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  • Taking the Lead: Influencing f Taking the Lead: Influencing from the Middle as a Teacher Leader

    • From: Justin_Zatt
    • Description:

      “Leadership is not about position; it's about influence.”

      -John C. Maxwell

       

      Dispelling the leadership myth

      About two years ago, I began mulling over the idea of going back to school to obtain a masters degree in Educational Administration in order to become a school leader. Leadership is influence and I was determined to spread my influence beyond my classroom walls and inspire an entire school. What I came to realize, was that I had already reached that level. I was already contributing to my school’s success and slowly becoming a catalyst for change: I was a teacher leader.

       

      Effective leadership is generally directly tied to school success. Research has certainly shown that leadership matters. Teacher leadership, however, still is not always an accepted norm. The notion of an educational leader always tends to conjure up the same images: District superintendents and building-level administrators. These images, I believe, are misleading representations of leadership in education. They give off the impression that one has to be in one of those positions in order to develop influence in a school setting. Often, when asked about leadership roles, teachers reply, “I cannot lead because I’m not at the top.” How can we dispel this all-too-common myth? Even, in the midst of the 21st century, there appears to be a general lack of teacher leadership awareness.

       

      Defining successful teacher leadership

      While teacher leadership isn’t a new concept in education, it is one that is often misinterpreted. It has been long realized that teachers take on many roles. Teacher as leader is more than leading a class of students and being a great teacher. A teacher has many opportunities available to become influential and contribute to their school’s success.

       

      From corporate offices to the military, and in a diverse array of cultures as different as The Netherlands, Canada, Hong Kong and the United States, there is overwhelming evidence of a common set of practices that any successful leader calls on, as needed. Many of these same practices define today’s teacher leaders and the roles they take on:

       

      1. Direction Setters

      Successful teacher leaders are aimed at helping their colleagues develop shared understandings about the school and its activities and goals. Effective communication is key. Whether it’s guiding new teachers or trying to influence seasoned veterans hesitant of change, leaders play a key role in identifying and articulating the school’s vision. Teacher leaders have a responsibility to help foster the acceptance of their school’s goals and in creating high performance expectations.

       

      2. Teacher Developers

      Teacher leads take on various roles that assist in the development of their colleagues’ instructional practices. Vital roles include curriculum specialist, learning facilitator, resource provider, and mentor. Successful teacher leaders lead in-school or district professional development. They may aid in curriculum mapping. Sometimes it is as simple as helping other teachers to understand state content standards and local curriculum initiatives, as well as how to plan and assess lessons meeting these guidelines. Ultimately, effective teacher leaders strive to unlock their colleagues' potential to become better.

       

      3. Catalysts for Change

      The field of education is ever-evolving and there is a great need for independent research, or teacher inquiry, about new instructional strategies or practices. Many effective teacher leaders even take on roles in their teachers’ union or groups working toward school reform. They advocate for their school, for teachers, and above all, student learning.

       

      4. Life-long Learners

      This one is a given. John F. Kennedy used to say, "Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other," and true teacher leaders never really end their pursuit of knowledge or quest to become better educators. They are often the first ones to arrive to school in the morning and one of the last to leave at night. Teacher leaders are the ones who attend professional development sessions during school breaks to stay tuned in to the pulse of education in an ever-changing world. They engage in education twitter chats or reflect upon education in their professional blogs on the weekends. Successful teacher leaders are passionate professionals, always striving to learn and improve in order to be the best educator they can be and provide their students with the highest quality education possible.

       

      The bottom line is- You don’t have to be a district superintendent or building administrator to be a leader within your school community. You need only the courage and determination to spread your influence beyond the walls of your classroom and an interminable passion to inspire the world around you. 

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  • The "Principals" of Building T The "Principals" of Building Trust

    • From: Chris_Sousa
    • Description:

      Trusting relationships are a key factor of successful schools. Building a positive professional level of trust forms the foundation that allows staff, students, and communities to take risks, succeed, fail, and find success again. All staff need to be vested in building positive trusting relationships, especially the school’s administration. Recently a colleague of my mine shared that at a recent staff meeting her new Principal announced, that due to budget issues, several staff members may lose their positions. Then the principal asked the staff to trust her, and said by the same token she was trusting them, as they move through this process. It was quite an emotional time for her school.

      I asked her if she did trust her principal, and this led to a discussion about what it takes for a new administrator to earn the trust of their staff. While we thought there were probably as many ways to earn trust as there are schools, there were a few common things that most school administrators could do when it came to earning trust. Here are our top 5 (in no particular order):

      1. Sincerity and believability are paramount. You have to show that you honestly care about your staff, and this takes time, and has to be genuine. You don’t do this by one minute flashes of “good morning, how was your weekend?” but by repeatedly trying to understand the lives of your teachers and community. Certainly greeting teachers can be part of it, but do it in an organic fashion, one that doesn’t feel like you have scheduled time to walk around the school and say good morning. You can however, create times to have those conversations with staff and still make them feel organic: use the first 10 minutes of a staff meeting to have snacks and conversation, have lunch with staff on a semi-regular basis, talk about life during “duty”, or attend a ball game or event with staff and strike up a conversation. Share of yourself honestly.
      1. I was once told (by a Superintendent I respect) that when it comes to administration, “visibility is credibility”. I believe there is truth in that, however credibility is definitely also measured by the type of visibility. For example, 1 minute classroom walk-throughs do little to build credibility and can even serve to annoy teachers rather than support them. However, 10 – 15 minute walk-throughs are beneficial and can serve to inform instruction and send a message that you care to know what is going on in the classroom. The shorter walk-throughs are not bad if they’re done in conjunction with a 10 – 15 minute walk through program (one designed to provide feedback), but 1 minute walkthroughs alone say you’re doing it just to be seen, not to see.
      1. If you want to build trust you have to be willing to take a risk. Create an opportunity that demonstrates you understand trust and are willing to trust your staff. Perhaps it’s sending out an anonymous performance survey (it doesn’t have to go to your supervisor but will give you honest input that you can then use to set goals and improve your practice) or trying to learn something new alongside your staff, such as taking an in-house class or workshop about a new technology or initiative. The key is you have to “unhinge” the positional authority that comes with the title of “boss” and open the door of vulnerability.
      1. In order to build a team you can trust to go into battle with you, and will trust you to lead them, you need to be on the front lines with them. Valuing their time by attending team meetings regularly, being on time, conducting meaningful staff meetings (PLCs?), and attending in-services with your staff to model learning and shared experiences, are vital. This last one can be hard to do, but if you expect your teachers to participate in an in-service then you need to be there learning right alongside of them, and no matter what you think that may seem more important, to your staff, it’s not.
      1. One of the best things you can do to build trust is to solicit feedback from your staff and utilize it. It is the utilizing of the information that is key. It is not enough to take the feedback or collect the data, you need to actually show that it means something. It is when you, in a transparent fashion, base your decisions on that data, which then gives your decision making process credibility and builds trust in you.  Otherwise if you’re just asking for input and not using it, you will soon have people deciding not to engage in feedback, or giving you what they think you want to hear, rather than the truth.

      

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  • Riding the Waves of Change Riding the Waves of Change

    • From: Dawn_Chan
    • Description:

      Recently I was blessed to have the opportunity to travel abroad to recharge and refresh. During this trip I had an opportunity to snorkel over a barrier reef for the very first time. On the day that we went, the ocean was very choppy and the guide asked our group if we preferred to stay in shallow, calm waters or deeper, rough waters. The caveat of all this was that we were likely to see more wildlife in the rougher waters. Ultimately our group opted for the deep sea experience.

      Riding out on the ocean with the boat bouncing and sea water spraying, I admit that I became a little nervous about our recent group decision. Soon enough we were at our starting point and I found myself taking a deep breath and jumping in to the deep blue sea. The cool water felt invigorating, but as I rose to the surface the rough waters distracted me and I could feel myself starting to panic. My mind flashed to the snorkel techniques my husband and I practiced prior to our trip and realizing that I was getting nowhere other than more panicked by trying to stay above water, I took a deep breath and dove under.

      Beneath the rough waters was a colorful world of fish, coral and other sea life. As I let my body ride the choppy surface and my breathing finally returned to its normal pace, I was in awe of all that I was able to see. I found myself gesturing emphatically to my husband all the wonderful things I hoped we would remember later. Our guide zipped just ahead of us, pointing to other creatures and leading us over the world’s second largest barrier reef.

      In my life I have willingly taken on many personal and professional challenges, all of which I have never regretted. For someone who has been quite accustomed to change, even this brief experience, out of my element, was for a moment terrifying. So what has this experience reminded me about change? What can leaders bring to a community that is going through a change process?

      Recognize that people need to know why change is important and help them to make sense of it

      One of my favorite TED talks is Simon Sinek’s How Great Leaders Inspire Action. The premise of his talk is about articulating the why before the how or what. When we embark on change in our communities, individuals need to know why the change is important and more importantly, the reason should be one that resonates with the community. At times in education, we can be too focused on the change process itself and we must slow down to involve those impacted by the change. In our ocean adventure, our guide clearly explained our options for the day and ultimately let our group’s feedback shape the outcome.

      If you are the leader of the organization, jump in with your team.

      Change is never easy and it takes courageous leaders at all levels of a community to inspire others to be a part of the journey. I suspect if our guide had not jumped in to the rougher waters first, he may not have had many volunteers to jump in. Once he did, a few others were quick to follow and within minutes the whole group was in the water. For added support, there were staff that remained in our boat, not very far away from where we were snorkeling at all times. So leaders, invite others willing to take the first steps with you and also look for others who will be able to support the initial risk takers and ultimately the group, along the way. Failures and mistakes are an inevitable part of the process and with the right team can turn these situations into learning opportunities.

      Take a look beneath the surface and explore, don’t be too focused on outcomes right away.

      Of course when we embark on any change, there is an ultimate goal we hope to achieve. I support the use of goal setting and success criteria as they are essential to any endeavour. It is also important that individuals in a community have time to acclimate and dive beneath the rough waters under their own terms. I needed that moment when I first dove in to the water be slightly panicked, to catch my breath, and dive in when I was ready. When I saw what was beneath and how surprisingly more calm it was underwater, than above, you couldn’t get me out of the water.

      The point is people need time to explore and adjust when change is in progress. If you stay solely task oriented and rush too soon to the next task, you miss opportunities for individuals to see the beauty in the change and embrace it. More importantly, they will not have a chance to engage in their own explorations that could bring great value to the team’s overall process and goals.

      Let the group explore, but also remind them of the focus.

      Our guides were great about letting us explore, but also did not let us wander way beyond our limits. Our guide in the water wore bright swim shorts so we could easily identify him from afar and he would take the time to show us the beautiful wildlife that he thought would make the most of our experience. Change is messy and while it is important to let individuals find their own way (see above) and work through this process, it will be necessary to bring individuals together and remind them of what is most important.

      Change has never been easy and never will be, but with these few reminders from my recent vacation experience, I hope to make future change processes I am involved in meaningful to my community.

      What other analogies could you add about change? What opportunities should leaders take to make the change process a more meaningful one?

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  • R.A.D. Neurological Lesson Pla R.A.D. Neurological Lesson Plan Elementary Level or Beginning Foreign Language

    • From: Judy_Willis
    • Description:

      R.A.D. Neurological Lesson Plan

      Elementary Level or Beginning Foreign Language

       

       

      By Paula Berlinck and Luciana Castro

      2nd grade Portuguese Teachers

      Graded School

      Sao Paulo, Brazil

      March 2014

       

       

      Unit Title:  Where does the bread come from?

      Subject(s):  Portuguese  Grade Level(s): 2nd grade

      Lesson Concept/Topic:   Reading and Writing Non-fiction

      Lesson Goals/Objectives:  Reading and Writing Non-fiction

       

      Lesson Elements:

      (and how they will be Neuro-logical)

       

       

       

      Plan:

       

       

      Getting Attention:

      How will you begin this lesson to engage learners’ attention?

       

      The attention filter (RAS) gives priority to sensory input that is different than the expected pattern. Novelty, such as changes in voice, unusual objects, songs playing when they enter the classroom, will peak students curiosity and increase likelihood of the related lesson material being selected by the RAS attention filter.

       

       

      1-As soon as each student arrives in the classroom they will find one wheat stalk on top of your own desk.

