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The first day of school is still a ways off, but many teachers—especially those of us who just received our fall assignments—are already beginning to think about it. The day usually begins the same way: Our new students trickle in and find a desk where they can carefully guard their tongues for the next week. We feel for our students not only because we’ve been there before, but also because we always have some nervous energy ourselves. To ease the first-day jitters, we started using icebreakers. Below you will find five of our favorites.
Preparing for Opening Day: 5 of the best icebreakers for teachers
The only thing you’ll need for this activity is a big ball of string. Here’s how it works: The teacher stands at the door with two handfuls of string ends. As you welcome your new students give each student an end. Alternate hands as you pass them out: The first student gets a string-end from your right hand; the second from your left; the third from your right and so on.
Once everyone has arrived and has a string-end, they must start to follow the course of the string they hold (you got to class early and created a trail for each piece of string). Some pieces wrap around chairs, run through the coat closet, under and over desks and around your podium, or become tangled with other pieces of string. Your students will have to follow this trail—wherever it may lead them.
Eventually your students will be startled to discover that they are face-to-face with another student who is holding the other end of the same piece of string! Once each student has found his or her partner, it’s time for them to make their introductions.
Put on a new jacket
The covers of our most-popular books often become torn and dirty. Direct your students to the classroom library and have them select books with damaged jackets or book covers. If you don’t have enough damaged books, allow them to choose a book with their favorite cover they’d like to protect.
Offer a variety of craft materials (paint, pens, random ephemera and fabric) so that students can create their own covers and book jackets. If you’d like instruction books or kits for slipcases, stop by Hollanders.
This idea comes courtesy of Bonnie Kunzel’s and Constance Hardesty’s book, The Teen-Centered Book Club: Readers into Leaders.
Start a time capsule
Type up a handout that includes questions like:
Feel free to get as crazy and creative as you like with these questions. Once your students are finished, collect the handouts and put them in a secure place.
When I was in third grade, my teacher received permission from the principal to dig a hole and bury our class time capsule (which also included an item belonging to each student) in the playground! At the end of the year, we dug up our time capsule and discussed how much our interest, tastes and height had changed over the course of a year.
Know your orange
We got this idea from Christopher Willard’s book, Child’s Mind: Mindfulness Practices to Help Our Children Be More Focused, Calm and Relaxed.
If you’d like to take this activity a few steps further, you might have your students journal about mindful tasting. Try giving them the following prompts:
Spill the Skittles, not the beans
Pass out five or ten Skittles (M&Ms work too) to each student and explain that for each piece of candy the student has, s/he must tell the class something about him/herself. Here’s the tricky part: each color corresponds to a category. An orange Skittle represents a scary memory; green ones represent a favorite outdoor place; blue ones represent their favorite place to swim and so on. This is an easy way to get students talking—and when was the last time kids turned down free sweets?
There are a number of variations on this activity. For a slightly different spin, check out Katie’s idea on her blog, live.craft.eat
We all need a superhero to swoop in once in a while to change the outcome of history and give us hope for a better and brighter future. On the last national writing assessment, less than a quarter of elementary students, and less than a third of 12th graders, could write proficiently. This is a terrible and disheartening statistic. American education needs a superhero right now. This superhero may not be dressed in blue and red, wear a cape, and have the ability to fly, but she does have a special super power that will change the world. Her name is the Common Core Standards, and it is exactly what America needs to turn around writing in our schools.
Writing has been neglected. Anyone that disagrees just needs to look at the most recent writing results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The Common Core Standards are going to improve student writing proficiency by providing a benchmark for teachers to follow that will create a clear, concise, and consistent framework for students across the nation, no matter what their socioeconomic status is. Currently, educational standards in America are a patchwork of assessments and learning standards. Writing standards mean something different in California, or Florida, or Illinois. Common Core is the corridor to consistency. The Common Core is going to raise the bar and ask students to think like writers and demand more from students than ever before. Students will be challenged, tested, and pushed. Greatness doesn’t come easy. The Common Core is the catalyst that is going to spur the greatness we need.
Every hero has his arch nemesis and team of villains set out to destroy him. The villain here is the back lash from the parents and educators who oppose the Common Core. Teachers are concerned about teaching a program that has never been tested on public school students. Yes, this can be a scary thought, but without change, nothing great would ever be achieved. Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” We need to change the way education is taught, now, more than ever before. Our current way of teaching isn’t working. Now is the time for change. Another concern of parents and educators is the idea that the Common Core is a ploy by major publishers to use the Common Core as a way to sell material and make a profit. Though I can’t speak for other companies out there, I can speak for myself.
Writing is my passion in life. WriteSteps was not developed out of a desire for profit. It evolved from an experience of fulfillment. Writing is a difficult subject to teach. Without help, it takes a huge commitment and a long time to do it well. I took a pay cut when I decided to focus on writing instruction and WriteSteps. I make less now than I ever did as a teacher. But knowing there’s a world of students finding their writing voices is enormously gratifying. You can’t put a price on seeing the way students’ eyes light up when they finish a writing piece. It is my dream to see 100% of America’s students proficient in writing by the time they graduate. One-third of graduating 12th graders proficient in writing is just not good enough. We can’t sit back and be idle about this. I won’t stop sharing WriteSteps with teachers around the country until that goal has been reached.
I don’t want any teacher, anywhere, to be limited by an incomplete view of writing. This is what Common Core writing demands and why it is the superhero that is going to save writing. Superheroes have a way of showing up just in the nick of time when we feel like all hope is lost. Thank you Common Core-you are the champion we need to reach 100% writing efficiency for students across America.
Dedicated to writing success,
Founder and CEO of WriteSteps
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
Watch the “Getting Social with Your Lawmakers” webinar. Almost every member of Congress uses a toolbox of social networking channels, from Twitter to YouTube, to communicate about their work and connect with constituents. Listen to the recording to learn how to leverage these tools to sustain relationships with your lawmakers, share your expertise, exert your influence, and join grassroots movements for change.
What Does “ASCD” Stand For?
What do you say when people ask you what “ASCD” stands for? Since ASCD no longer uses Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, sometimes that question can be difficult to answer, and we’re here to help. This ASCD Inservice blog post takes on the challenge of explaining the history behind our name.
What ASCD Has Learned from Affiliates
As a director in Constituent Services at ASCD, Walter McKenzie works with the best and brightest educators leading our affiliates around the world. Read his Whole Child Blog posthighlighting some of what he has learned through collaboration with ASCD affiliates.
ASCD Leaders in Action: News from the ASCD Leader Community
Please Welcome the 2013 Class of ASCD Emerging Leaders
ASCD has selected 25 educators from across the globe to join the 2013 class of ASCD emerging leaders. Please join us in welcoming them to the ASCD community! For a full list of the 2013 class of emerging leaders, view the ASCD Emerging Leaders Directory. To connect with the 2013 class, follow them on Twitter.
See these news items featuring 2013 Emerging Leaders:
ASCD Leader Voices
Check out these great blog posts:
Whole Child Virtual Conference presentations by ASCD Leaders:
Your Summer PD: ASCD Whole Child Virtual Conference Archives
How can schools implement and sustain a whole child approach to education? The 2013 ASCD Whole Child Virtual Conference, entitled “Moving from Implementation to Sustainability to Culture,” was held in early May 2013 and, through archived presentations, offers educators around the globe strategies and learning to support your work. In these presentations, you will:
No matter where your school falls on the whole child continuum, be it the early implementation stage or 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.
