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School staff focus on curriculum alignment, differentiated instruction, professional development, college and career readiness, standards, and academic interventions. Is it possible that schools can lose their focus on customer service? Customers include families, community members, and all guests who visit the school website or schoolhouse.
Customer service involves the front office staff, classroom teachers, teacher assistants, custodians, counselors, and all staff members. How are customers treated when they enter your school? Ask your school staff, “What does it mean to go the extra mile for the customer?” Do families feel like the front office staff answers the phone in a professional manner? Do teachers fire off emails when they are upset with students or parents? How do schools analyze the way they are treating customers?
Six Ways To Pour Some Sugar On The Customer:
The school website is the new front door. Families and community members make a judgment about your school before they arrive in the front office. Is your school website customer friendly? If you have a focus on technology integration, does your school website look like it was created in 1990? Does your website offer a welcome message or invite families to visit the school? If Open House was the biggest event between 1980-2000, then the school website opens your school to more than the all of the guests who attended Open House during that 20 year span. Your school is connected with the world. What kind of message are you sending? Would a family in Florida view your site and want to buy a house in your community, based on the information and message on your website?
Customer service involves phone skills, email etiquette, communication skills, and the way the customer is treated when they spend time at your school. Which restaurants come to mind when you think of outstanding customer service? Have you ever had poor customer service at a hotel? Have you ever visited a church and felt like none of the members knew you were in attendance? Customer service is easy to identify, especially when we are the recipient of poor customer service. When families have a bad experience at your school, they will spread the word throughout the community and through social media. As communities build more charter schools, private schools, and home school organizations, customers will walk rather than talk.
The media may promote your school once or twice a year. Administrators and teachers can promote the school on a weekly basis by posting on a school or teacher blog. Pictures from field trips, class projects, community service, guest speakers, and student awards can assist in communicating with families. Most blogs allow for families to forward the message to their family and friends via Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. Blogs also allow for two-way communication. The traditional method of communicating with families was a flyer in a second grade student’s backpack. With a blog, the school can communicate with families and families can post comments or ask questions about the event before their child arrives home.
Several schools host a Principal’s Coffee Hour once monthly. There is usually a topic that the principal or a guest speaker shares with families. The highlight of any Principal’s Coffee Hour is the time that families are able to share their opinions, ask questions, and brainstorm ways to support all students. Coffee Hour provides a monthly time for two-way communication. Parents will provide you with their opinions and they will feel respected because the school provided a forum for adult conversation about their most prized possession, their child. How is your school promoting two-way communication with families and stakeholders?
Twitter allows home-to-school and school-to-home communication. Families can receive updates from the school. While Twitter may not work for all families, it is a great tool. Most schools see social media as one form of communication. The sign in front of the school reaches some families, the school website reaches others, and a flyer may still work for families without a computer or a Smartphone. The reason I feel like schools should consider Twitter is because it allows families to forward or reply to each tweet. If you have ever been in a relationship with someone you realize the importance of two-way communication. A strong relationship between families and school staff will improve your customer service and customer satisfaction.
As the number of people with Smartphones increases, your school should consider a school app. “Smartphone vendors shipped 216.2 million units in the first quarter of 2013, which accounted for 51.6 percent of the worldwide mobile phone market” (Bean, April 16, 2013). If the school website is the new front door in 2013, then the school app may be the new front door of the future. An app can combine all of the items highlighted in this article. A school app may not be nice to have, but the next step in your communication and customer-service plan.
Most schools have a professional development plan, school improvement plan, and a curriculum map. I have rarely seen a school’s customer service plan. When it comes to service, if you fail to plan you may be planning to fail. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com, said, “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” There are only two kinds of schools; those with outstanding customer service and those without outstanding customer service. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rank the customer service at your school?
Questions for School Staff to Consider
1. Does our school provide outstanding customer service?
2. What are our weaknesses? What action steps do we need to take to improve?
3. What are the characteristics of outstanding customer service?
(Share your own experiences in school and non-school settings)
4. What can we measure every 18 weeks (semester) to analyze our efforts to provide customer service?
5. Do we have a school plan outlining what customer service looks like?
(Think Chick-fil-A; It doesn’t matter if the manager or a teenager provides you with service. There is consistency within and across stores).
Five aspects of complex systems help define internal structure. Internal diversity keeps the system flexible. Redundancy keeps small fluctuations from rippling into chaotic, destructive change. Decentralized control allows innovation and creativity to emerge from the complex interactions between diverse agents. Organized randomness keeps the system moving along cohesively without limiting where it will go. Neighbor interactions keep the system in check in relation to the environment and local fitness peaks (Davis et al., 2006).
Structure is important to complexity because “a hierarchical, building-block structure utterly transforms a system’s ability to learn, evolve, and adapt” (Waldrop, 1992, p. 169) by giving systems an opportunity to move subsystems around to increase complexity and creativity without having to try out every possible combination of agents and schema. Order is a byproduct of structure through routines and clear structures, rules, and procedures (Marzano et al., 2005). The structure itself is “influenced by social, economic, and political factors; created and socially constructed; learned; and dialectical” (Church, 2005, p. 48). Practices are determined by structures as well as construct structures (Swartz, 1997). Reflective practice gives individuals and groups the iterative vehicles to change complex organizational structures.
Despite the structures present in complex systems, “it is not possible to separate complex adaptive systems into neat categories based on whether and where selection is operating. In most systems, selection is manifest on multiple interacting scales” (Levin, 2002, p. 4). Structure cannot be permanent because agents reorganize themselves in response to internal and external stimuli so that renewal is continual (Fels, 2006). Complex systems can move along a continuum ranging from order to chaos with complexity sitting at the edge of both simultaneously (Waldrop, 1992).
“Since the boundaries of complex systems are difficult to determine, it is impossible to draw tidy lines between these organizational layers” (Davis & Simmt, 2006, p. 296). Fuzzy boundaries in the school as a complex system are especially evident when talking about differences in social class, the curriculum of a school, and the schemas used in the school community (Barr & Parrett, 2007; Lareau, 2000; Weiner, 2006). The unique sociocultural capital of diverse social classes determines alignment of groups of agents with the capital present in a school. “School practices and assumptions emerging from the deficit paradigm often hide student and teacher abilities” (Weiner, 2006, p. 1). Deficit thinking comes from either the recessive schema of the marginalized system or the dominant schema of the legitimate system depending on the context the school currently finds itself. The curriculum itself emerges from and as part of the emerging, iterative structures of the school community with “formal, informal, and even ‘hidden’” aspects (Barr & Parrett, 2007, p. 141).
The subsystems of complex adaptive systems are the legitimate and recessive systems with agents interacting according to schema with dominant and marginalized parts respectively. Paradox exists multi-dimensionally as well at the system, agent, and schema levels. Ordinary management techniques drive legitimate processes while the recessive system requires extraordinary management. Stacey (1996) claims that the boundaries of the legitimate system are “clear-cut” while the recessive system’s boundaries are “fuzzy”; however, the fact that the legitimate system is aware of and ignores much of the activity of the recessive system makes the legitimate system’s boundaries fuzzy even if they are less permeable than the recessive system.
The legitimate network in an organization plans enculturation and avoids surprises by using the dominant schema to control interactions keeping them linear (uniform, conformed, repetitive) resulting in proportional response to stimuli, balanced input/output, and in the end, the system equals the sum of its parts. The recessive system, a subsystem of the legitimate system, can also stop renewal and maintaining stability by resisting change; however, changes to the legitimate system are actualized through processes in the recessive system. Efficient legitimate systems are stable with the equilibrium to actualize the mission of the organization. The recessive subsystem’s schemas lead to diversity in the system which is an integral part of complexity and “comprises all social and political interactions that are outside the rules strictly prescribed by the legitimate system” (Stacey, 1996, p. 290). Conversely, power is relative and can exist in either the dominant or marginal ideology. Social change can be brought about by activating power and negotiating interests in the margins (Watkins & Tisdell, 2006).
In complex systems, team-based units allow for structure without being overly so through redundancy in the form of organic fractals. Teams exhibit characteristics of open systems with permeability and high information flow; nonlinear responsibilities and interests; self-referencing knowledge and redundancy; organic in the self-selection of members; and share vision, culture, and meaning as possible strange attractors (Gilstrap, 2005). Creativity also resides in the redundancy that teams allow “for the repetition of different ideas and experiments in slightly different ways, and…means that the organization will be more resilient in the face of inevitable failures” (Stacey, 1996, p. 280).
The principal acts as the recognized leader of the legitimate system; however, leaders operate as participants in the recessive system helping contain anxiety in the face of change through urgency and assurance at the boundary while observing processes in the organization. Leadership shifts from ordinary management in structured times to extraordinary management in phase transitions as the school moves along the continuum between order and chaos (Stacey, 1996).
This commentary examines criteria for selecting effective curricula and instructional models in a 21st century world, and also provides eight examples of relatively unknown yet powerful curricula-instructional programs that should be considered for adoption.
In the same way that it is hard to build a building without an architectural blueprint, so too it is hard for a teacher to be effective without strong curricula-instructional frameworks. Curricula/instructional frameworks lay out the goals, methods, strategies, approaches, assessments, and resources needed for successful teaching and learning. The better the framework, the more likely will be the sturdiness of the foundation and the effectiveness of instruction. The more that curricular-instructional models available to teachers are consistent with the goals and practices of the teacher and school, and the needs of students, the more likely it is that teaching will have good results.
Just imagine how an architectural blueprint influences and affects the construction of a building. Building construction based on a poor design may make it difficult to walk from one part of the building to another, make communication among building occupants difficult, make furniture arrangements impossible, make lighting too dark or too light, make the building safe or unsafe. In the same vein, a poorly designed curriculum may lead to too many unclear, vague goals that do not match student needs, include too much to teach, limit “deeper understanding” of a subject, teach the wrong skills, provide few connections between its different parts, have little meaning for learners, foster passive learning, and make alignment of content among teachers and grade levels difficult. When teachers work from poorly designed curricula and instructional frameworks, they have to work very hard to redo the curricular and instructional practices encouraged by these frameworks, and many times powerful learning is difficult if not impossible to create within the given framework.
