Search ASCD EDge
I’ve been away from my blog for a while . . . immersed in other projects; but, I’m back with a message today for school and district administrators.
As we quickly approach the holiday break, marking the mid-point of our academic year, I want to give you food for thought as you turn that proverbial corner toward the second half of the school year. I’ve had this idea for some time, but it really came to the forefront as I finished teaching an online graduate-level course in action research last week. For one of their last assignments, I asked my students to share in a discussion board post their thoughts about action research and whether they would continue to conduct their own action research studies, outside of their coursework.
The students unequivocally stated that they believed there was a huge value and benefit to designing and conducting their own action research studies. However, with so many other duties and responsibilities, most felt they wouldn’t have the time to engage in such professional endeavors. I understand--trust me, I truly get it--but I think they’re missing the bigger picture in all of this.
I “get it” because, to a degree, I think they’re right. While I believe that conducting action research in isolation can still be hugely beneficial, doing so leads to a feeling of, well, isolation. Let’s face it--none of us really wants to do anything if we feel isolated in doing it. So many of those “other duties and responsibilities” could be enveloped in an action research approach and mindset. Additionally, we need a supportive environment; a culture that promotes, values, and rewards professional activities that result in us becoming better educators.
Please don’t misunderstand--I know that doing this requires time, resources, and commitment. But, by implementing my ideas, you can collectively capitalize on so many aspects of what you’re undoubtedly trying to do in your schools. What I’m really talking about is the development of action research communities, or ARCs. I envision these action research communities functioning as professional learning communities, focused on and based in an action research approach to professional development, growth, and empowerment.
I envision ARCs functioning just like other PLCs, with all the essential components (e.g., a shared vision, collaboration, collective inquiry, an action orientation, a commitment to continuous improvement, and an orientation focused on results). The only real difference is that the focus, mindset, and culture is created around collaborative action research in your schools.
The benefit of your school- or district-based ARCs may not stop at the simple implementation of action research studies. For example,
The power that lies in the implementation of ARCs is potentially immense . . . perhaps, even limitless. Admittedly, their implementation requires some degree of planning and coordination. However, I firmly believe in them, and in the fact that their potential benefits far outweigh their initial start-up costs.
So, as you begin to plan for 2014 (and perhaps the 2014-2015 school year), be sure to mark that “Note to Self: ARCs!” in your calendar!!
This blog is cross-posted from: http://wsascdel.blogspot.com/
As a novice in certain areas of life, I have learned a lot about what I expect from experts. For example, I trust my doctor, lawyer, veterinarian, dentist, etc to stay up-to-date with relevant research & experience that informs the advice they give me. I trust their expertise and I choose to work with these experts because of their approach and knowledge.
On the other side of the coin, I'm aware of my expertise, training, & experience in aspects of education. I have learned from being both a novice and an expert. As an expert who leads, I have learned it's my responsibility to (1) help others understand the current landscape by cultivating the need and (2) lead KISS interventions.
Cultivating the Need
It's important for experts to present data to inform decisions. I visited my doctor the other week and he performed a few tests, printed out information about a potential diagnosis, and explained my test results to me in relation to the symptoms listed for potential concerns. In the end, everything ended up just fine with my health. Through this experience, though, I realized the process my doctor went through with me is what needs to happen on a regular basis in education.
Educational leaders must present information and data about potential concerns before beginning interventions. This can help create a shared understanding of the need. On top of that, just as a farmer cultivates the soil to make sure crops grow each season, leaders must continually cultivate the need with stakeholders.
This makes me wonder: How are we, as educational leaders, purposefully identifying & communicating needs to change/intervene/update antiquated systems with stakeholders? How are we using data to inform our cultivation of a shared understanding about the need? How are we using data to inform how we communicate with stakeholders on a regular basis? How are we connecting our work back to our strategic plan in a relevant way for stakeholders, leveraging a data informed and results driven approach?
Example: My school has been studying the 90-90-90 schools approach over the last few years. Teachers looked at the data and interventions. They've discussed the need for ongoing, job-embedded professional development (PD) and a shared understanding of this need was created. Then, when a PD Plan that involved monthly PD instead of occasional inservice days was voted on, teachers passed it this fall. We continue cultivating this need by developing PD that's responsive to shifting needs, collecting feedback from teachers about PD, aligning our work with research, & communicating about the PD with stakeholders.
Keep It Simple & Sustainable (KISS)
I met with an educational leader the other month who told me many leaders say interventions should involve KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid. In his district, however, KISS stands for Keep It Simple & Sustainable. Two things I've learned about sustainability are to have a "Who else?" mindset and to move ahead with clarity amongst stakeholders. Keeping It Simple supports these pieces.
Sustainability means consistently thinking "Who else?" on a regular basis. Who else...in our feeder pattern/region should we involve? ...should we connect with from our community organizations on this? ....should we communicate progress updates with? ...should vet this before we send it out? ...is passionate about this topic? ...is knowledgeable? Who else?
Once we live with a "Who else?" mindset, we can focus on clarity- around the need, intervention, monitoring system, evaluation timeline/protocol, communication plan, etc. All of our stakeholders are potential marketers and we can generate an even deeper sense of sustainability if stakeholders understand the need for an intervention, the intervention itself, & why we're going with a certain intervention. Again, this understanding must be cultivated as stakeholders turnover, new research emerges, and data on the evaluation of our intervention develops.
Example: I've learned a great deal about developing sustainable systems from my work at the district and site level. Several years ago, I started at a district office working as a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) for instructional technology. I quickly realized a professional development (PD) program developed around my skills and expertise wouldn't last long - we needed both an intervention to the current setup and a system of support. I worked with district administration to develop a train the trainer program for teacher leaders. In order to maintain high quality PD, we created a gradual release protocol where trainers collaborated with me to co-write PD lesson plans, co-trained/presented with me several times, participated in coaching sessions with me, and eventually engaged in a monthly PLC with other teacher trainers. We implemented program evaluation best practices to support the analysis of feedback from PD participants and determine the value added by the PD system. Our trainers used PLC time to examine data that informed their decisions in moving forward with strands of PD. Although I am no longer working with the district instructional technology program, I'm happy I see the PD system continues to support teachers and leaders in a sustainable manner.
Just as I trust the experts in my life - doctor, lawyer, veterinarian, dentist, etc - stakeholders trust us (educational experts) to provide visionary leadership and to lead the best educational systems possible. They trust us to prepare the students of today as leaders for tomorrow. Each day, it is our responsibility to do just that through cultivating the need and utilizing a KISS approach.
Want additional reading?
In a recent post adapted from Kate Rousmaniere's The Principal's Office, The Principal: The Most Misunderstood Person in All of Education in The Atlantic describes the evolution of the principal since the early 1900’s. As a current school principal, and a veteran principal of 14 years, I was able to make connections with this post and I was also able to see how other people have formed opinions of the principal’s role over time. That being said, there was one particular point I disagreed with in the article.
Kate Rousmaniere points out in her post that, “Most contradictory of all, the principal has always been responsible for student learning, even as the position has become increasingly disconnected from the classroom.” If anything, I believe that skilled leaders are working harder than ever to stay connected to classrooms and students.
Within the current state of education, which has seen some of the greatest upheaval ever, it is true that the principal continues to be responsible for student learning. That should not change. Schools need strong leadership in principals to help navigate changes and keep a steady focus on why we are here; children and learning.
There are many ways to stay connected both in and out of the school house, which ultimately, keeps principals connected to classrooms. As an educator, I have the good fortune to connect through my PLN with many other administrators, principals, teachers and educators using social media such as Twitter, LinkedIN, Facebook and About.me. The rise of technology as a tool for professional development helps many of us not be disconnected from the classroom.
Twitter alone provides a forum where other educators raise questions, share experiences, and offer advice. Contrary to the belief that principals are disconnected from classrooms, these fellow educators continue to keep me connected to my own school’s classrooms through their advice, questioning and insights into best practice and education reform. I often find myself reflecting on my own work and learning more that I bring back to my school, to my classrooms, and to my students.
Within my school, I am continually tethered to classrooms, teachers, and most importantly, students. My goal is to know as many students in the school as possible and to know something about each one. Parents and staff often comment on how many of the 500 students I know. There are times when I’m surprised myself, as to how much I know about the kids in my school. I can often be found greeting students at arrival and dismissal, visiting them during lunch, interacting with them in the hallways, and in class, asking them what they are learning about, reading, and working on. My assistant principal and I also have lunch with twelve students every two weeks as well. We are thoughtful and intentional in the ways we stay connected to students.
It is also very important to me that I know what my staff are teaching children. The intent of knowing is not about micromanaging, but as a way to support learning. That may happen through walk-throughs, observations, participating in professional development with teachers, and talking to students when I visit classrooms. My connectedness to learning helps me keep my focus so that I support both students and teachers.
Do I think it is easy to become disconnected from classrooms? Absolutely! The demands of the principalship are such that I could be in meetings frequently, interacting with staff outside of the classroom, and doing paperwork and reading responding to emails continually throughout my day. So what can I and other administrators do to stay connected to classrooms and student learning? My recommendations would be:
No principal enters into their leadership role with the intent on becoming disconnected. The demands of the job are such that it could happen easily though. By actively engaging in the role of educational leaders, I hope that principals and school administrators work in ways that provide a level of transparency to the public and the school communities that they serve. By doing so, it will help with public perception and contribute to the position being more understood, and while doing that, it will help maintain a level of connectedness to students. After all, isn’t that why we do the work of the principal?
