Search ASCD EDge
Normally, I am not one to write on controversial issues, but there is freedom in the provocative, and the time is now (or yesterday) for action in education. Although this speaks to one state's journey through the massive budget cuts and the looming additional injustices, I think that most educators in the nation have experienced a degree of this. I humbly share my thoughts with legislators considering budgets for next school year and the community of ASCD advocates:
How will your child suffer? We must stop this ridiculous abomination of a proposed budget now. The incessant and continuous hit that education has taken in the last 5 years has been beyond reason. However, this year's proposals fall just shy of criminal. As a voter, a parent of children in the school system and a school principal, I have many perspectives to offer. First, as a voter: We elect officials into office who we believe will stand for the things that we hold close to heart. Public schools are the birthplace of some of the best minds in America. What does it mean to be American? Please ask yourself this, as our elected representative. Americans value critical opinions and diversity but stand united when someone attacks our home or our community. To my esteemed elected officials, I say: We are under attack. Make no mistake... this is a war of interests. We must not let the future of our children and ultimately our country falter to other priorities. We know that you are under pressure to invest in the political interests that got you into office, but we beg you not to sacrifice our children, your children or the future of our great nation in doing so. As a parent: We cannot provide quality schools without adequate funding to do so. Should we settle for mediocrity? Would you settle for mediocrity for your own child? Absolutely not. I want my children to get access to teachers with skills that will challenge their minds and inspire their hearts. Teachers deserve pay worthy of the countless hours they spend planning. Let Principals hold them accountable to that. I want my children to have adequate support in their classes as they are acclimated to the rigor of public schools. Teacher Assistants provide this support. They are educators, advocates and probably teach your child in a center or reading group. I want my child to have access to the equipment, books and materials needed for 21st century learning. As a school principal: Is the public aware that kids in most counties are still using outdated books, so teachers have to develop their own curriculum materials to match the new standards? And what justice do we pay teachers when they do this with a smile on their face and protect our children from the perils of society? We cut their support (TAs), cut their pay (furlough), cut their money for supplies (instructional money), increase their class size (class size waiver elimination), increase their insurance premiums and cut their access to resources and support (district funding going to charter/private schools). Teacher Assistants are not just secretaries for the teacher, and I wonder if the public realizes that. They are instructional assistants... they help your children and grandchildren learn. Also, as a school administrator, one of the ways in which we can provide a duty-free lunch for teachers (which is a state requirement) is through the use of teacher assistants. Similarly, I wonder if the public understands the correlation between effective instruction and the number of students in a class. There is an inverse relationship between time for critical learning and the number of students in a class. This state and this nation is in a dire place of certain demise, if we cannot commit to providing safe, quality schools for our children today, so they can solve nationwide and worldwide problems tomorrow. With the proposed legislation about class size, harsh cuts to public schools (again), elimination of Assistants, sequestration at the federal level, and funneling the leftover pocket change to charter/private schools rather than public schools... I must ask the question... how will your child suffer?
ASCD Leader to Leader (L2L) News is a monthly e-mail newsletter for ASCD constituent group leaders that builds capacity to better serve members, provides opportunities to promote and advocate for ASCD’s Whole Child Initiative, and engages groups through sharing and learning about best practices. To submit a news item for the L2L newsletter, send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Your To-Do List: Action Items for ASCD Leaders
Newest Policy Points Revisits A Nation at Risk
ASCD’s newest Policy Points (PDF) takes a closer look at A Nation at Risk, the 1983 report on the state of U.S. education that launched a spirited and ongoing debate about the quality of our public schools. This issue of Policy Points examines the specific recommendations of the report, the accuracy of its dire prediction about “a rising tide of mediocrity” undermining the nation’s well-being, and the evolving school reform debate the report kick-started three decades ago.
Throughout May on www.wholechildeducation.org: The New Poverty
In today’s global economic state, many families and children face reduced circumstances. These “poor kids” don’t fit the traditional stereotypes—two-thirds live in families in which at least one adult works and the percentage of poor students in many rural districts equals that in inner-city districts. In the United States, the economic downturn has dramatically changed the landscape, and districts that were previously vibrant are now dealing with unemployment, underemployment, and more transient families.
Join us as we share what new—and old—solutions we are using to support learning and ensure that each child, whatever her circumstances, is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.
Download the Whole Child Podcast for a discussion on the current economic downturn; its result that many families and children face reduced circumstances; and implications for schools, many of which have seen drastic changes in the populations they serve and their communities. Guests include Deborah Wortham, superintendent of the School District of the City of York, Pa., and former assistant superintendent for high schools and director of professional development for Baltimore City (Md.) Public Schools; Felicia DeHaney, president and CEO of the National Black Child Development Institute; William Parrett, director of the Center for School Improvement and Policy Studies and professor of education at Boise State University; and Kathleen Budge, coordinator of the Leadership Development Program and associate professor in the Curriculum, Instruction, and Foundational Studies Department at Boise State University. Parrett and Budge are also coauthors of the 2012 ASCD book Turning High-Poverty Schools into High-Performing Schools.
ASCD Leader Voices
Arkansas Governor Signs Whole Child Legislation
Arkansas Governor Michael Beebe signed a new bill into law that promotes a whole child approach to educating the state’s children. The legislation (PDF) establishes a Whole Child Whole Community recognition program and aims to measure the comprehensive well-being of children and how well stakeholders are meeting their needs according to the five whole child tenets and their indicators as identified by ASCD.
The recognition program will acknowledge and highlight the work of Arkansas educators, parents, community members, and policymakers who support the whole child. The legislation also indicates that one purpose of the recognition program is to help spur systemic collaboration and coordination within and beyond schoolhouse doors and to promote a shift from narrowly defined student achievement and traditional education reform to broader, more comprehensive efforts that recognize the crucial out-of-school factors that influence teaching and learning. A diverse state working group will work over the course of a year to recommend a framework and process for recognizing exemplary whole child and whole community successes.
Congratulations to Arkansas ASCD, which played a crucial role in supporting the bill’s development and introduction!
Rhode Island Passes Whole Child Resolution
The Rhode Island General Assembly passed a joint resolution (PDF) supporting a whole child approach to education that ensures each child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.
The resolution affirms that to educate Rhode Island’s children effectively, the state must pay attention to factors within and beyond its school buildings as well as integrate efforts among schools, families, and communities. In addition, the resolution expresses the assembly’s intent to model whole child concepts in its own work and to join with other stakeholders who support the whole child.
Congratulations to Rhode Island ASCD(RIASCD), which worked hard to have this joint resolution introduced into the Rhode Island legislature!
To help the state fulfill its commitment to whole child education, ASCD and RIASCD offered some initial steps (PDF)—organized by the five whole child tenets—for educators, parents and community members, and policymakers to take. RIASCD also highlighted some of ASCD’s free resources to help the state put its whole child vision into action.
South Carolina ASCD Featured in ASCD Inservice Blog Series
Weasked some of our affiliate leaders to tell us how the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has been going in their home states.In the seventh post of the series, South Carolina ASCD leader Josh Patterson writes about the challenges and successes that South Carolina has had with CCSS implementation.
The Effective Principal
What we see through our research, reading, and conversations with principals and school staff is that to see what an effective principal is, don’t look at the person; look at the effects of her leadership on student achievement, school culture and climate, teacher effectiveness and satisfaction, and community relationships. As the wearers of many hats, principals are crucial to implementing meaningful and lasting school change. Read more on the Whole Child Blog.
In April, we looked at what qualities principals in today’s (and tomorrow’s) schools need to fulfill their roles as visionary, instructional, influential, and learning leaders. Listen to the Whole Child Podcast with guests Donna Snyder, manager of Whole Child Programs at ASCD; Kevin Enerson, principal of Le Sueur-Henderson High School in Minnesota (an ASCD Whole Child Network school); and Jessica Bohn, an ASCD Emerging Leader and principal of Gibsonville Elementary School in North Carolina.