      2-The students are going to watch and listen to the music “O cio da terra” de Milton Nascimento e Fernando Brandt

       

       

       

       

       

      Sustaining Attention:

      What will you do to sustain students’ attentive focus throughout the lesson?

       

      The brain seeks the pleasure response to making correct predictions. When students have the opportunity to make and change predictions throughout a lesson, attention is sustained as the brain seeks clues to make accurate predictions. Individual response tools, such as white boards, can be used to make predictions and reduce mistake anxiety.

       

      1-Make the link with the Field trip to the Bread Factory and list the Previous Knowledge about “Where does the bread come from?”

      2- The teacher will start to read the book “Kika: De onde vem o pão?”

      3- Treshing the wheat and grind to find out the flour

      Motivation and Perseverance:

      Which dopamine boosters will be included in your lesson?

       

      The brain seeks the pleasure response to increased dopamine. Incorporating dopamine boosters (e.g., humor, movement, listening to music, working with peers) increases attention, motivation, and perseverance

       

      4- Finishing the reading aloud of the book

      5- Watching the video “Kika: De onde vem o pão?”

      6- Using a Graphic Organize to compare and contrast the information in the book and the video  

       

       

       

       

       

       

      Buy-in:

      How will you help students see value and relevance in what they are learning – so they want to know what you have to teach?

       

      Positive climate and prevention of high stressors promote information passage through the amygdala to the PFC. Motivation and effort increase when the brain expects pleasure. Buy-in examples include personal relevance, prediction, and performance tasks connecting to students’ interests and strengths.

       

      7- Bake the Bread in the classroom

      Every student will take part on the process, in group of 4 students at a time.

      Achievable challenge:

       How will you tailor the lesson to address students’ differences in readiness, learning profile, and interests?

       

      Differentiation allows students to work at their achievable challenge level.  The students who understand the new topic, if required to keep reviewing with the group, may become bored and therefore stressed.  If it is too challenging they will become frustrated. By providing learning opportunities within their range of achievable challenge, students engage through expectation of positive experiences.

       

      8- Students will be able to choose one of the videos from the series “Kika: De onde vem?”, (Kika: Where it comes from?) where they can find different subjects that explain things like: the waves, where the eggs comes from,  how TV works, etc)

      Students will work in pairs, considering their complementary abilities

      They are going to watch, to learn about the topic, take notes and then write it down to explain to another person. They could use different formats of graphic organizers, with more or less parts to drawn and break it down the information. They will be assisted by the teacher depending by their level.

      Frequent Formative Assessment and Feedback:

      How will you monitor students’ progress towards acquisition, meaning making, and transfer, during lesson events?

      How will students get the feedback they need and opportunities to make use of it?

       

      Effort is withheld when previous experiences have failed to achieve success. Breaking down learning tasks into achievable challenge segments, in which students experience and are aware of success on route to learning goals (e.g. analytic rubrics, effort-to-progress graphs) and reflect on what they learned and how they learned, builds their confidence that their effort can bring them closer to their goals.

       

      Students will be active in some paces of the process. The summative assessment is the nonfiction text that they will write using movie information, translating it in a graphic organizer and/or nonfiction text like “how to” or “all about”.

       

       

       

       

       

      Short-term Memory Encoding:

      How will you activate prior knowledge to promote the brain’s acquiring new input?

       

      Helping students to realize what they already know about a topic activates an existing memory pattern to which new input can link in the hippocampus.  Graphic organizers, cross-curricular units, and bulletin boards that preview upcoming units are examples of prior knowledge activation tools.

       

       

      Create a chart with the students remembering the prior knowledge that they have about the unit ALL ABOUT and HOW TO, that they had studied in their English class.

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

      Mental manipulation for Long-term Memory:

      How will students make meaning of learning so neuroplasticity constructs the neural connections of long-term memory?

       

      When students acquire the information in a variety of ways e.g. visualization, movement, reading, hearing and “translate” learning into other representations (create a narrative, symbolize through a video, synthesize into the concise summary of a tweet) the activation of the short-term memory increases its connections (dendrites, synapses, myelin) to construct long-term memory.

       

       

      As the students were exposed to a lot of different inputs, considering visualization, movement, reading, writing etc, we expect it will be built as a long-term memory.

       

       

       

       

       

       

      Executive Functions:

      Which executive function skills will be embedded in the lesson, homework, and projects? (e.g., analyze, organize, prioritize, plan goals, adapt, judge validity, think flexibly, assess risk, communicate clearly.)

       

      It is important to provide ongoing meaningful ways for students to interact with information so that they apply, activate, and strengthen their developing networks of executive function. Assignments and assessments planned to promote the use of executive functions (e.g. making judgments, supporting opinions, analyzing source validity) activate these highest cognitive networks developing in students’ brains most profoundly during the school years. 

       

      All executive functions are in place

       

      What strategies help students to…

      Set and reach goals:

       

      Individual feedback from the teacher

       

       

      Evaluate sources:

       

      videos

       

       

      Make decisions (analyze and deduce):

       

      Graphic organizers

       

       

      Support opinions:

       

      Share peers

       

       

       

       

      

      

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  • 4 Tips to Prepare Students for 4 Tips to Prepare Students for On-Demand Writing

    • From: Suzanne_Klein1
    • Description:

      Have you ever worked hard at teaching your class something only to discover that they don’t apply that learning on the test? I’ve noticed many students seem to struggle with on-demand writing during test taking.

       

      On-demand writing: a situation in which students are presented with a prompt (question or scenario) and are given a specific time limit to complete it.


      From the prototypes we are looking at, we are finding that on-demand writing is especially prevalent in Smarter Balanced and PARCC. On-demand writing is also an important skill for students to have in situations such as the rise of social media and for college and career readiness.

       

      Time management is the ultimate solution for student success with on-demand writing.  I’ve found that by teaching my students how to allot and judge time during their writing, they’ve become more confident when it comes time for on-demand writing. I did this by having my students practice writing with different timed allocations, beginning with 40 minutes. I then gradually lowered their timed writing to 10 minutes. As your students become more comfortable with timed writing, you will notice their skills improving, especially in their shorter on-demand writing pieces.

       

      Here are four tips we’ve learned that help prepare students for on-demand writing:

       

      1. Assigning writing prompts will help with on-demand writing.


      Within a WriteSteps unit you’re given the opportunity to assign a prompt or a “free choice” write. Have your students write in response to the prompt in a specific time frame. When assigning a prompt, choose one that relates to your other subject area s. By having students write about what they’ve read in ELA, science, social studies, or math, you’re helping prepare them for the on-demand writing they will do on tests, in other classes, and in the work place.

       

      2. Planning helps students focus their thoughts and organize their on-demand writing piece.



      I always have students plan before they write. This is taught in a step-by-step, strategic way. The goal is that through repetition, students will start to plan automatically whenever a writing assignment is given, whether it is a long writing piece or a shorter on-demand piece.

       

      Students in kindergarten begin practicing stating the topic. 1st graders write a paragraph for which they have planned the topic and include three facts or reasons. Students in grades 2-5 become skilled at planning multiple paragraph essays.

       

      3. Conferencing with students boosts their self esteem and confidence, which is needed for on-demand writing.


      Help each student identify their personalized goals by using a rubric, editing checklist, or revising checklist, and by asking your student to reflect on their writing. I’ve found this helps students find their errors when they’re writing an on-demand piece for which they will have no time for peer editing and revising.

       

      Students will not need to identify all errors in a timed writing piece, just those that might impede understanding. It is the philosophy of many standardized tests, including PARCC and Smarter Balanced, that spelling and grammar do not harm a student’s score unless they make it difficult for the reader to understand what the writer is saying.

       

      4. Self-assessment and reflection help a student to know themselves as a writer, which is beneficial for on-demand writing.


      One of my favorites tools that I like my students to use is the six traits rubrics. Students score their own writing and use the document to set goals for their writing improvement. Not only do students fill out the rubric, but they answer a short questionnaire that asks them to identify their strengths, weaknesses, goals, and areas for which they would like teacher assistance. This type of self reflection helps students prepare and improve from one writing piece to the next, regardless of length and time frame given.

       

      The on-demand type of writing is becoming more prevalent in social media, CCSS testing, and in preparing students for college and career readiness. One of the four ways teachers can increase students’ aptitude for writing on-demand is by including both longer duration writing with all steps of the writing process, as well as shorter on-demand writing.   

       

      Have you noticed a difference in your students’ longer duration writing versus their on-demand writing? What stories can you share with us?

      

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  • Leadership Through the Looking Leadership Through the Looking Glass: A Tale of Two Teacher-Leaders

    • From: Krista_Rundell
    • Description:

      On March 15, 2014, a friend and fellow ASCD Emerging LeaderAllison Rodman, and I had an opportunity to present at the ASCD Annual Conference in Los Angeles, California.  The topic was "Teacher-Leadership" and the goal was to organize our ideas in the Ignite format.


      While we were both used to speaking at conferences and in front of large groups of people, neither of us had experience with this format.  Ignite limits the presenter to 20 slides, each on a 30-second timer.  This organizes the presentation to a manageable five minutes, but forces the presenter to remain focused in order to efficiently convey the true message of the presentation.  The task at-hand was exciting, challenging, and daunting.  Could we actually do this and be successful?

       

      Allie and I live about an hour away from one another, but our crazy schedules did not allow us to meet in person to organize our ideas or to practice.  We worked through google docs and phone calls to compile the PowerPoint, divided up ownership of the slides, then finally were able to practice together just 30 minutes prior to the actual session.

       

      Other Emerging Leader-friends were also part of this session, presenting their own insights into Teacher-Leadership.  We jested that we'd be the only ones to show up to the session but that at least we'd be there to support one another.  Our jokes became obsolete when the room filled to capacity of 150 people and others had to continually be turned away due to lack of seating and safety regulations.  Needless to say, our nerves were getting the better of us!

       

      I am incredibly proud of the work that Allie and I did leading up to that presentation, as well as the actual presentation itself.  We shared our professional experiences with one another, divulged our fears with one another, laughed with one other, learned from one other, and ultimately, achieved success together.  We challenged ourselves, stretched beyond our comfort zone, and drew on the wisdom of others for guidance (shout out to Alina Davis!).  Now we have a story to give back to those who come after us.

       

      We are teacher-leaders.

       

      P.S. Allie organized our slides and spoken words into a beautiful blog post on her site, The Learning Loop.  Please visit and enjoy!

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    • 1 week ago
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  • Alternatives to Standardized T Alternatives to Standardized Tests: Building a Comprehensive Assessment Plan

    • From: Elliott_Seif
    • Description:

      As a high school teacher, I used an array of diverse assessments to measure and evaluate student achievement and success. Many varied components would go into each student’s grades and narratives – test and quiz results, the quality of projects, writings and self-reflections, observations of students, and judgments regarding effort, growth, and class participation. Given the multiple student cognitive abilities, attitudes, character traits, and strengths and problems, it would have been foolish of me to use only one type of measure to determine a students’ success in my class.

       

      Given that multiple types of assessments such as the ones I used above are used by most teachers, one would expect that appropriate, multiple assessment approaches would be also used to assess school and district success. Thus, it is surprising that “one size fits all” standardized tests, with their major emphasis on multiple choice-short answer questions, are touted as the major, and often the only way to judge school success, student achievement, and even teacher effectiveness.

       

      Unfortunately, the sole use of these traditional tests pose many problems for assessing actual student knowledge, skills, abilities, talents and interests. First, many educators and lay people suggest that standardized tests often do not do a good job of measuring the purported skills associated with them. For example, as recently pointed out by a New York State teacher in a NY Times op-ed piece, the New York English Language Arts test questions do “a poor job of testing reading comprehension”. A student’s answers to the questions on this test have “little bearing on [his or her] reading ability and yet [have] huge stakes for students, teachers, principals and schools”[i]. Some students also might be good readers but do poorly on the reading test because of their poor test-taking skills.

       

      Second, standardized tests have limited use in evaluating whether students have learned many of the most important skills required for college work or for living in a 21st century world, such as interest in learning, motivation to learn, research and study skills, coherent writing abilities, effective oral communication skills, project and problem-based development skills, problem finding and question asking, the ability to apply learning to authentic situations, scientific investigation skills, “deep” thinking, student “grit”, and the development of each individual student’s talents and abilities.

