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As an educator, I am often surprised by the things I hear other educators say. You hear these comments at conferences, read opinions shared on Twitter, overhear opinions shared at other schools, and possibly even hear one of these statements at your own school. These statements make me cringe. When we are working with students, it is difficult to understand the statements that some educators make.
Ten Statements That Make Me Say, "Shut The Front Door!"
"Those students can't go to college. We should just prepare them for a career, starting in middle school."
In 1903, Saunders, a professor at the University of Mississippi, described the perspective of many Americans at the turn of the century. He wrote, "College education is desirable and theoretically necessary for preeminence, but it is not for the masses, and it would be but a utopian theory to plan for the day when a bachelor's degree shall be a qualification for suffrage or a necessity for success and happiness" (p. 73).
In 2014, several Americans still share this perspective. The recent move towards College and Career Readiness is a positive move in education. This movement does not guarantee that every student will enter a four year college. It is the idea that every student should be provided with the opportunity to learn (OTL) key skills and concepts. Furthermore, adults should not determine a child's plans after high school when the child is in the seventh grade.
"Our seventh graders made a PowerPoint, so I would say that I am proficient with technology integration."
I am not offended by teachers saying that they require students to make a PowerPoint. However, it should be a red flag to administrators if any teacher hangs their hat on one project that incorporates technology. Technology integration should become seamless. In other words student projects will require technology integration, but the focus is on student understanding, not the device or program. After all, did you ever hear a teacher say, “My students used a pencil and paper today?”
"The Common Core State Standards are not new ideas. I have always taught this way."
Regardless of your stance (for or against) the Common Core State Standards, there are obvious changes in the way teachers should approach curriculum development, instruction, and common formative assessments. "These Standards are not intended to be new names for old ways of doing business. They are a call to take the next step” (Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, Introduction, p. 5). Be aware of teacher teams and administrators who claim, “This is how we have always done it.”
The new standards will not fit into your state’s old standards like a jigsaw puzzle. The Common Core State Standards provide an opportunity to change how teacher teams communicate, collaborate, and reflect on standards. In the absence of ongoing communication, it will be easy to revert back to teaching in isolation and struggling to understand each standard. “Failure to understand the Standards and adjust practices accordingly will likely result in ‘same old, same old’ teaching with only superficial connections to the grade level Standards. In that case, their promise to enhance student performance will not be realized” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2012).
"I require the gifted students to do double the work. They can handle it, because 'they are gifted.'"
You do not hear this myth as often as you did at the turn of the century. However, there are still misconceptions about rigor and about homework for gifted students. Giving gifted students more work does not support student understanding. If you hear a teacher bragging about giving the gifted students double the work, you should refer them to resources such as (Edmonds, SERVE) and Rigor on Trial (Wagner, 2006).
"How do you expect me to read a journal article or blog. There's no time for that."
The field of education is changing and professional growth is not optional. Online journal articles, blogs written by teachers and administrators, Twitter chats, webinars, and teaching videos provide educators with a multitude of resources. As a professional, I grow frustrated when someone claims that there is no time for continuous improvement. As educators, we should continue to grow and seek to understand best practices. It is professional malpractice to claim that there is no time for learning.
"Those aren't my students."
Teachers in a Professional Learning Community (PLC) change from saying ‘those kids’ to ‘our kids’ (DuFour, DuFour, & Eaker, 2008). If the goal is to prepare all students to graduate College and Career Ready, then the teachers and staff members in the school district must collaborate to support students. Principals within the same school district should share ideas and discuss instructional strategies. Competition is good when it comes to athletics, marching band, academic clubs, and science fairs. It is also appropriate to see which school has the highest graduation rate, lowest dropout rate, and highest number of students enrolled in advanced courses. The idea that “Those aren’t my students” should be a thing of the past. As adults, we should share ideas within our school district, across state lines, and even around the globe. When more students graduate prepared for college and careers, the world wins! These are “OUR” students!
"Do we get credit for attending this meeting?"
Have you ever heard a colleague whisper, “I hope they are giving us credit for this.” Most school districts require a number of credits over the course of one year or a five year span. If a teacher is more focused on receiving credit than learning, it is a red flag. Have you ever attended a meeting until lunch and then your co-worker goes to the mall, because the credit was given in the registration packet? It is a shame that some educators view the credit as the purpose for attending. Don’t get me wrong. I believe that educators should receive credit in order to renew their license. I also believe that more school districts should begin recognizing blogging, Twitter chats, and webinars as ways to earn credit. Asking for credit is similar to the following scenario:
A high school basketball coach asks the starting five to run a play in practice, one day before the game. The starting point guard pauses before running the play and asks, “Will we all five get to start in the game if we run this play right?”
Running the play several times is part of continuous improvement. Continuous improvement is the reason for professional development, not credit or a certificate.
"We are no longer teaching during the last nine weeks. We have started benchmarking and test prep."
Test prep is one of the worst things that teachers can do during the last nine weeks. Did you ever try to cram for a test in college? It usually does not result in transfer or understanding. There are multiple approaches that educators can take which will virtually guarantee instant gains or increases in student achievement. Curricular reductionism is a test prep strategy that eliminates arts education, social studies, character education, and soft skills. If it’s not tested, then it’s not taught during the last nine weeks (or even semester in some schools).
Taking shortcuts to improve the data at an individual school is akin to a professional athlete taking steroids. When our students graduate from high school, we do not want them to reflect on their K-12 experience and see that the shortcuts adults took created long-term detrimental effects.
When educators choose to give students multiple assessments that look like the high-stakes test, eliminate subjects, and create a test prep boot camp atmosphere, then students lose. High-stakes tests have changed the way some teachers and administrators approach teaching and learning.
"I would assign more project-based learning, but it interferes with the pacing guide."
Pacing guides provide students with a ‘guaranteed and viable curriculum’ (Marzano), if the curriculum is implemented in each classroom. Pacing guides can support teaching and learning. Alignment in a school district is important and pacing guides can provide an outline of what should be taught to each student. Pacing guides should allow for flexibility in pacing and the readiness level of each student.
The statement above is often overheard at high schools that teach on a block schedule. While there may be 90 minute periods, some teachers cannot overcome the fact that a one year course is taught in one semester. If student understanding is improved through project-based learning (PBL), then teachers should identify days of the week and units of study that provide students with time for PBL.
I say, “Shut the Front Door” to this comment, because it is an example of putting the needs of adults in front of the needs of students. We are paid to prepare each student for the next level of learning. Some educators say, “Research be damned, I am going to get through the pacing guide and make sure that I cover the content.”
"I believe that soft skills are critically important, but they aren't tested by the state."
Soft skills include, but are not limited to, teamwork, decision-making, and communication (America’s Promise Alliance, 2007). “The goal of college and career readiness for all high school graduates is no longer a radical reform idea promulgated by a handful of states: It has emerged as the new norm throughout the nation” (Achieve, 2010, p. 23).