Also this month on the Whole Child Podcast, we talked with educators from Oregon’s Milwaukie High School (winner of the 2013 Vision in Action: The ASCD Whole Child Award) about how they meet student and staff needs, taking challenges and turning them into opportunities for all. Guests include principal Mark Pinder, assistant principal for curriculum Michael Ralls, assistant principal for student management Tim Taylor, dean of students Donnie Siel, and teacher leader David Adams.
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
Killeen Independent School District Deepens Professional Development Partnership with ASCD—Killeen Independent School District (ISD)—whose more than 6,100 staff members serve approximately 42,000 students—is deepening its relationship with ASCD to meet its professional development goals. Read the full press release.
ASCD Publishes Leadership Guide on Transforming Any Teacher into a Master—ASCD is pleased to announce the release of Never Underestimate Your Teachers: Instructional Leadership for Excellence in Every Classroom by best-selling education author, renowned educator, and professional development expert Robyn R. Jackson.
Never Underestimate Your Teachers offers school leaders a new model for understanding great teaching as a combination of skill and will, and it's the first book of its kind to support leaders as they facilitate teacher growth in both areas through differentiated leadership. Jackson shows readers how to design and deliver targeted professional development to help each teacher realize his or her potential and achieve great results for the benefit of every student. Read the full press release.
New ASCD Common Core Academy Supports School Leadership Teams Across the United States—ASCD is bringing its inaugural ASCD Common Core Leadership Team Academy to Chicago August 5–8, 2013. This intensive four-day professional leadership experience offers groups of administrators, teacher leaders, and nonprofit and higher education partners an accelerated plan for putting the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) into routine practice. Read the full press release.
ASCD Summer Reading List Identifies 10 Books That Can Transform Teaching and Learning—In the spirit of promoting year-round professional development, ASCD has assembled a diverse list of books essential to educators who seek to improve their practice over the summer months. These books—organized by how they help educators transform teaching and learning—offer readers the opportunity to dive deep into the hottest topics in education, including using data to focus improvement, project-based learning, child development, and neurodiversity. All books are currently available in paperback and e-book formats. Read the full press release.
Arkansas Governor Beebe Signs Education Reform Law Supporting the Whole Child—Arkansas Governor Michael Beebe has signed a new bill into law that promotes a well-rounded whole child approach to educating the state’s children.“An Act to Establish the Whole Child– Whole Community Recognition Program; and for Other Purposes” (Senate Bill 1051[PDF]) outlines a plan for the Arkansas education system that ensures Arkansas students receive a whole child education. Read the full press release.
New ASCD Staff Expand Association’s Ability to Design, Deliver, and Evaluate Professional Development Resources—ASCD welcomes three new staff members to the association’s Program Development Work Group. Dr. Andrea Muse has accepted the position of director of research and program evaluation, Jen Thompson will serve as director of program management and process improvement, and Elizabeth Thurman has joined ASCD as director of customer engagement and product support. The additions of Muse, Thompson, and Thurman expand ASCD’s capability to design, deliver, and evaluate the crucial professional development resources today’s educators need to learn, teach, and lead. Read the full press release.
What is the most important factor that contributes to student success? Teaching.
At WriteSteps, we realize the importance of integrating technology into elementary classrooms. Students have higher motivation, immediate access to quality instructional materials, and increased engagement. Utilizing technology in your classroom also prepares young students with the skills necessary to succeed in our technology driven lifestyles. Technology provides teachers like you with an unlimited wealth of resources and tools to teach and expand your knowledge; there is no limit to the resources you can use to help your students in today’s information age!
We also know teaching writing can sometimes be a challenge. And when you aren’t inspired, neither are your students! Our new animated video highlights the benefits of using eWriteSteps: it saves time and makes teaching writing and grammar easier. Check it out!
Attention to sociocultural capital in High-Performing High-Poverty Schools (HP2S) helps teachers understand where marginalized students are coming from. Teachers who share a sociocultural identity with students in the school may increase achievement in marginalized students (Chu Clewell & Campbell, 2007). Regardless of the focus on AYP in reading and math, ultimately, education is “the process of cultural transmission” (Rury, 2005, p. 10). The cultural resources imparted to students become capital “when they function as a ‘social relation of power’ by becoming objects of struggle as valued resources” (Swartz, 1997, p. 43). Cultural capital has a positive effect on all educational outcomes (Dumais, 2005). Acting as a resource for social power is why sociocultural capital is hoarded from marginalized groups by the dominant class. The power connected to cultural capital is a valuable resource “intersect[ing] with all aspects of cultural life” (p. 286). Bourdieu’s studies into capital have led him to believe that schools act as the main gatekeepers to capital giving the dominant class access to status, privilege, and symbolic power. “Schools offer the primary institutional setting for the production, transmission, and accumulation of various forms of cultural capital” (Swartz, 1997, p. 189) making restriction to capital through education a likely abuse by the privileged who already control education policy and practice (Nesbit, 2006). Even some reformers intent on social justice follow the dominant class way of thinking, valuing the expertise of professionals and managers over the working class, which presumes that “knowledge deficits” in the working class may be overcome through greater effort to move closer to dominant ideology (Livingstone & Sawchuk, 2005).
A long-term view of student success by educators recognizes that students are not blank slates waiting to be filled, but “are the products of many years of complex interactions with their family of origin and cultural, social, political, and educational environments” (Kuh et al., 2007, p. 5). The combined SES of students in the school along with differences in sociocultural capital is an important factor in student performance. The resulting push for accountability has narrowed education’s view of what schools should be doing down to reading, math, and science (Henig et al., 1999; Kuh et al., 2007; Rury, 2005).
Schools are middle class institutions where teachers have high levels of middle class sociocultural capital and reward students who have it, but may consciously or subconsciously discriminate against students who do not. When teacher and student capital is congruent, the performance of marginalized students is more likely to benefit. Popular society and specialists transmit values about the best way to raise children which is generally followed by middle class society aligning them with the beliefs of educational institutions. Working class parents are slower to change child-rearing practices to dominant practice keeping them out of sync with the school’s perception of the ideal home environment influencing teacher perception of the child and the child’s home life (Dumais, 2005; Lareau, 2003; Nesbit, 2006; Chu Clewell & Campbell, 2007).
The test scores of marginalized students would currently be lower if schools had not already been making progress at reducing the disadvantages of family educational background and SES previous to the passage of NCLB (Henig et al., 1999). Educational leaders, principals in particular, use an understanding of “cultural, social, and the promise of economic capital” to bring competing groups and individuals together to find common goals and shift marginalized interests to the center by “mutual choice” (Watkins & Tisdell, 2006, p. 156). Schools tap into a sense of agency in communities to bring about mutual choice to move toward federal goals, otherwise mandates like NCLB will ultimately get nowhere (Cohen & Ball, 1999, p. 23). Different forms of capital, but sociocultural capital in particular, can operate as lenses principals use to view particular educational contexts. A lens of the middle-class, white norm limits a school’s responsiveness to cultural capital possessed by students (Machtinger, 2007; Swartz, 1997).
Learning capacity is equivalent to intellectual capital (Livingstone & Sawchuk, 2005). All forms of capital are resources “that can be drawn on for social advancement” (Rury, 2005, p. 13). Bourdieu, one of the world experts on capital, believes there are four basic types of capital: economic, cultural, social, and symbolic with economic capital being the most important form in the United States followed by cultural (Swartz, 1997). While school cannot provide students with economic capital, schools can help students develop the other types of capital. Incongruence between the amount and type of capital students possess and the forms of capital valued in the school community can cause problems for the student (Kennedy et al., 2006).
Cultural capital has been defined in numerous ways. Church (2005) quotes Nieto’s definition of culture as
the ever-changing values, traditions, social and political relationships, and worldview created, shared, and transformed by a group of people bound together by a combination of factors that include a common history, geographic location, language, social class, and religion…Culture is dynamic; multi-faceted; embedded in context, influenced by social, economic, and political factors; created and socially constructed; learned; and dialectical (p. 48).