       

      In addition, the tests usually provide schools and teachers with limited, if any, feedback to help them figure out how to improve teaching and learning. And, unfortunately, they also have a number of negative side effects, such as increasing sterile test-prep activities, narrowing the curriculum, increasing student anxiety and frustrations, and reducing student interest in learning. Many of our best teachers write about how the emphasis on testing plays havoc with their curriculum, the interest and motivation of their students, and their joy of teaching. Some have even left the teaching profession altogether because of their school or district emphasis on preparing for standardized tests.

       

      As opposition to the use of these tests increases, and a greater understanding of their limitations and negative consequences develops, it is imperative that opponents to standardized testing suggest alternatives. In fact, there should be many varied assessments used to determine school and district success, just as there are many and varied types of educational goals, results, and students. This is a very different paradigm from the “one size fits all” standardized testing results model of measuring success. So, described briefly below are some examples of types of measures that might be combined into an assessment plan useful for judging district and school success, student achievement, and the school or district conditions that limit or reinforce success. The first number of measures are designed to measure output – achievement and successes of students, their involvement and participation in multiple types of activities, perceptions of stakeholders in how the school is meeting their needs, and so on. The second set of measures focus on input: characteristics of student population, conditions under which students learn, amount of resources available, the quality of curriculum and teaching, and others.

       

      Assessing Output:

      Achievement, Successes, Activity Involvement, and Perceptions

       

      Student graduation data

      What do students do when they graduate, where do they go and how successful are they both during their time with us and after they leave us?

      In analyzing school success, data should be regularly collected on the % of students who graduate and what they do after graduation (types and names of colleges and universities attended, financial aid obtained, military enlistees, technical school attendees, etc.); what % of those who attend college graduate and why do they drop out; college majors. Student data also should include surveys and interviews with graduates to find out their levels of satisfaction with their K-12 school programs;

       

      Mission-related achievement data

      How well do our students meet the mission of our school or district?

      Student data should be collected and analyzed that demonstrate achievement and success based on mission-related goals. For example, a school specializing in the visual arts might collect data on the type of artwork students complete and a sampling of student portfolios; a school with an emphasis on music may focus assessments around the types of student performances given by students and the skill level of its music students. Vo-Tech schools might collect data on the types of training received by each student, their post high school plans and career goals, their job placements and acceptance levels into advanced programs.

       

      Report card results

      How successful are our students, based on the results of their daily and yearly work?

      We know that the best predictors of student achievement and success lie with how well students do in their classes and in the recommendations of teachers and others in the school. We therefore need to make sure that each school or district develop specific, “standards-based” report cards, built around measures of 21st century goals, that reflect how well students succeed and grow in their classes and courses. Report cards should be broken down into specific cognitive and social expectations, with ratings that use levels of achievement as well as grades. Narrative comments convey specific information to parents-guardians about the strengths of individual children and areas that need improvement.

       

      Report card data can be summarized to provide a picture of how well the school or district is doing to meet the needs of its students. Randomly selected report cards, along with narrative comments, can also be collected and shared.

       

      Cornerstone-graduation project(s) results

      How well do our students complete “cornerstone” projects that both develop and assess core 21st century skills?

      Cornerstone projects consist of research projects and “authentic” performance tasks that culminate in presentations and exhibitions and demonstrate in-depth understanding of ideas, the ability to use 21st century skills, and the ability to transfer and apply learning. Students who are able to develop questions around their interests or suggested topics, conduct research, read and comprehend, write essays and research papers, and make presentations to others demonstrate an understanding of content and competence in using significant skills.

       

      Cornerstone project results at different school levels demonstrate progress towards the development of these skills as well as final mastery of them.

       

      Student plans for the future

      What are student plans for the future?

      Every student should be required to develop a plan for his or her future, indicating their next steps after graduating from high school and their more visionary goals for the future. Part of the development of a plan should include research about future educational goals, career options and choices. A summary of these plans is an important indicator of school and district success.

       

      Student portfolios

      What is the comprehensive nature of individual student work?

      Portfolios - collections of student work - help us to assess actual student work and incorporate “real learning” into the assessment process, not the artificial, “out of context” kind of learning assessed through standardized tests. Portfolios are also individualized and customized to demonstrate an individual’s nuanced and varied skill levels, talents, abilities, and interests. Today, with Internet capability, an individual student’s best writing and/or artwork, project results, tests, self-reflections, plans for the future, and other student work can be scanned and placed electronically into portfolios.

       

      Students should be asked to develop portfolios of their work throughout their K-12 experience. Sample portfolios, or parts of portfolios, can be used to illustrate the types of work students are doing within the school or district, and how well a school or district is helping students master key 21st century knowledge and skills.

       

      Survey-focus group data

      What do parents, students and teachers think about us?

      In this day and age of the Internet, it is relatively easy to develop, post, and summarize survey data. Every school and district should collect data from parents, students and teachers at least once a year, and then use the data to review its programs, applaud its strengths, and figure out ways to improve what it does[ii].

       

      What do graduates and dropouts think about us?

      Once students leave school and move on to colleges and other post high-school experiences, they have greater perspective on their experiences and can often provide valuable insights into the strengths of a school program and “needs improvement” areas. Data from graduates should be sought after, even if it is often difficult to collect.

       

      Attempts should be made to collect and analyze data from dropouts, even if this data might be difficult to collect, in order to indicate why they dropped out of school and therefore suggest ways to help other students stay in school.

       

      Student reflections

      How do students view our school? What do they see as our positive and negative features?

      Students who will be leaving one school to go to another school within the district (e.g. from elementary to middle school) or leaving a school to transfer to a school outside the district, or graduating from high school should be the focus of special attention when it comes to surveys and data collection. These students should be asked to reflect on their school experiences and focus on what they perceive as the strengths of the school they are leaving, the major learnings resulting from their school experiences, and suggestions for improving their learning experience. This data should be collected, analyzed and shared.

       

      Community service and field-based activities

      What are our students’ opportunities to connect with and apply their learning to the outside world?

      How do students provide service to the community? How do students connect with the outside world via field trips, career days, and so on? How do outside individuals and groups provide services to and work with students within a school? These and other similar questions should be part of data collection that is shared and used to provide feedback on connections to real world, outside resources.

       

      Extra-curricular, support, or enrichment activities

      What opportunities are there for students to participate in extra-curricular, support and enrichment activities? How much do our students take advantage of extra-curricula, support and enrichment activities?

      “Extra curricular” activities provide opportunities for students to explore and learn about a variety of options that are beyond academics. What extra-curricular activities are available? Data should be available that indicates which students are partake of which extra-curricular activities, and how often they do so.

       

      In a similar vein, are their support and enrichment activities available for students? Data should indicate which students participate in these and why.

       

      Assessing Input:

      Conditions, Culture, Teaching, Curriculum, Resources,

       

      School and district student population, resource availability and conditions

      What are the characteristics of our student population? What resources do we have available to support our teachers and students? What school or district conditions help or hinder us in meeting achievement goals?

      This data helps us to understand the characteristics of the school, district and student population, and resource adequacy, needs problems and challenges. The data include information about student populations, such as ELL, special education, identified gifted populations; the number of students on free or reduced lunch. Other data includes the % of students who drop out of a school or district before graduation and the reasons why they leave; % who are “lifers” within the same school or district, % of students who are absent 10 or more days a year, % of students given suspensions and other discipline data, and mobility rates.

       

      District and school information include, among other things, resources available for technology, supplies, materials and other needs; class sizes; adequacy of library-media centers, art-music, and extra curricular programs; and support personnel available (NTA’s, nurses, counselors, community laiasons).

       

      Curricular programs and instructional activities

      What are the common types of curricular programs and instructional activities used in classrooms?

      One part of a school or district assessment plan might include examples of the kinds of curriculum, teaching and learning experiences that are incorporated into classrooms and other activities. Suppose, for example, that the school or district promotes inquiry learning. Do teachers in the district use an inquiry learning model in their classrooms? If yes, what does learning look like? What are the essential features of the mathematical curriculum? The reading-language arts curriculum? Are there any special programs in place (e.g. leveled books, writing process, deep learning, competitions) that provide the opportunity for a different type of learning experience for students?

       

      School and program reviews

      How can we increase the amount of “objective” assessment data in order to determine our successes and improve our programs?

      When I was on the staff of the Bucks County Intermediate Unit, an educational service agency in Bucks County, PA, we conducted a number of program reviews for our constituent districts each year. We would enlist a number of teachers, administrators, and experts from across the county and the area to spend three days in a district examining and analyzing all or part of the district’s program. Our final report would list the strengths and needs of the program, and also make suggested recommendations for improving the program.

       

      These types of reviews are extremely valuable for a school or district, especially since an outside agency is conducting the review. It provide a wealth of objective information and data, along with suggestions for improvement, that help to assess a program and provide the impetus for making changes.

       

      Building a Comprehensive Assessment Plan (CAP)

       

      Just as we should expect teachers to build a comprehensive assessment plan to measure student success and achievement in their classes, so should we expect schools and districts to build a Comprehensive Assessment Plan (CAP) that measures both output and input: a broad array of types of achievement, successes, involvement, perceptions, conditions, culture, and resources. The plan should both assess student achievement, growth, and development, and also be useful in improving school conditions and success in the future.

       

      The selection of a set of a core set of assessments, built into a Comprehensive Assessment Plan, may be best determined by each school or district, depending on its resources, options, and viewpoints. My own view is that a combination of student population and school and district conditions-resource data, strong report card and student portfolio data, cornerstone project results, and surveys of and reflections from current students and graduates will provide significant and important data on how well a school or district is doing as well as the conditions under which schools, districts and teachers operate.

       

      In today’s world of e-mails, Internet surveys, smartphones, computers, tablets, much of this data would be relatively easy to collect. Many of these measures, taken together, can become part of a holistic school-district annual report card, presented by a principal or superintendent to school boards and available to the general public. They can be used to identify problems that need to be addressed. They present a much more nuanced picture of how well a school is doing, the qualities of student graduates, what issues a school or district are facing, and what steps need to be taken to improve the results.

       

      Unfortunately, a broad, varied array of assessment data just doesn’t get collected and developed by itself. A school or district needs to assign someone who is responsible for the development, collection, and analysis of this complex data. The person responsible might even be part of a collaborative, regional effort. The development of this more comprehensive approach will also take time to develop, and a long-term goal should be to enable every school and district to develop a significant assessment process for judging success with students and the conditions and resources necessary for success.

       

      How Federal and State Officials Can Help This Assessment Process

       

      Here are some ways that state and federal officials can provide support for a the use of a much more comprehensive assessment process:

       

      • Encourage schools and districts to collect and synthesize a wide variety of data, provide funding, resources and examples to help them;

       

      • Provide examples and models of report cards, surveys, cornerstone assessments, portfolios, and the like. Provide the technical means for collecting and analyzing data from these examples and models.

       

      • Provide support for school, district, or regionally-based individuals to be hired to build assessment systems, organize data collection, and prepare summary reports around data.

       

      • Encourage schools and districts to develop their own mix of data alone or collaboratively with others, develop new measures, and share their methodology with others;

       

      • Forbid the use of a single number to describe a school or district’s success;

       

      • Encourage the development of data summaries that are easy to understand and posted for the community to see;

       

      • Encourage schools and districts to develop a wide variety of ways to use data as feedback and to experiment and find solutions to problems that arise from the data, including curriculum adaptations, community liaisons, ways to motivate students to stay in school, and so on.

       

      • Encourage high performing schools and districts to share what they do that makes them high performing, especially when they have a significant number of students that need special help and attention.

       

      • Provide support for professional development that enables staff to review and draw conclusions from data; encourage professional development to develop potential solutions to problems discovered through data collection.

       

      • Encourage school and district experimentation with potential solutions, even if they lead to failure (that’s how we learn).  

       

       

      Ultimately, a trust in a decentralized assessment process, a belief in the value of multiple, diverse assessments to measure school and district success, along with a combination of strong leadership at all levels, will provide the necessary impetus to move us away from the primary reliance on standardized tests to assess student, school and teacher success. We should be moving towards the use of varied sets of data that provide nuanced, helpful pictures of success and student achievement and help to improve the conditions of learning. Let us hope that we move in the right direction soon, because the current direction is leading us away from the kinds of education that our students need to prepare for living in a 21st century world.

