Thursday, September 21, 2017

Parent Learning Walk (Fall 2017)

Our amazing PTO had their first big meeting of the year earlier today and we followed that up with a Parent Learning Walk.

A portion of those in attendance.

Parents received a brief presentation about what our overall vision for instruction is at WJHS and then we visited classrooms for a first-hand look at the teaching/learning taking place.

At WJHS, we base our goal for instruction on the Rigor/Relevance Framework developed by the International Center for Leadership in Education.

We synthesize the research behind the Rigor/Relevance Framework with two simple phrases: Above the Line and Get Real.

Above the Line:
We strive for higher levels of thinking.  We work to avoid limiting the thinking of our students to simple memorization.  We want our students thinking in more complex ways to build upon and extend their knowledge.

Get Real: 
With regard to relevance, we attempt to construct learning experiences that ask students to:

  • Contemplate "real" problems/issues
  • Create "real" products
  • For an authentic audience.

As we visit each room, parents get to see how our teachers are working to create more meaningful learning experiences.

After the visits, we debrief and discuss the evidence of rigorous, relevant learning that we just witnessed.

The parents that joined us this morning had a wonderful time and were extremely complimentary of our students and teachers.

We will host another Parent Learning Walk after the PTO meeting on April 5th.  I hope that you can join us.

Tim Sparacino, Principal

Monday, August 28, 2017

First Learning Walks of 2017-18

Our first Learning Walks of the year were held during 1st and 2nd periods today and both walks were a huge success.

WJHS Learning Walks are an extension of our Teachers Visiting Teachers (TVT) program and are designed to allow teachers to "steal" ideas and to document evidence of our main instructional goals.

We boil quality instruction down to two key terms:

  • Above the Line: Students are thinking at high levels.
  • Get Real: Students are solving real problems, creating real products/solutions, for a real audience.

The staff members that participated the walks were:

Cindy Allen, Libby Brown, Blake Cook, Lilian Diaz, Bryan Hale, Ashley Jones, Rebecca Kirby, Alison Picklesimer, Tim Sparacino, and Jennifer Tatum.

The rooms that we visited were taught by:

Cindy Allen, Deb Bain, Amanda Barham, Carrie Beach, Libby Brown, Heather Crumpler, Lilian Diaz, Brittany Durr, Ashley Jones, Alison Picklesimer, Betty Pollreis, Mary Sellers, Scott Terrell, Deana Wallace, and Rebecca Wright.

Every room that we visited allowed us to learn something and document evidence of quality instruction (Above the Line/Get Real).

We saw outstanding examples of incorporating pre-assessment to drive instructional decisions, planning for student movement and engagement, multiple grouping techniques/strategies, creative ways to continue to build relationships with and between students, discussion prompt displays, and utilizing rubrics as a tool for student self-assessment.

Pictured below is today's 2nd period Learning Walk group (Bryan Hale, Cindy Allen, Lilian Diaz, Jennifer Tatum, Alison Picklesimer, Blake Cook, and Tim Sparacino).

We have more Learning Walks scheduled for this week and throughout the year.

Parents that want a peek into our classrooms can get in on the action by attending the PTO meeting at 8 AM on September 21st which will be followed by a Parent Learning Walk.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Articles of Interest (August 15, 2017)

I wanted to share some articles of interest that I've stumbled upon in my recent professional reading.

Teaching in a Block Schedule
From Cult of Pedagogy: Making the Most of a 90-Minute Block has examples of different structures that teachers use to maximize instructional time.

Teacher/Parent Communication
Before school started, we identified some key questions that parents always have.  They were:

  • What will my child be learning?
  • How and when will I know what progress my child is making?
  • How can I help my child?

Here is an interesting article from @alicekeeler  titled Digital Assignments- Include a Parent Corner that describes a potential way to keep parents informed about what is happening in your class and how they can help.

Finding Resources
One of the quickest and easiest tools to use to assist you with the curation of professional reading materials is FlipBoard.

We have our very own FlipBoard magazine called WJHS Learns.  You can "follow" our magazine in the FlipBoard app or simply click this link to read it online.

If you're on Twitter, check out my account: @sparacino.

In addition to my main Twitter feed, I've also created some lists that you could explore, consider subscribing to, and/or follow other educators directly from the list.

I suggest starting with the Must Follow, Topnotch 4 EdTech, and of course the WJHS Staff list.

Another Amazing Year
This year has such a positive feel already.  I'm so excited to be your principal and look forward to our learning together.

Go Wildcats!

Tim Sparacino, Principal
Washington Jr. High School
Inspiring Excellence!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

And Down the Stretch They Come! Finishing the School Year Strong

Image result for down the stretch they come

If you've ever been in or watched a race, you know that the end of the race is not the time to coast. It is the time to "kick it in!"

Having been at WJHS for the last four years, I've had a first hand look at how our teachers continue to have school to the very last bell.

Will we celebrate?  Absolutely.  The effort and achievement of our students and staff members is worthy of celebration.  So, we will have fun events to honor and reward our students and staff members.