Or in other words: highly complex. Cultural capital comes in an objectified form such as works of art, an embodied form based in an appreciation and understanding of objectified cultural capital, and institutionalized form found in educational credits and degrees. Cultural capital is a resource used to gain or maintain power and privilege. Based on the assumption that certain attitudes, behaviors, and values are more admired and rewarded in society than others, dominant forms of cultural capital give students who possess them an advantage over marginalized students (Dumais, 2005; Rury, 2005).
Cultural capital, within the school setting, is the embodiment of the previous experience and learning of a community of people and influences how students accumulate, exchange, and utilize resources they gain from the school. Culture can be verbal facility, general cultural awareness, aesthetic preferences, scientific knowledge, and educational credentials and becomes a power source. Objectified cultural capital such as books, art, scientific instruments, and other tools require cultural abilities to use which can impact student engagement and parent involvement (Cohen & Ball, 1999; Stacey, 1996; Swartz, 1997). Parent access to the educational setting is also mediated by their personal experiences with school and other education-related institutions. In theU.S., where the dominant culture is not as strong as in other countries, cultural capital benefits both students from privileged backgrounds and all students who possess it allowing for “cultural mobility”. As cultural capital is distributed unevenly by society, schools make important decisions based on capital they have or capital they are trying to get which can be attributed to school failure as opposed to the limitations of individuals (Dumais, 2005; Lee & Bowen, 2006; Nasir & Hand, 2006; Schaughency & Ervin, 2006).
Coleman expands cultural and human capital theories into social capital which is a “community-based support-system network” that is context specific and has the two common elements of social structures and facilitation of individual and group actions within those structures. Social capital is a network of individual human capital. This view seems too limiting to the richness of cultural capital as described by Bourdieu (Musial, 1999). Social capital is the benefit derived from social networks and organizations including relationships within family and community that generates trust and schema to increase the capacity for collaboration (Dumais, 2005; Farmer-Hinton & Adams, 2006; Lee & Bowen, 2006; Rury, 2005; Zacharakis & Flora, 2005). Agents in the form of individuals and class will “struggle for social distinction” in a form of self-organization (Swartz, 1997). In this light, capital seems destined to be reproduced as “the quality of education children receive is directly related in part to the ability of parents to generate social capital” (Noguera, 2004, p. 2155).
Obviously, the forms of cultural, social, human, and economic capital are often interrelated. Cultural capital intersects with social capital to give agents more influence. This intersection means agency cannot be separated from the social and cultural contexts within the global environment in which it occurs. While social capital can be a means to a desirable end, the dominant class will most often prevail as they possess more capital (Lattuca, 2002; Lee & Bowen, 2006; Watkins & Tisdell, 2006).
More simply, “culture can be thought of as a set of behavioral characteristics or traits that are typical of a social group” (Rury, 2005, p. 9). The social setting is an organization of networks between social positions where dominant and marginalized groups compete for control of resources. Capital is specific to setting and does not exist without it. The education system reproduces social inequity where the possession of cultural capital leads to academic success. The most valuable form of capital in school is cultural capital congruent with capital valued within that particular school’s social setting (Dumais, 2005).
Whereas the social-constructivist perspective makes a distinction between the individual cognitive activities and the environment in which the individual is present, the socio-cultural perspective regards the individual as being part of that environment. Accordingly, learning cannot be understood as a process that is solely in the mind of the learner…Knowledge, according to this perspective, is constructed in settings of joint activity…Learning is a process of participating in cultural practices, a process that structures and shapes cognitive activity (De Laat & Lally, 2003, p. 14).
Nasir and Hand (2006) explain this complex interaction of social and cultural capital within specific environments as proof that educators need to attend to fostering agency in students’ focus on local problems. The number of students bringing middle class capital with them to school is decreasing and the number of students bringing sociocultural capital from the lower classes is increasing. “As in any demographic switch, the prevailing rules and policies eventually give way to the group with the largest numbers” (Payne, 2001, p. 79).
Engrained dispositions from previous experience can sub- or un-consciously limit student success. Called “habitus”, these dispositions provide the opportunity to mitigate cultural predispositions by structuring school situations and interactions with positive models and diversity-oriented experiences (Kuh et al., 2007). However, the concept of habitus does not account for the complexity and variety of hopes and dreams of different groups. Humanity is too varied and complex to be perfectly categorized into any model, but habitus does give a vocabulary to talk about how dominant and marginalized groups may be socialized starting at a young age. “Habitus…privileges the basic idea that action is governed by a ‘practical sense’ of how to move in the social world. Culture is a practical tool used for getting along in the social world” (Swartz, 1997, p. 115). Habitus is a collection of cultural habits.
Field is the social setting organized around types and combinations of capital which habitus operates. Schools act as a field for the competitive investment, exchange, and accumulation of various forms of capital (Swartz, 1997). Struggling within a local environment, schools should reflect the shifting community field. “Education clearly affects the course of social development, and schools reflect the influence of their immediate social context” (Rury, 2005, p. 1).
Schools are viewed as vehicles for individual social and economic mobility. The education field itself provides mobility of cultural capital for low SES/marginalized groups and is often one of few examples children and community members have of mobility and opportunity. This perception itself may create the reproduction of limited mobility in marginalized groups. In truth, some schools value cultural knowledge while others are more forgiving (Dumais, 2005; Henig et al., 1999; Johnson et al., 2000).
Empowerment of marginalized communities is collective, not individual. In order to realize change in the face of limited resources, communities rely on social capital for strength and agency. For school communities, this means that improved engagement can have profound consequences in improving achievement, agency, and equality (Schutz, 2006). Communalism helps build and accrue capital, generates “positive emotional energy”, and “may enhance motivation and engagement” (Seiler & Elmesky, 2007, p. 393). The social capital web is comprised of household, neighborhood, and school (Musial, 1999). But “working class peoples’ indigenous learning capacities…have been denied, suppressed, degraded or diverted within most capitalist schooling” (Livingstone & Sawchuk, 2005, p. 111). Overcoming cultural and historical differences “concerns activity and access to tools and mediated learning” (Portes, 2005, p. 176). Literacy, numeracy, and student well-being are practiced fluidly and dynamically across boundaries in social contexts. These pathways between family and community “need to be understood in out-of-home learning communities so that pedagogies, including assessment practices and the pedagogy of relationships can address the complexities related to children’s different life chances and ways of learning” (Kennedy et al., 2006, p. 16).
“Biological models of deficiency [such as the Bell curve have been] replaced by cultural deficit models” (Nasir & Hand, 2006, p. 451). Private and charter schools can stick to a particular ideology that does not have to concern itself with discipline, ideology, and related social problems. These schools are successful because the students who attend them possess congruent sociocultural capital. The success of private and parochial schools suggests these schools acting as self-organizing units self-organize around the sociocultural capital available within and surround them as opposed to the capital they possess being superior (Bower, 2006; Portes, 2005; Walk, 1998). Capacity becomes a non-issue in middle class schools because the ingredients for success already reside in the boundaries and pathways established within the school community.
One of my favorite arcade games is Whac-A-Mole. When you drop your token in the machine, you have a limited amount of time to ‘whac’ as many moles as you can. In the beginning of the game, one or two moles pop their heads up and it is fairly easy to hit each one. About twenty seconds into the game, the moles start popping up three at a time and when you smash a mole with the mallet it may pop up again.
Whac-A-Mole is similar to the daily routine of a principal. From the time you arrive at school in the morning until late in the evening, moles pop up. Your job is to address each mole and to prioritize which one is most important. In this article, I am going to describe the ‘Six Moles’ a principal must address in order to be a good leader.
Six Moles A Principal Must Address
Principals receive phone calls, emails, and face-to-face messages from families. If you work in the car rider line at an elementary school, a parent or grandparent may share a concern with you as they drop their child off at school. When you check your email, you may have an email from multiple families with a concern about something that happened the day before. There are times when a family member has a concern about something that is a district level concern, but it is the principal’s job to advocate for families and contact the central office or assist the family in navigating communication with the central office. Families are not ‘moles’, but concerns pop up frequently and the principal cannot ignore family concerns. It is not wise to ‘whac’ a family member, but the concern must be addressed.