       

      -------------------------

       

      Elliott Seif, Ph.D. is a long time educator, author, consultant, educational advocate, and trainer. If you are interested in further examining ways to improve teaching and learning and help to prepare students to live in a 21st century world, read more his blogs on ASCD Edge and go to:  www.era3learning.org

       

       

       



      [i] Elizabeth Phillips, We Need to Talk About the Test: The Problem With the Common Core, The New York Times op-ed page, April 9, 2014.

      [ii] A High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE) is available free of charge from the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at Indiana University. Go to:

      http://ceep.indiana.edu/hssse/index.html

    • Blog post
    • 1 week ago
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  • A 6-Point Plan for Writing Suc A 6-Point Plan for Writing Success: Giving Our Students “The Write Stuff”

    • From: Scott_Miller1
    • Description:

      Most of us have counted down the days until spring. But this year, March, April, and May bring a bit of trepidation to many in the education community. With the heightened demands of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and forthcoming next-generation assessments—which require a renewed emphasis on writing—many districts are concerned that students won’t be prepared.

      No longer will students find tests comprised of dozens and dozens of “bubble-filled” multiple-choice questions. Instead, writing—assessed at every tested grade level—will be a key factor in the next-generation assessments developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).

      The importance of writing skills on these new tests far exceeds traditional expectations.  Students will now be required to explain and defend their answer to math questions in writing. On some math questions, the point-value of the written explanation may be even greater than the point-value of the correct numerical answer.  The bottom line is that students with good writing skills will have a distinct advantage on these assessments.

      During the first half of the school year, I traveled across the country delivering presentations on CCSS writing and upcoming assessments. And, from my discussions with educators, I’ve noticed a recurring theme—a common anxiety that students will not be prepared for the heightened expectations in writing.

      In order to ensure that students are ready for new standards and assessments, schools must change the way writing is taught. Early, focused attention to writing is critical to ensure that students are prepared for increasing academic demands in middle school, high school, and beyond. Here are six specific steps that teachers and educational leaders can take now to prepare students for writing success:

      1. Provide focused, explicit writing instruction at all grade levels. Explicit writing begins at the very earliest grades. Districts relying on a basal reading program for writing instruction may need a supplemental writing program in order to prepare students for CCSS writing.
      2. Model effective writing for students. Students need to read and analyze models for each of the text types in the CCSS. Using clear, age-appropriate rubrics for each text type can help students analyze the models and shape their own writing.
      3. Devote significant time to writing. Students should have many opportunities to write for different tasks, purposes, and audiences for varying lengths of time. As appropriate, they should also be given time to do research and to make improvements to their writing over multiple drafts during the revising step of the writing process.
      4. Emphasize the text types critical for success in college and career. Informative/Explanatory and Opinion or Argument text types are the most critical for academic and career success. Students should spend 60 percent of their time on these text types in elementary grades and 80 percent in the upper grades.
      5. Give students opportunities to practice writing under assessment conditions. Students should frequently do authentic and meaningful writing in a format that approximates the demands of the PARCC and SBAC assessments. They should also have an opportunity to use technology for writing practice, as most students will take the new assessments online.
      6. Make professional development a priority. Teachers at all grade levels and in all subject areas should be fully proficient in the CCSS text types and understand how they can be used in their respective disciplines and at each grade level.

      To make sure your students are prepared for success on next-generation assessments, and ready for college and a career, you must renew your instructional emphasis upon writing at all grade levels. Writing must be explicitly modeled and taught. Making writing instruction a priority will undoubtedly result in higher academic achievement and greater economic success and civic engagement for your students. You cannot afford to wait; the need is urgent and the time is now.

      

    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
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  • 5 Writing Instruction Fundamen 5 Writing Instruction Fundamentals for Success on Next-Generation Assessments

    • From: Scott_Miller1
    • Description:

      Get ready to say goodbye to standardized bubble tests completed with a #2 pencil. Computer-based next-generation assessments, which measure students’ mastery of the Common Core, are upping the ante.

      Why Writing Skills Matter Now More Than Ever

      With the new PARCC and SBAC assessments on the horizon, educators are concerned about whether their students will be adequately prepared—especially when it comes to writing. Knowing the right answer will no longer be sufficient. Students must be able to explain why that answer is correct—and their ability to do so is captured through their writing skills.

      Because writing is viewed as a skill that tests higher-order thinking and comprehension, both the PARCC and SBAC assessments incorporate writing to measure students’ ability to

      • respond to stimuli texts (and videos) and to synthesize answers using multiple sources.
      • explain their reasoning on math questions.
      • demonstrate comprehension on the reading portion of ELA assessment.

      How to Prepare Your Students for Success

      If you’re concerned about whether your students’ writing skills are sufficient for success on next-generation assessments, prepare them by incorporating these fundamental elements into your writing instruction:

      1. Familiarize students with the Common Core text types: (Yes, we’re starting with the obvious here.) Ensure that they’re well-versed with the Narrative, Informative/Explanatory, and Argument/Opinion text types. Help them understand the relationship between informative and explanatory writing. Make sure they understand how persuasion differs from argumentation and how expository structures function within multiple text types.
      2. Model effective writing: Provide model texts for a variety of purposes and audiences to illustrate a breadth of competent writing aligned to the Common Core.
      3. Incorporate writing rubrics: Help students understand exactly what is required from their writing and offer opportunities for self- and peer-evaluation based on writing rubrics.
      4. Provide practice tests: Increasing students’ familiarity with practice tests modeled on the new PARCC and SBAC assessments will help them gain confidence in their ability to effectively demonstrate their writing skills.
      5. Integrate writing across the curriculum: Although ELA teachers take the lead in writing instruction—ideally using the six traits to negotiate the writing process within a writing workshop framework—writing skills should be practiced in every content area. Science, math, and social studies teachers may wish to focus primarily upon the trait that supports content-area knowledge (ideas), the trait that demonstrates relationships between facts and concepts (organization), and the trait that emphasizes domain-specific language (word choice).

      Bonus Tip: To further strengthen your writing instruction, take advantage of the excellent (and free) resources—such as graphic organizers and reference materials—at http://sfw.z-b.com

      

    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
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  • psst...What's Hiding in Your C psst...What's Hiding in Your Curriculum?

    • From: Jennifer_Davis_Bowman
    • Description:

      Do you remember the film “Starman" (Jeff Bridges plays a being from another planet)?  There is one scene, where he is in the car with the leading lady and observes her speeding through a yellow traffic light.  Unsurprisingly, he learns to respond the same when he encounters a yellow light later in the film.  There was no intricate lesson plan or core curriculum involved, but Jeff Bridges’ character learned something from his environment nonetheless.  Let’s use this example to begin our exploration of the hidden curriculum-the learning that occurs as students are shaped by their environmental experiences.

       

      A big part of understanding the hidden curriculum concept boils down to the word "hidden". First, let’s focus only on this term.  It is necessary to debunk the idea of “out of sight, out of mind” when we think of the hidden curriculum.  Although hidden implies that something is beneath or under the radar, this does not mean forgettable.  Further, when we don’t see things physically, this does not indicate insignificance.  For example, think about all the important health risks associated with lead (most commonly found in paint and toys) BPA (material found in some baby bottles) or bacteria.  In contrast, let's acknowledge the benefits of some of the things invisible from the naked eye-such as ultra violet light (detection of counterfeit bills, signals food on flowers for insects, sterilization of equipment).

       

      After considering the value of hidden material, I wondered about its impact on my students.  I decided to try an informal experiment to get a better idea.  Typically, I begin each of my classes with a question, thus a couple of weeks ago I asked my students to share (in writing) their thoughts on their learning outside of class work and homework. Below is a few of their responses:

       

      "We were able to use all of our notes on a final test in high school.  So that taught me how to stay organized."

       

      "In my chemistry class, you could sell a Cadillac converter for $80."

       

      "During a highschool play, even if it's funny, its known backstage to be quiet and nobody has to tell you..."

       

      "During the group activities I learned to come to an agreement without taking total control."

       

      My student’s responses spurred interested as to how other students would define their experience with the hidden curriculum.  I soon discovered a student blog on hidden curriculum.  There were various accounts on how the hidden curriculum provided insight about others. For example, I was fascinated to see what the students learned about teacher behavior (the students concluded that teachers could be more punitive-based than thought provoking).  In addition, the hidden curriculum was a great resource in learning about their peer’s needs.  For instance, both physical survival lessons (such as when classmates ate large food portions at lunch because of the lack of food at home) and rules for academic survival (such as students storing items in classrooms because the school could not afford lockers) were imparted by peer behavior.

       

      In addition to learning about others, the hidden curriculum provides self-awareness as well. I found a powerful article about a medical student's schooling experience, that highlights the struggle of going against the rules dictated by the hidden curriculum. The student retells the process of confronting his feelings (conflict of instinct versus hidden curriculum expectations) as a necessary step in developing as a learner, a professional, and a member of society.

       

      After a while, it occurred to me that the hidden curriculum's impact on students is huge. It varies with the culture of the learner (think again of the film "Starman" and how the adjustment to a new culture made him more prone to follow). It differs with the ability of the learner (or inability to pick up on environmental cues such as students with Autism, Attention Deficit Disorder, or those with cognitive-based learning disabilities).  Further, teachers may need help in guiding students through the unwritten or unspoken rules for success in the classroom.  Strategies such as the use of scripts to assist in getting the needed information, identifying a safe person to approach for help, and exploring commons idioms are all ways teachers can help. 

       

      I will conclude with an excerpt from a radio ad that allows us to hear the consequences of forgetting to address the hidden curriculum in our classrooms:

       

      In Biology, I learned I’m fat, stupid.

      In English, I learned I’m disgusting.

      In Gym, I learned I’m a joke.

      The only thing I didn’t learn is why no one ever helps…

       

      To hear the complete radio ad please visit Public Service Announcement Central Website. 

       

      So, am I wrong about the impact of the hidden curriculum?  The next time you develop a lesson plan for your students, why not take a second or two and consider the hidden learning that may accompany your lesson?  Let me know what secret lessons are embedded within your classroom/school-and how your students successfully rise to the hidden curriculum challenge. 

       

       

       

       

       

    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
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  • How Do We Keep on Keeping On W How Do We Keep on Keeping On When Our Time is Limited?

    • From: Mandy_Vasek
    • Description:

       

      Image

       

      How do we as educators do everything we need to do in a given day?  Better yet, how do we do it all as well as we need?  It is a difficult task, and I do not believe there is a magic answer.  There’s no way to get it all done in a single day.  I’ve found that a great challenge in schools today is finding enough time to collaborate effectively.  I should not just say today, as this has been a problem for quite sometime.  When I was in the classroom, I often felt like we lacked planning time.  I frequently thought I was flying solo on jet soaring at a million miles an hour.   At that time in my career, my current school did not function as professional learning community; nor did we collaborate in meaningful ways that supported learning and growing of teachers.  Our meetings were built around an agenda that served the purpose of announcing dates and information on upcoming events.  After the meetings, we went back to our classrooms to prepare for the next week and then graded a mound of papers.  My first year as a reading coach, my new principal began the transition of our campus to a professional learning community, or PLC.  It has been an arduous process but not without great gains and benefits for our students and staff.  For three years now, our school has been focused on living as a community of learners.  Using the DuFour-Eaker model of PLCs, we have slowly morphed into a different institution keeping ALL students at the forefront of our focus.  We have sent more than 60% of our staff to Solution Tree’s PLC summer institution, which has been beneficial for our campus.  As a real-life, living, walking, and breathing PLC campus, we have totally changed our perception on learning while revamping the ways we practice and meet together.  During our weekly collaboration meetings, teams dive into an intensive analysis of student data.  The data is the key that drives our instruction and decisions about students.  These meetings are vital for the continuing success of our organization.  However, even with built in weekly time and using a great model for collaboration, we always need more time to gain more insight. 

       

      Like I stated earlier, there is not a magic answer to how to gain more time.  So, what if we challenged ourselves to think a little differently than we have in the past?  Is there a way to collaborate differently?   Sure there is!!! It is right at your fingertips- computers, smart phones, iPads etc.  What if the whole educational world was your PLC, which the virtual world calls a professional learning network (PLN)?  Thousands of people are on the professional development front 24/7 using digital sites.  My favorites are Twitter and Google, but there are others that function quite similarly.  Team meetings are a critical part of the collaborative process.  Now, as an assistant principal, I still highly value the face-to-face meetings with colleagues; however, I can tell that we must realize and take advantage of the digitized mediums we have available to us.  When educators get outside the four walls of a school and participate in digital chats and feed, they will gain a network with access to more knowledge and wisdom than one could ever acquire from just a weekly meeting inside a classroom.   Can you envision how regular participation in digitized learning could take a regular PLC meeting to an augmented state of learning if all its members are participating in PD like PLN Twitter chats simultaneously?  Can you imagine how it might enhance the face-to-face conversations?  For so many of us Generation X citizens, that is not an easy task but one that is becoming necessary.  As our Generation Y colleagues enter the workforce, they will rely heavily on their tech savvy skills to engage themselves and their students in learning.  I cannot blame them since this is their world and it is how they thrive. 

