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There are a number of ways to work through assigned readings with our students, but we’ve always gravitated towards open-discussions. Though we prefer these over delivering lectures, seminar-style classrooms are not entirely unproblematic. Here are a few of the challenges we regularly encounter:
Recently, one of our colleagues told us about Highlighter, a free web application that actually addresses all of the challenges we mentioned above. Here’s how it works:
Highlighter lets teachers know exactly what sections of the course material is most engaging—or most confusing. Knowing this allows teachers to plan accordingly, clarify confusing sections, or expand on key concepts. No longer will you wonder if students have read the course material — now you’ll see they have highlighted, commented, shared and saved.
To learn more about Highlighter, you can watch a video by clicking here.
Deficit (noun): Inadequacy or insufficiency, an unfavourable condition or position, to be lacking or a shortage. From the Latin – it lacks
Developmental (noun): The act of developing from a simpler or lower to a more advanced, mature or complex form or stage
I received a call this morning from a teacher friend of mine. Claire is a second year out teacher who began her teaching career after a varied and wondrous life journey. Her life is a litany of success and achievement. She has been a nationally ranked gymnast, playwright, leader of transformational seminars, managed sales teams, mother, and carer. She rang me because she needed to talk to someone who understood the life of a teacher but was outside her school environment.
Claire felt that she was struggling at school. The school had asked her this year to step up to co-coordinate and rejuvenate English at a critical year level whilst taking on managing the school play and teach more classes. The school leadership team obviously thought a lot of Claire and her capabilities otherwise they would not have given her this opportunity. Claire’s challenges echo that of most teachers in the profession – the feeling that there is never enough time to get everything done that you need to do, let alone what others expect of you. Claire was currently experiencing her work as never being complete to her satisfaction, teaching as well as she would like to with a particular group, as well as having times of being overwhelmed. Much of her concern was self-talk about not being enough and that other staff members were judging her performance.
In my experience this is a common feeling amongst teachers. With the relentless day-to-day nature of education many teachers rarely have the time to neither reflect deeply nor acknowledge the progress they make each and every day. The feeling of needing to be constantly driven yet never enough is familiar to many. It is an experience of deficit – and I assert it is symptomatic of the paradigm in which education currently swims.
Recently in my work with a school to create supportive structures to empower and develop teachers I had a blinding insight about what we were actually trying to achieve – and it was far larger than I had anticipated and could explain why “performance” and “teacher evaluation” was resisted by many teachers.
Human beings, for the most part, live in a deficit paradigm. It is everywhere. It is in how we see ourselves, how we see the world, how the media portrays the world, in how politics is currently working, it is endemic in our schools. It is how companies sell us products, programs and desires. We aren’t doing enough, productive enough, rich enough, thin enough, smart enough, careful enough, etc. The recent viral Dove Real Beauty Sketches are a perfect example of how people see themselves from a deficit paradigm and the impact of that viewpoint.
Our education systems are then built upon this deficit thinking. We need to “improve” our schools. We need to “evaluate” or “appraise” our teachers and get rid of the bad ones and pay the good one’s more. Politicians use the language of deficit and impose deficit thinking models on schools and school systems. They look at other countries like Finland and Singapore through deficit eyes. If you just look at the language alone (e.g. ‘appraisal - the act of estimating or judging the nature or value of something or someone’) I am not surprised teachers and schools are resisting this thinking.
If you look at ANY high performing school, school system, team, organisation anywhere in the world, the paradigm that they operate from is one of nurturing, growing, building and development. This is not the language or viewpoint of deficit. There is nothing lacking but something to grow and nourish. Two recent TED talks by Rita Pierson and Sir Ken Robinson both point vividly to this.
Currently, we are immersed in a world of deficit and because of this we develop learning in schools from this mindset and we relate to one another from a deficit mindset. Our school structures hamper and hinder developmental thinking. Teachers need time to think, to reflect, to develop, to grow. Running from one class to another limits this. To improve performance in schools we must create structures for teachers to develop their own meta-cognition as a core part of being a teacher (or as I like to refer to them – master learner).
If we wish to create and transform the education system to unleash the potential of young people (and of ourselves) it is critical we create a developmental mindset and view the world through the eyes of “developing from a simpler or lower to a more advanced, mature or complex form or stage”. When something is developing it experiences stages of growth and stages of challenges. It needs to be nourished and watered and fed to grow.
The real battle we need to be fighting is one of context.
Inside a developmental paradigm there is empathy for the stage of development people are currently at. There is not judgement just an acknowledgment. It allows for acknowledgement of progress, and celebration. It realises there are muscles to build, and capacities to grow. In the realm of agriculture one does not judge the value of a plant and ask it to improve. We create an environment for it to flourish and grow. That is what we are actually trying to do with students and staff in schools – aren’t we? In fact, I assert that wherever you find a great teacher, a great school, great parents, great coaches, great teams and high performance – you will find this paradigm. Not surprisingly you will also find habits, structures, practices and actions that develop and grow learning.
My coaching to Claire was simple. As we spoke she became clear how hard she was on herself. She saw that she could have a lot more empathy for herself and also share and communicate with people at the school what she is dealing with right now and what support she would like. She left clear and empowered.
How does deficit thinking play out in your school? Where do you struggle with deficit thinking? Where do you see developmental thinking?
Recently, I worked with Steve Hargadon of Classroom 2.0 at an educational conference in Jacksonville, Florida. Steve is a marvelous conversationalist and has fantastic stories to share.
In the car on the way to the conference, Steve and I were discussing the “institution” of school and the “system” of school. The largest part of our conversation centered around the fact that we have, collectively as a nation, created a massive operation for educating children that does not work. Students are not graduating with the skills they need to be successful in the world they are graduating into. No surprise to many of you reading this--it isn’t “new” news. We know it’s not working.
The “institution” is the bureaucratic, policy side of public education that demands that “each get some.” The “system” is the mechanism for delivering the “some” to all. The good ideas that created the system and thus the institution around it are lost in the shuffle. Doing what’s best for kids and doing what’s fair for all have each become a separate megalopolis each on a separate continent.
Education has become so institutionalized that the act of “doing” something equates to readiness for the next checked off item on the “to do” list of instructional practice. The ebb and flow of “doing” becomes the barometer for success as measured by standardized high stakes tests that, in one moment, assess a student’s ability to “do school,” measure a teacher’s effectiveness, and be a checks and balances sheet to maintain the system as directed by the institution.
Note that in the previous paragraph, the word “learning” was not used. In a Huffington Post article from last March, Connie Yowell describes education as what institutions do and learning as what people do. What’s happening, though, is the system and the institution are methodically destroying learning. I think it’s high time we refocus on the learner.
My friend and colleague Jennifer Borgioli recently wrote a piece for the Gotham Schools blog about standardized testing, in the wake of the recent Common Core aligned New York state tests. In the blog post, she describes learning as a construct. We can measure variables that indicate that learning is happening but cannot quantify the whole of what learning means. In Jen’s words, we can’t “pull out a child’s brain, slap it on a scale, and say, yup, they’ve learned this much.”
The system and the institution would have you believe that it is possible to well quantify the learning with one high-stakes assessment that serves as a good indicator of year to year growth, how well a teacher teaches, and whether or not the school as a whole is an effective system. The problem is with the variables. In science, we draw conclusions based on the experimentation of one variable at a time, a process approach that helps winnow the possible outcomes of comparative observation. In our current model, the system and the institution are on a multi-variable train that not only amounts to bad science but, in turn, leads to bad practices.
Case in point: A few weeks ago, students in New York State took the first version of the new Common Core aligned tests. They were asked questions that were more rigorous than ever before in an attempt to measure the learning of the Common Core standards. The stories that came out of the woodwork over the course of the week involved students walking out of the test, kids crying, kids unable to finish, kids just giving up, etc. The test was designed to measure the degree to which the students met the Common Core standards. The test does not allow for variations in home environment, parental support, socioeconomic status, etc., all of which are variables that are not necessarily considered as important but in the end, majorly affect the data collected. (Other variables here would also include teacher support, teacher training, schools as systems supporting the standards versus pocket buy-in, etc.)