ASCD Leader to Leader (L2L) News is a monthly e-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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Action Items for ASCD Leaders
Policy Points Highlights Funding Sources for Educator Professional Development
Despite shrinking education budgets, there are still opportunities to pursue funding for educator professional development. Check out the latest issue of Policy Points (PDF), which provides links to these resources.
Leaders in Action: News from the ASCD Leader Community
ASCD Leader Voices
Welcome University of Southern California ASCD Student Chapter
ASCD is pleased to announce a new ASCD Student Chapter, started by ASCD emerging leader Eric Bernstein. Please join us in welcoming University of Southern California ASCD Student Chapter to the ASCD community!
2013 ASCD emerging leader Melany Stowe was recently appointed director of communications and community outreach for Danville Public Schools in Virginia.
OYEA winner Bijal Damani is one of 250 educators chosen for the Microsoft Expert Educators Program. She is also a finalist for the 21st Century Learning Teacher of the Year award, and will be sharing her experiences at their global conference next month in Hong Kong.
Throughout November on www.wholechildeducation.org: Supporting Student Success and the Common Core Standards
The Common Core State Standards are not a curriculum. Standards are targets for what students should know and be able to do. Curricula are the instructional plans and strategies that educators use to help their students reach those expectations. Central to a supportive school are teachers, administrators, and other caring adults who take a personal interest in each student and in each student’s success. How are we designing course content, choosing appropriate instructional strategies, developing learning activities, continuously gauging student understanding, adjusting instruction accordingly, and involving parents and families as partners to support our students’ success?
A whole child approach to education is essential to realizing the promise of the standards. Only when students are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged will they be able to meet our highest expectations and realize their fullest potential.
Download the Whole Child Podcast for a discussion on supporting student success as schools implement the Common Core State Standards. Guests include Peter DeWitt, an elementary school principal in New York, author, and Education Week blogger; Thomas Hoerr, head of New City School in St. Louis, Mo., author, and ASCD Multiple Intelligences Professional Interest Community facilitator; and Rich McKinney, an assistant principal for a middle school in Knoxville, Tenn., and Common Core coach for the state of Tennessee. 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.
Something to Talk About
As we approach the official trick-or treat day, it is only appropriate to think about the concept of fear. The interesting thing about fear is that it is a normal emotion that everyone experiences. My youngest child holds unique hair fears (yes, just regular hair from your head that is left in the comb or brush will literally break him out into tears), my teenage daughter has many fashion fears (she fears that she will not earn enough money to shop on Black Friday and that the color in her shirt does not genuinely match the color in her shoes). To be honest, I have my own fears that I battle on a daily basis. As an adjunct professor, I fear that too many students may drop/withdraw from my class when they see how much I intend to challenge them. In addition, I fear that as a minority and as a female some may struggle to receive or acknowledge my instruction.
As an educator, I could focus just on my fears alone, but this would be wasteful. Remember when you were in gradeschool and learned about how Native Americans used animals in their entirety? They would use the animal skin for cloth, the animal teeth and bones for weapon parts, and of course the animal meat for food. I believe that when we focus only on the fear, we waste the message or the learning inherent within. As an educator it is our job to find the lesson within. I believe that exploring our fears as educators may be very enlightening. Below, is a list of common educator fears. First, ask yourself, "what are you afraid of?". Second, ask yourself "what can I learn about myself from this fear?"
1. Are you afraid to further your education, participate in more professional development or lead professional development activities?
2. Are you afraid to take responsibility for the level, quality, and quantity of material that students learn (or struggle to learn) in your classroom?
3. Are you afraid to manage your classroom emotionally, socially, psychologically, and of course physically?
4. Are you afraid to go beyond the "buzz" words and popular education strategies such as "differentiation", "flipped classroom" and "close reading" to personally review and implement research-based practices within your classroom?
5. Are you afraid of moving beyond the lesson plan?
6. Are you afraid of being relatable to your students, peer teachers, parents, or administrators?
7. Are you afraid of standardized tests or what they may suggest about you and your students' performance?
8. Are you afraid to shift between the role of the teacher and the learner?
It is ok to be fearful. Better yet, it is scary to think about the disadvantages of ignoring or suppressing your fears. I challenge every educator to come clean with your fears. Be a "scaredy cat" in the name of education.
If you are brave enough to step up to the challenge, educators please share and tell me "what are you afraid of?"
When I think of Professional Development for teachers in the traditional sense, I am more and more convinced that being connected as an educator is more effective in accomplishing the goal of professionally developing. The biggest roadblock to teachers connecting may very well be the way teachers have been programmed throughout their entire education and career.
Any course, or workshop that a teacher has ever wanted to take for academics, or for professional development was either controlled, or in some way approved by someone in authority. Some districts put this on the responsibility list of an Assistant Superintendent, or that of a Personnel Director. The determining factor for acceptance of any teacher’s PD would be: does the course, or workshop comply with the specific subject that the teacher teaches? Some districts require that teachers stipulate how the specifics of the course will impact the subject that he or she teaches. Once the course is completed, usually some proof of seat time in the form of a certificate must be provided before permission for acceptance can be granted.
This traditional method of Professional Development has gone on in this fashion, or something close to it for decades. The question is: Does it work? Of course nothing works 100 percent of the time. I would venture to say however, that if we base our answer on an observation of the dissatisfaction with our education system, and the grass roots movement of tens of thousands of educators in search of something more in the way of PD, our current method may be failing us miserably, or at the very best, falling a bit short of the mark. Either way, PD in its current form is not making the grade.
Someone other than the learner directs the learning in this model, because it was designed around control, compliance, and permission. It would be a big plus if the needs of the learner aligned with the needs of the director, and I imagine that sometimes it does. However, that would probably be more coincidental than a planned outcome. The methodology of a majority of this PD is pretty much “sit and get” or direct instruction. Of course some teachers of the PD might use other methodology, but “sit and get” is pretty much the staple of most PD.
With the era of the Internet, came the idea of very easy-to-do self-exploration of topics. Educators could look stuff up on their own from home, or school. The idea of self-directing leaning suddenly became much easier, and I might add, a whole lot cheaper. The problem for districts however was that there was no way to control it, or to regulate it, or even give, or withhold permission to do it.
The entire self-directed learning thing was further complicated with the advent of Social Media. SM was at first thought to be the bane of all educators. As soon as educators stopped yelling at kids who used it, and tried it for themselves, things changed. Educators began connecting with other self-directed learning educators, and shared what they had learned. The learning has become more collaborative and through observation, and reflection, and based on the interactions of other educators, it has become more popular and more clearly defined.
There are two factors that seem to be holding many educators from this self-directed collaboration. First, it requires a minimal amount of digital literacy in order to connect and explore, and collaborate. This seems to be lacking for many educators, as well as a resistance to learn the literacy. Ironically, educators are supposed to include digital literacy in their curriculum for their students to be better prepared.
Second, educators have been programmed to the model of Control, Compliance, and Permission for Professional Development. That is also the accepted model still employed by most districts, and a huge roadblock. As tough as it is for educators to buck the system, it seems worse for administrators. They too have been programmed, but additionally, they are in the position that has the Control, that demands the Compliance, and that grants the Permission. To give that up by some who are in a position of power is a much more difficult leap of faith. Maybe administrators need to be reprogrammed as lead learners rather than just administrators. It becomes an obligation to continually learn. If they become self-directed learners collaborating with other educators globally, what effect would that have on their leadership capabilities?
In regard to professional Development maybe it would prove more effective to have teachers demonstrate the effects of their learning, instead of a certificate for proof of seat time. That would become the portfolio of a teacher’s learning placing more emphasis on the brain and less on the ass.
The term “connected educator” may be a term that scares people. This was mentioned at a recent education conference. If that is the case, why not use the term “collaborative learner”. Learning through collaboration has been done from the beginning of education. The tools to do it however have dramatically changed and improved, enabling collaboration to take place anytime, anywhere, and with any number of people. It is done transparently, recorded, and archived. Never before in history has collaboration occurred this way. As educators, we would be more than foolish to ignore this potential. As learners we would also be remiss to ignore the personal opportunity to expand and advance.
As educators we recognize the importance of reflection and critical thinking. We need to employ those skills to examine where we are, and what we are doing with the things that we rely on as educators. We need our professional development to be useful and relevant in order to ensure that we, as educators, remain useful and relevant. We can’t have a relevant system of education without relevant, literate educators.
The online Global Reform Symposium for educators is an amazing virtual conference with keynotes and presentations from educators around the world.
This conference has something for all prek-12 teachers and administrators. The Reform Symposium, in its 4th year, attracts thousands of attendees from across the globe. Sessions take place around the clock, beginning today, October 11, and continuing through Sunday, October 13.
You can attend these sessions from anywhere with Internet access. Here is a short list of what is covered in over 100 available presentations:
For a complete schedule, locate your time zone at this schedule link.
I'm proud to be the keynote speaker at Saturday's Technology Smackdown, a collection of 2-minute presentations of the best applications and websites for any classroom. In the past, this has been the most popular event at this remarkable conference, so you won't want to miss this. My 5-minute keynote speech is based on the concepts in my book, The 5-Minute Teacher (ASCD 2013).
If you want to improve teaching and learning in your classroom at no cost from the comforts of home, don't miss the Reform Symposium. This is truly an amazing event that only comes once a year.
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
Shutdown 101 for Educators
The first federal government shutdown in 17 years did not lead to immediate consequences for most schools and districts, but as each day goes by it becomes more problematic for the nation’s educators and students. See the ASCD policy team’s key takeaways and behind-the-scenes details on what the shutdown means for schools by reading our special edition of Capitol Connection and our ASCD Inservice blog post. They cover everything from how health and nutrition services for children and families are being affected to the long-term repercussions of the shutdown. And, for ongoing coverage, read your weekly issues of Capitol Connection!
