New SAT: Good but not Great

Take the time to read this article, “The New SAT Won’t Close the Achievement Gap”, written by Garrett Neiman, co-founder and CEO of CollegeSpring that offers SAT prep courses and other services to low-income students in Los Angeles, New York City, and San Fancisco Bay Areas.

Mr. Neiman says, “Mitigating the SAT achievement gap is not impossible, but it does require that we recognize that the most-disadvantaged students experience the SAT very differently from their most-advantaged peers.”

He has 1st hand knowledge of how the new SAT is written and while most of us will agree that a new verision of the exam was needed, there are some concerns that were not met, and may even be out of their control…

 

ESSA – Is Shifting Power the Solution?

Here is MUST read article by Michael Pertrilli of the Thomas bB. Fordham institute where they held a competition, open to all, which challenged people to come up with new state accountability systems.  They are fantastic and I love that Michael points out that NOT ONE OF THEM suggested proficiency rates!

Check this article out by Michael McGill called “With ESSA, States Should Partner With Districts”.

He brings up several great points while highlighting what I feel is the most important part of this whole process.  PARTNERSHIP.

State and schools have an amazing opportunity to put NCLB act behind us and make a difference and I am honestly scared that they will let it slip through their fingers.

We need to make changes to bring better teachers into education who have left for other careers (Me), diversifying and solidifying assessments, sharing best practices and information, establish a responsible way to hold teachers accountable to be better educators, and, maybe most importantly, develop school of choice.  Let’s level out the playing field between charters and public schools huh!?  Our sole responsibility is to educate kids but more and more often I see fights between schools over things that do not effect student achievement.

 

Tips for Teachers in TESTING season!

It is TESTING season and it is one stressful time for educators!  I remember those rough sleeping nights as you question yourself about if your students are prepared to shine on their tests.

Here are 15 Tips for Teachers as they enter this season and how to deal with the stress and anxiety that these exams bring teachers and students.  All of these tips are great but I cannot stress the importance of #1 and #2.

GET REAL – Honesty and STAY POSITIVE.

Explain to them the purpose of the exams and what they measure.  I always told my kids how I was a terrible test taker, and I was, until I went to a tutor just to teach me how to take tests.  I used to get anxiety and the two things that helped reduce my stress was preparation and confidence in myself.  I would then tell my kids that we are prepared because we have been working our tails off all year long just to demonstrate to ourselves, and not the state, that we are hard workers who know math!  The second one is hard to teach but comes with time, practice, and encouragement from strong individuals like yourself.  It is our jobs as administrators, teachers, and parents to model and mentor your students and to demonstrate daily what it means to be a hard working individual who is successful.

Good Luck to all of you who will tackling these high-stakes exams over the upcoming weeks and months!  

Zuckerberg and Personalized Learning

What is the best practice when it comes to reaching students, engaging them, and then getting them to learn.  The challenge is that each of those steps is a process.  Once that is not mastered over night OR one that is easy to complete with a high level of success on a consistant basis.  One of the more popular buzz words in the industry today is “Personalized Learning” and the conecpt has has caught a huge fish – Mark Zuckerberg.

Before his latest burst onto the scene, Zuckerberg failed in his orginal attempt to make a mark in education.  He previously made a 100 million dollar donation to Newark, NJ public schools but that money primarily went to consultants and other issues.  Prior to starting his new LLC,  the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, his wife encouraged him to acutally go and teach students prior to making this next step.

That is exactly what he did.  In and article by Benjamin Herold, he describes what his whife encouraged him to do, how he did it, and how he plans to “double down” on his previous venture and invest in schools that are making huge advancements in personalized education.

Mr. Zuckerberg is betting big on personalized learning and has been working for over 2 years with Summit Public Schools in Redwood City, California.  Engineers and product designers from Facebook are working with the school to create a new digital learning platform.  This initiative is expected to be worth around 45 million dollars of Facebook stock.  This a huge win for the education world because some of our country’s top minds and wealthiest organizations are showing interest in our county’s furture – our children.

As a father of three daughters under the age of 8, I wish him and his wife all the luck in the world to find a new, fun, facinating way to reach our children.  Our country continues to fall behind other nations in educationing our children so we should take all the help we can get!

Featured image was borrowed from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Facebook site – like it today to learn how they continue to make impacts in education!

Promoting Success in Public Education

Go Public is an amazing initiative that has been taking place in San Antonio, Texas, since 2013.  In a collective letter from the superintedents of the distrcits of Bexar County, they explain the purpose of the program.  “The purpose of Go Public is not to root our and ocrrect the faults of public education…Insetead, all of Bexar County’s 16 independent school districts have come together with this singular goal: To inspire everyone – whether you have kids or not, whether you went to public school or not – to take a collective step back and celebrate the wonderful, heartwarming, life-altering things happening EVERY DAY in public schools.”

Initatives like this are fantastic.  They promote strong educational ecosystems that include all valuable stakeholders in the process: administrators, teachers, students, parents, and the community.

If your wondering, Why Go Public?  Follow the link to learn more information and watch more success story videos that put the achievements of public education in Bexar County, TX.  You can also like their Facebook page to learn more information and track their success.

Kudos to all involved, today and in the past, on this amazing way to share success’s in education!

5 Lessons Learned From Dr. Seuss

dr seuss

Today, March 2, is National Reading Day.  It is a great time to read  and get children interested in reading while we reflect on one of the great writers of our time.  Dr. Seuss has influenced children all over the world.  From my grandparents, to my parents, to me, and now I pass him and his books on to my children.