The test was designed to evaluate the system and perpetuate the institution. The tests in other states that are being designed to evaluate the “learning” are all heading in the same direction.
Do we want our students ready for college and careers? Absolutely.
Do we want them ready to meet the challenges of the world they will graduate into? You betcha.
Do we need assessment? Of course.
Do we want them suffering through assessments that were designed with the institution/system rather than the child in mind? Not at all.
Steve and I discussed how the people with the best ideas are usually not the ones running the companies that develop and market and sell the product that the idea people generated. Wonderful ideas are snagged up by companies or companies are created around them. In order to sell to the masses you need a system set up for production and delivery. You also need an institution to maintain and advance the ideas, normalizing everything for the benefit of impacting the most people possible to increase the bottom line over time.
The problem though, lies in the fact that once the ideas/learning lose the focus of priority in favor of the system or the institution because of a mistaken belief that “some” of the original ideas are best for “most” in the system, the system falters. How well does that work when the institution or the system becomes the priority? You tell me: Polaroid. Enron. Commodore. Hollywood Video. Madoff Investment Securities. The list is long...
Assessment is not bad. In a previous blog post, I wrote about why in the world we would practice for a game we never played or rehearse for a performance we never give? I also don’t disagree with checks and balances in the system, but the system must have integrity. That integrity lies in the priority of keeping the learner at the center. That means that we must not only find ways to more rationally assess students without causing complete psychological breakdowns on test days but also that we address some of the other variables that the system and the institution keep in the periphery, primarily poverty and family/environmental support.
Hmmm. “Test days.” Now that I’ve said those words specifically, perhaps that’s the beginning of the new conversation. Instead of the grimness of the dark and scary hell week of assessments, perhaps we start looking at what can be embedded in instruction. Perhaps we look at leveraging opportunities for choice and differentiated products through performance tasks and problem-based scenarios that not only generate a product but also are a launching pad for the next learning moment. These aren’t new ideas. I’m not innovating here. I am talking about something though that is difficult for institutionalized implementation. It is difficult for systemic production and delivery. It’s expensive and messy and would involve much more local control.
We can send a man to the moon but we are still having trouble negotiating the creation of a better assessment of student learning? I wonder how many one size fits all, end of the year, high stakes assessments those NASA engineers took before they were finally ready to, according to the system and the institution, design and implement their ideas? I wonder if Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would have been comfortable putting their lives on the line for a bunch of scientists that did REALLY well on their one moment in time, end of year state tests?
There are no easy answers here, I know that. But I also know that there are still kids at the heart of all of this. The institution and the system need to refocus on that. We have an unbelievable challenge and a massive obligation to get this right.
Originally blogged on Smartblogs.com/education. Portions added.
Upgrade Your Curriculum now available at the ASCD Bookstore
Here are some slides from my leadership presentations. Enjoy!
(Royalty-free background photos from sxc.hu)
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.
This commentary examines criteria for selecting effective curricula and instructional models in a 21st century world, and also provides eight examples of relatively unknown yet powerful curricula-instructional programs that should be considered for adoption.
In the same way that it is hard to build a building without an architectural blueprint, so too it is hard for a teacher to be effective without strong curricula-instructional frameworks. Curricula/instructional frameworks lay out the goals, methods, strategies, approaches, assessments, and resources needed for successful teaching and learning. The better the framework, the more likely will be the sturdiness of the foundation and the effectiveness of instruction. The more that curricular-instructional models available to teachers are consistent with the goals and practices of the teacher and school, and the needs of students, the more likely it is that teaching will have good results.
Just imagine how an architectural blueprint influences and affects the construction of a building. Building construction based on a poor design may make it difficult to walk from one part of the building to another, make communication among building occupants difficult, make furniture arrangements impossible, make lighting too dark or too light, make the building safe or unsafe. In the same vein, a poorly designed curriculum may lead to too many unclear, vague goals that do not match student needs, include too much to teach, limit “deeper understanding” of a subject, teach the wrong skills, provide few connections between its different parts, have little meaning for learners, foster passive learning, and make alignment of content among teachers and grade levels difficult. When teachers work from poorly designed curricula and instructional frameworks, they have to work very hard to redo the curricular and instructional practices encouraged by these frameworks, and many times powerful learning is difficult if not impossible to create within the given framework.
What are the components of successful curriculum/instructional frameworks for teaching in a 21st century world? Some framework characteristics might include:
Teachers, schools and districts need to regularly review their curricular programs in order to update them and create programs more attuned to this new age that we live in. Ultimately, this will make a huge difference for children in this new age.
The following curricula and instructional models exemplify powerful “21st century” program elements built around many or most these criteria. You are probably unfamiliar with most or all of them. They, and programs like them, should become familiar to educators and achieve greater use throughout the educational community.
NOTE: Many of their descriptions are adapted from the program’s website.
1. LITERACY DEVELOPMENT
SERP-Word Generation for the Middle School
SERP - Word Generation is a research-based, highly motivating “vocabulary” development program for middle school students designed to teach words through language arts, math, science, and social studies classes. The program consists of weekly units, each of which introduces 5 high-utility target words through brief passages describing controversies currently under debate in this country. The paragraphs are intended to help students join ongoing "national conversations" by sparking active examination and discussion of contemporary issues. The target words are relevant to a range of settings and subject areas. The cross-content focus on a small number of words each week will enable students to understand the variety of ways in which words are related, and the multiple exposures to words will provide ample opportunities for deeper understanding.
The Word Generation program is designed to build academic vocabulary, i.e., words that students are likely to encounter in textbooks and on tests, but not in spoken language. Interpret, prohibit, vary, function, and hypothesis are examples. Academic vocabulary includes words that refer to thinking and communicating, like infer and deny, and words that are common across subjects, but hold different meaning depending on the subject, like element and factor. Both types of academic vocabulary are likely to cause problems with comprehension unless students have been taught how to deal with them.
For more information, go to: http://wg.serpmedia.org
For information about other SERP programs in development, go to: http://www.serpinstitute.org/2013/
Other literacy development programs you might want to examine:
Children’s Literacy Initiative (CLI) http://www.cliontheweb.org
Reading and Writing Workshop: http://readingandwritingproject.com/about/overview.html
100 Book Challenge: http://www.americanreading.com/products/100bc/
Touchstones discussion Project: http://www.touchstones.org
Jr Great Books Program:
2. CREATIVE THINKING
Design Thinking is a structured approach to generate and develop new ways to solve difficult problems and challenges. Design Thinking starts with a challenge, and then works through a series of steps to help find creative solutions to the challenge, such as empathy, interpretation, brainstorming and choosing alternatives, building models, and planning for implementation. The process can be used to help solve school challenges or world-wide challenges. It includes learning additional skills such as finding reliable information, developing surveys and questionnaires, and building interview skills. It can be adapted to be used with students at all ages.
Other creative thinking programs you might want to explore:
Creative Problem Solving: http://www.creativeeducationfoundation.org
The Future Problem Solving Program: http://www.fpspi.org
3. POSITIVE ATTITUDES, VALUES, AND COMMUNICATION SKILLS
Champions of Caring: Journey of a Champion Middle and High School Programs
The Journey of a Champion Middle Grades curriculum is a year-long course of study divided into 4 modules. It promotes academic excellence, character development, service-learning and citizenship. The curriculum is a catalyst for encouraging caring, thoughtfulness and good judgment through service and civic participation. Students gain civic engagement skills as they design community and school service projects. Civic skills developed include:
The Journey of a Champion High School Program is a character education and service-learning curriculum for students in grades 9-12. Through this program, students learn how to act as responsible, caring and involved citizens who respect themselves and others and succeed academically.