       

      Okay, so maybe this does not solve our time issue so much.  We cannot find more time to add to our day when we’re only given twenty-four hours.  But… what if we helped each other in such a collaborative way that we are working smarter with the 24 hours we are given?  We all have something to offer one another.   Connected learning using social and digitized media is an underestimated and underused resource for educators.   Teaching and learning is never-ending, and it most certainly cannot happen just once a week to bring home optimal results.  As educators, we do not have to fly solo anymore.  We have so much to learn from the vast amount of resources in our networking system.  Your time may be limited but your networking resources are not!

       

      Please follow me on Twitter @MandyVasek (TeacherCoach)

      source for graphic www.gettingsmart.com/learnboost.com/socialmediaprclass.blogspot.com

    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
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  • Pointing To Your True North Pointing To Your True North

    • From: Sandra_Trach
    • Description:

           Instructionally savvy educators know that personalized learning is the heart of student success.  As schools strive to customize education through instructional design, technology efforts and professional learning, highly successful schools know that these initiatives in isolation are not nearly enough to improve and sustain student learning.  Strong schools know that deep levels of personalization are found in an enriching and responsive system of teaching and learning, that stretches and supports learning in individual and flexible ways.  In order to achieve a truly personalized education for every student, one must articulate, architect and actualize practical ways to engage with such a system, and support the school to ambitiously strive toward a noble vision.  Strong leadership, clear school structures, continuous collaboration and monitoring processes are vital elements that help ensure personalized success for every student. When these essential elements are employed, they create directionality for a school to reach their instructional True North.

       

      Strong leadership


           A leader must have one foot in the vision and one foot in the reality.  She must hold an almost unattainably high vision for her school, while embracing the evident truths about the school culture, data and instructional practices.  An instructionally savvy leader knows how to continuously bridge the ground level reality to the top story vision in small and achievable ways.  Her steady direction and encouragement is essential to regularly point the way to the instructional True North.  It is widely accepted knowledge that if the leader does not believe and practice the vision, the endeavors needed to reach that vision will never take root, grow or flourish.  While the instructional vision may seem distant, the leader must model and maintain a laser-like focus, that this instructional work is our moral imperative.  At the same time, she is laying a solid instructional foundation and supporting schoolwide incremental footsteps toward the vision.  Coaching and feedback are essential leadership tools.  An effective leader uses every moment of everyday to indicate the True North, fostering the conditions for school success and celebrating visible learning.

       

      Clear school structures

       

           Clear school structures are the vertical frame on the instructional foundation.  It is imperative to establish collaboration time and structures within the school day.  Collaboration is the work of teaching and learning.  One cannot effectively reflect, strategize, design, analyze, implement and monitor alone.  Instead, educators must have time and structures within the school day to have continual conversations about the fine points of teaching and learning.  Professional learning communities, data teams and a school leadership team are requisite to ensure a highly effective school.  These particular structures are the column supports for learning; educators depend on them in order to personalize education for their students.

       

      Continuous collaboration

       

           Collaboration takes many forms, and it must be a goal, norm and value in the organization.  In establishing collaborative structures, it is a necessary first step to ensure the team norms, purpose, goals and process.  For example, a professional learning community may employ a protocol that helps them look at student work.  A data team may center on a progress monitoring procedure.  A leadership team may use problem-solving model.  Collaboration rests on clarity of structure.  The absence of a clear collaboration structure leads a team to chaos or congeniality.  Neither promotes learning.  It is important to highlight that conflict is a natural part of the collaboration cycle.  It has been said that one is not really collaborating unless there is conflict.  Professional discourse reveals different points of view, and is necessary when collaborating around personalized education for a student.  Often when teams fail to embrace conflict as a growth opportunity, passive forms of meeting take over, which do not result in instructional growth.  There is no question that highly effective schools are steeped in collaboration as an authentic means toward personalizing student learning.  In fact, highly effective schools will tell you they would not be successful without collaboration.

       

      Monitoring processes

       

           The success of schoolwide systems and routines depend on careful monitoring procedures.  The leader must blend formal and informal processes to continually ensure that instructional efforts are helping the school advance in measurable ways.  Effective forms of monitoring involve transparent efforts, such as classroom walkthroughs, data work, instructional conversations and professional reflection. Savvy educators participate in monitoring procedures for instructional feedback at the student, team, school and district levels. In turn, this helps them ensure that the student’s personalized learning is successful, while promoting their own self-reflection in the process.

       

      Personalization as a goal and an outcome

       

           Highly successful schools know that building and engaging in a system that adapts to students’ strengths and needs is critical in fostering personalized education.  Educators in highly effective schools ask themselves, “How can I foster the conditions for success?”  They embrace an ambitious vision through a shared leadership model, and actively collaborate within the school structures to design, implement, measure and monitor learning.  Strong leadership, clear structures, continuous collaboration and monitoring processes comprise a educational direction for every school, and when properly employed, will point to the True North of personalized learning for every child.

       

      Sandra A. Trach, Principal

      Lexington, Massachusetts

      Cross-posted from sandratrach.blogspot.com to Connected Principals and ASCDEdge         

      

    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
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  • Shut The Front Door Shut The Front Door

    • From: Steven_Weber
    • Description:

      As an educator, I am often surprised by the things I hear other educators say. You hear these comments at conferences, read opinions shared on Twitter, overhear opinions shared at other schools, and possibly even hear one of these statements at your own school. These statements make me cringe. When we are working with students, it is difficult to understand the statements that some educators make.

       

      Ten Statements That Make Me Say, "Shut The Front Door!"

       

      "Those students can't go to college. We should just prepare them for a career, starting in middle school."

      In 1903, Saunders, a professor at the University of Mississippi, described the perspective of many Americans at the turn of the century.  He wrote, "College education is desirable and theoretically necessary for preeminence, but it is not for the masses, and it would be but a utopian theory to plan for the day when a bachelor's degree shall be a qualification for suffrage or a necessity for success and happiness" (p. 73).

       

      In 2014, several Americans still share this perspective. The recent move towards College and Career Readiness is a positive move in education. This movement does not guarantee that every student will enter a four year college. It is the idea that every student should be provided with the opportunity to learn (OTL) key skills and concepts. Furthermore, adults should not determine a child's plans after high school when the child is in the seventh grade.

       

      "Our seventh graders made a PowerPoint, so I would say that I am proficient with technology integration."

      I am not offended by teachers saying that they require students to make a PowerPoint. However, it should be a red flag to administrators if any teacher hangs their hat on one project that incorporates technology. Technology integration should become seamless. In other words student projects will require technology integration, but the focus is on student understanding, not the device or program. After all, did you ever hear a teacher say, “My students used a pencil and paper today?” 

       

      "The Common Core State Standards are not new ideas. I have always taught this way."

      Regardless of your stance (for or against) the Common Core State Standards, there are obvious changes in the way teachers should approach curriculum development, instruction, and common formative assessments. "These Standards are not intended to be new names for old ways of doing business. They are a call to take the next step” (Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, Introduction, p. 5). Be aware of teacher teams and administrators who claim, “This is how we have always done it.”

       

      The new standards will not fit into your state’s old standards like a jigsaw puzzle. The Common Core State Standards provide an opportunity to change how teacher teams communicate, collaborate, and reflect on standards. In the absence of ongoing communication, it will be easy to revert back to teaching in isolation and struggling to understand each standard. “Failure to understand the Standards and adjust practices accordingly will likely result in ‘same old, same old’ teaching with only superficial connections to the grade level Standards. In that case, their promise to enhance student performance will not be realized” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2012).

       

      "I require the gifted students to do double the work. They can handle it, because 'they are gifted.'"

      You do not hear this myth as often as you did at the turn of the century. However, there are still misconceptions about rigor and about homework for gifted students. Giving gifted students more work does not support student understanding. If you hear a teacher bragging about giving the gifted students double the work, you should refer them to resources such as (Edmonds, SERVE) and Rigor on Trial (Wagner, 2006).

       

      "How do you expect me to read a journal article or blog. There's no time for that."

      The field of education is changing and professional growth is not optional. Online journal articles, blogs written by teachers and administrators, Twitter chats, webinars, and teaching videos provide educators with a multitude of resources. As a professional, I grow frustrated when someone claims that there is no time for continuous improvement. As educators, we should continue to grow and seek to understand best practices. It is professional malpractice to claim that there is no time for learning.

       

      "Those aren't my students."

      Teachers in a Professional Learning Community (PLC) change from saying ‘those kids’ to ‘our kids’ (DuFour, DuFour, & Eaker, 2008). If the goal is to prepare all students to graduate College and Career Ready, then the teachers and staff members in the school district must collaborate to support students. Principals within the same school district should share ideas and discuss instructional strategies. Competition is good when it comes to athletics, marching band, academic clubs, and science fairs. It is also appropriate to see which school has the highest graduation rate, lowest dropout rate, and highest number of students enrolled in advanced courses. The idea that “Those aren’t my students” should be a thing of the past. As adults, we should share ideas within our school district, across state lines, and even around the globe. When more students graduate prepared for college and careers, the world wins! These are “OUR” students!

       

      "Do we get credit for attending this meeting?"

      Have you ever heard a colleague whisper, “I hope they are giving us credit for this.” Most school districts require a number of credits over the course of one year or a five year span. If a teacher is more focused on receiving credit than learning, it is a red flag. Have you ever attended a meeting until lunch and then your co-worker goes to the mall, because the credit was given in the registration packet? It is a shame that some educators view the credit as the purpose for attending. Don’t get me wrong. I believe that educators should receive credit in order to renew their license. I also believe that more school districts should begin recognizing blogging, Twitter chats, and webinars as ways to earn credit. Asking for credit is similar to the following scenario:

       

      A high school basketball coach asks the starting five to run a play in practice, one day before the game. The starting point guard pauses before running the play and asks, “Will we all five get to start in the game if we run this play right?”

       

      Running the play several times is part of continuous improvement. Continuous improvement is the reason for professional development, not credit or a certificate.

       

      "We are no longer teaching during the last nine weeks. We have started benchmarking and test prep."

      Test prep is one of the worst things that teachers can do during the last nine weeks. Did you ever try to cram for a test in college? It usually does not result in transfer or understanding. There are multiple approaches that educators can take which will virtually guarantee instant gains or increases in student achievement. Curricular reductionism is a test prep strategy that eliminates arts education, social studies, character education, and soft skills. If it’s not tested, then it’s not taught during the last nine weeks (or even semester in some schools).

       

      Taking shortcuts to improve the data at an individual school is akin to a professional athlete taking steroids. When our students graduate from high school, we do not want them to reflect on their K-12 experience and see that the shortcuts adults took created long-term detrimental effects.

       

      When educators choose to give students multiple assessments that look like the high-stakes test, eliminate subjects, and create a test prep boot camp atmosphere, then students lose. High-stakes tests have changed the way some teachers and administrators approach teaching and learning.

       

      "I would assign more project-based learning, but it interferes with the pacing guide."

      Pacing guides provide students with a ‘guaranteed and viable curriculum’ (Marzano), if the curriculum is implemented in each classroom. Pacing guides can support teaching and learning. Alignment in a school district is important and pacing guides can provide an outline of what should be taught to each student. Pacing guides should allow for flexibility in pacing and the readiness level of each student.

       

      The statement above is often overheard at high schools that teach on a block schedule. While there may be 90 minute periods, some teachers cannot overcome the fact that a one year course is taught in one semester. If student understanding is improved through project-based learning (PBL), then teachers should identify days of the week and units of study that provide students with time for PBL.

       

      I say, “Shut the Front Door” to this comment, because it is an example of putting the needs of adults in front of the needs of students. We are paid to prepare each student for the next level of learning. Some educators say, “Research be damned, I am going to get through the pacing guide and make sure that I cover the content.”

