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  • What I Learned Lately (WILL 14 What I Learned Lately (WILL 14/15 #1)

    • From: Joshua_Garcia
    • Description:

      What I Learned Lately (WILL 14/15 #1)




      “Way Too Much Time to Think About Data, Part 1.”


      For the past few years, I have been hearing the hype of the SBAC and PARCC assessments.  I have been drowned by the controversy of the Common Core.  Unfortunately, the conversation has turned from what is good for kids to what are your politics.  First and foremost, I believe in teaching clear and rigorous standards.  I believe in assessments that match the depth of knowledge of these standards.  I also believe in alignment that will create patterns for all students.  I believe that it is our jobs to facilitate these pieces relentlessly on behalf of our students.  However, more than ever I believe that we must take back our profession and create the systems that will measure student learning.  I know this will be extremely difficult and challenge us at a new level.  The new math problem for us is: (A) x (E) x (Q) = (SS), Access x Equity x Quality = Student Success.  We must relentless provide access to the standards, we must provide equitable supports to students in order to meet these standards and we must ensure there is quality instruction and assessments every day for every child.


      Imagine a time when people speak matter-of-factly about our schools success and how dropout rates and the achievement gaps are at all-time low.  This day is fast approaching.  Our teachers are taking their students to new heights locally, national graduation rates are at an all-time high (http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/06/high-school-graduation-rate-hits-40-year-peak-in-the-us/276604/).  In Tacoma, we will see another year of graduation increases.  However, in order to continue our recent successes and maintain continuous improvement, schools in Tacoma and across the nation, must create assessments that support data systems that can be disaggregated and used to systematically measure student growth from year to year.  A systemic approach to conducting data analysis for this purpose requires collaboration and purposeful conversations among teachers.  A data system is a system that all teachers actively participate in and identifying data elements that measure students’ yearly progress in a building.

      Often the most difficult part of grasping how to use a data system to drive instruction is the lack of understanding of the very terms used to define it.  We often assume that we share definitions to many of terms that are used daily basis.  For example, do we have common definitions for formative and summative?    When we measure growth, are we measuring the same standards or different standards?  It is lack of clarity about a common language that can lead to confusion, false positive results, and besieged attempts to find simple solutions for student learning.  Although data systems at the building level can seem overwhelming, they are crucial to provide data that reports student achievement precisely and accurately. To accomplish this goal, our schools will need to foster a culture of professional collaboration, one that provides opportunities for teachers and school leaders to make meaning of key data points and to clear up misconceptions or misinterpretations.  When our entire staffs are committed to examine data and use it to drive instruction, our schools will eliminate waste in the system by setting priorities and dedicating sufficient time and resources that “add value” to instruction and learning.  I believe our efforts to create sustainable change in student achievement can be facilitated through a series of guiding principles:

      • How can an assessment system support sustainable changes in instruction and learning?
      • How do we create a data system that is comprehensive?
      • How do we create a data system that is efficient?

      How do we create data that is constant?


      Creating sustainable systemic change requires us to have a clear vision of how the data from our instruction and assessments are not only connected, but more importantly, can’t be separated.  Schools in our district and across the nation at minimum, and hopefully districts, must begin to design systems that are comprehensive (assess all students in a tiered model), efficient (minimizes the loss of instructional time) and constant (developing an assessment cycle that promotes professional conversations).  The vision of the data system must be clear for all employees and students and address local, state and federal mandates. For example, does that data produced in alignment with School Board Policies and benchmarks?  Does it align to state requirements for reporting?  Does that data that is produced align with the reporting requirements of entering college?  In addition, vision statements must address building the capacity (expertise to deliver and analyze the data) of those in the school system (see figure 1).  For example, our schools will need to create capacity by providing time and professional development to staff that allows them to make meaning of the types of assessment that are currently being used and the data that these assessments produce. Without this clarity, the assessment system will cause confusion, frustration, and ultimately a sense of failure.


      Figure 1




      At the school level, aligning data with assessments is necessary to ensure that every student’s academic growth is measured in an effective and efficient manner.  Today, we face the daunting challenge of gathering data that proves mastery of mandated academic standards. However, is there such a thing as too much data?  At what point do you examine the number and the quality of assessments that we administer each year at each grade level?  For the past few years I have been talking to educators across the world regarding the use of data.  In an effort to gather data and monitor progress, some educators are administering mini-summative assessments and calling them formative assessments. For example, a classroom teacher may give a common unit exam at the end of the month.  This data maybe recorded and put into a grade, however it is not formative data unless the teacher uses it adjust their upcoming instruction or reteach specific concepts based on the student data that was collected.  Additionally, many will not use this data to drive interventions.  Instead interventions are still based on a subject area, “math” versus specific math standards.  For a classroom teacher it is critical to know the purpose of each assessment and to determine if it appropriate for an assessment to be considered summative.  Questioning how this data is used to drive instruction can help us decide which assessments can be eliminated and which need to be added. 