Journey of a Champion invites students to learn about and reflect on the challenges they and their contemporaries face. It places those challenges in a historical context and leads students to develop strategies and skills that will help them confront those challenges. The journey "destination" is students creating and planning sustainable service and civic participation. The curriculum affects positive change in students by:
For more information, go to: http://www.championsofcaring.org
Other programs to look at:
Second Step: http://www.cfchildren.org/second-step.aspx
4. ECONOMICS AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE)
Entrepreneurship education is a tool that can equip young people to not only start businesses and create jobs, but also to be opportunity-focused, flexible employees ready to fill existing jobs.
NFTE fosters the creation of entrepreneurship skills, businesses and the development of an adaptable, driven and opportunity-focused workforce that ultimately promotes economic stability. External research has shown that NFTE graduates start and maintain businesses at substantially higher rates than their peers. Other research findings indicate that students develop:
Working with schools in low-income communities where at least 50% of the students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch, NFTE targets young people who are at risk of dropping out of school, and helps them graduate with their own personal plans for success. The program, Highly Academic, is a semester or year-long class with a NFTE-certified teacher who guides students through one of the curricula: Entrepreneurship: Owning Your Future or Exploring Careers for the 21st Century. Lessons include the concepts of competitive advantage, ownership, opportunity recognition, marketing, finance, and product development - and all tie back to core math and literacy skills. Lessons include field trips, games and experiential activities. Classes regularly have guest speakers. Students are paired with coaches who help students work on their business plans, and business plan competitions are judges by local entrepreneurs and business people.
Each young person who takes a NFTE class works toward completing a business plan, then goes on to present and defend it in a classroom competition. The winners of these competitions go on to compete in citywide or regional competitions, with the hopes of reaching our annual national competition.
For more information, go to: http://www.nfte.com
Other Economic-Entrepreneurial Programs:
General information about entrepreneurial education programs can be found at: http://www.entre-ed.org
Information about Economic and Financial Education resources can be found at: http://www.councilforeconed.org
5. INQUIRY-BASED SCIENCE
Full Options Science System (FOSS)
Science is an active enterprise, made active by our human capacity to think and “search for the truth”. Scientists value open communication, investigation, and good evidence for drawing conclusions. Scientific knowledge advances when scientists observe objects and events, think about how they relate to what is known, test their ideas in logical ways, and generate explanations that integrate the new information into the established order. Thus the scientific enterprise is both what we know (content) and how we come to know it (process). The best way for students to appreciate the scientific enterprise, learn important scientific concepts, and develop the ability to think critically is to actively construct ideas through their own inquiries, investigations, and analyses.
The FOSS program was created to engage students in these processes as they explore the natural world. FOSS program materials are designed to meet the challenge of providing meaningful science education for all students in diverse American classrooms and to prepare them for life in the 21st century. Development of the FOSS program was, and continues to be, guided by advances in the understanding of how youngsters think and learn.
FOSS K–6 is a complete program consisting of 26 modules for self-contained elementary classrooms. The components exclusive to K–6 are
FOSS Middle School components consist of nine units for students and their teachers in departmental science grades 6–8. Each unit requires 9–12 weeks to teach. The Middle School program includes the following five interconnected components:
Two components that apply to both FOSS K–6 and FOSS Middle School are the FOSS Assessment System and FOSSweb.com.
For more information, go to: http://www.fossweb.com
Other programs to consider:
Active Physics: (high school): http://its-about-time.com/htmls/ap.html
6. CONCEPTUALLY-ORIENTED MATHEMATICS
Cognitively Guided Instruction
Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI) is a professional development program that increases teachers’ understanding of the knowledge that students bring to the math learning process and how they can connect that knowledge with formal concepts and operations. The program is based on the premise that children throughout the elementary grades are capable of learning powerful unifying ideas of mathematics that are the foundation of both arithmetic and algebra. Learning and articulating these ideas enhance children's understanding of arithmetic and provide a foundation for extending their knowledge of arithmetic to the learning of algebra.
CGI is guided by two major ideas. The first is that children bring an intuitive knowledge of mathematics to school with them and that this knowledge should serve as the basis for developing formal mathematics instruction. This idea leads to an emphasis on working with the processes that students use to solve problems. The second key idea is that math instruction should be based on the relationship between computational skills and problem solving, which leads to an emphasis on problem solving in the classroom instead of the repetition of number facts, such as practicing the rules of addition and subtraction.
With the CGI approach, teachers focus on what students know and help them build future understanding based on present knowledge. The program aims to improve children's mathematical skills by increasing teachers' knowledge of students' thinking, by changing teachers' beliefs regarding how children learn, and by ultimately changing teaching practice. In 1996, CGI was extended into the upper elementary school levels to assist first through sixth grade teachers in integrating the major principles of algebra into arithmetic instruction.
There is no set curriculum. Teachers use the CGI framework with existing curriculum materials, or they use CGI principles to help develop their own math curriculum.
For more information, go to: http://www.promisingpractices.net/program.asp?programid=114#programinfo
Other math programs that might be considered:
Project Seed: http://projectseed.org
Interactive Mathematics Program (IMP)(High School): http://mathimp.org/general_info/intro.html
7. SOCIAL STUDIES/CIVICS PROGRAMS
Social Studies School Service
Social Studies School Service offers teachers, K-12, a variety of alternative and unique materials, programs, and curricula for social studies at all levels. The materials have been developed for the many aspects of social studies – government, history, geography, and civics – and often are interdisciplinary, incorporate conceptual understanding, develop research skills, big ideas and essential questions, and use data-based test questions (DBQ’s), performance tasks, and multiple readings. Catalogues of available materials are frequently sent out and shared.
For further information, go to: www.socialstudies.com
Other social studies/civics programs to consider:
Teacher’s Curriculum Institute social studies programs: www.teachtci.com
Center for Civic Education: http://new.civiced.org
Zinn Education: http://zinnedproject.org
A History of US: http://www.joyhakim.com/works.htm
The Choices Program (Middle and High School): http://www.choices.edu
8. STEM (SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING, MATHEMATICS) PROGRAMS
Engineering is Elementary
EIE consists currently of twenty STEM units designed for the elementary grades. Each EIE unit ties in with an elementary science topic and is meant to be taught either concurrently or after students learn the appropriate science content in life science, earth and space science and physical science areas. Each unit has five “lessons” (lessons can be more than one day).
The units attempt to combine learning in a science area with engineering concepts. Engineering projects integrate other disciplines. Engaging students in hands-on, real-world engineering experiences can enliven math and science and other content areas. Engineering projects can motivate students to learn math and science concepts by illustrating relevant applications. They foster problem-solving skills, including problem formulation, iteration, testing of alternative solutions, and evaluation of data to guide decisions.
Learning about engineering increases students' awareness of and access to scientific and technical careers. The number of American citizens pursuing engineering is decreasing. Early introduction to engineering can encourage many capable students, especially girls and minorities, to consider it as a career and enroll in the necessary science and math courses in high school.
For more information, go to: http://www.eie.org/
Other STEM examples:
Engineer Your World: http://www.engineeryourworld.org (high school)
Project Lead the Way: http://www.pltw.org (high school)
Some Final Thoughts
Every school and district should have some mechanism to help staff members regularly review the many available potential curriculum and instructional programs and approaches, and to select those that provide students with opportunities based on the criteria suggested at the beginning of this commentary, such as focused, meaningful goals; targeted key skills, attitudes and values; multiple formative and summative assessment options; a focus on deeper learning; and active student engagement and inquiry.[i]
The programs listed above are only some examples of the many powerful curricula and instructional options that are often neglected and put into place too infrequently in schools and classrooms.[ii] Many others that meet the criteria cited above and match 21st century goals should be considered. Through continual review and renewal, every District should move towards having a set of powerful curricula and instructional programs, tied to appropriate staff development training, that help prepare students to live in a 21st century world.
We also now have the technology to develop curriculum review websites, comparable to Amazon’s book service and reviews or TripAdvisor’s travel site that rates hotels and bed and breakfasts in all parts of the world. The website should include a comprehensive set of curriculum programs, all reviewed by experts and rated by users. Such a site would provide educators with data that would be helpful in a curriculum review and renewal process.