A principal wears several hats and the instructional leadership hat is critical to the success of the school. If a principal is focused on email, returning phone calls, developing professional development, and attending meetings, he or she will not be able to focus on the main thing. When a principal visits classrooms for formal or informal observations, it helps him or her get a pulse for student achievement and curriculum implementation. A principal should be a coach, cheerleader, critical friend, and more! If a principal does not visit classrooms on a regular basis, then the school will not continue to grow. Instructional rounds cannot be something that a principal does when the ‘mole’ pops up. This important leadership role must be part of the principal’s regular schedule.
Student Discipline pops up unexpectedly. There may be a student issue on the bus ride to school. Students may have a dispute on the playground. A student may break a school rule on the way to the next class. Handling student discipline is one of the main roles of principal leadership. Teachers and staff assist with student discipline, but when this ‘mole’ pops its head up, the principal cannot ignore it and move to the next three moles that pop up. Some of you reading this article may be thinking, “If student discipline is a mole, then ‘whac’ it.” You cannot use a hammer to hit every problem. When you use the Whac-A-Mole approach to student discipline it means you handle the problems as they arise, rather than waiting for more problems to pop up.
One of the most challenging ‘moles’ for a principal is email. If you sit at your desk from 8:00 am – Noon, you will see multiple moles pop up on your screen. More building principals are carrying a personal or school assigned smart phone on their hip. At one point, it was easy to avoid email because you could walk away from the computer. Principals have the ability to check email in the hallway, in meetings, while they are off campus, at home, and any time day or night. If principals focus on each email as it pops up then they will get distracted and miss out on other important leadership duties. Email is a great analogy to the game Whac-A-Mole. When you reply to email it continues to pop up. Time management is important and Whac-A-Mole Leadership involves more than whacking each email, hoping to bop all of the ‘email moles.’
Leading professional development is important. When a school staff stops learning, they stop growing. It is easy for principals to spend several hours developing a video, presentation, or hands-on learning activity. Quality professional development requires planning, learning goals, and materials. Principals are wise to develop a teacher leadership team who can assist with professional development. This will allow the principal to have a role in leading professional development, without having to plan the entire session. This year, our school has conducted professional development on the Six Instructional Shifts (Common Core State Standards), Technology Integration, Literacy, and School Safety. If the principal ignores professional development, then it may not happen. However, a building principal cannot sit in the office and develop every PD, while ignoring other ‘moles’ throughout the school.
Communication is an important responsibility and it cannot be ignored. Principals need to communicate through the school website, email, newsletters, video, blogs, face-to-face meetings, PTA meetings, Coffee Hour, phone calls, and informal meetings in the parking lot. Principals need to be intentional about communication. Principals need to communicate with classroom teachers through classroom observations, email, blog, faculty meetings, notes, and informal meetings. A principal could spend his or her entire day developing communication documents or preparing a speech for the next meeting. It is important to see communication as a mole that you ‘whac’, but also as something you plan for. If you are not communicating and marketing the great things about your school, then who is marketing your school? You cannot afford to let the ‘communication mole’ pop its head up too many times.
Whac-A-Mole Leadership is a humorous way to describe the day of a principal. We can all laugh and relate to the moles that pop up throughout the day. You can probably describe several more moles that principals must address if you reflect on your past week. “Leaders are usually distinguished by their ability to think big. But when their focus shifts, they suddenly start thinking small. They micro manage, they get caught up in details better left to others, and they become consumed with the trivial and unimportant. And to make matters worse, this tendency can be exacerbated by an inclination toward perfectionism” (Sanborn, M.). If the goal of leadership becomes whacking the next mole, we may miss the most important things. Stephen Covey shared the Leadership Matrix (as shared by Michael Hyatt, Intentional Leadership). Principals must ask, “Is this mole important and urgent?” or “Is this mole urgent, but not important?” As the moles pop up at your school, I wish you the best. Keep whacking moles, but make certain you are focused on the right mole.
When I first became a teacher in Ontario, Canada, we were evaluated once a year by a Superintendent of Education who flew in from Toronto to evaluate teacher performance against expectations contained in a small grey book. We were made aware of the date and time of their visit and were expected to teach a lesson upon their arrival. We coached our students to look engaged in the lesson and folklore has it that some teachers even told their students to raise their right hand if they knew the answer and their left if they didn't. Hence, all appeared to be engaged. The Superintendent also evaluated the "climate" of the classroom. In those days, this was reduced to checking the thermostat, the consistency of the level of the blinds and the general tidiness of the room. This evaluation obviously had no impact on teacher development or student learning.
How things have changed! Ontario now has a comprehensive teacher evaluation system which is an integral part of a continuum of professional learning that supports effective teaching. The goals of the Teacher Performance Appraisal (TPA) System are to:
Teachers and principals are partners in the process which focuses on the continuous improvement of teaching practices. The process is different for beginning and experienced teachers as well as for those experiencing difficulty and those with a strong record of performance. In consultation wtih principals, teachers create an Annual Learning Plan that focuses on areas in which they can continuously improve. As a principal, I guided my teachers to set routine, creative, problem solving and personal growth goals. They would then develop action plans for each goal and I would be engaged in ongoing support and follow up discussions.
The vision of the TPA System is that every teacher in publicly funded education reaches his or her potential. When this is achieved, our students will also reach their potential. WIthout a focus on continuous improvement relative to comprehensive quality standards, our schools will be stuck at meeting minimal standards on standardized tests and will not begin to address important issues such as personalization through learning styles and brain research; creating safe and caring cultures, climates and communities; reducing bullying; and simply making a difference.
School districts currently spend approximately 10% of their budget on staff development and evaluation. This is a lot of money. Too much of it is spent far removed from the relationships in the classroom and the school. Teacher evaluation systems too often get out of hand. A recent on-line discussion group asked the question of whether we should bring in outside experts to "do" teacher evaluations in order to free up some of the principal's time for more important things. This would be a huge step backwards. There is nothing more important for a princpal to do than develop his or her staff to meet their full potential. Only then will our students be getting the personalized, supportive education they need.
We need elegant teacher evaluation systems that focus on what is important in promoting meaningful student learning and development as human beings. This is what matters. This is priceless!
In his blog post on The Qualities of an Effective Teacher: No. 4—An Effective Teacher is Tireless, Jake Hollingsworth argues that “good” teachers understand that they will work long hours and have no care for the fact that students neither realize or appreciate the number of those hours.
I respectfully disagree.
Mirror Site: Joyful Collapse.
This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “how do we define and measure teacher and principal effectiveness?” To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum.
Effective teaching is hard to measure, and so we face a conundrum. We know that any assessment of teaching effectiveness must be based on multiple data sources, but the data sources we have are all imperfect. Student growth measures, standardized test scores, classroom observation tools, student surveys- who among us would argue that any of these, or even all of these taken together, give us a completely accurate picture of teacher effectiveness?
Even though our existing measures aren’t perfect, they are the best we have and they can be informative when used wisely. As a profession, we must face two indisputable facts. First, some teachers are better than others. And second, school leaders are responsible for the quality of teaching in classrooms. So, assess effectiveness we must.
Two Approaches to Avoid
One misguided but common approach to this problem is to ignore the value of existing measurement tools, assuming that because they are imperfect they are not helpful. Many teachers are evaluated based on one or two cursory observations by an administrator, who then completes a vague checklist and conducts a hurried conference with the teacher as part of the “end-of-year checkout”. The teacher learns nothing, the data mean little, but the paperwork is done; and it is assumed that the administrator “just knows” the quality of teaching and learning taking place in the classroom. The assessment is a judgment call informed by little or no reliable data.
Equally problematic is the opposite extreme, in which a complicated spreadsheet or database uses numeric formulae to render a score based on several data points- observation ratings, student growth calculations, and others. These data often come largely from measures that have not been validated, using practices that render the scores unreliable. Still, the score is the score and can’t be questioned. The professional judgment of the administrator, who is accountable for teaching quality, counts for nothing.