      Collecting data throughout the year to measure progress is essential to developing a comprehensive data system.  Similar to a Response to Intervention model (http://www.rti4success.org/), assessing students using a tiered approach allows educators to determine which students are meeting the standards, for which students more diagnostic information is needed, and how to monitor student learning progress.  An assessment given 3-4 times a year for the purpose of progress monitoring is considered a Tier I assessment.  The Nation Center for Response to Intervention (http://www.rti4success.org/screeningTools) provides numerous examples of Tiered I assessments and gives details on the strengths of each detail.  For those students who are not making sufficient progress as indicated in the Tier I assessment, they should be administered a diagnostic assessment, or a Tier II assessment.  A diagnostic assessment will provide more specific information on specific skill development (http://www.ststesting.com/dra.html).  Finally, based on results from the Tier II assessments, brief assessments that measure specific standards, sub-skills, or learning targets should be administered. Assessments at this level would be considered Tier III assessments. 

      How do we create a data system that is efficient?  Often in our desire to create data and monitor progress, we lose sight of the functionality of the system.  As leaders, examining the balance between effective and efficient is a valuable endeavor that should occur regularly.  Our must continue to examine the added value of any data and eliminate any waste.  What is waste?  Waste in today’s school systems is all those things that don’t provide information critical to improving student achievement.  For every dollar spent on waste is a dollar that is not adding value.  An “Assessment Matrix” needs to be defined at each of our schools and communicated to our staff, students and families.  We must begin by eliminating any assessment that is redundant and that cannot be used to inform instruction.  Start with a simple matrix to begin your analysis.


      Assessment Name:

      Content or subject area

      Grade Level/s administered:

      Standards Being Assessed:

      Formative or Summative:


      Purpose: Diagnose or monitor Progress:

      Will the assessment be used for grading:



      Grades 3

      Common Core Standards - several


      3 times a year




























      If assessments are not useful to inform instruction, then they are a waste of instructional time and serve as a potential loss of added value.

      How do we create a data system that is constant?  The need to examine data from year to year is critical to determining student growth.  For years, researchers have examined longitudinal data with mixed results.  In fact, longitudinal data often has weak correlations due to the variations in what is being assessed from year to year.  Within a school there is an opportunity to create consistent data that is gathered constantly.  Many of the Common Core Reading Standards are based on a learning progression, or skill levels and expectations that increase in sophistication from grade to grade.

      The key for classroom teachers and building leaders is to not make assessment decisions in isolation.  Create a data system with input from everyone on the staff, so that for comparison sake, students are using the same assessment. When determining student growth, use fewer tools that are as consistent as possible.  For example, if there is a reading assessment that measures skills from K - 3rd grade (Dibbles), and another one that measures from K - 8th grade, such as a Diagnostic Assessment of Reading (DAR), select the tool that is not only the best quality but also provides accurate and precise data from student achievement from grade level to grade level.  These assessments are especially helpful when students move from level to level (i.e. from elementary to middle and middle to high school).  This type of constant data can give teachers an accurate picture of student skills in the beginning of each school year as well as identify abnormalities in a student’s data history.  This can be done in our regional meetings as well as level meetings.

      Fill in the Blank exercise:


      In order to create a learning and instruction data system at ______ School, Principal ______ focused on making sure teachers were having effective conversations about ways to measure student academic growth and effectiveness of instructional strategies.  ________ was often heard saying “teachers and administrators need to start by telling a story of “student growth”.    ________ School implemented the following framework for collecting data and having conversations about student growth.


      Prior to school starting each fall, ______would determine each staff members’ percentages of students who have met each respective standard for the upcoming school year, based on the previous year’s end scores.  For example, using state testing data, _____ had ____% of her students met the previous year’s end of the year Main Idea Standard.  At the end of the year, ______ had____% of her students meet the end of the year Main Idea Standard, for a growth of ____%.  This data was needed to determine the baseline and helped measure student growth throughout the year.  Like many schools, ______ School had previously started each year by giving the current year end of the course examination as a pre-assessment.  With this data, decisions about which students were behind were made.  However, these students had not had access to this curriculum, and therefore, in theory should not have been successful on these exams.  The staff at _______ started having honest conversations about the number of students that arrive in their classrooms behind academically, which ones are on target for the grade level standards, and which students had already reached beyond their current grade level standards.  As part of the transformation process, the______ Staff identified the following factors:


      • Are the standards from grade level to grade level aligned?  Are the standards part of a learning progression or are new skills being introduced?
      • How many students are coming into the year having met the previous year’s standards?
      • How many students have no data at all?
      • ___________


      Grade level teams then determined specific and measureable instructional goals for the first 6 weeks of school for each classroom.  _____ and ________ met with each staff member to review data, set classroom goals, and determine student interventions and enrichment activities.  In week 7 of school, the administrative team members met with each staff to evaluate progress and to determine effectiveness (Effectiveness was measured by meeting 80% or more of the standards). During this time, teams revisited student interventions and established new goals based on the current data.  In week 8, ________ met with district leaders to discuss trends in student growth, support needed, and areas of concern.  The following questions and factors were considered:


      1)      Identify classroom, grade level, and school learning target themes.