[i] For additional information about curriculum renewal criteria and strategies, go to www.era3learning.org, then to resources, then to curriculum renewal, and then to the article by Elliott Seif, Reconfiguring Learning Through Curriculum Renewal (unpublished).
Social Media Week is one of the two New York events that inspire me and inform my perspective on developing curriculum. The New York Comic Con is the other. While they may seem tangential at first glance to classroom teaching and curriculum design, they actually offer a model of and insight to creating moving narratives which I believe drives effective learning.
It was at a Social Media Week session two years ago that I learned about Timehop. Timehop is a social media service that places your tweets and wall posts into an historical context. On any given day, you are sent a reminder of what you tweeted and posted on the same date last year. This includes news items you retweeted and shared. When you compare what you tweeted a year ago to what you tweet today, you have the beginnings of an autobiographical narrative (a personal history).
Currently, Timehop only presents you with an account of day-to-day social media activity. What I am hoping to see somewhere down the line is a "timeline" feature. I am certain there would be some meaningful classroom applications, if Timehop users were given the option to view day-to-day activity over multiple days, weeks, months, and even years.
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend as many sessions this year. I was particularly disappointed about missing the Cowbird workshop. Cowbird describes itself as a "community of storytellers". I like to think of it as a great online anthology of flash non-fiction filled with examples of folksy wisdom and lazy Sunday observations over coffee or tea. Cowbird is definitely meeting its goal of building a "public library of human experience".
I particularly admire Cowbird's resistance to video and hope it continues to ask its community to take the time to contemplate the pictures and sounds (the individual components of video) and text they chose to tell their stories with. There is a risk of forsaking these individual pieces when composing directly in video.
Cowbird offers classroom teachers in the age of Common Core a powerful tool to create personal narratives. It also provides teachers with a way for engaging in informational texts especially in "Integration of Knowledge and Ideas" where in eighth grade students are tasked to "Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums (e.g., print or digital text, video, multimedia) to present a particular topic or idea."
Happily, I managed to attend the "gsummitX - Gamification in NYC" presentation with Gabe Zichermann from Gamification.co. In the classroom, teachers understand that playing games is an effective way of engaging students. However, with the rise in the number of free online video games and the increased portability of traditional console games, students are much more sophisticated edutainment consumers than we Generation X'ers were with our Colecovisions and Commodore 64s.
Gabe was speaking from a Sales/Marketing perspective when he stated the challenge of retaining consumer attention. However, I don't think you need to stretch your imagination too hard to see how even with the onslaught of educational online video games that student attention retention can still be a challenge for teachers.
Gabe made several interesting comments during his presentation. First, he stated that gamification is a process not a product (Sound familiar?) It's what those who favor a constructivist approach to education believe. He then said that (I'm rephrasing slightly) games allow players to play with the limits of the reality of their jobs. In classrooms, this might mean games allow students to play with the limits of the reality of their... classrooms? subjects? tests? school? community?
Writing about Jane McGonigal's TED presentation, “Gaming Can Make A Better World” I suggested a game that addressed the school dropout crisis. The role playing games that Jane has worked on fit well into Gabe's statements on gamification. In creating a game that challenges students to solve the real world problem of dropping out, the challenge would be to convince the player to find value in the rewards and prizes. There are plenty of good commercial games available but also an equal (if not overwhelming) amount of bad video games. And there are instances where a game comes highly recommended but the player does not see value in continuing it.
Thanks for a fantastic 2013 ASCD Annual Conference in Chicago, Illinois!
Your To-Do List: Action Items for ASCD Leaders
Register for the Whole Child Virtual Conference: May 6–10, 2013
Join ASCD for its third annual Whole Child Virtual Conference. This free online event offers thought leadership discussions; presentations from leading authors and experts; and an exploration of the steps outstanding schools, communities, and individual countries take as they move along the continuum of a whole child approach—from implementation to sustainability to culture. No matter where you are on this continuum, you’ll find lessons you can learn and questions you can ask to improve and grow your schools.
This year the conference will include 24 sessions over 7 days between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. eastern time, with sessions on May 2 and 3 specifically for Australasian and European audiences. This year’s conference speakers include authors and experts Thomas Armstrong, Michael Fullan, Andy Hargreaves, Eric Jensen, Wendy Ostroff, William Parrett and Kathleen M. Budge, Pasi Sahlberg, and Yong Zhao.
Sessions will also feature presentations from ASCD Emerging Leaders, ASCD’s Outstanding Young Educators Award winner, the recipient of Vision in Action: The ASCD Whole Child Award, and members of ASCD’s Whole Child Network of Schools.
Registration is now open. Go to www.ascd.org/wcvirtualconference to sign up.
ASCD Nominations Committee Applications Open in May
ASCD is seeking ASCD leaders who are interested in serving on the 2013–14 ASCD Nominations Committee. More information—the committee’s charge, qualifications for service, and time commitment—will be available starting May 1 on www.ascd.org. ASCD will be accepting applications May 1–31. We invite ASCD leaders to consider their interest in this opportunity over the next few weeks before the application becomes available.
ASCD Leaders in Action: News from the ASCD Leader Community
ASCD Student Chapters Help Chicago’s Hungry During ASCD Annual Conference
On March 15, 46 ASCD Student Chapter members volunteered to make a difference in the fight against hunger in Chicago. Working together the Friday morning before ASCD’s Annual Conference, the students packaged more than 15,000 pounds of food to help feed the nearly 678,000 people who rely on emergency and supplemental food from the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Thank you and congratulations to our ASCD Student Chapter volunteers! Read the full Conference Daily article.
ASCD Forum Session at ASCD Annual Conference Gives Educators a Voice on Teacher and Principal Effectiveness
On March 17, ASCD Past President Debra Hill facilitated a discussion of the ASCD Forum topic “how do we define and measure teacher and principal effectiveness?” Ten ASCD leaders stepped forward to help lead the discussion:
· Jason Flom, ASCD Emerging Leader
· Ben Shuldiner, Position Advisory Committee Member
· Amy Vanden Boogart, ASCD Emerging Leader
· Jeffrey Lofthus, Alaska ASCD Executive Director
· Daina Lieberman, ASCD Emerging Leader
· Mamzelle Adolphine, Professional Interest Community Facilitator
· Laurie McCullough, Virginia ASCD Executive Director
· Alice Wells, Arizona ASCD Executive Director
· Matthew Cotton, ASCD Emerging Leader
· Torian White, ASCD Emerging Leader
Session attendees stepped up to the front of the room to share their thoughts and also posted tweets to the #ASCDForum hashtag. Many thanks to the ASCD leaders who participated to make this session a success!
Congratulations to ASCD Affiliate Recognition Award Winners
Please join ASCD in congratulating the ASCD Affiliate Recognition Award Recipients:
Two affiliates were recognized for the 2013 Overall Excellence Award: Iowa ASCD, for its increased focus on integrating technology into professional learning opportunities and their influence and advocacy work with ASCD, and New Hampshire ASCD, for its work to increase membership and provide increased professional learning opportunities, such as Common Core workshops.
In addition, New Jersey ASCD received the Area Excellence Award for Programs, Products, and Services for their leadership in their state as a trusted source for professional learning. Texas ASCD received an Exceptional Progress Award in Influence and Policy, and Alberta ASCD, Ohio ASCD, and Vermont ASCD were all recipients of the Exceptional Progress Award in Programs, Products, and Services.
Welcome to the “Educating Beyond Disabilities” Professional Interest Community
Please join ASCD in welcoming our newest Professional Interest Community, facilitated by 2011 ASCD Emerging Leader Christina Yuknis. Please join her group on ASCD EDge.
Tennessee 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 sixth post of the series, Tennessee ASCD President-Elect John Combs writes about the challenges and successes that Tennessee has had with CCSS implementation.
