The U.S. Department of Education (USDEO) recently released the latest high school graduation rate (2009-10). The data indicated a substantial rise (78.2%) in the graduation rate for all ethnic groups since the record high rate (73.4%) in 2005-06. This increase in high school graduation rate helps to produce a generation academically skilled workers to meet the demand of 21st Century jobs. Most importantly the data demonstrates an increase in graduation rate as states attempt to close the achievement gap between minority students (African-American and Latino / Hispanic) and white students.
I had a great opportunity to work with Austin-East High School in Knoxville, Tennessee. The school is 90 percent African-American, 10 percent white and 83 percent socio-economically disadvantaged. The USDEO data documents a 2003-2010 State of Tennessee graduation rate trend. This particular high school’s graduation rate was 10 percent below the state average of 63 percent in 2003, but their graduation rate rose to finish 5 percent above the state average of 80 percent in 2010.
This school was on the brink of falling under state control, but made tremendous gains in changing the school culture and practices. The work created a keen awareness that high school graduates have to leave college and career-ready. Most importantly, the students graduated with a higher level of efficacy and resolve as they entered college or a career.
Austin-East High School Collaborative Action Steps To Increase Graduation Rates
Personalized Teaching and Learning
- Student advisory system focused on student academic behaviors
- Personalized student growth plans
- Cross-curricular and content specific time for teachers to collaborate on student learning outcomes
- Using academic data, identify student at risk of not graduating (i.e. standardized assessments, school attendance patterns, under credited, etc.)
- Alternative academic intervention programs (night school, credit recovery, interventions built into the school day, after school tutoring)
- Positive behavior supports
- Daily attendance incentive
Positive Behavior Recognition
- Parental engagement
- Academic growth recognition
- College tours
- College / university partnership with University of Tennessee and Pellissippi State
- ACT preparatory course
- Early college application process
Last week, Michael Robbins, Senior Advisor for Nonprofit Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Education, wrote a thought-provoking post on the Department’s blog titled Community Partnerships for the Digital Learning Revolution. In it, Robbins outlined four key areas of collaboration that community organizations can undertake to advance the digital learning movement:
- Expanding access and digital literacy;
- Bridging between schools, families, and communities;
- Service and volunteering in education; and
- Creating new avenues for anytime-anywhere learning.
As Digital Learning Day approaches, I am taken back a couple of years to when I was working on the launch of the 2020 Forecast: Creating the Future of Learning. I was still very new to the K-12 space; up until then I had worked in higher education, and was enamored with all the super-cool stuff contained in the forecast, especially around anytime, anywhere learning. One day, someone reminded me that while the 2020 Forecast might articulate some “super cool” things about learning being unhitched from traditional schools, there was also a good chance that this could lead to a widened achievement gap – specifically because of a lack of access to the proper edtech tools for underserved students. Needless to say, I hadn’t thought about this and was fairly disheartened as I wrapped my brain around the idea.
As I read Robbins’ post, my optimism about anytime, anywhere learning got a boost. Whether it’s Connect2Compete working “to expand low-cost internet, computers, and digital literacy instruction to low-income families,” or HIVE Learning Networks using, “new technologies and media to better connect students to their interests, aspirations, communities, and careers,” the partnerships he described made the 2020 Forecast super-cool again.
It is becoming increasingly clear that complex social issues, like education, cannot be improved by one sector alone. Cross sector collaboration; whether it is community or faith-based organizations, non-profits, businesses, or families; is a non-negotiable if we are going to, as Robbins says, “…ignite student curiosity and engagement in learning.”
Jeff Edmondson, Managing Director of Strive, is guest blogging for Forbes about how we can make smarter social investments. In the second post of this series, he shares how we cannot program our way to better educational outcomes for students.
