• What is the impact of low attendance and vacations on learning?

    Posted by Brett Nelson at 2/2/2017 1:15:00 PM

    So as a parent I have taken my sons out of school for vacations, whether for a day or two days, to have a family experience. I fully support this time that children make memories with their families.

    However, I do need to express my concern with long breaks. During long breaks like summer vacation and winter break there is always some measurable regression of content. Regression in student learning is a norm, and hence why teachers use the time after a long break to review material and tap into the prior knowledge of students. So it’s not a fix,  but can the impact can be addressed? What is more difficult is when students are out on longer vacations during the instructional year.

    Why is this more difficult? With Common Core and NGGS standards the focus is on deeper thinking and collaborative learning. When a student is gone, whether on an approved vacation (Independent Study) or unexcused vacation, they miss critical learning opportunities.  Many times the deficits are not seen right away as the content we teach is scaffolded. What we have seen is students who miss many days of school often times can perform the work but do not understand the thinking behind it.

    Here is a 5th grade example:

    A student that missed a lesson on how to add and subtract equivalent fractions will be able to learn the process of adding and subtracting them, but will miss the understanding on how as the ratio between the numerator and denominator change the values change, as well as how two different equivalent fraction ratios relate to each other.

    So how does this affect learning?

    It affects learning by only allowing students to get to the knowledge stage of Maslow's hierarchy of learning (see prior blog for description). The biggest concern by colleges and industries ten years ago was that students had knowledge but did not know how to think, reason, or problem solve.  So to support your student’s learning it is essential to reduce the number of instructional days a student's misses as they are missing the opportunities to think, reason, and problem solve in class, and working with peers.

    As a parent I will reiterate it is important to make memories with your child, however, in order to help them not only learn but understand and apply their thinking, it is necessary  to limit time out of school.

    Next month's topic

    The impact of media and electronic on children's brain development?

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  • Pedagogy vs. Andragogy

    Posted by Brett Nelson at 11/10/2016 8:20:00 AM

    Pedagogy is a word that is often thrown around in education, but what does it really mean?

    Per Merriam-Webster: Pedagogy is the art, science, or profession of teaching

    In a school setting this is seen in the classroom by the knowledge and skills that a teacher brings into their instruction. When we shifted to Common Core the approach or pedagogy of teaching shifted. Or did it?

    So what is Andragogy?

    Per Dictionary.com Andragogy is the methods and techniques used to teach adults.

    So why am I sharing this with you?

    Well the work of Malcom Knowles an Adult Education authority is why. He believed there are four principles that need to be considered when working with adult learners

    1. Adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction.
    1. Experience (including mistakes) provides the basis for the learning activities.
    2. Adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance and impact to their job or personal life.
    3. Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented (link for more information)

    So here is the big epiphany; is not a pedagogical shift in instruction that has occurred when Common Core was adopted but rather a shift to andragogy. In this information era more than ever students want to be able to be part of the process of their own learning.  The practice and skills that we most want to instill students to have to prepare for not just college but the work force are more in alignment with our current goal to make a “lifelong learner”.

    How do we teach “lifelong learners”? We are doing this by having students:

    • Evaluate, edit and review their own work
    • Having project based and hands on learning opportunities
    • Providing a rigorous and relevant education
    • Having students apply their knowledge to solve complex problems

    As parent the goal for your child is not to stop their learning at high school or college graduation, but rather instill a passion for learning that will carry them through life.  The best way a parent can support this learning is to make connections between topics they are learning and connect them to the real word.

    Here are examples. Your child is learning about fractions, have them make a cake with you, or do some woodworking. Life cycles in Science? How about a hike and look for composers and decomposers in the real world.

    The idea is to have them apply their knowledge to a relevant real world example. This will not only allow them to anchor the concept tangibly but wait… are you spending time together? Gotcha ;-)

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  • Emotional Health + Academic Intelligence = Success

    Posted by Brett Nelson at 10/21/2016 1:10:00 AM

    As many of you probably know James Dougherty has been recognized at a state and the federal level for having a robust Response to Intervention (RTI). But why?

    The success for student growth is not just in a rigorous instructional program but rather meeting the child’s needs first. This is done by increasing their emotional health.

    An emotionally healthy student does not just feel better, but learns more. If a student does not feel safe, or feels overwhelmed, this can lead to depression and anxiety especially when they are placed in an environment where they are put in mental discord daily (school).

    As the Administrative Liaison for the District, as Principal, and most importantly as a father, I cannot stress the importance of making the emotional health of a child the highest priority.

    All humans have basic needs and if the needs are not met then learning is impacted. Maslow, a well know psychologist, outlined the needs of people in three categories: Basic needs, Psychological needs, and Self-fulfillment needs.

    Below is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs




    Ok so here is the quick summary of Psychology 101; “So what it is just theoretical!” or is it?

