Is more School Accountability better?

August 29th, 2008

ed_gl_nclb_logo.gifLast night I was watching the news and saw some excerpts from Barrak Obama’s nomination speech. He said he wanted more people to go to college. I think that is great. He said he wants to hire more teachers. That’s good. And give teachers more pay. That’s fine, too, assuming he has a plan to pay for all of it. He also said he wants more accountability from teachers. That made me stop and think. Hmmm.

I bet most Americans would echo the cheers of Obama’s crowd and be in favor of increased accountability for our educators. After all it is our money, a huge chunk of our money, that goes to education. Half of the California State Budget goes to education. Over $50 billion each year, that’s billion with a “B”, in a State that would be the 7th largest country in the world if it stood alone. Education is a huge business in California with many dollars at stake. So with numbers like that, why wouldn’t we as taxpayers want more accountability?

In my efforts to serve our children and community as a prospective School Board member, I have been talking to a lot of people, many of which are educators. And I’ve heard rumblings and grumblings over current accountability issues, with some going so far as to say that the “emphasis on accountability and testing has taken the joy out of teaching.” Is that true? Perhaps we should hang on just a second when suggesting increased accountability.

Briefly, and without going into too much history, here’s my understanding of the looming accountability crisis. Yes, crisis, because it’s that big a deal. Prior to 1998, teachers in California schools had, within reason, free reign to teach however they wanted. A school district would adopt certain curriculum via published text book materials and teachers would follow those materials as they saw fit. Other than some inconsistent school and district-level efforts, there wasn’t any state-wide testing coordinated with universal academic standards to insure consistent student proficiency.

In 1998 California started moving towards state-wide testing and measuring of academic performance. Then in 2002 came No Child Left Behind (NCLB), a Federal education initiative with bi-partisan support who’s goal was to provide education accountability and proficiency by tying performance standards to Federal funding. Individual states were free to adopt standards, even define these standards for their own schools. But they had to put in measured accountability if they wanted to continue to receive the significant Federal money. Like other states, California set their own standards and participated in NCLB, which included certain penalties if a school or District did not meet State standards of student proficiency.

Today, academic proficiency of California schools is measured two ways: the API (Academic Performance Index) is the state measure, and the AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) is the Federal NCLB measure. Both rely on input from the California Standards Tests that our children take each year. Perhaps you have noticed increased emphasis on these annual tests, and for good reason. The AYP has significant consequences for failure to make established targets.

It is important to understand that the “corrective action” required for low-performing schools can have significant impact on that school’s students, educators, and District. Corrective action redirects funds and resources in an already strained District budget. In moderate cases, districts can be forced to pay for extra tutoring and to bus students to other schools. In extreme and extended cases, whole schools can be dismantled. I’ve heard from those who have been associated with a low-performing school on probation (termed “Program Improvement”) that “you don’t want to go there.”

It is also important to know that this required student proficiency level, as defined by the State of California, increases each year. By about 11%. And that’s where the crisis comes in. Right now for 2008, required proficiency levels are around 35%. That may sound low, but that figure is a complex issue in itself and includes English Language Learners and Special Ed students, which can have a significant impact on test scores. Many schools now struggle with proficiency, and even more will next year when the required level goes up to about 47%. By 2014, 100% of all students are expected to be proficient in Math and English no matter who they are, where they are, or where they came from.

It is interesting to note that while our Bear Valley Schools overall continue to perform very well based on our Valley’s demographics, the current method of measuring proficiency is catching up to us. Two of our District schools may have failed to reach the required proficiency growth targets this year. If they miss the same targets 2 years in a row, they will go into Program Improvement.

So what’s a District to do? In my opinion (and more importantly in the opinion of experts who’s careers center around this very issue) you do everything possible to stay off of probation and out of Program Improvement. You do that by insuring the necessary level of student learning that in turn produces the necessary test results. But you also rely on your skilled educators to creatively keep the joy in teaching and learning while moving students towards required proficiency. And you encourage those responsible for setting education policy at the State and Federal level to revamp the current system of accountability as soon as possible.

Increasing teacher accountability may sound good to Senator Obama on the campaign trail, but we already suffer from an unrealistic accountability system. Different accountability could be good, but I don’t think we need more of the same. Thoughts? Please let me know below.