ASCD to Host 23 Common Core Implementation Institutes November 2013 to February 2014
Starting in November, ASCD is holding institutes across the United States to help guide educators in implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The one- and two-day institutes will be held in nine U.S. cities and are focused on Mathematics; English Language Arts and Literacy; Formative Assessment; Leading the Change to CCSS; and Common Core and the Understanding by Design Framework. View the full institute schedule on ascd.org.
New Whole Child Publication
The Korean Educational Development Institute’s KEDI Journal of Educational Policy publishes scholarly articles and reports on research that makes significantcontributions to the understanding and practice of educational policy on an international level. This month's special issue, “Promoting Students’ Social-Emotional and Character Development and Prevent Bullying,” includes an article written by ASCD’s Sean Slade, director of whole child programs, and David Griffith, director of public policy. The article, titled “A Whole Child Approach to Student Success” (pp. 21–35), describes the whole child approach to education and its global education policy recommendations.
Integrating Health and Social Programs Within Education Systems
In August 2013, ASCD and the International School Health Network began work on a new draft statement, titled “Integrating Health and Social Programs Within Education Systems,” at a global school health symposium held in Pattaya, Thailand. The two organizations would like to encourage readers to review and comment on the draft, which was developed to explain how health and social programs can be integrated more effectively within education systems.
Leaders in Action:News from the ASCD Leader Community
ASCD Welcomes the Competency-Based Education Professional Interest Community
ASCD invites you to join our newest Professional Interest Community, facilitated by ASCD Emerging Leader Jason Ellingson. The Competency-Based Education group is a place to share your ideas and connect with one another.
2012 Emerging Leaders Will Use Pilot Grant Funds to Benefit Students through 2013–14 School Year
This year for the first time, ASCD accepted grant applications from 2012 emerging leaders. The grant program, now in its pilot phase, is designed to give emerging leaders the opportunity explore new and innovative ways to support the success of each learner.
This year’s grant fund recipients are Jessica Bohn, Krista Rundell, Fred Ende, and Amy Murphy. Jessica and Krista are working independently; Fred and Amy are working as a team.
ASCD would like to thank all the emerging leaders who participated in the grant application process as we continue to learn and improve the program over time.
ASCD Leader Voices
Common Core Myths & Facts
Forty-five states have adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and are preparing to fully implement them—including administering tests based on the standards—in the 2014–15 school year. But rumors and myths about the standards have run rampant, causing confusion among educators, policymakers, and the public. The latest ASCD Policy Points (PDF)clarifies what the CCSS are and are not and tackles these myths head-on.
Read the issue for straightforward facts and explanations that help combat common misperceptions about the federal government’s involvement in the standards, the cost of their implementation, the role of local schools and districts, concerns about student privacy, and more. We hope this Policy Points provides you with useful information about the CCSS that you can share with your local communities to help dispel confusion, counter opposition, and establish yourself as a trusted resource on the standards. If you have any questions, contact the ASCD policy team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Throughout October at wholechildeducation.org: Early Childhood Education
What does “education” mean for our youngest learners? The first years of school are as important for an educated population as any other period, perhaps more. Research shows that implementation of high-quality preschool programs can be beneficial for the lifelong development of children in low-income families and that an upfront commitment to early education provides returns to society that are many times more valuable than the original investment.
With the current focus on standards and academic achievement, is learning and testing coming too early? Curriculum and assessment should be based on the best knowledge of theory and research about how children develop and learn with attention given to individual children’s needs and interests in a group in relation to program goals. Young children have different social, cognitive, and emotional needs than older children and early childhood is where they begin to build skills and behaviors such as persistence, empathy, collaboration, and problem solving.
Download the Whole Child Podcast for a discussion on the importance of early childhood education with ASCD’s Walter McKenzie, authors Thomas Armstrong and Wendy Ostroff, the New America Foundation’s Laura Bornfreund, and ASCD Emerging Leader Jennifer Orr. Throughout the month, read the Whole Child Blogand tell us what has worked in your school and with your students. E-mail us and share resources, research, and examples.
Something to Talk About
Elliott Seif is a long time educator, teacher, college professor, curriculum director, author and Understanding by Design trainer. If you are interested in examining his other blogs, go to http://bit.ly/13sMlUZ. Additional and related teaching and learning resources and ideas designed to help prepare students to live in a 21st century world can be found on his website: www.era3learning.org
Today’s comprehensive high schools are generally organized the way they have been for decades. While some high schools have radically transformed teaching and learning in the face of major societal changes, most maintain a traditional look, feel, organization, and curriculum. High schools schedules are often the same as they were in the Industrial age, with days broken down into seven or eight time periods. The schools are often large and generally impersonal. Teachers often have between 100-140 students on their rosters. The required curriculum remains pretty much the same as in the past, and tends to be divided into diverse subjects, levels, and courses, without any central focus. High schools generally divide the year into two semesters and few if any student summer programs or professional development requirements exist. Graduation is still based on course credits and, in some states, high stakes standardized tests. Students are expected to stay in school all day and are expected to graduate within four years. Advanced Placement courses are often used as a major barometer of the academic rigor of a school’s program.
How can high schools improve on their programs and bring them into the 21st century? How can they develop more relevant assessments and a more relevant accountability system? While some advocate radical transformations, there are many adaptations and smaller changes that can bring traditional high schools into the 21st century by preparing students for rapid changes through the development of lifelong learning skills; citizenship; and individual talents, strengths and interests. I suggest fifteen possibilities below:
1. Clarify and share a 21st century mission, set of goals and outcomes that drive the school program, courses, and instruction.
Most of today’s high schools seem to lumber along without a clear mission or set of coherent student outcomes. Many high schools often have a confusing, diverse mixture of programs, activities, courses, and compartmentalized teaching approaches. They often suffer from passive learning environments, low expectations, superficial, uninteresting teaching and learning, uneven instruction, and fragmented courses. Many students leave high school unprepared for future learning or work, with a lack of planning or direction for their future.
One important way for high schools to better adapt to the 21st century is to develop and clarify a mission and outcomes with a meaningful and coherent school-wide set of goals. The mission and outcomes are then shared with both the school and school community and used as the basis for making changes in the school’s program and organization. In other commentary, I suggest three goals for K-12 education that are especially appropriate for high schools: prepare students for lifelong self-directed learning; prepare students for citizenship; and help students develop their own talents, strengths, interests and goals. If these three goals are accepted as the core mission of a high school education, what would they imply for the curriculum? For teaching and learning? For assessments and accountability? For a more integrated program? For the school organization? For scheduling? For core courses? For electives? What would change? Clarifying and becoming committed to implementing a clear mission and set of outcomes and goals for all students helps to create a core program focus and more coherent organizational structure for the high school experience.
2. Rethink the organizational and administrative structure
The traditional seven or eight period day, the Industrial model of scheduling, needs rethinking. In an age of computers, it ought to be possible to have more complex scheduling approaches that allow for longer blocks of time, mini-course structures, schedules that promote interdisciplinary teaching and learning, and common preparation time. Year round schooling is another option that needs to be seriously considered. New technologies suggest organizational structures that are only beginning to be appreciated and understood!
In today’s world, more students also need the opportunity for flexible, individualized schedules. Some students work part-time. Some need to help with their families. Others need time to do community projects and service learning. Some students need to leave school for periods of time, and be able to return at a later date in order to complete their work. Some may graduate early, others may take up to six years or more to graduate. All these options need to be built into the school’s programs.
Currently the most comprehensive high schools have principals, assistant principals, and “Department” heads as key administrators. High schools need to examine the question: how can this traditional administrative structure be reconfigured to better serve the needs of students in a 21st century world? What if one administrator were put in charge of “innovation”, looking across the curriculum to determine how the high school could develop innovative programs to better serve the needs of all students. What if one person was in charge of curriculum and instructional resources and curriculum and instructional development across all subjects? What if one was in charge of community “outreach”? Technology? A reconfigured set of administrative responsibilities, designed to promote innovation, interdisciplinary learning, outreach experiences, curriculum and staff development, technology applications might be a better way to organize for the future.
Finally, schools with organizations that tend to support impersonal and detached relationships between students and teachers should consider alternatives. One advantage of block scheduling is that teachers have many fewer students on their roster, and more time each semester with their students. They have a greater ability to get to know their students, to help and support them. The use of advisories and student-teacher advising systems over the four years of high school also enables teachers to develop stronger relationships with students. Teams of teachers working together with groups of students help build better relationships. Organizational changes that enable teachers to get to know students better (and visa versa) and work more closely together will probably help to increase student achievement and build better support systems for students.
3. Build a coherent curriculum
The current curriculum at most high schools is a fragmented mix of individual courses and programs, most of which have little connection to each other. Here are some recommendations for how to revise the curriculum to support student learning:
a. Identify and streamline core courses around the school’s mission, outcomes and goals.
The core curriculum are those “musts” that are required for every student. Should special core writing and reading courses be instituted? What types of thinking should every student be exposed to? How should reading and writing experiences be integrated into every course and subject? What math should be part of the core? Algebra and Trigonometry for everyone? Understanding statistics? Staff members should identify and collaborate to develop the core subject matter and core skills that should be taught and learned across the curriculum[i]. Each course might be organized around a series of “essential” questions, understandings and explicit skills that are core for every student to explore, learn and master.
b. Reduce the number of or eliminate Advanced Placement courses[ii] and instead develop a large number of high quality electives.
Advanced Placement (AP) courses tend to be implemented with an abiding faith that they are good for students. However, while they have some virtues, AP courses often repeat content that students have already studied, superficially cover a lot of content quickly, and crowd out worthy and interesting high school electives. Many of the students who take AP courses to increase their grade point average and feather their transcript don’t even take the AP exam and yet still get AP credit!
