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26 Search Results for "specialists"

  • Assistive Technology: Listenin Assistive Technology: Listening To Children's Needs

    • From: Robin_Shobe
    • Description:

      I believe that children (all people, really) who might benefit from the use Assistive Technology such as a Communication Device, ultimately tell us what tools they need and how they will use them for their own benefit. When we attempt to support people in this process, we have to be acute observers and be willing to follow their lead.

      I was born without a left hand. Prosthetics available to me and my parents were quite simplistic at the time and did not resemble a hand (I had a hook, shown here in the picture). I hated it, I was more capable without it, but the therapists and MDs advised my parents to use it. They believed that it made me look more "normal" and that in time, it would help me. At the age of 12, I was finally able to convince my loving parents and intelligent doctors that this was indeed not something I needed.

      I have met many individuals with an arm similar to mine. Some were born this way, as I was, and others lack of a hand resulting from an illness or accident. Many of these people do not find a prosthetic device useful, again like me, while many others do. It was ultimately a personal decision for each of us.

      As a speech-language pathologist assisting children to use assistive technology such as a Speech Generating Device (SGD), this personal experience is a reminder to me that although I am the specialist, the child ultimately knows themselves best. My job is to introduce the child to the tool- the communication system or systems, model their uses over time, with different communication partners, and for multiple communicative purposes. Only then, can the child decide how assistive technology is going to work for her. Successful assistive technology use or integration is a process, often iterative. We don't know what is going to work until we try. We have to be willing to reevaluate frequently and we have to respect what the child ultimately deems beneficial for themselves.

      I see many of us struggling with AAC and AT implementation and use. Children, their families, their teachers and even the specialists- speech-language pathologists. It has been my experience, that when I put my direct teaching strategies aside, model the use of the communication devices, up the fun, and follow the child's lead- communication happens.

      Let the child choose the assistive technology that works best- for them.

    • Blog post
    • 1 month ago
    • Views: 145
  • The Heart of the Close Reading The Heart of the Close Reading Standard

    • From: Michael_Fisher
    • Description:

      Collaborative blog post by Mike Fisher and Janet Hale.



      Despite the amount of publishing and vendor products that employ a contrary interpretation, close reading is really about HOW we engage reading skills. It is not WHAT we engage. Developing “close reading” as a skill is not an essential part of this standard. Instead, it is a methodology, a strategy that is a way in which to reach the heart of the reading standards and the heart of improving comprehension.

      The Hows and The Whats

      Let’s look at the Common Core anchor standard number one for Reading-Literacy:

      Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

      The WHATs are clear:

      • Determine what the text(s) says explicitly

      • Make logical inferences from the text(s)

      • Cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking

      • What you write or say must incorporate evidence drawn from text(s) to support conclusions

      The HOWs are muddier:

      • While “read closely” is explicitly stated, what literally should be read is left to interpretation as well as HOW one records his or her notations based on defined task, purpose, and audience. For example, one interpretation could be creating an opportunity for students to deeply analyze a speech transcript for its rhetoric and annotate (or annotext) to capture evidence. Another interpretation could be re-reading a section or sections of a narrative focused on characterization and have students using a semantic mind-map to make evidence-based notations.

      • HOW students will be assessed--both the actual assessments and evaluation tools (Who will be the assessor? Teacher...Peers...Authentic audience? What will be the judgement criteria? Rubric...Oral Feedback...Jury Panel?) are not included explicitly in the anchor standard; therefore, open to interpretation.

      • “When writing or speaking” is explicitly stated, which means that students must be able to not only meet the criteria of this anchor standard (R.CCR.1), they must also demonstrate their abilities in conjunction with relational anchor standards, such as SL.CCR.4: Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

      By no means are the above the only considerations regarding interpretation of the HOWs involved in the close reading of texts. As a matter of fact, it is important to note that while this anchor standard used the term “text”, when reading grade-level specific standards associated with a related anchor standard for both Reading Literature and Reading Informational, R.CCR.7:

      Compare and contrast a written story, drama, or poem to its audio, filmed, staged, or multimedia version, analyzing the effects of techniques unique to each medium (e.g., lighting, sound, color, or camera focus and angles in a film).

      students must provide evidence by closely viewing media. This opens up Pandora’s box (RL.4.4) in that many teachers have not personally experienced this form of rigor regarding finding evidence in a media format, which involves its own set of terminology and understanding (e.g., how a specific type of shot--extreme long shot, long shot, full shot, mid-shot, close-up, extreme close-up--affects mood and tone).

      Therefore, it is up to a teacher, or a teacher team, to interpret this (and other related) anchor standards. Students could determine what a text says explicitly through a digital-product assessment. Perhaps they could visually represent, through an infographic, logical inferences from two related texts. Another option could be to have students collaboratively (SL.CCR.1)  prepare a multi-media presentation that engages multiple HOWs to support the close-reading task.

      The Hierarchy

      As Mike blogged before, the words READ CLOSELY do not appear in ANY of the grade specific standards for R.CCR.1, further evidence that it is not the intended focal point. This anchor standard has more to do with building an increasing sophistication of how students deal with details in text (as well as media).

      Let’s take a peek at the hierarchy through the use of Janet’s CCSS ELA Progressive Continuum App, which helps visualize new learning from one grade level to another.

      (Note that bold print indicates new learning for a particular grade level.)

      RL.K.1 With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

      RL.3.1Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.

      RL.5.1 Quote accurately froma text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

      RL.6.1 Cite textual evidence to support analysisof what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

      RL.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text,including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

      In the lower grade levels students are expected, with prompting and support, to ask and answer questions about details in text. In subsequent grade levels (grade three), students have to begin referring explicitly to specific details within text to answer posed questions. By the time students have reached grade five, they must be able to quote details accurately from the text in their speaking, writing, or multimedia products or presentations. In grade six the verb shifts from “quote” to “cite”, which alone creates interesting conversation with teachers on the interpretation of what this term truly means, and therefore, demands of students regarding evidence. Through grade 12 students are expected to continue to cite evidence using specific details from the text, but sophistication increases including the need to examine multiple pieces of “strong and thorough” evidence. In grades 11 and 12 , students must start discerning textual details, collecting and curating evidence to aid in determining which pieces of evidence (both explicitly and inferred) that most strongly support the analysis of the text, including “determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.”

      The HEART of the Close Reading Standard

      When close reading the previous paragraph, what would the key idea be? If you had to boil that paragraph down to a single-word emphasis, what would the word be? How about details? The heart of R.CCR.1 is that--it’s all about the details--questions about the details, referring to the details, quoting the details, citing the details, determining if the details leave matters uncertain.

      The heart’s “pulse” is the rhythm students create that starts with answering and asking questions to ultimately discover how to best analyze texts. Students need a strong foundation (including quality modeling) in asking and answering questions in order to ready themselves to independently refer to texts to support their reasoning, including the abilities to quote accurately and cite evidence properly.


      Heart of Standard 1


      Heart of Standard 1



      Final Thoughts

      It is extremely important that teachers collaboratively (both across grade levels as well as within a grade level) understand the heart of each Anchor Standard in Reading, Writing, Listening & Speaking, and Language rather than accept interpretations by someone else. Teachers, administrators, and curriculum specialists should be discussing their personal interpretations with one another and coming to agreement on what the anchor standards require and designing curriculum and instruction based on the mutual interpretations.

      The implications are that locally-designed units of study or lesson plans, vendor products or state-adopted curricula may not be a perfect fit, which means there will be a need to closely read the resource’s details to determine where the text leaves matters uncertain. Based on your agreed-upon WHATs and HOWs regarding each anchor standard, what do these resources provide that meet your established criteria? Where are the products lacking or appear to be incorrect? Can those involved in the product or resource close-reading experience support their reading using evidence-based conclusions?

      The heart of the close reading standard matters. It has a place and purpose, not only in Grades K-12, but for college and careers. Scaffolded skills that live in the “close reading” standard are necessary to ensure students are able to identify details and ultimately lead to greater comprehension of text in a sophisticated manner. But an array of close-reading skills are not meant to be THE only skill sets that matter. Close reading should take place occasionally, when appropriate for task, purpose, and audience. Any methodology used with too much regularity is doomed. Skill sets and their supportive strategies are meant to be strategic...targeted...focused. If teachers read closely with students every single day, it’s not a strategy, it’s a roadblock.


      This blog post focused on the analysis (or close read) of only ONE anchor standard. There are 10 reading anchor standards, and collectively there are 32 English/Language Arts anchor standards. What opportunities for empowering educators regarding curriculum design and instructional practice can be manifested by asking them to participate in collegial discussions and deep understandings concerning all of the anchor standards?


      Follow Mike on Twitter

      Follow Janet on Twitter

      Mike and Janet are the co-authors of Upgrade Your Curriculum: Practical Ways to Transform Units and Engage Students

    • Blog post
    • 2 months ago
    • Views: 1917
  • True Inclusion True Inclusion

    • From: Karen_Baptiste
    • Description:

      As we go through a nation-wide educational reform, the word inclusion is being used everywhere. What does inclusion truly mean? I find that the word is being used loosely and applied to students with IEPs (Individualized Education Program) being placed in classrooms with students without IEPs. Well that is partially correct.

      Although many districts are fighting to reduce their special education rate by placing students in classes with their non-disabled peers, many are struggling with supporting teachers and school leaders with adequate resources to support inclusion. I am fully in support of students with IEPs learning alongside students without IEPs when provided adequate resources/supports. As research indicates, higher student achievement and self-confidence for students is reached when students with IEPs are educated with students without IEPs. True inclusion requires school districts or school leaders to examine the needs of their population. Although the goal of special education is to decertify, every student may not be ready for a large class setting. On the flip side, not every student needs to remain in a self-contained classroom or travel in clusters just because they have an IEP.

      After assessing the needs of your population (students with and without IEPs), begin looking at the amount of time a student may need to spend in a self-contained classroom vs. an inclusion class or a general education classroom. What does this mean? It means you need to identify the student’s strengths and identify the appropriate class where that student can grow academically, socially and mentally. For example, after assessing students, you may find that a student may be struggling with reading but is strong in math or science. When this occurs, then the student should be placed in a general education or inclusion class for math and science and may possibly still benefit from receiving reading instruction in a self-contained classroom or a pull-out/ smaller group service.

      Once the decision is made to place a child in an inclusion or general education class, the supports MUST follow--- I repeat, the supports MUST follow! There needs to be sacred time for certified special educators to consult or plan with the general educator. They must understand the IEP and how to implement the needs stated, or this “marriage” is heading straight for disaster which ultimately affects the student and their ability to perform well. Teachers also need training from specialists on how to group students, actually include them in the inclusion class, and support their learning style and needs.

      Please note, when I use the word inclusion, I also use this term for students that are in a general education, non-integrated co-teaching classes only---Why? Because there are students with mixed abilities in a general education class as well. The challenge and differentiation is not only for students in an integrated, co-teaching class, but for students who are in general education or even a gifted class who has varied abilities and have not been diagnosed with a disability or given an IEP. We can no longer teach to the middle and must provide adequate training and resources to teachers who can deliver well-developed lessons to all students.

      The point here is that students should always be educated in the least restrictive environment, first! It should not be retro-fitted into their schedule. An IEP is a fluid document and should be updated, minimum, once a year. As students make progress, that should be acknowledged and reflected in their IEP. Students should not be sentenced to special education for life---it is a service, NOT a place! It is a service, NOT a place! It is a service, NOT a place!