On the Great Wall after the Great Race

August 26th, 2008

A Ryan Hall interview on the Great Wall of China the day after the 2008 Olympic Marathon:

10th Fastest in the World

August 24th, 2008

Ryan Hall in the Beijing Olympic Marathon

What a thrill last night to watch our own Ryan Hall run the Olympic Marathon in Beijing. Seeing him line up in China with the fastest marathoners in the world gave me chills. Ryan was considered a medal contender and the build-up, especially here in his hometown of Big Bear, was huge. While Ryan’s 10th place finish means he won’t be returning home with any extra hardware, his performance still is exceptional and points to an increasingly bright future. Remember, Ryan is only 25, his first Olympics was only his 4th marathon, and yet he already ranks among the running world’s elite.

It sure is nice when things go perfectly, and admittedly it would have been incredible last night if Ryan Hall had medalled in the Beijing Marathon. But in my experience, a perfect performance can be hard to come by, and the times that things go perfectly are in fact rare. And that is why they are so special. If perfect was commonplace, no one would care. Perfect, again? Ho, hum.

The thing about Ryan that resonated most with me from the very beginning was they way he dealt with challenges, setbacks and disappointment. It’s easy when things go well. It’s when things are tough that we really discover who we are and what we are made of. To me, it’s not Ryan’s accomplishments that are most impressive (even though they are pretty impressive), it’s what he endured on the way to those accomplishments that are most inspiring. I am curious to see what Ryan does with this latest gift of 10th place.

Last week at Big Bear High School‘s Back To School Night, I was in my daughter’s AP US History classroom with her teacher, Mr. Hahn. He had a quote up on the wall that seems especially appropriate:

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to go on that counts.”

Amen. Keep Running, Ryan.

Elect Putz Toolkit

August 21st, 2008

tool.jpgI am passionate about our schools and will bring a fresh, balanced direction to our District. I want to help our Valley’s children excel and look forward to serving our Community. But I can only do this if I get elected to the School Board, and I need your help for that to happen. Below are steps you can take if you’d like to help make a difference:

1.) Get others talking. Engage friends, family, and co-workers in constructive conversation about education. Ask them what they think about OUR schools, what they would like to see. This dialogue is good for the Community and important to our democratic process. For me personally, these connections one makes when interacting with others are most valuable.

2.) Share your support. If you believe I will make a difference, tell others! Better yet, show others: Wear a Putz button. Put a Putz yard sign in front of your house or business. Give out Putz for School Board literature. Give your endorsement. Join like-minded people and volunteer to help the campaign.

3.) Vote. Again, I can’t make a difference if we don’t win the vote. Encourage others to vote. If they are not registered, help get them registered, so they can VOTE. Register to vote by mail or read about other ways to get registered. I have registration forms as well.

4.) Donate. Even a modest campaign for local elected office is surprisingly expensive. If I am willing to volunteer for 4 years of public service, perhaps you’d be willing to part with a few dollars so you don’t have to. Your contribution is a nice way to say, “Better you than me.” :-) Your vote and your active endorsement are most valuable. But your financial support is extremely helpful and allows me to reach more people. Click here to donate now online using your credit card or check. You can also send checks to: Committee to Elect Randall Putz, PO Box 1625, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315.

Interested? Leave a private comment below, call me at 909-752-5342, or email me at randy ( a t ) randallputz.com.
– Randy

Watching Ryan Run the Beijing Olympic Marathon

August 14th, 2008

Beijing Olympic Marathon Course MapIf you are planning on watching Ryan Hall run the Olympic Marathon in person, or are just curious where the course goes, the Beijing Olympic Marathon Course Map below shows the route that begins at Tian’anmen Square and ends in the National Stadium or “Bird’s Nest.”

Screen version: Beijing Olympic Marathon Course Map (JPG)
Printable version: Beijing Olympic Marathon Course Map (PDF)

If you won’t find yourself in China on August 24th at 7:30am, you can watch it on the West Coast on Saturday, August 23rd at 6:30pm (PST) on NBC. The marathon broadcast will be live on the East Coast (coverage begins at 7:30pm EST) and delayed a couple hours in the West. Beijing is 15 hours ahead of the West Coast, which means Ryan will actually be running at 4:30pm local Big Bear Lake time.