To bring common sense to this equation, there are two things we can do. First, we should apply both good science and common sense to the selection and implementation of measures. Second, we should use the data from those measures wisely, in ways that both inform and strengthen teacher practice.
Essential Elements of Classroom Observation
Classroom observation systems are at the heart of most assessments of teacher effectiveness, and here we know what works. Here are three essential elements of a classroom observation system that will generate useful data and help leaders leverage that data to positively impact teacher practice.
Element 1: A validated observation measure. It is important to ensure, using findings from quality research, that the observation will capture the practices that drive student learning. Time spent checking boxes and rating behaviors that may or may not impact learning is time wasted. Our profession knows quite a bit about effective teaching that we did not know twenty or even ten years ago. We must take a careful and critical look at classroom observation measures and ask the essential question: “Do we have evidence that higher ratings on this measure lead to better outcomes for students?”
Element 2: Reliable results. Even the most well-designed observation measure will only yield fair and trustworthy results if the measure is used reliably. Observers must be well trained and should be required to meet criteria periodically through reliability testing. The number of observations and the number of observers also affects reliability. Evidence indicates that the most reliable results come from averaging multiple observations by multiple observers (see the findings of the Measures of Effective Teaching Project at www.metproject.org).
Element 3: Useful feedback. Teachers want and need feedback in order to continuously improve their practice. Too often, they leave post-observation conferences with a checklist or score but little real information. Teachers’ and observers’ own perceptions of a lesson are a valuable part of a post-observation conversation, and a starting point for reflective thinking. To complete the picture, teachers also deserve explicit feedback regarding behaviors observed that are more effective and less effective in promoting student learning. When reliable data from an evidence-based observation measure are available, then feedback can be targeted and actionable. Professional development and coaching activities should be closely aligned to this feedback. This way, teachers receive support in improving the elements of their practice that will have the greatest impact on student learning in their classroom.
In the high-stakes world of teacher evaluation, we must remind ourselves that the most important aim of observation and evaluation is not rating teachers, but strengthening teaching and learning. Classroom observation systems may never be perfect, but they should be solid. It is absolutely reasonable to expect the observation process to be fair to all teachers, feasible for schools to implement, and to generate data that makes a difference for students.
Common Core = Common Sense
As many of us have seen, the predominant literature in many educational publications recently has been about the Common Core, and most specifically, around ELA and non- fiction texts. As I prepare to enter my 20th year in education, I am astounded by the groups which continue to promote the “pendulum effect” for our teachers. Those would be the extremists that cry, “All reading in the Common Core era must be non-fiction, no more fictional texts”.
I wonder if some of us have lost the good judgment which led us to be educators to begin with. Do we really think that the Common Core is advocating for not engaging in fictional texts with students? Will our students get the education they deserve when we make radical departures from what we know best meets student needs?
As a young educator and teacher, I read the book, Touch Magic by Jane Yolen. In her book, Jane wrote a collection of essays about how important traditional and imaginative stories are for children, and why. I will never forget how I felt when I put that book down after reading it. I was sad at that time, thinking about the loss of mythological knowledge our children were suffering from, specifically at the hands of missed curricular opportunities. When I say missed curricular opportunities, I mean the absence of coordinated curriculum which would ensure that our students got a well-rounded education. Curricular opportunities where robust teaching would provide them the opportunity to engage in a variety of texts that would not only satisfy their curiosity about how the world works in non-fiction texts, but those lessons learned about how the world works in myths, folk-tales, fairy tales, and fables. If you were a student that was lucky enough to have a teacher that provided both non-fiction texts and fictional texts, it was like winning the educational lottery.
I was delighted many years later as an administrator to see the implementation of Common Core standards as a way to ensure that children had consistent, predictable experiences in English Language Arts that would provide them a strong foundation in both reading and writing. I continue to be excited about those opportunities, yet, I am concerned about the extremists that whisper in the ear of teachers, harkening them to listen to their slanted views of the Common Core and what that means for our children.
Have we lost the common sense and good judgment that is needed to provide students with a well-rounded education? The Common Core does not say that students should be denied fictional literature. The underlying premise of the Common Core standards in reading is that students are well rounded and exposed to a variety of literature that will lead to their success. That success lies in teachers and administrators using good judgment and reasonable interpretation of the Common Core standards for reading. Our work should not be about the OR, meaning non-fiction OR fiction, but rather the AND, quality fiction AND non-fiction texts, coupled with great teaching about how to navigate and interpret those texts. And dare I say, shouldn’t we also provide students the opportunity to read books for enjoyment. Shouldn’t we allow them to read about insects, and space exploration, and also about the Fox and the Crow, and Little Red Riding Hood?
Isn’t there room to help students learn how to navigate texts that are rich in information, and also those that provide other information, such as the importance of listening to one’s parents, or lessons learned by venturing out too far in the world, or learning a morale when faced with a dilemma?
In her book Touch Magic, Jane Yolen noted that;
“One of the basic functions of myth and folk literature is to provide a landscape of allusion. With the first story a child hears, he or she takes a step toward perceiving a new environment, one that is filled with quests and questers, fated heroes and fetid monsters, intrepid heroines and trepid helpers, even incompetent oafs who achieve competence and wholeness by going out and trying.”
For those people perpetuating the pendulum swing once more in a totally opposite direction from what is intended by the Common Core, I hope they regain their “common sense” around what the Common Core can do for our children, and what we owe our children through good teaching, the use of common sense, and what will provide them with a well-rounded, rich experience with both non-fiction and fiction texts.
Our children will only get the education they need and deserve when the adults teaching them realize the value of balance, patience, and common sense.
Thomas Martellone, Ed.S
Artwork taken from Snow White and Red Riding Hood, Trina Schart Hyman
In an article titled Five Characteristics of Highly Productive Logistics and Operations Teams, the author wrote “For those with jobs in logistics or transportation jobs, productivity is a word we’ve all heard too often.” High performing logistics and operations teams have determined ways to increase efficiency, communication, and the quality of service to customers. In the same way, educators have started to operate as a Professional Learning Community. According to Mike Schmoker, productivity “starts with a group of teachers who meet regularly as a team to identify essential and valued student learning, develop common formative assessments, analyze current levels of achievement, set achievement goals, share strategies, and then create lessons to improve upon those levels” (Schmoker, 2005, p. xii). It’s Logistics.
In a video titled Logistics: It’s Only A to B, Right? it is evident that world class logistics require a clear set of steps to happen “in a very choreographed manner.” Are schools intentional about their work or do they still allow each teacher to operate as a freelance contractor? “Schooling at its best reflects a purposeful arrangement of parts and details, organized with deliberate intention, for achieving the kinds of learning we seek." (Wiggins & McTighe, 2007). It’s Logistics.
I am struck by the following quote – “The school leaders who embrace, design and implement customer-driven systems will be the ones who thrive in the future” (Toothman, 2004). What does a customer-driven system look like in the field of education? Rick DuFour (2011) answered this question: “Schools committed to higher levels of learning for both students and adults will not be content with the fact that a structure is in place to ensure that educators meet on a regular basis. They will recognize that the question, ‘What will we collaborate about,” is so vital that it cannot be left to the discretion of each team’” (p. 61). It’s Logistics.
Your elementary school may not ship packages across the globe on a daily basis. You may not unpack shipments when they arrive, but you should unpack standards. When you move students from middle school to high school, you won’t have an airline, eighteen wheeler, train, or moving van. The logistics that you deal with are people and those people will eventually impact the world. As a Professional Learning Community ask the nine questions that guide the work of a high performing team (Solution Tree Reproducible). Consider your school a Regional Distribution Center. The packages are passing through, but you have an important role to play! In logistics, employees try to eliminate lost profits. In education, the goal is to increase the number of students who graduate college and career ready and eliminate the number of dropouts. It’s logistics.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your To-Do List: Action Items for ASCD Leaders
The ASCD Forum Has Begun
For the first time, ASCD is hosting a forum to focus on a topic of importance to educators across the globe. Nations, states, and provinces all around the world are grappling with the issue of educator effectiveness. ASCD invites all educators to make their voices heard in an ongoing discussion of the question, “How do we define and measure teacher and principal effectiveness?” The current discussion theme is:
Educator Preparation (February 3–16): What is the role and responsibility of educator preparation programs to foster and sustain effectiveness?