    • Blog post
    • 7 months ago
    • Views: 390
  • The Problem is NOT the Standar The Problem is NOT the Standards

    • From: Michael_Fisher
    • Description:

      I wonder what our students would be like today if in the past we were as hypercritical of and scholarly around the standards then as we are now. I’m seeing some brilliant deconstructions of the history of the standards, including a recent one from a 12th grade student arguing in favor of his teachers and against college and career readiness as an industrial/worker model of the preparation of our young people. Then, there was this recent post by a New York state principal who skewers the standards by exemplifying why the assessments are vexing, including the statement that the standards are “developmentally inappropriate.” This principal cites the 1st grade math standard, “1.OA4 Understand subtraction as an unknown-addend problem.” Her article was really about assessments and vendor products and not the standards themselves, including this cited standard that basically means students can see subtraction problems as a reverse addition problem. (10-2=8 could, with a student’s fluent eye, also be (What) plus 2 = 10? Not developmentally inappropriate, just fluent in a way that first graders have not been asked to be fluent in the past. The pattern is a set up for later fluencies in basic Algebra.)

      I do not necessarily disagree with some of the arguments people are making about all of the nitpickery going on in Common Core states, but it’s baffling to me the number of smart people that are putting their anger and energy in the wrong basket.

      Standards-based education has been around for awhile. Close to 40 years, in fact. What began in the mid-70’s as a way of providing a barometer for what all students should know and be able to do has evolved into our current Common Core Standards.

      The standard is just a set point. In fact, I would like to reiterate a notion set forth by MIT professor Andrew Chen that I’ve mentioned before: In the U.S., the standard is the ceiling. In most other places in the world, the standard is the floor. Let that sink in a little. There’s a reason that the United States is lagging behind other countries, and it’s not standards--it’s instructional nostalgia.

      Over the years, scientific research has led us to understand set points and barometers for cholesterol, blood pressure, and other standards for maintaining health. Likewise, in the last 40 years, educational research has exploded, leading us in much the same direction about what we know about what students should know and be able to do at a particular grade level. That’s the neat way of saying it. Learning and thinking, like the young man in the link above explains, is difficult to quantify, though there should be targets. Learning is not time dependent, nor is it grade level dependent. It is human dependent. It is variable to a mean though, and at some point, there should be an expectation for growth and sophistication over time. The work of Wiggins and McTighe, Marzano, Jensen, Calkins, Fountas and Pinnell, Heidi Hayes Jacobs, Marie Clay, Karin Hess, Daniel Pink, (the list could go on and on...) and others point to the fact that learning, while expansive and difficult to compartmentalize, definitely has a progression from beginning and emergent to fluent and sophisticated. This is true for all content areas, not just for basic literacy skills and early numeracy. The foundation must be laid and then we build, build, build.

      If we don’t use these Common Core standards, then what are our set points going to be? Previous standards? An anything goes model? A return to the rote?

      Regardless of the standards we use, and it’s no secret that I think the Common Core standards are in decent shape, it’s the minutiae around the standards that are causing the problems. The educational buffoonery that is going on is the real problem.

      This recent Huffington Post report on the 11 current educational game changers underscores the fact that these 11 folks have limited or no educational experience. The inciting blog posts and Norma Rae-type rhetoric almost always point to the economics behind these new standards and all the new educational stuff and fluff that companies are selling in its wake. That’s not new. That’s been going on for years. It’s a school’s decision though, even today, to make the decision to buy what the medicine men are selling.

      All of the new assessments, teacher evaluations, vendor products, state-level curriculum “gifts,” and reinterpretations of standards-based materials are what is really problematic. Yet people still choose to purchase them and maintain the system and the moneymakers keep making money. This is not the standards; this is a decision about what the standards could potentially imply. This is not an opportunity to throw away all that we know to be good and true; it is an opportunity to explore modern learning for our kids. Your kids. My kids.

      Great teachers and administrators and policy makers and reform specialists and government leaders should be looking at the minutiae with a closer eye. It’s not the standards. It’s about economically based but potentially detrimental decisions. It’s about poverty not being dealt with. It’s about community needs and understandings of student populations over quick fixes. It’s about common sense within the framework of the Common Core.

      Don’t ignore the forest for the trees. Don’t compare apples to oranges, or goats, or balloon animals. Don’t let the detractors take away from preparing our kids for the world they will graduate into. It can’t be the work of the past, it has to be forward focused, but focused on the things that matter: the students. Their lives. Their careers. Their continued learning.

      Products and assessments and ridiculous teacher evaluations are the real issues here, not this iteration of standards-based educational practice.

      The problem is not the standards. It’s everything else.

      Mike on Twitter

      Upgrade Your Curriculum, now available from ASCD

      Digital Learning Strategies, now available to pre-order from ASCD

    • Blog post
    • 8 months ago
    • Views: 4230
  • Elements of Success Elements of Success

    • From: Hannah_Gbenro
    • Description:

      This blog is cross-posted from: http://wsascdel.blogspot.com/

      The other day I told my principal I was pondering what to write about for my upcoming Leading & Learning blog post. He turned to me and said, "Well, you've been here a while now. Why don't you write about what makes you a successful leader here?" Great idea! He and I quickly brainstormed the key points below. This is dedicated to all the deans and assistant principals out there as I share what's been working for me.

      Communication & Relationships
      Communication with my principal, office staff, our specialists & family liaison, paras, teachers, students, and families is key. I've learned to differentiate the mode of communication (face to face, email, phone) based on the situation and individual(s) with whom I'm communicating.

      Example: Adults, sometimes get stressed out around testing and I've learned part of that has to do with a concern about student progress reflecting on our work as educators. It can be a challenge to hold test scores up as a mirror to reflect the impact of our instruction! That's why, when we administered the STAR Test on computers for the first time this year, we was particularly conscious of our methods used to communicate updates. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we were faced with a challenge the Friday afternoon before our week of testing. Thankfully, we'd been in face to face contact with teachers all week to provide clarification and support. So, when our team sent out the revised testing schedule for the upcoming week, my principal and I made ourselves available by being visible and we checked in with classroom teachers to answer questions. We were able to clarify & confirm updates on the spot. Our initial round of testing ended up running pretty smoothly and we continued face to face/email communication throughout the week.

      Follow-Through & Support
      One of the most important roles a leader plays is that of "support". People deserve to have leaders follow through with protocols, next steps, goals, values, etc.

      Example: Last spring, our staff updated our Professional Code of Conduct (norms) and made a commitment to live out these professional agreements on a daily basis at work. One of the norms we created is: Go to the source. When colleagues comes to me with a wonder or question that is really for someone else (early childhood team, instructional coach, principal, etc.), I generally give a brief response based on my knowledge and encourage them to go to the source/leader/individual who is coordinating the work they wonder about to gain in depth clarification. I then follow-up with both the person to whom I sent them and the individual(s) asking the question. By doing this I am following-through on living our Professional Code of Conduct, while also following-through with support for teams and individuals to make sure questions are answered.

      Questioning for Clarity
      As a leader, I represent a lot of perspectives, teams, and initiatives. In order to fully understand, lead, and represent, different aspects of our school, I've developed a "seek to understand" mentality.

      Example Questions: What is the goal? What do we hope to accomplish? What might success look like? How might we measure success? How does this make a difference for students? How might we know it made a difference for our students? How does it impact different stakeholders? How could we communicate with stakeholders? What supports might be needed? What existing supports do we have? How does this support other initiatives? How might we need to shift our allocation of resources (fiscal/human) to support this work?

      Self Care
      I've learned to try and get enough sleep, eat healthy, participate in weekly joint immediate/in-law family dinners, volunteer within my community, walk my dog, & use online resources (ASCD free webinars, articles via Twitter, etc.) to develop as a professional. Surprisingly, maintaining Self Care is quite the challenge! It takes a conscious effort on a daily basis in terms of scheduling and communicating. I continually go back to Covey's work, however, around balance to help remind me of the importance Self Care has.

      Example: Making sure my body gets the nutrients it needs (beyond a multiple vitamin), is essential. I schedule time on the weekends to go grocery shopping with my husband. Then, we come home and make lunches for the week. This weekend we bought frozen soup in bulk - just add water, boil for 40 mins., & you have a lot of soup that can be eaten and frozen! I look forward to feasting on tomato basil or cream of broccoli soup for lunch each day alongside crackers, cheese, & fruit. For breakfast, I buy disposable cups in which I put non-fat Greek yogurt, fruit, and granola each morning. Sometimes I feel guilty about using disposable cups, but I know this keeps me on track with getting the nutrients my body needs. On that note, a friend of mine found washing her "to go" mugs from coffee each day became too much to keep up with so she bought paper disposable cups + lids. She now puts coffee from her Keurig in a low-cost disposable cup every morning. This reduces the urge to stop by a coffee stand and provides similar convenience.

    • Blog post
    • 8 months ago
    • Views: 1597
  • An Ethos of Learning An Ethos of Learning

    • From: Sandra_Trach
    • Description:

      Roland S. Barth shared in his seminal book Learning by Heart (2001), that schools should possess an “ethos hospitable to the promotion of human learning.”  As I have endeavored through massive leadership and learning changes, Barth’s words have become a truism for me.  Whether navigating a curriculum change, supporting different forms of professional learning, or problem-solving a complex issue (or usually all of the aforementioned at the same time), I ask myself, “How is what we are doing promoting an ethos hospitable to learning?”  Inevitably the responses to this question have led the way to culturally transformative levels of learning in our school.  Given that instructional cultures grow best organically and synergistically, (and this has been the case for mine), I would simply add that when change is nurtured with innovation, support and feedback, the rate of growth is exponential, and the direction of growth flows in intended and unintended directions.

      In our schoolhouse, we believe:

      Every learning opportunity and support;
      For every student, faculty, staff member and parent;

      Barth eloquently describes what it takes to achieve this vision.  “When we come to believe that our schools should be providing a culture that creates and sustains a community of student and adult learning—that this is the trellis of our profession—then we will organize our schools, classrooms, and learning experiences differently.”  (Barth, R., The Culture Builder, Educational Leadership, May 2002.)

      Organizing learning differently has been both an exciting and daunting challenge.  In the era of sweeping reform, striving to make this vision come to life uniquely within a school requires the science and artistry of students, faculty, staff and parents alike, who must continually partner as an interdependent team.  This type of work demands mutual support, collective expertise and shared accountability. (For example: How does being affixed to one curriculum benefit students? Am I ready to share my student’s formative data with my teaching peers?) It also demands adaptive thinking, rather than technical solutions. (For example:  How does this master schedule promote flexible forms of learning?) In our school’s journey, confronting shared questions have proven weighty, but worthy. While many might say strong academic achievement has been the most visible and predictable success in our trellis climb, we believe our substantive growth has mainly emanated from our collective drive for seamless collaboration and embedded forms of professional learning.  In fact, I would characterize our school as relentless about setting the conditions for academic and social-emotional success.  Our sustained urgency on learning, along with our instructional and cultural momentum has fundamentally redesigned the way we teach and learn.  What were once individually celebrated features of our school’s educational excellence, are now deliberately interconnected and vital components of our cultural instructional identity.  In essence, we teach and learn within a coherent system of meaningful moving parts.

      Professional Learning Communities

      Our teams practice the data cycle (Reeves, D.) within the professional learning community model (DuFour, R.).  In addition to three dedicated common planning times for each team each week, our teachers also collaborate in numerous informal, horizontal and vertical ways throughout each school day.  We reflect, design, instruct, assess and monitor as teams.  No one teaches or works in isolation.  We strive to meet and exceed commonly established goals, and our data is transparent and accessible at all times.