Local Big Bear fans have a few different ways to catch Ryan’s Olympic Marathon debut: Residents with Charter cable can watch the delayed KNBC feed as mentioned above on Channel 4 (104.2 in HD or 784 on Digital Service) beginning at 6:30pm PST. Satellite subscribers can pick up the live East Coast WNBC feed beginning at 4:30pm PST (Channel 241 on Dish or 82 on DirecTV). There will be a gathering at the Convention Center in Big Bear City that will watch the delayed feed at 6:30pm with doors opening at 2pm. Sandy’s Sports Restaurant will show the live East Coast feed at 4:30pm. Radio station KBHR will also be broadcasting reports live from Beijing via Mayor Rick Herrick.

Schools, Technology & Me

August 10th, 2008

digi_apl.jpgMany different organizations over many years have paid me to help them figure out solutions to their technology problems. I’ve written about and presented technology so that others may better understand it. I’ve taught technology at the elementary and college levels so that others may learn it. I get technology. And I have a special appreciation not only for the importance of technology today, but the vital role it will play in the future, especially for our children.

Kids need a command of basic computer technology, just as they need a command of basic math and english. Children who suffer through inadequate and outdated computer equipment and infrastructure might as well be without pencils and paper. It is that important, because the world’s increasing reliance on technology makes it that important. As a School District, we have an obligation to prepare our children with proper technology skills and support them with quality equipment and instruction. Anything less is a disservice.

I know Mike Chatham, with assistance from others in the District, is working on a comprehensive technology plan that he will soon present to the School Board. It is my expectation the plan, at a minimum, will address ever-evolving equipment needs, accommodate growing bandwidth requirements, and embrace both student and teacher proficiency standards. I also hope the current Board will demonstrate its commitment to technology by adopting and funding the plan.

As a prospective School Board member, I will look forward to paying especially close attention to the way our schools address technology education and will do my part to insure our children are well-equipped for a digital future.

Olympic Ceremonies, Olympic People

August 9th, 2008

Picture4.pngLast night on television I watched the amazing Opening Ceremonies in Beijing. It was quite a show, but what really moved me was what I saw before hand. An hour before the Opening Ceremonies began, NBC aired a show called, “The Road to Beijing,” where they highlighted key Olympic athletes. I had heard our local hero Ryan Hall was going to be included, and I kept watching and waiting. And as I watched and waited, I noticed the caliber of the athletes kept getting more significant, and that NBC was staging athletes in a specific order to keep you watching. Finally at the end they showed the segment on Ryan, followed by the final piece on Kobe Bryant. Ryan, then Kobe. Our Ryan next to Kobe. I liked that.

Picture5.pngThe Road to Beijing segment on Ryan was great to watch. Its one thing to see the familiar sites around Big Bear on a daily basis. Its another to see them through the eyes of a network camera. It reminds you just how beautiful it is here in Big Bear. I must admit seeing our Move a Million Miles work on national television was also a huge thrill. I’ve never seen my artwork on television, and I got a kick out of the scenes of Ryan in front of the Coldwell Banker thermometer banner and all the kids with red Run Ryan Run hats. It feels good when your hard work gets noticed. Especially on network TV.

Picture9.pngAfter the Road to Beijing segment, the NBC lead-up to the actual Opening Ceremonies began, and again there was our Ryan, running beside our Lake, showcased among the top athletes in the world, while millions of people watched. I really liked that. I wonder how many others Big Bear residents understand the value of such publicity for our Valley. With the Opening Ceremonies over, I finally went to bed, I’m sure, smiling ear to ear. This morning I was greeted with a very kind e-mail from Ryan’s mother, Susie Hall, thanking us for our efforts on the Move a Million Miles campaign. I wrote her back and said you’re welcome, but really, thank you for Ryan and for helping create this incredible experience and opportunity we all get to share in.

It’s not everyday a small town gets to embrace their own Olympic athlete. We’ve been told that Big Bear’s unprecedented Million Mile Campaign is historic and that no athlete has ever received that level of support. Ryan has said he thinks this Campaign will help give him an advantage in Beijing. I can’t wait to see what happens when he runs the marathon on August 23rd.