What are the components of successful curriculum/instructional frameworks for teaching in a 21st century world? Some framework characteristics might include:
Teachers, schools and districts need to regularly review their curricular programs in order to update them and create programs more attuned to this new age that we live in. Ultimately, this will make a huge difference for children in this new age.
The following curricula and instructional models exemplify powerful “21st century” program elements built around many or most these criteria. You are probably unfamiliar with most or all of them. They, and programs like them, should become familiar to educators and achieve greater use throughout the educational community.
NOTE: Many of their descriptions are adapted from the program’s website.
1. LITERACY DEVELOPMENT
SERP-Word Generation for the Middle School
SERP - Word Generation is a research-based, highly motivating “vocabulary” development program for middle school students designed to teach words through language arts, math, science, and social studies classes. The program consists of weekly units, each of which introduces 5 high-utility target words through brief passages describing controversies currently under debate in this country. The paragraphs are intended to help students join ongoing "national conversations" by sparking active examination and discussion of contemporary issues. The target words are relevant to a range of settings and subject areas. The cross-content focus on a small number of words each week will enable students to understand the variety of ways in which words are related, and the multiple exposures to words will provide ample opportunities for deeper understanding.
The Word Generation program is designed to build academic vocabulary, i.e., words that students are likely to encounter in textbooks and on tests, but not in spoken language. Interpret, prohibit, vary, function, and hypothesis are examples. Academic vocabulary includes words that refer to thinking and communicating, like infer and deny, and words that are common across subjects, but hold different meaning depending on the subject, like element and factor. Both types of academic vocabulary are likely to cause problems with comprehension unless students have been taught how to deal with them.
For more information, go to: http://wg.serpmedia.org
For information about other SERP programs in development, go to: http://www.serpinstitute.org/2013/
Other literacy development programs you might want to examine:
Children’s Literacy Initiative (CLI) http://www.cliontheweb.org
Reading and Writing Workshop: http://readingandwritingproject.com/about/overview.html
100 Book Challenge: http://www.americanreading.com/products/100bc/
Touchstones discussion Project: http://www.touchstones.org
Jr Great Books Program:
2. CREATIVE THINKING
Design Thinking is a structured approach to generate and develop new ways to solve difficult problems and challenges. Design Thinking starts with a challenge, and then works through a series of steps to help find creative solutions to the challenge, such as empathy, interpretation, brainstorming and choosing alternatives, building models, and planning for implementation. The process can be used to help solve school challenges or world-wide challenges. It includes learning additional skills such as finding reliable information, developing surveys and questionnaires, and building interview skills. It can be adapted to be used with students at all ages.
Other creative thinking programs you might want to explore:
Creative Problem Solving: http://www.creativeeducationfoundation.org
The Future Problem Solving Program: http://www.fpspi.org
3. POSITIVE ATTITUDES, VALUES, AND COMMUNICATION SKILLS
Champions of Caring: Journey of a Champion Middle and High School Programs
The Journey of a Champion Middle Grades curriculum is a year-long course of study divided into 4 modules. It promotes academic excellence, character development, service-learning and citizenship. The curriculum is a catalyst for encouraging caring, thoughtfulness and good judgment through service and civic participation. Students gain civic engagement skills as they design community and school service projects. Civic skills developed include:
The Journey of a Champion High School Program is a character education and service-learning curriculum for students in grades 9-12. Through this program, students learn how to act as responsible, caring and involved citizens who respect themselves and others and succeed academically.
Journey of a Champion invites students to learn about and reflect on the challenges they and their contemporaries face. It places those challenges in a historical context and leads students to develop strategies and skills that will help them confront those challenges. The journey "destination" is students creating and planning sustainable service and civic participation. The curriculum affects positive change in students by:
For more information, go to: http://www.championsofcaring.org
Other programs to look at:
Second Step: http://www.cfchildren.org/second-step.aspx
4. ECONOMICS AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE)
Entrepreneurship education is a tool that can equip young people to not only start businesses and create jobs, but also to be opportunity-focused, flexible employees ready to fill existing jobs.
NFTE fosters the creation of entrepreneurship skills, businesses and the development of an adaptable, driven and opportunity-focused workforce that ultimately promotes economic stability. External research has shown that NFTE graduates start and maintain businesses at substantially higher rates than their peers. Other research findings indicate that students develop:
Working with schools in low-income communities where at least 50% of the students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch, NFTE targets young people who are at risk of dropping out of school, and helps them graduate with their own personal plans for success. The program, Highly Academic, is a semester or year-long class with a NFTE-certified teacher who guides students through one of the curricula: Entrepreneurship: Owning Your Future or Exploring Careers for the 21st Century. Lessons include the concepts of competitive advantage, ownership, opportunity recognition, marketing, finance, and product development - and all tie back to core math and literacy skills. Lessons include field trips, games and experiential activities. Classes regularly have guest speakers. Students are paired with coaches who help students work on their business plans, and business plan competitions are judges by local entrepreneurs and business people.
Each young person who takes a NFTE class works toward completing a business plan, then goes on to present and defend it in a classroom competition. The winners of these competitions go on to compete in citywide or regional competitions, with the hopes of reaching our annual national competition.
For more information, go to: http://www.nfte.com
Other Economic-Entrepreneurial Programs:
General information about entrepreneurial education programs can be found at: http://www.entre-ed.org
Information about Economic and Financial Education resources can be found at: http://www.councilforeconed.org
5. INQUIRY-BASED SCIENCE
Full Options Science System (FOSS)
Science is an active enterprise, made active by our human capacity to think and “search for the truth”. Scientists value open communication, investigation, and good evidence for drawing conclusions. Scientific knowledge advances when scientists observe objects and events, think about how they relate to what is known, test their ideas in logical ways, and generate explanations that integrate the new information into the established order. Thus the scientific enterprise is both what we know (content) and how we come to know it (process). The best way for students to appreciate the scientific enterprise, learn important scientific concepts, and develop the ability to think critically is to actively construct ideas through their own inquiries, investigations, and analyses.
The FOSS program was created to engage students in these processes as they explore the natural world. FOSS program materials are designed to meet the challenge of providing meaningful science education for all students in diverse American classrooms and to prepare them for life in the 21st century. Development of the FOSS program was, and continues to be, guided by advances in the understanding of how youngsters think and learn.
FOSS K–6 is a complete program consisting of 26 modules for self-contained elementary classrooms. The components exclusive to K–6 are
FOSS Middle School components consist of nine units for students and their teachers in departmental science grades 6–8. Each unit requires 9–12 weeks to teach. The Middle School program includes the following five interconnected components:
Two components that apply to both FOSS K–6 and FOSS Middle School are the FOSS Assessment System and FOSSweb.com.
For more information, go to: http://www.fossweb.com
Other programs to consider:
Active Physics: (high school): http://its-about-time.com/htmls/ap.html
6. CONCEPTUALLY-ORIENTED MATHEMATICS
Cognitively Guided Instruction
Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI) is a professional development program that increases teachers’ understanding of the knowledge that students bring to the math learning process and how they can connect that knowledge with formal concepts and operations. The program is based on the premise that children throughout the elementary grades are capable of learning powerful unifying ideas of mathematics that are the foundation of both arithmetic and algebra. Learning and articulating these ideas enhance children's understanding of arithmetic and provide a foundation for extending their knowledge of arithmetic to the learning of algebra.
CGI is guided by two major ideas. The first is that children bring an intuitive knowledge of mathematics to school with them and that this knowledge should serve as the basis for developing formal mathematics instruction. This idea leads to an emphasis on working with the processes that students use to solve problems. The second key idea is that math instruction should be based on the relationship between computational skills and problem solving, which leads to an emphasis on problem solving in the classroom instead of the repetition of number facts, such as practicing the rules of addition and subtraction.
With the CGI approach, teachers focus on what students know and help them build future understanding based on present knowledge. The program aims to improve children's mathematical skills by increasing teachers' knowledge of students' thinking, by changing teachers' beliefs regarding how children learn, and by ultimately changing teaching practice. In 1996, CGI was extended into the upper elementary school levels to assist first through sixth grade teachers in integrating the major principles of algebra into arithmetic instruction.
There is no set curriculum. Teachers use the CGI framework with existing curriculum materials, or they use CGI principles to help develop their own math curriculum.
For more information, go to: http://www.promisingpractices.net/program.asp?programid=114#programinfo
Other math programs that might be considered:
Project Seed: http://projectseed.org
Interactive Mathematics Program (IMP)(High School): http://mathimp.org/general_info/intro.html
7. SOCIAL STUDIES/CIVICS PROGRAMS
Social Studies School Service
Social Studies School Service offers teachers, K-12, a variety of alternative and unique materials, programs, and curricula for social studies at all levels. The materials have been developed for the many aspects of social studies – government, history, geography, and civics – and often are interdisciplinary, incorporate conceptual understanding, develop research skills, big ideas and essential questions, and use data-based test questions (DBQ’s), performance tasks, and multiple readings. Catalogues of available materials are frequently sent out and shared.
For further information, go to: www.socialstudies.com
Other social studies/civics programs to consider:
Teacher’s Curriculum Institute social studies programs: www.teachtci.com
Center for Civic Education: http://new.civiced.org
Zinn Education: http://zinnedproject.org
A History of US: http://www.joyhakim.com/works.htm
The Choices Program (Middle and High School): http://www.choices.edu
8. STEM (SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING, MATHEMATICS) PROGRAMS
Engineering is Elementary
EIE consists currently of twenty STEM units designed for the elementary grades. Each EIE unit ties in with an elementary science topic and is meant to be taught either concurrently or after students learn the appropriate science content in life science, earth and space science and physical science areas. Each unit has five “lessons” (lessons can be more than one day).
The units attempt to combine learning in a science area with engineering concepts. Engineering projects integrate other disciplines. Engaging students in hands-on, real-world engineering experiences can enliven math and science and other content areas. Engineering projects can motivate students to learn math and science concepts by illustrating relevant applications. They foster problem-solving skills, including problem formulation, iteration, testing of alternative solutions, and evaluation of data to guide decisions.
