Amazing Study on Socioeconomic Status

“Students in racially and socioeconomically integrated schools experience academic, cognitive, and social benefits that are not available to students in racially isolated, high-poverty environments. A large body of research going back five decades underscores the improved experiences that integrated schools provide. And yet, more than sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education,American public schools are still highly segregated by both race and class. In fact, by most measures of integration, our public schools are worse off, since they are now even more racially segregated than they were in the 1970s, and economic segregation in schools has risen dramatically over the past two decades.

In this report, we highlight the work that school districts and charter schools across the country are doing to promote socioeconomic and racial integration by considering socioeconomic factors in student assignment policies.”

This article highlights the findings and also how these decisions can impact student learning and their educational experience.  They found that 91 districts/charters use socioeconomic status as a factor in student assignment.  This covers over 4 million students today and spans over 32 states.  These are some of the highlights of their findings so please click to continue reading!

Image is borrowed from The Century Foundation.


Principals Need Evaluated Too!

In this article, published by Peter DeWitt and guest written by Nathaniel Greene, Mr. Greene discusses a study he performs that show’s principals do not get evaluated enough.

Check it out to learn about some of the results of his survey and what he recommends principals do to gain a perspective on their performance from their staff.  Principals are the leaders of our schools, the face of the campus, and need to model best practices at all times.  Teachers are under the microscope and feeling the pressures of teaching more now than maybe ever before and they deserve to be lead by someone who is also doing their part.  Performance based reviews and feedback are a constant for most teachers so why not evaluate and offer feedback to those in charge of the campus?  It might begin and end with the teacher but the principal can make an huge impact on student growth if they do their jobs effectively and with passion.

Kudos to Nathaniel Greene for coming up with this fantastic topic and completing this project!

Growth Mindset – Why not!?

How many of you have come across a student who is “at risk”?  At risk students are those that are in danger of not being successful and there are many factors that play into this: bad attendance or behavior, ELL, ESL, pregnancy, poor grades, perform poorly on standardized tests, and the list goes on.  Some of these students might even be the brightest in your class but just have issues that effect their ability to learn and grow.

How do we reach these students and provide a learning environment that fosters relationships, learning, and growth?  Have you ever heard about the growth mindset that was developed by Carol Dweck?  Some of you have and some of you have not.  For those that have not heard about the growth mindset I would encourage you to take 10 minutes and watch Carol Dweck give a TEDTalk speech.  It is the growth mindset vs. a fixed mindset.  In summary, the idea is that those who BELIEVE that they can perform will perform BETTER  than those who do not.

Duh right?  Most would agree that you have to believe to achieve, but if it was that easy then we would not be taking the time to talk about it.  Have you ever come across a student who just does not believe in themselves?  They come in all shapes, sizes, genders, ethnic backgrounds, you name it, there are some students who just do not believe.  Turning the corner with these students requires you to be humble, dedicated, patient, and also take the time to learn about their background.

As educators, we spend more time with some of our students than their parents do so besides teaching them it is crucial that we build strong relationships with them.  This will enable us to be much more successful in impacting student growth but also make us better educators.

The power of the growth mindset is that it encourages you to look at the way you carry yourself, offer feedback, support, and talk to your students.  In order for it to be successful, we need to make sure that we first dedicate ourselves to representing our communities, schools, and maybe most importantly ourselves, in a positive way.  Can you look at yourself in the mirror and say that you do this?

The growth mindset will help to cultivate these positive learning environments and foster connections with our students that will last a life time.  The challenge is that as educators you need to be committed to the growth mindset if you are going to use it.  I feel that is something that most people do not understand.  I believe that the growth mindset not only can help our students grow but also ourselves as educators.

We have discussed how this mindset could help those at risk or even those who are classified to have a disability, but what about those who are not?  I mentioned previously that some students have potential but lack the confidence to show it because it is not always “cool” to be smart.  What about our gifted students?  A growth mindset can still apply because the challenge for them is that they are ahead of the game so we need to encourage them to push the boundaries and challenge them to more advanced tasks.  This will allow them to still grow while still following the mindset.  For me the growth mindset is not the overall solution – it is an idea rooted in the foundation of learning.

I do not know about you but I have always learned better from positive, encouraging people vs. those who discourage or say things like, “Not everyone is good at math, just do your best”, is that supposed to motivate me to do better?  No, that allows kids to settle for mediocrity.  The growth mindset can apply to students of all learning levels, it is up to you on how you use it.

Now there are also arguments against the growth mindset.  Hattie shows that it only has an impact value of .19 and according to his scale, it is ideal if methods/strategies have at least an impact value of .4 to really make a difference.  Another challenge is that as educators you need to be committed to the growth mindset if you are going to use it.  It will not work if you do not commit to 100% and I feel that is something that most people do not understand.  The final comes from a parent.  In her article she proposes the fixed mindset for those who are gifted and talented.  Another great idea and she finishes discussing the weaknesses of each but again I say that any of these mindset are just about changing the way we think.  We still need blended learning, personalized learning, LMS systems, and other things along side of the growth mindset to impact growth.