Randy’s Background

August 8th, 2008

Randy races mountain bikesIf you are curious, a short bio on me:

I was raised in Santa Barbara, California, gained my secondary education at Cate School in Carpinteria, and graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Journalism in 1985.

After college I caught the entrepreneur bug and started a small chain of printing businesses in San Diego County, which introduced me to desktop publishing and revealed a knack for computers. My interest in technology blossomed at the same time as the Internet did in the 1990s and ultimately led me to a Director of Technology position in a large Nevada-based marketing communications firm, and then on to my own technology consulting firm.

For the last 14 years, I have focused on providing technology solutions and services for corporate and government clients. By combining my diverse management skills, extensive technical background, and marketing insight, I have been able to help companies leverage their technology investment through increased profitability and productivity. I have assisted many organizations large and small, including such notables as the State of Nevada, the City of Las Vegas, Cisco Systems, the Irvine Public Schools Foundation, and our local Big Bear Mountain Resorts. Recently I started Gobo LLC, a marketing technology business specializing in promoting businesses online in unique ways.

I have a teenage son and daughter who started in Big Bear Elementary and currently attend Big Bear High. Over the years I have actively volunteered in my children’s various classrooms and have taught after-school computer classes to elementary students, as well as college-level technology classes. Most recently I helped plan and build the Move A Million Miles for Ryan Hall campaign to support our local Olympic Marathoner. I’m an avid runner and cyclist and especially enjoy trail running and mountain biking in our surrounding National Forest.

Candidate’s Statement

August 8th, 2008

election08.jpgThe following Candidate’s Statement will appear in the Voter’s Guide that comes out in October:

Candidate for the Office of: Board Member, Bear Valley Unified School District
Name: Randall Putz
Age: 45
Occupation: Business Owner/Parent

“As a parent of two Big Bear High School students, I have witnessed first-hand the impact dedicated educators can have on children, our community, and our future. I am proud of the vital role our distinguished schools play in our very special community, and I passionately support our schools’ success.

This passion for quality education, combined with my extensive real-world experience, uniquely qualifies me to serve on our School Board. My business skills, parenting, and volunteerism all provide a fresh and well-rounded perspective that I believe benefits our School District.

As a School Board member, I best represent the interests of our community by listening and being accessible to all parents, educators, and residents, by ensuring responsible use of our tax dollars, and by supporting actions that put the needs of our children first.

I appreciate your vote, your trust, and your supporting our schools’ success.”

Run, Randy, Run (for School Board)

August 8th, 2008

Randy Putz for School BoardIt’s official – after swearing to defend the constitution against all enemies and paying $403 for a candidate’s statement, I’ve filed to run for a seat on the Bear Valley Unified School District Board of Education in the upcoming November ’08 election. With the encouragement and support of many friends and family, I’m looking forward to the experience. Running for public office is new to me, but I’m optimistic my life’s experience so far has given me the tools necessary to win a seat, and more importantly, do a good job helping out our already distinguished schools.

Sending Ryan Running To Beijing

August 4th, 2008

ryan_hands1.jpgMonths ago when planning, we all thought it would be a fitting gesture – a send-off event to celebrate Ryan and the Big Bear Community that supported him. We had no clue how many people would show up, and when it started raining, I feared folks would stay home. But in true Big Bear fashion (we seem to have a way with the weather up here and can even summon snow to put out fires), the skies cleared and gave way to a remarkable event.

Thousands showed up on August 5th to wish Ryan Hall good luck. Hundreds of children ran around the Middle School track, the same track where Ryan first discovered running, to celebrate their participation in the Move A Million Miles for Ryan Hall Campaign. Major media covered the event and the emotion. Many tears were shed, including some from Ryan. “I’m glad I am wearing my Oakleys so you can’t see me crying,” he said. As Ryan ran around the track, arm after arm reached out to him in support.

ryan_podium1.jpgAnd to top it all off, we actually surpassed our goal of a million miles, and did so a few weeks early. Back in December when we began work on the Move A Million Miles Campaign, we really didn’t know if we would make it. A million was a big number, and we didn’t have very much time to pursue it. How do we motivate thousands of people to move and log a million miles? But through the hard work and support of a dedicated community, we did it. We presented Ryan a banner with 1,203,556 miles on it. Right here in little ‘ol Big Bear.