Upcoming themes include:
The ASCD Forum concludes April 12. To join the conversation, educators are invited to blog on ASCD EDge®social network, comment on other blog posts, take a survey, and attend a live session at ASCD Annual Conference. Results from the ASCD Forum conversations will inform the ASCD Board of Directors’ position development process. To learn more about the ASCD Forum, join the ASCD Forum group on ASCD EDge or contact email@example.com.
ASCD Releases 2013 Legislative Agenda
ASCD’s 2013 Legislative Agenda (PDF) urges Congress to immediately reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and replace it with a comprehensive rewrite that fixes the current law’s flaws; aligns with and supports current state and local initiatives; and guides revisions to other federal programs, such as special education and career and technical education.
The legislative agenda, developed by ASCD members and recently released at ASCD’s Leadership Institute for Legislative Advocacy (LILA) in Washington, D.C., offers three key policy recommendations to Congress as part of any ESEA reauthorization. Together, the recommendations advance the goal of educating students who are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged, and who graduate ready for the demands of college, careers, and citizenship.
As part of LILA, ASCD educator advocates from across the country discussed these recommendations with their federal lawmakers on Capitol Hill. We ask you to build on their work by sharing the 2013 Legislative Agenda (PDF) with your colleagues and elected officials.
Alabama Featured in ASCD Inservice Blog Series
ASCD asked some of our affiliate leaders to tell us how the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has been going in their home states. In the fourth post of the series, Alabama ASCD Executive Director Jane Cobia writes about the challenges and successes that Alabama has had with CCSS implementation.
ASCD Leaders to Ignite ASCD Annual Conference
With the tagline “Enlighten us, but make it quick,” Ignite presentations are a fast-paced, breathtaking, and inspiring way to share stories. Each presentation is 20 slides long, and each slide automatically advances every 15 seconds; this format keeps the presentations moving quickly. The following ASCD leaders will present their Whole Child stories in Ignite session format at ASCD Conference on Saturday, March 16:
Please join us for an exciting Saturday afternoon session from 1:00–2:30 p.m.!
Join the ASCD Forum Conversation
The ASCD Forum has begun, and you’re invited to be a part of it! Check out these ASCD EDge posts on teacher and principal effectiveness:
Throughout February at wholechildeducation.org: Safe Schools
Safety is and always will be a fundamental concern for schools. Students who aren’t or don’t feel safe at school cannot learn, and schools must ensure that their environments are both secure and supportive. The current debate on school safety brings with it a renewed interest in addressing safety, school climate, and mental health concerns at schools and promises to improve school policy and practice.
Yet while the current debate has engaged the nation in community-wide discussions, it also has the potential to overlook the voice of educators. Join us throughout February as we look at what educators (teachers, administrators, and counselors) believe is crucial to making our schools safe—not just physically safe, but safe places to teach and learn. What can educators do to implement and reinforce the conditions for learning where students are physically and emotionally safe; learn to manage their emotions and relationships positively; and are connected to the school, community, and caring adults?
Opportunity to Learn, Teach, and Lead
What does it mean to be a teacher, a learner, and a leader in today’s schools and classrooms? What do we need to be effective? How will the current standards movement affect us, as professionals, and our students? How do we find the answers to these questions? Read more on the Whole Child Blog.
In December and January, we looked at what we can do to implement the Common Core standards within a whole child approach. Listen to the Whole Child Podcast with guests Arnold Fege, president of Public Advocacy for Kids; Craig Mertler, professor and dean of the Ross College of Education at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.; and David Griffith, director of public policy at ASCD, who leads the development and implementation of ASCD’s legislative agenda (PDF) as well as ASCD’s efforts to influence education decision making at the local, state, and federal levels.
Have you signed up to receive the Whole Child Newsletter? Read January’s 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.
The Time Is Now: Make the Case for Educating the Whole Child
Whether you are a parent, educator, or community member, you can help turn political rhetoric about “investing in the future of our children” into reality. Updated with crucial research and real-world examples of education policies and practices that ensure students are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged, Making the Case for Educating the Whole Child (PDF) is a free advocacy tool that you can use as you work with policymakers, the media, and other groups. You can also add your local statistics and success stories so that decision makers in your community understand the difference a whole child education can make. Learn more.
Something to Talk About
· Results-Only Learning the Subject of Pioneering Educator Mark Barnes’s New ASCD Book—ASCD is pleased to announce the release of Role Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom by Mark Barnes, 20-year classroom teacher and creator of the Results Only Learning Environment (ROLE). In this groundbreaking book, Barnes walks middle and high school teachers through the fundamentals of a ROLE. Results-only learning eliminates traditional practices—homework, worksheets, tests, and even grades—and replaces them with student-driven, yearlong projects that enable students to sharpen and expand their skills. Read the full press release.
· Pinellas County Schools and ASCD Partner to Support Common Core Implementation—The award-winning Pinellas County Schools (PCS) has chosen ASCD as its newest professional development partner. The seventh largest school system in Florida, PCS serves 104,000 preK–12th grade students in more than 145 schools. Read the full press release.
· ASCD Releases 2013 Legislative Agenda—ASCD released its 2013 legislative agenda (PDF). Developed by the association’s Legislative Committee, which is a diverse cross-section of ASCD members representing the entire spectrum of K–12 education, the 2013 ASCD Legislative Agenda outlines the association’s federal public policy priorities for the year. The key priority for ASCD and its members in 2013 is the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Read the full press release.
· ASCD Introduces the New PD QuickKit—ASCD introduces the new PD QuickKit® digital packs. PD QuickKits are a cost-effective, powerful new professional development option that combines engaging multimedia resources focused on the most important issues in education today. Read the full press release.
Guided reading is a cornerstone practice in a classroom that aims to deliver balanced literacy instruction. This small group instructional practice enables teachers to observe student reading behaviors: how the reader engages with text and how the reader processes text. Often, guided reading involves a lesson framework that includes selecting text, providing a supportive book introduction, whisper reading the text, discussing and responding to the text. Teachers select a text that aligns with the students instructional reading level.
In recent years, guided reading instruction has grown increasingly dependent on the use of leveled text. Book rooms have been filled with a range of text levels that teachers, students and even parents have come to use to classify a students reading ability. Somewhere along the way we have substituted our quality instructional compass that guides intentional responsive decision making, for reading levels and text gradients. Too often teachers administer a DRA assessment, determine a text level, find a corresponding text in the book room, and voila! Guided reading!
Enter the common core. Enter text complexity.
Teachers are now being asked to do guided reading a little differently. Skip the supportive book introduction, increase exposure to increasingly complex texts, and foster accountable talk through the use of text dependent questions.
This change has prompted a host of reactions across educational blogs (Shanahan on Literacy), in many professional journals ( The Reading Teacher), and countless lunchrooms.
But this sea change is less about guided reading and text levels and more about the importance of teacher knowledge and teacher expertise when it comes to instructional decision making.
Guided reading in the age of the Common Core continues to require small group instruction, ongoing assessment, use of text gradients, fluency probes, and an understanding of the reading process. None of that has changed. What has changed is the emphasis on text complexity and the need for all students to have equal access to grade level text and opportunity to engage with texts beyond their instructional level. Research has demonstrated that students who have had a steady diet of leveled text have limited opportunities to develop their academic vocabulary, and limited opportunity to develop background knowledge and hierarchical knowledge necessary to advance content literacy.
This shift requires that teachers hone their responsive teaching skills. It requires that we become experts in grouping our students, analyzing our assessments, and knowing our students reading behaviors and how they operate on text. That involves knowing lot more than a level. It involves teachers knowing the reader AND knowing the demands of the text we provide for our readers.