Instead of AP courses, develop a set of high quality electives that provide many options for all students to develop their talents, interests, and skills, such as deep learning-discussion seminars, research and project based courses, Internet course options, mini-courses, internships and practicums, and independent study courses. In themed schools, electives should provide a variety of options around the theme. New Internet-based college courses, known as MOOCS (Massive open online courses) provide many new opportunities for students to try out different topics and learn from some of the best college instructors in the country.
c. Increase the number of interdisciplinary, integrated learning experiences.
Should some core subjects be taught in an interdisciplinary fashion, like mathematics and science? Should integrated STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) courses be an essential part of the high school curriculum? Should more efforts be made to integrate and teach in parallel fashion English and social studies courses? Should mathematics courses be integrated and taught the way most of the world teaches mathematics?
Interdisciplinary learning opportunities might occur as part of the on-going curriculum and within a ninth grade team. High schools also need to create a greater number of synthesizing courses, offered in the junior or senior years, such as “problems of democracy”, applied mathematics, or science and society. Synthesizing courses enable students to integrate learning from previous years and learn how to apply knowledge and skills to new and novel situations and events.
d. Pay attention to innovative ideas that might motivate students, make learning more relevant, increase deep learning, and provide students with new types of programs and new ways of teaching and learning.
Innovative ideas are constantly being introduced into the education world. Entrepreneurship programs provide students with opportunities for learning how to start and maintain a business and they learn math and planning skills. Project based learning strategies suggest new ways of teaching and learning. Technological updates suggest new resources for learning. MOOC’s (Massive open online courses) offer free entrees for students into the college world. Integrated mathematics programs reorganize learning mathematics. The Understanding by Design curriculum model promotes a very different way of planning units, courses and programs. International Baccalaureate (IB) programs offer alternative ways or organizing high school programs, courses and assessments. Innovative organizational structures, such as Big Picture schools, offer alternative high school models that may be appropriate for many students. Competitions in chess, robotics, science, future problem solving, debate teams, and others provide students with exciting learning opportunities.
These and many more interesting and innovative ideas need to be searched out and considered, and some type of decision-making process needs to be introduced into the high school experience to help determine which innovative ideas are worth pursuing and implemented, and which should be rejected.
4. Create freshman teams.
Many students who drop out of school do so because they have not been able to make the transition from middle to high school. Students need to have a gradual and supportive transition from middle school to the first year of high school, with opportunities for personal attention and a focus on core skills and critical knowledge. Teams of teachers and students, working together for the year, help students to adapt to high school requirements. Teachers have the opportunity to get to know students, advise them, coordinate their schedules, differentiate their learning experiences, and create integrated learning across the team that supports key skill development.
5. Create a digital portfolio assessment system
While high school students do research papers, projects, and other forms of writing, the most commonly used summative assessment tool in high schools is still the “traditional test”, consisting primarily of multiple choice, short answer and short essay questions. Unfortunately, an emphasis on traditional tests guarantees that our primary educational focus will be on remembering and recognizing key facts and information, on developing low-level inference skills, and on producing relatively simple written products. A major problem with the use of these tests is that many of the key, critical “learning to learn” skills and personal development characteristics necessary for living in a 21st century world often get short shrift.
In order to demonstrate progress and success in achieving critical lifelong learning and personal development skills, high schools should create digital student portfolios that include multiple types of assessments –many types of written work, performance task processes and results, project results, oral presentations, observations of student participation in discussions, and, yes, the results of traditional tests. Many opportunities for student self-reflection also help to determine what each student is learning and whether each student is developing his or her passions, interests, talents, and goals. Part of the self-reflection process should be a goal setting and planning process throughout the high school years, but especially in junior and senior years.
Students also need opportunities to share senior projects and portfolios with adults from outside the high school, who listen to their explanations and analyses, ask clarifying questions, and help them to better understand their progress, goals and future directions.
6. Encourage student engagement through greater use of inquiry, research and project based instruction
Too much of the high school learning experience is in the form of traditional teaching and learning – recitations, lectures, coverage of textbooks – that makes for passive student learning and disinterested students. Students need more opportunities to be engaged in “inquiry” – to focus on essential questions as the starting point for learning, actively seek out reliable information to share with other students, think deeply and share their thoughts about content, draw conclusions and apply learning, and communicate through writing, presentations, and discussions. Projects based on student interest, chosen all or in part by the student, should be an integral, on-going part of a student’s learning experiences. Senior projects should be used to assess whether students have developed the attitudes and skills they need to be successful beyond graduation – self-direction, curiosity, persistence, patience, research, inquiry, study, thinking, creativity, writing and the like. High school course descriptions might be focused around key questions that will be explored during the course.
Consider alternatives to traditional assessment and accountability models. Multiple types of assessments, such as those described above, collected by students in digital portfolios, brought to class, shared over the Internet, is an alternative model that works well for many high schools in the digital age.
7. Develop community service-personal enrichment requirements.
Both personal learning that develops talents and interests, and service learning, are important elements of a 21st century education. In a Philadelphia public high school that I work closely with, students are required to do 120 hours of a combination of service learning and personal enrichment activities over four years. This requirement has meant that students learn more about their own interests and talents as well as learn ways to help others. Intentionally building these two dynamic components of a strong education into the high school experience has made a strong difference in the education of these students.
8. Make advisories a central part of the high school experience.
Advisories over the entire high school experience can help to personalize and customize education in a more impersonal world. Brian Cohen, a math teacher in the Philadelphia School District, beautifully describes the concept of high school advisories in a recent blog:
“A brief look at schedules across the [Philadelphia School] District leads one to believe that the advisory class plays little to no role in the life of a student. From my experience (and small survey sample), advisory in high schools is between 10-25 minutes long on average and takes place either at the very beginning of the day (before the first academic class) or between 2nd and 3rd periods. There are a variety of reasons for this - announcements, time to allow late students not to miss class, or to allow teachers to mark students as "present" in case they are very late to school. But, these reasons falter when compared to the potential of what advisory could be: a lifeline to the student body to influence school culture and educate the whole person.
Unfortunately, "advisory" is a misnomer. There is little time (or energy) to truly "advise" students as the time is used more for babysitting than anything else. Imagine if there were a rich curriculum devoted to increase student's organization and study skills, with growing themes over the course of four years of high school. Students would know who to go to for advice and truly see a connection with the outside world because they would have time to discuss their place in it.
In my ideal world, advisory would function as a place for discussion and curiosity, with articles read about educational research on how to be the best student; with discussion on what's happening in the lives of students now; with time devoted to what students really need. There are a small number of high schools that provide time for this (Science Leadership Academy being one) but we need more flexibility.
Maybe with that time students would be able to get themselves together and teachers would not have to spend as much time calling home over forgotten homework and missed assignments. And, instead, students would start applying these tools to other aspects of their lives.”[iii]
9. Make Media Centers the hub of the high school learning experience
If advisories are the central place for personal attention and advice, library-media centers are the hub for academic learning. They are the place in which students learn research skills. They are centers for conducting research. They often are the central computer centers for students, especially for those who might not have access to computers at home.
10. Create multiple outreach and “inreach” experiences
Outreach experiences enable high schools to better provide a more “authentic” education experience. For example, powerful outreach experiences occur when students are provided with internships in local businesses, health clinics and hospitals, schools and colleges, social work agencies, and the like. Other outreach experiences occur when students are able to interview a wide range of experts through technological arrangements, visit local colleges, or go on field trips. “Inreach” experiences - outside visitors brought to the school to talk with students about careers and experiences – is also a powerful way to connect students to the outside world. Significant outreach and inreach provides powerful connections to the “real” world outside of high school.
11.Create continuous, high quality, meaningful, relevant professional and curriculum development experiences
Today’s changing educational world demands continual learning and updates about teaching and learning. What would we think of a doctor’s world without continual updates on the best forms of treatment, new drugs, research, and other changes. Yet it’s strange how little emphasis is placed on professional and curriculum development over time. The establishment of professional learning communities (PLC’s), with a school culture that supports continuous learning around collaborative and individual learning goals, should be a key goal. Summers are ideal times for professional development, yet there are generally no requirements that teachers devote some portion of their summers (e.g. two or three weeks) to collaboratively exploring new ways of teaching, new forms of curriculum design, the teaching of writing and thinking, how to implement the Common Core, project and problem based learning approaches, and so on.
12. Switch to Standards-Based Report Cards
Traditional report cards Provide little helpful information to both students and parents. A more effective report card is one that provides information as to how well a student is doing, but also how a student might improve. Standards based report cards incorporate key learning goals and skills either in an interdisciplinary configuration or within each subject area. The ability to solve problems, conduct research, make presentations, write effectively – all these can be incorporated into standards based report cards[iv]
An even stronger standards based report card format includes individual comments by each teacher. Some high schools have built an individual comments model into their assessment process[v]. This entails a lot of work, but it customizes comments, builds on specific student talents, strengths and skills, provides greater specificity as to how students might improve, and in general makes report cards much more meaningful and helpful to students and parents.
13. Use technology as a tool for reaching key goals and priorities
Technology is often used in a haphazard fashion within high schools. The judicious use of technology, designed to help students reach key goals, is a much more rewarding and promising way to use technology. For example, the use of digital portfolios provides ways to collect and analyze student work. Common uses of technology to write papers, spellcheck, organize thoughts and ideas, and so on might be encouraged. Search engines used to find resources, to contact people around the world when appropriate, can be helpful. Teacher use of technology to share articles and readings, course outlines, information about a course, handouts and assignments with students on a regular basis is a good use of technology. The appropriate use of on-line simulations can enhance learning.