       

      "I believe that soft skills are critically important, but they aren't tested by the state."

      Soft skills include, but are not limited to, teamwork, decision-making, and communication (America’s Promise Alliance, 2007). “The goal of college and career readiness for all high school graduates is no longer a radical reform idea promulgated by a handful of states: It has emerged as the new norm throughout the nation” (Achieve, 2010, p. 23).

       

      Employers seek applicants who are problem solvers, communicators, team players, and have perseverance. These skills, sometimes referred to as soft skills, are needed by all high school graduates to ensure that they are college and career ready, regardless of whether they plan to complete an apprenticeship after high school or attend a two-year or four-year college.  While employers are seeking students with strong academic skills, they are having trouble finding applicants who can collaborate, create, think outside the box, and communicate. When educators focus on tested subjects at the expense of soft skills, students pay the price. If test scores are the reason for teaching and learning, then someone forgot to tell the employers who are seeking qualified applicants (Wagner, Seven Survival Skills as described by business leaders in their own words).

       

      Closing Thoughts

      I believe in instructional leadership, teacher leaders, the Common Core State Standards, curriculum alignment, professional learning communities, and College and Career Readiness. When teachers and administrators make statements that you disagree with, you should challenge the statement. As a professional, you owe it to students and to the profession to challenge broad statements or beliefs that are not in the best interests of students or the profession.

       

      Share your thoughts below:

      What makes you say, “Shut the Front Door?”

        

      Steven Weber is an elementary school principal in North Carolina. During his career, he has served as the Director of Secondary Instruction for Orange County Schools, High School Social Studies Consultant with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, K-12 Social Studies Specialist with the Arkansas Department of Public Instruction, and as a classroom teacher and assistant principal in the West Memphis School District. Weber blogs on ASCD EDge. You can connect with Weber on Twitter at @curriculumblog.

    • Blog post
    • 3 weeks ago
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  • SE2R Feedback Changes How We E SE2R Feedback Changes How We Evaluate Learning

    • From: Mark_Barnes
    • Description:

      One of the keys to a successful student-centered, Results Only Learning Environment is the use of narrative feedback over grades. Although feedback isn't necessarily difficult to provide, a systematic approach can simplify the process.


      A few years ago, when I was writing more feedback than ever before, I developed a system that I call theSE2R approach:

      • Summarize -- Provide a one- or two-sentence statement of what was accomplished.
      • Explain -- Give a detailed, objective explanation of what learning is demonstrated and/or what is missing, based on the activity's guidelines.
      • Redirect -- When learning outcomes are not demonstrated, redirect students to prior learning or to seek help from the teacher or a peer.
      • Resubmit -- Ask students to resubmit activities, projects or assessments, after they've returned to prior lessons and models and made changes to the work. This way the teacher can re-evaluate for mastery learning.

      SE2R feedback in action: Here is an example of SE2R feedback for a student who wrote what we call a reflection letter about a book she read. Notice that there is no point or letter grade attached; this is crucial to the success of narrative feedback. Studies indicate that if you add a measure of any kind to the feedback, students do not read it, making your effort a complete waste of time.

      Summarize

      "You wrote a brief reflection on The Hunger Games, in which you mix plot details and your own personal connection."

      Explain

      "The summary information demonstrates comprehension of plot elements including characterization and conflict -- elements of fiction we recently learned. I think, however, that you misidentify the rising action. I like how you show empathy for Katniss and her plight, as she faces the prospect of killing Peeta (hint: what story element is this?). Elaborating on this part would improve your reflection."

      Redirect 

      "Please review the presentation on rising action on our classroom web site linked here. Then, revise your reflection, reworking the part on rising action, in order to demonstrate understanding of the concept. Then, elaborate on your feelings about Katniss' tough decision near the end of the story.

       Resubmit

      When you have finished, e-mail me or send me a message on our private message board, telling me that you've done so."

      What makes the SE2R approach integral to mastery learning is that it removes the kind of subjectivity present in grades and rubrics, while providing students with clear information about what they've accomplished and what they still need to do.

       

      Parts of this are cross-posted at Brilliant or Insane

    • Blog post
    • 3 weeks ago
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  • Teaching With Rigor Teaching With Rigor

  • Blogging: Who Should, and Why Blogging: Who Should, and Why

    • From: Tom_Whitby
    • Description:

      If there is one subject that most bloggers have written about, it is probably the act of blogging. I know for me, as well as many of my blogging friends, it is nothing like we imagined before we were immersed in the “blogosphere”. Bloggers start their blogs for many different and personal reasons. One step common to all however, is that it does take an act of courage to publish that first blog post.

      When I first started, I thought that I would do apiece here and there for a little while, but that I would eventually run out of things to say. Three years later, after 237 posts, I am still waiting for that time to arrive. My areas of interest include education and social media. I guess as long as each of those areas continue to evolve, I will always have something to write about.

      Another factor that affects what I blog is the continuing change in the audience. In order to access blog posts, a reader must be involved in some way with technology. That is a growing audience especially among educators. Most people use technology in everyday life, but more and more, educators are using technology for professional development in larger numbers. In order to access the most relevant information on the profession of education, educators are relying more on blog posts for relevancy. Many thought leaders and education authors are blogging their thoughts to share, test, and try out new ideas in education.

      Twitter, which is considered to be micro-blogging, has lured many people to blogging. It limits the author to 140 characters, but it does however, enable one to blast out ideas for quick responses. Success on Twitter leaves some people with a need to do more. There are ideas that need to be placed in explanations longer than a string of 140 character tweets may allow. Many ideas are introduced and tersely discussed in tweets and chats on Twitter, but they demand more reflection and more explanation, which leads to blogging. The biggest effect of Twitter chats is often reflected in the blog posts following, and resulting from the chats.

      Blogging changes the way many people think about new, and old ideas. The difference between writing a Blog post and writing a magazine or journal article is the immediate feedback in the form of comments or responses. Before a blogger puts words to the computer screen the audience and its reaction are a consideration. The blogger will strive for clarity in thought. The blogger will strive for clarity in the writing. The blogger will attempt to anticipate objections. The blogger will not rush the idea in print, but develop it, so that it evolves before the reader. It is less a reaction, and more of a transparent reflection of thought, benefitting the writer as much as the reader. This will begin to carry over into the way the writer approaches almost everything.

      For a blogging educator, as a teacher, or administrator, student or even a parent, there becomes a transparency in their thinking and reflecting. Before technology enabled us, this process had never been available, or had so much access to an individual’s thought process been given. Before the technology, books and magazines enabled us to view it in only a few people who were privileged to media access. Today the computer is the publisher. Good or bad, anyone can publish at anytime.

      The stunningly apparent, positive take-away from blogging is that it gives voice to the blogger. A thoughtful, reflective, considered post can be picked up by an audience and sent out to thousands, or millions of readers through technology.

      Blog posts can also be used for propaganda, or mindless ranting. As educators we need to emphasize critical thinking in our classes for that very reason. We need to model for our students how to responsibly question. We need to teach them how to comment and respond to blog posts. If blog posts are part of our ever-evolving, technology-driven culture, we need to educate our children in their use.  

      As educators we must also be learners. We need to model learning for our students who need to understand the necessity to be a life long learner. Educators are also people who work with ideas and share. It takes courage to put one’s self on the line to be scrutinized by others. Teachers do it every day in schools. The most effective way to have one’s voice recognized in sharing ideas in order to consider, reflect, modify, and improve with the greatest audience possible is through blogging.

      We need courageous administrators blogging to give transparency to their thoughts and leadership.  We need educators to have the courage to experiment with blogging placing them squarely in the conversation of education from which they are too often blocked. Educators need to be models for their students. We need our students blogging to follow their teacher models. Blogging provides an audience for students’ work. It is an authentic audience and not an audience of one, as have been most of their previous writing experiences. It gives voice to their concerns, and it shows them direction for their personal learning. We need parents to blog to give voice to their concerns in directing the conversation for the needs of their children.

      Since becoming a blogger, I view things differently. I question things more. I try to understand things well enough, so that I can explain them simply. Most importantly I have been recognized as a person to be taken seriously, because I have a voice. These are things I wish for everyone to experience. What good is education, if we do not have a voice to share what we have learned in order to benefit all?

    • Blog post
    • 4 weeks ago
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  • Putting the Child into Whole C Putting the Child into Whole Child: Give Students Voice to Improve Your Practice

    • From: Eric_Russo
    • Description:

      Recently I was having a discussion with a colleague who is new to the building.  This teacher is confident, self-assured, and has decades of experience over me.  We teach the same children, so we meet frequently for RTI and team meetings.  This is the type of teacher that takes pride on being “old school,” which roughly translates to a no-nonsense, quiet-equals-learning, behavior-should-have-negative-consequences type of environment.  It’s the model that many of us grew up with.  Although I was able to navigate through this system because I was a so-called “good student,” many friends were not particularly successful, with the logical assumption that they were “bad students.” This model puts the system itself as the driving force for success, which is disempowering both to educators and to the students alike.
       

      Now, the conversation in question did not go smoothly, especially when I insensitively insisted that the teacher “would not be successful” using this old school approach.  Realizing that I was working against my goal, I quickly concluded with a final statement that I paraphrased from a Maya Angelou quote:  People don’t remember what you say; they remember how you made them feel.  It is a statement that I share with staff and students, and for me it is at the foundation of the type of teacher I strive to be.  It is also at the core of the safe and supported tenets of Whole Child.  The Whole Child philosophy offers a new approach that does not consider students to be good or bad, but forces educators to consider students’ needs.  And what better way to find out, then to ask the students themselves?  Consider two examples of how student voice and Whole Child thinking work together to show improvements on both the classroom and individual level.
       

      Example 1:
       

      In the beginning of this school year the majority of my first period reading class was sitting with their heads down.  There are two quick assumptions that a teacher can make.  One is that the kids don’t care about school; the other is that the teacher and or content actually is that boring.  The old school of thought would assume the first, placing the responsibility of learning on the learner.  The second is something that many teachers don’t want to admit, or that they convince themselves is all right because (true to old-school fashion),“it’s school, we sat through boring classes too, but it’s just something you have to do.”    But a Whole Child approach caused me to consider a third option based on the Healthy tenet.  As I was addressing the class about having their heads down I thought came to mind: “Raise your hand if you ate breakfast this morning.”  Few hands went in the air, and surely none of the droopy heads had their hands up.  On the spot, the homework assignment for the next class was to eat breakfast in the morning (in hindsight, I should have made students report out and really build understanding by reading articles as well, but now I know for future reference).  I checked up on the class the next day, and pointed out how different the dynamic in the class was when all or most ate breakfast.  I also included this information in my weekly email to parents with a link to an article about the importance of eating in the morning.   

       

      I started to think about my own practice and the assumptions teachers make everyday.  How many students have been written off as not caring, when in fact they may have simply been hungry and unable to concentrate?  The combination of awareness of the Whole Child tenets, and a discussion with the students lead to a change, and hopefully a lesson that they will never forget.  This is also something that will be woven into my opening lessons at the beginning of the next school year along with other brain-based research.  Had it not been for Whole Child thinking, and a moment to talk with the students, I may have plugged forward with the lesson.  Others might have fallen back on an “old school” management approach of consequences or phone calls home.  Whole Child opened my mind to other possibilities.  I still get some heads down during class, but it is almost guaranteed that every time a student complains about a stomachache or being tired, they skipped breakfast; and we can fall back on that day and use their experience as evidence.   On the flipside, I also have several students that tell me what they ate for breakfast regularly now (win). 
       

      Example 2:
       

      Having conversations with the students is an essential in serving the whole child on the individual level as well.  At a recent student conference, the teachers asked about being off-task in math class.  The student shared this:  
       

      “When you tell everyone to pass the warm-up to the front, I haven’t even done it yet because I don’t know how.  I’m still just trying to figure out what to do.  Then I get so frustrated and upset because I don’t understand what you guys are talking about, and it’s not even worth trying after that.”

       

      The teachers asked him why he doesn’t ask for help when he is confused, and he replied:
       

      “I look around and see how much the other kids in the class need you and how you are trying to help them out, I just don’t want to be bothering you.  You already have your hands full.”


      Finally when we asked him about the classes he was doing well in, he shared that in those classes he felt the teachers explained things more clearly to him, and checked up with him to make sure he understood what he was doing. 
       