However, for us, the end of standardized testing doesn't signal that the school year is over.

In fact, we see the end of the year as an opportunity to "kick it in."

The focus that we place on establishing positive relationships with students will only become more important.  We know that a positive classroom environment is just as relevant the last month of the year as it is during the first.

Our instruction will continue to focus on the essential learning that our students must master.  We will set clear learning targets, assess progress toward mastery, and provide meaningful feedback.

Professionally, we will continue to grow by reading educational research, trying new practices without fear of failure, visiting other classrooms, etc.

Our teachers will strive to create memorable learning opportunities for students.  We will look for ways to demonstrate our love for teaching/learning.  We want our students to see our passion for learning, reading, making, thinking critically...Maybe some of it will rub off on them!

To get a behind the scenes view of just how we "kick it in" down the stretch, check out our hashtag- #gowjhswildcats.

Tim Sparacino, Principal

Friday, March 3, 2017

WJHS: A Place of Making

Check out this post by Mrs. Beach on her Tinkering in Making blog.

At WJHS, we believe that "making" is an essential part of meaningful learning.

You can support our campaign and increase access to makerspaces at WJHS by visiting

We appreciate you!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What Are Teachers Doing on PD Days?

Next Monday and Tuesday, students will be out of school and teachers will be involved in professional development activities.

As a parent, you may be wondering what types of activities teachers are involved in on these "release days."

Monday, February 20
Most WJHS teachers will be in our building Monday.

We do have a few teachers that will be involved in training at other sites that relate directly to their area of expertise.

Our morning sessions will focus on developing the technology integration skills of our teachers.  We know that just "integrating" technology doesn't automatically lead to improved learning or engagement.  Our use of technology has to purposefully improve learning.

Teachers have been offered a menu of five technology training options and they have selected three one hour sessions that are most beneficial to them.

These sessions are facilitated by teacher leaders within our building and our Instructional Technology Specialist, Dee Thomas.

Our afternoon learning will focus on:

  • The work of our Response to Intervention(RTI) SWAT Team and how it relates to Priority Time
  • Professional Learning Community (PLC) best practices as they relate to RTI
  • Our ongoing Rethinking Grading book study.  (Two of our teacher leaders will be helping us investigate Chapter 4: What How and When to Grade).
  • Reflect on the data from the Gallup Student Poll that we administered in the fall (time permitting).

It's important to note that our teachers had input into the structure of this day.  They were surveyed to identify the most pressing needs that they had for professional development.  That input was used to select and craft the sessions detailed above.

Tuesday, February 21
On Tuesday morning, some of our teachers will be involved in district-level professional development activities (Co-teaching, Math Lab Best Practices, Social Thinking, etc.).

Some teachers will be involved in district-level PLC meetings focusing on vertical and/or horizontal alignment of curriculum, expectations, assessment, etc.

Other teachers will be at WJHS in building-level PLC meetings focusing on ensuring a guaranteed and viable curriculum, common assessment, remediation, and enrichment opportunities, etc.

On Tuesday afternoon, all 7th-12th grade teachers will meet at BHS for district-level PLC meetings focusing on quality Tier 1 instruction, vertical and/or horizontal alignment of curriculum, expectations, assessment, etc.

As you know, lifelong learning is one of the CORE values of our staff and a vital component of The Wildcat Way.

We are looking forward to a great two days of learning so that we can be better educators and even more successful  at building a school that students run toward for the children that you allow us the privilege of working with everyday.  Thank you!

Friday, November 18, 2016

A Thankful Principal 2016

Last year, I wrote a post called "A Thankful Principal" and listed just a few of the things that I was thankful for with regard to our faculty and staff here at WJHS.  Please click on the link to review that post because every word of it is just as true in 2016 as it was then.

This year, I thought that I would turn my attention to the "stinkin' awesome" students that I have the pleasure to serve every day.

In our recent Veterans Day Assembly, outlined in the post Patriotism: Now More Than Ever, I took the time to tell our Veterans how wonderful our students are.

My unscripted comments were something like, "I know that you served so that we could have a better America.  And, I know that today's youth often get a bad rap.  But let me tell you, these students that we have here, those that have performed for you today as well as all of those sitting in the bleachers, give me confidence in a brighter future for America.  They love our country, are patriotic, and consistently serving.  They will lead us to a brighter future.  America's best days are still ahead."

Obviously, as an administrator, I do get to see our students mess up.  Messing up is part of being a 7th/8th grader!  However, most of the time I see students that give me hope for the future because I see them model our Wildcat traits everyday.

Our Wildcats are:

  • Welcoming
  • Involved
  • Leading
  • Dependable
  • Cooperative
  • Ambitious
  • Teachable
  • Serving
Thanks to the parents that trust me to work with your students every day and thanks to the teachers that help mold and shape our students into the wonderful young people that they are.

I am indeed very thankful.

Tim Sparacino, Principal