Reducing the Effects of Child Poverty
In today’s global economic state, many families and children face reduced circumstances. The 2008 economic crisis became a “household crisis “ when higher costs for basic goods, fewer jobs and reduced wages, diminished assets and reduced access to credit, and reduced access to public goods and services affected families who coped, in part, by eating fewer and less nutritious meals, spending less on education and health care, and pulling children out of school to work or help with younger siblings. These “new poor” join those who were vulnerable prior to the financial shocks and economic downturn. Read more at the Whole Child Blog.
In May we looked at the implications of the “new poverty” for schools, many of which have seen drastic changes in the populations they serve and their communities. Listen to the Whole Child Podcast with guests Deborah Wortham, superintendent of the School District of the City of York, Pa.; 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.
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
How Can We Help You? By ASCD Service Center Director Marilyn Whipple
To Infini-Pie and Beyond! By Walter McKenzie
ASCD Offers Resources for Educators Planning the School Year Ahead—As educators gear up to return to school in the fall, ASCD has compiled a collection of hard-hitting resources to enable educators to implement innovative teaching and learning strategies for the 2013–14 school year. Read the full press release.
ASCD Announces 2013 Class of Emerging Leaders—ASCD has selected 25 educators from around the globe for the 2013 Emerging Leaders Class. The Emerging Leaders program recognizes and prepares young, promising educators to influence education programs, policy, and practice on both the local and national levels. To view the entire list of the 2013 emerging leaders, visit the Emerging Leaders Directory. View the full press release.
New Acquisitions Editors Support ASCD’s Growing Publishing Unit—ASCD welcomes two new staff members to the association. Julie Scheina and Allison Scott were recently appointed acquisitions editors for the association, which produces the award-winning monthly magazine Educational Leadership, more than 40 books a year, and a variety of valuable newsletters and other print and online publications. Read the full press release.
Why do America’s children write so poorly? Writing instruction has seen a lot of innovation since I was a kid. Like many of my peers, I struggled with writing under the old system of the 3 A’s – assign, assume, and assess. My teachers assigned a topic, assumed we could write about it, and assessed our finished pieces.
Today's kids have it better. Yet there’s still a disconnect. Despite the advances in instruction since I was a child, most teachers still don’t teach writing well. On the last national writing assessment (the NAEP), less than a third of 12th graders, and less than a quarter of elementary students, could write proficiently.
How do we reconcile promising changes in writing pedagogy with this reality? That calls for a quick history lesson in writing instruction.
New approaches for young writers emerged in the 1980’s when process writing made its way into American classrooms. The whole language movement had made its impact on reading, and now Donald Graves and Donald Murray brought a similar holistic approach to writing.
Rather than simply correcting errors and assigning grades, they focused on meaning. They encouraged children to write about what they knew. They celebrated their ideas. In a radical departure, process writing teachers accepted mistakes in handwriting, spelling, and grammar. Frequent writing would provide the experience kids needed to develop these now-secondary skills.
Process writing also introduced the pre-writing, writing, and rewriting approach. Further, the teacher now functioned as a guide, rather than judge. Instead of just grading students’ final product, teachers now modeled their own writing process and checked in regularly as kids composed their own pieces.
Writer’s workshop, which many educators today associate with Lucy Calkins, is an example of the process writing approach. The National Writing Project has also popularized process writing in summer institutes for teachers.
As process writing was incubating on the East Coast, new ideas were also percolating out West. In 1983, a committee in Beaverton, Oregon developed a new assessment rubric – The Six Traits – to improve assessment, a perennial challenge in writing instruction. The traits included: ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions.
Though the Six Traits were conceived as elements for a new assessment rubric, they proved a valuable teaching tool. Teacher Rhonda Woodruff discovered this with her fourth graders in 1986. It turned out that playing the role of evaluator helped students strengthen their writing process, and soon, Oregon teachers were sharing this new instructional approach in national workshops. In 1990, The Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory acquired a version of the original rubric and began selling traits-based instructional aids.
More good leadership emerged in the 1990’s. Teacher Marcia Freeman and later, Ralph Fletcher, built on the foundation of process writing with their ideas for teaching targeted skills such as writing leads and creating transitions.
Individual research studies have documented the advantages of these most of these approaches to teaching writing. Why then, has achievement remained flat for 30 years? Besides the fact that writing has not been given enough instructional time – which I hope the Common Core will cure – I think the biggest reason is that we’re dealing with a case of the blind men and the elephant.
In the old story, six blind men visit an elephant, but each one seems to meet an entirely different creature based on the part he has touched. Thus, one describes the elephant as being "like a spear" (tusk), another claims it’s "like a tree" (leg), and so on. The story tells us a person can have a piece of the truth even if he's still missing a big part of it.
Writing pedagogy is like this. Each instructional method offers teachers one piece of the puzzle, but none gives teachers everything they need. This is why two-thirds of our graduates can’t write. Few elementary teachers learn to teach writing as part of their training, and they simply don’t have time to pull all the pieces together once they’ve entered the classroom. They still have to teach reading, math, social studies, and science, too. Usually, their districts try to support them by offering either:
I chose my profession to become the teacher I never had. And perhaps because I made a D- on my first writing assignment in college (yes, it’s true), I set myself to become intimately acquainted with that elephant as a teacher. With the support of my principal, I studied every hair and wrinkle on the beast.
What I developed was pretty simple. I gave my students the best of the best. I fused best practices into a comprehensive approach, their success got attention, and I was asked to help my peers. Thus began my journey as writing coach and crusader.
What I hope to contribute to teaching in general, and to the pool of Common Core resources in particular, is akin to giving glasses to blind men. I don’t want any teacher, anywhere, tobe limited by an incomplete view of the animal. This is what Common Core writing demands. We can shorten the learning curve for teachers and help them befriend the elephant. I’ve seen what can happen when teachers and students grasp its totality. It is nothing short of magnificent.
For additional blogs visit http://WriteStepsWriting.com
North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Mike Forest stirred up a bit of a hornet's nest. In this video, Forest vilifies the Common Core State Standards, which his state is now reconsidering.
I first learned of this from an intelligent blogger and educator, Steven Weber, who takes Forest to task in his post here. Then, fellow ASCD author, Mike Fisher, took the reins in his own response to Forest.
As much as I value the insights of both Weber and Fisher, inspiring and articulate educators, I must respectfully disagree with both and, as much as it pains me to side with a politician, I agree with most of what Forest says in his YouTube attack on the CCSS.
Readers of my book, Role Reversal, know I'm staunchly agains standardization of any kind. While many of my esteemed colleagues at ASCDEDge blog about the merits of the Common Core, I am more than willing to be the stentorian voice against it. While it's easy to join the masses, who fall in line with the district administrators and state bureaucrats who praise the Common Core as the answer to failing American education, I simply can't join this fraternity.
My issues are simple enough.
1. Standardization of education is just wrong.This is exactly why parents take their children out of public schools. They want something different, inspiring and unique for their children.