      Thinking about the Whole Child philosophy forces teachers to go back to the tenets. This student definitely did not feel supported in math, which caused him to disengage.  Possibly the most disheartening aspect of this story is that the student felt like he was bothering the teachers to ask for help, or even worse, that he wasn’t worth their time.  Meanwhile, the teachers thought that he didn’t care, that he was all over the place, too social, or just couldn’t focus.  In this case, trying to reach the whole child truly led to an improvement in instruction and learning by changing the thinking of both the teachers and the student.

       

      From that meeting a direct plan came about to give the student extra time to complete his warm up, to assist with some guided notes and cloze steps for problem solving, and to find a peer tutor that can be trusted to assist during presentation and practice of new content.  It was a powerful meeting and one that came about from allowing the student voice into the process to assist with figuring out the missing pieces of the puzzle.  The student felt more supported, and would then presumably engage more in class.  The teachers were forced to think outside of the “old school” model of learning, and truly personalize for the individual in front of them.  More of these conversations need to happen regularly if we are truly going to reach every child, every day (and we have to push our colleagues to have them).  These conversations lead to greater understanding, but none if this understanding can happen without allowing the whole child to help you see the whole story.  Not every child is so open and self-aware, and many children are not used to sharing their opinion about instruction.  Some may not even know how to explain themselves, but they do know how you make them feel in class, and that discussion alone may be enough to help them help you.

    • Blog post
    • 1 month ago
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  • What I Learned Lately (WILL 13 What I Learned Lately (WILL 13/14 #17)

    • From: Joshua_Garcia
    • Description:

      What I Learned Lately (WILL 13/14 #17)

      3/16/2014

      @Garciaj9Josh

       

      “Standing Next To a Mountain”

      As we enter the spring with gusto, I feel like we are standing in front of mountain.  There is a pile of initiatives that are standing right in front of us and it feels like we are trying to push a boulder up that mountain.  I often here how much there needs to be done and how many new things are being added.  I am not sure what is new or what is just renamed?  We have done standards, now we have different standards called the “common core”.  We have done standardized testing, now we have new ones.  We have come to recognize these test scores are essential to our perceived future success as schools, but not necessarily essential to the success of our society.  We are constantly bombarded by negative messages of how bad our American education system is.  Most of legislative conversations in today’s politics are based on adults outcomes and struggle to connect to the students we serve.

      This week, I become clearer that pushing the boulder is not the best work.  For me the mountain has unfortunately remained the same. It is big, it is daunting and it is real.  We still have a mountain of prejudice in our system.  Now more than ever, we must renew our commitment to eliminating prejudice in our schools and society.  We must identify and prioritize our work, focusing on only work that continues to dismantle the framework of segregation.  We must work to support initiatives and systems that don’t restrict student rights by adult perceptions.  We must identify multiple measures to demonstrate mastery not as gate keepers but rather keys to access and success.  We must remove our egos, it doesn’t have to be our original idea for us to believe in its mission.  We must create a manifesto for our students.  One that articulates what we the adults will do for every child, every day.  This manifesto must be so clear that we can hold each other and ourselves accountable when we don’t live it.  We must study our current practices to unfold why we still have segregation.  Is it based on learner skills or because of our adult beliefs?  We must recognize that segregation in society is about power and those who are in power are not going to give that up easily.

      Let us tell our children that education is the most important thing and we are renewing our commitment to each and all of them.  Let us run towards our students’ pain and recognize their pain is only our pain that we have run from.  Today, is the day that you find your fierce urgency to save our children.  Today, we must become a part of co-conspiracy to help each child reach our shared definition of success.  Today, may be a good day to stop trying to push the boulder up the mountain.  Today, may be a good day to begin to tear down the mountain…

      Finally from, “Unknown”

      “You can do this!  We can do this!”

    • Blog post
    • 1 month ago
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  • A response to White House Init A response to White House Initiative on Excellence for African Americans: Strategic Diversity Plan

    • From: Zernon_Evans
    • Description:

       

      Response to White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African

      Americans: Strategic Diversity Plan Executive Summary for African American Males in the Arkansas Delta.

      If we continue to call the institution that our children attend to acquire an education “school” we must begin to demonstrate some evidence of learning. Names can be very misleading; the name of an entity should match its purpose and accomplishments. Based on the ineffectiveness of most school in the nation, to call our institutions for learning “school” is a misnomer.  Locally, our students continue to score low on the Arkansas Comprehensive Testing Assessment and Accountability Program (ACTAAP); we continue to sustain the employment of incompetent teachers. We continue to use the same instructional strategies that have failed to advance students achievement even though there are alternatives that have proven to advance academic achievement available. The key to success in diverse classrooms is selecting and implementing powerful instructional methods that simultaneously address a variety of different learning needs (Voltz, Sims, & Nelson, 2010). The students in this district are mostly African American; we have about two percent of other groups. Yet, we still have a diverse group with in the African American student culture. Diversity refers to differences in persons.  It incorporates skin color, gender, age, abilities, economic-status, sexual preferences, religious preferences and language to name a few. 

      African American male students should learn to identify with their own culture before they can be expected to respect other groups. There is a profound diversity within the African American culture. Because of insufficient grammar/language skills and lack of travel experience our African American youth are English Language learners in their own Nation.  We cannot justify nor expect the community to accept and support our failure to educate African American males.  When I compare data from the Arkansas Comprehensive Testing Assessment and Accountability Program (ACTAAP) test scores and academic progress in class over the last five years, I find that African American males in this district have not received the encouragement they need to be successful. These students are not aware of the history of cultural racism. Cultural racism is the practice of recognizing the activities and contributions of one racial group in preference to others within a multiracial society (Koppelman, 2013). Black males need to know and understand why their present conditions are as they are. By exposing them to their history, we can help them gain such valuable insight. Without this understanding, they will continue to accept incarceration as a natural condition rather than as the consequence of centuries of racism (Kafele, 2009). It is the responsibility of this district to provide these students with the means to navigate through obstacles and master academic challenges.

       

      Students spend more time at school than any other place that they venture. I foresee a school climate where students are interested in learning. This comes about with motivation and encouragement from administrators, staff, teachers, community patrons and parents. Also students are more productive when they experience success; therefore I envision teachers that model high expectations and reach out to students with total acceptance; we must work to ensure that all students have a sense of importance in the school environment.  Some students do not feel valued in their home. The response they receive at school can fill that void and improve their self-esteem; when students feel safe they achieve more in class. Also children lack sufficient physical and emotional support in their homes; we must put agencies in place to help with issues of food supply and heat/air conditioning when needed.  Children are experiencing crime in their neighborhood; fears begin to grip their minds leaving little room for academic function. A positive culture inspires optimism and hope; a negative culture promotes cynicism and defeatism (Danielson, 2006).  Since the school/community is laced with apathy, poverty, Black-on-Black crime and violence, it is easy to see how the children in the public schools adopt the motto, “none of us will learn.”

      Over the next five years, we must decrease the number of African American males attending alternative schools. This is not because alternative school is detrimental, but due to the fact that in society there is no reward for not being able to conform to the norm.  Lack of respect and outlandish behavior can result in a prison sentence or an early grave in the real world. Young men must learn to control their behavior and respect authority to avoid dire consequences.  Alternative schools should service students that need a legitimate alternative. We service students that refuse to participate in class, blatantly disrespect teachers and instigate chaos all day.  We will focus on engaging these students in grade-level appropriate, authentic, purposeful curriculum that reflects their interest, culture and academic needs.

      Absenteeism is a hindrance to academic achievement.  Many students skip school because they feel so unappreciated and cannot demonstrate competence in grade level subject matter. These students need a curriculum that addresses their interest and moves them from underachievers into the arena of successful grade level accomplishments. Students who see themselves in the curriculum will want to attend school; we must provide them with the proper curricular. This is a major issue for third through sixth graders even though attendance is not a profound problem at this age group; parents still have the control to make them go to school in the lower grades. We must draw these younger students into our present so that we can administer the instructions for the strong foundation they need in order to be prepared for upper grade level proficiency.  On the other hand, high school students cannot perform well on the Arkansas Comprehensive Testing Assessment and Accountability Program (ACTAAP) unless they are in attendance when instructions are being given. Eleventh grade literacy, tenth grade biology, algebra I, and geometry scores reflect the necessity for increased attendance rates.

      Our Black males are struggling to write a single paragraph; we must give them authentic purpose for writing and using correct grammar. For black adolescent males, in order to offset resistance that occurs because of cultural differences and to develop their identities, it is essential to establish culturally responsive instructional practices and infuse the curriculum with culturally relevant materials. (Tatum, 2005)

       African American Males need competent male teachers.  Poor achievement among our neediest students is the result, at least in part, of a lack of strong, positive black educators in the classrooms. This nation needs to move swiftly to engage more African-American men in teaching. No longer can we simply be OK with black men representing less than 2 percent of our teacher workforce. It is unacceptable (Nicolas, 2014). He continues, “I have also seen the tremendous impact an effective black male educator can have in the classroom. Notice I use the word effective; this is because an effective black male educator can have a more detrimental impact on a school than perhaps a teacher from any demographic.”

       

      Our mission is to prepare students for college, careers and life. All district and school personnel are equally responsible for the success of students. In order for us to move high school students from fifty five percent basic to fifty-five percent advanced we must create and implement a shared vision that all of us will support. School security guards, secretaries, nurses, custodians and cafeteria workers are all a viable part of the organization. All these internal patrons will interact with students in a way that reflects acceptance, and respect. It is the responsibility of the Principal to set the tone for the school culture.  With support from the principal the teachers will receive professional development that takes the needs of the students into account. Teachers must learn to focus on the emotional, physical, psychological, social and academic needs of the students. They must also learn to reflect on their own personal prejudice and strive to be fair to all students by eliminating inconsistences that hinder the performance of students. There is a requirement of innovation, concern and educational reform to increase the academic performance of our students. The district administration office must support the principals and provide finances, resources and technical support as the schools engage in transforming students from kindergarten to twelfth grade into lifelong readers, learners and American Citizens.

      By the end of the 2014-2015 school years the district personnel as well as the local community will be aware of the vision, objectives, mission and other components of the strategic diversity plan. Successful schools are much more than a list of strategies or activities. At their core, each of the “breakthrough” high schools demonstrates a belief that every student in the school can be academically successful (Westerberg, 2009). The district office will contact Mr. John Hoy, Assistant Commissioner Division of Public School Accountability for information on equity monitoring at the school.

      Administrators and the stakeholder will have met together to create, distribute and implement the goals and objectives. This will include the community patrons, parents, students, staff and teachers.  The plan will be posted on the school web-site, also. School leaders will ensure that teachers have begun professional development and will have already begun to revert to instructional strategies that are proven to ensure academic excellence for the targeted students. The literacy coaches will meet with the K-12 teachers periodically to vertically align the curriculum. During the 2015-2016 school year administrators will monitor this process ensuring that teachers are following the instructional strategies that match the school vision. Teachers will be responsible to participate in professional learning communities that include community patrons to collaborate and share in the planning and implementation of the identified goals. Administrator will work with teachers to clarify problems or misconceptions that they may have encountered. In 2014-2019 the administration and teachers will use the data to identify students and procedures that require special attention including academic, social and emotional growth of the students.  In the 2014-2019 school years the administrators will assess title one funds as well as other state funds to plan the expenditures for resources to cover the needs of the district.  Individual school will submit their school plans to the Federal Program Director for access to funds to support their programs. 

       

       

       

      Task Force for School Diversity Plan

       (Pseudo names to demonstrate how we will select a task force)

      1. Mr. Moore is a local pastor. As a member of the committee he will be able to reach community patrons on all levels. He is in touch with parents and students on a weekly basis; also, he has been on the school board so he is aware of the problems of the students in this community. He is able to contact other ministers with information and can persuade them to work with the parents and students in their churches. He will be available to meet with students, parents, other community patrons, and teachers. Reverend Moore can facilitate community meeting to share the school vision and mission for the improvement of academic performance of African American students.  Reverend Moore is also a radio talk show host. He will be able to use that platform to highlight students’ accomplishments and inform the community of school activity.

