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Summer Online Learning – Points to Consider

June 14, 2017


Over the last few years, many Saline students have used the summer as an opportunity to take online courses.  The number has grown from 78 in 2014 to 192 (so far!) in 2017. Many students take summer classes to create more room/flexibility in a traditional high school schedule. Some take advantage of the credit recovery option. Others are intent upon advancement to a higher level of study in school. Whatever the reason, online classes taken during the summer help students keep their academic skills sharp. They appear more focused and ready to start school in the fall.

Here are a few key points to consider if you or your child/student is interested in taking an online course:  

Time Management – Students will need to learn and develop time management skills.  Faced with flexibility on when to work on their course, many students struggle to develop an effective pace to make the workload necessary to complete the course.  Studying for online is much the same as traditional – it still requires note taking, reading, etc.

Online = Easier – There is a common misconception that online is easier or faster than traditional courses.  Most often, they are not.  What is different is the flexibility that students have to learn at their own pace and complete assignments when they so choose.

Try Something New – Often, the coursework that is available online is not offered in the traditional classroom. Students can explore world cultures, languages, and specific areas of study that are of interest to them. Online learning can spark an area of interest or passion where the student was previously unaware.

Online courses are not an “instant” fix for students that have not been successful in traditional classrooms; it’s just a different way of presenting the material. Sometimes, tutoring is necessary, just as it might be for students taking taking traditional classes.

If you would like more information about online learning opportunities with Saline Area Schools, contact your child’s guidance counselor or Mrs. Carol Melcher at 734-401-4040. The application for summer online learning is available online. A list of available courses is included with the application. The summer session is short. If you’re interested in an online learning experience for your child, please enroll by June 20, 2017.

Screen Time… How much is too much?

June 6, 2017


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Over the last several years, the matter regarding “screen time” (time spent using a device such as a computer, smartphone, television, or games console) for children has been a hot topic among educators and parents. Many experts have noted the negatives of too much time spent looking at screens – and I don’t disagree with them.  However, with the proliferation of devices, apps, and opportunities for learning that are delivered via screens – how can we effectively manage the time children spend on looking at screens?

First, we need to understand that not all “screen time” is created equal.  Watching cartoon videos on YouTube and reading a book on an iPad are two very different activities, both delivered on screens. While one may have little educational value, the other can help with reading comprehension, content knowledge, vocabulary/culture acquisition and more.  There are also thousands of educational apps that children can use to create music, learn a new language, enhance math skills, and more.  It’s vital that we consider the content and purpose on the screen with setting targets for use.

Second, it can’t be an all or nothing proposition.  Screens are here, and here to stay.  Wise parents and educators should focus on giving children guidelines for appropriate use of electronic devices. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests limiting screen time for young children.  The recommended time varies with age. The AAP recommends no screen time at all for children under eighteen months. Between the ages of two and five, limit screen time to less than an hour per day.  As children become school aged, the regulating screen time becomes more complicated.  Evaluating the “type” of screen time is important.  While too much of the wrong kind of screen time can be harmful or detrimental to early childhood development, not all screen time is necessarily bad.  We have to be flexible – meeting the learning and developmental needs of all students.

An interesting study out of UCLA finds that children exposed to excessive screen time do not develop the ability to recognize emotion, interact appropriately with age-mates, or socialize with age-appropriate skill.

The focus should be on balance.  Limiting screen time is important; children also need time for physical activity, social interaction (without technology) and quiet time for reflection.

With summer vacation around the corner, it’s important for parents and families to consider what type of balance will work for them and also benefit the development of well-rounded, grounded children.

