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Performance Assessment

Practice pad that gave my parents some relief from the loud drumming.

Practice pad that gave my parents some relief from the loud drumming.

“Let’s try it again with a little lower left hand position prior to the double bounce of the paradiddle.” This is typical of the comments that could be heard during my drum lessons in the 10th grade. Little did I know that I was actually experiencing authentic performance assessment.  My teacher, Bob Adams, wanted me to qualify for membership in the National Association of Rudimental Drummers. The requirements included performing the 13 essential drum rudiments to a high level of proficiency, far beyond what I thought I could achieve.

Over a period of several months I played these rudiments during lessons. Mr. Adams demonstrated how to improve my performance and then invited me to try again after more practice. His demonstrations were just short of miraculous to this young drummer, but I did my best to imitate his technique.

For many evenings I practiced these rhythmic patterns with funny names like paradiddle, flamacue, long roll, and ruff. My non-drummer friends didn’t understand what I was doing or why. My parents endured strange rhythmic patterns incessantly tapping from slow to fast and back to slow again. Only my teacher truly understood and his expectations were clear. Finally, after months of work, Mr. Adams congratulated me on performing the requirements up to standard.  I still feel pride in this accomplishment.

NARD certificate

Mr. Adams never said, “I’ll hear you play and give you a percentage grade.” He never said, “If you want to settle for a C, we’ll stop working on this and go to something else.” Statements like this would have sounded absurd to me even though this was the approach in many of my other classes at the time. Cover the material, test over the material, and move on regardless of mastery.

Music was different! It was a process of building knowledge, increasing skills, and real life performance. Tremendous learning and improvement occurred. No grades were assigned other than occasional ratings based on a performance rubric. Even these were not viewed as final. A Third Division rating meant there was much work to be done. The goal was a First Division. Fourth or Fifth Division ratings were completely unacceptable. Expectations for performance were clear.

Thank goodness other academic areas are coming around to “performance assessment” learning.  We’re seeing more use of standards-based assessment and formative assessment even though percentage grades seem permanently entrenched in the United States. If we want our children to experience deep learning that is retained and used, we’ll need to limit our dependence on grades as final events and view assessment as an on-going process toward higher levels of achievement using tasks that are authentic and meaningful.

Drum Rudiments

All this for just half a nickel

The following article about my parents is a testament to the power of love and commitment and how two people can influence so many.  It’s also a good story.

 ‘All this for just half a nickel’

Valentine’s vase commemorates 63 years of love

By: Joan Hershberger – El Dorado News-Times (Posted here with permission)

Mother and Daddy 1

The heart vase still in use today.

One date and Jim Warnock wanted to do something special for Elsie. With Valentine’s Day nearing, the red heart-shaped planter with a live plant caught his eye. 

He bought the planter and took it the next time he went to date Elsie.

As students at Ouachita Baptist University, Jim, a senior, and Elsie, a freshman, had first noticed each other in the fall of 1949.  They smiled and greeted each other, but nothing happened until early February 1950. “My roommate and I wanted to double date with her. It cost a nickel to make a phone call, so we called up and made two dates to church with that one nickel,” Jim Warnock said.

“I was infatuated and needed to do something. ‘It’s Valentine’s Day,’ I said. I needed to get her a Valentine. That vase caught my eye. It was red.” Jim said he bought the vase and presented it to Elsie with a live, growing plant inside.  “The plant probably did not last to the next week – well maybe into the summer,” Elsie laughed.

But she did take the vase home from college and left it at her mother’s house.  The red paint quickly began to come off. They tried painting it before they realized the red could be scrubbed off to show white glaze underneath.

Elsie and Jim had talked about marriage, then the Korean War began and Jim, who had been in the ROTC at OBU, was called to serve.  “We were going to wait to marry, but then on Tuesday night we decided to marry and on Saturday we were married. I had a lot of friends who helped us put it on. They went to the ravine and got greenery for the arch and, I hope, asked the neighbors for their daffodils. It was a very pretty church wedding,” Elsie recalled.

“We had our honeymoon at Camp Polk in the bachelor’s quarters. It sounds elegant, but it wasn’t,” Elsie said. “He shipped out two weeks later. I stayed, went on to school and finished college. While he was gone, there was one professor who kept saying that the life expectancy of a second lieutenant was 28 seconds,” she recalled.

“We tell folks that we are the only couple we know that never had an argument their first two years of marriage,” Jim said. 
They couldn’t argue – he was serving in Korea.  Instead they wrote letters back and forth to each other. Because of the inconsistencies of the mail, sometimes Jim’s letters from Elsie would pile up at the post office. “I would get upset because she was not writing to me and then a bunch would come,” he recalled with a rueful grin.  “I saved all his letters and wrote a book about his time in Korea,” Elsie said. 
“I can’t believe I didn’t save any of your letters,” Jim shook his head. 
“You were in the infantry and moving around,” she shrugged it off.

Jim returned from Korea and Elsie graduated. The two found jobs as teachers in south Texas where they made their first home.  Jim taught and was the school’s assistant coach.  Elsie, who had trained to teach high school, taught in the elementary school.

Elsie brought the vase to their first home. And in February, Jim took it out each year to fill for Valentine’s Day.  
“Some years it had daffodils, other years arrangements or yard flowers. It was not a big deal that we had to have it. It just was always there and it had lasted another year. Jimmy has surprised me at times by getting it and doing a new arrangement. It is always on display through the month of February. But, we do not have to have a new decoration every year,” Elsie said.

“The kids knew about it. After a while we wrote the year on the bottom and that it was the first gift Jim gave me as my first Valentine from him. We displayed it at our 50th wedding anniversary celebration,” she said.  “I may have taken it to a Valentine Banquet once,” she said. “But it was too risky. It is not so much that it is valuable as it is of sentimental value to us.”