      Response to Intervention Methods

      Our faculty has studied Response to Intervention (RtI) through the work of Mike Mattos.  Our Superintendent’s leadership has also helped us fully commit to giving students what they need, when they need it. We employ universal screening, core district curriculum, and progress monitoring procedures. Customized interventions and supports are architected into personal learning plans, which are designed and delivered by our expert teachers.  These academic and social-emotional learning plans are monitored and refined by data teams in instructional cycles throughout the year.

      Professional Learning

      Our district is deeply committed to embedded forms of professional learning.   At the elementary level, we employ the workshop model of instruction, chiefly studying the work of Teachers’ College Reading and Writing Project.  We benefit from three literacy specialists and one mathematics specialist on our staff, who actively coach each of our teachers and teams.  Our school employs a literacy and mathematics laboratory model (conducting peer observations with a coach, engaging in lesson voice overs, leading parts of a lesson, and dissecting model lessons), shared classroom walkthroughs, opportunities to look at student work, and the unconference model. Each of these forms of adult learning expands our craft knowledge and grows our shared expertise.

      Leadership For All

      Our school rests upon our extraordinary teachers and staff, each of whom is a leader in his/her own right.  Teachers are trusted to make important decisions about learning.  While we have formal teams such as a school leadership team, a child study team and a positive behavior support team, our teachers actively lead the wealth of the instructional design, intervention plans, and assessment work. Teachers also design and lead professional learning opportunities that seed the school with innovation; modeling their own risk-taking and inspiring adaptive thinking among staff.


       As Barth has eloquently pointed out in Learning By Heart (2001):

      “It has been said that running a school is about putting first things first; leadership is determining what are the first things; and management is about putting them first.  I would like to suggest that the ‘first thing’, the most important feature of the job description for each of us as educators, is to discover and provide the considerations under which people’s learning curves go off the chart.  Sometimes it’s other people’s learning curves; those of students, teachers, parents, administrators.  But at all times it is our own learning curve.” (Barth, R. Learning By Heart, 2001, p. 11).

      I would be remiss if I did not comment on my own learning curve amidst this type of learning environment, where change is the norm, and as Barth points out, “learning curves go off the chart.”  My experience is that one cannot be immersed in this type of work - day in and day out - without realizing the profound personal and professional effect it has on your own practice.  The way I think, the way I listen, the way I reflect, the way I contribute and the way I solve has everything to do with what I have learned from my colleagues.  Their work teaches me everyday.  Courageously, they have helped me reach upward and outward for a truly ambitious vision, and equally have the support to lean into what can be possible for every learner.  Barth reminds me time and time again, that the ethos of learning is within and among us every single day.  Even in the face of tremendous change, it is our calling to climb the professional trellis uniquely and continually, in order to benefit every student and adult in the schoolhouse, including ourselves.

      Sandra A. Trach, Principal

      Estabrook School, Lexington, MA

      Cross-posted to http://connectedprincipals.com/ and http://sandratrach.blogspot.com/ 

    • Blog post
    • 8 months ago
    • Views: 1176
  • Schools Unprepared to Educate Schools Unprepared to Educate Students in the Autism Spectrum for Emerging Opportunities with High-Tech Companies

    • From: Thomas_Armstrong
    • Description:

      I’m seriously concerned that the schools aren’t doing enough (change that:  aren’t doing anything!) to prepare students on the autism spectrum for a range of careers that are beginning to open up for them in the workplace.  So much of recent educational ”reform” has been about preparing our students to be college and career-ready.  If this is true, then we should be focusing on doing everything we can to help prepare students with autism spectrum disorder for new opportunities that are opening up for them.  Educators need to know about an emerging trend in the workplace where high-tech companies are increasingly seeking to hire individuals with autism because their strengths are well-suited to a career in information technology.  I contributed to an article in the October 8, 2013 Wall Street Journal(online) on this new phenomenon, and I’d like in this post to go over some ideas and resources that supplement what was given in that news piece.

      The company that really launched this new trend was a Denmark firm called Specialisterne (”The Specialists”).  They hire workers to look for ”bugs” in computer software.  Their clients have included Microsoft, Oracle, and other top high-tech companies.  Seventy-five percent of Specialisterne’s employees are on the autism spectrum.  Specialisterne has opened up offices around the world, including in the United States.

      The Specialist People Foundation, which owns Specialisterne’s concept and trademark, has launched an initiative to obtain training and employment for one million people with autism. As part of this project, they have begun creating partnerships with other high-tech companies to employ people with autism, including software giant SAP and Computer Aid, Inc, which plans to employ 3% of its workforce with individuals on the autism spectrum.   Two other companies that are also seeking employees on the spectrum include  Freddie Mac, the giant mortgage finance company, which has been advertising for interns with autism, and Semperical, in San Jose, California, which provides software testing and quality assurance services, and advertises on its website: ”Our specialized program unleashes the incredible natural talents of engineers on the autistic spectrum.”

      Another organization that has taken an important role in training and employing people with autism, is  the Plano, Texas firm Nonpareil, which, is a combination training program and software company for young adults on the autism spectrum (photo by Lauren Silverman for NPR depicts trainee at Nonpareil).  Gary Moore, one of the partners of Nonpareil (along with Dan Selic), has a son Andrew who is a junior in high school and is on the spectrum.  “Although [Andrew] can’t tie his shoes or buckle his belt to do a lot of things independently, he can do technology,” Moore says. “He’s a digital native.”  Another group, the Specialists Guild in San Francisco, also trains and finds employment for young people with autism.  Their clients include Benetech, Compass Labs, and Launchpad Toys.

      These new employment trends come in the wake of research findings suggesting that in addition to the difficulties that people with autism have in the areas of social functioning and communication, they also have particular strengths, which up until now haven’t been recognized.  Cambridge University professor Simon Baron-Cohen, for example, points out that people on the spectrum are good at interacting with system rather than people (and these systems include computer programs and other IT systems).

      Laurent Mottron, a University of Montreal scientist has written about the strengths of autism in a recent article in the prestigious British journal Nature, and suggests that if IQ tests such as the Raven’s Progressive Matrices (a highly abstract visual-spatial assessment devoid of social interaction), were used with individuals with autism instead of the standard IQ test (the Weschler Intelligence Scale), their IQ scores would be 30-70 percent higher.  Another ability connected with autism is the capacity to focus on small details, sometimes referred to as ”enhanced perceptual functioning,” which is a valuable trait for searching for small errors in computer code.

      As I said at the beginning of this post, the schools are totally unprepared for this, and the simple reason for that is that special education in the United States has been firmly rooted in a ”deficit” paradigm for the past hundred years - focusing on what kids with special needs can’t do, rather than what they can do.  This is true of both public and private schools.  Perhaps the most renowned person with autism in the world, animal scientist Temple Grandin, in the October 7, 2013 issue of Time Magazine, wrote:  ”I recently spoke to the director of a school for autistic children and she mentioned that the school tries to match a student’s strengths with internship or employment opportunities in the neighborhood.  But when I asked her how the school identified the strengths, she immediately started talking about how they helped students overcome social deficits.  If even the experts can’t stop thinking about what’s wrong, how can anyone expect the families who are dealing with autism to think any differently?”

      I firmly believe that every school that has students with autism (and other special needs) should have a ”strengths specialist” that does nothing but look for abilities, capacities, talents, and gifts in special education students.  This would be a specially trained educator who is familiar with the strength-based literature (only a small part of which was noted above), competence in using a range of formal and informal strength-based assessment tools (see my previous post on seven of these assessment tools), and the capacity to help a student’s  teachers use instructional strategies based on their strengths. They should also be able to find ways to develop a student’s strengths within the school  (such as computer classes) and to serve as a school-community broker, helping to set up internships, apprenticeships, liaisons, and other real-world opportunities where students on the spectrum can be trained and find employment in the workplace.

      A study done at Virginia Commonwealth University, discovered that young adults with autism who received training in specific work fields had an employment rate of 87% compared with 6% for those in the control group who received no such help.  Clearly, this is a call for action to our nation’s public and private schools, and to the field of special education in general, to stop spending so much time focusing on deficits, and start turning your attention on strengths, because that is where the answer lies regarding helping these kids find success in life.

      For more information about the strengths of students with special needs, and specific strategies to help them achieve success, see my book Neurodiversity in the Classroom.

    • Blog post
    • 9 months ago
    • Views: 348
  • Short on Time Short on Time

    • From: William_Sterrett
    • Description:

      If only I had the time. How often do school principals hear this phrase from their hurried colleagues? Educators' sincere desire to do more, learn more, and engage more continually runs up against the realities of the frenetic, ever-changing world of teaching and learning.


      I wish I could reach Benjamin better and see him more engaged. How is this possible, with so many other student needs to meet?


      I would love to read that new book and apply a new perspective to my work. Who really has time to read, digest, and apply emerging ideas and best practices when so much is demanding our attention in this moment?


      It would be great to log on to my Professional Learning Network (PLN) and collaborate with others. Despite our best intentions, exhaustion often trumps professional learning goals at the end of a busy day.


      We are living in a time of sweeping curricular shifts and demographic changes. Uncertainties abound regarding educational funding and policy. Innovation inside the classroom and access to resources and perspectives outside the classroom hold unprecedented potential and promise for teaching and learning. This is a time when we sorely need leadership in our schools. We must teach, learn, collaborate, and lead--together. Schools cannot be powered by a hard-working few or count on a small core to "show the way" to success.


      In Short on Time, we will take a closer look at action steps that involve teaching, innovating, and leading. They require planning, action, and reflection.  Here’s one important area principals can start with: faculty meetings. 


      The very notion of faculty meetings makes even some of the best teachers cringe. Asking the staff to convene at the end of a busy day is something that any school leader should carefully consider. Principals, take note: if you are struggling to come up with a reason to meet, make the wise decision and cancel the meeting. Be inspirational, not merely informational. School leaders should model what they want learning to look like in their buildings. A principal rambling through a laundry list of managerial items in a meeting is no different from a teacher passing out a dreaded "word find" worksheet to his class. As a rule of thumb, ask yourself, If I were a teacher, would I want to attend this meeting?   To make the best use of meeting time, focus on the ABCs of meetings: affirmation, best practices, and coordination.


      * Affirmation. Start each meeting by recognizing others' successes and innovations. Principals are uniquely poised to share "what's right" with the school. Allowing teachers to recognize one another can go a long way toward creating a positive climate and high morale.


      * Best practices. To encourage best practices, share examples of what is working well within the school and discuss new opportunities for growth. Principals are in a position to leverage powerful insights from teachers and students, and sharing video clips of teaching and learning highlights can transform a faculty meeting's tone and level of involvement. Feel free to include ‘outside’ sources such as an occasional guest speaker or clip from a TED talk.  Encourage teachers to lead the discussion.


      * Coordination. At the end of each meeting, be sure to outline what is to happen next.  Ensuring well though-out action steps will help keep the momentum of school improvement moving forward.  An example of coordinating next steps might be: Each department will review and revise exit slips in their core subject area for the next three weeks.  Or, With a colleague, review these two teaching strategies and discuss your thoughts on student engagement.  Occasionally, use the scheduled faculty meeting time to let all teams conduct a deeper PLC-formatted meeting with specialists and administrators on standby to offer support.


      This post is a modified excerpt from the forthcoming ASCD Arias book Short on Time: How do I Make Time to Lead and Learn as a Principal? by William Sterrett. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. © 2013 by ASCD. Reprinted with permission. Learn more about ASCD at www.ascd.org . For more information about the book or to purchase copies, go to http://www.ascd.org/Publications/Books/Overview/Short-on-Time.aspx You can follow on Twitter @billsterrett


    • Blog post
    • 9 months ago
    • Views: 2648
  • How Districts are being Penny How Districts are being Penny Wise and Pound Foolish and Pound Foolish

    • From: Suzanne_Klein1
    • Description:

      Have you ever been asked to create curriculum when you felt like you went to school to teach?