Meet ASCD President Becky Berg
Becky J. Berg is from a family of educators. "My dad was a school board president; my mom was a career educator; and my sister, my grandmother, and my great-grandfather were educators," she says. Despite the genetic pull, Berg wasn't completely convinced she would follow in the family's footsteps until her experience as a summer camp counselor while she was in college. It was then that she realized how much she loved working with kids. Read the full Conference Daily article.
Congratulations to the 2013 Outstanding Young Educator Award Winners!
ASCD salutes a new generation’s passion for education excellence through this year’s selection of two Outstanding Young Educator Award winners: Joshua Garcia, deputy superintendent of Tacoma Public Schools (Wash.), and Parkville High School (Parkville, Md.) teacher Ryan Twentey. Twentey teaches art, photography, and interactive media production and also serves as the school’s technology liaison. Read the full Conference Daily article.
Interactive ASCD 2012 Annual Report Features ASCD Leaders
Check out the ASCD 2012 Annual Report, entitled “Creating Solutions: The ASCD Revolution in Motion.” This interactive report features videos footage of ASCD leaders, including ASCD Emerging Leader Steven Anderson, Florida ASCD President Alina Davis, Alabama ASCD Executive Director Jane Cobia, ASCD Board Member Harriet Arnold, and Connecticut ASCD President David Cormier.
Throughout April at wholechildeducation.org: Principal Leadership
Principals are the key players in developing the climate, culture, and processes in their schools. They are critical to implementing meaningful and lasting school change and in the ongoing school-improvement process. Principals who have a clear vision; inspire and engage others in embracing change for improvement; drive, facilitate, and monitor the teaching and learning process; and foster a cohesive culture of learning are the collaborative leaders our schools need to fully commit to ensuring each student—and school staff member—is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.
What qualities do principals in today’s (and tomorrow’s) schools need to fulfill their roles as visionary, instructional, influential, and learning leaders?
There are two episodes of the Whole Child Podcast in April for you to download and share. The first episode, “Leveling and Raising the Playing Field,” features school staff from Oregon’s Milwaukie High School, winner of the 2013 Vision in Action: The ASCD Whole Child Award, and is available now. On April 11, the second episode will be available. It will focus on principal leadership and include guests Kevin Enerson, principal of Whole Child Network school Le Sueur-Henderson High School in Minnesota, and Jessica Bohn, ASCD Emerging Leader and principal of Gibsonville Elementary School in North Carolina.
The Best-Case Scenario
As we review and reinforce our schools’ safety measures, we aren’t planning for the worst-case scenario that might happen; we are working to make sure the best-case scenario—where schools are learning environments that are physically, socially, and emotionally safe for students and adults—is an everyday occurrence that does happen. Read more on the Whole Child Blog.
In February and March, we looked at what we, as educators, believe is crucial to making our schools safe—not just physically safe, but also safe places to teach and learn. Listen to the Whole Child Podcast with guests Joseph Bergant II, superintendent of Chardon Schools in Ohio; Howard Adelman, professor of psychology at UCLA and codirector of the School Mental Health Project and the Center for Mental Health in Schools (a whole child partner); and Jonathan Cohen, adjunct professor in psychology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and president and cofounder of whole child partner National School Climate Center.
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
Do you ever wonder why history facts that students have learned are not remembered after they are taught? Why many recent graduates can’t make change when they work at McDonalds? Why so many students remember so little from their previous grade level and courses?
Powerful learning is purposeful, meaningful, and contextual to the learner! We are more likely to remember the times tables when we use it to find an area, or quickly figure out how much six of any one item will cost us. Addition and subtraction skills are more likely remembered when they frequently help us make and get change. Historical facts stay with us when they help us examine an issue in history and think about present day issues. Writing skills are less likely to atrophy if they help us communicate a powerful story or communicate a coherent and well thought out point of view that is acknowledged by others.
Unfortunately, much of the time math and writing skills and historical facts are learned without enough application, without context, or without personal meaning. Math skills are learned as repetitious algorithms, sometimes with 25 similar problems at a time. Writing is boiled down to the five-paragraph essay formula. Historical facts are memorized in order to do well on the multiple-choice test. So why would our students remember facts and be able to apply skills? Why would they become good writers and use their voice to create meaningful communication?
Standardized tests only compound the problem. Almost all standardized test questions are “decontextualized” through isolated multiple choice, matching, or fill-in-the-blank questions, short, artificial reading passages, decontextualized problems, and short essays that are mostly designed to see if students remember isolated facts or use low level thinking skills. Even tests of writing skills use artificial, formulaic rubrics to rate students on how well they did in their writing, sometimes scored by computers!
While there are some people who are good at remembering isolated facts and figures, for most of us information and data fade away unless we integrate and connect them to previous learning or figure out how to use them in meaningful ways. Only when we find some use for our learning, some purpose, and use what we learn frequently in different contexts do we store it in a place for ready recall. When this doesn’t happen, students are more likely to do poorly on tests that measure knowledge or apply skills that have been taught and supposedly learned over time.
What makes learning purposeful and contextual? My next door neighbor’s daughter, age 7, is constantly coming into our house with math mysteries -- giving us math problems to solve on the calculator. She loves to do that. She’s practicing her math skills on us! When my daughter was younger, she and a cousin would go around the house measuring the area of everything. The well-known math teacher, Kay Toliver, has created a series of materials and DVD’s that demonstrate her engaging teaching strategies, and in one of them she takes walks around the local school community with her students to discover how the math that she is teaching can be used to figure out the price of an item in a store, or to measure the area of a playground[i].
Unfortunately, much of today’s commercial curricula and curriculum standards are focused on covering too much knowledge and teaching too many skills learned in too short a period of time! In Philadelphia, where I live, the social studies curriculum standards are chock full of so much content, taught is such short periods of time, that it is virtually impossible to teach social studies with any meaning and purpose. Over the years, I’ve examined too many curriculum guides and standards, observed too many teachers, watched too much passivity among students, and read too many traditional tests that emphasize the learning of too many inconsequential facts, trivial skills, and/or global generalities. For some reason, in a world of search engines that enable us to find large amounts of knowledge instantaneously, many still think that the more knowledge students are taught, the more educated they are. We’ve got to come around to the idea that meaningful learning puts greater emphasis on asking good questions, learning how to inquire, focusing on a relatively few core ideas and powerful learning to learn skills, giving students something important to think about, applying learning to new and novel situations, communicating well, giving them a reason to learn something, and slowing down the learning process.
We as educators need to concentrate on and share ways to make learning more purposeful and meaningful for our students. We need to develop good reasons for students to learn what we think is important, put more learning in a larger context, help students make connections and develop networks of learning, and provide more opportunities to apply learning. Purpose and meaning can come in very different forms. Poetry or art education classes might include a discussion of the meaning of a poem or artwork, a comparison of poems or artwork from the same author or artist, and an opportunity for students to write their own poems or create their own artwork in the style of the author or artist. A history teacher might discuss what it was like to live in a different time and place and then explore the question: which time period would you rather live in? A statistics teacher might ask a group of students to create and conduct a survey, and then to tabulate reliable and valid survey data. Sometimes meaning and purpose is created simply by emphasizing the fun of solving mysteries and puzzles, of conducting a research project on something of interest, or of being hooked by a good story.
The current emphasis on “standards” and standardized tests that promote out of context learning, without connections, without motivation and engagement, and without meaningful inquiry is one of the most serious problem in education today. The emphasis in many high schools on taking Advanced Placement tests that include too much knowledge and not enough meaningful and purposeful activity only exacerbates the problem. In place of AP classes, high schools need to offer in-depth elective seminars on a variety of topics that broaden student’s critical and creative thinking and interests, promote discussion, and offer opportunities for research into questions of interest. We need to increase the emphasis at all levels on implementing performance tasks and research projects that help students apply learning and see connections to the outside world. And we need to offer more opportunities for students to interact with the world outside classrooms and schools.
There are ways to do this, and some are already available. Understanding by Design, published by ASCD, has at its core a planning process that promotes the development of unit based essential questions, big ideas that isolate critical knowledge and skills, performance tasks, and interactive, engaging instruction. Project and problem-based design models, such as the project design approach developed by Buck Institute (www.bie.org) also promote meaningful, purposeful learning. Curricula already exist that focus on clarity of purpose, relevance, depth, contextual and meaningful learning[ii].