Employers seek applicants who are problem solvers, communicators, team players, and have perseverance. These skills, sometimes referred to as soft skills, are needed by all high school graduates to ensure that they are college and career ready, regardless of whether they plan to complete an apprenticeship after high school or attend a two-year or four-year college. While employers are seeking students with strong academic skills, they are having trouble finding applicants who can collaborate, create, think outside the box, and communicate. When educators focus on tested subjects at the expense of soft skills, students pay the price. If test scores are the reason for teaching and learning, then someone forgot to tell the employers who are seeking qualified applicants (Wagner, Seven Survival Skills as described by business leaders in their own words).
I believe in instructional leadership, teacher leaders, the Common Core State Standards, curriculum alignment, professional learning communities, and College and Career Readiness. When teachers and administrators make statements that you disagree with, you should challenge the statement. As a professional, you owe it to students and to the profession to challenge broad statements or beliefs that are not in the best interests of students or the profession.
Share your thoughts below:
What makes you say, “Shut the Front Door?”
Steven Weber is an elementary school principal in North Carolina. During his career, he has served as the Director of Secondary Instruction for Orange County Schools, High School Social Studies Consultant with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, K-12 Social Studies Specialist with the Arkansas Department of Public Instruction, and as a classroom teacher and assistant principal in the West Memphis School District. Weber blogs on ASCD EDge. You can connect with Weber on Twitter at @curriculumblog.
This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “how do we cultivate and support teacher leaders?” To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum.
New York Yankees slugger Reggie Jackson told the media he was "the straw that stirs the drink." As a principal, I feel the same way about teacher leaders. A teacher leader provides coaching, feedback, professional development, new ideas, professionalism, and more! I don't rely on one or two teacher leaders. As a leader, I try to develop new teacher leaders and I encourage our existing teacher leaders to do the same. School improvement is not a solo act.
3 Ways Teacher Leaders Support School Improvement
360 Degree Leadership
Teachers and administrators who want to understand the importance of teacher leadership should read The 360 Degree Leader (Weber, ASCD EDge). Maxwell (2005) wrote, "the reality is that most people will never be the top leader in an organization. They will spend their careers somewhere in the middle" (p. 17). Leadership author John Maxwell describes how [teacher] leaders can use their experience and voice to influence school board policy, curriculum development, vertical alignment, school planning, and important decisions made at the building level. Who are the 360 Degree Leaders in your school?
A teacher leader is a mentor to other teachers. This person sees leadership as a way to add value to others. When a younger teacher has a difficult parent-teacher conference, the teacher leader is there to offer support and listen to her colleague. A teacher leader also encourages professional development and growth through serving as a role model and lifelong learner. Unlike a teacher who closes the door and focuses on "my students and my classroom," the teacher leader reminds staff that great schools focus on "our students and our school." The Center for Creative Leadership has a video which highlights the importance of the Mentor Leader (also described in a book with the same title, written by former NFL Coach Tony Dungy). Leaders Develop Leaders outlines five questions to consider as you begin to develop leaders (Weber, ASCD Whole Child).
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. If you are a school administrator, you cannot lead alone. You need the input and feedback from one or more teacher leaders.
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. The principal who tries to lead without teacher leaders will fail.
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.
Research projects are an important tool for both instructing students and assessing whether students have developed critical knowledge and skills for college and career success in a 21st century world. Students also have the opportunity to explore their interests, which increases their motivation to learn. They learn how to develop questions, find, sort and evaluate information, read widely and deeply, analyze, think creatively, write in many different formats, problem solve, and communicate results. Students also learn how to work independently and collaboratively. Many of the “soft” skills, such as curiosity, perseverance, “grit”, and dealing with failure and frustration are developed while working on a research project. Like the musician or athlete, students who conduct research projects have the opportunity to practice and improve important skills that they don’t normally get to use regularly in traditional classrooms.
Many of the projects completed in classrooms today do not have the same level of rigor and skill development as strong research projects. The typical “igloo” or “mission” project, in which students construct an igloo as the culmination of a unit on Eskimos, or create a diorama of a Spanish Mission as a culminating project for a unit on California history, does not have the same level of research, thinking, analysis, and communication as does a meaningful research project. Alignment with units of study goals are minimal.
The igloo and mission project examples above are examples of “weak” projects, because of their limited usefulness in developing critical understanding and skills. By contrast, the seven project examples below all allow for varying degrees of understanding and powerful skill development, and should be used more frequently throughout the K-12 curriculum:
1. Reading/Writing Projects
Students read, comprehend and interpret specific books, novels, plays, poems, etc., often around themes. Sometimes books are assigned, while at other times students select their own books. Through reading/writing projects, students demonstrate comprehension, understanding, and ability to interpret text. Reading/writing projects often include class discussions around dilemmas inherent in the reading and/or writing general reactions, interpretive essays, poems, stories and plays based on the material read.
Examples: A fourth grade teacher develops a monthly project around a different literature genre. Each month the teacher selects a different type of literature, such as biography, fiction, or mystery. Students choose a book and an author that approved by the teacher. They then discuss the key features of the studied genre (e.g. what makes for a good biography?), write a summary that demonstrates their understanding of the key ideas in the book they read, and write their general reaction to the book. They complete a drawing depicting a critical idea in the book, and also write a new ending to the book. The book and the developed material are shared among the entire class at the end of each month.
Other examples of reading-writing projects are when students select and read biographies of famous people, find, read and report on books about heroes, read and discuss short stories describing a particular period in history, or read and put on the plays of a single author.
Another format for this type of project is through the selection and analysis of genres of artwork or music.
2. Information-Data Organizing Projects
The goal of information-data organizing projects is for teachers to have students collect, sort and summarize information and data around a topic, question, theme or unit from multiple sources, such as textbooks, fiction and non-fiction texts. Students might synthesize articles and other readings around a topic of interest, analyze surveys and interviews designed to explore key questions, or find ways to put information into a variety of formats, including graphs and charts. Sometimes information is represented in other formats, such as through artwork, crafts and music. Information-data-organizing project approaches are useful when students are studying a particular topic or question, since this type of project helps students learn how to use multiple resources instead of solely using of a textbook.
Examples: Typical information-data organizing projects include classifying information from textbooks and other resources into charts and graphs, conducting a survey and summarizing the data, or developing decision-making trees from multiple resources. For example, students study how technology is used around the world. They find and read articles, collect data, and develop charts and graphs to illustrate and share how technology is used in different countries.
3. Major Investigation Projects
Major investigation projects enable students to create their own questions around a topic, collect, organize, and evaluate information, draw conclusions and share results through presentations and explanations. Students may demonstrate the results of their investigations through different types of products and experiences, including the writing of a paper, the development of artwork, oral presentations, audio and videotape productions, photographic essays, simulations, or plays.
Sometimes students select their own topics for research projects based on their interests, while at other times research projects are focused around specific academic topics being studied in class. In some senior project formats, students are free to select any topic of interest for an investigation project.
Scientific experiments are a sub-category of investigative research projects, in which students create questions around a scientific concern or issue, develop hypotheses, conduct or design experiments, test a hypothesis, and formulate results.
While major investigation projects are often considered long-term activities, some investigation projects can be conducted over relatively short periods of time when adequate amounts of time are devoted to them each day.