      In an effort to save money, we have heard some districts are having teachers work collaboratively to design daily lessons for the Common Core. This poses a problem. When are teachers going to find time to create top notch Common Core lessons when they are in classrooms every day?

      There are two ways districts think they are saving money. One is they are trying to find free Common Core material for their teachers to use. The other is they are asking their teachers to be curriculum creators.  Now don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. Districts might save one penny now, but waste pounds of pennies later on when they realize their plan to save money backfired. Read on to hear my opinions on why I believe districts should make curriculum decisions with their eyes wide open.

      Take out the “R” in FREE and you get FEE

      Upon further investigation into why a prestigious Michigan district did not choose WriteSteps, we uncovered the truth that the district went with a “free” resource. Denise Dusseau, WriteSteps’ Curriculum Creator, looked into the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators (MAISA) CCSS Units they went with. MAISA CCSS Units is an example of a consortium of school districts currently working to create writing units adhered to the Common Core Standards.

      Denise discovered that like with many things, when you take out the “R” in FREE, you get FEE.  The supposedly “free” writing units offered to schools actually require teachers to have the full version of Lucy Calkins in order to teach the complete MAISA lesson plans.  Therefore, if teachers do not have Lucy Calkins, they will have to take the time to create the lessons themselves. It’s like when your kids open their Christmas presents and are so excited to use them, only to discover you forgot to buy the AAA batteries!

      Plus she discovered the Common Cores are not even addressed in the pacing guides! I understand school districts are trying these free units in an effort to save money, but as the age old saying goes, “You get what you pay for!”

      Experiences and Observations from Creating Curriculum While in the Trenches

      I ran into numerous challenges when creating lesson plans collaboratively with my co-workers. Here is what I discovered:

      • Collaboration among teachers to create lessons involves a lot of work.
      • Different viewpoints are great, but I spent a lot of my time explaining why I chose a certain style of lesson to other teachers, and vice versa.
      • The variety of different teaching styles and opinions disrupted the flow and continuity for students.
      • I believe elementary teachers are taken advantage of. As a teacher I was a generalist and taught all the subjects. But, I think administrators assume we are specialists in all subjects. If a teacher agrees to be a curriculum creator for writing, will they also be asked to be curriculum creators for math, reading, spelling, science, and social studies?
      • While I was meeting, planning and creating, I couldn’t give my best to my students.


      Not all Teachers are Skilled at Creating Lesson Plans

      Let’s be honest. Some teachers love creating lesson plans and can whip up great lessons in no time! But what about the teacher that finds the process difficult and time consuming?  Compiling and creating lesson plans takes a lot of work. I know because it took me years of research and planning to create all of the lesson plans that were included in the original WriteSteps.  The time went by in a snap because of my passion for teaching writing. However, not all teachers want to spend countless hours outside of the classroom perfecting lessons on a subject they may not particularly be passionate about. Many teachers originally decided on their career paths because they are passionate about TEACHING, not creating lesson plans.

      The moral of this story is look before you leap! “Free” will most likely always equal fee in the end, whether it be a fee of money or a fee of time. If you try a free program, chances are you’re going to waste a year and discover that “free” really isn’t free, and you will be hunting for a different solution. Likewise, asking teachers to develop lesson plans to meet the Common Core Standards hurts their effectiveness to do what they do best, teach!

      With WriteSteps, teachers do not need to wonder if they are using the correct curriculum; it’s all there for them in the daily lesson plans that are provided. Teachers won’t have to struggle or stress about time when it comes to creating writing lessons mapped to meet the Common Core.  We aren’t free, but you will get more than what you paid for-confident writing teachers and strong student writers.




    • Blog post
    • 1 year ago
    • Views: 294
    • Not yet rated
  • All Teachers Aren’t Cut Out to All Teachers Aren’t Cut Out to Be Curriculum Creators: How Districts are Being Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

    • From: Anjilla_Young
    • Description:

      Have you ever been asked to create curriculum when you felt like you went to school to teach?

      In an effort to save money, we have heard some districts are having teachers work collaboratively to design daily lessons for the Common Core. This poses a problem. When are teachers going to find time to create top notch Common Core lessons when they are in classrooms every day?

      There are two ways districts think they are saving money. One is they are trying to find free Common Core material for their teachers to use. The other is they are asking their teachers to be curriculum creators.  Now don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. Districts might save one penny now, but waste pounds of pennies later on when they realize their plan to save money backfired. Read on to hear my opinions on why I believe districts should make curriculum decisions with their eyes wide open.

      Take out the “R” in FREE and you get FEE

      Upon further investigation into why a prestigious Michigan district did not choose WriteSteps, we uncovered the truth that the district went with a “free” resource. Denise Dusseau, WriteSteps’ Curriculum Creator, looked into the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators (MAISA) CCSS Units they went with. MAISA CCSS Units is an example of a consortium of school districts currently working to create writing units adhered to the Common Core Standards.

      Denise discovered that like with many things, when you take out the “R” in FREE, you get FEE.  The supposedly “free” writing units offered to schools actually require teachers to have the full version of Lucy Calkins in order to teach the complete MAISA lesson plans.  Therefore, if teachers do not have Lucy Calkins, they will have to take the time to create the lessons themselves. It’s like when your kids open their Christmas presents and are so excited to use them, only to discover you forgot to buy the AAA batteries!

      Plus she discovered the Common Cores are not even addressed in the pacing guides! I understand school districts are trying these free units in an effort to save money, but as the age old saying goes, “You get what you pay for!”

      Experiences and Observations from Creating Curriculum While in the Trenches

      I ran into numerous challenges when creating lesson plans collaboratively with my co-workers. Here is what I discovered:

      • Collaboration among teachers to create lessons involves a lot of work.
      • Different viewpoints are great, but I spent a lot of my time explaining why I chose a certain style of lesson to other teachers, and vice versa.
      • The variety of different teaching styles and opinions disrupted the flow and continuity for students.
      • I believe elementary teachers are taken advantage of. As a teacher I was a generalist and taught all the subjects. But, I think administrators assume we are specialists in all subjects. If a teacher agrees to be a curriculum creator for writing, will they also be asked to be curriculum creators for math, reading, spelling, science, and social studies?
      • While I was meeting, planning and creating, I couldn’t give my best to my students.

       Not all Teachers are Skilled at Creating Lesson Plans

      Let’s be honest. Some teachers love creating lesson plans and can whip up great lessons in no time! But what about the teacher that finds the process difficult and time consuming?  Compiling and creating lesson plans takes a lot of work. I know because it took me years of research and planning to create all of the lesson plans that were included in the original WriteSteps.  The time went by in a snap because of my passion for teaching writing. However, not all teachers want to spend countless hours outside of the classroom perfecting lessons on a subject they may not particularly be passionate about. Many teachers originally decided on their career paths because they are passionate about TEACHING, not creating lesson plans.

      The moral of this story is look before you leap! “Free” will most likely always equal fee in the end, whether it be a fee of money or a fee of time. If you try a free program, chances are you’re going to waste a year and discover that “free” really isn’t free, and you will be hunting for a different solution. Likewise, asking teachers to develop lesson plans to meet the Common Core Standards hurts their effectiveness to do what they do best, teach!

      With WriteSteps, teachers do not need to wonder if they are using the correct curriculum; it’s all there for them in the daily lesson plans that are provided. Teachers won’t have to struggle or stress about time when it comes to creating writing lessons mapped to meet the Common Core.  We aren’t free, but you will get more than what you paid for-confident writing teachers and strong student writers.


    • Blog post
    • 1 year ago
    • Views: 313
    • Not yet rated
  • Complexity: Sociocultural Capi Complexity: Sociocultural Capital

    • From: Kevin_Goddard
    • Description:

      Attention to sociocultural capital in High-Performing High-Poverty Schools (HP2S) helps teachers understand where marginalized students are coming from. Teachers who share a sociocultural identity with students in the school may increase achievement in marginalized students (Chu Clewell & Campbell, 2007). Regardless of the focus on AYP in reading and math, ultimately, education is “the process of cultural transmission” (Rury, 2005, p. 10). The cultural resources imparted to students become capital “when they function as a ‘social relation of power’ by becoming objects of struggle as valued resources” (Swartz, 1997, p. 43). Cultural capital has a positive effect on all educational outcomes (Dumais, 2005). Acting as a resource for social power is why sociocultural capital is hoarded from marginalized groups by the dominant class. The power connected to cultural capital is a valuable resource “intersect[ing] with all aspects of cultural life” (p. 286). Bourdieu’s studies into capital have led him to believe that schools act as the main gatekeepers to capital giving the dominant class access to status, privilege, and symbolic power. “Schools offer the primary institutional setting for the production, transmission, and accumulation of various forms of cultural capital” (Swartz, 1997, p. 189) making restriction to capital through education a likely abuse by the privileged who already control education policy and practice (Nesbit, 2006). Even some reformers intent on social justice follow the dominant class way of thinking, valuing the expertise of professionals and managers over the working class, which presumes that “knowledge deficits” in the working class may be overcome through greater effort to move closer to dominant ideology (Livingstone & Sawchuk, 2005).

      A long-term view of student success by educators recognizes that students are not blank slates waiting to be filled, but “are the products of many years of complex interactions with their family of origin and cultural, social, political, and educational environments” (Kuh et al., 2007, p. 5). The combined SES of students in the school along with differences in sociocultural capital is an important factor in student performance. The resulting push for accountability has narrowed education’s view of what schools should be doing down to reading, math, and science (Henig et al., 1999; Kuh et al., 2007; Rury, 2005).

      Schools are middle class institutions where teachers have high levels of middle class sociocultural capital and reward students who have it, but may consciously or subconsciously discriminate against students who do not. When teacher and student capital is congruent, the performance of marginalized students is more likely to benefit. Popular society and specialists transmit values about the best way to raise children which is generally followed by middle class society aligning them with the beliefs of educational institutions. Working class parents are slower to change child-rearing practices to dominant practice keeping them out of sync with the school’s perception of the ideal home environment influencing teacher perception of the child and the child’s home life (Dumais, 2005; Lareau, 2003; Nesbit, 2006; Chu Clewell & Campbell, 2007).

      The test scores of marginalized students would currently be lower if schools had not already been making progress at reducing the disadvantages of family educational background and SES previous to the passage of NCLB (Henig et al., 1999). Educational leaders, principals in particular, use an understanding of “cultural, social, and the promise of economic capital” to bring competing groups and individuals together to find common goals and shift marginalized interests to the center by “mutual choice” (Watkins & Tisdell, 2006, p. 156). Schools tap into a sense of agency in communities to bring about mutual choice to move toward federal goals, otherwise mandates like NCLB will ultimately get nowhere (Cohen & Ball, 1999, p. 23). Different forms of capital, but sociocultural capital in particular, can operate as lenses principals use to view particular educational contexts. A lens of the middle-class, white norm limits a school’s responsiveness to cultural capital possessed by students (Machtinger, 2007; Swartz, 1997).

      Learning capacity is equivalent to intellectual capital (Livingstone & Sawchuk, 2005). All forms of capital are resources “that can be drawn on for social advancement” (Rury, 2005, p. 13). Bourdieu, one of the world experts on capital, believes there are four basic types of capital: economic, cultural, social, and symbolic with economic capital being the most important form in the United States followed by cultural (Swartz, 1997). While school cannot provide students with economic capital, schools can help students develop the other types of capital. Incongruence between the amount and type of capital students possess and the forms of capital valued in the school community can cause problems for the student (Kennedy et al., 2006).