However, beware of newer forms of technology without being clear on how they promote the goals of the school. Tablets and smartphones may be useful, but they should be introduced with great care, and with knowledge and understanding of how they will contribute to advancing learning goals.
14.Create small learning communities
Although small learning communities are a radical departure from traditional high school organization, they are worth considering. They consist of groups and teachers and students working together around themes (e.g. communication, technology, health sciences and the like). Where possible, small learning communities within a building are physically separated from each other.
The creation of small learning communities requires significant professional development so that each team is well organized around a theme and is given a chance to work together in advance of implementation. Failure to provide time for teachers to receive professional development and for learning how to work together is often why they fail.
15.Design innovative ways to rate and judge the success of high schools.
High schools are being judged today by arbitrary processes often determined by government bureaucrats. The outside accountability systems often get in the way of making modest and relevant changes that would significantly improve programs. It is time for high school leaders to develop their own models that demonstrate their success!
Instead of a reliance on test scores, high school accountability models, shared with the public and with Boards of Education, might include the number of students who have developed their talents and interests in different directions; sample digital portfolios that demonstrate student learning; data on students that go on to some form of post high school educational experience; results from special programs, such as International Baccalaureate and small learning communities; data on what happens to students as they move through a post high school experience; collective data from report cards; survey data from high school graduates who rate their high school experience; results from student surveys of current courses, and so on. A comprehensive accountability process developed by high schools themselves would be much more meaningful and significant than the current systems being implemented.
Comprehensive high schools need to adapt to a 21st century world. Clearer mission statements that guide teaching and learning, revised and flexible scheduling, strong core and elective programs, administrative restructuring, advisories, greater student engagement through inquiry, research and project based teaching and learning, library-media center hubs, standards based report cards, small learning communities, more meaningful and personalized accountability systems, a careful look at innovative ideas – these and the other suggestions described above would go a long way towards better preparation of students for living in a 21st century world. Not all of these ideas may currently make sense to high school teachers and leaders, but some might be helpful when high schools reconsider their programs, assessment models, organizational structures, and accountability systems in order to adapt to this new age.
[i] In other work, I have identified five core skill sets that should be taught throughout the curriculum – curiosity, information and data literacy, thoughtfulness, application, and communication. For greater insights into what these five skill sets mean in practice, go to www.era3learning.org. I have also developed a process – the Integrated Skill Development Program (ISDP) – that can be used to identify core skills to be taught and learned across the curriculum. A description of this process can be found at: http://bit.ly/RnSwRT
[ii]Advanced Placement courses have many problems. They are often survey courses that focus on learning content without depth or thought. Many students take Advanced Placement courses, get credit for them, but don’t take the Advanced Placement exams. Other students take the AP course, don’t pass the AP exam, but still get AP credit. Scarsdale High School has eliminated Advanced Placement courses in favor of “advanced topics” courses. Some advanced topics courses are designed so that, at the end of the course, if students wish to do so, they can take the Advanced Placement exam.
[iv] For an excellent article on Standards Based Report Cards, see How We Got Grading Wrong, and What to Do About it, in Educational Update, October 2013, Volune 55, No. 10, ASCD.
[v] For example, Science Leadership Academy, a public high school in Philadelphia PA, incorporates teacher comments into its report card system.
The belief that standardized test scores are the most viable means that can be used to determine student learning, is so deeply rooted in our psyche that we have embraced the practice of evaluating teachers of non-tested subjects based on the results of subjects that they do not teach. This should be scandalous; especially given that this practice negates the main goal of evaluation systems, which is to hold teachers' accountable for student performance based on what they teach.
The Tennessee Fine Arts Growth Measure System brightens the prospect that this practice would eventually cease. This System incorporates students' portfolios and peer reviews to gauge teacher effectiveness. As Tracy McNelly notes, portfolios focus on teacher demonstration, professional development and teacher assessment. Together, these factors provide a more complete picture of a teacher's performance. Also, the use of peer reviews provides an opportunity to bring about true education reform by helping to create an evaluation structure that deviates from and that holds more promise than traditional evaluations systems in terms of effectively capturing and determining how a teacher’s professional growth influences student achievement.
In addition to providing a more comprehensive look at a teacher’s performance, portfolios and peer reviews are in line with the much lauded 21st century skills. Portfolios are authentic artifacts that are better suited than standardized test scores for illustrating, creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking, decision-making and learning. Similarly, peer reviews require communication and collaboration. As such, the use of these two tools helps to exemplify what is meant by “teaching is an art.” Furthermore, using portfolios and peer reviews also help to restore the humanity into evaluation systems that have become far too mechanical, subjecting all those involved; school leaders, teachers and students to mind numbing activities.
Perhaps this is an opportunity for educators to act on Craig Mertler’s call for courageous educators. In this case, the call is for educators to speak up about this practice of evaluating teachers of non-tested subjects on subjects and for students that they do not teach. It is a practice that diminishes recognition for the contributions that teachers make equipping their students with the knowledge and skills that they need for future success.
In the Fall of 2007, a close friend, Nancy Cook, and I wrote a piece for the New York State Middle School Association’s Journal, In Transition. The article, titled “Notice, Think, and Wonder: New Pathways to Engage Critical Thinking” asked the reader to consider using a discussion rubric that Nancy developed to increase the rigor of questions and answers around text. The link is to the entire journal, but the article and embedded rubric starts on page 15.
I still share the Notice, Think, and Wonder rubric that’s in the article while engaging in professional development with teachers. It’s become particularly useful in this age of Common Core standards and increased rigor in instructional activities, particularly around the close reading of text.
I’ve been teaching different versions of “Close Reading” to teachers, evolving over time as I strengthen my relationship with Common Core Reading for Literacy/Informational Text Standard 1: “Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and make inferences from it.” What started out as teaching teachers to write text dependent questions evolved into setting strong purposes for reading, understanding text complexity, relating the close reading to personal experiences and world events, and now, coming full circle back to Notice, Think, and Wonder.
The impetus for this blog post began with another blog post around Close Reading, written by Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts, authors of the popular blog, indent. You can read their blog post, The Five Corners of the Text, by clicking this sentence. In the post, they stress the importance of engagement and inviting students’ experiences into the way they think critically about the words they read. What they wrote invited a warmth back into this instructional strategy that was missing from my initial interpretation of the standard.
As I read their blog post and reflected on my current and previous work, it dawned on me that a merger of ideas and an additional instructional strategy around close reading was in order. Hence, I’m revisiting “Notice, Think, and Wonder.” The original Notice, Think, and Wonder strategy asked students to collect details around what they notice in text; what jumped off the page at them. It asks students to think about those details and make connections. Finally, it asks them to wonder about the “what if’s,” the “what next’s,” or the potential additional meaning-making that comes from deep engagement with text.
To use Notice, Think, and Wonder in a way that reflects the close reading of text, one simply needs to tweak the intentions of these areas of interaction. In this upgrade, students should be invited to do the following:
What are some of the big ideas in the text that’s being read?
What are some of the main points that an author wants the reader to know as a result of reading this?
What’s the major message or point of reading what we are reading?
Where in the text did we see support for what we noticed?
What in our experiences, as related to what we read, make us think of connections to the big ideas?
How do parts of the texts explicitly lead us to the major message?
What might the evidence we found in the text, as related to what we noticed, mean?
What potential conclusions can we draw from the evidence related to what we noticed?
Is there evidence in the text or in our connections to the text to support anything we might potentially wonder?
I like believing that students would be engaged by deep conversation about text--particularly texts that they are interested in reading, not just texts that the teacher thinks they should read. I’m reminded of high school, when my teachers were adept at drawing me into a text by both relating to my personal experiences while guiding me through metacognitions that created mental velcro for me. Everything stuck, from the prologue to The Canterbury Tales to my empathy for Benji, a central character in Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. I want students to live inside texts the way that I was allowed to. I want them to have rich literary experiences that feed their souls for the rest of their lives but also teach them to be evaluative thinkers and questioners of the status quo.
I want students to read voluminously and develop a love of reading that goes beyond the cold and analytical “close reading” and explores what I guess I would call “Close Reading Plus.” Evidence plus experience equals Deep Learning, versus just evidence alone. If we look at the standard and the key words: “close reading,” “what the text says explicitly,” and “make inferences,” then we are doing all those things with this upgrade of Notice, Think, and Wonder. We are also inviting a deeper analysis, a raise in the rigor beyond the standard, which represents the zone to which we should aspire with our modern learners.
Contemporary Perspectives on Literacy, coming this Fall.
Mike on Twitter: @fisher1000
I thought about this a little more and decided to add some additional information to this blog post in terms of extending Notice, Think, and Wonder to writing about evidence and connections.
For one thing, the “Wonder” could include a question about claims, such as, “What claims can you make about what you read? or “What do you wonder about any bold statements that the author made in the text?”
The answers to those questions would be an excellent jumping off point for writing about claims and evidence, engaging both the Reading standards around Key Ideas and Details as well as the Instructional Shifts around Writing from Sources and Text-Dependent questions.
I have been writing blogs for two years on ASCD Edge. While each of the blogs are independent entities, consisting of separate thoughts and ideas, they also can be combined to create what I hope is a coherent framework of goals, suggestions and practices for educating children in a 21st century world. In this “meta-blog”, my blogs are placed into categories that examine a different aspect of 21st century teaching and learning. This will provide you, the reader, with a chance to browse through one or more of these commentaries using a larger framework as a reference.