Learning about engineering increases students' awareness of and access to scientific and technical careers. The number of American citizens pursuing engineering is decreasing. Early introduction to engineering can encourage many capable students, especially girls and minorities, to consider it as a career and enroll in the necessary science and math courses in high school.
For more information, go to: http://www.eie.org/
Other STEM examples:
Engineer Your World: http://www.engineeryourworld.org (high school)
Project Lead the Way: http://www.pltw.org (high school)
Some Final Thoughts
Every school and district should have some mechanism to help staff members regularly review the many available potential curriculum and instructional programs and approaches, and to select those that provide students with opportunities based on the criteria suggested at the beginning of this commentary, such as focused, meaningful goals; targeted key skills, attitudes and values; multiple formative and summative assessment options; a focus on deeper learning; and active student engagement and inquiry.[i]
The programs listed above are only some examples of the many powerful curricula and instructional options that are often neglected and put into place too infrequently in schools and classrooms.[ii] Many others that meet the criteria cited above and match 21st century goals should be considered. Through continual review and renewal, every District should move towards having a set of powerful curricula and instructional programs, tied to appropriate staff development training, that help prepare students to live in a 21st century world.
We also now have the technology to develop curriculum review websites, comparable to Amazon’s book service and reviews or TripAdvisor’s travel site that rates hotels and bed and breakfasts in all parts of the world. The website should include a comprehensive set of curriculum programs, all reviewed by experts and rated by users. Such a site would provide educators with data that would be helpful in a curriculum review and renewal process.
[i] For additional information about curriculum renewal criteria and strategies, go to www.era3learning.org, then to resources, then to curriculum renewal, and then to the article by Elliott Seif, Reconfiguring Learning Through Curriculum Renewal (unpublished).
As an elementary school principal, I recognize the importance of teacher leaders. Teacher leaders play multiple roles in a school and they serve in leadership positions outside the school. Harrison and Killion (2007) described ten roles for teacher leaders in Educational Leadership. In the past month, I have observed multiple teachers serving in leadership roles.
Car Rider Duty
At an elementary school, it takes several adults to help students during the morning and afternoon car rider line. While this may not seem like leadership, it is an important role. Standing in 28 degrees or the rain is not a skill that you learn as a student teacher. Any role that supports the school and student safety falls under the category of leadership.
In the national best-selling book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2002) described the importance of ‘Connectors.’ Gladwell says that Connectors have the gift of bringing the world together. Connectors are important on grade level teams, in faculty meetings, during crucial conversations, during times of change, and on a daily basis. Teacher leaders who are connectors bring out the best in their co-workers. They help connect the school with families and community leaders. They can be very important in securing grant money for a school. Who are the ‘Connectors’ in your school?
“Curriculum development is the essential function of school leadership. Whether this role is carried out by a principal, an assistant principal for curriculum, a team leader, a department head, or by leading classroom teachers, the curriculum defines all other roles in a school” (Wiles, 2009). Curriculum leaders have played an important role as our school has transitioned to the Common Core State Standards. They have the ability to create curriculum individually and with a team of teachers. I have witnessed teachers from our school share strategies with teachers across the district and state. Curriculum mapping, alignment, and revision require strong curriculum leaders. When teacher leaders are involved in designing and revising curriculum, you will have a strong product. High performing schools have multiple curriculum leaders.
Recently, I have observed teachers from our school serving on district teams such as ELA Curriculum Mapping, Science Curriculum Mapping, and Math Curriculum Mapping. Serving on a district leadership team gives teachers a voice in the process and the opportunity to impact student achievement across the district. In The 360 Degree Leader (2005), Maxwell wrote, "You will develop the ability to be a 360-Degree Leader by learning to lead up (with your leader), lead across (with your colleagues), and lead down (with your followers).” High performing school districts have teacher leaders who have the ability to lead up, down, and across.
Inner Circle Leadership
As a principal, you need to have an Inner Circle. In The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (1998), Maxwell described The Law of the Inner Circle. The Law of the Inner Circle states, “A persons potential is determined by those closest to him.” In some schools, this group of teacher leaders serve on the School Improvement Team. Sometimes, the inner circle consists of a group of individuals who carry out the role without a title or committee. A teacher leader can make or break a principal. If you are a school administrator, you cannot lead alone. You need the input and feedback from one or more teacher leaders.
Maxwell (1998) gives us five questions to ask when considering who should be in our Inner Circle:
If you have this type of teacher leader in your organization, then you will see his/her impact throughout the school. Teacher leaders are critical to a school’s success. By reviewing the five questions above, you can see that a principal needs this type of leader. The principal who tries to lead without teacher leaders will fail.
Leader as Facilitator
This year, teacher leaders have led professional development (PD) at our school. They have developed PD related to the Six Instructional Shifts outlined in the Common Core State Standards. It is difficult to plan and lead staff development in front of your peers. One thing that makes this such a difficult task is the different needs of a kindergarten teacher and a fifth grade teacher. Our teacher leaders have developed PD which meets the needs of all teachers. We have also had a series of technology integration sessions, led by teacher leaders. When a school has multiple teacher leaders they feed off the creativity and experiences of each other. Having multiple teacher leaders also allows each person to utilize their strengths.
Technology leaders can wear several different hats. A technology leader could be the best one on the team at developing technology integration units. The technology leader that I am describing is the teacher leader who uses Google Docs, serves as the note taker, develops an online discussion thread, starts a school wiki, or reminds the group that planning can take place online. The technology leader is similar to a ‘Connector.’ The teacher leader who connects others through online tools is valuable to a school district. Face-to-Face meetings are still important. The teacher leader who connects others understands that communication never ends in the online world. Wesley Fryer (2005) wrote, “Technology has broken down communication barriers connecting teachers and students around the world and supporting collaboration in ways that would have seemed impossible even a decade ago” (p. 27).
Most teachers have developed a teacher website. However, some teacher leaders are more skilled than others. Google, Weebly, WordPress, and other sites are used to create websites. Teacher leaders utilize websites to share curriculum updates, post videos about how to help your child with mathematics, share links to videos related to the topics being studied, and more. Some teachers have designed a blog within their teacher website. A blog allows teachers and families to have two-way communication. Teacher leaders are leading the way and the product is much more elaborate than a wrinkled letter in the bottom of a third grader’s backpack. Teacher leaders understand the importance of communicating with families in real time.
Who are the teacher leaders in your building? What are you doing to develop teacher leaders? What are you doing to help leaders grow? “Teacher leaders are most often the missing piece of education reform” (Ratzel, 2012). If you don’t have teacher leaders in these roles, there may be one or more teachers waiting for you to recognize their talents. Maxwell (2008) wrote, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” I would argue that everything rises and falls on Teacher Leadership.
In an article titled Five Characteristics of Highly Productive Logistics and Operations Teams, the author wrote “For those with jobs in logistics or transportation jobs, productivity is a word we’ve all heard too often.” High performing logistics and operations teams have determined ways to increase efficiency, communication, and the quality of service to customers. In the same way, educators have started to operate as a Professional Learning Community. According to Mike Schmoker, productivity “starts with a group of teachers who meet regularly as a team to identify essential and valued student learning, develop common formative assessments, analyze current levels of achievement, set achievement goals, share strategies, and then create lessons to improve upon those levels” (Schmoker, 2005, p. xii). It’s Logistics.
In a video titled Logistics: It’s Only A to B, Right? it is evident that world class logistics require a clear set of steps to happen “in a very choreographed manner.” Are schools intentional about their work or do they still allow each teacher to operate as a freelance contractor? “Schooling at its best reflects a purposeful arrangement of parts and details, organized with deliberate intention, for achieving the kinds of learning we seek." (Wiggins & McTighe, 2007). It’s Logistics.
I am struck by the following quote – “The school leaders who embrace, design and implement customer-driven systems will be the ones who thrive in the future” (Toothman, 2004). What does a customer-driven system look like in the field of education? Rick DuFour (2011) answered this question: “Schools committed to higher levels of learning for both students and adults will not be content with the fact that a structure is in place to ensure that educators meet on a regular basis. They will recognize that the question, ‘What will we collaborate about,” is so vital that it cannot be left to the discretion of each team’” (p. 61). It’s Logistics.
Your elementary school may not ship packages across the globe on a daily basis. You may not unpack shipments when they arrive, but you should unpack standards. When you move students from middle school to high school, you won’t have an airline, eighteen wheeler, train, or moving van. The logistics that you deal with are people and those people will eventually impact the world. As a Professional Learning Community ask the nine questions that guide the work of a high performing team (Solution Tree Reproducible). Consider your school a Regional Distribution Center. The packages are passing through, but you have an important role to play! In logistics, employees try to eliminate lost profits. In education, the goal is to increase the number of students who graduate college and career ready and eliminate the number of dropouts. It’s logistics.
Originally posted on the Middle Web website: http://www.middleweb.com/5545/digital-tools-for-the-common-core/
In the next few weeks, Janet Hale and I will have our new book out through ASCD, Upgrade Your Curriculum: Practical Ways to Transform Units and Engage Students. We will very soon be launching a new ASCD Edge Group and Discussion Board around the book to discuss improvements in instructional practice and design as well as collect the awesome ideas of all the educators that would like to engage in a dynamic multi-media conversation!
In the book, we discuss different lenses and considerations through which you can view your current curriculum for a particular upgrade. This blog post is honing in on two, technology integration and Common Core alignment. The Common Core alignment is in relation to two reading anchor standards, number one that asks students to read closely, and number ten, that asks that students read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts. For the technology lens, I’ve been playing with a few new web tools and wanted to share some ideas for task-focused instruction.
Additionally, when I refer to “upgrades,” I’m speaking of a two-pronged approach, looking both for learning AND engagement. Effective instruction comes from a balance of these two considerations and while I know they can be somewhat subjective, I am, in general, looking for more student-centered opportunities than teacher-led “to-do” lists.
Just a reminder, it’s the task that matters, not the tool. However, I think it’s important to build a repertoire of tools so that you and your students can choose the right one for the task.