      Cultural capital has been defined in numerous ways. Church (2005) quotes Nieto’s definition of culture as

      the ever-changing values, traditions, social and political relationships, and worldview created, shared, and transformed by a group of people bound together by a combination of factors that include a common history, geographic location, language, social class, and religion…Culture is dynamic; multi-faceted; embedded in context, influenced by social, economic, and political factors; created and socially constructed; learned; and dialectical (p. 48).

      Or in other words: highly complex. Cultural capital comes in an objectified form such as works of art, an embodied form based in an appreciation and understanding of objectified cultural capital, and institutionalized form found in educational credits and degrees. Cultural capital is a resource used to gain or maintain power and privilege. Based on the assumption that certain attitudes, behaviors, and values are more admired and rewarded in society than others, dominant forms of cultural capital give students who possess them an advantage over marginalized students (Dumais, 2005; Rury, 2005).

      Cultural capital, within the school setting, is the embodiment of the previous experience and learning of a community of people and influences how students accumulate, exchange, and utilize resources they gain from the school. Culture can be verbal facility, general cultural awareness, aesthetic preferences, scientific knowledge, and educational credentials and becomes a power source. Objectified cultural capital such as books, art, scientific instruments, and other tools require cultural abilities to use which can impact student engagement and parent involvement (Cohen & Ball, 1999; Stacey, 1996; Swartz, 1997). Parent access to the educational setting is also mediated by their personal experiences with school and other education-related institutions. In theU.S., where the dominant culture is not as strong as in other countries, cultural capital benefits both students from privileged backgrounds and all students who possess it allowing for “cultural mobility”. As cultural capital is distributed unevenly by society, schools make important decisions based on capital they have or capital they are trying to get which can be attributed to school failure as opposed to the limitations of individuals (Dumais, 2005; Lee & Bowen, 2006; Nasir & Hand, 2006; Schaughency & Ervin, 2006).

      Coleman expands cultural and human capital theories into social capital which is a “community-based support-system network” that is context specific and has the two common elements of social structures and facilitation of individual and group actions within those structures. Social capital is a network of individual human capital. This view seems too limiting to the richness of cultural capital as described by Bourdieu (Musial, 1999). Social capital is the benefit derived from social networks and organizations including relationships within family and community that generates trust and schema to increase the capacity for collaboration (Dumais, 2005; Farmer-Hinton & Adams, 2006; Lee & Bowen, 2006; Rury, 2005; Zacharakis & Flora, 2005).  Agents in the form of individuals and class will “struggle for social distinction” in a form of self-organization (Swartz, 1997). In this light, capital seems destined to be reproduced as “the quality of education children receive is directly related in part to the ability of parents to generate social capital” (Noguera, 2004, p. 2155).

      Obviously, the forms of cultural, social, human, and economic capital are often interrelated. Cultural capital intersects with social capital to give agents more influence. This intersection means agency cannot be separated from the social and cultural contexts within the global environment in which it occurs. While social capital can be a means to a desirable end, the dominant class will most often prevail as they possess more capital (Lattuca, 2002; Lee & Bowen, 2006; Watkins & Tisdell, 2006).

      More simply, “culture can be thought of as a set of behavioral characteristics or traits that are typical of a social group” (Rury, 2005, p. 9). The social setting is an organization of networks between social positions where dominant and marginalized groups compete for control of resources. Capital is specific to setting and does not exist without it. The education system reproduces social inequity where the possession of cultural capital leads to academic success. The most valuable form of capital in school is cultural capital congruent with capital valued within that particular school’s social setting (Dumais, 2005).

      Whereas the social-constructivist perspective makes a distinction between the individual cognitive activities and the environment in which the individual is present, the socio-cultural perspective regards the individual as being part of that environment. Accordingly, learning cannot be understood as a process that is solely in the mind of the learner…Knowledge, according to this perspective, is constructed in settings of joint activity…Learning is a process of participating in cultural practices, a process that structures and shapes cognitive activity (De Laat & Lally, 2003, p. 14).

      Nasir and Hand (2006) explain this complex interaction of social and cultural capital within specific environments as proof that educators need to attend to fostering agency in students’ focus on local problems. The number of students bringing middle class capital with them to school is decreasing and the number of students bringing sociocultural capital from the lower classes is increasing. “As in any demographic switch, the prevailing rules and policies eventually give way to the group with the largest numbers” (Payne, 2001, p. 79).

      Engrained dispositions from previous experience can sub- or un-consciously limit student success. Called “habitus”, these dispositions provide the opportunity to mitigate cultural predispositions by structuring school situations and interactions with positive models and diversity-oriented experiences (Kuh et al., 2007). However, the concept of habitus does not account for the complexity and variety of hopes and dreams of different groups. Humanity is too varied and complex to be perfectly categorized into any model, but habitus does give a vocabulary to talk about how dominant and marginalized groups may be socialized starting at a young age. “Habitus…privileges the basic idea that action is governed by a ‘practical sense’ of how to move in the social world. Culture is a practical tool used for getting along in the social world” (Swartz, 1997, p. 115). Habitus is a collection of cultural habits.

      Field is the social setting organized around types and combinations of capital which habitus operates. Schools act as a field for the competitive investment, exchange, and accumulation of various forms of capital (Swartz, 1997). Struggling within a local environment, schools should reflect the shifting community field. “Education clearly affects the course of social development, and schools reflect the influence of their immediate social context” (Rury, 2005, p. 1).

      Schools are viewed as vehicles for individual social and economic mobility. The education field itself provides mobility of cultural capital for low SES/marginalized groups and is often one of few examples children and community members have of mobility and opportunity. This perception itself may create the reproduction of limited mobility in marginalized groups. In truth, some schools value cultural knowledge while others are more forgiving (Dumais, 2005; Henig et al., 1999; Johnson et al., 2000).

      Empowerment of marginalized communities is collective, not individual. In order to realize change in the face of limited resources, communities rely on social capital for strength and agency. For school communities, this means that improved engagement can have profound consequences in improving achievement, agency, and equality (Schutz, 2006). Communalism helps build and accrue capital, generates “positive emotional energy”, and “may enhance motivation and engagement” (Seiler & Elmesky, 2007, p. 393). The social capital web is comprised of household, neighborhood, and school (Musial, 1999). But “working class peoples’ indigenous learning capacities…have been denied, suppressed, degraded or diverted within most capitalist schooling” (Livingstone & Sawchuk, 2005, p. 111). Overcoming cultural and historical differences “concerns activity and access to tools and mediated learning” (Portes, 2005, p. 176). Literacy, numeracy, and student well-being are practiced fluidly and dynamically across boundaries in social contexts. These pathways between family and community “need to be understood in out-of-home learning communities so that pedagogies, including assessment practices and the pedagogy of relationships can address the complexities related to children’s different life chances and ways of learning” (Kennedy et al., 2006, p. 16).

      “Biological models of deficiency [such as the Bell curve have been] replaced by cultural deficit models” (Nasir & Hand, 2006, p. 451). Private and charter schools can stick to a particular ideology that does not have to concern itself with discipline, ideology, and related social problems. These schools are successful because the students who attend them possess congruent sociocultural capital. The success of private and parochial schools suggests these schools acting as self-organizing units self-organize around the sociocultural capital available within and surround them as opposed to the capital they possess being superior (Bower, 2006; Portes, 2005; Walk, 1998). Capacity becomes a non-issue in middle class schools because the ingredients for success already reside in the boundaries and pathways established within the school community.

    • Blog post
    • 1 year ago
    • Views: 554
  • Creativity and Engagement in t Creativity and Engagement in the CCSS Era

    • From: Thomas_Martellone
    • Description:


      There have been many editorials over the past year or so with strong feelings that creativity and engagement have been taken from students and teachers in the classroom setting.  I had the good fortune this week to have two very excited and proud first grade students come to see me, making me realize that student engagement and creativity are alive and well within the classrooms of my school and within the curriculum based on Common Core State Standards .

      I was just preparing to start one of my monthly literacy department meetings, when my administrative assistant came to get me in my office.  Normally, I hold those meetings in our literacy center, however, on this day, I was holding the meeting in my office due to some testing that was being done in our regular meeting space.  I left my office and went out to the main office area, only to find two first grade boys standing there waiting for me, both looking serious with papers in their hands.  

      Both boys shared that they had done some writing and they were there to share with me.  Knowing that students often times enjoy sharing their work, I invited them to my office where the literacy staff were waiting for me and I asked the students if they would share with me and the other adults I was meeting with.  I was pleasantly surprised when the two boys let me know that they wanted to share some persuasive writing with me!

      The first student began to read his piece, which in fact, was about me.  He shared in his piece of writing that he thought I was a good principal and that I helped students.  I wasn’t sure who his intended audience was, but I gave a small chuckle and appreciated the fact that he was trying to persuade someone to think I was a good principal. It was very flattering.  

      The second student then read his piece, which was writing that was intended to persuade me to buy some soccer balls so that they would have them to play with on the playground.  The student had tried to use a basketball and that didn’t work too well for soccer, thus, his persuasive letter.  After reading his letter, the other student turned to him and told him that he had a soccer ball at home and that he didn’t use it, so he would gladly bring it to school for them to use.  

      My reading specialists, the K-5 ELA department head and I all shared with the two boys how impressed we were with their persuasive writing.  The two boys beamed as they held their papers in my office and were excited that they not only got the chance to “persuade me”, but that adults were pleased with their writing.  Their teacher later shared with me how thrilled they were to come to the office with their writing and she also was very happy with how much her children were writing in the classroom.  

      Providing students opportunities in the classroom to prepare them for college readiness does not equate to learning that is not engaging and it certainly does not equate to teachers not using their skills to provide students with creative ways to learn.  The “art and science” of teaching refers to teachers employing their “art”, which is the creative way they deliver content and instruction to students.  The “science” is the following of aligned curriculum, which over time, helps create well prepared students to leave our schools and go forward into the world.  

      As a school leader, it is important to foster a culture where teachers feel that they can use creativity in the classroom no matter what standards are being taught and no matter what curriculum is being delivered in a district.  Teachers must have latitude to use a level of professional judgement around what will stimulate learning and engagement for students.  

      It is also important, that while promoting creativity, that principals have open and transparent dialogue with teachers about what needs to be taught.  Delivering instruction that will support students after they leave our schools is imperative and should be a non negotiable.

      In the end, it really is about the art and science of teaching, it is about balance, and it is about using good judgement to provide students engaging instruction within a structured curriculum where teachers are able to use the gifts that we’ve hired them to give to students!

    • Blog post
    • 1 year ago
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  • Teacher As Decision Maker Teacher As Decision Maker

    • From: Patrice_DiMare-Bucci
    • Description:


      March 2012


                  As teachers digest the barrage of information relative to the implementation of the Common Core standards, it’s important to take time to reflect on the our role. As districts scale up and align curriculum, purchase materials, and think about assessment tools, we can’t forget the critical piece in all this: teacher as decision maker. The shifts we are being asked to make require intentional, responsive teaching.  It requires deep inquiry and reflection, understanding of pedagogy, and thoughtful awareness of what it means to be a 21st century learner.

                  We have reviewed countless versions of “shifts” we need to make in our teaching. Well meaning bloggers, staff developers and curriculum specialists create resources that will help us make those shifts to more non- fiction text, more text dependent questions, more citing evidence from text, and so on.