      2)      Describe the trends for each of the respective classrooms, grade level teams, and the entire school.

      3)      Compare and Contrast these trends to last year’s trends.

      4)      Analyze what themes they saw

      5)      What instructional strategies can we expect teachers, grade level teams or the school to apply in an effort to address the learning target/s

      6)      Speculate what our data will look like at the end of the year

      7)      Predict our summative scores?

      8)      _____________________________

      The cycle above was repeated every nine weeksSchool ________met with each classroom teacher to identify what support was needed and to examine the agreed upon data.  Together the team collected, guided, and monitored data in a systematic fashion. 

      Next, teachers at ________ began sorting and examining each class through a four-group flexible and fluid lens.  The groups were based on those students who are working above standard, those students who have met standard, those students who “nearly missed” the standard, and those students who had “far misses”.  For each group, teachers evaluated data on specific learning targets; identified supports and enrichment opportunities within the classroom and school; and developed (instructional) strategies to employ for each of the different groups. Then teachers would employ ongoing (daily) formative assessments (addressed more deeply in future modules) to address each group’s instructional/learning needs.  In addition, teachers administered and examined mini-summative data to determine student growth (students meeting standard with 80% or more of the standards measured) and adjusted groupings.  Finally teachers met with support teams (principal, ______, interventionist, counselor and ________) to discuss results and refine plans at a minimum of every 7 weeks. The following next steps were considered by the team:

      1)      Identify individual class strand themes.

      2)      Describe the trends for different leveled groups.

      3)      Compare and Contrast these trends to last year’s trends.

      4)      Analyze what themes you see.

      5)      What instructional strategies will you use for each group to address the strand data?

      6)      Speculate what your data will look like at the end of the year.  Predict your summative scores.

      7)      ___________________________________

      Finally, ______ clearly articulated, which resources would be dedicated for staff.  Instructional Coaches, Curriculum Leads, Counselors, Specialists and Principals, all understood their role in providing support to staff.  Some examples of the supports that were considered include:

      1)      Collecting and organizing summative data (end of the course/year exams), and unit exams (teacher created and explicitly based on standards)

      2)      Help in the design and evaluation of daily formative assessments – stems and questions that are directly linked to a standard and match the cognitive demand

      3)      Extended learning opportunities for students – building based

      4)      Targeted and differentiated professional development workshops

      5)      Professional development learning communities

      6)      Coordination and alignment of district service

      7)      ______________________

      The foundation for an effective assessment system is one that is comprehensive, efficient and constant.  By establishing this framework, educators are able to develop a high-functioning data system in which all stakeholders have faith.  When done well, this framework serves as a lever for continuous student growth.   I know we have a long ways to go and many of you have been screaming for this for a while.  I also know that there will be others that just want to wait for the new assessments to address the challenge.  It is not the tools we use which make us good or bad, but rather how will we use the tools.  For me the summer has been filled with numbers and data, more to come…

      Finally From Robert William, “The Call of the Wild”,

      Have you gazed on naked grandeur where there's nothing else to gaze on,

       Set pieces and drop-curtain scenes galore,

      Big mountains heaved to heaven, which the blinding sunsets blazon,

       Black canyons where the rapids rip and roar?

      Have you swept the visioned valley with the green stream streaking through it,

       Searched the Vastness for a something you have lost?

      Have you strung your soul to silence? Then for God's sake go and do it;

       Hear the challenge, learn the lesson, pay the cost.








      Scholastic Testing Services.  7/23/13. http://www.ststesting.com/dra.html

      The Atlantic.  First published on 6/6/2013.  http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/06/high-school-graduation-rate-hits-40-year-peak-in-the-us/276604/

      The National Center for Response to Intervention (7/23/13).  http://www.rti4success.org/screeningTools

      The Northwest Evaluation Association.  http://www.nwea.org/blog/2012/formative-assessment-vs-summative-assessment-results-timing-matters/


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  • It’s All Fun & Games Until It It’s All Fun & Games Until It Isn’t

    • From: Eric_Bernstein
    • Description:

      My friend and fellow ASCD Emerging Leader, Matt Mingle, recently tweeted in a #satchat conversation that “@MMingle1: Can't help but think how easy it is to shift from leadership in action to leadership inaction. Hard to be ‘on’ all the time! #satchat.”  Matt’s tweet actually has nothing to do with the rest of this post, but it did get me started thinking about lines and how easy it is to cross them.  In the context of Matt’s quote, the line in Matt’s quote is the line between action and inaction and his quote points to how very close those two opposites really are.


      So what “line” did Matt’s tweet start me thinking about?  I started thinking about humor or, as I was “accused of” so many times when I was growing up: “being funny.”  What does this have to do with leadership?  Authentic interpersonal relationships (developing and maintaining) are, arguably, the most important part of leadership—our students, their families, our colleagues, our community members, and so on.  For me, I face the challenge of being authentic (which, given the aforementioned accusation, includes being funny) and also being aware of the risks of “being funny.”  