So, in light of adding tools to your toolboxes and doing so with specific Common Core ideas, I’d like to share three new tools that I’ve come across recently as well as some ideas for engaging these tools for curriculum upgrades.
Smore allows a user to create flyers with embedded color schemes, fonts, and templates. I used it initially to create handouts for a workshop I was doing and quickly figured out that I needed to prioritize my information so that the message I was sending would fit on one printed page. I created a Smore flyer for this blog post around Text Complexity, specifically considering Reader and Task, from the Common Core document.
Here’s the example.
I liked this tool for several reasons and see several opportunities for specific tasks/upgrades using this tool. For one, if students are visualizing their learning using something like this, it promotes eye-catching design. Brain based instructional strategies work because they are different, creating “mental glue” to help the brain retain information. Visuals stick better than text and using a tool like Smore will help students own their learning. Also, if students are writing about text, specifically after “close reading,” this might be a good tool to use for emphasizing important comprehension points or prioritizing the information they may potentially share. In fact, how awesome would it be for students, perhaps in pairs, to prioritize different pieces of the puzzle, with some focusing on text structure, some on vocabulary, some on connections to other texts, some on text based conclusions, etc. This could help establish new audiences, purposes, and tasks as students make their own choices and ultimately help teach each other! (With sideline coaching from the teacher, rather than direct instruction.)
Like Smore, Piktochart is a visualization tool. However, it’s specific purpose is to help the user create an infographic. Infographics are visualizations of information or data. There’s a really cool Flickr Group that collects educational infographics that you should check out! Piktochart lets your students create these awesome visualizations. I think infographics are where it’s at right now in education. Being able to think critically about data and draw conclusions from learning moments students participate in is vital. It’s also an opportunity to explore integrating subjects such as math into other content areas. The Piktochart I created is about Close Reading and Text Dependent Questions, both of which are represented in the instructional shifts related to the Common Core in ELA. I will say that the one I created is text heavy, as I was just trying out the tool, but it excites me to think what kids could do with this. I found the interface and dashboard easy to use and navigate and I went from complete novice to finished product in about 45 minutes. Ease of use is high up on my list when it comes to web tools, and this one is as easy as they come! Here’s the example I created:
The last tool I want to add to your toolboxes today is Yapp. I’ve been using Yapp for several months now and it became the basis for one of the technology upgrades that Janet and I advocate for in the new book. Yapp is a tool that let’s you easily create your own App for a digital device. I’ve used it to create Apps for events such as conferences, to collect information for a local library, and most recently, I created an App that lets me share all of my resources for Text Complexity based on a LiveBinder I created back in November. You can access the App by navigating, through your internet browser, to the following address on your digital device:
Note that you may need to install YappBox onto your device if you have any trouble with the link itself.
In the book, Janet and I talk about Learning and Engagement around students creating apps. There are certainly a number of ways to go about this, but Yapp is a good starting point. Right now in classrooms, teachers are clamoring to find apps for the devices they use. This translates, a lot of times, into teacher-selected, tool-based learning scenarios rather than student-centered, task-based scenarios. Now that we’ve had some “play time” and are past the first decade of the 21st Century, it’s time we shift the focus, the thinking, and the work back to the students. If students are CREATING, and making authentic choices about what to include in an app and how to share and amplify it, then they are working at the highest levels of Bloom’s and absolutely owning the learning.
So, to recap, adding tools to your toolbox is important, even though the goal is to work toward task-based opportunities. Learning and engagement are important and must be considered together for effective learning. Also, there are several lenses through which we can explore potential upgrades to the work we are currently doing.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be exploring more of these lenses with blog posts as we lead up to the launch of the book in early March. If any readers would like to join Janet and I in Chicago at the ASCD conference, we’ll be exploring what it means to Upgrade Your Curriculum in person! You can also use the Twitter Hashtag #UpgradeYC to interact online right now!
Cure for the Common Core - eBook available now from Amazon
Mike on Twitter:@fisher1000
Upgrade Your Curriculum: Practical Ways to Transform Units and Engage Students - coming in Feb. 2013 from ASCD
Happy New Year, Blogosphere!
As everyone wades back into their classrooms today, I thought I would get the ball rolling with a few suggestions for having a great 2013! You can call them resolutions or revolutions and you can commit to one or more. The point is to upgrade, to evolve, to continually improve! (And to do this together!)
There are a lot of awesome things happening this year, including my new ASCD book with Janet Hale, Upgrade Your Curriculum, which will be published in the next couple of months. ASCD Edge will host a discussion forum and a new group associated with the book and we’ll be able to talk about real upgrades in real teachers’ classrooms. I’ll also be in Chicago at the ASCD Annual Conference and hope to meet some of you face to face.
I hope you all have a wonderful, inspiring, and awesome 2013!
As we enter 2013, teachers and administrators will reflect on the school’s existing strengths and weaknesses. High performing schools ask questions such as, “Which students are struggling? What will we do to support them in 2013?” New Year’s Day is a time when people around the world establish new personal and team goals. Among the most common personal goals are weight loss, financial goals, spending time with those you love, and volunteerism. How can school leaders capitalize on this transition from 2012 to 2013? How can goals drive the work of teachers and schools?
New Year’s goals and resolutions are shattered annually. In some cases, creating a goal on New Year’s Day is a ritual and follow-through is an afterthought. If school leaders want to move their students and staff to the next level, then they need to adopt a 3D School Leadership mindset. 3D School Leadership includes Direction, Differentiation, and Dedication.
A precursor to improvement is a clear understanding of the goal. Educators often enter a new year and don’t pause to reflect on the current reality (i.e., Where are we? Where are we going? How will we get there?). Blanchard (2007) contends, “Goal setting is the single most powerful motivational tool in a leader’s toolkit” (p. 150). A school without clearly defined goals is like a ship without a rudder; it lacks direction and a slight wind could easily blow it off course (Wiles, 2009).
School leaders often boast that they have a mission and vision statement framed in the front office. While there is a time and a place for mission and vision, 3D Leadership defines the ‘What’ and the ‘How’. What are we going to commit to as a school staff between January and June 2013? How will the direction of the school impact our grade level/course? Based on my teaching assignment or administrator role, how can I help the team stay on course in 2013? DuFour, DuFour, & Eaker (2008) wrote, “One of the most pressing questions a school must consider as it attempts to build the collaborative culture of a PLC is not, ‘Do we collaborate?’ but rather, ‘What do we collaborate about?’” (p. 28). A lack of clarity on intended results is a barrier to growth and continuous improvement in most schools. When teachers and staff return in 2013, revisit the school’s direction.
If you have been in a faculty meeting, participated in a webinar, or served on a School Improvement Team, it is likely that someone has offered differentiation as a strategy for supporting student achievement. 3D School Leadership emphasizes differentiation for students, families and staff. A one-size fits all approach to education is not going to work any better in 2013 than it did in 2012. Differentiated instruction, assignments, and assessments will increase student engagement and achievement. Tomlinson, Brimijoin, and Narvaez (2008) highlighted the non-negotiables of differentiation: “respecting individuals, owning student success, building community, providing high-quality curriculum, assessing to inform instruction, implementing flexible classroom routines, creating varied avenues to learning, and sharing responsibility for teaching and learning” (p. 3).
How can a school leader differentiate for families? In 2013, a 3D School Leader can provide communication to families through Facebook, Twitter, Email, Phone Messages, Blog, and the traditional newsletter. If you are not reaching all of your families through existing communication strategies, you may benefit from a differentiated communication plan. Another way to involve families in school events is online through surveys, responses to social media posts, and a Twitter Chat with a unique hashtag. You may find that families are more involved in the school when they have a voice in determining the events at Open House, PTA meetings, and school events. Utilize a differentiated approach in 2013 and see if you are able to reach more families.
One final focus of the 3D School Leader will be differentiation with staff. Flipping the Faculty meeting, meeting individually with grade level teams, creating a school discussion thread or corkboard.me, and encouraging teachers to lead professional development are a few strategies for differentiation with school staff. You may be surprised with the results!
It is difficult to find classroom teachers who aren’t dedicated to their students. I am amazed by the time, creativity, and teacher leadership that I see on a daily basis. 3D School Leadership requires the entire staff to dedicate their time, talent, and efforts to the school’s goals. Classroom goals should be aligned to the school’s goals. In education, it is easy to focus on my class and my students. 3D School Leadership will embrace the abilities of each staff member and use their strengths to support school goals. One strategy for increasing dedication is for each grade level team, or course (at the high school level), to develop S.M.A.R.T. Goals. A template for developing S.M.A.R.T. goals is available at All Things PLC.
Increase the number of students who graduate College and Career Ready
Increase the number of students who are reading on grade level
Support my co-workers in implementing the Common Core State Standards
The S.M.A.R.T. goal template will help your team become dedicated to the goal, rather than having an awareness of the goal. Use your collective skills and abilities to make a difference in 2013.
3D School Leadership is more than establishing goals or identifying existing weaknesses. Once teachers and administrators embrace 3D School Leadership, they will begin to move in the right direction. Too often, schools approach goal setting like many individuals approach New Year’s Resolutions. Purchasing a gym membership, buying an alarm clock, reading a motivational author, and using a day planner or Google Calendar are all great ways to start the new year. It’s not where you start in January, but where you are as a school team in June.
Determine to make 2013 different than the rest. Identify the school’s direction. Use differentiation with students, families, and staff in an effort to meet your school goals. Remember that dedication to a goal is much more important than having a goal. Margaret Mead reminds us, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens [educators] can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
Steven Weber is the principal at Hillsborough Elementary School located in Hillsborough, NC. He blogs at ASCD EDge. Recently, his blog titled A Bucket List for K-12 Students made the Top 10 Blogs of 2012 on ASCD Edge. Connect with Weber on Twitter @curriculumblog.
As superintendent, I feel it is my duty to continually think of the path of progress for my district. In reality, I know there are many paths trying to improve our local educational system - each teacher, support staff members, board member, or administrator may have a slightly different vision of what progress looks like and should be. Through time and discussion, we have learned that collectively we can move forward faster, stronger, and better than with un-aligned forces and interests. (Seems like an appropriate time for a shout out to my alignment guru, Brad Niebling!)