                  As we make these shifts, it’s vitally important to remember that it is our decision making that is of the most importance. Following standards, following basal program guides, following carefully devised curriculum modules are a worthless endeavor if we are not following the child and following their thinking. Teachers need to be keen observers of students, their processing, their engagement, and their individual abilities to construct and convey meaning.  Choosing a content area topic, according to a lexile level, to teach to a standard, does not mean we are making shifts toward common core alignment. We need to do much more than that. We need to think about how our responsive decision-making fosters deep learning in ways that enable our students to become thoughtful, engaged, and strategic with a self-extending system for learning

                   Making shifts to the common core means we have to hone our skills at assessing students, choosing materials for them and providing engaging learning activities.  In order to do this, we have to understand how to assess what children know, what they need to learn, and give them multiple ways to represent their knowledge.  Differentiated instruction and differentiated assessment requires thoughtful, intentional responsive teaching, not basalized activities.  Again, we are talking about the teacher as decision maker, not a teacher that follows a program.

                  The common core initiative can and should help us make shifts in our teaching so that students can truly become college and career ready. But, we have to be careful that we don’t make these shifts strictly as a compliance exercise. We need to engage in thoughtful intentional responsive teaching that respects the learner more than it respects the policy initiative. We need to make informed teaching decisions during that teachable moment. We have to know how to recognize it and sensitively respond to it. Those moments are fleeting and we can’t let them pass. We need to be that expert decision maker on the run.

                  We hear a lot about “Blooms taxonomy” and the verbs that align with Blooms.  Yes, we have to make sure students analyze, synthesize, create, etc. But more importantly, we have to look at the verbs that assure intentional responsive teaching: Model, scaffold, respond, prompt, cue, question, acknowledge, wonder, check in. And perhaps the simplest action, but maybe the most important: ask, “What are you thinking?” A truly intentional, responsive teacher asks that question, waits for the thinking, and expects a thoughtful response that she can use to build upon and extend learning.

                  Intentional responsive teaching demands an engaged teacher. A teacher who understands the enormity of her decision-making.  A teacher who understands that his/her choice of teaching moves and teaching language are critical to student learning. A teacher who does much more than follow a program, match students to lexile levels, or teach skills and content without understanding purpose or relevancy.

                   So as we work toward full implementation of the common core standards, we have to pause and reflect. Are we teaching to the common core as an exercise in compliance, much as we did with the NCLB initiative? Or, are we using the common core standards as an opportunity to further develop our intentional teaching skills so as to assure that our students will be college and career ready for the 21st century workplace.

                  Teacher as decision maker.  What’s  your decision?

    • Blog post
    • 1 year ago
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  • Keepin’ It Real: Preparation P Keepin’ It Real: Preparation Pathways that “Work”

    • From: Fred_Ende
    • Description:

      This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “What is the role and responsibility of educator preparation programs to foster and sustain effectiveness?" To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum.


      Despite my alma mater’s best intentions, I was not ready to be a teacher upon graduation.  Sure I completed all my methods courses, and found my student-teaching experiences to be excellent learning opportunities.  Yes, I was lucky enough to get a job in the subject area I had been “trained” for, and for all intents and purposes, I was ready to “start” my life.


      Unfortunately for me, I had no clue what I was doing.  Seriously.  I still recall a conversation I had with a colleague (who would later become a trusted friend and co-worker).  It went a little something like this:


      Ray:  Hey Fred.  How was your first day?  You’re packed up and ready to go?  What, do you have an appointment or something? (Note: It was about 2:30 in the afternoon)


      Me: Oh, hey Ray.  It was great.  I can’t believe how easy it was.  No appointment, I just got everything done I needed to do.


      Ray: Oh.  Huh. (staring at me with one eyebrow raised)


      Needless to say, from Day 2 on, it was rare for me to ever leave before 4:00 (and those were often good days).  I just didn’t get it, and while a scenario like this might be very common, the fact that I thought I understood the time commitments of my new career and yet was so off-base means that there was (and still is) a major disconnect between teacher preparation programs and the “real” world of education.  There are a number of issues we need to consider in order to make sure that folks new to the profession aren’t left picking their jaws up off the floor when they realize all that teaching involves.


      Let’s prepare specialists, not generalists.  Educators new to the profession can no longer afford to be generalists (in fact, I would offer the challenge that this has always been the case).  Teacher preparation programs are often woefully short on subject matter deep-dives (particularly for elementary pathways).  When I was a middle school science teacher, there were times when I would provide misinformation because I believed I knew something that I didn’t.  But, I was secure enough in my knowledge base to write the wrong after I did further research.  Plus, I was never afraid to say, “I don’t know.  Let’s figure it out together.”  Unfortunately, it can be tough to teach a subject with little content background.  We can teach our students how to write essays, but if they have no content to write about, the process is pointless.  Preparing prospective teachers with methodology without the subject-area skeleton is much the same.  As an added bonus, this adds rigor and an air of “the serious” to the preparation program.  We all know how challenging teaching is.  We can’t afford to have those who aren’t serious about the profession enter it.


      Provide certification blueprints.  I went to a university in a state I did not plan to teach in.  Yet, I never knew to ask what I would need to do to become certified to teach in the state I DID want to teach in.  Maybe that was just naïveté on my part, but I don’t think so.  It would have been nice if I knew what I would have to do to transfer my certification before I graduated, and without me having to try and navigate not just one state education department, but two (my head still hurts).  While times may have changed since I graduated college, it would be great if prospective teachers were given this information ahead of time and had the opportunity to ask the important questions about what they need to do, and why they need to do it.  While this might not have changed anything in my career progression, I will never be sure.  I ended up paying for and sitting through multiple certification exams in multiple states.  Needless to say, my initial certification in my first awarding state has long since expired.  And guess what?  It was never used.


      Let’s Talk.  Considering the emphasis on college and career readiness, why aren’t colleges and universities regularly meeting with K-12 teachers (by the way, this isn’t meant to be a dig on post-secondary staff, those of us in the K-12 world can be reaching out to colleges and universities too)?  In the ten years that I taught middle school science, never once was there talk about seeing what was taking place in our area colleges and universities to prepare future science teachers.  It was almost like the two relatives in everyone’s family that refuse to acknowledge each other.  It seems to me that better preparation pathways could be designed by engaging in regional symposia that would bring K-12 and postsecondary educators together to share curricula and discuss methodology.  If nothing else, it would be a great start to opening discussion and would help provide pre-service educators with a clearer horizon to head towards.


      Involve all Stakeholders.  Wouldn’t it have been helpful if one (or a few) of the courses you took in your preparation had parents and students from the area actually attend?  Stakeholders could share their thoughts and feelings about current education, and prospective teachers could role-play the types of parental and student scenarios that can be demoralizing for new teachers.  Imagine how helpful these types of interactions could be towards helping future educators meet parents and students where they are and to always move towards positive resolution. 


      Begin Teacher Prep in High School.  It isn’t appropriate for post-secondary faculty to find out that a student isn’t ready to become an educator during a junior level methodology class.  Unfortunately, by this point, students have already progressed through two years of college, and in these days, have already amassed debt and are simply trying to graduate.  This may force some to enter a career that they don’t find themselves interested in, simply because they can’t spend another year or two in college with a new major.  It stands to reason, then, that we should be providing students with coursework in education earlier on in their academic careers.  Why not provide child study courses at high schools across the country?  Or, why not give juniors and seniors at the high school level the chance to pair up with teachers in their own school (or other district schools) and get a brief intro to student teaching?  This could would strengthen the prospective teacher pool by providing experience and much needed perspective, and perspective can be everything.


      The future of education depends on the next generation of teachers.  They can’t be faulted for being ill-prepared.  In fact, I would even suggest that our manner of “evaluating” new teachers shouldn’t put blame on them for not necessarily knowing what to do.  In those situations, the blame should be put on the collective “us.”  If we expect new educators to become effective master teachers and learners, then we need to provide them with the path to do that, and just as importantly, join them as they progress down that road.

    • Blog post
    • 1 year ago
    • Views: 1185
  • Summer PD as a Jumping off Poi Summer PD as a Jumping off Point

    • From: Glenda_Horner
    • Description:


      The smell of sunscreen. The taste of cool watermelon. The sound of laughter and splashing at the neighborhood pool. These are the signs; school’s out and kiddos are home. The hectic pace of campus life has paused long enough to greet summer. For many, this is the ideal time for participating in professional development. Students are not a consideration and teachers do not have as many demands on their time. There is an old school of thought that reasons a teacher is only working when she is with her students. As educators, we fully realize that this is absolute nonsense! We know that this narrow view of a teacher’s work is ruled by the notion that time with students is of singular importance; that teachers are mainly deliverers of content; that curriculum planning and decision-making rest at higher levels of authority; and that PD is unrelated to refining and improving instruction.


      The summer months provide teachers with an opportunity to participate in the development of curriculum; for studying and sharing effective approaches for reaching an increasingly diverse population of students; for discussing effective ways to implement standards; and for continuing their own learning. However, all of this time invested in summer PD is for naught if, as instructional leaders, we do not consider that teachers are more likely to apply their new learning if they receive feedback and support while testing out and fine-tuning these newly acquired ideas and strategies. This statement suggests that teachers need, and even desire, regular opportunities for gauging and reflecting upon the effects of the new strategies and approaches while students are in school.


      One of the ASCD consultants that works with our district shared that following a recent two-day PD session she facilitated, a small group of excited teachers approached her. They shared with her that they had already texted and arranged a time they could meet with their principal to discuss how they might use what they learned. They desired to take their new learning for a spin around the campus and sought the support of their principal.


      The question we face as leaders is how to find time for teachers to practice and reflect upon what they learn. In many ways, learning for teachers is similar to that of kids. Howard Gardner (1993) suggests that kids need time, experience, and multiple opportunities to learn important concepts. Research in professional development tells us that teachers need the same. They need time and multiple opportunities to wrestle with and experience their new learning. It comes as no surprise that finding time is easier said than done.


      Leaders throughout our district continually seek ways to carve out teacher time. A long-standing expectation in our district is that teachers plan together as teams. Common planning time allows teachers opportunity to plan lessons and find ways to fold new curriculum strategies into their lessons. A few campuses have found success in carving out extended planning time for teachers. These common or extend planning times are further supported through the use of instructional coaches. At the middle school level, our district utilizes content area specialists (instructional coaches) who are able to provide expert support for teachers as they implement new practices in their classrooms. Another district-wide practice involves teacher data teams meeting regularly to analyze results from various assessments. The teams work together as they consider what the data is telling them about student learning; discuss ways to improve student achievement; and work on refining future assessments to gather more useful student data.


      Each of these strategies for folding in time within the school day comes with a word of caution. Setting high expectations for how teachers utilize the PD time is critical. After all, assuming that our goal is always improved student performance, we need to assure that we clearly communicate how this time is to be used, while demonstrating the value and purpose of the PD time.  


      The point is, summer PD is a great jumping off point, but it’s only the beginning. On-going PD is vitally important and must be woven into the fiber of a teacher’s day in order to continually fuel new ideas and refine teaching practices. We must provide teachers with opportunities to develop, master, and reflect on new approaches to working with students.


      Dr. Glenda Horner is the Coordinator for Staff Development in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District in Houston, Texas.  She has participated in ASCD’s On-Site Capacity Building services. Go to www.ascd.org/oscb to learn more.


    • Blog post
    • 2 years ago
    • Views: 1269
  • Part 1 of 2: Power of a 21st C Part 1 of 2: Power of a 21st Century Continuum

    • From: Allison_Zmuda
    • Description:

      What does creativity really look like?

      Are students more creative in their early years than in the latter parts of their schooling?

      Does this fly in the face of what we know about creativity, that it is grounded in deep knowledge and requires the patience to ruminate over a period of time?

      So at an early age, what are kids doing instead? Are they more playful? Are they less inhibited about how they will be judged?