Examples: Typical investigative research projects ask students to pick a topic related to the class subject, such as a topic of interest around American history. Students then are able to do research around their topic, find, read and summarize information and data, draw conclusions, write papers, present and share results.
Conducting scientific research experiments are also common science classroom activities.
Other research projects may be built around student interests. Students select a topic of interest, develop a set of questions that help them to explore a topic and narrow the topic down to something manageable, find, read and summarize information and data, contact outside resources to help learn more about the topic, draw conclusions, and make a presentation.
Some investigative projects are conducted over several days before holidays or at the end of the school year.
4. Design Projects
Students invent products and objects, design technology, or design artwork or models For example, students might be asked to use scientific principles to design an object that will descend from a specific height at the slowest speed, to design artwork using artistic principles, or to design a house using the latest technological software.
Example: Sixth grade students research and design a dream house, including floor plans, a description of the interior of the houses, materials to be used to build the house. Students also create a model of their homes and a cost analysis for the interior of at least one room in the house. Students also are required to make a presentation summarizing the results of their work[i].
5. Problem Solving/Decision Making Projects
Students solve problems and make decisions by being given or creating specific situations and complex problems. Problem situations around topics such as pollution, world events, health care, poverty, and economic issues are interesting and exciting areas of study and provide students with opportunities to learn about current and future complex issues and problems and to use creative problem solving processes. Complex mathematical problems are another source of problem solving projects. Decision- making projects through simulations of both historical and present-day decisions are worthwhile projects.
Students are asked to select a global problem, such as lack of food, water issues, energy problems, or medical issues. They then are asked to problem solve and come up with some models or examples of a potential solution to the problem.
Young children are asked to develop a set of classroom rules to live by.
6. “Argumentation” projects
After considerable research and discussion about an issue or dilemma, students write a persuasive essay or position paper giving their point of view, reasons, and evidence to support this point of view. Some argumentation projects are built around debates or simulations.
Students research information on both sides of an issue with societal impact (the issue might be current or historical). Each student then develops a coherent argument on one side or the other, and then gives a demonstration, using any format (oral, written media presentation) to forecast the positive and negative consequences for society of their position.
After studying the development of the Constitution, students simulate a Constitutional Convention. They take on the roles of different representatives to the Convention, argue for their State’s position, and develop their own version of the Constitution.
7. Real World, Authentic Projects
These provide students with the opportunity of conducting projects with direct links and potential payoffs either to themselves or to the outside world. Projects which lead to personal improvement, community involvement and service, multicultural explorations in real world settings, an understanding of careers and career options, cooperative work experience, internships, and a focus on health issues produce direct payoffs for students in a changing world.
In health class, students design a plan for healthful living and physical fitness. They create a plan for a living style that will provide them with health and physical well-being. They need to include a model healthful weekly menu tailored to their needs and tastes and discuss why it is healthful. They also develop a realistic weekly exercise plan to follow.
Students are asked to find an organization or agency that provides a service to others and is of interest to them. They volunteer their time and keep a log of hours spent and a journal reflecting on their experiences. Where possible, they are asked to provide leadership in some capacity to the organization. They share their experience with other classmates.
Meaningful, rigorous research projects provide students with opportunities to master 21st century content and process learning outcomes using a powerful instructional approach. Seven types of potentially strong research projects are described in this commentary[ii].
The richness and variety of the seven types of research projects enable students to enjoy and read a wide variety of materials, learn concepts in depth; improve reading and writing skills; conduct research and perform experiments; solve problems and make decisions; make connections to the outside world; and motivate, interest and challenge students. They can be conducted individually or collaboratively - collaborative research projects help students learn to work together effectively. Research projects can integrate technology and help students master technology skills in meaningful settings. Interdisciplinary research projects help students see connections between subjects and enable teachers to work collaboratively. Self-developed projects, emerging from the interests of students, build self-confidence and mastery.
The variety of types of research projects also give teachers many different ways to implement strong projects through which students learn valuable skills: how to ask essential questions, find, sort, analyze and evaluate a variety of resources, develop thinking skills, draw conclusions, and communicate results.
Some types of projects require considerable amounts of time; others less so. Projects can be integrated into each subject area, into specific grade levels, can be woven into the fabric of a school at certain times of the year, or even as an overlay to the entire curriculum through the school library or as a graduation project.
A coordinated set of diverse research projects, implemented as part of a K-12 curriculum, can motivate students and encourage significant success and mastery. The time for building an instructional program with a variety of types of projects is now.
[i] This example is adapted from an actual sixth grade class design project outlined more fully in ENC Focus, Volume 9, November 2, 2002. Washington, D.C.: Eisenhower National Clearinghouse, pp. 16-18.
[ii] Note that these seven project examples are not completely discrete, but may overlap. For example, a problem solving, decision-making project might also be authentic and driven by real life actual events. The purpose of describing these seven types is not to suggest their total independence from each other, but to examine a variety of different ways of thinking about research projects.
Elliott Seif is a long time educator, teacher, college professor, curriculum director, author and Understanding by Design trainer. Additional and related teaching and learning resources and ideas designed to help prepare students to live in a 21st century world can be found in his other blogs at ASCD Edge and on his website: www.era3learning.org
Instructional leadership is essential in K-12 schools. What is an instructional leader? A second grade teacher can serve as an instructional leader. Principals and assistant principals should also be viewed as instructional leaders. A central office staff member may have the title of Chief Academic Officer or Curriculum Director, but that does not mean they are the only instructional leader in the school district. Once teachers begin communicating with teachers in the same grade level and make connections with the next level (i.e., middle school and high school transition), students will benefit from increased clarity on the essential learning outcomes.
“One of the tasks of curriculum leadership is to use the right methods to bring the written, the taught, the supported, and the tested curriculums into closer alignment, so that the learned curriculum is maximized” (Glatthorn, 1987, p. 4).
How do you 'maximize' the learned curriculum? Developing the local curriculum, curriculum alignment, analyzing assessment data, and meeting in job-alike teams are important activities. However, meetings can often become a weekly ritual that do not lead to increased student understanding. An instructional leader is constantly focused on 'maximizing' student understanding. During the No Child Left Behind Era, student achievement was defined in most schools as passing a high stakes test. When instructional leaders define test results as student achievement, most meetings focus on test prep, curriculum reductionism, and closing gaps. Closing gaps is critical and ethical work. Closing gaps should not mean teaching to the middle or ignoring our gifted students who need challenging work. Schools throughout the United States have witnessed artificial gains in student test scores by eliminating science, social studies, art, music, PE, and other non-tested subjects. Glatthorn's question is one that drives the work of instructional leaders. Does test prep or curriculum reductionism 'maximize' student learning?
