourth graders got frustrated with many of the problems and gave up after a relatively short period of time. In contrast, the kids from Singapore had a “can-do” attitude, where they firmly believed that if they gave it their best effort, they would be successful! From this attitude, they would try numerous approaches to a problem until they had success. The UPenn researchers found that it is in the Singapore culture- and most of Asia on a whole- to instill in children starting as toddlers this mindset of strong, consistent effort.

With findings such as these, it is little wonder that so many of the major whole-school reform initiatives (such as the University of Pittsburgh's Institute for Learning or the network of KIPP Academy charter schools) stress organizing for effort as their philosophical underpinnings. I can honestly say that after 20 years as a teacher and principal, effort does determine ability- and everyone can achieve at high levels.

However, do we have systems and structures in place where effort is consistently rewarded? Do our instructional practices recognize that achievement of standards is a process, and effort is a key component? Do assessments that are given to kids reflect this? Food for thought...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Class Day 2010

As is tradition each year, last Thursday was Class Day for the Class of 2010, the 132nd class to graduate from Mansfield High School. It is a special ceremony to recognize individual student and whole class accomplishments. It is a wonderful celebration for our students, their parents, and the community. Below is a copy of my welcoming comments from the ceremony:

Good morning, and welcome to the 2010 edition of Mansfield High School's Class Day! As Principal of Mansfield High School, I wish to welcome our parents, relatives, students, special guests, teachers, and most importantly, our seniors on this special day to recognize and honor the achievements of the Class of 2010. I would also like to acknowledge the presence of some key individuals who have been instrumental in the support and promotion of our students' success: first, the entire Mansfield School Committee, Chair Michael Trowbridge, Assistant Chair Frank Delvecchio, Jean Miller, Lisa Losiewicz, and Jim Perry, our Superintendent of Schools Brenda Hodges, Director of Finance Ed Vozzella, my right hand men and woman, Assistant Principals Dave Farinella, Mike Connolly, and Dawn Stockwell, and the two outstanding class advisors to the Class of 2010, Gail Farrington and Christine Reilly.

When I think of this class, several words come to mind, among them, hard work, perseverance, commitment, and excellence. At 338 strong, not only are you the largest ever to graduate from Mansfield High School, you are one of the finest. Just look at some of the academic indicators- the highest MCAS scores in our region, the highest SATs in our school's history, outstanding AP participation rates and test scores, the number of students that have been inducted into the Spanish, French, and National Honor Societies, and so on... all of these facts can be attributed to this class. Athletically, you were second to none, as you took our school to new levels. Throughout your four-year tenure, the MHS varsity sports teams won 31 Hockomock League championships and 14 state championships in fall, winter, and spring sports, and 38 individual student-athletes achieved all-state or all-region status in their respective sports. You also have been the heart and soul of an outstanding school band, orchestra, and chorus that have won countless regional and national competitions, and might I add, a percussion ensemble that continues to dominate its competition. But most importantly, you are a class filled with young ladies and gentlemen- students who consistently act with class and respect for one another. Your collective character, integrity, and compassion- demonstrated consistently through acts where you gave to others, from tutoring students throughout the district through the ALC, to being a buddy through Project Teammate, to providing community service locally through vehicles such as The Leaf Raking Project and the Great Mansfield Cleanup….to name just a few. This work certainly has defined you as an outstanding class, one of the finest to graduate from MHS.

However, this Sunday afternoon, oh… by 3 o’clock… you will no longer be Mansfield High School seniors, but rather, Mansfield High School alumni. I urge all of you to never forget that you’re Hornets, but also never forget that you are an integral part of the larger community of Mansfield. There certainly is a great deal of pride that resonates in town as being an MHS alum. Please realize that you, Class of 2010, are the 132nd class to graduate from this institution. To be sure, you are a fine class, but you are also one deeply linked with the past, through your family connections and your work throughout the community. Always keep that link with Mansfield alive and strong…. as there will always be many in the community that love and support you, and likewise, the community needs the vitality and creativity that you bring as young adults. Thus the reciprocal cycle begins once again, part of what we are celebrating here at Class Day!

So I offer my most sincere congratulations to all of you! You deserve the many awards and accolades you will hear today. Reflect on your past successes and dream of the excitement of future opportunities. Thank you for serving Mansfield High School so well!