      This is a window into a conversation that teachers, administrators, local employers, parents and Board members had in the development of a continuum for 21st century skills. The concept behind the conversation is simple but powerful: collectively describe 21stcentury skills so that staff can design tasks appropriately given the developmental-level and content matter.


      So far, we have treated 21st century skills as a typical initiative — it has generated keynote speeches, and amorphous goals but it has not gained any real traction in curriculum, assessment and instructional design. In my latest book, Breaking Free from Myths about Teaching and Learning, I asserted,


      • “The initial demands to renovate the schoolhouse were based on the theoretical notion that one day, the world would be different and the competitive advantage would go to those nations that trained their workforce to adapt to those realities. Then something peculiar happened—the 21st century showed up, and the world changed, yet the conversations about 21st-century schools remain largely theoretical”(Zmuda, 2010).


      We must move away from squeaky-clean problems with simplistic answers and resuscitate the curiosity, interest, motivation, and resilience of the learners in the classroom.


      The power of a 21st century skills continuum.

      • It defines both the skill and its significance.
      • It clarifies that this is a collective PK-12 enterprise.
      • It establishes a lens so staff can refine or eliminate existing tasks as well as create new ones.


      Take a look at this example on Informational Literacy — part of a continuum that I facilitated for the Virginia Beach City Public Schools in Virginia on Information Literacy. (To see the full continuum visit www.vbschools.com.)


      Novice: Explore simple questions through the completion of a given procedure that requires location and collection of information through navigation of digital sources and/or text features in order to share information with others.


      Emerging: Generate questions, locate and evaluate digital and other sources that provide needed information, analyze information to verify accuracy and relevance, categorize information using a given organizational structure, and report findings.


      Proficient: Use an inquiry-based process that requires the development of questions, identification and evaluation of a range of digital and other sources, analysis of information and point of view, identification of significant information and any conflicting evidence, categorization of relevant information using a self-selected organizational structure, and production and presentation of a verifiable synthesis of research findings that lays the groundwork for conclusion(s) drawn.


      Advanced: Use an inquiry-based process that requires the generation and refinement of specific questions to focus the purpose of the research, evaluation of digital and other sources from a variety of social or cultural contexts based on accuracy, authority, and point of view; resolution of conflicting evidence or clarification of reasons for differing interpretations of information and ideas; organization of information based on the relationships among ideas and general patterns discovered; and combination of information and inferences to draw conclusions and create meaning for a given audience, purpose, and task.


      After we developed this continuum on Information Literacy, I showed it to several-thousand library media specialists and asked them this straightforward question — based on the assignments that are designed by middle school and high school teachers, where would you place them on the continuum?


      Over 90% of respondents described that the tasks were still at the novice level.


      So here is the challenge for many school divisions. IF you do not have shared consensus on what you are aiming for and how the skill becomes more sophisticated over time, THEN you cannot systematically grow the capacity of your students. To design a coherent experience from a student’s perspective requires teacher collaboration to ensure the goals of learning are guaranteed. The methods employed to arrive at those goals should be flexible to encourage teacher creativity and expertise as well as tap into a student’s prior knowledge and personal interests.


      This high percentage can be attributed to several long-standing problems, including:

      • We have so much to cover in the curriculum that we can’t afford to slow down.
      • Those items are not evaluated on the state, provincial, national, or international assessments.
      • Our job is to teach the basic skills and content; when they go out into the world, that is where the application happens.
      • We can recite the skills but nobody has a clear idea of what it means — what tasks are required, what it looks like in the classroom.

      The first three problems delineated above have been at the heart of Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe’s emphasis on meaning-making and transfer (Understanding by Design, Schooling by Design). The fourth problem, clarity about what the skill means, is the focus of these two blog posts. Read on if you are interested in:

      • preparing your students to navigate change;
      • becoming more precise about what 21st century skills mean;
      • using 21st century skills to reframe the daily and summative tasks we give students;
      • moving beyond one topic and one subject area at a time to facilitating trans-disciplinary connections; and
      • creating a focused and manageable document so that it is user-friendly for curriculum specialists and teachers.


      Difference between a continuum and a rubric.

      A continuum clearly describes how students progress in their development: how they become more skillful, reflective, sophisticated, and intuitive over time. Each part of the continuum explains as students move through the grades how their tasks should become more challenging.

      A rubric defines levels of performance that clearly describe the level of success on a particular task for the purpose of feedback and guidance on future tasks.

      Therefore, a teacher uses a continuum to identify the appropriate level (i.e. emerging, proficient) whereas a teacher uses a rubric to accurately describe student performance.


      Continuum in action.

      Another powerful model is an ongoing project that I am facilitating in Newport News Public Schools (Newport News, VA). First, staff, parents, and community representatives drafted a set of 21st century skills. Then, they created a companion document linking the drafted "College, Career and Citizen Ready Skills" to performance task Categories that require transfer and meaning making. (For more information about this type of task design, check out the work of Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe — Understanding by Design.)


      The performance task categories they created are:

      • ·      Problem/solution
      • ·      Inquiry/investigation
      • ·      Source/comparative analysis
      • ·      Critique/self-analysis
      • ·      Debate/panel/role play
      • ·      Performance/product
      • ·      Modeling/simulation
      • ·      Correspondence/interviews
      • ·      Persuasive statement
      • ·      Portfolio


      Then, they created definitions of what the performance task required and connected that task to the skills. Here is a sample.



      Multidisciplinary Performance Task



      What it DOES measure



      What it MIGHT measure

      Problem/Solution- Identifies and defines a problem and generates a possible solutions (or solution paths), evaluates the viability of each solution, and offers a recommendation.


      • problem solving
      • critical thinking
      • communication
      • creativity / innovation
      • social responsibility
      • information literacy
      • collaboration

      Inquiry/Investigation- Systematically develop questions and pursue an explanation/pattern based on, but not limited to, known information.


      • critical thinking
      • problem solving
      • initiative and self-direction
      • information literacy
      • creativity/innovation
      • communication
      • collaboration
      • social responsibility

      Source/Comparative Analysis- Analyze data, information, artifacts, and/or textual evidence to develop an explanation, interpretation, and/or determine impact.

      • critical thinking
      • information literacy
      • communication
      • collaboration

      So here is a sample of a new performance task developed by the World Languages curriculum design team. This is designed as a Level 1 (new to the world language) performance task for all spoken languages.


      Task Summary: You have finally arrived at the airport in (TL country) and are anxious to meet your host family.  Suddenly, a member of your group approaches you frantically waving her hands. You notice she has bumps all over her face and arms and yells: “I am having an allergic reaction to something in the (TL-appropriate food) we had for lunch! I need help! Within your group, you have 10 minutes to come up with a minimum of five (5) ways to communicate the problem to TL speakers who could provide you assistance in this situation. Do not assume everyone speaks English, they don’t. Be prepared to share your solution(s) to this problem with the class.

      • Performance Task Classification: Problem/Solution
      • Connection to College, Career and Citizen-Ready Skills: Collaboration; Communication; Critical thinking; Problem-solving
      • ACTFL Standards: Communication – Standards 1.1, 1.3; Cultures – Standard 2.2; Connections – Standard 3.2; Comparisons – Standard 4.1; Communities – Standard 5.1


      The Newport News curriculum staff continues in their efforts to identify, refine and create performance tasks that are in alignment with their College, Career, and Citizen-Ready Skills Continuum. Their goal for every student? Providing evidence of proficiency before graduation day. (To find out more about the project in Newport news, contact Executive Director for Curriculum and Instruction: terri.mccaughan@nn.k12.va.us.)


      So, if you are compelled to take action, read the second blog post — the Do-It-Yourself Manual on how to create a 21st century skills continuum in your school division.


      For more information, check out my book Breaking Free from Myths about Teaching and Learning . Contact me directly via email at zmuda@competentclassroom.com. Or attend my session on July 1 at the Summer ASCD Conference


    • Blog post
    • 2 years ago
    • Views: 955
  • Career Education for Tots Career Education for Tots

    • From: Harper_Mac
    • Description:

      Updating a pretty neat movement is in order these days. Growing out of the ritual of teachers asking their young students to share with the class what they want to be when they grow up, several practices sprang up to advance awareness. Those events grew in popularity and changed with the times. It’s time for another version to be released upon society, but let’s first recall how this all got started.

      Take Your Child to Work

      In 1993, feminist icon Gloria Steinem was instrumental in launching Take Our Daughters to Work, a program in which daughters could shadow a parent or other worker. The idea stemmed from a substantial history of women having limited access to work outside the home, and therefore, even smaller exposure to young girls about the very nature of a workplace. Many companies at the time, motivated by a wide range of views, permitted the supervised accompanying by both sexes into their workplaces, where appropriate, though the practice of sons tagging along with fathers predated the activity by a few centuries.

      A decade later, the practice had become well-accepted, and the day, by now a national event, was officially remade into some version of Take Your Children to Work or Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work. While debatable, an emphasis on career education, rather than any reference to past historical exclusion of any particular gender, made the practice acceptable on a widespread scale. A lot has changed since the 1990s and the world of work is, more than ever, closely tied to education.

      Shadowing the halls

      Children born around the time Ms. Steinem first drew national attention to young girls’ unrequited desires to see a life beyond the kitchen stove entered a world in which globalization was quickly becoming a household name. While skill levels had been a concern for years, attitudes about the need for training and education lagged, in some regions, by decades. Increasingly, though, post-secondary enrollments began to grow, and guidance counselors and admission specialists began to pay special attention to school children who just might become 1st generation college students. Tours, mini-courses and other campus activities prang up to expose even young children to the experience of seeing themselves physically on a university campus. Now, with globalization a full reality and a college education valued by most, a new dynamic has entered the mix.

      Take Our Daughters and Sons Online

      In many quarters, mom and dad perform their career duties on the same type of device as their children learn shapes, colors, number and letters – the computer. More to the point, for the family begun by parents who already finished a four-year-degree, mom and dad may well be working on an online master degree project before bedtime, breaking only to read a nighttime story for the kids.

      Why not let the little ones in on the contemporary version of “the office” as well as those “halls of learning,” now floating about in cyberspace?

      Imitation is the most sincere form of – learning

      For years, academic success has been tied to such factors as the number of quality books a household possesses and the education level of parents. It stands to reason that if a young child sees his or her mom reading online for a class, they will value, and therefore want to imitate that behavior. If a little one grows to see a computer being used for much more than entertainment, especially if a parent shares what college activity looks like today, with interactive engagement with faculty and classmates, that memory may well translate into a perception that learning is a natural behavior.

      Just as we changed attitudes about access to a glimpse of the world of work for all people, we have a great opportunity to instill in our kids an acceptance and a value of learning that can leave a great impression starting at a pretty young age.



    • Blog post
    • 2 years ago
    • Views: 364
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  • Trimming that expense account Trimming that expense account through technology

    • From: Harper_Mac
    • Description:

                You may be like countless executives who, in the back of their minds, believe doing more work with fewer resources is something you do until a recession ends and then things get better. If you’re still employed, however, it’s a good bet you haven’t based your actions on that specious wish. Lean is in and what you did last month doesn’t count. More importantly, if your expense accounts don’t scream “I’m using technology to innovate my division, region, department,” you need to step up your game. So, grab that stack of expense reports, pull up your favorite search engine and settle in for some online learning that might just save your job.

                Use your expense report’s categories to guide your homework. Start off by discovering the answers to these three questions:

                     What constitutes my biggest expense claims?

                     Which activities deliver the highest ROI for time spent?

                     When do I harness the most synergy from my colleagues, vendors and support resources?