3 Ways To Grow As An Instructional Leader
1. Join a Twitter Chat
I have been participating in Twitter chats for the past two years. When I describe Twitter chats to other educators, they often look at me like a deer in headlights. Why would someone teach school all day and then join a Twitter chat at 9:00 pm on a Thursday night? How could a one hour chat with educators across the world support teaching and learning in my school? I have met educators in all 50 states. As a principal, I learn from principals, teachers, superintendents, university professors, education consultants, and others who are passionate about teaching and learning. Educators share links to their blogs, school websites, curriculum maps, school goals, presentations, family resources, and more! A Twitter chat is similar to attending a national conference. You will be exposed to multiple perspectives and it will challenge your own views on education. The conversations are lively, but professional. If you ask a question, you may get answers from New York, California, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Texas. Twitter chats will inspire an instructional leader and will offer multiple opportunities for professional growth.
2. Join and Become Active in a Professional Learning Community
According to Schmoker (2006), "Mere collegiality won't cut it. Even discussions about curricular issues or popular strategies can feel good but go nowhere. The right image to embrace is a group of teachers who meet regularly to share, refine and assess the impact of lessons and strategies continuously to help increasing numbers of students learn at higher levels" (p.178). Schools throughout the United States are operating as a Professional Learning Community (PLC). If your school still allows teachers to operate in isolation, you can learn more about a PLC at http://www.allthingsplc.info.
“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’” (DuFour, 2011, p. 61). Instructional leaders believe in growth. Continuous improvement is possible when each instructional leader is a member of a PLC.
3. Identify Essential Learning Outcomes
It is difficult to maximize student understanding if you do not know the goals. Learning targets help instructional leaders know if students are reaching the goal. Is your goal college and career readiness? An instructional leader must define what the path to college and career readiness looks like for a ninth grade student. Is your goal to increase the number of students enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) classes? Once you define the end in mind, it will be easier to determine the skills and understandings that students need to be prepared for advanced courses. According to Wiggins and McTighe (2007), "The job is not to hope that optimal learning will occur, based on our curriculum and initial teaching. The job is to ensure that learning occurs, and when it doesn't, to intervene in altering the syllabus and instruction decisively, quickly, and often" (p. 55).
Instructional leadership supports teaching and learning. It is easy to focus on standards, assessment, school safety, school improvement plans, faculty meetings, high-stakes tests, developing your next meeting agenda, technology integration, curriculum alignment, and state mandates. While none of these topics can be neglected, it is easy to lose sight of the goals of an instructional leader. Instructional leadership should not take the backseat to meetings, planning, or activities. Parker (1991) cautioned instructional leaders to avoid motion mascquerading as improvement.
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.
Action Items for ASCD Leaders
School Improvement is tough and requires putting a lot of pieces into place to ensure that all schools meet the needs of kids. The whole child “Improving Schools”blog entry, written by ASCD Whole Child Programs Director Sean Slade, takes a look at the various factors required for successful student outcomes by tackling the issues kids and schools face today. During his more than two decades in education, Slade has written extensively on topics related to the whole child and health and well-being (PDF) and has been at the forefront of promoting and using school climate, connectedness, resilience, and youth development data for school improvement.In the latest “Improving Schools” column, Slade discusses the importance of preparing students for the futureby teaching them the skills they need for tomorrow. Read Sean’s entire “Improving Schools”column.
Throughout September at wholechildeducation.org: Resilience
Resilience—the ability of “each of us to bounce back stronger, wiser, and more personally powerful” (Nan Henderson); “not only survive, but also learn to thrive” (Bonnie Benard); or even to “bungee jump through the pitfalls of life” (Andrew Fuller)—is more than a trait; it’s a process that can and should be taught, learned, and required. Being resilient helps youth navigate the world around them, and schools and classrooms are becoming more attuned to providing the cognitive, emotional, and developmental supports needed for resilience to prosper and grow in each of us.
“If children are given the chance to believe they’re worth something—if they truly believe that—they will insist upon it” (Maya Angelou). What benefits do schools, classrooms, and students gain through increased attention to resilience teaching and development? How is resilience best developed: taught as a curriculum, integrated across all content areas, or organically developed by each student?
Download the Whole Child Podcast for a discussion on resilience with host Sean Slade, director of Whole Child Programs at ASCD, and experts Sara Truebridge and Andrew Fuller. Throughout the month, read the Whole Child Blog and tell us what has worked in your school and with your students. E-mail us and share resources, research, and examples.
ASCD Leaders on Reflection
A defining trait of leadership is a passion for success and continuous improvement. With progress comes new vistas and new goals, as well as new challenges to overcome in our never-ending quest for knowledge and excellence. Leaders envision a future, and great leaders shape that future. With that in mind, the Whole Child Blog asked ASCD leaders to share their thoughts on what reflection means to them as learners, teachers, and leaders. Here’s what they said:
ASCD Leader Voices
Reflecting on How We Learn, Teach, and Lead
Educating the whole child and planning for comprehensive, sustainable school improvement requires us to be whole educators who take the time to recharge, reflect, and reinvigorate. How did you reflect on your practice this summer and what goals have you set for the new school year? Read more at the Whole Child Blog.
Over the summer months, we looked at educators’ need to reflect on the past school year, refresh their passion for teaching, recharge their batteries, and look ahead. Listen to the Whole Child Podcast hosted by Kevin Scott—a former history teacher and current director of constituent services at ASCD—and featuring guests Peter Badalament, principal of Concord-Carlisle High School in Massachusetts, and Jason Flom, director of learning platforms at whole child partner Q.E.D. Foundation.
Have you signed up to receive the Whole Child Newsletter? Read the latest newsletter and visit the archive for more strategies, resources, and tools you can use to help ensure that each child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.
Something to Talk About
Keynote Speakers Announced for ASCD's 2014 Annual Conference and Exhibit Show—ASCD has released the keynote speakers for the 69th ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show, held in Los Angeles, Calif., March 15–17, 2014. The conference will showcase ideas and best-practice strategies that are driving student achievement and will unlock ways to boost teacher and leadership effectiveness. Attendees will choose from more than 350 sessions that will enable them to prepare our world's learners to be creative, critically minded, and compassionate citizens. Read the full press release.
ASCD Kicks Off Yearlong “Membership Means More” Campaign, Announces Insurance Benefits—ASCD announced today new benefits available to current and future members as part of a yearlong rollout of new member perks and benefits during the association's “membership means more” campaign. Read the full press release.
ASCD Publishes Eric Jensen’s Book about Engagement Strategies to Help Students in Poverty Succeed—ASCD announces the release of Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind: Practical Strategies for Raising Achievement, a new book by seasoned educator, prolific author, and brain expert Eric Jensen. Read the full press release.
CEO and Executive Director Dr. Gene R. Carter received the Best Health Promotion Practice Award at the 21st IUHPE World Conference in Thailand for his service promoting a whole child approach to education and fostering greater alignment between the health and education sectors. Dr. Carter was selected by the Global Scientific Committee of the International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE) as one of the three award winners for best health promotion practice. Dr. Carter urges educators to promote and view health as fundamental; not only for the individual, but also for the success of education itself. Read the entire press release.
Baruti K. Kafele’s New ASCD Book Shows How to Close the Attitude Gap to Improve Student Learning—ASCD has released Closing the Attitude Gap: How to Fire Up Your Students to Strive for Success by award-winning educator and best-selling education author Baruti K. Kafele. Read the full press release.