We need to become experts in intentional, responsive teaching. Intentional teaching means having an instructional focus for our guided reading lesson. It means teaching for strategy or skill use when reading connected text. It means intentionally teaching our students HOW to do a close reading. Responsive teaching means we have to have a repertoire of teaching moves that respond to reading behaviors our students demonstrate so that through our instructional language,we can help the reader problem solve on the run.
As we move toward understanding the role of text complexity in guided reading, we need to understand so much more than lexile levels and text gradients. We need to understand the readers we have in front of us, and the demands of the texts we choose for our guided reading lesson. And that means we have to engage in intentional, responsive teaching built on careful text selection. And that means knowing so much more than a lexile level!
Timelines have long been a popular visual tool for classroom presentations. But there are only so many Crayola-marker-on-poster-board timelines one teacher can take in a lifetime! We thought these five timeline generator apps were a great way to reinvent history by bringing technology into your classroom and providing a creative platform for students to present the past with the medium of the future.
Teach the past in a medium of the future: 5 timeline generator apps
Timeglider. They advertise their program as the GoogleMaps for time because Timeglider allows you and your students to create pan-able and zoom-able timelines using pictures, data, and a variety of spiffy formatting tools. The results are professional quality products which will enhance learning for both the creators and their viewers. This is also a great collaborative learning tool as students can work together—from their own homes—and can't use the excuse that someone didn't show up for the scheduled meeting time.
Tiki-Toki. Besides it's catchy name, Tiki-Toki is probably one of the more straight forward timeline apps for teachers we have seen. Plus, the multi-colored timeline dot visual is attractive and helps to keep the information from appearing too scattered.
Some of features that helped get Tiki-Toki on this list: it's simple to use, you can pull pictures from ample photo-hosting sites, it's interactive, and students can beef up their timelines by adding additional information/links into interactive text-boxes that are activated when you click on a dot or scroll over a timeline marker.
TimeToast. TimeToast will be a favorite for those students who prefer things as basic as possible. While at first glance, the app resembles a more traditional timeline, students can add multiple dots for the same point in time. TimeToast stacks them up. Then the presenter or the participants can scroll over each dot in order to read the information connected to it. This information can include visuals in addition to text. It's a more organized way for students to summarize the history of a focused theme, such as the History of Baseball example on TimeToast's homepage, in which there are bound to be same date/different year crossovers.
StatSilk. Infographic apps for teachers are starting to populate the web. Many of them involve some form of timeline generator as well—and StatSilk is one of them.
Formerly called StatWorld, we suggested this app in another blog, 5 Interactive Map Generator Apps for Teachers. This app has built-in stats from all over the, well, map. Users are able to create interactive maps and graphs which are connected to a specific timeline. It creates a more powerful visual to show examples of population expansions, technology growth, etc. across various geographic areas, to name some examples.
Dipity. While teachers may have the most fun with StatSilk, students will probably gravitate towards Dipity. Perhaps it's their catchy youth-oriented appeal, or the fact that it resembles Facebook and other social media-based platforms in its aesthetic. In fact, there are social media buttons up in the top right so students can easily share their creations with their social network. Either way, it's a fun, visually appealing, and socially savvy timeline builder that will probably be used for more than just your classroom.
Timelines used to be a two-dimensional event but today's timeline apps for teachers and students have revolutionized their presentation. Start using these timeline apps in the classroom, or begin teaching students how to use them for projects, and we bet some of your future presenters will be transporting the class into the fourth dimension.
This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “how do we define and measure teacher and principal effectiveness?” To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum, or join the ASCD Forum group on ASCD EDge.
ASCD Resources for Access and Equity:
· Teach Up for Excellence: Seven principles for creating classrooms that give students equal access to excellence, Educational Leadership, February 2012 (please note, this article is only available to ASCD members)
· Four Takes on Tough Times (see Efficiency and Equity section), Educational Leadership, December 2011
· Creating Excellent and Equitable Schools: Five schools show how to beat the odds for low-income students, Educational Leadership, May 2008.
Other Resources Regarding Access and Equity:
· Education and Urban Society, 2012: Varying Teacher Expectations and Standards: Curriculum Differentiation in the Age of Standards-Based Reform (abstract/summary)
“The development of academic standards in each state creates the context where common educational experiences and academic outcomes exist for all students regardless of the school they attend, the teacher they have, or the learning group placed. However, while the standards-based reform has the potential to ensure more equitable educational experiences for students, its impact can be compromised by the deficit beliefs that exist about low-income students and students of color and their families.”
· Journal of Urban Learning, Teaching, and Research, 2012: “Everything that's Challenging in My School Makes Me a Better Teacher”: Negotiating Tensions in Learning to Teach for Equity (PDF)
“This paper responds to the call for further inquiry into the experiences of graduates of urban focused teacher education programs. I present and analyze the experience of Mia, a White, monolingual English female who earned licensure in secondary social studies through a graduate-level, equity-focused teacher preparation program before accepting a position at a large, traditional diverse, underperforming, urban middle school. The paper explores how negotiating tensions in curriculum and intersections with colleagues in her school context contributes to her identity development with respect to culturally responsive, equity-oriented pedagogy.”
· Alliance for Excellent Education, 2011: Teacher and School Leader Effectiveness: Lessons Learned from High-Performing Systems. (PDF)
“For its examination of teacher effectiveness policies, the Alliance and SCOPE looked to Finland, Ontario, and Singapore. These jurisdictions have attracted a great deal of attention in United States education policy circles recently, and with good reason. Most significantly, they get good results: they are among the highest-performing jurisdictions in international tests of student achievement, and their results are among the most equitable in the world. The gaps between the lowest-performing and the highest-performing students in Finland, Ontario, and Singapore are much smaller than in the United States, and the average performance is quite high.”
· National Center for Educational Evaluation and Regional Assistance, 2011: Do Low-Income Students Have Equal Access to the Highest-Performing Teachers? NCEE Evaluation Brief. NCEE 2011-4016 (PDF)
“This brief describes the prevalence of highest-performing teachers in ten purposely selected districts across seven states. The overall patterns indicate that low-income students have unequal access, on average, to the district's highest-performing teachers at the middle school level but not at the elementary level. However, there is evidence of variation in the distribution of highest-performing teachers within and among the ten districts studied. Some have an under-representation of the highest-performing teachers in high-poverty elementary and middle schools. Others have such under-representation only at the middle school level, and one district has a disproportionate share of the district's highest-performing teachers in its high-poverty elementary schools.”
· Pursuing Equity in and through Teacher Education Program Admissions, Education Policy Analysis Archives, v19 n24 Aug 2011
“This case study investigated equity in teacher education admissions. Through document analysis and structured interviews with ten past or current members of the admissions committee in a large initial teacher education program in Ontario, we developed an understanding of equity in teacher education admissions as encompassing two foci: equity in admissions--that is, equity of access for applicants to the program--and equity through admissions--that is, equity of educational opportunity and outcomes for the children in the schools where the teachers trained by the programs will eventually teach. Our analysis illustrates the importance of recognizing both foci and the tensions between them.”
· National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality, 2010: Ensuring the Equitable Distribution of Teachers: Strategies for School, District, and State Leaders. (PDF)
“The brief contains the following information: (1) An explanation of the problem of inequitable teacher distribution; (2) An overview of school policies and practices that appear to contribute to equitable teacher distribution; (3) Strategies for school leaders to enhance teacher recruitment, hiring, and placement practices as well as improve working conditions; (4) Strategies for district leaders to enhance teacher recruitment, hiring, and placement practices as well as improve teacher compensation policies; (5) Strategies for state and federal leaders to facilitate district policymaking and build district capacity to support the equitable distribution of teachers; and (6) Resources to support leaders in promoting the equitable distribution of teachers.”
In thinking about access and equity, teacher effectiveness is at the core. How do we know that students have equitable access if we are not sure what constitutes an effective educator?
Many organizations strive to address this issue through the development of standards that define an effective teacher or principal:
Do these standards describe teacher and principal effectiveness?
These are only a handful of the organizations that have made an effort to define quality through a set of standards, and while there are similarities is common ground, they are far from identical. Can there be only one definition of effectiveness? Perhaps there are several: tell us what you think in the survey, and in the comments below!