                For most managers, travel is the biggest expense on your report. With rising ticket prices and the concomitant hotel and meal outlays swelling the total sum, relatively new web services can fashion significant savings on your bottom line. Begin your search by typing in such terms as online meeting, video conference, virtual communication or all three sets and you’ll quickly get a short list of resources. Understandably, not all meetings should be held virtually, but if your next get-together isn’t going to produce near-term revenues greater than the expenses incurred by the meeting’s logistics, then you really need to rethink how you’re spending the company’s money. Besides the dollar amounts you’re spending on travel, what about your time?

                For better or worse, the days of getting a little down time while traveling are over. Laptops and smart phones have replaced rest and reflection on flights to and from meetings and trade shows. Still that time, spent more efficiently in many regards than before, is still costly as compared to doing the same activities elsewhere. Hopefully, your time in a rental car doesn’t involve more than hands free communication with others, but again, the return on cost per hour goes down as the seconds tick away. Even when you do reach your destination and join with others to collaborate, are the human costs of travel cutting into the potential offered by all parties?

                In Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, his sixth habit, synergize, is all about tapping into the creativity of the group. While the group isn’t limited to your immediate team, customers or vendors, it does tend to involve interactions that contribute to your expense report. If travel is involved, it also implies people who may not be performing at peak efficiency simply because they’re pooped from a long flight or drive. There’s no metric for weighing how much inspiration is lost through individual journeys to hotels, conference centers or distant restaurants, but there are new ways of accomplishing old outcomes that technology offers. Selling those ways, to yourself as well as others, is a great opportunity to use the same synergy you use in distant meetings to both cut down on the expenses of such meetings and to harness more creative collaboration than before.

                A note of caution: Whatever technology you employ, it must reduce, not add to, anyone’s e-mail inbox!

                Social media is no longer the domain of high school classmates with whom you no longer have much in common. LinkedIn, Skype, Twitter and the fast-up-and-coming Google+ each have functions that can replace different wasteful processes, particularly when it comes to the preparatory training needed in any transition. Start by using an existing service, if available.

                There’s an old sales maxim that goes, “If I say it, they doubt me; if they say it, it’s true.” Start with those who report to you, be they a sales force, senior managers or key support personnel. Ask them how, not if, they could use technology to better facilitate what presently is accomplished at meetings requiring travel. You’ll not only be leading, but you’ll be getting invaluable feedback from experts. Establishing a goal by encouraging collaboration will filter out most, though probably not all, knee-jerk resistance, while also curbing overreach in which people feel pressured to eliminate those meetings that really need to be held face-to-face at a remote location.

                From your feedback, you’ll learn not only what technology is available to accomplish your goals, but valuable information about by-in and training needs. At this point, bring in your own training specialists to the project, adding them to your virtual team. Your goal? Design an on-line meeting to design how best to conduct future meetings.

                As you know, not all travel meetings will be appropriate for web-based conferences. However, it’s a sure bet that not all travel meetings are maximizing efficiency, productivity and economy, either. By using technology to innovate how you conduct your work and how you leverage creativity to cultivate a greater return on investment, you’ll be able to cite positive changes in those expense reports during your next performance review, if not at your next quarterly meeting of investors. 

    • Blog post
    • 3 years ago
    • Views: 466
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  • An Open Invitation to Exceptio An Open Invitation to Exceptional Children Teachers and Specialists

    • From: Steven_Weber
    • Description:


      ASCD EDge has educators who frequently write about the following topics:



      Collaborative Teams

      College Readiness

      Common Core State Standards

      Curriculum Alignment

      Curriculum Development

      Curriculum Mapping

      Differentiated Instruction

      Educational Leadership

      English Language Learners

      Grading Practices


      School Improvement


      Technology Integration

      21st Century Skills

      Understanding by Design

      Web 2.0 Tools



      ASCD EDge has grown from 12 members (ASCD Staff) to over 25,000 members.  One important topic seems to be missing from the professional conversations.  Who is addressing "Exceptional Children?"  There are thousands of specialists, teachers, school administrators and parents with expertise in this area.  With over 25,000 members, one would think that this topic would have several blogs and even an expert who blogs on a regular basis.  This is an open invitation to anyone who works with Exceptional Children (EC) in K-12 schools.  Your experiences and resources will benefit all teachers and administrators.


      ASCD EDge helps you start or join professional conversations.  If you have a specialized interest, you can join an existing group (i.e., Understanding by Design or Teaching English Language Learners) or create a new group.  ASCD EDge provides educators with the opportunity for teachers, administrators, curriculum coordinators and others to share ideas, discuss recent books about curriculum, share tools for supporting the work of teachers and administrators, and participate in an online professional learning community.  If you are still wondering how ASCD EDge will support your career, join today!  You will have access to educators who share your interests and who are waiting to learn from your experiences!


    • Blog post
    • 3 years ago
    • Views: 1087
  • Think Again! Think Again!

    • From: Walter_McKenzie
    • Description:

      Walter’s blog archive: http://surfaquarium.com/blog.htm


      Think you know what you need to make a difference in education? So did I. I’m here to tell you…think again!


      A decade ago I was as an Instructional Technology Coordinator for the Arlington, Virginia Public Schools. I beat the bushes for computer donations from local businesses, worked with PTAs to fund network cabling for individual schools, and rolled out technology for new and renovated schools. It was hard, all-consuming, satisfying work, and I loved it. Technology was just becoming a school-wide commitment, and I was interested in helping make it happen.


      Eventually I was ready to make that same difference at a district level. I searched back home in Massachusetts where I became the Director of Information Systems for the Salem Public Schools, an urban district north of Boston that hadn’t funded technology for the three years prior to my arrival. I walked in to discover outdated network infrastructure, aging computer systems, and data management challenges. Instructional implementation was actually a bright spot, thanks to a small, dedicated team of technology integration specialists out in the schools. After reporting an assessment of the situation to my boss, Superintendent Herb Levine, I was given a commitment of $300,000 the first year and additional matching or increased funding in subsequent years to get Salem technology where it needed to be. In my tenure there, we upgraded cabling and electrical wiring, swapped out old servers for new Mac OSX servers, upgraded network switches to HP Pro Curves so that we would be better able to manage network traffic, and added laptop carts to initiate ubiquitous computing in classrooms. Again, it was rewarding work, but there was no end to what more needed to be done. As I finished my tenure in Salem, I remembered thinking to myself, “Imagine how much more we could do with educational technology if it were better funded!” I have many fond memories of my time in Salem…


      I moved to take the job as Director of Technology for my hometown of Northborough as part of the Northborough-Southborough Regional Schools in central Massachusetts. This was a more affluent suburban district in which technology was funded annually, albeit at minimal levels to maintain the status quo. Algonquin, the district regional high school, was just being renovated and its technology was brand new including a state of the art network with redundant back-up systems, industry standard firewalls and filters, and a Windows Update server. I worked with librarians district-wide to identify, requisition and roll out a single, central library automation system that for the first time allowed for sharing of data and collections. And my work with schools to more optimally use technology for productivity, communication, collaboration and instruction was the most rewarding part of my job. The challenge was that this district was funded by two neighboring towns with separate agendas and separate funding priorities, so standardizing technology across all schools was difficult. I concluded, “If we could agree on a single vision for technology across the two towns and fund it appropriately, we could do great things for our students!” Still, the work was good, I loved being home, and I never thought I would leave…


      A couple of years down the road came calls out of nowhere from old friends and colleagues back in Arlington, Virginia. Apparently, Arlington had gotten its act together on educational technology and formed a new department of Information Services with a new assistant superintendency to lead it. They were encouraging me to apply. This was difficult to think through, because I was very happy serving my hometown of Northborough. Still, this opportunity sounded ideal: a top-level well-funded district ed tech position. It was flattering to be asked to come back and apply, and there was certainly no guarantee I would get the job. Why not send in my resume and see what happens? At least it would satisfy persistent colleagues hounding me to apply. And so I did…


      Long story short I was offered the position and after talking it over with my wife and children, I accepted. Coming back to Arlington was like a second homecoming because the names and faces and schools were so familiar. I administered a department of 75 staff and a $16 million budget…surely enough money to do things right…right? Mathematically, yes. But I am here to report that for all its funding, Arlington had the exact same problems I had remembered during my first stint there….similar to the problems I worked to address in Salem and Northborough-Southborough….only on a larger, more expensive scale. As I walked in the door, there was a $5 million Oracle implementation that was floundering, a boom-bust cycle of only investing in technology hardware and infrastructure as part of school capital renovation projects, and struggling, inconsistent levels of technology integration into instruction from building to building.


      I worked with my staff to create a vision for technology in Arlington, reorganized the department to best accomplish the work of that vision, released staff who needed to move on and hired new staff with the necessary skills to get the work done. Together we quickly addressed the technical issues and challenges of the district…not all at once…but as part of an ongoing process to correct problems where we found them while building district-wide capacity for ed tech moving forward. Oracle became the core of our data system, with our student information system and district systems wrapped around it. My management team and I worked to each achieve at least the foundations certification of ITIL (the Information Technology Infrastructure Library) so that we had a strong project management culture in which to continue our work. These were the things I was able to move forward.


      But there were larger cultural and organizational issues with which I struggled:

      • an historical lack of trust between tech staff and instructional staff;
      • an education culture that did not value technology as a transformative instructional tool;
      • building-level administrators who saw technology as an expensive add-on separate from their overall instructional program;
      • building-level staff who had their own personal ed tech preferences and agendas;
      • district tech staff who valued network security over staff and student access to technology resources;
      • district leadership who looked to technology first for cuts when budget times were tight;
      • administrators, teachers and students who consistently chased after the latest technology toys;
      • a disconnect between educational technology, instructional design, and learning theory.

      Sound familiar? 


      In fact, while Arlington was doing it bigger and more costly, I can honestly say I saw evidence of more innovative, effective examples of technology integration and fluency in Salem and Northborough-Southborough classrooms and offices. How is this possible? Here is what I now understand and believe….and what I want to share with you:

      • technology and the Information Age it has facilitated do not align well with Industrial Aged education;
      • money is not the silver bullet for solving the problems facing education, nor educational technology in particular;
      • moving up from coordinator to director to assistant superintendent does not provide an individual with the means to address the real systemic challenges of education;
      • educational technology staff working in isolated pockets of innovation are not offering replicable, scalable, sustainable models for how technology can be implemented systemically;
      • educators in general are torn between the Information and Industrial ages, and as a result are overloaded with a morass of duties and responsibilities in an effort to accommodate both;
      • teachers in particular have become so frustrated that competing self-interests within their ranks are now undermining the potential for open honest discussion about the future of education;
      • unless the current generation of public education administrators willfully changes its values and practices, educational will not meet the demands of the 21st century until a subsequent generation of leadership is in place;
      • Industrial Aged education cannot be reformed to meet the needs of the 21st century….it must be transformed into an entirely new model of education;
      • this new model of education must be a holistic approach that reflects the needs, skills and global views our children will need to be competitive in the Information Age.

      You may have other experiences and observations to add to mine. I welcome them.


      My point is this: the assumptions and beliefs I held about improving education turned out not to be based in fact. The real challenges in making a difference in public education are much more deep-seated and systemic than what I was able to see at the time. But with experience comes perspective, and I now see the larger themes and issues holding education back.


      What are your assumptions and beliefs? Are some of them similar to what I have described? If you step back and compare your experiences to mine, is their evidence staring you in the face that you may need to re-examine your beliefs as an educator and look for new answers on how to transform education? And if the answer is yes, what are you waiting for? We need you…now!

    • Blog post
    • 3 years ago
    • Views: 2253
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