      From a real “whole-child” and “social emotional” perspective, humor and joking can be important for bonding and creating connections (Anyone who has interacted with @ToddWhitaker can attest to this in our professional community!).  On the other hand, it can also have the adverse effect of making someone feel like an outsider or feel uneasy or unsafe in a space.  Whether with students, colleagues, peers, or friends, joking around can bring people closer together—but there is also a line—and if crossed, can make people feel marginalized, hurt, or disconnected.  Much like Matt’s quick tipping point from “leadership in action” to “leadership inaction,” crossing from “laughing with each other” to people feeling “laughed at” or “laughed out” can happen fast and even blindside you.  


      @FredEnde, another friend and ASCD Emerging Leader, shares his #QuoteADay blog posts (http://fredende.blogspot.com/2014/07/quote-day-day-209.html) which reminded me to look at quotes about humor to help make my point here.  Indeed, I have found two (Fred, feel free to use either, as neither is mine!).  First, the words of adventurer Sir Edmund Hillary, demonstrates the positive social-emotional power of humor.  He said that “when you're in a difficult or dangerous situation, or when you're depressed about the chances of success, someone who can make you laugh eases the tension.”  Conversely, Erma Bombeck pointed at the line I am talking about here.  She explained that “There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”


      I’d suggest that we can often see that line coming, even if it comes fast.  Some people (especially younger students) are more obviously uncomfortable with jokes and joking around.  That is not a flaw in them, but an obligation in those of us who like to joke.  We are obliged to recognize, understand, and genuinely honor their different relationship with humor from ours.    


      The particularly thorny situations, however, are not with those who are less comfortable with humor than we are.  Rather, the risk of being blindsided is with those who we have the most similar personalities, those with whom we have great comfort joking with, those who typically give us back exactly what we dish out (those with whom the role of joker and jokee are often shared or otherwise are interchangeable).  When you have a student, colleague, or friend with whom you are always joking around, you can get caught inside a bubble—lost in the jokes, if you will.  Then, when you don’t see it coming, you are smacked in the face with the reality that someone you care deeply about feels like an outsider or feels like the butt of the joke, rather than feeling like your laughing partner or your co-star.  


      The first moral of this story, this post, is NOT that we should persistently temper our humor—it is not that we should walk on eggshells.  Rather, it is a reminder that we need to check ourselves periodically and we need to be on the lookout for times when we may not realize that we have made someone feel like they are on the outside.  Even the people we are closest with, those who give us the most leeway to joke and be silly with—especially those people.  In Happy Days parlance (love my TV show references, and apologies to a hero of mine, @hwinkler4real, for this one), the Fonz stopped being cool when he jumped the shark (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4ZGKI8vpcg).  We (read that as “I”) need to pay attention to when something that was funny “jumps the shark”—when it stops being funny to the people around us or, worse yet, when it starts to hurt someone.


      That is not the only moral, though.  The second moral is about healing.  It is much easier to return to leadership “in action” from leadership “inaction” than it is to renew a relationship that is “burned by the flame of a joke taken too far” (@FredEnde, you can use that one, too—that one is all me!).  It starts by you, the joker, realizing that you took the joke too far.  Then, you must make your amends.  For a moment, the responsibility then switches to the jokee—they must make the choice whether the relationship deserves to withstand the misstep.  


      Here, however, is the real rub.  When the jokee accepts the apology, the burden then spreads to both.  It is possible that the relationship will forever be altered—but, that is usually not in anyone’s best interest.  Rather, the pair should genuinely reaffirm to each other that they can and should continue to laugh together.  That from now on, whoever the joker is must commit to being more aware of the cues (stepping outside the bubble periodically) and whoever the jokee is should agree to make those cues more obvious—helping the joker get outside the bubble when needed.


      Being funny, joking, and laughing together is great medicine.  Developing relationships where that is safe and comfortable can be an important release that can lead to healthier and happier moments and lives.  But as with so many other roles in leadership, we need to be good at communicating (when we are the jokee and feel like the joke has gone too far) and empathizing (when we are the joker, getting outside the bubble to recognize the cues that the joke has gone or is going too far).  The first worst outcome is a person who feels hurt by the joke.  The second worst outcome is the inability to renew a relationship impacted by that hurt.  My hope, as I strive to be better as a person, better as a joker, and better as a jokee, is to minimize the first worst and hope the second worst never happens.


      As always, thanks for reading (if you made it this far)!  Until next time…peace.

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  • AnnieHuynh.jpg AnnieHuynh.jpg

    • From: Annie_Huynh1
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  • Leaders Taking Flight: A Refl Leaders Taking Flight: A Reflection on ASCD L2L

    • From: Kevin_Parr
    • Description:


      Taking off—Be Bold


      We are second in line for take off at Reagan National Airport.  Soon the pilot will push the throttle forward and the plane will accelerate—unwavering—until it reaches take off speed.  I realize that as an educator, I too need to move forward with my ideas with similar focus until they garner the momentum needed to lift off.  Therefore, I have to refine my goals and message.  I need to continually search for new and more effective ways to present my ideas.  I need to reinvent, recreate and innovate.  I have to be brave and I have to be bold.  I have to dream big and match it with the focus, drive and dedication necessary for them to lift off.