New ASCD and McREL Book Presents Simple Approach to Maintaining Focus in the Classroom—ASCD has released The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching: A Checklist for Staying Focused Every Day by McREL experts Bryan Goodwin and Elizabeth Ross Hubbell. Read the full press release.
ASCD Welcomes New Teachers to Profession, Offers Resources—ASCD is pleased to welcome new teachers to the education profession and offer professional development resources to ensure their success during the coming school year. Read the full press release.
ASCD Launches New Educational Leadership Subscription Offering—ASCD now offers subscriptions to its flagship magazine, Educational Leadership (EL).Read the full press release.
ASCD Releases New Professional Development Offerings for Educators Heading Back to School—As students head back to school for the start of the 2013–14 school year, ASCD offers a new selection of professional development opportunities to enable educators at every level to support the success of each learner. Read the full press release.
Dr. Carter Receives International Award for Best Health Promotion Practice
In a video posted on June 4, 2013, North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest discussed the Common Core State Standards. It is apparent that he is both not a fan and that he has not fully investigated everything about them and the implications they may have on teachers, students, and the entire educational system in his short tenure. This is in response to my colleagueSteven Weber’s post about an Educator’s Perspective on the Common Core, specifically in relation to his state’s actions.
We need less extremism and polarizing missives and more opportunities for collegial dialogue and specific plans of action that are based on collaboration and agreed upon goals around whatever it is we decide to do as a country. These standards are a foundation, not the aspiration of all students. What we grow from them is the art of teaching. Having standards and maintaining them is the science of teaching. The Common Core does not dictate curriculum anymore than your blood pressure number dictates a course of appropriate action. They are a standard, a level of quality, a point of reference to a mean. What we do to attain them and what we do to grow beyond them are more essential questions than how do we get rid of them. Getting rid of them means going back to previous standards that will have the same arguments, for or against, as to why they are good or bad.
What follows is a breakdown of my analysis of his comments. I very much think the Common Core Standards are a good idea. For the first time in the history of our country, students in Wyoming and Nebraska and California and New York and North Carolina are being held to the same standards. Assessment data in our country will be less skewed than it is in other countries (who have national standards) and we are thinking specifically about what it is that prepares students for going to college or moving into a career after high school.
The rigor of the new standards is greater, yes. Much of the conversations I have about them push teachers and administrators out of years old comfort zones. I believe this is a good thing. I believe that most teachers want to improve their professional practice and this is a step in that direction.
Beyond the standards, specifically with new teacher evaluations tied to them and canned curricula being created around them, I believe that there are wrong things being done in the name of progress. The standards themselves, in my humble opinion, are not evil. The hurricane of “progress” around them is what people should be paying attention to and questioning and determining the usefulness and economic viability of.
What follows is not meant to be personal. We, as educators, have an obligation to both invite and engage in public discourse about what we believe is best for our kids. I have a kid in public school already and another one joining the ranks shortly. I want this to work. I want my kids prepared well for the world they will graduate into. I want to have no regrets on graduation night (if graduation the way we know it stays in place, in the traditional sense) that I did everything I could do as a parent and an educator.
That said, what follows is a discussion of the comments and assertions made by Dan Forest:
Dan begins his video by blaming the previous administration.
Besides being in poor taste, it is juvenile and reflects negatively on his professionalism as a state leader.
It’s not about what happened before he came into the office, it’s about what he will do to improve things now that he is in office. That improvement should build from where things are now, rather than wasting more money, time, and resources on dismantling everything up to this point and starting over.
The previous administration did what they thought was best; as he is expected to do while he is in office. He may disagree and he may act differently, but laying blame paints a portrait of him as a savior from years of oppression. While I know that some will buy this shtick, my hope is that most will see through this and evaluate his statements and his actions with a critical eye, and not be persuaded by his claims without further investigation.
He is concerned by new standards.
This is a strange statement. In all states, standards evolve and upgrade every few years.
Because they have national media attention, this version of the evolution and upgrade is problematic? This seems more like a fraternity of rejection to join rather than a real concern about what our kids need to know and be able to do.
He is concerned about local control and parental involvement with standards.
If the common core wasn’t there, how much local control existed (with End of Grade high stakes testing?) and how much parent involvement was there?
Parent involvement is a huge missing component of the Common Core. Teachers are expected to do the best with what they’ve got, but what they’ve got is oftentimes dependent on the environment from which their students come, rather than a function of how the educational experience truly impacts their learning. Until this is addressed, the entire teacher evaluation system is flawed.
I agree that upcoming new assessments are in part narrowing the curriculum and making testing a cash cow. These are functions of vendors interpreting the Common Core versus the standards themselves and states agreeing to give them exclusive contracts to spend their Race to the Top money.
Local control is a good thing when it works. I believe that districts have distinct understandings of their populations and the systems within which they function, but if they use that as a scapegoat or excuse to explain performances that should be better, it’s a problem.
Mr. Forest says, “Standardization runs counter to the customization of the world we live in.”
Except when you check your blood pressure or cholesterol?
The world we live in (technology wise) is increasingly based on Google and Facebook analytics that customize our web experiences by finding commonalities in the way we search for information and interact in the real world based on our “customized” searches. Ultimately, these companies, including Google, are looking for ways to streamline experiences and de-individualize user experiences for the sake of what’s easiest and most economical for the masses. That’s why Facebook tells us what all of our friends are doing. Our commonalities are more important than our individuality.
He said that technology and the learning experience can be customized to the needs of the individual.
See number 4.
Technology should be the new paper or pencil rather than something we plan for or customize. Sure, we can customize learning experiences, but at what expense? All of these customizations cost money and public institutions have an obligation to the masses and the money is divided among the total population of students.
That customization is great in theory, but economically, won’t work for most students.
This is said knowing full well what my own expectations are for technology immersion and the sometimes utopian ways I speak about it. However, what I may say in theory is always tempered with the reality of what schools are dealing with financially and what their infrastructures and technology capabilities are.
Also of note is the publication of the 2013 Horizon report, part of which focuses on Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs). College and Career readiness is not only about independence with content knowledge but also valuing evidence, strategic and capable use of digital media and the Internet and strong communication and collaboration skills. These MOOCs are going to transform education in the very new future and change our notions of how we “do” education, the places, the time constructs, the demonstration of learning. We still need a framework of anchor standards, checkpoints from which to grow and sophisticate from one year to the next regardless of how school and learning is accessed.
He says that Common Core has not been field-tested.
Have previous iterations of evolved standards been field-tested?
The assessments that follow new iterations of standards usually re-inform instructional practice AFTER new standards have been put into place and are ultimately assessed a year or more after implementation.
He asserts that Testing standards have not been rolled out.
The General Item Specifications for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium were rolled out last April.
PARCC content frameworks have been available for 2 years. Additionally, many states have assessment guidelines that direct what any vendor, including Pearson, must consider for building new assessments. I found resources for assessment development in North Carolina on their website. And this one here for NC’s Next Generation Assessments. The process for developing new assessments are not going to be that much different—just set to new standards.