Bike Ride for Ryan

April 29th, 2008

R4R_ride_sheet1EP.jpgThe Lighthouse Project has partnered with the Big Bear Valley Trails Coalition for the Bike Ride for Ryan on Saturday, May 24. Join us for a “Day of Biking” with the Lighthouse Project’s “Move A Million Miles for Ryan Hall” Campaign, a community spirit initiative that encourages an active lifestyle by supporting Big Bear running hero Ryan Hall’s quest for 2008 Olympic Marathon gold this summer in Beijing, China. Our goal on this day is to simply get as many people as possible to ride their bikes as many miles as they can in support of Ryan.

Check-in is from 8:00 am to 10:00 am, with all rides completed by 3:00pm. Optional Guided Rides begin at 10:30am, as does the City of Big Bear Lake’s official ribbon cutting for its new bike routes. The rides stage and begin at the Snow Summit overflow parking lot on Brownie Lane. There is no cost or registration fee for this free event. We want your miles, not your money. Riders who have checked-in prior to their ride and logged their mileage when finished riding will receive a free special Ryan Hall ASICS tee shirt and complimentary Gatoraide. Bike riders of all types and skill levels are encouraged to attend, with several ride options available.

Here’s a printable PDF version of one of the bike maps I did for the Ride:
Bike Ride for Ryan Map – Eagle Point Loop, Big Bear Lake, CA (PDF)
I hope to see you there!

Ryan Hall Groupie

April 28th, 2008

After an especially good road ride in Palm Springs, I was in a bike shop rattling off a bunch of statistics about our local Big Bear running hero, Ryan Hall. (He’s an exceptional athlete who will be representing the USA in the 2008 Olympic Marathon in Beijing, China, and the fastest American-born marathoner EVER.) The shop owner commented that I sounded like either a groupie or a stalker. His comment made us laugh, and I responded that I was neither – just a dedicated volunteer helping with the Move A Million Miles for Ryan Hall campaign. Won’t you, too, help us by getting up, getting out, and moving? You’ll feel much better for it. You might even become a groupie.

Move A Million Miles to support Ryan Hall in his quest for Olympic Marathon Gold in Beijing

Snowshoeing the San Bernardino Mountains

March 6th, 2008

Snowshoeing Bear MountainOn Tuesday and Thursday evenings when we can’t bike due to Winter weather, we will often snowshoe up the Bear Mountain ski runs to the top of the mountain range above Big Bear. Usually we do this in the dark with headlamps, but as the days get longer we sometimes are treated to spectacular sunsets and views almost all the way to the coast. Below is a panoramic view of the San Bernardino Mountains from the top of Silver Mountain at 8,564′. In the panorama to the left is San Gorgonio Peak, which is the highest point in Southern California at 11,501′. In the middle you can see Big Bear Lake, and to the right, Baldwin Lake at the East end of Big Bear Valley.

Silver Mountain Panorama

Origins of Putz

March 1st, 2008

In German putz literally means “finery, adornment,” but when used ironically in Yiddish it means “obnoxious man, fool,” or more crassly in Yiddish slang it refers to a certain part of the male anatomy. The Pennsylvania Dutch used the term putz for a “Nativity display around a Christmas tree.” Putz is a derivative of the German term “putzen,” meaning to clean, brighten, preen, or shine.

Growing up I would slunk down and cringe in my theater seat when one movie actor would call another “a putz.” Now I just laugh. As my Father always said, “no one ever forgets your name.”

Big Bear Valley Trails Coalition

February 26th, 2008

Big Bear Valley Trails Coalition logo 2I’m excited to have been asked to serve on the Big Bear Valley Trails Coalition and look forward to helping develop and promote responsible use of our Valley’s incredible trails. The Coalition benefits from a variety of stakeholder members, including the City of Big Bear Lake, the County of San Bernardino, the US Forest Service, Caltrans, and SANBAG. Current successes include 26 new “Share the Road” signs around the Valley, an updated bike route system within the City of Big Bear Lake, and a cross-city bike route in the East end of the Valley. To the right is a little logo I designed for the Coalition.