      In Flight—Invest in Others


      The plane has now reached cruising altitude and we are speeding through the sky. The plane maintains momentum and altitude because of various forces acting on it.  Similarly, in order for my work as an educator to maintain and sustain its momentum I too need the help of outside forces.  Just as ASCD had invested in me as an L2L attendee, I became more aware of the need to invest in others.  This came to light from numerous conversations I had that touched on a similar theme:  As somewhat of a lone voice for positive change in a school or district, it can get lonely. I am not alone, however, as others feel the same way and have similar frustrations.     We need to look outside our immediate environments and broadening our range of support.  When we feel lost, alone and defeated, we need to remember there are people out there to remind us that we are all in it together.  They are there to pick us up, give us a nudge, celebrate our success or give thoughtful advice.  Similarly, when we return to our respective places of work, we need to reach out and invest in others so they know that they are supported when they need it.  We are stronger together.  We need to remember that and help others realize it too.   



      Descending Through Cloud Layers—"We" Instead of "Us versus Them"  


      As the plane descends it passes through different layers of clouds—each separate but together making the sky as we see it from below.  L2L was a unique conference in that people with various levels of involvement in education were sitting together working within a common vision on a common task.  Too often the system is viewed as “Us versus Them.”  At L2L, however, it was just “We.”  Teachers worked along side principals, superintendents, professors, consultants and beyond.  The conversations were rich and informative in a way that would not have been possible if only one layer of representation were involved.  We all shared our unique perspective and we all listened and it made all the difference.  I am reminded that in my work I need to start focusing on “We” and help others see it too.


      Touching Ground—Back to Work


      The plane touches down.  We have arrived at our destination and as people hurry to gather their belongings and continue with their lives just as they were before they boarded the plane.  I think about the people at L2L.  We are all going home now; back to our lives and back to our work.  I am going home different, though.  I feel inspired from hearing people’s stories and seeing their work.  I feel even more dedicated knowing we are all in this together.  I feel comforted knowing I am not the only one who (among other things) struggles to find a balance between family and work.  I am touched to have spent time with such a compassionate, dedicated, hard-working and visionary group of people.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  In the words of Garrison Keilor, “Be well, do good work and keep in touch.”         



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  • An Educator's Conference Persp An Educator's Conference Perspective

    • From: Tom_Whitby
    • Description:

      If there is one thing that could be said of what I do professionally it might be that I do get around to many education conferences. This past month I attended two International conferences ISTE14, BLC14 and one Indiana regional conference, the Greater Clark County Schools Conference in Indiana. All of these conferences were outstanding in their offerings to educators. I usually comment on the structure and quality of the conferences, but today I think I need to address the educators who attend these conferences based on some recent observations. What set me to thinking about this post were two separate comments from very different educators.

      A short time after attending ISTE14, I flew to Boston for Alan Novmber’s BLC14 conference. It was there that I saw a keynote by Michael Fullan, a Canadian education researcher and former Dean of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. From that speech my main take-away was that in education today Pedagogy is the foundation and technology is the accelerator. For me that was a statement that was clear, concise, and right on the money.

      After a one-day layover at my home, I was off to the GCCC14. It was the 2nd annual conference created and directed by Brett Clark of the Greater Clark County Schools. I landed in Louisville Kentucky, which is just over the river from my Indiana destination. A GCC educator, JT who was transporting me to my hotel, picked me up. I met JT when he performed the same task last year. He is quite an affable fellow and easy to talk with. On our ride we talked about this year’s conference compared to the last. JT shared a conversation he had with a colleague about the conference. His friend asked if JT was going to be at the “day-long computer training”. Obviously, some Indiana educators did not view the Michael Fullan keynote on livestream. Unfortunately, it is an attitude or a mindset that is shared by more educators than just those in Indiana. Many conferences are viewed as computer training and not education methodology or pedagogy.

      It is the way of learning that should be the focus of education conferences and the goal for the attendees. The technology should always be secondary. We should first explore the place collaboration has in learning before we talk about the tools we need to collaborate. We should explore the need and benefits of communication and understand where and how it benefits students in their everyday lives before we explore the modern tools that enable and enhance communication. We need to understand the differences and the effects between lecture, direct instruction and authentic learning before commit to developing a year’s curriculum. Understanding the need for formative assessment is essential to determining what tools we will use to assess formatively, as well as what adjustments we need to make when we get that information. Let us get a full understanding of summative assessment to determine whether to use tools for testing, or tools for digital portfolio assessments.
      Conferences should be more about the learning first and then balanced out with the tools to make it all happen efficiently and effectively. These conferences are not about computer training, but about learning and education.

      As Chris Lehmann said at the GCCC14 conference, we don’t teach math, English, or social studies, we teach kids. Conferences should not be viewed as computer training, but rather teacher training. They teach teachers the ways of education and all of the necessary, modern tools to enhance authentic learning to attain the teachers’ intended goals. Connecting with the educators from each conference is an additional way of continuing the education discussion beyond the conference. It helps create collegial sources to be called upon at anytime for clarification, validation, new ideas, sources, or just to say hello. It makes no sense whatsoever to meet great people with great ideas at a conference and never to connect with them again.