To read the full blog post click here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/ashoka/2013/01/24/make-smarter-social-investments-we-cant-be-program-rich-and-system-poor/
Reading is a fundamental task and too many students are not demonstrating mastery of reading comprehension and inference skills. There are many books and tools teachers have relied on as they seek to provide the best reading comprehension strategies. The key to becoming a critical reader and enhancing the reading comprehension and inference skills is actually writing. Embedding writing as a critical reading tool can provide the magic most teachers seek when trying to enhance reading comprehension and inference. Note-making provides the reader with an opportunity to organize information and demonstrate the ability to evaluate various pieces of the literature. When students are provided a guide, the reader can better make sense of the text, increasing his or her ability to problem solve using prior knowledge and personal context.
One tool I have found to work extremely well to enhance student reading is a simple note-making guide. This tool works well for students while they read informational text, literature or while they are engaged in digital media. While students are engaged with informational text, they can curate key vocabulary, assess the main ideas of the text and generate the supporting details of the text. A note-making guide serves as a Swiss Army knife or plyometric exercise (allows muscles to exert maximum force in the shortest amount of time possible) for building strong reading comprehension, inference and vocabulary acquisition skills.
The goal of the note-making guide:
- Enhance vocabulary acquisition skills
- Find Main Ideas
- Gather evidence/proof and details
- Develop inference skills through interpretation of meaning
- Develop 21st Century Skills (6 Pack)
- Outline and develop formal persuasive essay
Students will be familiar with this concept from Facebook. They use note-making guides on Facebook on a daily basis. On a personal Facebook page a user will see the:
- Topic of page located at the top of the page(Blue Box),
- Main ideas of the page located at the left column (Red Box),
- Supporting details of the page (Green Box)
Students in my class have helped me develop a new way to learn vocabulary using a very old tool. The newspaper!
Each day, through grant funding, every teacher at my school receives a newspaper. We can all use the newspaper however we like. Generally, I review different articles with my class and we focus on headlines or other articles that interest my students. Research shows that we must meet students where they are, and we must use strategies that pique a child’s interest. When we do, they will be more inclined to remember what they have learned. Additionally, allowing students to be a part of their education leads to enduring understanding! As teachers, we must also use assessment tools make sure students have learned what we meant for them to learn.
Spelling words can be especially challenging for those who my struggle with language acquisition. With a class that includes students from several grade levels with different interests and education levels, it is important for me to teach strategies that reach a broad audience. While going through our normal newspaper exercises, a student suggested that we use the newspaper to do our spelling words.
“What a great idea,” I remarked. “We can review and skim the paper and find our spelling words in them and cut them out!”
For the diverse learners in my class, some students have ten assigned spelling words, while others have three. The students began getting excited as they found their words in the paper. This was a wonderful teaching moment to show my students the importance of language. Their words are used in the newspaper and as they learn the spelling and definition of each work, it helps them to better read the newspaper!
Once we started the new spelling activity using newspapers, the room began to buzz with different comments. “I found a word!” “Me too!” One student could not find any words, but came up with the idea that she would cut out letters and make the words by taping or gluing them on a sheet of paper.
As the students completed their list of words I put them on the board. We use a check plus system so they can track their level of understanding of their spelling words. They are to place a plus sign mark behind the word if they knew the word and the definition. They put a check mark if they know the word but not the definition, and they put a circle sign if they did not know the word or the definition. The class was so excited about this new learning strategy that they were trying to find more ways to use the newspaper.
This activity showed my students how to find information in a newspaper and also how to look at newspapers in a different way. My students are engaged and the class cannot wait to use other forms of print, like magazines, to use in other lessons in the classroom.
This post was written by Diana Swede-Bako, a Special Education Teacher at Mary B. Martin S.T.E.M (K-8), an EDWorks STEMLab partner school.
It’s collaboration, not competition that will help solve problems like poverty, unemployment, homelessness and failing schools. Collaboration isn’t a new concept, but it takes focus, accountability, information sharing, and strategic partnerships to really make a difference.
Hecht speaks from experience. Living Cities is a collaboration of 22 foundations and financial institutions that offered more than $140 million in grants and loans to “to re-engineer obsolete public systems and connect low-income people and underinvested places to opportunity.” Living cities has been an important supporter of the expansion of the Strive, cited by Hecht as a leader in embracing collaboration.