Until teachers, schools and districts spend more time finding ways to make learning more purposeful, and to engage students in more meaningful learning, we will be teaching too much decontextualized information, ideas and skills that are hard to remember and limited in their usefulness. In a world of so much information and the technology that enables people to find information quickly, literally in the blink of an eye, some purposeless, sterile, decontextualized learning is bound to be part of the educational experience. But without a long-term focus on creating a more meaningful curriculum, too many educational experiences will be built around a traditional learning model that doesn’t provide enough children with purposeful, context driven, and motivating learning experiences.
Let’s hope that we all come to our senses soon and make meaning and purpose a much larger focus of educational planning and practical implementation in a 21st century world.
[i] For further information on her materials, search Kay Toliver or go to: http://www.fasenet.org/store/kay_toliver/#
[ii] For examples of purpose and meaning based curriculum materials, go to:
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.
We have all heard the adage, “Every teacher a teacher of reading.” Some educators find this notion controversial because our education system is not set up to allow every teacher to be a teacher of reading. Departmentalization is the norm in middle and high schools, and even in a good number of elementary schools. One teacher teaches language arts, while others teach math, science, or social studies. Some content area teachers are understandably frightened at the thought of having to teach reading. For teachers whose expertise is in math or social studies, the idea of having to teach reading might be unpalatable. But we have entered the era of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and the standards have brought the notion of “every teacher a teacher of reading” back full force. In addition, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2011 reading scores tell us that a large percentage of our students really do need help to read proficiently. Only 34% of fourth graders read at or above a proficient level, and a third of fourth graders read below the basic level for their grade [National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 2011]. The story only gets a little better for eighth graders; 34% read at or above a proficient level, and 24% read below basic (NCES, 2011). All educators must therefore band together and embrace the challenge of helping their students become proficient readers, and teacher preparation programs play a huge role in this challenge.
The CCSS writers themselves seem to support the notion of “every teacher a teacher of reading.” The introduction to the CCSS for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects states,
“The Standards insist that instruction in reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language be a shared responsibility within the school. The K–5 standards include expectations for reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language applicable to a range of subjects, including but not limited to ELA. The grades 6–12 standards are divided into two sections, one for ELA and the other for history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. This division reflects the unique, time-honored place of ELA teachers in developing students’ literacy skills while at the same time recognizing that teachers in other areas must have a role in this development as well” (p. 4).
And in the section that discusses what is not covered by the standards, the CCSS writers continue,
“The Standards define literacy expectations in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects, but literacy standards in other areas, such as mathematics and health education, modeled on those in this document are strongly encouraged to facilitate a comprehensive, schoolwide literacy program” (p. 6).
The interdisciplinary approach to literacy taken by the CCSS poses a challenge to teacher preparation programs nationwide. How can teacher educators prepare teachers who will be effective not only in their areas of disciplinary expertise, but also in enabling their students to access the varied and complex texts that they encounter throughout the grades? I believe that a three-pronged approach will help teacher preparation programs foster and sustain the effectiveness of all teachers as teachers of reading.
First, there should be increased preparation for elementary teachers in how to teach reading. In my Master’s program in elementary education, through which I attained my licensure for teaching grades Pre-K through 6, I had only one course specifically focused on reading, and a lot of our time and assignments in this course were focused on children’s literature. This was great because using children’s literature appropriately and effectively is certainly one very important aspect of teaching reading. But with the increasing focus on informational text in the CCSS and with the multitude of skills that underlie proficient reading, it takes much more than one course on reading to help elementary teachers learn all that they need to know and be able to do to teach reading. My Master’s program also included coursework on teaching language arts, but a lot of this was focused on writing instruction and development. This was also incredibly important and valuable content, but there still seemed to be a lot of content on teaching reading that there simply wasn’t enough time to cover. Preparation in the teaching of reading for elementary teachers must be much more extensive. It must cover the five big areas of reading [phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000)] thoroughly and with lots of opportunity for application in working with students.
Second, all teachers need to know and understand the five big areas of reading. A high school math teacher would then be able to discuss with other professionals in her school what to do about a student who might be reading very choppily from his math textbook, using the term fluency. A high school biology teacher with a student who could not read the complex, multi-syllable words in his textbook would understand that there might be a phonics-based or morphological weakness underlying the student’s difficulty reading, and could seek assistance from the school’s reading specialist on ways to support this student. Having some working knowledge of the different areas of reading with which students struggle would empower content area teachers. Many secondary education programs do include one course on reading and writing across the curriculum, but this type of coursework should be more comprehensive and inclusive of the five big areas of reading. (No one ever talks about phonemic awareness or phonics and very rarely do they discuss fluency with middle or high school teachers!) Teacher preparation programs should also require all teachers to complete case studies where they practice implementing literacy strategies within their content areas with students so that they are prepared to incorporate literacy instruction into their teaching in ways consistent with the CCSS.
Finally, content area methods classes in teacher preparation programs should emphasize the specific disciplinary challenges inherent in that content area. For instance, a few years ago I worked on a content analysis study of middle school history textbooks. We tried to identify the specific features inherent in historical writing that might prove challenging for students. Our work revealed that text structures such as cause and effect and chronology, and linguistic features such as unclear referential devices are some of the most common in history texts. These are the features of historical texts that history teachers should be prepared to emphasize with their students, providing them with strategies for tackling these linguistic and structural challenges. The texts of each discipline have their own unique challenges, and when teachers are familiar with these challenges, they can help their students overcome them more easily.
The CCSS have set a high bar with the expectation that all teachers must be teachers of reading. It is now up to teacher preparation programs to prepare all teachers to take on this role.
National Center for Education Statistics (2011). The Nation's Report Card: Reading 2011 (NCES 2012–457). Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pdf/main2011/2012457.pdf
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction: Reports of the subgroups (NIH Publication No. 00-4754). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Using traditional tests as formative assessments to improve learning and give feedback can be difficult at best. But here’s a simple and powerful way to use traditional summative tests to increase learning and thinking.
When I was teaching middle and high school social studies, like most teachers, I often gave a traditional summative test (multiple choice questions, matching, short essays, etc.) at the end of a unit. But then, after I graded the test, I handed it back to the students and we did the following activity:
For multiple-choice, matching, or fill in the blank questions, we went over the questions one by one, and for each question one student was called on to tell everyone the right answer and explain why it was the right answer (of course, anything that was just recall or fact was explained that way). But there was an additional rule – for any question, if a student could show me that another answer was correct, and could justify it, I would accept it as right and change my grades for all those who marked that answer as correct!
This process led to some fascinating discussions and some interesting insights into student thinking. It also highlighted the difficulty of creating right answer questions that had only one right answer!
For short essay questions, I would indicate what I was looking for in their answers (criteria) and students would review their answers in pairs. Then anyone could challenge my grading if they could justify why they thought their answers did meet my criteria, or if they could even suggest additional criteria that indicated their essay better demonstrated their learning or gave a better answer to the question.
After all this happened, students wrote a “self-reflection” on what they had learned in this process, and how they might improve their test scores on future tests.
All this was done publicly, so the entire class benefited from our discussions, challenges, and justifications. We all had a good time in the process. The learning and relearning that took place was enormous. And many students figured out ways to improve their study habits and their work in the future.
Elliott Seif is a long time educator, ASCD author and Understanding by Design trainer. If you are interested in examining additional ways to improve teaching, learning, curriculum and assessment in order to help to prepare students to live in a 21st century world, go to his website at: www.era3learning.org
Although we all react differently when forced to deal with plagiarism, most of us would agree that we both dread and revile the sight of it. After spending weeks, months and years teaching proper citation and academic honesty, finding plagiarism can sting a little. Students plagiarize for a variety of reasons (many of them innocuous, many not) and while we agree that these reasons merit a discussion, we’re going to take the easy route (it is Monday morning after all) and instead talk about a new website we came across called PlagTracker. We suggest sharing it with your students.