2. I already collaborate with teachers nationwide. The notion that the Common Core makes it easier for teachers to collaborate is ludicrous and insulting. Some of my best ideas for instruction have come from attending conferences and chats on Twitter and other social networks with smart, experienced educators.
3. Politically-driven education initiatives put private companies in charge. Not to be too cynical, but it's difficult for me to see the Common Core as much more than opportunity for education publishers and consulting firms to make more money. For years, workbooks poured in to our classrooms, all designed to help our students pass "The Test." Now, they must be discarded. Ah, not to worry though. There are plenty of new "Master-the-Common Core" books on the way and many consultants showing veteran teachers how to teach with new standards. (That last sentence makes me nauseous.)
4. The old way wasn't broken. What money-hungry bureaucrats don't want people focusing on is the fact that prior to NCLB and CCSS, education was just fine. Teachers used to focus on helping students become thinkers and problem-solvers. They collaborated, graduated, went to college and flourished. Now, we teach students how to pass a test, yet scores continue to decline. I'm not sure how the Common Core will change this. Some say with depth and rigor; I've seen the standards, and I just don't see this.
5. The problem in education is poverty. As noted researcher Stephen Krashen has alluded to for decades, the problem in education is that poverty-stricken children don't value school, so they don't regularly attend. Remove the impoverished from test scores, and America leaps to the top in the world, at least using this misleading barometer. Sadly, instead of trying to end poverty, we continue to give billions of dollars to organizations like Pearson, so it can churn out more workbooks.
So, with due respect to my colleagues, brilliant people with good intentions, I am against the Common Core and all that it stands for.
Follow me on Twitter, where we can continue the conversation.
Mark's new book, Role Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom is available in the ASCD bookstore here.
Great Teachers Using Daniel Pink’s Method “The ABC’s of Selling”
While reading about Daniel Pink’s new book “To Sell Is Human” I ran across what he referred to as the ABC’s of Selling.
A -- Attunement
B -- Buoyancy
C -- Clarity
Daniel explained these three qualities are essential whether you're trying to sell a computer or encourage your child to do his or her homework. I began to think of how they could be related to education and our ability to engage and excite our students in the learning process and promote added student success. I believe we can draw some parallels.
According to Pink, Attunement is the capacity to take another’s perspective, to understand their interests, and to see the world from their point of view. This skill is necessary because teachers need to make a connection to their students. They need to take a step back and truly understand how the lesson or instruction they are providing is relevant to the student. More learning will take place when the lesson is important and relevant to the students. To accomplish this the great teachers must practice Attunement.
Next Pink touches on Buoyancy. This pertains to the capacity to stay afloat on what one salesman calls an "ocean of rejection." This skill is also very important in education. Teachers work so hard to plan and deliver great lessons, create formative opportunities, and collect summative data that tells them if the student accomplished their learning goals. When a student fails or learning does not take place teachers must show Buoyancy in their practice. They must overcome the rejection of having their students produce failing grades and possible low student morale. When this occurs, great teachers look at their instruction as a possible problem and wonder if they could have taught the lesson or unit better. They will then explore new ways of instructing students to success. They show Buoyancy by continuing to stay afloat among the various redo’s and remediation and their students will benefit and learn because of their hard work. Great teachers are all about student learning.
Finally, Pink tells us that we must find clarity in things. Pink explains that clarity is the capacity to make sense of murky situations, to curate information rather than merely access it, and to move from solving existing problems to finding hidden ones. Why is the student tardy? Why does the student not do his or her homework? Why do they show proper levels of understanding on all formative work only to fail the properly aligned summative assessment? Teachers must use clarity to look beyond the obvious and explore the root causes of the student’s behavior. Many times the students school and academic success or failures have very little to do with their ability to learn. These behaviors come about mainly because of the problems and challenges they face away from school. Great teachers can recognize and help to combat these issues with clarity.
All three of the skills Daniel Pink refers to in his book “To Sell Is Human” can be used by great teachers and great school leaders. In reality we are always selling our lessons, our programs, our schools, or ourselves.
Dr. Scott Rimes
In a video posted on June 4, 2013, North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest discussed the Common Core State Standards. It is apparent that he is both not a fan and that he has not fully investigated everything about them and the implications they may have on teachers, students, and the entire educational system in his short tenure. This is in response to my colleagueSteven Weber’s post about an Educator’s Perspective on the Common Core, specifically in relation to his state’s actions.
We need less extremism and polarizing missives and more opportunities for collegial dialogue and specific plans of action that are based on collaboration and agreed upon goals around whatever it is we decide to do as a country. These standards are a foundation, not the aspiration of all students. What we grow from them is the art of teaching. Having standards and maintaining them is the science of teaching. The Common Core does not dictate curriculum anymore than your blood pressure number dictates a course of appropriate action. They are a standard, a level of quality, a point of reference to a mean. What we do to attain them and what we do to grow beyond them are more essential questions than how do we get rid of them. Getting rid of them means going back to previous standards that will have the same arguments, for or against, as to why they are good or bad.
What follows is a breakdown of my analysis of his comments. I very much think the Common Core Standards are a good idea. For the first time in the history of our country, students in Wyoming and Nebraska and California and New York and North Carolina are being held to the same standards. Assessment data in our country will be less skewed than it is in other countries (who have national standards) and we are thinking specifically about what it is that prepares students for going to college or moving into a career after high school.
The rigor of the new standards is greater, yes. Much of the conversations I have about them push teachers and administrators out of years old comfort zones. I believe this is a good thing. I believe that most teachers want to improve their professional practice and this is a step in that direction.
Beyond the standards, specifically with new teacher evaluations tied to them and canned curricula being created around them, I believe that there are wrong things being done in the name of progress. The standards themselves, in my humble opinion, are not evil. The hurricane of “progress” around them is what people should be paying attention to and questioning and determining the usefulness and economic viability of.
What follows is not meant to be personal. We, as educators, have an obligation to both invite and engage in public discourse about what we believe is best for our kids. I have a kid in public school already and another one joining the ranks shortly. I want this to work. I want my kids prepared well for the world they will graduate into. I want to have no regrets on graduation night (if graduation the way we know it stays in place, in the traditional sense) that I did everything I could do as a parent and an educator.
That said, what follows is a discussion of the comments and assertions made by Dan Forest:
Dan begins his video by blaming the previous administration.
Besides being in poor taste, it is juvenile and reflects negatively on his professionalism as a state leader.
It’s not about what happened before he came into the office, it’s about what he will do to improve things now that he is in office. That improvement should build from where things are now, rather than wasting more money, time, and resources on dismantling everything up to this point and starting over.
The previous administration did what they thought was best; as he is expected to do while he is in office. He may disagree and he may act differently, but laying blame paints a portrait of him as a savior from years of oppression. While I know that some will buy this shtick, my hope is that most will see through this and evaluate his statements and his actions with a critical eye, and not be persuaded by his claims without further investigation.
He is concerned by new standards.
This is a strange statement. In all states, standards evolve and upgrade every few years.
Because they have national media attention, this version of the evolution and upgrade is problematic? This seems more like a fraternity of rejection to join rather than a real concern about what our kids need to know and be able to do.