So, as I work to understand and align the various passions, philosophies, and practices in my district, I also think about the forces in the state at large. At a recent Curriculum Network meeting at my AEA, we discussed some fairly strong competitive forces at the Department of Education, in the state Legislature, and throughout Iowa's school districts.
For education reform or transformation or simply improvement to move forward as fast, as strong, as good as possible we must align our forces and our energies. How do we have comprehensive improvement when we are debating third grade retention at the same time we espouse competency-based education? It seems to me the two are not philosophically compatible, nor practically compatible. Yet, strong forces on both sides leave gridlock, status quo and inertia.
Further, we continue to learn more about the Smarter Balanced consortium and its instruction/assessment suite of tools, yet we also debate the merits of specific end-of-course exams. Do they work together, or against each other? Further, in a truly competency-based system, there may not even be courses to have end-of-course exams.
In each Iowa district, each teacher and administrator is required to have an individual professional development plan aligned to a building professional plan that is aligned to the district plan that is aligned to the district comprehensive school improvement plan (and the Iowa Core implementation plan). With all of this aligned planning, the expectation is forces are united and greater progress occurs. I believe the same expectation is needed at the state policy level.
We need to work to come together - then work together - so out efforts this far do not come undone.
I have spent the last few days in Nassau, Bahamas celebrating the approval of Bahamas ASCD application to become an ASCD affiliate. It was just a year ago I came to attend their inaugural conference as an ASCD Connected Community, their first step in becoming an affiliate. I remember being impressed with how well planned and coordinated that first conference was…how committed the leadership was to building this new organization to meet the needs of educators and students in their country.
It was at the end of last year’s conference that Bahamas ASCD made the decision to complete the affiliate application. Over the past twelve months we worked together to complete the application process and ensure that it would be given every consideration for approval. Interestingly enough, the ASCD Board met this past week at the same time Bahamas ASCD was holding its second annual conference, and we had no way of knowing if it would act on the affiliate application before the conference wrapped up.
As so often in life when good work is carried in a flow of positive energy, the ASCD Board approved the application on Tuesday and we were able to announce and enjoy the good news at the Bahamas ASCD conference the end of the week. What is significant to me is not the fact that everything fell into place, but the conditions that made this such a success story. Bahamas ASCD demonstrates:
- a leadership team that is highly respected in its education community
- a vision for education that addresses the immediate needs of educators
- a strong alignment with ASCD and the work we are doing
- a single-minded seriousness of purpose shared by all members of the leadership team
- clear messaging and effective public relations strategies
- professional connections that enhance its effectiveness and add value for members
- an energized membership base that seeks active participation in the affiliate’s work, and
- a work-life balance that evidences hard work, enjoyment of that work, and having fun as well
As I returned to DC and thought through these elements of success, it impressed me how much the Bahamas ASCD success story demonstrates the traits of successful membership organizations today. They aren’t looking to compete with other groups that already have created a niche on the education landscape. Rather, their singular reason for being is to meet the needs of educators on the ground in their backyard.
Yes there are lots of possibilities they will consider as they continue to write their story in the Bahamas, but with their clear sense of purpose, they will single out the opportunities to make an immediate difference from those initiatives that will take them away from their focus and weaken their impact. It occurs to me that staying small and nimble is an advantage today, as the education landscape continues to shift and morph around us. Perhaps Bahamas ASCD is a timely reminder of all that is right and good about effectively serving our peers: keep it simple and don’t take your eye off the ball.
Think of the organizations to which you belong and those which you joined at one time and in which you decided not to renew your membership. Aren’t the organizations you value similar to Bahamas ASCD? Let’s all aspire to follow its clear and concise example. Be there for each other and seek to make an immediate difference in the profession.
I am proud of my friends and colleagues who lead Bahamas ASCD:
Bahamas ASCD Board President Wenley Fowler, Board Vice-President Abraham Stubbs, Regional Director Verneth Patterson, Executive Director Christine Williams, Secretary Annastacia Forbes, Assistant Secretary Vernetta Ferguson, Treasurer Shirley Krezel, Assistant Treasurer Tamara Stuart, Public Relations Roberta McKenzie, Assistant Public Relations Tessa Nottage, and Project Coordinator Beverley Symonette.
Walter’s blog archive: http://surfaquarium.com/blog.htm
Mirror site: http://surfaquarium.blogspot.com/
In the previous blog post on ASCD Edge I shared that we need to develop new measurement and teacher development approaches that would actually lead to improvement in teacher performance rather than destroying it (as standardised test results appear to be doing).
In today’s posting I am going to explore the thinking behind the 3 rubrics I have co-created with one Australian school as an approach to supporting the development of teacher performance. A warning to you however, I am not saying this is THE ANSWER. This is one well-thought out approach. I invite you to learn what you learn from this!
Intention of the Performance Framework
The school had 3 major intentions for developing the teacher performance framework
1. To promote a culture of learning that considers the needs of the 21st century learner (our clients)
2. To ensure that all staff are driven by a common pedagogy and pastoral care that is firmly rooted in their values.
3. To provide a performance framework based on the Australian National Standards for Teachers that supports:
o teacher self-evaluation
o clarity around expectations, key work tasks and the necessary capabilities
o the identification, link to resources, and structured supportive coaching for areas requiring improvement
o the acknowledgement of excellence
o the development of a formal policy for managing unsatisfactory performance
o the alignment of employee behaviour with organisational behaviour
o the building of capacity that leads to outstanding performance
The three rubrics we co-created (and are still in draft form) are as follows:
1. Personal Capacity – Emotional Intelligence Rubric
2. Relationships Capacity – Positive Relationships Rubric
3. Pedagogical Practice – Curriculum Cohesion Rubric
As noted in the previous blog posting, a teacher can have some performance by being strong in one or two of the framework areas but the greatest performance will occur when all 3 are present.
Aspects to note in the Design of the Teacher Performance Rubrics
The rubrics are designed as behavioural rubrics. What they articulate is the behaviour the teacher would be displaying at different levels of development. We are still debating the naming of the differing levels (beginning, developing, capable, and exceptional) but we are clear we will have 4 levels.
The way the rubrics are laid out is in a progression of building behaviour. For example, a teacher at the Beginning Level would display a minimum acceptable level in a particular focus area (e.g. being a team member, etc.). We discussed that in any professional environment there would be minimum expected behaviours that would allow for an educational environment to function. A teacher demonstrating a Developing Level of behaviour in a focus area would demonstrate both the Beginning Level as well as the Developing Level behaviour, and so on.
Whilst the Beginning and Developing Levels are focussed on the individual’s capacity and behaviour, the Capable Level steps teacher behaviour into the sharing of their expertise, modelling, supporting others, etc. Exceptional Level behaviour involves the teacher leading and developing the focus areas in the school. We have deliberately designed it in this form so as to drive a team-oriented value-driven culture within the school. Research performed in a range of fields (including business management areas such as the Tribal Leadership work of David Logan et al, and Jim Collins’ Good to Great) all point to the importance of developing team-oriented value-driven cultures with organisations.
The final column in the rubric articulates the working party thoughts around some specific and measurable forms of evidence that teachers could use to demonstrate that they are at a particular developmental level in the rubric. Some of these proforma don’t exist yet. The idea is that the rubrics can be used in self-evaluation performance processes and the teachers would have to consistently be gathering evidence of their performance.
You will notice that two of the rubrics require two further publications:
The intention of the 2 publications would be to collect all the appropriate documentation that may be in a range of places to have 2 powerful reference handbooks so teachers are consistent and clear about what the school values and will be focussed upon.
In Part 3 of this blog I will explore some of the thinking behind HOW the school is approaching implementing the rubrics. Also, given Rose Balan’s comment in Part 1, I will also address why we don’t include VAM, test scores, or specific student academic scores in the teacher performance framework. Finally I will explore how this performance framework relates to the body of research in other fields.
Feel free to give me feedback!
ASCD Leader to Leader (L2L) News is a monthly e-mail newsletter for ASCD constituent group leaders that builds capacity to better serve members, provides opportunities to promote and advocate for ASCD’s Whole Child Initiative, and engages groups through sharing and learning about best practices. To submit a news item for the L2L newsletter, send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Your To-Do List: Action Items for ASCD Leaders
Vote in ASCD’s 2012 General Membership Election
ASCD's General Membership Election is open from September 1 through October 15, 2012. You can help determine the association's leadership by voting for President-Elect and members of the Board of Directors. Successful candidates will take office at the conclusion of ASCD's Annual Conference on March 18, 2013.
The election is online-only. Here's how to vote online: go to www.ascd.org/vote. You will need to log in using your ASCD username, e-mail address, or member ID and password. If you are eligible to vote in this year's election, click on the Vote Now button to connect to our secure online election system. If you don't have your log-in information or password, contact the ASCD Service Center at 1-800-933-ASCD (2723) and then press 1, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Candidates’ photos and biographical information are included with the online ballot and will also appear in the September issue of Education Update.
Have questions? Not every member has voting privileges. You are ineligible to vote if your membership was unpaid as of August 16, 2012, or you hold a complimentary membership. Please contact ASCD Governance Director Becky DeRigge at email@example.com or phone (1-800-933-2723 or 1-703-575-5601) with any questions.
Register Today for ASCD’s Legislative Conference!
What will the presidential election and the new Congress mean for education in 2013? How will policy decisions related to the Common Core State Standards, educator evaluation systems, and education funding affect what’s happening in your districts, schools, and classrooms? ASCD’s 2013 Leadership Institute for Legislative Advocacy (LILA) will address these and other timely topics that influence your day-to-day work as an educator. Register now for an outstanding opportunity to hear from national education leaders about the latest education policy developments, network with fellow educators, and share your expertise with your federal lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
The conference, to be held January 27–29, 2013, at the Westin Georgetown Hotel in Washington, D.C., will also feature
· Sessions with Capitol Hill and U.S. Department of Education insiders who will share their perspectives on the fate of the No Child Left Behind Act.
