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! 


4 Pillars of Flipped Learning

Flipped Learning has had an AMAZING impact on education over the past few years. In this article,  The Four Pillars of Flipped Learning,  they  discuss how the Flipped Learning Network performed a survey and found that 100% of teachers know the term Flipped Learning and 80% have tried it at least once in the previous school year.

From someone who used the model in class – it can be EXTREMELY powerful when used appropriately.  I used to record myself teaching key concepts to a lesson and assign it to my students to watch at home and return to school with a basic skill to help us build on that skillset during our lesson.  It is time consuming, challenging, but is extremely rewarding when it finally clicks for you studetns and yourself!

The article highlights the 4 essential parts of the Flipped model that are essential to Flipped Learning and not just Flipped Classes.  It discussed how the Flipped Learning Network performed a survey and found that 100% of teachers know the term Flipped Learning and 80% have tried it at least once in the previous school year.

Their Four Pillars are:

  1. Flexible Environment
  2. Learning Culture
  3.  Intentional Content
  4. Professional Educator

If you are one of the 20% who have not attempted Flipped Learning yet, I encourage you to give it a try – test your skills as a teacher to identify need, identify what piece students can learn on their own, build an in class lesson to support their newly learned skill, observe students and provide feedback, then culminate it with an activity to reinforce the skill – BOOM!  Then repeat – like anything else, practice breeds success!

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.


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!