You can also delve more deeply into the qualities, characteristics and perspectives of a 21st century education by going to my website:
***Please note that a few blogs are listed in more than one category.
The Broad Perspective: Reflective Questions and Suggested Changes
A Learning-Centered Checklist for 21st Century Classrooms, Schools and Districts - http://bit.ly/18RS0VJ
Reflect on Your School Year With the Following Questions… http://bit.ly/1218hB7
Ten questions that will improve your teaching, school or district http://bit.ly/OKOj9a
Ten things that will REALLY make a difference in education http://bit.ly/18WGdIZ
My Top Ten education wishes for 2012 (and beyond) http://bit.ly/12LVKZj
Mission and Goals
What should be the outcomes of K-12 schooling? How do we know if we’ve achieved them?
What is your core mission?
What Does This Poem Say, About Education Today
New Goals For a New Year (and a New Age)
Make Meaning and Purpose Key Elements of Teaching and Learning http://bit.ly/14Npfdf
Beliefs about Learning
Beliefs about Learning and their implications for teaching and learning http://bit.ly/1b1pCRu
Positive Learning Environments, Cultures, and Attitudes
Thirteen Ways to Build Positive Learning Attitudes: a Key to Successful Teaching
Core Skills: Identification, Methods and Strategies
Teaching the Right Skills For a New Age- Inquiry Based Instruction http://bit.ly/vVhpSQ
Seven Principles for Teaching the Right Skills for a New Age http://bit.ly/yLVZ0M
Using Inquiry-Research Projects to Teach the Right Skills for a New Age
Eight Types of Instructional Strategies That Improve Learning in a 21st Century World
Six ways to build greater curiosity in students
Do You Teach Creative Thinking? You Should if You Don’t!
Curriculum and Instruction Issues
The Integrated Skill Development Process (ISDP) - The Power of Teacher Collaboration
Strengthening Curriculum and Instruction in a 21st century world
A Dozen Reasons Why We Need High Quality Science Teaching and Learning in a 21st Century World
Why we need strong science programs, K-12!
Promoting STEM in a 21st century World
Ten reasons why teaching the arts is critical in a 21st century world
Early Childhood Education
Bridging the Opportunity Gap: Improving Early Childhood and Primary Grade Education
Formative and Summative Assessment
Use portfolios -- the best tool for assessing 21st century skills
Customized Versus Standardized Assessments: A Fairy Tale
The Bubble Test Trap vs. Project Based Learning
Increasing Learning With Traditional Tests
Five Powerful Feedback Principles That Improve Student Learning
Professional Growth and Development
Four Activities To Help You Become a Better Teacher and Leader…
The Integrated Skill Development Process (ISDP): The Power of Teacher Collaboration
Ten Possibilities for Summer Professional Development
Using Education Leadership Articles as a Staff Development Tool to Promote a 21st Century Education
Exercise: Ten Teacher Questions for Self-Reflection
Alternatives to Teacher Tenure – What Will Work?
No Child Left Behind
Adapting NCLB to a 21st Century World
Five Books That Every Educator Should Read?
Some Summer Reading And Resource Browsing
A new book that helps all of us examine teaching and learning in a 21st century world
All blogs can be found at
More blogs will be coming soon that will enhance these categories, including the unique qualities of American education, the importance of motivation, seven types of projects, ten ways we will know that STEM is being practiced in schools, changing the organizational structure from courses to learning inquiries, and many more….
This blog is cross-posted from: http://wsascdel.blogspot.com/
When I take a photo on my smartphone, I quickly apply different filters to determine which one makes the photo look better. Some filters tweak the photo just a bit to make it look more polished. Other filters drastically change the photo - for better or worse.
When I take a photo on my smartphone, I quickly apply different filters to determine which one makes the photo look better. Some filters tweak the photo just a bit to make it look more polished. Other filters drastically change the photo - for better or worse.
As leader, this makes me think about the filters I apply to decisions each day. I've learned to draw from a tool belt of "filters" and I think this makes me a more effective leader.
Filter 1: How does my decision align with my personal mission and values?
I've learned visionary leaders are grounded in their personal values & mission. At the end of the day, I'm owning my decision and it has to align with my personal beliefs. I have learned to keep my personal mission and values at the forefront of my decisions.
Filter 2: How does my decision align with the shared mission, vision, and values of my organization?
It is essential for schools, districts, businesses, teams, and organizations to have a shared, mission, vision, and values that have been collectively developed and continuously communicated with stakeholders. I have learned to use this foundational filter each day.
Filter 3: What research-based filters have other leaders used in similar situations?
Here is a table of my "go to" research-based filters that I use on a regular basis. I tried to categorize them a bit and some filters overlap into many areas I didn't list.
Filter 4: Who else?
Sometimes decisions are made in a split second and other times they're discussed for hours on end. Who else should I consult? Who else knows about this stuff? Who else has experience in this area? I use the insights of others in order to inform decisions that (hopefully!) result in a better outcome that meets our target objective.
The other day, as I was reading this week’s edition of Education Week, I came across what I think is a fabulous idea. The story highlighted three school districts—one each in Iowa, Minnesota, and Idaho—that have moved to a four-day school week. Okay, so my first thought was “Are these people crazy?” But, I knew I needed to read on in order to get the full picture… and before I made a judgment. So I did, and boy was I glad!
The article highlighted the fact that the districts had made this move for multiple reasons. They were saving money on buses, utilities, and even food service. However, as one administrator in the story stated, simply saving money does not justify this kind of a drastic shift in mindset for a school district. They had to do something meaningful with that time—and they have. The districts are using the days—some of them were using Mondays; others were using Fridays—to do several things for students:
Great—I love it! But my real excitement came when I read about with the teachers were doing with their “days off.” Yeah…not hardly! Teachers were using these days for several professional activities including:
Now, I loved this even more! And, those of you who know me will know why. I think this is brilliant. Planning time, collaboration time, and professional development that isn’t crammed into a 30- or 60-minute time slot at the end of the day or first thing in the morning. Real time for teachers to really collaborate and really improve their practice. Furthermore, what an opportunity for teachers to be able to focus their attention, in a collaborative manner, on methods of improving their practice! This type of extended time—structured throughout the school year—is a perfect arrangement for integrating action research and action research learning communities into a school setting. What an incredible mechanism for empowering educators!!!
Now, we know that this type of time structure is not a requirement for engaging in these kinds of professional development activities. However, I would like to extend kudos to these three districts—as well as others around the country—who are thinking outside of a “five-day-a-week, 180-day-school-year” box.
It’s not about the quantity of hours and days, but rather the quality of what goes into those hours and days.
I have reached out to these three districts, and I hope that they will respond positively. I would love to work with any schools or districts that are thinking this way. Let’s collectively raise the profession of education back to a status of a true profession—one where we can:
PLEASE NOTE: This is a corrected version of the originally posted commentary. An earlier version stated that the potential number of required Keystone exams in Pennsylvania is ten. The actual number is five. The new Pennsylvania regulations will require students to eventually pass five exams, and, if the legislature approves funding for an additional five, those five will be administered on a voluntary basis by Pennsylvania school districts.
(The author of this commentary, Elliott Seif, is a former social studies teacher, Professor of Education at Temple University, and Director of Curriculum-Instruction Services for the Bucks County Intermediate Unit. He is currently an educational advocate, author, trainer, and Philadelphia School District volunteer. More of his commentary can be found at ASCD Edge, http://bit.ly/13sMIUZ, and on his website, www.era3learning.org.)
Introduction and Overview
The new Chapter 4 regulations, recently adopted by the Pennsylvania State Board, will require all Pennsylvania students to pass new Keystone exams in order to graduate. Initially, three exams will be required for graduation (English, Biology and Mathematics). Two others will be added in the next few years (English Composition and Civics and Government) for a total of five required exams. If money is appropriated by the legislature, five additional exams will be added in future years, but will be voluntary for school districts to administer.
The purpose of this commentary is to make a strong case in opposition to the implementation of these regulations, using the following arguments:
I also suggest a number of alternative ways that the funding for the Keystone exams can be used more effectively, and also suggest a possible way to implement the Keystone exams, focused around the Keystone Academic Honors Diploma, that would be a much better vehicle for implementation and provide much greater incentives for taking and passing the exams.
Five arguments as to why these exams should not be required
1. The Keystone exams will have a significant negative impact on schools
Contrary to popular belief, Pennsylvania’s schools do a decent job in educating students to be college and career ready. Over 83% of students in Pennsylvania graduate from high school, and a large percentage go on to some form of higher education. While the graduation rates for Blacks and Latinos are lower (about 65% each) the graduation rate for whites is 88%. Often the problem today for students who go on to complete a college degree is not that they are not prepared for career and work, but that there are too few jobs waiting for them that demand the high level skills that they now possess.
However, even with these successes, schools do need to improve what they do to prepare students for a 21st century world. There are still too many students who drop out of school or are apathetic about learning. K-12 schools need to do more to get students to engage in learning, make learning more relevant, develop the talents and interests of students, promote thinking and problem solving, improve student comprehension skills, and develop connections to the outside world of work and citizenship. There is too little emphasis on writing clearly and effectively. Greater emphasis needs to be placed on engaging students in becoming interested in and understanding core concepts in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects. Also, in some school districts, the sports culture is significantly more important that the culture of academics.
Will the Keystone exams help to solve these problems? NOT LIKELY. Exams such as these do not help to engage students in learning and make learning more relevant – in fact, they will most likely lower motivation to learn, since the types of questions asked on the exams are divorced from real world issues and problems (see sample questions in the appendix). Requiring that all students pass all the Keystone exams will probably increase the dropout rate. The exams will not broaden the educational experience of students, improve thinking or writing, or help reduce apathy towards learning. In short, the required exams will do little or nothing to improve the educational climate, curriculum, and instruction practices necessary to help prepare students for a 21st century world. In fact, they will be a drag on making changes that would really help students prepare for today’s and tomorrow’s world.