       

      1. Mrs. Jones is a parent in the community. Mrs. Jones’s son was murdered on the streets of this community. Mrs. Jones’ experience, even though it is very painful, can be used to reveal to parents the importance of guarding their children from spending too much idle time. Mrs. Jones speaks to parents on many occasions during community events. She acknowledges that her son was disruptive in school and preforming several grades below his grade placement. Mrs. Jones will be instrumental in convincing parents to support the goals of the diversity plans based on her experience of losing her child to a senseless murder. She will bring a serious tone into the process of developing a plan to redirect the lives of the African American males in this city. As the district reaches out to train and support parents, Mrs. Jones can help facilitate seminars and witness to parents that teachers are sincere when they reach out for parental support. She will be instrumental in rallying parents to attend workshops and encouraging their sincere commitment to the school/community.

       

      1. Mr. Smith is the Junior ROTC director in our high school. Mr. Smith has a background in the military. He is a good disciplinarian. Also, the students love ROTC and will do anything for Mr. Smith.  Mr. Smith will contact students, parents and community patrons with information about the diversity plan and its value to the students. Mr. Smith can also intervene for parent and teachers when students are not doing their best work in class. Communication skills are paramount in succeeding in the real world. Mr. Smith, because of his experience in the military, can help with students that rebel against the school discipline rules. African American males need strong men of their race to mentor and guide them as they struggle to defend their manhood in an institution that challenges their authority.  Instead of killing the gift to be a strong independent Black man, Mr. Smith can work with other Black men in the community to find occasions to use the gift in a more appropriate way.

       

      1. Keith Rollon is an honor student at the high school. He is in the eleventh grade. The majority of the students are loud and undisciplined. Keith is not threatened by their behavior. He is not embarrassed to be a nerd. Keith can meet with small groups of students periodically to discuss the necessity of academic achievement for having a successfully life. He will also be good as a tutor in some of the after school programs. Keith can represent our school in seminars and report back to his peers. He can help organize study groups for students that need help in content areas. Keith will also organize groups to act mentors for the lower grade students.

       

      1. Judge Ann Hall is a Juvenile Circuit Judge in the family courts. Judge Hall has created programs designed to give more options for children. Before becoming an attorney, Judge Hall taught elementary, junior and high school.  Judge Hall will help us secure a safe learning environment for our school/community.  Judge Hall will share information with students pertaining to her educational background and show them how they can become anything that they set their minds to.  Judge Hall can familiarize the school/community with the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. She will lead in understanding policies and acquiring funding for the school. There is a chance that we can start a local organization to focus on prevention as well as develop new methods of dealing with juvenile offenders.  

       

      1. Mayor Robert Lee will be able to help us plan programs that are available through city grants and other finances. Some programs and grants are only available to schools through the city. Mr. Lee will work with us to get addition finances for community programs and summer programs for the schools. His office will find research data from other cities that have programs for youth in the school/community. The Mayor will travel to these cities and collaborate with the Mayor and city officials to learn about programs for the youth of our city. The Mayor will visit classrooms and engage in activity with the students. He will plan for visits to the city council meeting and work with the staff and students to understand the role of the mayor. The strategic diversity plan will become part of his agenda during city council meetings. He will relay information to other city departments such as the fire, police, sanitation, street and water departments.

       

       

       

      Diversity Strategic Plan                                                           

      1. African Males will improve their performance by 40% on the end-of-course Literacy test with emphasis on reading literacy and content passages.

      1.1     K-12 teachers will use instructional strategies and curricular that’s researched and proven to increase student performance of African American males.

      1.2     Staff, teachers, and community patron will exhibit a school culture of safety, acceptance and high expectation for all students.

      1.3     Parents will be included in developing and implementing a vision for the school that supports the emotional, social, cultural, and academic needs of the students.

      1.4     Teachers will have on going professional development and collaboration that support the vision and mission of the school.

      1.5     Incorporate frequent surveying  to assess the students’ opinion of the school culture

       

       

      1. African American male’s attendance will reflect a 25% decrease in absenteeism.

      2.1 The cafeteria will provide a nutritious breakfast and invite parents and community

             Patrons to serve students.

      2.2 Provide weekly incentives for students that come to school every day.

      2.3 Allow students to visit the elementary school as peer tutors during the morning hours.

      2.4 Modify instructions to allow reasonable success.

      2.5 Allow students to use their personal I phones to research in class.

      2.6 Conduct bi-weekly recognition of attendance and academic progress.

      2.7 Allow students to use their talent such as singing, playing musical instruments, and

            Art.

      1. The placement of African American males into an alternative learning environment will decrease by 30%.

      3.1     Provide professional on effective classroom management

      3.2     Train students to handle conflict resolution

      3.3     Provide counseling/medication

      3.4     Connect students with police officers as mentors

      3.5     Create a culture that encourages parents to visit classrooms

      3.6     Arrange for convicts to come in as resource/scared straight tactic

      3.7     Arrange for former successful residents to return as a resource speaker

      3.8     Model/role play appropriate behavior

       

      1. African American males will show an increase of 40% proficiency on their portfolio of

      Writing/grammar mini lessons.

      4.1     Read and write using technology/online portals

      4.2     Use culturally appropriate interesting fiction/nonfiction text

      4.3     Teach writing/grammar skills in context of literature

       

      1. African American males (K-12) will improve their performance by 30% on the Arkansas Comprehensive Assessment and Accountability Program (ACTAAP).

      5.1     Develop curriculum that reflects the cultural social, emotional, physical, developmental, and Cognitive needs of African American students.

      5.2     Raise the bar/rigor to accomplish grade level reading proficiency

      5.3     Teach African American history/inventions

      5.4     Visit colleges (3-12)

      5.5     Keep a personal portfolio of graduate credits (9-12 grades)

      5.6     Employ competent African American male teachers

       

       

                                                                                          

       

       

                                                        

                                                                        References

       

      Danielson, C. (2006). Teacher leadership That Strengthens Profession Practice.

               Alexandra, VA: ASCD.

      Kafele, B. K. (2009). Motivating Black Males to Achieve in School & in Life.

              Alexandria, VA: ASCD

      Koppelman, K., L. (2014).  Understanding Human Differences Multicultural Education for a 

                Diverse America. (4th ed). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.  

      Nicolas, Donald G. (2014).  Where are the black male teachers? Education Week, 33(22), 28

      Tatum, A. (2005). Teaching Reading to black Adolescent Males. Portland, MA: Stenhouse 

                 Publishers. 

      Voltz, D. L., Sims, M. J., & Nelson, B. (2010). Connecting Teachers, Students and Standards

               Strategies for Success in Diverse and Inclusive Classrooms. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

      Westerberg, T. R. (2009).  Becoming a Great High School 6 Strategies and 1 Attitude That

               Make a Difference. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

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  • Top Ten Things to Remember in Top Ten Things to Remember in Times of Change

    • From: Victoria_Day
    • Description:

      

      (reprinted from Vicki's Rethinking Education blog)

      APPR has created a tremendous amount of change in our districts and buildings.  It has also increased the amount of work principals have to do on a daily basis, let alone the amount of stress. Staying positive is key to the success and survival of these demands.  As a 13 year administrative veteran, here are some top tens I would like to share (In no particular order!)

      1.  Keep Your Door Open and Be Visible:  Your staff, students and parents need to see you as the leader and you need to be accessible.  Keep your door open, listen, listen, and listen even more.  Give encouragement to your staff who are working hard to embrace a new curriculum and create engaging lessons for students.  Be in their classroom, the hallways, the lunch room and the playground.  Greet the buses and parents in the morning.  Get on the announcements daily and say the pledge, your school pledge and your belief statement.  It's powerful, it resonates, and starts the day on a positive note.

      2.  Use a Scheduler:  If you don't write it down on your schedule to do a walk through, be visible, or do that observation, then it will not get done!  I use Google Calendar and live by it.  I have shared the calendar with my secretary who schedules my observations and meetings with staff when needed.  Using an online calendar such as Google Calendar, iCal, or Outlook will help you organize YOU. The best part is that it notifies me of my schedule in the morning, and notifies me 10 minutes in advance.

      3.  Provide Mini-Observations: Teachers want feedback on how they are doing.  When you do a walk through or mini-observation give them honest, constructive feedback.  I like what Kim Marshall has listed in how to do mini-observations the right way:  Unannounced, Frequent, Short, Face-to-face, Perceptive, Humble, Courageous, Systematic, Documented, Linked to teacher teamwork and schoolwide improvement, Linked to end-of-year teacher evaluation, and Explained well. (Kim Marshall, Rethinking Teacher Supervision and Evaluation, 2nd Edition, 2013.) Marshall suggests to do 10 mini-observations on each teacher, throughout the school year..  That would be 1 mini-observation per month.  In our district, we do 5 mini observations for tenured, 2 formal observations and 3 mini-observations for 1st year teachers, and 1 formal observation and 4 mini-observations for 2nd and 3rd year non-tenured teachers.  What it has accomplished for me is having powerful, professional conversations about what is occurring in the classroom, asking questions of the staff, and coaching best practice.  It is also building trust and it is so important to have those face-to-face conversations about what is working and what needs to be refined.  It’s about growth and should not be about a “gotcha”.

      4.  Share The Leadership:  I am the sole administrator/lead learner at East Side, with a student population of 463 and about 60 staff members.  There is no way I can do this job alone and I rely on the staff to help run the school.  Give leadership roles to your teacher's.  Give them opportunities to work together so they can manage the Common Core.  They are the ones in the trenches and will help boost school morale and provide great education for our students.

      5.  Be the Lead Learner:  Rather than being "the principal", be the Lead Learner.  Joe Mazza, Lead Learner of Knapp Elementary School in the North Penn School District, PA, coined this term and it means to talk the talk and walk the walk.  Say what you mean, mean what you say.  Join your teachers in professional development.  Share your learning and what you find.  Get on Twitter people!  (Social media networking is huge and you should be embracing this venue.)  Gone are the days of the principal sitting in the office, managing discipline and minutia. We need to be visible, be a part of what is happening in our schools, and be in the classrooms.

      6.  Your Hour of Power:  Tony Robbins says that we have to have a daily ritual of physical and emotional conditioning.  This means having time for you.  Are you experiencing an extraordinary life?  He also says to put in some type of physical activity.   I try to power walk the hallways of my school and examine student work displayed and in turn, see the pride in our students’ accomplishments.  This also gives me an hour to reflect on the day and plan.  Give yourself this hour to rejuvenate and reflect.

      7.  Stop Those Boring Staff Meetings:  Are you regurgitating information that can be shared via email or a blog?  Stop that type of staff meeting where it is you up there, giving information and share it with your staff.  Don't waste their time by giving unnecessary information that can be shared via email or better yet, flip your staff meeting as Peter DeWitt  shared in his blog Finding Common Ground.

      8. Climate and Culture:  How is the climate of your building?  Have you given a culture survey?  Are you dealing with lots of discipline issues that boggle you down?  Maybe it is time to implement a social and emotional curriculum such as Responsive Classroom or PBIS.  If you don't address the social and emotional aspects of students and get to know your kids, forget about the academics.  Programs such as these change the culture of your building not only for students, but for the adults.  The social and emotional curriculum is just as important as the academic curriculum.  Once you have the social and emotional curriculum in place, academics are a breeze.  It is about the relationships we develop not only with our students, but also with adults.

      9.  Celebrate:  Celebrate the joys of being a team, a school family.  We just finished our Holiday stocking stuffing exchange and what a hit it made for the staff.  We also celebrate baby showers, weddings, birthdays, you name it.  Again, as adults, it's about the relationships and working together to be the best we can be.  I always say to the staff, "You are the best of the best." You say it often, and it starts to become a part of you, and we show our pride.

      10.  It's People, Not Programs:  Todd Whitaker says it best that it’s about the teachers, the people, not the programs.  “We can spend a great deal of time and energy looking for programs that will solve our problems.  Too often, these programs do not bring the improvement or growth we need. Instead, we must focus on what really matters.  It is never about’ programs; it is always about people.”  (Todd Whitaker, What Great Principals Do Differently, 2003.) Yes we have new Common Core State Standards and those modules, but if you are not putting the time into your people, your staff and teachers, giving them time to plan, collaborate, reflect and giving them ownership, then it will be a tough road ahead.  Empower your teachers and your staff, and you will have a better school.  You know that if you have great teachers, you will have a great school.  “The program itself is never the solution nor the problem.”  (Todd Whitaker)

      In the end, it is all about teamwork.  As the lead learner, create those opportunities for collaboration, leadership, reflection and rejuvenation.  You are the lead leaner and remember to remain positive!

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