Said Hecht: “Leaders and organizations are acknowledging that even their best individual efforts can’t stack up against today’s complex and interconnected problems. They are putting aside self-interests and collaborating to build a new civic infrastructure to advance their shared objectives. It’s called collective impact and it’s a growing trend across the country.”
Hecht expands on five keys to successful collaboration:
- Clearly define what you can do together:
- Transcend parochialism
- Adapt to Data
- Feed the field
- Support the backbone
(M)ulti-sector partnerships based on (Strive) have formed in more than two dozen cities to reengineer educational systems that are failing kids, from cradle to career. Unlike previous efforts, they have set specific goals along this entire continuum, and are committed to data-informed decision making. This model requires partners to continuously track and publish progress and results; and to collectively reflect on, re-evaluate, and refine their work.
In 2009 The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation launched the Measure of Effective Teaching (MET) Project. The focus of the project was to find a balanced approach (classroom observations, student surveys and student achievement gains) to measuring and predicting those specific effective teacher practices which have a positive impact on student learning outcomes. With over 3000 teachers from seven geographically diverse U.S. public school districts volunteering to participate in the project, the results demonstrate a new day for the future of teaching and learning. I want to take a closer look at the MET Project by going back to its origins. The student survey component was started by the influence of teachers and practitioners several years ago and those efforts laid the groundwork for the results we have today.
Back to the Future
The one aspect of the MET Project that I believe will help districts and schools gain critical insight to the learning process is through students’ surveys and their classroom learning experiences. From 2002-2007 the staff at the high school I worked at used Ron Ferguson’s methodical and robust Tripod Survey (MET Project Instrument) to gain keen insight to students’ perceptions of school life. But, as the state of Ohio and the nation began to investigate the use value-add learning measures, it was unclear to our staff what specific teaching and learning practices caused value-add to increase or decrease with their respective students.
In 2007, I called Ron Ferguson and asked him if we could couple students’ three year Math and English state standardized performance data with the three years of Tripod students’ perception survey data. I thought maybe we could predict what it takes to increase value-add learning outcomes based on students’ Tripod perception survey trend data. This proved to unlock the great mystery for teachers and gave us the answers teachers were seeking. The teaching and learning process was crystallized for our teachers and students because our learning community could focus on those levers of change which yield the value-add results we sought.
With the student survey tool and value-added predictor, the landscape for teaching and learning will forever be changed. The game changer is that students’ voices can directly impact their learning experience, coupled with teachers developing a stronger sense of efficacy and internal locus of control. I remember at the start of the MET Project, a Gates Foundation representative was having lunch with me and asked why I thought the student survey value-add method could work for schools? My response was simple, “When our teachers reviewed their students’ survey data and value-added analysis, they said ‘we can do something and we know exactly where to start.’” Our learning team’s plan might seem simple or complicated to some, but it was the plan that our team created and owned. The key, we found, was to create a well-scaffolded plan which was feasible and can be implemented by the entire team (students, teachers, parents and administration).
The question remains, “How will this MET Project help enhance or scale the future of learning?” In the work accomplished by our teaching and learning community (Ron Ferguson, MET Project, Teachers and Students) a new crop of cross-fertilized ideas and practice is being generated. As we re-engineer the Future of Learning ecosystem, we will see learners creating rich opportunities; learners become self-advocates; the creation of local and national data systems in order to identify the conditions that yield high quality learner outcomes; and schools (virtual/traditional) becoming national hubs of innovation and community resilience. The MET Project has cast a wide open net for which we can harvest the best teaching and learning experiences with equity and access for ALL students.
See more about the release of the MET study findings on the KnowledgeWorks World of Learning blog.
In order to reinforce some of the vocabulary that my students and I have been working with, and will continue to work with on individual Science Fair projects, we used chart paper and a simple question to design an experiment. The question that was selected and that all students used was “How do plants get water?” This question was selected because we did not want students to focus so intensely on the fact that they did not have a lot of background information on the topic, but rather, to jump right in to thinking about how they would test it. While discussing the various components of the Scientific Method and how it applied to how plants obtain water, students began familiarizing themselves more directly with the vocabulary from this unit. One thing that was difficult for students was determining how they would test this simple question.