Professional Development Days or Professional Learning Communities for Teachers
As a practicing teacher for many years, I have attended numerous professional development days. After sitting through many workshops on professional development, I am of the opinion that there is room for improvement and necessary changes that will be focused on teacher learning and improvement that will be beneficial to both the student and the teacher.
Beginning a day of professional development, much valuable time is wasted in registering and getting to know you games. After a long and formal introduction, a speaker presents a topic that as a teacher has no relevance to you in your current situation. Beginning teachers as well as older teachers have to listen to the same speaker. You endure the torture with your mind wandering on what you need to get done in your class and how best to reach all your students with varying abilities as the presentation does not meet your interest. Additionally, teachers’ professional growth remains the same and the students lose critical instructional time with their teacher. Many of the topics presented have no relevance to teachers’ situation as most times they do not have an input in the organization of activities nor the topics for presentation.
Professional development is paramount to the long term effectiveness of a teacher. Students as well as responsibilities change, more scrupulous standards are adopted and new researches and teaching methods are incorporated into teaching. As teachers, who need to meet the demands of this 21st century it is necessary to find means that will benefit both students and teachers. Hence, there is need for new and improved methods to reach the growing needs of students.
Professional learning communities are educators working together towards a shared purpose to enhance students’ learning. Teachers realize that the purpose of schools is for students to learn and the most important aspect in whether students’ learn is teaching quality. Teaching quality is therefore improved through professional and continuous learning. Here staff members understand the connection between learning with students in the classroom and learning with colleagues.
Teachers in professional learning communities interact socially and introduce multiple perspectives through reflection, collaboration, negotiation and shared ideas. They bring unique prior knowledge to the learning situation as they work together to create an ideal environment. Teachers prioritize students learning needs. They carefully look at students’ data and where they are performing well they celebrate students’ success. Conversely, particular attention is given to areas where students are not as successful. The teachers collectively take responsibility to learn new content, strategies, or approaches to increase their effectiveness in these problem areas.
Teachers who are members of professional learning communities benefit much more than teachers who attend professional development days. They accomplish more, they are more informed, they discover new and better methods to reach students and in the end both teachers and students benefit.
Based on my personal experience of professional development days as compared to my knowledge of professional learning communities, I am of the opinion that PLC would be more beneficial to students. PLCs main objective is not to ensure that students are taught, but to ensure that they learn. The shift is from focusing on teaching to focusing on learning. This paradigm shift has thoughtful suggestions for schools. PLC encourages teachers to work collaboratively, for the benefit of students. They share ideas and suggestions with each other for the benefit of students.
Teachers working as peers collaboratively fashion an ideal environment for a constructivist learning approach. This approach benefits students and teachers. Additionally as teachers work together to benfit students, they develop camaraderie, professional behavior and consistently increase their effectiveness through continous learning that would benefit both themselves and the students.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of real-life lessons for educational leaders, unfortunately many times separate from what we receive in methodology courses or workshops. As I was dropping my daughter off at preschool last week, I started reflecting on how just much of what is experienced during a normal day of life for toddlers is extraordinarily relevant for the work we do as adults. With that in mind, here are four lessons that we should readily learn from our youngest leaders:
We can’t learn everything from nursery school, but we can learn quite a bit. We must remember that for most of our students, they are closer in age to these toddlers than in many times, to ourselves. It stands to reason that what prepares our students for the microcosm of schooling can just as easily prepare them for the great big world out there.
No matter how much of an effort an instructor makes to deliver a quality assessment to a student, the feedback is of no use if the student does not read it. This is one of the more problematic issues in the feedback process to students, actually bringing learning to a complete stop for the individual because of a poor study habit. To address the issue, instructors can go one-to-one with students, but this can be time-consuming and exhaust resources. More to the point, the student may never make any progress simply because he or she has not taken the time to review the feedback the instructor has presented.
In teaching writing to students I have sometimes seen them toss evaluations into the trash rather than read them. Although not often has it happened, thank goodness, I have at times seen the essays and the accompanying feedback in the trash can nearest to my office, delivered just a few minutes back to the student in a conference. Once, a frustrated student threw a tantrum in front of me and then threw the essay into my own office trash can. Obviously, we did not see much improvement in the next essay assignment. I do what I can to help students not lose face, but sometimes a moment can be too overwhelming for them. By the way, if I see the assessment in the trash, I will pull it out, hoping the student will return for it once the moment fades.
While we can always improve our people skills with our students, I want here to offer one possible way to avoid the temper tantrums and perhaps even help those students who fail to read the assessments take the time to study the teacher’s comments. Perhaps too the students will realize the teacher is trying to help, not hinder, them. What can be useful, I think, is a pre-conference set of notes to the student. That is, signaling to the student that it is a good idea to make an appointment with the instructor over issues listed in the evaluation ahead of the actual conference seems a good idea.
A few years ago I saw a story where Purdue University had created what I call a “Stoplight Project” with color-coded messages to help lead students to success. The Purdue Signals Project mines data and includes color within the messages, using the metaphor of the stoplight – green to go, yellow for caution, and red to stop. The red stop sign also signals to students they need to schedule an appointment with the instructor. One of the elements I like very much about this system is that onus is placed upon the student to make the appointment, to take action. In addition, the student is already coming to the instructor for help with clarity about what will be discussed, and the “shock” of realizing an assignment or test is not up to standards is not delivered for the first time in the teacher-student conference.
Although the algorithms that Purdue University uses is not readily available to all educators, we non-Boilermaker faculty do have a few options. Taking my cues from the Signals Project (pun intended), I have included a variation upon the theme. Having seen value in the Purdue system, I have downloaded free clip art from the Microsoft collection. I actually discovered a green go sign and now include this in the assessment report to students for those essays I have evaluated as an A- or better. I also have downloaded a red stop sign and a yellow caution sign. Red is reserved for grades of D and F while yellow signals a grade of a B or C. If a student receives a red stop sign, a note to immediately make an appointment with the instructor is included, along with the reason for the conference request.
Other options are available at the free clip art service through Microsoft, as well as other online websites. The examples provided are what I use and are presented for consideration. In addition, I recommend not printing each color-coded assessment as this can become expensive. This should not be a problem, though, if delivered online to students.
While the color-coded system started as a way to signal to those students who need help, I also soon realized it was also helpful in moving students who do not need the help more quickly through the courses. I now allow the advanced students more options to work at their own pace. Some students have thus finished the course earlier than the final deadline, allowing me as an instructor more time to work with those students who need additional help.
In addition to delivering to students issues that need to be addressed, the color-coded signals also have helped me to improve my courses. For example, I recently have created a review unit that is not scored. This review unit highlights aspects of the essay where some of my writing students need more than others. It is focused mainly on the structure of the essay, including such topics as the introduction, thesis, conclusion, main body paragraph development, transition placement, and so on. The course discusses these elements as the units move forward. Now what I realized was missing in the past was one place where all of the basic elements of the essay could be housed. Thus, I can now send students to one unit where all of the basic issues of the essay are addressed. For example, many of the students have problems writing paragraphs. Now it is much easier to instruct them about the paragraph and also offer how this element fits into the essay as a part of the whole.
Given the success of the color-coded signals, I also have begun to include the colors on the rubrics I use to evaluate student work. For the essay rubrics, I start with green already highlighted as part of the scoring to save a few keyboard clicks. Yes, I am also an optimist. When necessary I then remove the green and use the corresponding yellow or red colors. I have only just started using the color codes on the rubrics, so I do not have much data to review in order to relate the effectiveness of the practice. I am here assuming that bringing into alignment the rubrics with the colors of the traffic signs sets up a mental reminder, nudging students to read the assessment more in-depth, keeping them out of the trash can, including the digital ones. In addition, the colors may perhaps at least flash before the students’ eyes even if they are in the process of tossing the evaluations, or in the case of online students merely only opening the assessment for a moment. I am doing what I can to grab the attention of the student who will only give moments to the feedback effort. Perhaps using color will help students to make better connections for improvement.