      Educators should come to conferences eager to learn about their evolving profession. It is not a stagnant profession. There are constant changes and developments that happen at a pace never before experienced in education. We need these conferences to offer a balance of pedagogy, methodology and tools for educators to learn, understand, develop, and evolve. We also need educators to connect in order to live the change and not just experience it at an annual conference. If we are to better educate our kids, we need to better educate their educators.


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  • Looking Forward to L2L 2014 Looking Forward to L2L 2014

    • From: Walter_McKenzie
    • Description:

      Once again ASCD leaders from around the world are traveling to the Leader to Leader conference to be held this weekend. Leader to Leader (L2L) is our annual professional development event for those dedicated education professionals who serve in important leadership roles for ASCD Affiliates, Connected Communities, Professional Interest Communities, Student Chapters, and our Emerging Leaders program. Over the five years I have been associated with L2L, it has evolved to be a much more collaborative event with lots of opportunity for networking and learning from one another. The diversity of thought, perspective, experience and expertise is, in my own humble opinion, what makes this conference such a success every year. It’s never the same event twice.


      This year we are looking to up the ante again, focusing on the theme of Take Charge Leadership, as we continue to encourage these ASCD leaders to work with one another across their constituent groups and generate new ideas, initiatives and energy that they can take back home and implement in support of the educators they serve. And so the question we ask at the outset of this year’s L2L is, “What do you get when you allow talented, capable minds to self-select groupings and projects that will build their professional capital while providing new value and greater capacity to lead?” We are about to find out.


      We look at leadership around eight very specific actions that are nurtured and sustained over time. Beginning our conference work around these actions and then moving into an unconferencing format that allows participants to take charge of their learning sets the tone for the weekend. We are also instituting for the first time Web-based polling that will allow everyone in attendance to vote and comment instantaneously using their mobile devices throughout the three days.  Modeling this as participants provide quantitative and qualitative feedback to one another will provide practice and experience with a tool our leaders can take back with them to their respective, states, provinces and countries.


      By the time we wrap up Saturday, everyone will be saturated in new ideas and possibilities. L2L is always an exhausting experience for everyone involved. Exhausting and gratifying. What is most gratifying for us as staff is the number of return participants we have every year, and the highly positive feedback we receive from the conference participant surveys. The truth is, it’s the ASCD Leaders who come and participate who make L2L the success it is. As a membership organization, ASCD could not make the difference it does for educators everywhere without its constituent group leaders. L2L is ASCD’s way of giving back to our leaders in the field, offering them the skills and support to be effective on the ground where it matters most.



    • Blog post
    • 6 days ago
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  • Shannon_Simonds

    • ASCD EDge Member
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  • David_Barnes1

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  • Five Skill Sets For a 21st Cen Five Skill Sets For a 21st Century World and Their Instructional Implications

    • From: Elliott_Seif
    • Description:

      In the face of major societal and technological changes, all students need to be prepared with critical knowledge, skills, and attitudes and behaviors that allow for continued learning and growth beyond high school. In particular, they need to develop critical and creative thinking skills and the skills necessary for finding and processing huge amounts of information. Even with the Common Core standards, our current educational emphases aren’t adequately preparing most students for learning beyond high school – for college, career, military or other future endeavors.


      While a critical knowledge base and positive attitudes and behaviors are important for future living, this commentary, along with others I have written in the past (see figure one, below) focuses on five skill sets students must develop if they are to adapt to


      Figure One

      Previous ASCD Edge Commentaries about Five Skill Sets


      Teaching the Right Skills For a New Age- Inquiry Based Instruction http://bit.ly/vVhpSQ

      Seven Principles for Teaching the Right Skills for a New Age http://bit.ly/yLVZ0M

      Using Inquiry-Research Projects to Teach the Right Skills for a New Age http://bit.ly/tU0RPR

      Six ways to Build Greater Curiosity in Students http://bit.ly/TTKPqO


      this new world and examines ten specific strategies to help students learn these skills. The five key skill sets that should be given a laser-like focus in order to prepare students for continuous learning in this new age are the following:


      Building Curiosity (Asking Questions, Formulating Problems and Challenges)

      In today’s rapidly changing world, curiosity – interest in and willingness to learn new things – is critically important. Most educators realize that the curiosity of young children seems to lessen as they go through school. Curiosity manifests itself through students demonstrating an interest in and a willingness to try new things and learn new ideas, ask questions, and pose and define problems and challenges.


      Information and Data Literacy (Processing Information and Data).

      New technologies that give us instantaneous access to huge amounts of information and data make information and data literacy skills imperative.  Our students need to be able to use many approaches to search for (research) information and data effectively and efficiently, sort through large amounts to find the most useful and relevant, and determine the most reliable and valid information and data. Search engine results, gleaned in less than a second, require the ability to sort through, evaluate, read, and digest multiple information and data genres and formats.