Sample assessment questions are also available from the PARCC website and multiple states have given access to sample questions on their state education websites: New York | Delaware | Other States
I am troubled with his questioning of the Common Core Standards themselves, rather than all of the hoopla around them.
Standardization is not bad: blood pressure, cholestorel, etc. He even uses a medical metaphor about launching a new drug without FDA approval—essentially, isn’t that what states do when they evolve standards and change curriculum or try new strategies that may or may not be researched based?
It’s not just Common Core, it’s every time the standards change. If you go back to previous state standards, aren’t you just going back to a previous version of what was “not vetted” and “not piloted?” (And without articulation of what was college and career ready?)
It takes time to implement anything new, navigating nuances, deciding what to cut or keep or create. What will be the cost in time, resources, money, and culture if the Common Core is ditched and we go back to what we used to do?
I think the more unconscionable acts are how the standards are the scapegoats for making decisions about what vendors deem to be “Common Core Aligned.” This could be curriculum materials, assessments, test prep materials—all things I think teachers are capable of creating well if given enough time.
The statement on Data Collection and what data will be collected and who the data will be shared with seems alarmist.
With all of the media attention from Opt Out organizations about the inBloom data product and the Data Driven frenzy that goes with the Common Core as a deliverable element, there is the need, for reporting and for teacher evaluations, to collect massive amounts of data on student performance. This is a function of the Race to the Top grant and states buy into this level of reporting. The amount of test data and the associated personal data is relative to individual states who are participating in Race to the Top but the data is not that much different, if at all different, than data that has been collected for the last two decades. Because of the backlash against associated elements with the Common Core, administrative leaders and those that are trying to undo the new system would have you believe that this data is a function of the times, when the truth is more along the lines “of same data, potentially new containment system.”
If that containment system is hosted on an internet based server, as it is with inBloom’s product (Amazon server) then there is the potential for the data being compromised or accessed by hackers and while there are multiple “what if” scenarios around the potential for compromised data and what could be done with it, I think the reality is that these are potential yet unlikely scenarios, as they are with our bank and credit card data. Breaches happen rarely and when they do, there is a quick scramble to re-secure the data as quickly as possible.
Mr. Forest says, “A third of the states in our country have either rejected Common Core or are seeking legislative action to back out of it.”
What evidence does he have for this statement? That’s a pretty strong claim to make without backing up with details.
While there is an occasional news tidbit about states that are considering giving the Race to the Top money back, a full third of the states participating in a collective mutiny seems like it would be more prominently discussed on the evening news.
Mr. Forest says, “I’ll be looking at the Common Core with a Critical Eye.”
What’s his background? What’s his level of expertise at looking at the standards and evaluating whether or not they are good for students? What’s so great about previous North Carolina standards, or any states’ standards that make them better, worse, or even with Common Core?
There has been a lot of good work done within the new standards framework. Teaching and learning have been upgraded to more rigorous levels that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Do we really want to go back to the way things were? Worksheets? Lectures? Resource/Textbook dependence? Computer lab Thursdays? (I hear that Oregon Trail software is pretty cool.)
It’s a little disconcerting to see political figureheads undo the Vision and Culture of education in a state where the teachers are under such intense pressure.
Would it not have been better to “look before he leaped” into a response until after he’d investigated?
Keeping people in turmoil seems more like a political strategy than an effective way to lead the state’s educational expectations. I hope that his constituents pay attention to what he is preparing to “undo” in order to “redo” around his own opinion.
A team/collaborative effort here is necessary. I don’t mean state level teams, I mean all stakeholders: state education, administrators, teachers, parents, and students.
I worked in North Carolina for years before moving to New York. What I’m saying here is representative of the fact that I have worked in multiple states around the Common Core standards and obviously, I'm a bigger fan of them than Mr. Forest. I’ve seen the positive changes that they’ve made in classrooms for both teachers and students.
When I think back to my time in North Carolina, there was always an emphasis on the End of Grade State tests. Teachers, at that time, and including me, had better ideas around what they’d always done and what curricular materials they used from year to year than the actual standards. It took me a while to un-marry myself from the materials and have a deep understanding of what the standards demanded my students know and are able to do. The Common Core, if nothing else, is helping teachers have intimate knowledge of the standards. North Carolina was one of the first states to break the standards down into actionable learning targets for the sake of helping teachers teach their students well.
I think the critical eye should focus less on the standards themselves and more on:
Ceasing expenditure of more money on curriculum materials until we have another year or two for publishers to have a better idea of what Common Core alignment means, particularly in terms of new assessments.
Time for teachers to work with the standards and plan for deeper instruction and assessment.
Building up infrastructures for Wi Fi and digital devices as always-available options for learning.
Looking at how we “do” school and thinking of divergent and creative ways to help students access and interact around their learning expectations both physically and virtually.
Ditching the mindset that what we’ve always done is still good enough. Growth comes from upgrading and reimagining what we know to be good, not sticking with the status quo. We’re preparing kids for 2025, and our schools should reflect that goal.
How do we do what must be done today to prepare kids for tomorrow? That’s our essential question. We’ve got a long way to go, for sure, and if not these Common Core standards, then what? How are we going to prepare our kids for the world they will graduate into, whether to go to college or to start their careers? How will we explain to our students tomorrow what our collective decisions are today? Now that we know better, we should do better.
"If the state of North Carolina decides to pull the plug on the Common Core State Standards, it will be a slap in the face to the teachers and administrators who have spent countless hours (most on their own time without reimbursement) preparing to implement the Common Core State Standards and to maximize learning for 1.5 million students."
On June 2, 2010, the North Carolina State Board of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards which were implemented during the 2012-2013 school year. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) represent K-12 learning expectations in English-Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics. The Standards reflect the knowledge and skills students need to be college and career ready by the end of high school. Elected officials across the United States are beginning to question the Common Core State Standards. On June 4, 2013, North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest posted a YouTube video outlining his concerns about the Common Core State Standards.
While standing in the car rider line at an elementary school, I was approached by a classroom teacher. She asked, "Are we going to align our curriculum, instruction, and assessments to the Common Core State Standards next year?" I replied, "yes." Then I said, "The Common Core is not going away." The teacher replied, "The Lieutenant Governor is discussing eliminating the Common Core." I replied, "Which Lieutenant Governor?" The teacher said, "The North Carolina Lieutenant Governor, Dan Forest."
Prior to becoming an elementary principal, I was the Director of Secondary Instruction for Orange County Schools. Our school district held a Common Core Summer Institute for teachers and administrators during the summer of 2011 and summer of 2012. At the summer institutes, teacher teams planned a one year professional development plan for their schools. Hosting the summer institutes cost the school district thousands of dollars. The North Carolina General Assembly did not provide funding for implementing the Common Core State Standards. Throughout the past two school years, I have attended professional development led by teacher leaders. The average professional development requires teacher leaders (appointed or self-nominated) to spend approximately ten to twenty hours planning quality professional development and developing resources which support the implementation of the new standards.