PlagTracker: A free plagiarism detector
Plag Tracker is a free web application that allows users to copy and paste their documents into a plagiarism detector. Using a “checking algorithm,” Plag Tracker then checks your work against 14 billion web pages and 5 million academic papers.
We uploaded one of our blogs—one we posted on our site and also on a few other education-related websites—just to see what would happen. 15 minutes after we submitted our work, we received an email notification, along with a link, which took us to the final report. Here’s what it looked like:
Conveniently, every plagiarized sentence becomes a hyperlink. When you click on it, a new hyperlink to the original source appears under “sources found.”
If you look to the right, under “Sources Found,” you’ll see all of the sources PlagTracker thinks we “plagiarized” from. Like we said above, we often repost our own blogs on educational communities and websites like ASCD Edge. True to its word, Plag Track did a nice job of finding them.
While Plag Track is useful, it’s not flawless. For example, it suggested that the sentence below came from a Wikipedia entry about Microsoft Security Essentials.
“If you are looking for a few more tips for providing effective feedback, check out one of our recent blogs, “Offering your students effective feedback: 5 essentials.”
Huh? Like we said, it’s not perfect, but still quite useful.
Your students are welcome to use Plag Track’s service for free, but they can also upgrade to a Premium account for $7.49 a month which gives them access to:
Since the service is free, you might consider not only having your students submit their work to Plag Track, but also have them attach a copy of the final report to their work when they submit it for your review.
If you're looking to suppliment your writing curriculum, we’ve put together a new guide, Writing Reinvented. Inside you’ll find:
You can download it by clicking on the icon below!
Tests have become the fashion in education these days, with everyone, it seems, being assessed on their ability to increase test scores. I’ve developed this test (not yet standardized) to help teachers get in touch with their own inner sense of what is most important to the learning and teaching process. Hopefully, this can help them make important decisions about how and what to teach in the classroom regardless of their students’age or grade level.
For extra credit:
The Answer Key is located in your own heart.
Even for the best writers, Joseph Conrad, for example, writing was difficult. In a letter to a friend, he wrote, “I sit down religiously every morning, I sit down for eight hours every day—and the sitting down is all.” Writing can be challenging…yes, even for geniuses like Conrad.
Despite its challenges, writing can be incredibly rewarding for both the student and teacher. In addition to this, we know that regardless of where the future takes your students, regardless of their interests, they will need to successfully articulate themselves, both verbally and in writing.
To complement the activities you may have planned for National Reading Month in March, we’ve put together a new guide called Writing Reinvented.
Inside you’ll find:
We hope that you and your students find our guide to be helpful!
At school, our students are faced with—let’s be honest now—agonizingly dull reading comprehension passages. Then, when they are done, students are asked comprehension questions (equally dull) about that passage. While we can’t control the content in these tests or the fact that students have to take them, you can find a way to help struggling readers relax, learn to love reading, and stop associating reading with the tests they face at school. Teachers can do a lot to make this happen, but we certainly can’t do it all, so we thought we were overdue to offer a few reading strategies to share with your students’ parents.
5 Reading Strategies you can share with your students' parents
Use a hands-off approach
Have you ever had a conversation with someone who had a habit of interrupting, correcting or attempting to finish sentences for you? You didn’t appreciate it very much, did you? If it bothers you, chances are that beginning readers aren’t going to appreciate it either. Instead of interrupting or correcting, give this a try:
When the reader comes across a tricky word, don’t force them to stumble through it; instead, s/he should just say “blank” and continue on with the passage. Worry about that word later.
Allow the reader to choose or abandon a book
We’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: Allow the child to choose the books she reads at home—and don’t force her to struggle through something that is either too challenging or does not suit her interests. To struggle is to learn, but remember that you are teaching the child to love reading.
If the child is unsure of how to find books that suit her interests and reading level, stop by Book Wink, a website that uses podcasts and 3-minute video book talks to introduce students to books they’ll love. Each video book talk is about a different topic, and additional “read-alikes” can be found on the website. In addition to this, users can browse Book Wink’s database where they can search for books by grade, subject, author, or title.
Show a bit of empathy—even if you never struggled with reading
I remember catching my junior high math teacher after class one afternoon and asking her if she ever struggled with algebra. “Nope, I always loved it” was her response and five seconds later, the conversation was over. You see, I was looking for empathy and support from my teacher. While I anticipated that she had always excelled in math, I was hoping that she would at least admit to me that she empathized with what it meant to struggle with something.
Reading isn’t easy, even for adults. Try reading Finnegan’s Wake or Derrida and you’ll get a sense of what your students go through. We’ve all encountered texts that make us feel inferior. Likewise, we’ve all experienced what Kumar Sathy calls the “passive eye shift”: Your eyes scan the pages and take in the words, but your brain is on another continent, planet or universe! Keep this in mind and go easy on beginning readers.
Make read-alouds fun for you and the child
In her cornerstone text for teaching reading, The Art of Teaching Reading, Lucy McCormick Calkins says there are “only a handful of things” that everyone agrees are essential for teaching reading: “Perhaps the most important of these is the fact that children need to listen to the best…literature read aloud to them.” We’ve made it a habit to read aloud to younger students, but when they get older, for one reason or another, we tend to think that they’ve outgrown this. But good writing is meant to be read aloud.
There’s a story about a rather well-known poet, John Keats, who was given a new translation of Homer’s great works by a friend of his, Charles Cowden Clarke. That evening, Keats and Clarke sat up until daylight reading to one another and “shouting with delight as some passage of especial energy struck [their] imagination.” If a grown man like Keats did it, so can you.
Try out three of Esmé Raji Codell’s tips for reading aloud to children
You can download our free guide here or by clicking on the button below
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
Attending ASCD Annual Conference?
We hope to see you in Chicago this weekend at ASCD’s 2013 Annual Conference: Our Story, Our Time, Our Future. Here are a few tips as you head out for St. Patrick’s Day weekend:
Can’t make it to Chicago? Attend the ASCD Virtual Conference instead!
Join the ASCD Forum Conversation
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 (March 3-16) is:
Educator Evaluation Systems: What research and evidence support the validity of existing evaluation systems?
Upcoming themes include:
The ASCD Forum concludes April 12. We invite educators to join the conversation by blogging on the ASCD EDge®social network, commenting on other blog posts, taking a survey, and attending 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.
Newest Policy Points Highlights Teacher Evaluation
ASCD’s newest issue of Policy Points (PDF) spotlights the association’s original 50-state analysis of educator evaluation systems as outlined in states’ NCLB waiver applications and other resources; it features a series of maps for easy comparison of key evaluation system components across the states. The resource provides graphic depictions of the frequency of state teacher evaluations, the rating levels used by states to rate teacher performance, and the extent to which states use student learning data in teacher evaluations.
Save the Date! ASCD Whole Child Virtual Conference: Moving from Implementation to Sustainability to Culture
May 2–10, 2013
How can schools implement and sustain a whole child approach to education? ASCD invites you to participate in the free, online Whole Child Virtual Conference from May 2–10, 2013.
· Hear from renowned speakers, including Pasi Sahlberg, Michael Fullan, and Andy Hargreaves.
· Learn from educators, authors, and experts who have successfully implemented a whole child approach in schools around the world.
· Discover the steps taken by ASCD’s Vision in Action award-winning schools and Whole Child Network schools to implement comprehensive, sustainable school improvement and provide for long-term student success.
· Discuss how you can bring a whole child approach into your schools.
Twenty sessions will be broadcast live over five days, May 6–10, between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Eastern time, with additional sessions on May 2 and 3 for Australasian and European audiences.
No matter where your school falls on the whole child continuum, be it the early implementation stage or well beyond, the Whole Child Virtual Conference provides a forum and tools for school sites and districts that are working toward sustainability and changing school cultures to serve the whole child.