In addition, administering and implementing Keystone exam requirements will be difficult, complex, and costly. Staff members will need to find the time to administer and monitor each test three times a year as required by the law. Once the five required exams are in place, fifteen tests will need to be administered each year. The school is expected to offer the tests as final exams, a complicated process, since many courses in these subjects are offered at many different grade levels (for example, algebra in some districts is offered as early as sixth grade to some students). The school will need to develop and maintain a complex record keeping system in order to track who passes and who doesn’t pass the several modules within each test. The school district has to arrange for tutoring time and supplemental instruction if a student doesn’t pass a test or a module. If a student fails a test twice, he or she must develop a project that could take 15 hours to complete (probably on line which means more computers in each school) that must be developed in the presence of a district test administrator, and will be scored by educators across the State through the Department of Education. All of these requirements will take a great deal of time and money. The more courses that are added, the more time and money!
It is also unlikely that these tests will become a substitute for all final exams. They will probably be offered for some courses at times awkward for use as final exams (such as before a course is completed). The results will probably not be returned to a teacher in time for him or her to use the results in lieu of a final exam. And the different levels of courses offered by high schools (for example, academic and honors) in all three subjects make it unlikely that the same standardized test can be used for every course.
In sum, these tests will not help schools to improve what they do. They will not raise standards, but have significant negative effects on schools. Their implementation will create significant personnel and staff difficulties due to the need for administering, monitoring, recording test data information, tutoring, and using the tests effectively within the high school.
2. The exam requirements will have a significant negative impact on students
During their high school years, students take a variety of courses and programs. Students are involved with many different teachers and experiences that provide both a standardized and customized quality education. By graduation, major differences appear. Some students are good at math; others in English. Some demonstrate their talents in the arts; others in sports; some have a lot of trouble in some subjects, but excel in others. Some get high marks and honors, while others do less well. In other words, there is great variety among students in their skills, their talents, their interests, and their achievements. All this is consistent with a 21st century American society that has highly diverse, varied, and complex career and college paths.
In order to graduate, students must overcome many hurdles, including passing courses in many different subjects, taking tests, doing research projects, and so on. They are usually required to pass core courses and take final exams in subjects that overlap with the initial Keystone exams - science, mathematics, and English. In most schools, students are offered elective courses that they can take to help them develop their interests or build academic desires.
Some schools today are “themed” schools. Students choose to go to these schools, and the elective work that students do there is usually concentrated in certain areas, such as the arts, culinary arts, technical careers, communications, science, math and engineering, and politics and law. Some “alternative” schools enable students to focus their learning around relevant, interesting, authentic projects, or to go back to an individualized school experience that helps them to complete a high school program after they have dropped out of school, or to develop a customized learning experience that fits their special needs.
Currently, all Pennsylvania high schools today are required by Chapter 4 to have students do a major project in order to graduate (note: the revised Chapter 4 regulations eliminated this from the Chapter 4 requirements).
If they successfully navigate all these hurdles, then they get a diploma and go on to a myriad of post high school experiences – a four-year university or college with different emphases and majors, two-year community colleges, technical or specialized schools, or the armed forces are the usual routes.
Now along comes the State Board and Department of Education and they say – wait!! It is not enough to succeed through four years of high school with these varied programs and customized learning experiences. We need to make sure that every single one of our students graduate with exactly the same “high standards”, starting with science, math and Literature subjects, by passing State-developed high stakes tests. These standardized tests, using multiple-choice and short answer formats, will guarantee that every one of our students who graduate can do algebra; that they know the ins and outs of biology; and, finally, that they can read out of context passages from literature and answer questions, answer vocabulary questions, and the like. Once we get those in place, we’ll add some more, such as exams in composition and civics and government. We will stipulate that if any student fails to pass any one of the required tests, they will not get a degree. All their four years of hard work is out the window. Period. They might pass two of the three exams (or later four out of five), or miss passing one because they missed two questions below the proficient cutoff score. It won’t matter.
Now some students will not be bothered by these new exam requirements, and will pass them with ease. But many others will struggle. The many diverse types of students across the State, in a variety of types of high schools, courses, and programs, will take a test, or part of it, twice in order to pass, and some will fail twice and then be required to do a project in order to pass. There will be a number of students who will not pass one, two or three tests, even with the three tries, and even if they work hard at their high school courses and pass them, they will not be able to graduate.
If you want to see the great folly of this, you might also want to look at the sample test questions in biology and math that I took from the Department of Education’s sample question booklets and included in this appendix. You might ask yourselves whether answering these questions is really necessary in order for a student to be “career and college ready”. Think about whether every single student across the great state of ours should be required to know the answers to these types of questions in order to graduate. Think about whether you have had any need to know the answers to these questions in order to be successful in your own chosen field. Think about whether college and career success depends on whether a student is able to score proficiently on these exams.
To illustrate what I mean, currently, in a school in Philadelphia that I volunteer in, between 65-75% of the students now pass the English PSSA exam. But 90% of the students go on to college. Some of those who pass the PSSA exam don’t make it through college, while others who do not pass are successful. In other words, the current PSSA results do not predict how students will perform in college when they graduate! Thank goodness they are not required for graduation.
Imagine that your own children were in high school, suddenly confronted with a new set of gatekeeper tests, and your child had trouble passing one of them. Think about the frustrations and anxieties that would ensue. Would your child begin to give up on school? Would you be frustrated for your child? Imagine that your child was able to do the work in his or her courses, that he or she was an average student, but simply had trouble with one of those subjects. Would you want that to happen to your own child?
Ironically, according to a May article in USA Today, several other states are now beginning to move to eliminate their graduation testing requirements because of the problems they have caused for many of their students.
3. The Keystone exam requirement will significantly increase costs to the State and individual school districts
The development and implementation costs and resulting fiscal consequences for both Pennsylvania and its school districts will be high, and, especially in these difficult fiscal times, will divert monies from the real needs of schools and students. The State’s costs include the continued development and scoring of these tests every year, along with the scoring of the tests and the projects that result when students fail the test twice (probably thousands of students across the state). Start-up costs have already been estimated to run into close to two hundred million dollars, with additional millions to maintain, develop, update and score the tests in future years. When additional tests are added, the costs will significantly increase.
In addition, there will be significant, mandated, unfunded costs and personnel requirements in every school district in the State with a high school, due to the need for administering, monitoring, recording test data information, tutoring, and using the tests effectively within the high school. Imagine what it will take in a large high school with 2500 or 3000 students to cope with this new requirement! What about the costs to a District like Philadelphia with so many large and small high schools. And all this happening at a time when education budgets, programs and services are being cut all across the State.
Other costs include the need to retool the curriculum to align with each test, purchase new textbooks, add more test-prep services and courses, assure that there are enough computers on hand for students who need to complete a project, and so on.
In order to estimate the cost, I am assuming at least $50 million dollars a year at the State level will be spend on these tests (I think that the costs will be much more). In addition, let us assume that there are 400 high schools in the Commonwealth (a low figure), and that each spends an average of about $200,000 to administer, monitor, record keep, and provide supplemental instruction for these tests (a low figure). Multiply 400 by $200,000 – that comes to $80,000,000 dollars across the State. That means that it will take at least $130,000,000 (a very conservative estimate) every year to develop, score, administer, support, and record information about these three tests and projects. The figure will increase significantly as more exams are added.
Is this what we want our education money to be spent on? Are these exams worth the costs, personnel time, energy, and additional resources that it will take to implement them?
4. Less high school innovation will result from adding the Keystone Exam requirement
Another disadvantage and serious consequence of this law will be to stifle innovation at the high school level. We live in a rapidly changing world that often requires significant innovations and changes to maintain strong educational programs. For example, some schools in the State have moved to create a more integrated science-math-engineering-technology (STEM) approach to curriculum. Mathematics is sometimes taught not by each individual math subject, such as algebra and geometry, but through an integrated mathematics approach focused around real-life, more authentic problems. There is major diversity and continual changes in the literature read in English courses throughout the State. Up-dated science courses often reduce the emphasis on teaching the knowledge of science, but instead motivate and interest students by emphasizing the science inquiry and investigation skills associated with scientific discovery. More focus on test-prep could mean less time and opportunities to be involved in sports, in the arts, or to take interesting electives. Project based learning, one of the key innovative sets of practices in today’s age, are endangered if subject-based multiple-choice short answer tests are required for graduation. In some innovative high schools, comprehensive portfolios of student work have been developed to assess students over time – these will be less likely to be implemented when standardized tests become a requirement for every student to pass in order to graduate.
5. The new regulations eliminate the graduation project requirement that has strengthened school programs over time and insured that students have developed important skills associated with living in today’s world.
There is another problem with the changes to Chapter 4 – the elimination of the graduation project requirement that required every student to develop a project in order to graduate. This requirement made sense! Many districts in the Commonwealth use the project requirement to insure that students could ask good questions, solve problems, conduct research, communicate with the outside world, read a wide variety of material, think clearly, write a good paper, and communicate by making a presentation to others. There was great flexibility in how Districts implemented the project requirement, including some who integrated projects into their courses. Students across the state developed projects around their interests, used multiple resources, demonstrated their writing skills, and share their results through presentations to members of the community and professional educators. Some put the results on line for others to see. This requirement often meant that skills that are not normally assessed through the course of high school work, and that are very important, were assessed. Now this project requirement is gone. It should be put back into Chapter 4 before the regulations are completed.