In addition to working with classroom teachers to build awareness around the new standards, I have observed teacher leaders writing curriculum aligned to the new standards. Curriculum development has taken place through building level meetings, district meetings, and regional meetings. On several occasions five school districts in the Triangle met to support each other through the pre-implementation and implementation process. Triangle High Five is a regional partnership between Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Durham Public Schools, Johnston County Schools, Orange County Schools, and Wake County Public School System. Teachers and administrators from these school districts shared curriclum maps, worked with high school math teachers to align curriculum to the Common Core State Standards, offered professional development, and worked with the North Carolina School of Math and Science to offer free professional development for mathematics teachers. In 2011 and 2012, SAS hosted a summer mathematics summit to support math teachers in implementing the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. SAS has invested in the five school districts for several years. Recently, SAS provided thousands of dollars in order to support the transition from the Nort Carolina Essential Standards to the Common Core State Standards. It is expensive to provide professional development to over 400 educators from five school districts.
In 2010, the North Carolina State Board of Education did not ask North Carolina educators if we should adopt the Common Core State Standards. Once the State Board of Education adopted the standards, Superintendents and district leaders were told to implement the standards. Was the implementation process rushed? Yes. In 2010-2011, educators were anxious about the changes. To date, it is still difficult to find resources aligned to the Common Core State Standards. I know 20-year veterans who stay up until midnight or later on school nights, searching for resources. Part of the reason resources are scarce is because the SBAC and PARCC assessments have not been finalized. Most vendors are still offering a blended version of old state standards and the new Common Core State Standards. This is especially true in mathematics.
When educators are told that a school board policy, state board policy, or general statute requires them to change, they begin collaborating and discussing how to make the change(s) student-friendly. In Orange County Schools, we were able to pay teacher leaders a small stipend for leading curriculum development efforts. The district used Race to the Top funds to pay teacher leaders who led curriculum development, facilitated professional development, posted curriculum maps online, and attended state conferences.
This week marked the last day of school for teachers and students across North Carolina. The Lieutenant Governor was recently elected, but North Carolina teachers have been preparing for the implementation of the new standards since 2010. Standards-based teaching has been common practice since the 1990's. Some states provided voluntary standards for educators prior to 1990. Today's students are competing with students around the globe for college admission and career opportunities. It no longer makes sense to have a Minnesota 3rd grade math standard and a Mississippi 3rd grade math standard. Students deserve to have the same standard across the United States. A common standard does not mean a 'watered-down' standard. Standards are not a curriculum.
This past year, I observed teachers differentiating instruction. Some students were two grades below grade level. They did not have the same assignment as the students who were at grade level or above. When teachers have a standard, they know the goal. Teachers provide students with multiple lessons, tasks, and opportunities to demonstrate what every student should know and be able to do. Implementing the Common Core State Standards does not mean that every student will receive a perfect score at the end of the day. Teachers across North Carolina have embraced the standards and are operating with their grade level team, school team, district team, and regional teams to align curriculum with the Common Core State Standards. Standards are "the what" and Curriculum is "the how." The 'how' may look different in each classroom, but the standards are the same.
Seven Reasons Why States Should Embrace The Common Core State Standards
1. College and Career Readiness
Over the past year, I have seen teachers in North Carolina make the shift from College or Career Readiness to College AND Career Ready. The U.S. public school system was designed to sort and select students. Some students were considered 'college material' and the majority of students were workforce material. I believe that teachers in North Carolina raised the bar and raised their expectations for all students. ACT defines college and career readiness as "the acquisition of the knowledge and skills a student needs to enroll and succeed in creditbearing, first-year courses at a postsecondary institution (such as a two or four-year college, trade school, or technical school) without the need for remediation." Based on my years of experience in the field of education, this is a major shift from the old mindset. This major change in philosophy and teaching is another indicator or the importance of the Common Core State Standards. The standards have forced a new conversation about the goals of education.
2. Common Standards Enable Teachers To Collaborate Across the United States.
Standards-based education requires teachers to align their curriculum, instruction, and assessments with the standards. For over a decade, teachers have disagreed with the standards. In North Carolina, teachers are required by general statute to teach the standards. A professional educator can respectfully disagree, but the law requires educators to teach the standards. Since the Common Core State Standards had some different approaches and aligned and moved standards to new grade levels it forced teachers to collaborate and design new units of study.
In Orange County Schools, I have observed professional conversations around the standards. I have seen teachers sharing resources across schools. I have seen teachers reaching out to educators in other states to discuss the standards. Regional and state meetings have been more exciting than ever, because everyone is learning the new standards. If one school district has a strong unit or curriculum resource then they will share it with our school district. I have participated in dozens of Twitter Chats with educators who are implementing the Common Core State Standards. ASCD has hosted a regular webinar series which offers educators the opportunity to learn and reflect on the Common Core State Standards. Before the Common Core State Standards, educators discussed their project or their program. The new standards have raised the bar in professional conversations. Educators have shifted from discussing the activity to sharing how the activity aligned to the standard.
3. Teacher Leaders Have Developed Curriculum Aligned to the Common Core State Standards.
In North Carolina, teachers were required to implement the Common Core State Standards in 2012-2013. Teachers met on a regular basis to write, align, and implement units aligned to the new standards. Once curriculum was developed, they also created common formative assessments aligned to the standards. Alan Glatthorn wrote, “One ofthe tasks of curriculum leadership is to use the right methods to bring the written, the taught, the supported, and the tested curriculums into closer alignment,so that the learned curriculum is maximized. This statement summarizes the work that takes place in classrooms, on early release days, on the weekend, and during the summer months. Teachers know how to align the curriculum, instruction, and assessments to standards. It takes time. If the state of North Carolina decides to pull the plug on the Common Core State Standards, it will be a slap in the face to the teachers and administrators who have spent countless hours (most on their own time without reimbursement) preparing to implement the Common Core State Standards and to maximize learning for 1.5 million students.
4. Professional Development Has Been Aligned to the Common Core State Standards.
Some school districts have spent thousands of dollars hiring consultants to provide professional development. Regional education organizations have paid $50,000 to $100,000 in order to host professional development with national consultants. Educators have participated in book studies, discussion forums, district professional development, NCDPI webinars and state conferences, and more. In 2012-2013, Orange County Schools and several other North Carolina school districts devoted the time to curriculum development or ongoing professional development aligned to the new standards. The price tag would be in the hundreds of millions if you totaled the number of hours the staff members were paid for professional development. It should be noted that they did not receive a bonus check. The money was part of their contract. Tax payers have invested in professional development aligned to the Common Core State Standards. Did North Carolina provide much assistance to educators prior to the 2012-2013 school year? No. School districts were required to use their own funds, contract with their own teachers, and develop their own resources. This was expensive. You could say that implementing the Common Core State Standards was done on the backs of the professional educators in North Carolina. I have not met many educators who disagree with the Common Core State Standards. This is another reason why I feel that politicians should let educators implement the standards. If elected officials want to provide the appropriate funding for implementing the Common Core State Standards, then that would be a step in the right direction.