Register Now! Go to www.ascd.org/wcvirtualconference
Throughout March at wholechildeducation.org: Reducing Barriers and Expanding Opportunities
Addressing students' needs levels the playing field. Or rather, addressing students' needs is only leveling the playing field. If a child is hungry, then schools can address the need by providing breakfast, lunch, and assistance as needed. The same applies if the child is unwell. Many schools have made great strides in addressing students' needs, but some schools have gone further. They have taken an issue that was initially a need and used it to enhance and improve what the school offers.
Join us throughout March as we look at schools that have taken a deficit and turned it into an asset. Some schools have used connections formed into and across the community to enhance and build on what they first envisaged. Other schools are forming alliances to improve a specific situation and have then used those same alliances to improve the entire school. How has your school or community taken a challenge and turned it into a win?
We are taping this month’s Whole Child Podcast in front of a live audience at ASCD’s 2013 Annual Conference and Exhibit Show, on Saturday, March 16, in Chicago, Ill. Joining hosts Sean Slade and Donna Snyder of ASCD’s Whole Child Programs team will be representatives from the winning school of the 2013 Vision in Action: The ASCD Whole Child Award as they discuss this month's topic and what works in today's schools. The podcast will be available for download on Monday, March 18.
ASCD Leaders in Action: News from the ASCD Leader Community
New Jersey ASCD 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 fifth post of the series, New Jersey ASCD Executive Director Marie Adair writes about the challenges and successes that New Jersey has had with CCSS implementation.
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:
Use Emotional Intelligence as an Effectiveness Tool and Both Sides of the Scale by Professional Interest Community Facilitator Mamzelle Adolphine
The Road to Principalship and Beyond by 2012 Emerging Leader Dawn Imada Chan
Making Teacher Observation Matter by Virginia ASCD Executive Director Laurie McCullough
Conversation is also taking place in the ASCD Forum group on ASCD EDge, and the #ASCDForum hashtag on Twitter. You are also invited to join us for a live face-to-face session at Annual Conference that will also stream live via Virtual Conference. For more information, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum.
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 to 2:30 p.m.!
Welcome to the new Common Core Professional Interest Community
We are pleased to announce the newest ASCD Professional Interest Community: Common Core in the Classroom facilitated by Suzy Brooks of Massachusetts ASCD! The group will share ideas and resources for implementing the Common Core State Standards in instruction. Please join the group on ASCD EDge.
Congratulations to Matthew Cotton
2012 ASCD Emerging Leader Matthew Cotton has been selected to serve as a reviewer for the music standards by the National Association for Music Education (NAfME). Matthew was identified from among hundreds of applicants and nominees nationwide as an expert in an area of music education who can contribute to this process. Congratulations to Matthew on this exciting achievement!
Check Out These Great Pieces by ASCD Leaders
Something to Talk About
Yesterday, as with many days, there was a hectic start to the school day. As most principals will tell you, some days start quieter than others, and some are definitely busier. Our school had a busy morning with a challenging commute to school due to weather, and as a result, many staff members were out and a lot of “juggling” took place after our delayed start.
Shortly after the day started, I had an interview with a doctoral student as part of her research. She was given my name to interview by a former colleague and mentee of mine, and I was happy to help with her research. The focus of her study is around principal support through interacting with other principals. We talked for about an hour and a half, with the her probing into my past experiences, interactions I had that were helpful to my practice, and those that did not provide me with what I needed professionally and personally. I must admit that after having such a challenging start to the day, it was a nice “escape” to talk to someone about the work of the principal and provide my own insights in a way that was direct, honest, and heartfelt. Not to say that I have all the answers, but I always find that when I have the opportunity to talk about the work, it makes me think about my own performance, and refine my views of what my practice looks like.
At one point in our “interview”, the doctoral student and I discussed my former work as a mentor with two newer principals. While those two principals were new to the position, they were not new to the education profession. The interviewer asked me about my mentoring, and she probed into the work I did with the two mentees. She asked questions about the reciprocity of the relationships and what I got out of helping them. I felt that this was one of the best parts of the interview and truly made me realize what I love about my work.
The reality is, I never got any form of pay or a stipend for mentoring two principals that were new to the position. One of the questions she asked was, “What did you get from those mentoring opportunities?” I shared with the doctoral student that some people may have viewed those relationships as one sided, with the mentees getting advice and support from me. I did not view the relationships in that way.
One of the things I liked most about the mentoring that I shared during my interview was that through those mentoring opportunities, I always learned something more about my own practice as I helped someone else. When those two principals would ask questions related to various challenges they faced, or when they asked questions that were more “technical” in nature, I always took the opportunity afterwards to see the relevance of what I shared with them in my own work. Sometimes that led me to another place with my own practice and views. There was always an opportunity to learn from those conversations.
Additionally, helping a colleague through mentoring provided support for members of the team that I was on. The two mentees I had were also part of my administrative team, and therefore, helping them would also help our team be more cohesive, collaborative, and functional. No one wants to be part of a team that doesn’t work well together. My sharing of practice with them helps calibrate us in regards to our work, but also in regards to our relationships. There was constant communication among the members of that team, both in regards to mentoring and in general, relating to our work together.
Lastly, I shared with the doctoral student that at the end of the day, I love being a principal. I truly enjoy teaching and helping others, thus, my work in education. I love the work I get to do with and for students, I enjoy the opportunities I have to work with teachers and staff, and I also appreciate the work I do with all parents who entrust their children to us in public education. The work I got to do with those mentees helped support them in the profession I truly love, and therefore, at the end of the day, the best part of the relationship for me was being able to help others.
As I am writing this, I’m still thinking about the interview, what I shared, and how I hope that conversation will contribute to my being a better principal, teacher, and colleague. I hope others enjoy their work in education as much as I do, and that we all continue to “give” because we are truly educators. After all, isn’t that was teaching and learning is all about?
Thomas P. Martellone, Ed.S
If the classroom is truly the training ground for life, it only makes sense that we would use reading strategies that mimic the way we read outside of the classroom, doesn’t it? This is essentially the crux of Rachel McCormack’s and Susan Lee Pasquarelli’s argument in Teaching Reading: Strategies and Resources for Grades K-6 (2009). We found it to be an engaging text and thought we’d share a few of their reading strategies:
Reading Strategies that Transcend the Classroom
Allow students to read silently before reading aloud
Students are often asked to read aloud; less often are they given the opportunity to silently read the text first. This might be worth reconsidering.
If you’ve ever agreed to read publically, chances are that you requested the opportunity to review the text before you stood in front of an audience. Why? Because you didn’t want to stumble over words or make silly mistakes. Naturally, our students feel the same. Most real-world reading happens silently, so doesn’t it make sense to allow our students the opportunity to read silently before shining the spotlight on them?
Not all texts are read the same
How we read varies with the type of text and the purpose for reading it. In life outside of the classroom, we find ourselves in a myriad of reading situations. McCormack and Pasquarelli give the example of a reader who is waiting for a dentist appointment. Most likely, the reader will pick up a magazine to pass the time—or to take her mind off of the impending root canal! The reader knows the dentist is not going to give a reading quiz, so she skims, looks at pictures and often abandons articles for new ones.
This same reader would approach a recipe, a science text book, or an instruction manual designed to help her install a hot water heater very differently. Likewise, students should always consider the type of text they are reading, the overarching purpose for reading it and adjust the way the approach the text accordingly.
How would you read an unfamiliar and difficult text?
Over the years, we’ve picked up reading strategies and use them so often that we’re no longer even aware that we’re using them. Because of that, it’s easy to forget how beginning readers experience texts. Here’s a simple exercise that will help you see reading from a student’s perspective and reacquaint you with your own reading strategies.
Readers improve when they struggle
Learning something new is intimidating for many of us because we fear failure. As much as we want to challenge our students, we often worry about the effects challenges may have on a struggling reader’s self-esteem. It’s wise to allow students to choose their own reading materials sometimes, but don’t take away opportunities for your students to take risks, stumble and pick themselves up again. To struggle is to grow.