He is concerned about local control and parental involvement with standards.
If the common core wasn’t there, how much local control existed (with End of Grade high stakes testing?) and how much parent involvement was there?
Parent involvement is a huge missing component of the Common Core. Teachers are expected to do the best with what they’ve got, but what they’ve got is oftentimes dependent on the environment from which their students come, rather than a function of how the educational experience truly impacts their learning. Until this is addressed, the entire teacher evaluation system is flawed.
I agree that upcoming new assessments are in part narrowing the curriculum and making testing a cash cow. These are functions of vendors interpreting the Common Core versus the standards themselves and states agreeing to give them exclusive contracts to spend their Race to the Top money.
Local control is a good thing when it works. I believe that districts have distinct understandings of their populations and the systems within which they function, but if they use that as a scapegoat or excuse to explain performances that should be better, it’s a problem.
Mr. Forest says, “Standardization runs counter to the customization of the world we live in.”
Except when you check your blood pressure or cholesterol?
The world we live in (technology wise) is increasingly based on Google and Facebook analytics that customize our web experiences by finding commonalities in the way we search for information and interact in the real world based on our “customized” searches. Ultimately, these companies, including Google, are looking for ways to streamline experiences and de-individualize user experiences for the sake of what’s easiest and most economical for the masses. That’s why Facebook tells us what all of our friends are doing. Our commonalities are more important than our individuality.
He said that technology and the learning experience can be customized to the needs of the individual.
See number 4.
Technology should be the new paper or pencil rather than something we plan for or customize. Sure, we can customize learning experiences, but at what expense? All of these customizations cost money and public institutions have an obligation to the masses and the money is divided among the total population of students.
That customization is great in theory, but economically, won’t work for most students.
This is said knowing full well what my own expectations are for technology immersion and the sometimes utopian ways I speak about it. However, what I may say in theory is always tempered with the reality of what schools are dealing with financially and what their infrastructures and technology capabilities are.
Also of note is the publication of the 2013 Horizon report, part of which focuses on Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs). College and Career readiness is not only about independence with content knowledge but also valuing evidence, strategic and capable use of digital media and the Internet and strong communication and collaboration skills. These MOOCs are going to transform education in the very new future and change our notions of how we “do” education, the places, the time constructs, the demonstration of learning. We still need a framework of anchor standards, checkpoints from which to grow and sophisticate from one year to the next regardless of how school and learning is accessed.
He says that Common Core has not been field-tested.
Have previous iterations of evolved standards been field-tested?
The assessments that follow new iterations of standards usually re-inform instructional practice AFTER new standards have been put into place and are ultimately assessed a year or more after implementation.
He asserts that Testing standards have not been rolled out.
The General Item Specifications for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium were rolled out last April.
PARCC content frameworks have been available for 2 years. Additionally, many states have assessment guidelines that direct what any vendor, including Pearson, must consider for building new assessments. I found resources for assessment development in North Carolina on their website. And this one here for NC’s Next Generation Assessments. The process for developing new assessments are not going to be that much different—just set to new standards.
Sample assessment questions are also available from the PARCC website and multiple states have given access to sample questions on their state education websites: New York | Delaware | Other States
I am troubled with his questioning of the Common Core Standards themselves, rather than all of the hoopla around them.
Standardization is not bad: blood pressure, cholestorel, etc. He even uses a medical metaphor about launching a new drug without FDA approval—essentially, isn’t that what states do when they evolve standards and change curriculum or try new strategies that may or may not be researched based?
It’s not just Common Core, it’s every time the standards change. If you go back to previous state standards, aren’t you just going back to a previous version of what was “not vetted” and “not piloted?” (And without articulation of what was college and career ready?)
It takes time to implement anything new, navigating nuances, deciding what to cut or keep or create. What will be the cost in time, resources, money, and culture if the Common Core is ditched and we go back to what we used to do?
I think the more unconscionable acts are how the standards are the scapegoats for making decisions about what vendors deem to be “Common Core Aligned.” This could be curriculum materials, assessments, test prep materials—all things I think teachers are capable of creating well if given enough time.
The statement on Data Collection and what data will be collected and who the data will be shared with seems alarmist.
With all of the media attention from Opt Out organizations about the inBloom data product and the Data Driven frenzy that goes with the Common Core as a deliverable element, there is the need, for reporting and for teacher evaluations, to collect massive amounts of data on student performance. This is a function of the Race to the Top grant and states buy into this level of reporting. The amount of test data and the associated personal data is relative to individual states who are participating in Race to the Top but the data is not that much different, if at all different, than data that has been collected for the last two decades. Because of the backlash against associated elements with the Common Core, administrative leaders and those that are trying to undo the new system would have you believe that this data is a function of the times, when the truth is more along the lines “of same data, potentially new containment system.”
If that containment system is hosted on an internet based server, as it is with inBloom’s product (Amazon server) then there is the potential for the data being compromised or accessed by hackers and while there are multiple “what if” scenarios around the potential for compromised data and what could be done with it, I think the reality is that these are potential yet unlikely scenarios, as they are with our bank and credit card data. Breaches happen rarely and when they do, there is a quick scramble to re-secure the data as quickly as possible.
Mr. Forest says, “A third of the states in our country have either rejected Common Core or are seeking legislative action to back out of it.”
What evidence does he have for this statement? That’s a pretty strong claim to make without backing up with details.
While there is an occasional news tidbit about states that are considering giving the Race to the Top money back, a full third of the states participating in a collective mutiny seems like it would be more prominently discussed on the evening news.
Mr. Forest says, “I’ll be looking at the Common Core with a Critical Eye.”
What’s his background? What’s his level of expertise at looking at the standards and evaluating whether or not they are good for students? What’s so great about previous North Carolina standards, or any states’ standards that make them better, worse, or even with Common Core?
There has been a lot of good work done within the new standards framework. Teaching and learning have been upgraded to more rigorous levels that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Do we really want to go back to the way things were? Worksheets? Lectures? Resource/Textbook dependence? Computer lab Thursdays? (I hear that Oregon Trail software is pretty cool.)
It’s a little disconcerting to see political figureheads undo the Vision and Culture of education in a state where the teachers are under such intense pressure.
Would it not have been better to “look before he leaped” into a response until after he’d investigated?
Keeping people in turmoil seems more like a political strategy than an effective way to lead the state’s educational expectations. I hope that his constituents pay attention to what he is preparing to “undo” in order to “redo” around his own opinion.
A team/collaborative effort here is necessary. I don’t mean state level teams, I mean all stakeholders: state education, administrators, teachers, parents, and students.
I worked in North Carolina for years before moving to New York. What I’m saying here is representative of the fact that I have worked in multiple states around the Common Core standards and obviously, I'm a bigger fan of them than Mr. Forest. I’ve seen the positive changes that they’ve made in classrooms for both teachers and students.
When I think back to my time in North Carolina, there was always an emphasis on the End of Grade State tests. Teachers, at that time, and including me, had better ideas around what they’d always done and what curricular materials they used from year to year than the actual standards. It took me a while to un-marry myself from the materials and have a deep understanding of what the standards demanded my students know and are able to do. The Common Core, if nothing else, is helping teachers have intimate knowledge of the standards. North Carolina was one of the first states to break the standards down into actionable learning targets for the sake of helping teachers teach their students well.