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

Preschool Kids Learn to Grow Food

Amazing concept that stands out in today’s digital world.  Providing kids an opportunity to connect with their peers, adults, and nature only becomes more challenging as they become more and more connected with technology.

This ARTICLE  presents their three approaches to learning: “learning from nature, learning from technique, and learning from practice.”  Their school get students out of the classroom but also gives them a chance to use their hands, interact with animals, learn how to grow their own food, and most importantly – have fun!

Other companies have jumped in on similar ideas around breaks from technology… Chick-Fil-A recently started a promotion called the Family Challenge.  They encourage families to put ALL technology into a box and while they eat their meal at the restaurant.  If you successfully make it through the whole meal without using your devices, they proved you with free “icedream” cones!

chick fil a

 

What is our BEST Taxonomy?

Peter DeWitt, Ed. D published a great article “What’s Our Best Taxonomy? Bloom’s or SOLO?”.  He does a great job at explaining both Taxonomies while providing you insights as to how each can be and is used.

This article address a topic that I was first taught in college at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania: Bloom’s Taxonomy.

The 6 stages of Bloom’s Taxonomy are:

Blooms

  1. Knowledge
  2. Comprehension
  3. Application
  4. Analysis
  5. Synthesis
  6. Evaluation

The idea of Bloom’s is to make sure that you are hitting all the levels of cognitive thought and if you are then you truly testing for mastery vs. memorization.  However, once I started to teach, I learned how difficult it is to assess students at a high level and then also judge where they fell in their understanding based on the taxonomy.  I found myself looking to other methods to assess my students level of understanding of the content.

According to Mr. DeWitt, “The criticism with Bloom’s is that it seems to focus on regurgitating information, and that anything goes. A student can provide a surface-level answer to a difficult question, or a deep answer to a surface-level question.”

Let us now turn our attention to the SOLO Taxonomy that was created and developed by John Biggs and Kevin Collis in the 1980’s.  Biggs describes their taxonomy as, “SOLO, which stands for the Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome, is a means of classifying learning outcomes in terms of their complexity, enabling us to assess students’ work in terms of its quality not of how many bits of this and of that they got right.”

The 5 Stages of the SOLO Taxonomy are:

SOLO

  1. Prestructual
  2. Unistructual
  3. Multistructual
  4. Relational
  5. Extended Abstract

So the purpose of the SOLO Taxonomy is to reach even past assessing and judging the value of materials that are learned to developing theories and applying their knowledge to explore new ideas.

The most powerful piece of the article, for someone who was brought up on Bloom’s Taxonomy, was this quote from Mr. DeWitt “Through reading blogs and research, one of the positives sides to SOLO is that it makes it easier for teachers to identify the levels, and therefore help guide students through the learning process.”

I always found myself just looking at the verbs of Bloom’s and incorporating them into my assessments to reach all the levels of the Taxonomy but found it so hard to make judgments on how my students were progressing.  With the SOLO Taxonomy you could consider reducing it to a much simpler scale of I statements…

  • I do not understand what just happened – Clueless
  • I sort of understand what you are saying – Somewhat understands
  • I am on the same page but not connecting the pieces – Moderately understands
  • I am on the same page and explain it to my neighbor – Fully understands
  • I understand and feel that this concept applies to another idea I had in mind – An extension to what I have learned.

So after reading the article and my thoughts on what I have experienced during my teaching career, which side to you stand on?  Bloom’s or SOLO?

Images are from the Centre for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning.  

 

 

Parent-Teacher Conference Makeover

After spending a decade in the classroom it is no secret that this night, Parent-Teacher Conference night, is a favorite amoungest all teachers…NOT!  It is a night full of anxiety because you never know how a parent will react to what you have to say about their child, whether bad or good, beleive it or not.  (I actually had a parent get upset with me because I mentioned how well her son was doing in class, that he was a leader, and that he had big things coming!)

Anyways, thanks to Sarah Sparks and her blog on Parent-Teacher Conferences Get a Makeover, I was able to read about Ruth Hill Elementary School in Newnan, Georgia and how they take full advantage of these situations.  We all know that getting parents and the community involved can be a daunting task, but what if it was as easy as just educating our parents on how to teach their children at home, as well as provide supplies to complete assignments?

One study shows that that over 75% of parents will be present at their schools open house and those numbers are almost dupilcated for a scheduled parent-teacher conference.  These are crucial times in the learning process because we are given a gift.  The gift is a face to face meeting with the parent(s) of our students where we have another opportunity to teach and make a difference in our students lives.

How you might be wondering?  The teachers at Ruth Hill Elementary have their parents set a 60 day goal for their child and then model these activities for their parents so they know how to help their kids at home!  After this 60 day period, they meet to discuss the process, make new goals, provide resources, set a date, and meet again.  This process continues throughout the school year.

This model is called APTT (Academic Parent Teacher Team) and it was pioleted in Creighton School Distrcit in Arizona and is now used all across the country.  Creighton School District has very high low income family rates, around 80%, and this model has shown to be very effective.  It is used in cities around the U.S., Chicago and Houston to name a couple, as well as state wide use in Georgia and Wisconson.

This is one area that I missed as a teacher, the opportunity to teach my parents how to be teachers at home.  Everyone wants more parent and community involvment, but this is different.  This is different because parents are not just “involved”, they are actually empowed.  These are parents who have activtely become a part of the education process.