· The introduction of ASCD’s 2013 Legislative Agenda, which will outline the organization’s policy goals and vision for the coming year.
· A Capitol Hill boot camp featuring video vignettes that will address the dos and don’ts of conducting meetings with your legislators.
No matter your level of education policy and advocacy expertise, LILA offers something for you. Emerging leaders new to advocacy will get easy tips to apply throughout the year. Seasoned affiliate leaders will learn how to maximize their influence and deepen their relationships with federal policymakers. Access the conference agenda and registration and travel information. Questions? Contact ASCD’s policy team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ASCD Student Chapters: They’re Learning to Teach, Now Learning to Lead
ASCD is proud to announce great new resources for ASCD Student Chapters, including an infographic on how to start a student chapter, a video on why ASCD student chapters are beneficial, and updated web pages for current student chapters. Also, for the first time, a student discount is available for the ASCD Fall Conference; students can access the discounted rate by selecting the student registration rate at checkout ($139 for members, $159 for non-members). Please use these resources to spread the word about ASCD Student Chapters in your community! Contact email@example.com if you have any questions.
ASCD Emerging Leaders Sound Off on ASCD EDge
Check out these great posts from ASCD leaders on the ASCD EDge community site. Please read, comment, and share!
· Questions We All Should Ask by Steven Anderson, 2012 Emerging Leader
· 21st Century Connected Educator by Craig Martin, 2012 Emerging Leader
· Five Top Resources for Aligning Your Social Studies Curricula to the Common Core by Robert Zywicki, 2012 Emerging Leader
· Not a Disadvantage by Jason Ellingson, 2012 Emerging Leader
Also, be sure to check out 2012 Emerging Leader Amy Fowler Murphy’s first blog post Be Prepared to Let Go to Grow.
OYEA Winner’s School Sustains Significant Fire Damage
Last weekend, a three alarm fire ravaged the Hoboken Charter School, where 2007 Outstanding Young Educator Award Winner Deirdra Grode is currently serving as Principal. According to the school website, classes have been moved to a new facility while repairs are made to the severely damaged school building.
Help Stop Sequestration!
Members of Congress returned to their Capitol Hill offices in Washington, D.C., this week. Contact them today to help ensure that stopping sequestration—the 8.4 percent across-the-board cuts to discretionary spending—is at the top of their agendas. Unless Congress repeals sequestration, federal education spending will be cut by about $4.1 billion beginning as early as January 2013.
In addition, ASCD's policy team wants your stories about how sequestration is affecting (or will affect) you, your schools, and your school districts. Please e-mail your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will share them with lawmakers on Capitol Hill as part of our effort to urge Congress to repeal sequestration.
Thank you for taking the time to reach out to your legislators about this important topic.
Sign Up for ASCD’s Whole Child Down Under Webinar Series
This three-part series, presented by Australian educator and ASCD Director of Whole Child Programs Sean Slade, aims to further engage ASCD audiences in the work of ASCD and its Whole Child Initiative, which seeks to ensure that each child, in each school, and in each community is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.
The Down Under webinar series* runs from late September through the end of October and will outline a whole child approach to education through the role of the principal, school improvement, and alignment of health and education and how it links to current debates in Australia regarding the National Curriculum, findings from the Gonski Report (PDF), and the value of a well-rounded education.
Learn more and register here.* Please note the series sessions are conveniently timed for Australian residents.
Something to Talk About
· ASCD Announces Additional Common Core State Standards Institutes for Fall 2012 and Winter 2013—ASCD announces additional two-day and one-day Common Core Institutes for fall 2012 and winter 2013.These new institutes are part of the association’s ongoing effort to support educators at all levels nationwide as they implement the Common Core State Standards. Read the full press release.
John Maxwell wrote, "Everything rises and falls on leadership." This quote applies to business, government, parenting, and schools. Reflect on the leaders you admire. Do they create opportunities for others to succeed or do they sit at their desk and hope for success? "Schools that really fulfill their potential are communities of leaders, where not just the anointed ones -- the department chairs, the heads, the assistant heads -- lead, but where everyone is invited to become, and is expected to become, a leader" (Barth, 2003). The traditional role of the principal has changed. In the 1980s and 1990s, the building principal was the 'school leader.' Teachers, counselors, teacher assistants, and other staff members were expected to follow the leader. In order for schools to meet the goals of student understanding, college and career readiness, curriculum alignment and continuous improvement, educators will need to practice the following lessons.
Leadership is about Trust
According to Lencioni (2007), a lack of trust "occurs when team members are reluctant to be vulnerable with one another and are unwilling to admit their mistakes, weaknesses, or needs for help. Without a certain comfort level among team members, a foundation of trust is impossible." Legendary college football coach Lou Holtz asks three questions of leaders. One of the three questions he asks is, "Can I trust you?" When leaders earn the respect of others in the school, it will be easier to have collegial and crucial conversations about student achievement, instructional practices, school culture, and other important topics. In the absence of trust, people will smile in the leaders face and give just about any answer. What are you currently doing to build trust and do your actions match your words?
Leaders Multiply New Leaders
You may be the Chief Academic Officer or the department chair, but titles don’t matter. People matter. Maxwell (1995) wrote, “If you really want to be a successful leader, you must develop other leaders around you. You must establish a team” (p. 2). If curriculum development becomes a matter of pleasing the person with the title, there will be little buy-in and that will have a negative impact on students. “A good leader has the ability to instill within his people confidence in himself. A great leader has the ability to instill within his people confidence in themselves” (Maxwell, 1995, p. 55). Who are you planning to invest in this year? How will you mentor this person and gradually provide them with leadership opportunities? Leadership development helps all parties involved grow as leaders.
Leadership Involves Risk Taking
Taking risks as teachers and students will help our schools. When we take risks, we grow as learners. The traditional classroom no longer prepares students for college and career readiness. The traditional classroom was designed to sort and select students – to help students move towards college or towards a career. “College and career readiness is not something that suddenly ‘happens’ when a student graduates from high school but instead is the result of a process extending through all the years of a student’s education” (ACT, 2008, p. 3). What risks will you and your colleagues take in 2012-2013 in order to move students closer to the goal of College and Career Readiness? One of the biggest obstacles to taking risks is the fear of failure. When you see people failing you see learning and understanding. Think of the times in life when you learned a lesson. Many of these lessons were learned through failure. Think of the day you were 0-for-3 in Little League or the time you tried to take your bike over a speed bump. Today's schools need more risk takers.
Great Leaders Take Time to Reflect and Grow
Some leaders focus on building curriculum documents, planning meeting agendas, writing speeches, developing an annual budget, preparing professional development, and conducting classroom observations that they forget to schedule time for reflection. Reflective leaders take time to analyze the last faculty meeting. They reflect on the last professional development day and feedback provided by the participants before they begin planning the next professional development. Some educators complain that there aren't enough hours in the day. Reflective leaders understand that continuous improvement is not another meeting or an agenda item at the monthly leadership team meeting. Great leaders are intentional and they understand the importance of reflection. The extra time is an investment in the school, students, staff, families, and programs that support the mission and vision of the school and district"Look at your calendar. Have you scheduled time for reflection this week or are you hoping to squeeze it in as you drive to your next meeting this afternoon?
People Don't Care How Much You Know Until They Know How Much You Care
I know....You are rolling your eyes at Lesson #5.
This may be the most understood of the five lessons, but the least implemented. When a new principal, teacher leader, department chair, superintendent, or lead office support staff are hired they frequently begin giving orders. They don't take time to meet their staff and show that they care about them as humans. Some leaders make the mistake of managing people like they are money. It has been said, great leaders lead people and manage money. When we try to manage people, we are showing disrespect and this creates a lack of trust in the organization. If you look at your calendar, you will notice meetings, deadlines, projects that need to be developed, and goals. Most leaders do not intentionally schedule time to show their co-workers that they care about them that they want to support them. "A precondition for doing anything to strengthen our practice and improve a school is the existence of a collegial culture in which professionals talk about practice, share their craft knowledge, and observe and root for the success of one another. Without these in place, no meaningful improvement—no staff or curriculum development, no teacher leadership, no student appraisal, no team teaching, no parent involvement, and no sustained change—is possible" (Barth, 2006, p. 13).
Leadership begins with you. Regardless of your title, leadership matters. ASCD EDge member Amelia Hicks wrote, "There are so many types of leadership opportunities that come in different size boxes and each is equally important no matter if you are at the top or bottom of the spiral of the education hierarchy. My message to the superintendents and principals: do not be intimidated by teachers and others who show leadership, but nourish them and recognize them and guide them to success." Great schools have more than one leader and the goal is to continue to develop new leaders in each school. If you feel like you have reached a plateau as a leader or the apex of the mountain, it may be time for you to mentor an develop a new school leader.
With all of the priorities in schools and education today, what are the most important things that principals (new and veteran) should focus on? Reflecting upon my experience, and also drawing upon the work of Dr. Todd Whitaker, I have create a "short list" of focal points that will pay off in the short, and long, run. You may already have a short list, which are the things that need the most immediate and/or most intense attention. You might also have a long list, which are things that need to be addressed in the near future. For this blog I will focus on the short list, which are items that are of increased importance. It is important to note that 'short list' items do not infer that these things are short in terms of time invested, nor that they are easy to do. However, I believe that these five things are somewhat like "power standards" for Common Core... they will continue to pay off in years to come. Some of these things are grounded in Dr. Whitaker's book "What Great Principals Do Differently", but they are mostly based upon my own experiences as well.
1) Hire Great Teachers and Develop the Ones You've Got
This is so critically important. Dr. Whitaker says "what if every teacher in your building was like the best teacher in your building?" Schools would be destined to succeed. The best HR advice I could give new Principals is: Do not 'settle' for a mediocre candidate just to fill a vacancy. You will spend more time documenting a poor teacher than you will interviewing to get a great one.
As for the teachers already in your building, develop their skills, delegate leadership tasks to them and depend on them to do great things, while you hold them accountable. Developing leadership capacity in the school is something that will pay dividends in many aspects, and for a long time. We excel at what we lead... it's just another way of saying we learn what we teach.