      Thoughtfulness (Thinking Deeply and Flexibly).

      All students need to have the ability to think deeply and flexibly in today’s rapidly changing world, and be prepared to take their place as 21st century citizens. They need opportunities to compare and contrast, analyze and interpret, and develop unique relationships among information, data, and ideas. They need to be able to translate information into visual and quantitative data. They need to “think outside the box” and solve problems creatively.


      Application (Drawing Conclusions, Applying Learning).

      With so much information, the ability to “pull together” and synthesize information and ideas, form educated opinions backed by argument and evidence, solve complex problems, and determine ways to apply information and ideas to the “outside” world become critical. Summarizing, synthesizing, drawing conclusions, and applying learning to new, novel, and “authentic” situations are all critical for living in a 21st century world.


      Communication (Communicating Effectively).

      Effective communication in many forms is extremely important in a world of e-mail, twitter, Facebook, cellphones, Skype, and collaborative projects. Students need opportunities to practice communicating effectively through all types of writing, explaining ideas to others, diverse representations, effectively participating in discussions, and oral presentations.




      Given the importance of these five skills sets, one would think that they would be front and center in our educational discussions. Unfortunately, in today’s educational climate, many of these take a back seat to a relatively small group of skills useful for doing well on standardized tests – namely, the ability to distinguish correct answers in multiple choice questions, to write short pieces coherently, or to state opinions and ideas with evidence from text (Common Core). So, in this commentary, I am suggesting ten simple and easy to use strategies – two for each skill set – that can make a big difference in the ability of students to learn and apply these skills.



      Question Census. Ask students to brainstorm questions that they would like to explore for at least one unit of study. Together develop categories for the questions and then select questions or categories of questions that are the most challenging, interesting, or focused around big ideas. Use these questions to focus student learning and study the unit at hand.

      Student developed challenges-problems. Find someplace in the curriculum where students can develop their own challenges or problems to give to others. Give students a chance to develop puzzles, games, historic or current challenges, math problems, or other challenges and problems, and then have them share these with the rest of the class and see if other students can solve the problems or challenges.


      Information-Data Literacy

      Readings-Data search. Either as a homework or in-class assignment in a computer lab, ask students to find one or more readings or data sources that supplement current learning. Help students learn how to use search engines and find and use helpful search terms. Work with students to help them determine which sources of information and data are reliable, then how to read and interpret these meaningfully. If several readings or data sources are found, help students figure out ways to compare and contrast them and find the essential information, ideas, or data in each.

      Close reading.  The Common Core Reading Standards advocate that students do more of the work of reading and teachers do less.  “Close reading” means that students read more deeply as part of their daily activities. Instead of teachers providing answers and “feeding” students, students are asked “text-dependent” questions. Text dependent questions force students to go to the text to give opinions and justify them through the text. Students are asked to “read like a detective”; to read text more than once; to analyze paragraphs sentence by sentence, to consider the nuances of a text, to analyze data sources. “Text” reading becomes much more significant as part of the learning process[i].


      This type of reading should be encouraged, but takes time. If we are to foster information and data literacy, students, as often as possible, should be asked to do close reading.



      Graphic organizers. Graphic organizers are a good way to promote deeper and more flexible thinking. Through a visual analysis, they help students take learning apart (analysis), organize information and data for decision-making, or weave a web of information and ideas. Use graphic organizers to help students extend and deepen student thinking[ii].

      Brainstorming A brainstorming strategy is a good way to help students learn to “think outside the box”. Students are provided with an open-ended problem or challenge that has the potential to have many different types of solutions. They are asked to discover as many alternative ways to solve the problem as they can, and are given four rules around the acronym DOVE to help them with coming up with alternative possibilities: Defer Judgment, Offbeat Ideas encouraged, Vast number of ideas sought, Expand on other people’s ideas. Ask students to work in small groups to come up with as many ideas as they can, with one person acting as the recorder of all the ideas.


      After the brainstorm, students share the ideas and make the list as long as possible. They may also be asked to indicate which five ideas are the most logical, the most unusual, the most interesting, and/or the best. Several ideas might be used to try to solve the problem and consider what would happen if the idea were put into practice.



      3-2-1 Reflection. A 3-2-1 Reflection activity is often given at the end of a lesson or specific time period, such as a week, two weeks, or at the end of a unit. You can use this activity to ask students many different questions to discover what they learned and to uncover their thoughts about other aspects of the class: for example, to determine what main ideas students have learned, what questions they still have (good for stimulating curiosity), and what they most enjoyed.


      A 3-2-1 activity that supports the development of the five skill sets might look like this: Ask students to write down 3 major ideas and-or principles that they learned, 2 conclusions that they can draw from the learning, and one way they can apply their learning to the outside world[iii].  

      No multiple-choice question test. For at least one time period, abandon the traditional multiple-choice short answer test for a test that requires students to draw conclusions about what they have learned and asks them to apply their learning to a new and novel situation. Performance tasks are good alternatives, as are long essay exams. Consider open book essay exam questions and essay exams where students take home three questions to prepare, and one or two of them are written as an in-class exam[iv].