Some students enjoyed the activity because it gave them a chance to take a leadership role with their group. Other students enjoyed having their peers do the majority of the work for them and had to be reminded regularly that all group members must be active participants. This showed me that I may need to make more intentional groups next time rather than have students simply count off by sevens.
Once students were finished with their chart paper they were required to write at least three comments via Post It notes on other peoples’ papers. They had to provide constructive criticism and at least one specific compliment or success that they observed in another group. Before students started the day, I modeled what a constructive comment was and was not. Despite this modeling, there were still some unscientific comments such as “This is cute!” However, many students gave specific and scientifically-sound feedback such as, “Your data table does not have any units.” In the future we are going to work on how to provide constructive feedback that is relevant and how to take criticisms to our work in an impersonal way.
One thing that slowed us down at the beginning of the lesson was having students actually set up their chart paper. I was advised to do this for them so as to save time, however, I did not take that advice and I saw the issues I did as a result. Students were trying to make their paper colorful and “pretty” and some were not focused on the content but the aesthetics. In the future, they will be provided with a laminated template that they will simply fill in. In order to give them some artistic license, I will encourage them to make their graphs and data tables colorful.
At this point students are pretty familiar with the first few steps or terms in the Scientific Method. The parts they are still very unclear on are the steps requiring some analysis and application of data and observations. I attribute this to a few things. First, we have not spent much time together in class discussing this and modeling what “Results” and “Discussion / Conclusion” looks like. Also, considering these steps require some higher level thinking capabilities, I foresee that many of my students will continue to struggle with the analysis piece.
Upon reflecting on the lesson I can see a few things that need to be addressed more heavily, such as analysis of data. Also grouping needs to be done more intentionally rather than simply at random. I will look at test scores and other available data in order to group students across ability levels. Overall I think the lesson was successful and am pretty happy about how it turned out.
This post was written by Dana Starvaggi, a 7th grade science teacher at Buchtel Middle School, an EDWorks STEMLab partner school.
Publications referencing Forecast 3.0: Recombinant Education: Regenerating the Learning Ecosystem continue to bubble up in the education space.
“Regenerating the Learning Ecosystem,” by Joe Nathan, Director of the Center for School Change, asks if recent inventions or discoveries are changing the way we learn? Focusing on changes we have already witnessed in our lifetimes, Nathan explores some of the disruptions outlined in the Forecast.
Leslie Wilson, CEO-One-to-One Institute, outlines each of the five projected disruptions in “Charting the Future!”
Dive deeply into the future of learning – visit our new Learning in 2025 resources page.
Educators are deeply engaged in the dialogue about the flipped class and how it works. It is great for teachers to be so engaged and ready to try a different method to engage their students in the learning process. Just as quickly as a teacher is burning with desire to learning a new practice, school leaders can become a wet blanket / barrier because their leadership style does not support teachers’ need for innovation and change. In order for teachers to gain the confidence in their innovative Flipped Classroom approach, a school’s leadership team / administration needs to adopt the practice of Flipped Leadership, also referred to as Distributed Leadership.
(Deborah Ancona-Harvard Kennedy School of Government Center of Public Leadership).
Too often, organizations misdiagnose social justice issues (gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status) as the impediment for growing a Distributed Leadership culture. I have found that the actual boundaries in schools that deter the growth of a Distributed Leadership culture are the tasks pertaining to safety/belonging; task-oriented industriousness and self-actualization/satisfaction (Ronald F. Ferguson, Senior Lecturer in Education and Public Policy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Harvard Kennedy School and Senior Research Associate at the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy). The culture of Distributed leadership has to be nurtured and grown over time; dynamic leaders and teachers realize that school culture is not a lock step event. In a thriving school culture there are multiple things occurring at the same time. Therefore, requiring a balance of tasks and Distributed Leadership in order to reach peak performance.