2) Monitor the Alignment of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment
This is time consuming, and not all principals come with a background in teaching. Fortunately, I do have that background in both teaching and curriculum leadership, and it is very useful to know how to observe that in the classroom. If you do not have a teaching background, attend a workshop or an institute or take a graduate level class in curriculum supervision. Great teachers teach specific curricular objectives in the way that is most instructionally relevant, and then assess in a variety of ways to make sure learning can be transferred. Take the curriculum with you during walkthroughs, require lesson plans and view assessments.
3) Connect with your Parent Community
When parents see you as a welcoming and calming force, you are sure to see benefits long-term. When difficult decisions have to be made that parents are unhappy about, it is easier to swallow if they already perceive you to be open, caring and rational.
4) Identify Your Best Teachers and Utilize Their Strengths
Putting the right people in the right seat on the bus (we are talking adults here) is very important. Facilitate some professional development as in-house, teacher-led PD. As I do walkthroughs or observations, I take note of certain strengths. Then I use those as needed to impact instruction school-wide. Some teachers may be asked to lead a professional development activity with staff...teachers have buy-in with their colleagues and it gives them praise in front of their colleagues. Last year, I asked teachers with strengths in a subject to help tutor struggling students not assigned to them. Although some of the receiving teachers felt uncomfortable accepting the assistance, in the long-run, it paid off. Students received the interventions needed, and it highlighted professionals in our own building who can offer new ways to make an impact. It will also push others to work up to that level.
5) Provide Timely and Specific Feedback
This is true for our communications with teachers, parents, central office staff and all stakeholders. If people feel like you are ignoring them, they lose both respect and direction. Nothing is more frustrating that the stereotype that principals do not return phone calls and emails in a timely fashion. It is our job to ensure that we are providing both timely and constructive communications. This applies to the specificity of feedback given to teachers and the quality of information given to parents. Have 'Crucial Conversations' when needed (there is a great book on this, entitled "Crucial Conversations)." The message you communicate is determined mostly by: your tone and nonverbal cues, what you say, when and how often you say it. Refining your communications skills is one of the most important things you will do as a leader of a large organization.
Cited Work: Whitaker, Todd. What Great Principals Do Differently. Eye on Education, New York, 2003.
On October 22, 2012, Lynn University (Boca Raton, FL) will host the third and final Presidential Debate of the 2012 election.
Faculty in our Ross College of Education, along with faculty from our Political Science Department, have designed a K-12 Debate Curriculum to accompany this fall’s debates and Presidential election. This is a FREE RESOURCE for educators all around the country to use as a supplement to their instruction. The Curriculum contains activities related to the debate that you can use in your classroom. These activities are intended to go along with and complement whatever you have planned in your classroom and to aid you in teaching students about aspects of the upcoming presidential debates.
Each activity is grade-level specific, most have been tied to Florida’s New Generation Sunshine State Standards; many are linked to the Common Core Standards. This alignment can be found in the matrix contained in the curriculum documents.
Kindergarten through Grade 5 has three activities each. Grades 6 through 12 have four activities each. The activity in red font is the recommended activity for your grade level; this is the activity we encourage all classes in the specified grade level to utilize. The other activities, while we encourage usage, are for you to use by choice.
For activities that include worksheets, these are provided in the appendix section.
In addition, we have provided presidential facts, debate facts, and other sources of information you may choose to use with your students.
We hope you and your students enjoy the activities we have shared, and that the 2012 Presidential Debates will be a great learning experience for everyone.
You can access the curriculum information in two ways. If you have access to an Apple iPad, you can view this content by subscribing to the iTunes U course. In preparation, you will need to download the iTunes U app and the iBooks app on your iPad. Once the apps are installed, click on the iTunes U course link. This will automatically open the iTunes U app and prompt you to subscribe to the course.
Alternatively, you can view the curriculum content on Lynn University’s Debate Web site (http://debate2012.lynn.edu/curriculum), as either Web pages or PDF files. The activities are separated by grade level and there are video and website links that are supplemental to the text content.
“A good plan is like a road map: it shows the final destination and usually the best way to get there.” – H. Stanley Judd
As teachers and administrators depart from the era of No Child Left Behind and begin to implement the Common Core State Standards, some may ask “Do we need curriculum mapping?” In 1997, Heidi Hayes Jacobs introduced the world to curriculum mapping in Mapping the Big Picture: Integrating Curriculum and Assessment K-12. Jacobs (1997) wrote, “We need two lenses: a zoom lens into this year’s curriculum for a particular grade and a wide-angle lens to see the K-12 perspective” (p. 3). Do the new standards provide educators with a curriculum?
Curriculum versus Standards
As I visit with educators across the United States, I often hear people say that the Common Core State Standards are the curriculum. Erickson (2007) reminds us that "Academic standards are not a curriculum; they are a framework for designing curriculum. A curriculum is a coherent, teacher-friendly document that reflects the intent of the academic standards" (p. 48). If educators believe Erickson’s definition of curriculum, then they will meet in teacher teams within and across schools to clarify the curriculum. K-12 curriculum development allows educators to identify key concepts and skills, identify important content, reflect on student understandings and misunderstandings, and create plans for ensuring student success at the next grade level or level of learning. Wiggins and McTighe (2005), wrote, “In the absence of a learning plan with clear goals, how likely is it that students will develop shared understandings on which future lessons might build” (p. 21)? If educators accept the new standards as the ‘official curriculum’ they will miss out on valuable professional conversations, the opportunity to differentiate instruction, and the chance to consider new ways to assess student understanding.
How will we know when each student has mastered the essential learning outcomes? In the absence of curriculum maps it is difficult to know what is essential. If a professional learning team develops common formative assessments, but they lack curriculum maps then how will the educators know ‘what’ to assess? Some researchers have indicated that teachers should identify the curriculum using the following descriptions: Introductory, Review, and Mastery or Understanding. Until teachers develop a curriculum map, some teachers may teach the Common Core State Standards for Introductory and other teachers may teach the same standards until students develop Mastery.
If we can clarify what we want every student to know and be able to do, then we will be able to support students when they struggle with the essential learning(s). ‘How’ a teacher chooses to lead students to understand essential skills and concepts is not dictated by a curriculum map. The best educators understand that student learning styles and readiness levels vary from one class to the next. One teacher may teach a concept differently in first period than she does in second period. A curriculum map will help educators organize the district’s common curriculum. Marzano (2003) calls this the ‘guaranteed and viable curriculum’ and his research led him to believe that this is the number one factor which impacts student achievement.
Curriculum maps provide teachers with a starting point. Vertical alignment helps teachers see what learning looks like at the next level. If a concept is taught for Introduction in the third grade, but two students are ready to move to the next level then teachers can create learning experiences which challenge those students and teach the introductory level of knowledge to the rest of the class.
Several school districts across the United States have paid a small group of classroom teachers to write their math curriculum. Other school districts have purchased curriculum from vendors. It is important to note that a clear focus on aligning the curriculum and communicating decisions across buildings will create a more intentional delivery in each classroom. When educators work together to unpack state and national standards, they develop a commitment to each other and to continuous improvement.
Curriculum mapping is a process which asks teachers to develop curriculum goals, identify essential content, skills and concepts, and reflect on the taught curriculum. Curriculum development is "an ongoing process that asks teachers and administrators to think, act, and meet differently to improve their students' learning" (Hale, 2008, p. 8). In the absence of curriculum mapping, students will receive a disjointed curriculum.
Curriculum mapping may not be a new practice in education, but it provides educators with a starting point. The adoption of new standards does not mean each school has a guaranteed curriculum. Implementing the Common Core State Standards will require teacher teams to have professional conversations about what is required at each grade level. Curriculum mapping is not a silver bullet, but it provides an opportunity for educators to develop essential learning outcomes, essential questions, key concepts, key skills, and enduring understandings. Curriculum mapping supports the work of teachers and administrators. Veteran teachers have multiple experiences to offer, but all educators still need to look at the curriculum through a zoom lens and a wide-angle lens (Jacobs, 1997). It will be a struggle to implement new standards in the absence of a curriculum map. When teachers collaborate to develop the curriculum, they will work hard to implement it and make revisions which support teaching and learning throughout the school year.
What does creativity really look like?
Are students more creative in their early years than in the latter parts of their schooling?
Does this fly in the face of what we know about creativity, that it is grounded in deep knowledge and requires the patience to ruminate over a period of time?
So at an early age, what are kids doing instead? Are they more playful? Are they less inhibited about how they will be judged?
This is a window into a conversation that teachers, administrators, local employers, parents and Board members had in the development of a continuum for 21st century skills. The concept behind the conversation is simple but powerful: collectively describe 21stcentury skills so that staff can design tasks appropriately given the developmental-level and content matter.
So far, we have treated 21st century skills as a typical initiative — it has generated keynote speeches, and amorphous goals but it has not gained any real traction in curriculum, assessment and instructional design. In my latest book, Breaking Free from Myths about Teaching and Learning, I asserted,
We must move away from squeaky-clean problems with simplistic answers and resuscitate the curiosity, interest, motivation, and resilience of the learners in the classroom.
The power of a 21st century skills continuum.
Take a look at this example on Informational Literacy — part of a continuum that I facilitated for the Virginia Beach City Public Schools in Virginia on Information Literacy. (To see the full continuum visit www.vbschools.com.)
Novice: Explore simple questions through the completion of a given procedure that requires location and collection of information through navigation of digital sources and/or text features in order to share information with others.
Emerging: Generate questions, locate and evaluate digital and other sources that provide needed information, analyze information to verify accuracy and relevance, categorize information using a given organizational structure, and report findings.
Proficient: Use an inquiry-based process that requires the development of questions, identification and evaluation of a range of digital and other sources, analysis of information and point of view, identification of significant information and any conflicting evidence, categorization of relevant information using a self-selected organizational structure, and production and presentation of a verifiable synthesis of research findings that lays the groundwork for conclusion(s) drawn.