5. Curriculum Alignment Is Easier With the New Standards.
It is difficult to describe curriculum alignment to non-educators. "When school staff have a more informed conception of curriculum, a teacher's daily decisions about how to deliver instruction not only affect student achievement in that classroom but also future student achievement, for it is assumed that students will be entering the next classroom prepared to handle a more sophisticated or more expansive level of work" (Zmuda, Kuklis & Kline, 2004, p. 122). Aligning the curriculum is an ongoing process which requires time, reflection, honesty, conflict, and a professional commitment to share what works in each classroom with specific students. The new standards provide a clear road map for educators. They do not outline every detail of what a teacher needs to do each day. Standards are a guide, not a script. If educators are beginning to align their curriculum, then policy makers should find ways to support their efforts. Curriculum alignment drives the work of a school district. When I see teachers analyzing student work and comparing it to a standard, I see excellent teaching. I entered the teaching profession in the early days of the Standards Movement. I have never seen teachers sharin their craft knowledge and having ongoing conversations about the standards like I saw in 2012-2013. Standards provide a common point of conversation, not a floor or a ceiling. The way the Common Core State Standards are written, a teacher can accelerate gifted students. This is missing from the national debate. Before we vote to eliminate the standards, let's visit schools and ask teachers to come to the State Board of Education. Let's find out what is working and how the standards are supporting teaching and learning. Let's avoid the political rhetoric and ask the teacher leaders who bore the burden of implementing the standards because the State Board of Education voted to adopt the standards.
6. The Change Process Requires Time.
Schools will continue to implement the Common Core State Standards in the summer and fall of 2013. Leading implementation requires a principal-leader who is willing to create short-term wins for the staff, provide time for the staff to reflect on the standards and to encourage risk-taking. Implementation of the new standards requires principal-leaders to honor the change process and to respect the emotions that staff will have during this change in teaching and learning. If states eliminate the Common Core State Standards, then which standards will replace them? If we fall back to the North Carolina Standard Course of Study, then we are adopting an inferior set of standards. They were the best that the state could develop. That was then and this is now. The Common Core State Standards were not embraced immediately. However, after one year of developing lesson plans, units of study, and assessments, educator have given their seal of approaval. The change process was emotional and it caused all teachers to reflect on teaching and learning. If state officials continue to change the standards, it will be impossible for educators to develop a guaranteed and viable curriculum (Marzano). Eliminating the Common Core State Standards from public schools may win a political battle at the state or federal level. However, it is not in the best interests of teachers and students. Ask teachers in North Carolina if they think the standards should change. The standards should not be a stepping stone for someone's political career.
"These Standards are not intended to be new names for old ways of doing business. They are a call to take the next step. It is time for states to work together to build on lessons learned from two decades of standards based reforms. It is time to recognize that standards are not just promises to our children, but promises we intend to keep" (Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, Introduction, p. 5).
7. Student Achievement Matters.
The reason that educators get out of bed and go to work each day is because student achievement matters. The new standards support the goal of College and Career Readiness. Teachers recognize that the new standards require more rigor than previous state standards. One of the most compelling arguments for the Common Core State Standards was "standardization." When a 12 year old girl moves from Hope, Arkansas, to Lexington, North Carolina, she should be on the same page with her classmates. Students are moving across the United States on a regular basis. Prior to the Common Core State Standards, families had to fear that they were moving to a state with higher or lower standards. Standardization does not mean that every student learns the same thing in the same way. Technology integration, project-based learning, and other best practices allow teachers to meet the needs of each student, while aligning assignments to the standards. When students master a standard, the Common Core State Standards allow teachers to move to the next grade level. When students transfer to a new school, they need to know that the things they learned will provide them a foundation for learning at the new school. Changing standards after year one of implementation does not respect the main goal of education - Student Achievement.
Common Core State Standards: The Right Direction for U.S. Public Schools
It amazes me that one or more politicians can advocate for changing standards. I do not try to change medical practice, standards for the Interstate highway system, building codes, or taxes. The reason that I do not attempt to get involved with these things is because I am a professional educator. I would appreciate it if politicians would consult with professional educators and ask them if the Common Core State Standards support teaching and learning. A simple Google search can provide a glimpse at the groups who are rallying to eliminate the Common Core State Standards. The standards have transformed teaching and learning. Teachers and administrators have embraced the standards and will spend the summer months aligning their curriculum and units to the standards. Hundreds of teachers in any given state will meet on Saturday morning for an online Twitter chat, meet at a restaurant to share learning goals, or attend a summer institute. Teachers may not like change, but they support change when it is in the best intersts of students. The Common Core State Standards seem to be one thing that is right in education.
What can teachers do to support student achievement? How can teachers and administrators monitor the written and taught curriculum to ensure alignment? When I read about school districts and educators who are unhappy with the Common Core State Standards, I scratch my head. Standards are not a curriculum (Janet Hale, Curriculum Mapping 101). There are several things that teachers control. Curriculum and instruction involve decisions made by teacher teams. When the teacher closes the classroom door there are hundreds of curriculum decisions made, according to the readiness level of each student. The following curriculum types are important for teachers to understand as they reflect on curriculum, instruction and assessment.
The intended curriculum consists of the written curriculum or plans that have been predetermined prior to the class.
The enriched curriculum is when teachers enhance the curriculum or develop opportunities for acceleration for students who have mastered the written curriculum. Enriched curriculum involves providing multiple opportunities for students to engage in key concepts and skills at their readiness level.
Some teachers offer the enriched curriculum to the students who are prepared for acceleration and the watered-down curriculum to the students who have demonstrated low growth or who do not understand the key concepts and skills identified in the unit.
Many teachers and administrators fail to monitor the received curriculum. The received curriculum is what an individual student receives. If one student receives the enriched curriculum and another student receives the watered-down curriculum, then each student's chance for success will be drastically different. This is known as Opportunity to Learn.
All students should receive a guaranteed and viable curriculum (Marzano). If the received curriculum varies from one class to the next, then it will be difficult for teachers at the next grade level to build on prior knowledge and understandings. One of the goals of teaching is to ensure close alignment between the intended, taught, assessed, and received curricula. Opponents say the standards take away local control of education. I would argue that curriculum development is a local issue. When districts provide teachers with time to align the currriculum with the standards, student achievement will follow. Share your thoughts on ASCD EDge by replying to this article.
Questions to Consider:
1. Does your school have a guaranteed and viable curriculum?
2. How is the intended curriculum different from the received curriculum?
3. Do teachers implement the written curriculum/intended curriculum or do teachers create curriculum in isolation?
4. Ask yourself - Would I want my son or daughter to experience the watered-down curriculum and miss out on parts of the district's intended curriculum?
What the best and wisest parent wants for his or her own child, that must the community want, for all of its children.
As cited by Gene Carter, Executive Director ASCD
ASCD Education Update - December 2006, p. 2
5. What mechanism does your school have in place to monitor the received curriculum?
One of the tasks of curriculum leadership is to use the right methods to bring the written, the taught, the supported, and the tested curriculums into closer alignment, so that the learned curriculum is maximized.
Allan Glatthorn, Curriculum Renewal (1987), p. 4
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!