I think the critical eye should focus less on the standards themselves and more on:
Ceasing expenditure of more money on curriculum materials until we have another year or two for publishers to have a better idea of what Common Core alignment means, particularly in terms of new assessments.
Time for teachers to work with the standards and plan for deeper instruction and assessment.
Building up infrastructures for Wi Fi and digital devices as always-available options for learning.
Looking at how we “do” school and thinking of divergent and creative ways to help students access and interact around their learning expectations both physically and virtually.
Ditching the mindset that what we’ve always done is still good enough. Growth comes from upgrading and reimagining what we know to be good, not sticking with the status quo. We’re preparing kids for 2025, and our schools should reflect that goal.
How do we do what must be done today to prepare kids for tomorrow? That’s our essential question. We’ve got a long way to go, for sure, and if not these Common Core standards, then what? How are we going to prepare our kids for the world they will graduate into, whether to go to college or to start their careers? How will we explain to our students tomorrow what our collective decisions are today? Now that we know better, we should do better.
"If the state of North Carolina decides to pull the plug on the Common Core State Standards, it will be a slap in the face to the teachers and administrators who have spent countless hours (most on their own time without reimbursement) preparing to implement the Common Core State Standards and to maximize learning for 1.5 million students."
On June 2, 2010, the North Carolina State Board of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards which were implemented during the 2012-2013 school year. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) represent K-12 learning expectations in English-Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics. The Standards reflect the knowledge and skills students need to be college and career ready by the end of high school. Elected officials across the United States are beginning to question the Common Core State Standards. On June 4, 2013, North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest posted a YouTube video outlining his concerns about the Common Core State Standards.
While standing in the car rider line at an elementary school, I was approached by a classroom teacher. She asked, "Are we going to align our curriculum, instruction, and assessments to the Common Core State Standards next year?" I replied, "yes." Then I said, "The Common Core is not going away." The teacher replied, "The Lieutenant Governor is discussing eliminating the Common Core." I replied, "Which Lieutenant Governor?" The teacher said, "The North Carolina Lieutenant Governor, Dan Forest."
Prior to becoming an elementary principal, I was the Director of Secondary Instruction for Orange County Schools. Our school district held a Common Core Summer Institute for teachers and administrators during the summer of 2011 and summer of 2012. At the summer institutes, teacher teams planned a one year professional development plan for their schools. Hosting the summer institutes cost the school district thousands of dollars. The North Carolina General Assembly did not provide funding for implementing the Common Core State Standards. Throughout the past two school years, I have attended professional development led by teacher leaders. The average professional development requires teacher leaders (appointed or self-nominated) to spend approximately ten to twenty hours planning quality professional development and developing resources which support the implementation of the new standards.
In addition to working with classroom teachers to build awareness around the new standards, I have observed teacher leaders writing curriculum aligned to the new standards. Curriculum development has taken place through building level meetings, district meetings, and regional meetings. On several occasions five school districts in the Triangle met to support each other through the pre-implementation and implementation process. Triangle High Five is a regional partnership between Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Durham Public Schools, Johnston County Schools, Orange County Schools, and Wake County Public School System. Teachers and administrators from these school districts shared curriclum maps, worked with high school math teachers to align curriculum to the Common Core State Standards, offered professional development, and worked with the North Carolina School of Math and Science to offer free professional development for mathematics teachers. In 2011 and 2012, SAS hosted a summer mathematics summit to support math teachers in implementing the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. SAS has invested in the five school districts for several years. Recently, SAS provided thousands of dollars in order to support the transition from the Nort Carolina Essential Standards to the Common Core State Standards. It is expensive to provide professional development to over 400 educators from five school districts.
In 2010, the North Carolina State Board of Education did not ask North Carolina educators if we should adopt the Common Core State Standards. Once the State Board of Education adopted the standards, Superintendents and district leaders were told to implement the standards. Was the implementation process rushed? Yes. In 2010-2011, educators were anxious about the changes. To date, it is still difficult to find resources aligned to the Common Core State Standards. I know 20-year veterans who stay up until midnight or later on school nights, searching for resources. Part of the reason resources are scarce is because the SBAC and PARCC assessments have not been finalized. Most vendors are still offering a blended version of old state standards and the new Common Core State Standards. This is especially true in mathematics.
When educators are told that a school board policy, state board policy, or general statute requires them to change, they begin collaborating and discussing how to make the change(s) student-friendly. In Orange County Schools, we were able to pay teacher leaders a small stipend for leading curriculum development efforts. The district used Race to the Top funds to pay teacher leaders who led curriculum development, facilitated professional development, posted curriculum maps online, and attended state conferences.
This week marked the last day of school for teachers and students across North Carolina. The Lieutenant Governor was recently elected, but North Carolina teachers have been preparing for the implementation of the new standards since 2010. Standards-based teaching has been common practice since the 1990's. Some states provided voluntary standards for educators prior to 1990. Today's students are competing with students around the globe for college admission and career opportunities. It no longer makes sense to have a Minnesota 3rd grade math standard and a Mississippi 3rd grade math standard. Students deserve to have the same standard across the United States. A common standard does not mean a 'watered-down' standard. Standards are not a curriculum.
This past year, I observed teachers differentiating instruction. Some students were two grades below grade level. They did not have the same assignment as the students who were at grade level or above. When teachers have a standard, they know the goal. Teachers provide students with multiple lessons, tasks, and opportunities to demonstrate what every student should know and be able to do. Implementing the Common Core State Standards does not mean that every student will receive a perfect score at the end of the day. Teachers across North Carolina have embraced the standards and are operating with their grade level team, school team, district team, and regional teams to align curriculum with the Common Core State Standards. Standards are "the what" and Curriculum is "the how." The 'how' may look different in each classroom, but the standards are the same.
Seven Reasons Why States Should Embrace The Common Core State Standards
1. College and Career Readiness
Over the past year, I have seen teachers in North Carolina make the shift from College or Career Readiness to College AND Career Ready. The U.S. public school system was designed to sort and select students. Some students were considered 'college material' and the majority of students were workforce material. I believe that teachers in North Carolina raised the bar and raised their expectations for all students. ACT defines college and career readiness as "the acquisition of the knowledge and skills a student needs to enroll and succeed in creditbearing, first-year courses at a postsecondary institution (such as a two or four-year college, trade school, or technical school) without the need for remediation." Based on my years of experience in the field of education, this is a major shift from the old mindset. This major change in philosophy and teaching is another indicator or the importance of the Common Core State Standards. The standards have forced a new conversation about the goals of education.
2. Common Standards Enable Teachers To Collaborate Across the United States.
Standards-based education requires teachers to align their curriculum, instruction, and assessments with the standards. For over a decade, teachers have disagreed with the standards. In North Carolina, teachers are required by general statute to teach the standards. A professional educator can respectfully disagree, but the law requires educators to teach the standards. Since the Common Core State Standards had some different approaches and aligned and moved standards to new grade levels it forced teachers to collaborate and design new units of study.