Saline High School – Class of 2017

June 4, 2017

Saline High School
2017 Senior Class Survey

On Wednesday, May 17, the members of the Class of 2017 completed an online survey to indicate where they would be sending their final transcript. The results for the 442 responses are below:

Michigan Colleges (317) 72%
Out of State Colleges (92) 21%

Michigan Public Colleges (292) 66%
Michigan Private Colleges (25) 6%

All Four Year Colleges (329) 74%
All Two Year Colleges (80) 18%

Technical or Vocational School (6) 1%
Military (5) 1%
Working Full Time (10) 2%
Exchange Students returning (5) 1%
Young Adult Program (6) 1%

Interesting Numbers:

Michigan Private Schools
Adrian College 3
Albion College 3
Alma College 1
Aquinas College 1
Calvin College 1
Concordia University – Ann Arbor 1
Hope College 6
Kalamazoo College 2
Kettering University 1
Lawrence Technological University 1
Northwood University 2
Olivet Nazarene University 1
The College for Creative Studies 1
University of Detroit Mercy 1

Michigan Public Schools
Central Michigan University 8
Eastern Michigan University 41
Ferris State University 2
Grand Valley State University 22
Lake Superior State University 1
Michigan State University 57
Michigan Technological University 2
Saginaw Valley State University 1
University of Michigan – Ann Arbor 54
University of Michigan – Dearborn 1
Wayne State University 4
Western Michigan University 18

Michigan Career and Technical Schools

Michigan Career and Technical Institute 1

Michigan Community Colleges

Jackson Community College 2
Lansing Community College 1
Schoolcraft College
Washtenaw Community College 75

Public Out of State Colleges

Arizona State University 1
Bowling Green State University 5
Christopher Newport University 1
Florida Southern College 1
Florida State University 1
Georgia Institute of Technology 2
Indiana University 3
Kent State University 1
Louisiana State University 1
Miami University 2
New York State at Buffalo 1
Ohio State University 1
Ohio University 2
Purdue University 1
San Diego State University 1
Savannah College of Art and Design 1
Technical University of Munich 1
University of Alabama 5
University of Arizona 3
University of California – Los Angeles 1
University of California – Santa Barbara 1
University of Cincinnati 1
University of Colorado – Boulder 1
University of Hawaii 1
University of Indianapolis 1
University of Kentucky 2
University of Mississippi 2
University of New Orleans 1
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 1
University of Oregon 1
University of Texas – Dallas 1
University of Toledo 8
Utah State University 1
Virginia Tech 2

Private Out of State Colleges
Brigham Young University 3
Brown University 1
Butler University 2
Case Western Reserve University 1
Champlain 1
Columbia College Chicago 1
Culinary Institute of America 1
Furman University 1
George Washington University 3
Indiana Wesleyan University 1
Liberty University 2
Life University 1

Lourdes University 1

Loyola University of  Chicago 1
Marquette University 1
Mercy College 1
Oberlin College 1
Ohio Wesleyan University 1
Rose-Hulman 1
Saint Mary’s College of Notre Dame1
Smith College 1
Stanford University 1
Trine University 1
University of Dayton 1
Villanova University 1
Washington and Lee University 1
Wittenberg University 1

Other interesting facts about the Class of 2017:
1 National Merit Semi-Finalists
1  National Merit Finalists
10 National Merit Commended Scholars
1  Student having a cumulative unweighted grade point average of 4.0
86  Students having a cumulative weighted grade point average of 4.0 or higher
141 Students having a cumulative unweighted grade point average of 3.6667 – 3.999

Shadowing a Student

May 13, 2017

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Near the end of April, I had the opportunity to “shadow” a 5th grade student at Heritage School.  This meant meeting him at the start of the day as he entered the school and staying with him throughout the day.  Classroom, hallways, specials, lunch, recess… the entire day.  If there was an assignment, I had to do it.

The idea came from a national program called the “Shadow a Student Challenge” and several Saline Area Schools administrators & teachers participated.  We recently debriefed about our experiences to learn more about what our students see and feel throughout the day.

Here are a few of my takeaways:

  • We have a positive culture. I witnessed kindness between students, and between students & staff.
  • For 4th & 5th grade students – movement is key.  They have a lot of energy and staying focused is enhanced with frequent movement.
  • Our teachers are excellent.  I witnessed lessons that were engaging, rigorous, well planned.
  • Time for students to work in groups is important – but it has to be focused and structured.
  • Groundies tag is fun and everyone cheats at it.
  • Fidget spinners are cool and annoy teachers.