2008 SoCal Mountain Bike Racing Calendar

February 16th, 2008

Mountain BikingAs the updated 2008 SoCal Mountain Bike Racing Calendar shows, there are many competitive events for those of us who like the fat tire. Note that in 2008 there are several events in our local San Bernardino Mountains. I also included some of our other favorite endurance cycling events.

Moving a Million Miles for Ryan Hall

February 16th, 2008

Ryan HallBig Bear’s Lighthouse Project has launched a community spirit initiative, “Move A Million Miles for Ryan Hall,” which challenges the community surrounding Big Bear Lake, California to get up and out, and “move a million miles” between now and Big-Bear-native Ryan Hall’s August 24 marathon race date in Beijing, China during the 2008 Summer Olympic games. I’ve been helping out with the campaign, and even had a chance to meet and run with Ryan and his wife Sara. Support the campaign and report your miles here.

Baldwin Lake Bike Path

May 25th, 2007

Wednesday afternoon I had the pleasure of meeting with Phil Hamilton about efforts to make the Big Bear Valley more bike-friendly. He’s heading up the Big Bear Valley Trails Coalition, a group of citizens and organizations who’s goal is to make “Big Bear a community that encourages and welcomes all forms of non-motorized uses for both recreation and transportation.” Phil has assembled an impressive steering committee that includes local and County representatives, as well as the Forest Service and Caltrans. And it appears they are off to a great start, and with gas headed towards a billion dollars a gallon, the timing couldn’t be better.

One project calls for a Type 1 (separate from the road) multi-use pathway around Baldwin Lake. Another project calls for dozens of “Share the Road” bicycle road signs throughout the Valley. And another seeks to complete a Type 1 path between Division and Stanfield Cutoff, picking up from the boardwalk on Baker Pond.

As good as the on and off-road cycling opportunities are in the Big Bear, anyone who has spent any time on a bike in the Valley knows there are some areas that would definitely benefit from more cycling-friendly attention. Making the Valley more cycling-centric is also consistent with responsible stewardship of our wonderful outdoor setting.

So hats off to Phil and the other Committe members. I plan to do my part to support the effort. Oh, and remember the 4 Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Ride!

Baldwin Lake near Big Bear Lake

Big Bear Lake Marathon ?

May 19th, 2007

Big Bear MarathonA couple days ago I attended the City of Big Bear Lake Planing Commission meeting intended to review an application for a Marathon around Big Bear Lake next year in 2008. I went with Pat Follett because we both believed events of this sort are important to the vitality of the Big Bear Valley and wanted to voice our support.

Having promoted and managed hundreds of mountain bike races around the Country for the past 20 years, Pat was able to speak to the Planning Comission with some authority on the subject. He spoke to the challenges of pulling off competitive sporting events in the Valley and noted the impact of declining mountain bike racing in Big Bear ever since Snow Summit stopped hosting those events.

I presented a bit different view and mentioned to the Planning Commission that most people who came to Big Bear needed an excuse to visit, and that competitive outdoor events brought a quality guest appreciative of our unique mountain setting. I said how events like the Big Bear Lake Marathon help fill Big Bear Lake cabins, help keep employees employed, and help collect TOT tax for the City of Big Bear Lake. And I reminded everyone that while I wish events like this magically happened with no effort and no inconvenience, the reality was that if we wanted the benefits of this kind of event, we had to all work together.

I also addressed the issue of the brief early-morning road closures necessary for an event like this. One of my neighbors had complained via letter that if Highway 18 were closed, he wouldn’t be able to get his JC Penney delivery. I mentioned how little traffic there is on the Highway from 4am to 8am, and said that I would much rather choose to briefly close the Highway early in the morning for the benefits of an event like this, than suffer through involuntary closures due to fuel spills, traffic accidents, and acts of nature. Pat reminded me about the C.A.V.E. people – Citizens Against Virtually Everything – and it made me laugh. I figured if this neighbor is worried about deliveries a year and a half from now, he probably has bigger problems than a 4 hour early-morning road closure.

The Planning Commission will revisit the Marathon application next month, but several Commission Members did comment on the very professional organization and preparation of those seeking to put on the Marathon.

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