In Orange County Schools, I have observed professional conversations around the standards. I have seen teachers sharing resources across schools. I have seen teachers reaching out to educators in other states to discuss the standards. Regional and state meetings have been more exciting than ever, because everyone is learning the new standards. If one school district has a strong unit or curriculum resource then they will share it with our school district. I have participated in dozens of Twitter Chats with educators who are implementing the Common Core State Standards. ASCD has hosted a regular webinar series which offers educators the opportunity to learn and reflect on the Common Core State Standards. Before the Common Core State Standards, educators discussed their project or their program. The new standards have raised the bar in professional conversations. Educators have shifted from discussing the activity to sharing how the activity aligned to the standard.
3. Teacher Leaders Have Developed Curriculum Aligned to the Common Core State Standards.
In North Carolina, teachers were required to implement the Common Core State Standards in 2012-2013. Teachers met on a regular basis to write, align, and implement units aligned to the new standards. Once curriculum was developed, they also created common formative assessments aligned to the standards. Alan Glatthorn wrote, “One ofthe tasks of curriculum leadership is to use the right methods to bring the written, the taught, the supported, and the tested curriculums into closer alignment,so that the learned curriculum is maximized. This statement summarizes the work that takes place in classrooms, on early release days, on the weekend, and during the summer months. Teachers know how to align the curriculum, instruction, and assessments to standards. It takes time. If the state of North Carolina decides to pull the plug on the Common Core State Standards, it will be a slap in the face to the teachers and administrators who have spent countless hours (most on their own time without reimbursement) preparing to implement the Common Core State Standards and to maximize learning for 1.5 million students.
4. Professional Development Has Been Aligned to the Common Core State Standards.
Some school districts have spent thousands of dollars hiring consultants to provide professional development. Regional education organizations have paid $50,000 to $100,000 in order to host professional development with national consultants. Educators have participated in book studies, discussion forums, district professional development, NCDPI webinars and state conferences, and more. In 2012-2013, Orange County Schools and several other North Carolina school districts devoted the time to curriculum development or ongoing professional development aligned to the new standards. The price tag would be in the hundreds of millions if you totaled the number of hours the staff members were paid for professional development. It should be noted that they did not receive a bonus check. The money was part of their contract. Tax payers have invested in professional development aligned to the Common Core State Standards. Did North Carolina provide much assistance to educators prior to the 2012-2013 school year? No. School districts were required to use their own funds, contract with their own teachers, and develop their own resources. This was expensive. You could say that implementing the Common Core State Standards was done on the backs of the professional educators in North Carolina. I have not met many educators who disagree with the Common Core State Standards. This is another reason why I feel that politicians should let educators implement the standards. If elected officials want to provide the appropriate funding for implementing the Common Core State Standards, then that would be a step in the right direction.
5. Curriculum Alignment Is Easier With the New Standards.
It is difficult to describe curriculum alignment to non-educators. "When school staff have a more informed conception of curriculum, a teacher's daily decisions about how to deliver instruction not only affect student achievement in that classroom but also future student achievement, for it is assumed that students will be entering the next classroom prepared to handle a more sophisticated or more expansive level of work" (Zmuda, Kuklis & Kline, 2004, p. 122). Aligning the curriculum is an ongoing process which requires time, reflection, honesty, conflict, and a professional commitment to share what works in each classroom with specific students. The new standards provide a clear road map for educators. They do not outline every detail of what a teacher needs to do each day. Standards are a guide, not a script. If educators are beginning to align their curriculum, then policy makers should find ways to support their efforts. Curriculum alignment drives the work of a school district. When I see teachers analyzing student work and comparing it to a standard, I see excellent teaching. I entered the teaching profession in the early days of the Standards Movement. I have never seen teachers sharin their craft knowledge and having ongoing conversations about the standards like I saw in 2012-2013. Standards provide a common point of conversation, not a floor or a ceiling. The way the Common Core State Standards are written, a teacher can accelerate gifted students. This is missing from the national debate. Before we vote to eliminate the standards, let's visit schools and ask teachers to come to the State Board of Education. Let's find out what is working and how the standards are supporting teaching and learning. Let's avoid the political rhetoric and ask the teacher leaders who bore the burden of implementing the standards because the State Board of Education voted to adopt the standards.
6. The Change Process Requires Time.
Schools will continue to implement the Common Core State Standards in the summer and fall of 2013. Leading implementation requires a principal-leader who is willing to create short-term wins for the staff, provide time for the staff to reflect on the standards and to encourage risk-taking. Implementation of the new standards requires principal-leaders to honor the change process and to respect the emotions that staff will have during this change in teaching and learning. If states eliminate the Common Core State Standards, then which standards will replace them? If we fall back to the North Carolina Standard Course of Study, then we are adopting an inferior set of standards. They were the best that the state could develop. That was then and this is now. The Common Core State Standards were not embraced immediately. However, after one year of developing lesson plans, units of study, and assessments, educator have given their seal of approaval. The change process was emotional and it caused all teachers to reflect on teaching and learning. If state officials continue to change the standards, it will be impossible for educators to develop a guaranteed and viable curriculum (Marzano). Eliminating the Common Core State Standards from public schools may win a political battle at the state or federal level. However, it is not in the best interests of teachers and students. Ask teachers in North Carolina if they think the standards should change. The standards should not be a stepping stone for someone's political career.
"These Standards are not intended to be new names for old ways of doing business. They are a call to take the next step. It is time for states to work together to build on lessons learned from two decades of standards based reforms. It is time to recognize that standards are not just promises to our children, but promises we intend to keep" (Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, Introduction, p. 5).
7. Student Achievement Matters.
The reason that educators get out of bed and go to work each day is because student achievement matters. The new standards support the goal of College and Career Readiness. Teachers recognize that the new standards require more rigor than previous state standards. One of the most compelling arguments for the Common Core State Standards was "standardization." When a 12 year old girl moves from Hope, Arkansas, to Lexington, North Carolina, she should be on the same page with her classmates. Students are moving across the United States on a regular basis. Prior to the Common Core State Standards, families had to fear that they were moving to a state with higher or lower standards. Standardization does not mean that every student learns the same thing in the same way. Technology integration, project-based learning, and other best practices allow teachers to meet the needs of each student, while aligning assignments to the standards. When students master a standard, the Common Core State Standards allow teachers to move to the next grade level. When students transfer to a new school, they need to know that the things they learned will provide them a foundation for learning at the new school. Changing standards after year one of implementation does not respect the main goal of education - Student Achievement.
Common Core State Standards: The Right Direction for U.S. Public Schools
It amazes me that one or more politicians can advocate for changing standards. I do not try to change medical practice, standards for the Interstate highway system, building codes, or taxes. The reason that I do not attempt to get involved with these things is because I am a professional educator. I would appreciate it if politicians would consult with professional educators and ask them if the Common Core State Standards support teaching and learning. A simple Google search can provide a glimpse at the groups who are rallying to eliminate the Common Core State Standards. The standards have transformed teaching and learning. Teachers and administrators have embraced the standards and will spend the summer months aligning their curriculum and units to the standards. Hundreds of teachers in any given state will meet on Saturday morning for an online Twitter chat, meet at a restaurant to share learning goals, or attend a summer institute. Teachers may not like change, but they support change when it is in the best intersts of students. The Common Core State Standards seem to be one thing that is right in education.