Overall, it was a great experience and one that I intend to do each year.  I encourage other educators to take the challenge and learn what it feels like to be a student for the entire day.

School Quality Survey Now Open: Take it Here!

April 11, 2017


Saline Area Schools is again offering parents, employees, and students the chance to provide feedback on district schools in its annual School Quality Survey. The survey asks for feedback about academic and student support, school leadership, safety and behavior, family involvement, and more.

By conducting this survey every year, we can gauge our progress, identify trends, and understand our ongoing needs.  As a result of previous surveys, we’ve been able to make tangible changes in our schools to directly address our community’s top concerns.

Among those changes were implementing training to ensure instructors connect learning objectives to relevant, real-world applications, and updating the food options at all school levels to better meet students’ needs.

Survey invitations and links were sent to potential (Parents, Students grades 6-12, and All Staff) participants on Tuesday, April 11. Parents can also take the survey by clicking {here}. The online survey is compatible with any computer, tablet, or smartphone, and it is offered in both English and Spanish.

The survey is open through Monday, May 1.

The district’s independent research partner, K12 Insight, is administering the survey and compiling the results. All responses are strictly confidential. No one in the district will be able to connect a participant to his or her answers.

For more information about the survey, contact me here.

Community Conversation – April 17th

March 28, 2017

Saline Area School Community,

With the school year well underway, I would like to schedule the second “Community Conversation” meeting of the 2016-2017 school year. Over the last nine years I have had the opportunity to host numerous “Community Conversation” events to learn more about what interested community members see as the strengths of Saline Area Schools, and what areas they felt we needed to focus attention on for improvement. Through these conversations and other opportunities, I have learned a great deal about how many of you see our district and it has helped guide me, along with the Board of Education, as we move forward.

In an effort to continue this dialogue, I will be making time available on Monday, April 17th from 10:00am- 11:00am at Carrigan’s Cafe, 107 S. Ann Arbor Street. Please stop by, say hello and bring any thoughts about the district you feel I should know.

If you can’t make it, feel free to use “Let’s Talk” and let me know your thoughts.

Thank you,
Scot Graden

Strategic Framework vs Strategic Plan

March 25, 2017


From time to time I get asked, “What is your strategic plan for Saline Area Schools?”  First, I respond with, “We don’t have a plan…. instead we have a framework.”  Using the term, “framework” to define the mission and direction for the Saline Area Schools gives me the opportunity to explain why a framework is more advantageous than a strategic plan in the current era of fast moving policy changes and technological advancements.  

A plan is defined as, “a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something.”  In theory, a strategic plan is a good thing for organizations like school districts to have in place.  Research shows that employees want to feel like they know the direction in which they are headed,  and that a sense of purpose helps stakeholders feel connected to the greater cause.  Most schools work on three to five-year plan cycles.

A framework is defined as, “a basic structure underlying a system, concept, or text.” The framework provides the structure within which an organization can operate. Research also shows that employees prefer some degree of autonomy in their work. With a strategic framework, teachers are afforded the autonomy to experiment creatively with a variety of instructional strategies and learning spaces. In the case of Saline Area Schools, the framework is reviewed and revised annually.

A strategic plan tends toward short-term, actionable tasks. A strategic framework, while focused, allows the flexibility to adapt to changing global trends, policy mandates, and marketplace needs.

We see the benefits of a framework vs. a plan as these:

  • A framework is more flexible in adapting to marketplace changes.  Plans are often too rigid and precise to adapt quickly enough to meet emerging needs and shifts in policy.
  • Frameworks provide clear guidance without being too prescriptive.  Plans can easily become too detailed to allow staff the autonomy to make their own decisions.
  • Frameworks provide an umbrella for all organizational activities. Plans become so specific in some areas that staff do not see a connection to the greater outcomes.
  • Frameworks are easily understood and communicated.  Plans can become lengthy and cumbersome.

Here is a link to the Saline Area Schools’ current Strategic Framework.  The original framework was adopted by the Board of Education in 2011 and has been reviewed and revised annually.


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