I believe the growth mindset will help to cultivate these positive learning environments and foster connections with our students that will last a life time.  The challenge is, that as educators, you need to be committed.  If you dedicate yourself to improving how you support, offer feedback, teach, and communicate with your students this will have an impact.  This, I feel, is something that most people do not understand.  The say they have a growth mindset, regenerate a lesson design and offer great feedback for a day, week, or even a unit but that simply is just not enough.

What could be the harm in committing to provide great feedback in a timely manner, provide support both educationally and emotionally, encourage them through thick and thin to never give up, demonstrate how to be a positive role model and treat others equally, and then finally to believe in themselves.  When a person can do all of the above then they gain a sense of self worth and with that comes confidence.  This article, “3 Things Students Desire to Hear From Their Teachers” by Dr. Lori Desautel, states the things are: Believe, Purpose, and Question Me.  These all relate to the growth mindset.  It certainly is not the only way to impact growth, many other factors contribute to it as well, but if all we need to do is support our students 100%, whether they are gifted, special ed, at risk, or a “normal” student, then I say let’s do it!  Why not, what is the harm in that!?

Additional Resources:

Nurturing Growth Mindsets: Six Tips From Carol Dweck

Carol Dweck Revisits the ‘Growth Mindset’

Creating the Context for Growth Mindsets in the Classroom

Teaching Kids to Struggle #GrowthMindset

Why a ‘Growth Mindset’ Won’t Work

The Problem With Having a ‘Growth Mindset’


To Flip or not to Flip Your Classroom…

Interesting perspective from Ross Cooper who has a great website on curriculum.  In this article he discusses why he never flipped his classroom.  The idea is great and innovative BUT I agree that you can definitely flip your classroom in a away that is counterproductive and is not best for the development of our students and their ability to learn through problem solving.

As a teacher, I used this method occasionally but I was careful because I was concerned about the same issues that Ross discusses in his blog.  Consider using the time to creatively present the issue/problem, and providing some of the history behind the topic that the kids will be learning the next day so that when they arrive, they are ready to jump in.

For example: I was teaching at a high school and working with students in a math elective that we called Math Modeling.  We were going to analyze elections and the various styles that are used throughout the world.  I used flipped learning to present all of the methods that we would be discussing in the unit, one at a time, and their homework was to watch each video the night before we started investigating the new method.  I presented little, to no math content at all in the videos.  They were use to inform the students so they had a solid understanding of the tasks and purpose of the lesson prior to entering the room.

So in summary, my use of Flipped Learning was to present the topic, provide examples of where it is used in real life, and to introduce the purpose of the lesson.  I wanted them to BUY INTO the lesson before they even arrived.  I did not want my students to memorize some basic tool to come in an use 50 times the next day.  I wanted to save time by introducing the lesson, which in turn, I hoped that my students would come in with questions and prepared to dive right in to the lesson.  My high schoole students really seemed to enjoy it and found that the majority of them would watch the videos on their commute to and from school on their phones.

This is a must read for any first time “flipper” because this concept is time consuming and you want to make sure that you still protect the integrity of the learning process.  For those that do this frequently, does your method still protect the learning process?  OR d0 you just use it as a way to present information and drill for skill when they get to class?  Hopefully between Ross’s blog and my use of the flipped classroom, we have opened your eyes to some of the dangers and, what I feel was, effective uses of the flipped classroom!

Check out Ross’s blog!

FACT-Parental Involvemnt has HUGE impact

When I talke to districts about ways to impact student growth I always stress the importance of getting parents involved in the process.  As someone who had parental support throughout my educational career and a former teacher, I have seen and felt the benefits from both sides.  I often speak to a fact released by the U.S. Department of Ed a few years ago.  I summarize their point by saying, “at age 14, only 55% of parents are involved in their kids education and that that number continues to decline throughout highschool”.  Apparently this statistic was optomistic at best!

Matthew Lynch recently published a fantastic article, “Increasing Parental Engagement Takes More Than Email”, that supports my theory, and the theory of most educators I am sure, with statisitcs from recent study by Gallop.  This study states that 80% of parents are either indifferent or disengaged from their kid’s school.  This is a staggering number and makes my 55% statistic, one that I speak at in a negative light because it is disappointing, sound glorious.

We need to turn this 80% statistic on it’s head and provide opportunities for parents to be involved.  He then offers a new app to help engage more parents.  Read it to learn more!  If you are looking for other models for this you have to check out the Go Public initiative in San Antonio or some of the actions taken by Lancaster ISD in Texas.  These are just examples of programs that have had enormous success in getting parents involved in the learning process and I am sure there are TONS of other schools with the same.