You are invited to attend our newest Summer Institute being held at the fabulous Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas in July. Follow the link at the bottom of this message to see the beautiful Summer Institute Brochure we created using Weebly!
If you have decided to take your classroom, school or district into the 21st century, this is the institute for you! The 21st Century Schools Summer Institute has been carefully designed to provide you with the knowledge, tools and skills to create an environment and a curriculum which meets the needs of the today's students.
The Common Core State Standards require teachers to incorporate collaboration, problem solving and critical thinking into their lessons, and you will learn how to design curriculum and instruction that not only meets, but actually goes beyond, the CCSS, incorporating critical 21st century skills and literacies.
The four university accredited workshops which comprise the Summer Institute are:
1. Media Literacy - an in-depth Investigation
2. Greening the Classroom and the Curriculum
3. Designing the 21st Century Classroom
4. Innovation and Entrepreneurship for K-14
We hope you are able to attend all the workshops, but just in case you cannot, each workshop is designed as a stand-alone professional development.
In addition to the highest quality and truly 21st century professional development you will enjoy (and learn from) the spectacular San Antonio Riverwalk and the many historical, cultural and entertainment opportunities at hand.
We appreciate the work you do, and want to treat you as the special professionals you are, so at the workshop we will be providing complimentary:
* Continental Breakfast
* Mid-morning Snack Break
* Lunch, and
* Mid-afternoon Snack Breaks!
We understand that well-fed educators are Happy Learners!
If you are unable to attend, these professional development opportunities are available as online courses (also university accredited), or we can bring them to your school or district! We travel anywhere in the world!
Finally, we would appreciate your helping us to get the word out by forwarding this to all your friends, colleagues, groups and connections on LinkedIn! Thank you!
Anne Shaw, Director
21st Century Schools
Key Words: Project-Based Learning, Differentiated Instruction, Student-Centered, Media Literacy, Ecoliteracy, Financial Literacy, Problem-Solving, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Real World Curriculum, Global Collaborative Classrooms, Web 2.0 Tools, Design Thinking, Thinking Tools, Interdisciplinary, Student Motivation, Curriculum Design, Lesson Planning, Designing Down, Self-Directed Students, Physical Environment, Emotional Environment, Academic Environment, High Expectations, CCSS
What can teachers do to support student achievement? How can teachers and administrators monitor the written and taught curriculum to ensure alignment? When I read about school districts and educators who are unhappy with the Common Core State Standards, I scratch my head. Standards are not a curriculum (Janet Hale, Curriculum Mapping 101). There are several things that teachers control. Curriculum and instruction involve decisions made by teacher teams. When the teacher closes the classroom door there are hundreds of curriculum decisions made, according to the readiness level of each student. The following curriculum types are important for teachers to understand as they reflect on curriculum, instruction and assessment.
The intended curriculum consists of the written curriculum or plans that have been predetermined prior to the class.
The enriched curriculum is when teachers enhance the curriculum or develop opportunities for acceleration for students who have mastered the written curriculum. Enriched curriculum involves providing multiple opportunities for students to engage in key concepts and skills at their readiness level.
Some teachers offer the enriched curriculum to the students who are prepared for acceleration and the watered-down curriculum to the students who have demonstrated low growth or who do not understand the key concepts and skills identified in the unit.
Many teachers and administrators fail to monitor the received curriculum. The received curriculum is what an individual student receives. If one student receives the enriched curriculum and another student receives the watered-down curriculum, then each student's chance for success will be drastically different. This is known as Opportunity to Learn.
All students should receive a guaranteed and viable curriculum (Marzano). If the received curriculum varies from one class to the next, then it will be difficult for teachers at the next grade level to build on prior knowledge and understandings. One of the goals of teaching is to ensure close alignment between the intended, taught, assessed, and received curricula. Opponents say the standards take away local control of education. I would argue that curriculum development is a local issue. When districts provide teachers with time to align the currriculum with the standards, student achievement will follow. Share your thoughts on ASCD EDge by replying to this article.
Questions to Consider:
1. Does your school have a guaranteed and viable curriculum?
2. How is the intended curriculum different from the received curriculum?
3. Do teachers implement the written curriculum/intended curriculum or do teachers create curriculum in isolation?
4. Ask yourself - Would I want my son or daughter to experience the watered-down curriculum and miss out on parts of the district's intended curriculum?
What the best and wisest parent wants for his or her own child, that must the community want, for all of its children.
As cited by Gene Carter, Executive Director ASCD
ASCD Education Update - December 2006, p. 2
5. What mechanism does your school have in place to monitor the received curriculum?
One of the tasks of curriculum leadership is to use the right methods to bring the written, the taught, the supported, and the tested curriculums into closer alignment, so that the learned curriculum is maximized.
Allan Glatthorn, Curriculum Renewal (1987), p. 4
It’s Finally Here!
I’m pleased to announce the Virtual Summer Camp for 2013, the 5th Anniversary of the original!
This year’s Virtual Summer Camp was created with Weebly, a web tool that lets the user create their own website from a variety of templates. In the past, I’ve used different web tools that included Blogger, LiveBinders, Scoop.it, and Learni.st, always looking for different ways to visualize the camp.
Access to all previous camps is included here as well as an array of brand new offerings. The offerings this year are broken into three areas: New Web 2.0 Apps, new Mobile Apps, and a Campfire section that is specific to professional development and global connectivity.
All of the Web 2.0 Apps and Mobile Apps are geared toward Multi-Mediating your professional practice, enhancing singular media content and looking for opportunities to invite multiple versions of content into the learning process.
I purposefully limited the offerings this year for two reasons...24 opportunities are still a lot to investigate AND you have access to previous years Summer Camps that open up multiple opportunities for further resources if you choose to explore them.
I encourage you to not only investigate the offerings in the Virtual Summer Camp but also to investigate Weebly as a Web 2.0 tool. It’s easy to create a website and the drag and drop interface is so easy to use. While it took me awhile to find the individual resources for the camp; it took a minimal amount of time to actually create the Weebly page to house them. This alone could be awesome for students as a demonstration of their learning, allowing them to show and share what they know in a free platform.
I wish you the best of summers! Teachers are amazing, especially in the wake of all the media attention around evaluations and value added measures. I know that you do what you do because you love kids and you value the system of instruction and preparation to move kids to a desired destination. You are rock stars and I am humbled by your efforts, regardless of the bureaucracy and political issues. You do what’s best for kids and I wholeheartedly support that! I hope that you find some useful resources in what I’ve put together for this year’s summer camp.
I look forward to conversing with you and enhancing the offerings as the summer heats up. Keep up the good work and know that you are valued, awesome, and integral to the growth of our country and citizens! You are amazing, and I’m so honored to share this Virtual Summer Camp with you!
Have a great Summer 2013!
Note: The new site is optimized for Mobile Devices too, so you can camp on the go!
Upgrade Your Curriculum now available in the ASCD store
School staff focus on curriculum alignment, differentiated instruction, professional development, college and career readiness, standards, and academic interventions. Is it possible that schools can lose their focus on customer service? Customers include families, community members, and all guests who visit the school website or schoolhouse.