 This low-key couple agreed that they do not make a big event out of Valentine’s Day. Sometimes they go out to eat on Valentine’s Day, but, “We do not HAVE to do something,” Elsie said.

Although the vase remains special to them, they have not made a big production about it other than to pull it out every Valentine’s Day for the past six decades to fill again with flowers. 

Last year she posted a picture of the vase on Facebook as a way to wish her Facebook friends a Happy Valentine’s Day.

Someone has commented that they never seem to be angry. “What good does it do? I really did get angry once, but he did not notice,” Elsie said. 
“When things are going especially well one of us will say, ‘All this for only a nickel,’ and the other will say, ‘for just half a nickel,’ Elsie laughed. “And when things are bad, we will turn and say, ‘All this for only a nickel’ and the other will say, ‘for just half a nickel.’”

In more recent years, Elsie wrote a book for family members about their life together. They started to write it together, but when Elsie asked him to write about his experiences, he would give her an inadequate half a page. She took his letters from Korea and re-wrote them for the book.  “We have to go back and check on the book every so often to remember things,” she said.

After a couple years of teaching in Texas, Jim, originally from the Smackover-Norphlet area, began using his scientific training at American Oil. Over the years he also worked at Lion Oil, Tosco and El Dorado Chemical as an environmental control analyst.

Elsie stayed home when their son and daughter were young and then began teaching at the El Dorado High School (now the old EHS building). She also taught at Barton Junior High and Rogers Junior High and was one of the first three employees at the developmental center where she served as the coordinator for 11 years under Rita Taunton.

Jim Warnock has served on the board of the South Arkansas Developmental Center for Children and Families for many years.

Their son, Jim Warnock, is a principal at Alma, and their daughter, Martha Kyzer, is the office manager with BuyRite Foods in Benton.

The couple has lived in El Dorado in four different houses. They moved to one house to accommodate Jim’s side job of working with ornamental iron. 

Now in their 80s, the couple have few health issues and continue to be active in the community.


Mother and Daddy 3

Jimmy & Elsie

Jimmy & Elsie, my father and mother.




Administrator Spotlight

Forgive the shameless self-promotion but I wanted to post this so friends, relatives, and especially my mom would have access to it.  It is pulled from the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators Newsletter.  Michelle spent a good portion of a day visiting our campus and then wrote this feature.  I appreciated her positive writeup.

March, 2013

By Michelle Hostetler, Communications Specialists for Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators

When Jim Warnock was hired as an elementary principal in 1993, he knew he needed three things: church pews in each hallway, a notebook, and time in classrooms. He had watched his mentor, Glynn Calahan, use these to become a successful principal who made a difference in the lives of her students. Ms. Calahan had a church pew on each floor of her school where she would sit with her notebook that contained information on her students (test scores, etc.). She would visit with students there praising them for good work and, when needed, encouraging them to do better. Mr. Warnock followed in her footsteps, purchasing old pews from a neighborhood church and proceeded to use the techniques Ms. Calahan used, including spending time in each classroom.

Jim started his career in education as a music teacher. His love of music started in high school where the teachers and students had a strong bond. His teachers’ hands-on approach to instruction was an inspiration to him. He knew that he wanted to go to college for music and he “didn’t think that being a rock star was going to work out” so he went into music education. Music continues to be part of his life as he plays drums in his church orchestra — maybe still working on that rock star dream??

Music isn’t Jim’s only passion. He also enjoys writing and photography. He uses his writing skills to communicate regularly with parents and staff through newsletters and memos. He has also had three articles published in the Urban Magazine, based in Fort Smith. He blogs and posts to a Facebook page for the Lake Alma Trail and the Ozark Highland Trail Association, where he serves as a board member. His love of hiking and the outdoors was evident when asked what he would be doing if not in his current position and his response was “hiking the Appalachian Trail.” Beautiful outdoor pictures line the wall of the hallway outside his office, all which were taken by Jim.

The respect the Alma Intermediate School staff has for Jim was easy to see while visiting the school. And his appreciation of the staff was also visible. He noted that he has an excellent assistant principal, Suzy Ferguson. He knows that he can rely on her to take care of things at school when his out. That allows him to participate in professional organizations such as AAEA, where he is a very active member.

“I would like to be remembered as someone who was committed to his students, teachers, and his family. Someone who continued to learn and grow. I want others to remember me the way I remember one of my mentors, Glynn Calahan. She recognized and reinforced the strengths in others and helped them build on those strengths.”    – Jim Warnock


What is your favorite thing about your job?

“Helping facilitate professional growth which then has an impact on students.”

What is the most challenging part of your job?

“Helping teachers navigate change and finding time to have conversations on deep knowledge in teaching and learning.”

What do you enjoy doing in your time off?

“Hiking and photography.”

Advice for someone considering a similar career:

“Look at the reason you want to do it. If you are aspiring to be a principal and you are not excited about teaching, you should probably do something other than education. I also always advise an aspiring principal to check out the superintendent before taking a job. The key to success as a principal is the superintendent you get to work for.” Jim commented that he has had the opportunity to work with three awesome superintendents: Bob Watson, Charles Dyer, and David Woolly.

What is something you are proud of?

“I am proud to know that I am the principal of a school that I wish I could have attended when I was a kid.”

If you weren’t in your current position, what would you be doing?

“Hiking the Appalachian Trail.”

Where do you see yourself in five years?

“Still trying to figure out how to be a good principal.”

Personal motto:

“When in doubt, take a step.”

One word to sum you up:



“Jim Warnock represents what a great principal should be. He is first and foremost the instructional leader in his school. The great majority of his day is spent actively engaged with teachers and students in the learning process. And the results show!”

— David Woolly, Alma Superintendent

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