Let’s use this as a forum to share how our schools engage parents so that we can all work to tip the scales!

Personalize Learning for ELL

Ok, picture this… you are attempting to teach ELL how to read and on top of that your district has an extremely high volume of free-reduced lunch numbers.  This poses a formidable challenge for you as an educator or district.

Consider looking at Lexia, a Rosetta Stone Company.  They first caught my eye with this case study in Elgin, Ill and how they used the tecnology to blend learning for low income families.  On the site it also cites sevearl other case studies that highlight how the software can be used.   If you are struggling to reach these popoulations this might be an option for you!

Common Core: Is it losing its luster?

The 2016 Brown Center Report on American Education has been released and it is showing some intersting statistics about the Common Core.  At the start of the Common Core, scores were strong and improvements where made, however they did not hold true over time.


One of the major shifts in the Common Core, a switch from a focus on Fiction to a more balanced approach is shown below.  There are other figures that highlight the effects of specific changes that have come with the Common Core but I share this one because I feel this one will stick for the long haul whether we keep the Common Core or go back to the drawing board.

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These charts show how the gap has begun to change dramitically once the Common Core became more commonly used accross the country.  The next table below, shows analytics that display the changes in the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) scores over the past several years.  Has this shift had a major impact?

The categories are based on how strong the implementation of the Common Core is in a state (Strong, Medium, and Nonadopters – there are only 4 states to not have adopted the common to this point). The charts show that during the first few years of the implementation process that the Common Core was having a positive impact which had everyone excited over the shift.

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What might be somewhat disturbing for all Common Core supporters will be the latest statistics that show strong gains in states who did not adopt vs small gains in those who did.  Some of the same trends found in reading are also shown in math.  In 4th grade there was less emphasis on data and geometry while in 8th grade there was a shift from an Algebra 1 focus to a more “general” math class.

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Here you can see that math scores dropped accross the board in 2013-15 in both 4th and 8th grades but dropped more severly in schools that had strong Common Core ties.  This is a much different story than 2011-2013 where the Common Core continued growth trends and the nonadopters faultered.

The kicker was that in 2013-2015 strong implementers took a large hit while those did not dropped, but not as far.  Catch 22 because either way, the article states that this it the first time in 25 years that there was a drop in math scores on the NAEP.  Now looking at the overall statistics, it favors the Common Core which will make supporters feel better that it shows stronger over time but again either way, math scores slipped.

The shift to the Common Core is a major change to how our children are educated and is impacting education from the ground up.  As a former teacher I was exposed to the Common Core and how different it is to the “standard” way of learning so when my daughter was old enough to start school some of the interesting ways to learn math for example, were not as surprising to me as they are to other parents.

How many of you have heard parents say, “What is this new Common Core”?!  “I cannot even help my children on their homework because of the new Common Core!”  These converstations are common amoungst my wife and I when we are with my daughter and her friends parents.  It is something that is drastically different from how they learned and we all know that change for most is extremely difficult.  This is where I see the most impact and the converstations revolve mostly around math.

“Patience is a virture” is one of those quotes that has been drilled into my head from my father and I think that we need to show patience when we talk about the Common Core.  I am not saying it is the key to our success in the future as we strive to close the achievement gap and catch up to those countries that have the strongest education systems in the world.  I am saying that we have completely changed they way we teach by completely adjusting some of our key practices in curriculum and instruction. (Fiction/non fiction in all age groups, data and geometry studies in 4th grade, as well as the options for courses in 8th grade from Algebra to a more general approach) To look at the evidence at this point in the game and accurately state whether it is successful or not is not fair.  It takes time for teachers, students, parents to buy into a new philosophy and see changes.  Time will tell and the next few years are critical for the Common Core movement.

This study, although it has some flaws that are summarized at the end of their findings,  shows that the Common Core had a high impact on children at the begining but it has certainly tappered off.  The interesting thing is that for the first time in 25 years math scores dropped for both states that implemented and did not implement the Common Core.  As a former math teacher, this is disturbing all around.

What do you think is the futre of the the Common Core?  Either patience is a virture and we will really start to see growth in student scores because we provided adequate time for change to occur OR we maybe rediscussing where we need to go next if scores in two more years reflect what they show today.

**All charts in this blog come directly from the report.  The purpose of the article is to provide you a highlight of the data presented while offering commentary on the findings.  I encourage you to take the time to review it and its findings on your own!  Click here to check it out! 

Advanced Tech for Personalized Learning

Looking for great ways to transform your classroom and personalize learning?  Great article by Ann Feldman, District Technology specialist, highlights 5 apps that she says will transform teaching and personalize learning.

She explains in detail how her top 5 can help in the class room but to highlight quickly, here are her top 5 apps:

  1. Nearpod
  2. Classkick
  3. Edcreations
  4. Explain Everything
  5. Seasaw

Check out the article!