    Think of your child when they are tired because they did not get the 10-12 hours of sleep (as recommended by the American Pediatric Association), or did not eat a healthy breakfast, and “No Donuts!” they do not count (I love them). How do they act? Tired? Unfocused? Hyper? If a growing body is not properly rested and fueled this will not only lead to health issues, but will also have an impact on a child’s cognitive functions. Here is an article on the importance of nutrition on learning if you have some time. (Article)

    That is just the first level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

    So where am I going?

    For the past two years I have been working with a group of counselors, parents and mental health care providers to address the factors that negatively impact the emotional health of students. What we have seen is a significant increase in depression and anxiety.

    “In America today, high school and college students are five to eight times as likely to suffer from depressive symptoms as were teenagers 50 or 60 years ago, according to Psychology Today.”

    Last month Dr. Denise Pope presented “Helping Your Child Succeed: College, Career, Life…” at the Dublin High School Performing Arts Center. This month we had George Papageorge, MFT present as a keynote speaker before breakouts at “Keeping Mentally Fit: How to Manage Stress in High School”. In both presentations I was reminded what was important. Dr. Pope asked us to prioritize our time and make sure we had family time. Then George Papageorge said it is all about “Connection, Connection, Connection.” From both presentations students that had parents prioritize what is best for their child, ie. sleep, diet, and love had lower stress levels and higher self-esteem. Isn’t happiness the real measure of success for our children?

    In our fast-pasted society it has become an anomaly to find families that sit down to eat a meal together, and even rarer is the family that talks to each other and makes connections. Didn’t they do this 50 years ago?

    So as we move into shorter days and busy holidays, make sure that you take time to connect with your child, whether they are 1 or 31 they still need you. Have dinner, go for a walk, or play a game. Turn the TV off, and put the cell phone away. Every time you spend time with your child you increase their self-worth and emotional health. Which in turn will make them more open to learn and more successful in all things they do.

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  • Walk and Roll

    Posted by Brett Nelson at 9/28/2016 2:00:00 PM

    Save the date! The challenge has been accepted....

    October 5th is the 20th International Walk and Roll to School Day. Other schools in our district are working to unseat us as the Walk and Roll Champions. For the past four years we have not just been the district champions but the Alameda County Reigning Champion. Last year we had over 93% of students walk, scooter, or bike to school.

    I will be sending out information next Monday about our give-aways, walking bus, bike parade and more.

    Also the Bike Mobile will be here on Monday from 2:00-4:00 to repair and tune up bikes for free in preparation for our Wednesday showdown. 

    Lets go for 100%

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  • Homework and keeping up

    Posted by Brett Nelson at 9/21/2016

    Hello Parents,


    I often get asked about homework. How much is too much? How much is too little?

    Below is a link that breaks down our District's Homework Policy

    District Homework Policy


    Here are the most important things to know...

    Homework is a reinforcement of instruction.

    Homework is not self-guided instruction.

    Reading can be assigned in addition to the homework minutes, but can not be for a grade. If it is graded then it is becomes part of the homework time.

    When a student reaches their grade level suggested time they are done. Notify the teacher that they worked on it, but could not complete it. A frustrated and tired student can not learn. For example, if your student is in 3rd grade you have 30 minutes of homework, plus a suggested reading time of 20 minutes. If your student is working for over an hour,  then the concepts they are working through are not be reinforced; more than likely they are still learning them. Homework, like the classroom instruction, should be differentiated to the level of each student.


    One of my favorite educators, Rick Wormeli, summarizes these concepts well. If you have a few minutes please watch the video.



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  • School Safety and Safety Patrol

    Posted by Brett Nelson at 9/9/2016 1:00:00 PM

    Parents it is important that we encourage our children to use crosswalks. Next week we will begin implementing our AAA Student Patrol program to increase school safety during pickup and dropoff. Please make sure to pull up all the way in the loading zone before letting your student out.


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  • Rotary/James Dougherty/Red Cross Blood Drive

    Posted by Brett Nelson at 9/9/2016 2:00:00 AM

    Do you want to be a Hero? Come to James Dougherty on October 1, 2016 from 9:00am-3:00 pm and participate in the Area 4 Rotary/Red Cross Blood Drive.

    Follow the link below for more information. Enter the Sponsor Code StateFarm in the "find a drive" space. Bring a friend. 

    See you then. 


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  • Denise Pope

    Posted by Brett Nelson at 9/7/2016 2:25:00 AM



    Hello Parents,

    Below is a link that I want to make sure you see. Dr. Denise Pope is an acclaimed speaker who focuses on the issues that face children as they move through education on to college and careers. Please make sure to review the flier and visit the link. Space is limited. If you are interested make sure to sign up soon.


    Helping Your Child Suceed


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  • Dougherty Construction Newsletter

    Posted by Robin Rankin at 8/30/2016 3:15:00 PM

    Phase 1 of the construction is almost complete. Read in more detail here.

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  • Construction updates

    Posted by Brett Nelson at 8/16/2016 1:00:00 PM

    Construction is going well. We have concluded another phase. As the year progresses we will get more of the black top back.

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