Advanced: Use an inquiry-based process that requires the generation and refinement of specific questions to focus the purpose of the research, evaluation of digital and other sources from a variety of social or cultural contexts based on accuracy, authority, and point of view; resolution of conflicting evidence or clarification of reasons for differing interpretations of information and ideas; organization of information based on the relationships among ideas and general patterns discovered; and combination of information and inferences to draw conclusions and create meaning for a given audience, purpose, and task.
After we developed this continuum on Information Literacy, I showed it to several-thousand library media specialists and asked them this straightforward question — based on the assignments that are designed by middle school and high school teachers, where would you place them on the continuum?
Over 90% of respondents described that the tasks were still at the novice level.
So here is the challenge for many school divisions. IF you do not have shared consensus on what you are aiming for and how the skill becomes more sophisticated over time, THEN you cannot systematically grow the capacity of your students. To design a coherent experience from a student’s perspective requires teacher collaboration to ensure the goals of learning are guaranteed. The methods employed to arrive at those goals should be flexible to encourage teacher creativity and expertise as well as tap into a student’s prior knowledge and personal interests.
This high percentage can be attributed to several long-standing problems, including:
The first three problems delineated above have been at the heart of Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe’s emphasis on meaning-making and transfer (Understanding by Design, Schooling by Design). The fourth problem, clarity about what the skill means, is the focus of these two blog posts. Read on if you are interested in:
Difference between a continuum and a rubric.
A continuum clearly describes how students progress in their development: how they become more skillful, reflective, sophisticated, and intuitive over time. Each part of the continuum explains as students move through the grades how their tasks should become more challenging.
A rubric defines levels of performance that clearly describe the level of success on a particular task for the purpose of feedback and guidance on future tasks.
Therefore, a teacher uses a continuum to identify the appropriate level (i.e. emerging, proficient) whereas a teacher uses a rubric to accurately describe student performance.
Continuum in action.
Another powerful model is an ongoing project that I am facilitating in Newport News Public Schools (Newport News, VA). First, staff, parents, and community representatives drafted a set of 21st century skills. Then, they created a companion document linking the drafted "College, Career and Citizen Ready Skills" to performance task Categories that require transfer and meaning making. (For more information about this type of task design, check out the work of Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe — Understanding by Design.)
The performance task categories they created are:
Then, they created definitions of what the performance task required and connected that task to the skills. Here is a sample.
Multidisciplinary Performance Task
What it DOES measure
What it MIGHT measure
Problem/Solution- Identifies and defines a problem and generates a possible solutions (or solution paths), evaluates the viability of each solution, and offers a recommendation.
Inquiry/Investigation- Systematically develop questions and pursue an explanation/pattern based on, but not limited to, known information.
Source/Comparative Analysis- Analyze data, information, artifacts, and/or textual evidence to develop an explanation, interpretation, and/or determine impact.
So here is a sample of a new performance task developed by the World Languages curriculum design team. This is designed as a Level 1 (new to the world language) performance task for all spoken languages.
Task Summary: You have finally arrived at the airport in (TL country) and are anxious to meet your host family. Suddenly, a member of your group approaches you frantically waving her hands. You notice she has bumps all over her face and arms and yells: “I am having an allergic reaction to something in the (TL-appropriate food) we had for lunch! I need help! Within your group, you have 10 minutes to come up with a minimum of five (5) ways to communicate the problem to TL speakers who could provide you assistance in this situation. Do not assume everyone speaks English, they don’t. Be prepared to share your solution(s) to this problem with the class.
The Newport News curriculum staff continues in their efforts to identify, refine and create performance tasks that are in alignment with their College, Career, and Citizen-Ready Skills Continuum. Their goal for every student? Providing evidence of proficiency before graduation day. (To find out more about the project in Newport news, contact Executive Director for Curriculum and Instruction: email@example.com.)
So, if you are compelled to take action, read the second blog post — the Do-It-Yourself Manual on how to create a 21st century skills continuum in your school division.
For more information, check out my book Breaking Free from Myths about Teaching and Learning . Contact me directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or attend my session on July 1 at the Summer ASCD Conference
For over a century, educators, policymakers, and families have struggled to define the purpose and goals of secondary education. In 1893, the Committee of Ten determined “every subject which is taught at all in a secondary school should be taught in the same way and to the same extent to every pupil so long as he pursues it, no matter what the probable destination of the pupil may be” (National Education Association, 1893).
Graduating from high school has become increasingly important and is viewed as a minimum requirement for success in terms of employment, salary, and future career choices (Gwynne, Lesnick, Hart, & Allensworth, 2009). Despite this fact, the majority of high school graduates in the United States are not academically prepared for the rigor of postsecondary education or to enter the workforce (American College Test [ACT], 2009; Conley, 2007; Flippo & Caverly, 2009). “Of every 100 students who enter ninth grade in a public high school in North Carolina, only 70 graduate within five years. Only 42 of them enroll in college, and only 19 of them complete a two-year or four-year degree within six years of graduating from high school” (Public Schools of North Carolina, 2008, p. 20). “National leaders and the education policy community have embraced the idea that the education system must establish ‘college and career readiness’ as the goal for all students” (Pinkus, 2009, p. 1). If the goal of the American high school is to graduate all students ‘college and career ready,’ then educators must examine what it takes to prepare students for the next step in life.
On June 2, 2010, a press release announced a new set of state-led education standards known as the Common Core State Standards. The press conference was held at Peachtree Ridge High School in Suwanee, Georgia. The English Language Arts and mathematics standards for grades K-12 were developed in collaboration with a variety of stakeholders including content experts, states, teachers, school administrators and parents. The standards establish clear and consistent goals for learning, designed to prepare America’s children for success in college and work.
The implementation of the Common Core State Standards is in the early stages across the United States. Some states will implement the standards in 2012-2013, while other states will implement in the following years.
Critics of the standards have cited several reasons for their criticism including:
Parents, educators, community members, and policymakers may feel like the Common Core State Standards are destined to fail, based on headlines in the news, white papers recently posted online, and the public criticism of the new standards. The following examples illustrate how the new standards are under attack.
Why Common Core Standards Will Fail
By Jay Matthews
“Common Core standards are the educational fashion of the moment, but your child’s teacher can name many similar plans that went awry.”
National Academics Standards Pose Threat to Local Control of Education
The Heritage Foundation (2011)
How Well Are American Students Learning?
With sections on predicting the effect of the Common Core State Standards, achievement gaps on the two NAEP tests, and misinterpreting international test scores.
By Tom Loveless
“The empirical evidence suggests that the Common Core will have little effect on American students’ achievement. The nation will have to look elsewhere for ways to improve its schools.”
Common Core Standards Coming Under Increased Scrutiny
Alabama News Article
“If you liked No Child Left Behind, you’ll like Common Core Standards,” said Betty Peters, an Alabama State School Board member. “It’s No Child Left Behind on steroids.”
“Although Common Core’s standards represent a laudable effort to shape a national curriculum,
the draft-writers chose to navigate an uncharted path and subject the entire country to a large scale experimental curriculum rather than build on the strengths that can be documented in
Massachusetts or California.”
Utah State Superintendent Admits to Federal Pressure on Common Core
Utahns Against Common Core Blog (2012)
Next Steps for Educators
K-12 educators understand that standards-based education supports teaching and learning. Over 45 states have adopted the standards and teachers have started the work of unpacking standards, developing curriculum units, creating new assessments aligned to the standards, and informing families of the new standards. The hard work of teachers and administrators is rarely reported in the newspaper. Most educators don’t have time to write a White Paper on the benefits of the Common Core State Standards, because they are teaching the current state standards, while working before and after school and throughout the summer months to develop local curriculum aligned to the Common Core State Standards.
This past week, I attended a regional meeting in North Carolina and I participated in conversations about how districts are moving towards implementation of the standards in 2012-2013. There is anxiety and concern in every school district, because change creates those feelings. We don’t fully understand what the new assessments will look like, because they are still being developed. As educators, we did not get to vote on the Common Core State Standards. We read blogs and see the headline stories with titles such as Why Common Core Standards Will Fail. As professional educators, we will rise to the challenge. We agree that standards alone do not improve educational outcomes or increase student understanding. The ongoing work of professional teaching teams to understand the standards and to implement them across schools will improve teaching and learning. Having time to reflect on the implemented standards will allow professional educators to see where adjustments need to be made. As an educator, I embrace the new standards and I am ready to see if the American public school can prepare more students for success than ever before. Let's not predict failure before we begin implementation.
Recommended Resources for Curriculum Development and District Planning
Common Core for School Leaders: A Guide to Developing Systemic Curriculum Growth
By Michael Fisher and Steven Weber (2012)
The Understanding by Design Guide to Creating High-Quality Units
By Grant Wiggins & Jay McTighe (2011)
Leading Curriculum Development
By Jon Wiles (2009)
About the Author
Steven Weber is the Director of Secondary Instruction for Orange County Schools, in Hillsborough, North Carolina. Recently, Orange County Schools was one of three school districts asked to share their district's plan for implementing the Common Core State Standards. District staff created a video that was shared with over 400 educators at a conference hosted by ASCD, NCASCD, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Here is the latest in the curation of resources by particular content areas. This one is all about music and includes ideas for music teachers to aid in the alignment of their work to the literacy standards for Technical subjects.
Music IS a language. To read it, interpret it, perform it and be divergent in the creation of it are cornerstones of what the Common Core is asking in terms of literacy support. There are specific moments related to the Speaking and Listening standards, the Language Standards, and the Reading for Informational Text Standards.
Consider these anchor standards for reading:
4. Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
5. Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.
7. Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
and these for Language:
3. Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.
4. Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting general and specialized reference materials, as appropriate.
There are several natural places where music can specifically align to the new standards and support literacy. The anchor standards listed here can be drilled down even further by looking at the grade-specific standards to help teachers with planning and curriculum alignment.
The resources are being shared in a website called Scoop.it and are available here:
In the past few posts with resources, I've tried to engage different web tools as kind of a two-for-one PD opportunity. These web tools would be good ones to learn and to put into your personal toolboxes should the task arise that you need one!
Also let me give a quick shout out to those of you in Philadelphia this weekend at the ASCD conference! I wish I could be there with you but I will be participating in some of the sessions online! Have a great conference!
@fisher1000 on Twitter
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