Alternatives to the Keystone exam requirement
How we could improve educational programs and put the money that will go to develop, score, and administer these tests to better use? Here are some examples.
First and foremost, most districts in the Commonwealth have cut their programs and services to students, and they could use this money to bring back programs in their districts that make a difference. But I can also think of many other, better ways to spend the money at the State level to improve educational practice. Here are some:
If the State were to bring back the graduation project requirement that has been an important requirement for more than fifteen years, then the money could also be used to help strengthen the required project and make it a more meaningful and significant for all students.
But here’s another idea. I would prefer not to offer these tests at all, but, given the fact that many believe that these exams are important, I would support this alternative if it were included in Chapter 4. Suppose, instead of requiring that all students pass these tests, the Commonwealth developed a Keystone Honors Academic Diploma. School districts could offer these tests to those students who wish to take them, and, if they passed all of them, they would be given this diploma. Instead of making the tests a forced and required hurdle that must be passed, the tests would become a badge of honor, an incentive for those who wished to use them that way. What a difference that would make in how the tests would be viewed and used within Pennsylvania!
Another option that should be included in Chapter 4 is the development of an alternative assessment system to the Keystone exams. In New York State, a consortium of high schools has developed portfolio assessment systems that are focused around varied student work. The current Chapter 4 regulations make it virtually impossible to create an alternative portfolio assessment system similar to the Consortium model.
Some Final Thoughts
The Chapter 4 regulations that require Keystone exams in order to graduate are bad for students, bad for schools, and bad for the Commonwealth’s educational policy. The tests may initially seem like a good idea, a way to strengthen education in the State, but, in reality, they would do little or nothing to strengthen overall high school programs and prepare students to be college and career ready. They would add another student barrier to graduation, cause more students to drop out of school, reduce student motivation and interest in learning, and do little to help provide the kinds of skills students need for college and career. They will require significant additional funding from both the State and high school districts. They will reduce the level of innovation and change needed in today’s world, add a complex administrative and personnel burden, require more test-prep, and reduce time spent on other, more valuable high school experiences. They will, in general, weaken, rather than strengthen, high school programs in the Commonwealth.
The current Chapter 4 regulations should be redesigned and overhauled to eliminate the exam requirement for all students. The graduation project should be returned to Chapter 4. If required exams must still be included in the regulations, then I suggest that the regulations make it easier to develop alternative assessment models that match 21st century student needs. If exams are kept in place, then a better alternative to requiring their passing by every student is to use the Keystone Honors Academic Diploma approach, described above. The money spent on developing and administering these exams would be better spent on Pennsylvania helping schools and districts ramp up their programs and assessment systems, and for strapped school districts to use the money to strengthen their programs and services to students.
SAMPLE KEYSTONE QUESTIONS, MATH (1-4) AND BIOLOGY (5-8)
1. Which of the following inequalities is true for all real values of x?
A. x3 ≥ x2
B. 3x2 ≥ 2x3
C. (2x)2 ≥ 3x2
D. 3(x – 2)2 ≥ 3x2 – 2
2. An expression is shown below.
For which value of x should the expression be further simplified?
A. x = 10
B. x = 13
C. x = 21
D. x = 38
3. Two monomials are shown below.
What is the least common multiple (LCM) of these monomials?
4. The results of an experiment were listed in several numerical forms as listed below.
5–3 4/7 √5 3/8 0.003
A. Order the numbers listed from least to greatest.
B. Another experiment required evaluating the expression shown below.
1/6 ( √36 ÷ 3–2) + 43 ÷ I–8I
What is the value of the expression?
C. The last experiment required simplifying 7 √425 . The steps taken are shown below.
step 1: 7 (400 + 25)
step 2: 7(20 + 5)
step 3: 7(25)
step 4: 175
One of the steps shown is incorrect.
Rewrite the incorrect step so that it is correct.
D. Using the corrected step from part C, simplify 7 √425 .
7 √425 =
5. Living organisms can be classified as prokaryotes or eukaryotes. Which two structures are common to both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells?
A. cell wall and nucleus
B. cell wall and chloroplast
C. plasma membrane and nucleus
D. plasma membrane and cytoplasm
6. Which statement best describes an effect of the low density of frozen water in a lake?
A. When water freezes, it contracts, decreasing
the water level in a lake.
B. Water in a lake freezes from the bottom up,
killing most aquatic organisms.
C. When water in a lake freezes, it floats, providing
insulation for organisms below.
D. Water removes thermal energy from the land
around a lake, causing the lake to freeze.
7. Which statement correctly describes how carbon’s ability to form four bonds makes it uniquely suited to form macromolecules?
A. It forms short, simple carbon chains.
B. It forms large, complex, diverse molecules.
C. It forms covalent bonds with other carbon
D. It forms covalent bonds that can exist in a
8. A scientist observes that, when the pH of the environment surrounding an enzyme is changed, the rate the enzyme catalyzes a reaction greatly decreases. Which statement best describes how a change in pH can affect an enzyme?
A. A pH change can cause the enzyme to change
B. A pH change can remove energy necessary to
activate an enzyme.
C. A pH change can add new molecules to the
structure of the enzyme.
D. A pH change can cause an enzyme to react
with a different substrate.
For all of these reasons I continue to journal every day. I can always look back to my journal for guidance, to remind me of what is important, and to show me I can overcome all challenges. I have grown as a teacher, a leader, and a person throughout the pages of my journal, and I use them to support my continued growth in the future. If you do not have one already, I encourage any leader to start writing.
I have kept a journal since I was a sophomore in college and it has been one of the most valuable leadership tools I have ever used. At any staff meeting, professional development, or conference, my colleagues will often see me jotting down my thoughts in my Moleskine. I try to write something every day and now, ten years later, I can go back and see how I felt on any given day throughout the year for a decade. Since most of those ten years were spent as a teacher and aspiring educational leader, many of my entries contain observations, reactions and reflections on my experiences in those roles.
In the past ten years of keeping a journal, here are some of the most valuable things I have learned:
1. Understanding the rhythms of the school year - Often, in the month of November, in that challenging time between Halloween and Thanksgiving, I will think that I am experiencing the most difficult year of my career. When I look back at my journal, I see that November is always rough. I also see that after Spring Break, everything goes better, and that the time after Winter Break until Martin Luther King Jr. Day is an all-out sprint to get things done. By looking back at my journal, I have perspective on what I am experiencing. I recognize that there are challenging times and there are good times, but that no bad time or good time lasts forever.
2. Reflections on the best intentions – Many of my journal entries are new ideas that I want to implement in my classes or my school. Afterwards I will write about the success, the failures, and most importantly the unintended consequences of the new ideas. The journal allows me to see how even the best ideas can sometimes go awry. It also shows me how things I once thought were unimportant actually became critical to my success. The journal reminds me to be deliberate about what I want to accomplish and to refine my ideas before implementing anything.
3. Space to think and ask the big questions - Again and again, scattered throughout my journal I find the same sentence, “I am not quite sure what to do with my life.” Following each one of those sentences, I then find an explanation of what I thought about my life and future path at the time. As I read back through all of the entries I find it hard to believe that I have accomplished anything since I have never really sure about my path forward. At the same time, by constantly asking this question and recording the answers, I focus myself on the things that are important to me. I write about my belief that education is my vocation and that I am meant to work in schools. I write about the fact that the students are what give me energy and carry me through the challenges of the day. I write about the desire to help those around me and try to not forget that I am working with people who have good intentions. My path forward grows out of the path I have been on.
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
As NYC prepares for 1.1 million children to return to school on Monday, I realize many other states have already opened their school doors for students’ return. September is the month of renewal. During this act or process of renewing, educators must remember that the stakes in education are higher than ever. The ESEA waiver has given us limited time to turn education around in our respective districts.
Common Core and college readiness has been turned up a notch even more so now across this nation. As I visit many schools and speak to diverse educators, they often have the same question about how to get students to take command of the relevant knowledge and skills needed in the 21st century to be successful post-secondary schooling. Well I hope this is no surprise when I say, you can’t teach them to take command of the relevant knowledge and skills if you, as the educator, have not!
The first step to renewing yourself and your craft is to take initiative at your school or district. Research and focus on something that you’re passionate about. Then, take advantage of professional development workshops offered throughout your district and nationally around this topic. Become the expert! Somebody has to. Having a membership to various educational organizations will support your professional and personal growth. This is a great time to lead, even if you’re not the boss!
Common core has become the new topic between educators that they love to hate. It's like the reality show that you watch, but don't want to admit to others that you actually like it for fear of backlash. I will be the first to raise my hand and say that I like common core. There, I said it. But, I will admit that I completely understand why many educators do not like this animal, this thing that has come like a theif in the night and robbed educators of their sense of peace.
When I first heard about common core it was five years ago. I laughed when my principal told me that this would become the "new normal" in a few short years because the state of Georgia (where I reside and teach) had just transitioned from another set of standards and were pretty dead set on that adoption and implementation. At the time, I couldn't fathom a set of standards that every state would use because as a country we have been divided when it comes to educating our children. I thought it was brilliant, yet questionable. Well, now that they are here (and confirmed true), what do we do with them?
When I am in classrooms coaching and collaborating with teachers, I don't hear too many saying that they don't like common core as much as I hear them saying that there has been little to no support in implementing these new standards. And I would have to agree.
In order for anything new in education to take root and blossom and for it to be successful, educators have to be given several opportunities to see it in action first through professional devlopments, be supported in classroom implementation through non-evaluative observations and coaching, and time to make adjustments and improvements. The "go figure it out" method doesn't work for students and it doesn't work for teachers either.
The bottom line is simple. Professional development + Coaching + Time= Common Core SUCCESS!