Customer service involves the front office staff, classroom teachers, teacher assistants, custodians, counselors, and all staff members. How are customers treated when they enter your school? Ask your school staff, “What does it mean to go the extra mile for the customer?” Do families feel like the front office staff answers the phone in a professional manner? Do teachers fire off emails when they are upset with students or parents? How do schools analyze the way they are treating customers?
Six Ways To Pour Some Sugar On The Customer:
The school website is the new front door. Families and community members make a judgment about your school before they arrive in the front office. Is your school website customer friendly? If you have a focus on technology integration, does your school website look like it was created in 1990? Does your website offer a welcome message or invite families to visit the school? If Open House was the biggest event between 1980-2000, then the school website opens your school to more than the all of the guests who attended Open House during that 20 year span. Your school is connected with the world. What kind of message are you sending? Would a family in Florida view your site and want to buy a house in your community, based on the information and message on your website?
Customer service involves phone skills, email etiquette, communication skills, and the way the customer is treated when they spend time at your school. Which restaurants come to mind when you think of outstanding customer service? Have you ever had poor customer service at a hotel? Have you ever visited a church and felt like none of the members knew you were in attendance? Customer service is easy to identify, especially when we are the recipient of poor customer service. When families have a bad experience at your school, they will spread the word throughout the community and through social media. As communities build more charter schools, private schools, and home school organizations, customers will walk rather than talk.
The media may promote your school once or twice a year. Administrators and teachers can promote the school on a weekly basis by posting on a school or teacher blog. Pictures from field trips, class projects, community service, guest speakers, and student awards can assist in communicating with families. Most blogs allow for families to forward the message to their family and friends via Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. Blogs also allow for two-way communication. The traditional method of communicating with families was a flyer in a second grade student’s backpack. With a blog, the school can communicate with families and families can post comments or ask questions about the event before their child arrives home.
Several schools host a Principal’s Coffee Hour once monthly. There is usually a topic that the principal or a guest speaker shares with families. The highlight of any Principal’s Coffee Hour is the time that families are able to share their opinions, ask questions, and brainstorm ways to support all students. Coffee Hour provides a monthly time for two-way communication. Parents will provide you with their opinions and they will feel respected because the school provided a forum for adult conversation about their most prized possession, their child. How is your school promoting two-way communication with families and stakeholders?
Twitter allows home-to-school and school-to-home communication. Families can receive updates from the school. While Twitter may not work for all families, it is a great tool. Most schools see social media as one form of communication. The sign in front of the school reaches some families, the school website reaches others, and a flyer may still work for families without a computer or a Smartphone. The reason I feel like schools should consider Twitter is because it allows families to forward or reply to each tweet. If you have ever been in a relationship with someone you realize the importance of two-way communication. A strong relationship between families and school staff will improve your customer service and customer satisfaction.
As the number of people with Smartphones increases, your school should consider a school app. “Smartphone vendors shipped 216.2 million units in the first quarter of 2013, which accounted for 51.6 percent of the worldwide mobile phone market” (Bean, April 16, 2013). If the school website is the new front door in 2013, then the school app may be the new front door of the future. An app can combine all of the items highlighted in this article. A school app may not be nice to have, but the next step in your communication and customer-service plan.
Most schools have a professional development plan, school improvement plan, and a curriculum map. I have rarely seen a school’s customer service plan. When it comes to service, if you fail to plan you may be planning to fail. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com, said, “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” There are only two kinds of schools; those with outstanding customer service and those without outstanding customer service. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rank the customer service at your school?
Questions for School Staff to Consider
1. Does our school provide outstanding customer service?
2. What are our weaknesses? What action steps do we need to take to improve?
3. What are the characteristics of outstanding customer service?
(Share your own experiences in school and non-school settings)
4. What can we measure every 18 weeks (semester) to analyze our efforts to provide customer service?
5. Do we have a school plan outlining what customer service looks like?
(Think Chick-fil-A; It doesn’t matter if the manager or a teenager provides you with service. There is consistency within and across stores).
Normally, I am not one to write on controversial issues, but there is freedom in the provocative, and the time is now (or yesterday) for action in education. Although this speaks to one state's journey through the massive budget cuts and the looming additional injustices, I think that most educators in the nation have experienced a degree of this. I humbly share my thoughts with legislators considering budgets for next school year and the community of ASCD advocates:
How will your child suffer? We must stop this ridiculous abomination of a proposed budget now. The incessant and continuous hit that education has taken in the last 5 years has been beyond reason. However, this year's proposals fall just shy of criminal. As a voter, a parent of children in the school system and a school principal, I have many perspectives to offer. First, as a voter: We elect officials into office who we believe will stand for the things that we hold close to heart. Public schools are the birthplace of some of the best minds in America. What does it mean to be American? Please ask yourself this, as our elected representative. Americans value critical opinions and diversity but stand united when someone attacks our home or our community. To my esteemed elected officials, I say: We are under attack. Make no mistake... this is a war of interests. We must not let the future of our children and ultimately our country falter to other priorities. We know that you are under pressure to invest in the political interests that got you into office, but we beg you not to sacrifice our children, your children or the future of our great nation in doing so. As a parent: We cannot provide quality schools without adequate funding to do so. Should we settle for mediocrity? Would you settle for mediocrity for your own child? Absolutely not. I want my children to get access to teachers with skills that will challenge their minds and inspire their hearts. Teachers deserve pay worthy of the countless hours they spend planning. Let Principals hold them accountable to that. I want my children to have adequate support in their classes as they are acclimated to the rigor of public schools. Teacher Assistants provide this support. They are educators, advocates and probably teach your child in a center or reading group. I want my child to have access to the equipment, books and materials needed for 21st century learning. As a school principal: Is the public aware that kids in most counties are still using outdated books, so teachers have to develop their own curriculum materials to match the new standards? And what justice do we pay teachers when they do this with a smile on their face and protect our children from the perils of society? We cut their support (TAs), cut their pay (furlough), cut their money for supplies (instructional money), increase their class size (class size waiver elimination), increase their insurance premiums and cut their access to resources and support (district funding going to charter/private schools). Teacher Assistants are not just secretaries for the teacher, and I wonder if the public realizes that. They are instructional assistants... they help your children and grandchildren learn. Also, as a school administrator, one of the ways in which we can provide a duty-free lunch for teachers (which is a state requirement) is through the use of teacher assistants. Similarly, I wonder if the public understands the correlation between effective instruction and the number of students in a class. There is an inverse relationship between time for critical learning and the number of students in a class. This state and this nation is in a dire place of certain demise, if we cannot commit to providing safe, quality schools for our children today, so they can solve nationwide and worldwide problems tomorrow. With the proposed legislation about class size, harsh cuts to public schools (again), elimination of Assistants, sequestration at the federal level, and funneling the leftover pocket change to charter/private schools rather than public schools... I must ask the question... how will your child suffer?
ASCD Leader to Leader (L2L) News is a monthly e-mail newsletter for ASCD constituent group leaders that builds capacity to better serve members, provides opportunities to promote and advocate for ASCD’s Whole Child Initiative, and engages groups through sharing and learning about best practices. To submit a news item for the L2L newsletter, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.