      Five minute explanations. For this activity, students are asked to explain a concept, big idea, understanding, or principle in their own words. They may do it in pairs, giving explanations to each other, or as a writing assignment, or as a presentation to the larger class. This activity may be completed after all or part of a lecture when a teacher has shared a new understanding and wants to determine if students understand what has been presented, or as a study activity at the end of a unit.


      A corollary to this activity is that students use an active listening approach – as they work in pairs, one student provides an explanation and the other has to repeat the essence of the explanation in his or her own words. They then switch, and the other student provides an explanation while the first repeats the essence of it in his or her own words.

      Persuasive arguments. In this activity, students are asked to create a persuasive argument in support of a point of view – an opinion about something they are studying. They need to state or write their point of view and provide arguments and evidence that support it. Once they state or write their argument, they can share it with others, either in small groups or in the total class. Persuasive essays are also good ways to introduce debate skills.




      There are many additional activities that can be used or adapted to promote the learning of these five skill sets – developing questions for conducting interviews or for going on field trips, wait time to encourage deeper thinking, research projects based on student interests or related to a topic under study, oral presentations, creative problem solving strategies, individual book reflections, on-going, multiple types of writing activities, thinking skill activities, and choice of activities and courses.


      In sum, the point of this commentary is that teachers who have limited time for developing some or all of these five sets of skills can do short, relatively easy to implement activities, even occasionally, that can make a big difference in 21st century skill development. These types of activities, represented by the ten examples above, can be especially significant if everyone in the school supports the development of these sets of skills and institutes instructional activities designed to help students learn and refine these skills.


      If you are convinced that these skills are important for students to develop, chances are you will think of other activities that you can implement or adapt to promote the learning of these skills. Once you accept the importance of these skills and start thinking about how you can help students develop them, the sky’s the limit. Ironically, teaching these skills can also help students to perform better on the more traditional tests that have currently become so important for measuring classroom and school success.




      [i] For further insight into text-dependent, close reading based on the Common Core Standards, see Christina Hank, Defining “Deep Reading” and “text-Dependent Questions”, at Turn On Your Brain, http://turnonyourbrain.wordpress.com/2012/03/29/defining-deep-reading-and-text-dependent-questions/

      [ii] There are many sources of information on graphic organizers. One resource is by Vicki Urquhart and Dana Frazee, Teaching Reading in the Content Areas: If Not Me, Then Who? 3rd Edition (2012), Chapter 12. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

      [iii] Many resources are available to help you develop 3-2-1 reflections. One can be found at http://www.facing.org/resources/strategies/3-2-1.

      [iv] As a student, the use of take home questions was my favorite way of being assessed, because I could really take the time to prepare and learn. It changed the nature of assessment from “mystery” to “mastery”.




      Elliott Seif is a long time educator, Understanding by Design trainer, author, consultant, social studies teacher, former Professor of Education at Temple University, and Curriculum Director in Bucks County, PA. If you are interested in further examining these five skill sets and ways to implement them, as well as other dimensions of a 21st century education, examine his other commentaries on ASCD Edge or go to his website at  www.era3learning.org


    • Blog post
    • 1 week ago
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  • Meg_McCann

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  • Push to Talk PD Push to Talk PD

    • From: Brad_Currie
    • Description:

      This past week #Satchat extended it's Twitter conversation to a mobile app called Voxer. It has been an amazing experience for participants who are now able to share their insight through voice messages. Once downloaded on your mobile device, Voxer enables users to hold individual or group chats in real time or at their own pace. In terms of professional growth, over 75 educators from around the world have shared their perspectives and insight on a plethora of topics. More specifically this week our group is discussing the trials and tribulations of being a new school leader. Educators from all walks of life including teachers, vice principals, principals, supervisors, superintendents, and other stakeholders have provided tremendous guidance.

      The great thing about this experience is that participants, including myself, can hear the emotion that others bring to the discussion. It's one thing to read a tweet and a whole other thing to listen to someone speak to a particular topic.. That's why Voxer is so unique. Users can listen and learn on the own time, whether it's in their car or during a lunch break. Need to have a more specific conversation based on something that was brought up in a particular group chat? No problem. Send a direct voice or text message to that person within the application. Pictures, links, and other resources can be shared during a conversation as well.

      Are you intrigued by this whole Voxer rage in the educational community? Send me a direct message on Twitter or via email with your Voxer handle and I will add you to the #Satchat group. Or better yet, try starting your own group. The options are many as it relates to the impact Voxer can have in the school setting. For example, it could be used as an assessment tool or during a time of crisis to communicate with staff. Currently I am apart of a Voxer book chat on digital leadership and participate in a administrator group that shares best practices. Over the past few weeks I have recommended Voxer to some of my PLN members from around the country. Although at first hesitant to see the true value of this web tool, their minds quickly changed after conversing with other like-minded educators.

      So what do say? Take that leap into the Voxer world and see your professional growth be stimulated in a way once thought unimaginable.


    • Blog post
    • 1 week ago
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  • Aaron_Toch1

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