Types of Leadership Beliefs and Practices:
- Autocratic-Compliance: Top-Down Orders
- Participative-Collaboration: Team Approach: External Locus of Control
- Transformational Commitment-High Self-Efficacy: Internal Locus of Control
For the most part, teachers and leaders can agree that top-down leadership results are a short-lived autocratic experience. These leaders are focused on assessing the checklist of goals accomplished and compliance driven. In such a situation teachers often double-down with passive aggressive behaviors; teachers are holding on until the top-down leader leaves, therefore leaving a clear void in innovative practices
These are the leaders who seek to create a positive change in their school. Typically this person will recruit who they believe are strong teacher leaders in the building. The leaders will assign the teachers to various tasks and committees in order to accomplish school improvement goals or district wide initiatives. There is a high sense of external locus of control authorized by the principal who is micro-managing the unauthentic innovation process. At a cursory level people in the school are working together, but have not authentic engagement to create innovative practices and are compliance-oriented committals to the initiative.
The transformational Flipped Leadership style encourages learning to occur outside of the school and classrooms. Such dynamic leaders establish the conditions for teachers and students to try new methods and seeking innovative learning. Often time the school’s culture and innovation conditions do not reside within the expertise level of the principal or one individual. The ultimate goal is to for teachers and students to amplify their strengths by applying innovative learning to their real world experiences. Simply put, transformational leaders encourage student-learning tasks to be about the student and their world; building a strong sentiment for internal locus of control.
Distributed Leadership Boundaries: Safety/Belonging; Task-Oriented Industriousness; Self Actualization and Satisfaction
Brown managed the KnowledgeWorks Foundation’s $100 million investment in the Ohio High School Transformation Initiative (OHSTI), and the Foundation’s Early College High School (ECHS) initiative working hand-in-hand with leaders, building strong partnerships at the school, community, district and state levels to ensure all students reached their full potential and were prepared for success. He has managed the Foundation’s investments in Project GRAD, College Access, the Ohio 8 Coalition and a wide range of other school improvement initiatives. He also has significant experience working with institutions of higher education on issues related to equity and access, and is frequently quoted in newspapers across Ohio on key education issues.
Tune in to the show online at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/parent-talk-live8/2013/01/07/parent-talk-live-the-need-for-high-performing-high-schools.
Know | Trust | Empower | Care | Honor
Teachers are always looking for ways to improve classroom management. The K-TECH framework offers teachers quick and effective strategies which will help build the foundation for a safe and purposeful classroom for everyone – students and staff. K-TECH is the acronym EDWorks’ uses for integrating characteristics of a safe and purposeful school environment into overall school improvement. K-TECH is aligned with major youth development initiatives including Josepshon Institute’s Six Pillars of Character and Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets. K-TECH was originally created by Ohio’s Center for Essential School Reform as part of its Framework for Building Safe and Serious Schools
In this five part series, EDWork’s school climate and learning supports specialist Michele Timmons shares ideas for implementing K-TECH in any classroom.
Last month we highlighted C- Connecting Students in Meaningful Ways.
Honoring all students through varied systems of recognition and reward.
Most schools have systems to honor the best and brightest in academics and athletics. Such systems offer tremendous recognition for 10% of the school population and zero recognition for the other 90%. Consider developing strategies to create authentic and meaningful opportunities to recognize and reward all students for their contributions to the school and community. Below I offer a mix of classroom-based and school-wide examples for recognizing and honoring students. I have seen these ideas used in schools throughout the country and they work! Almost all of the examples can be adapted K-12 and typically done in either a single classroom or across a school. Teachers are only limited by their imagination.
- On-A-Roll Recognition. Reward students who are making strides in improving their academics, behavior or school attendance. Students who are struggling in these areas need as much positive recognition as they can get to keep them motivated to continue their efforts. Taking time to let them know you noticed a difference is extremely important. The reward doesn’t have to cost the school any money. Most often struggling students are motivated by attention. If you give them positive attention, they are less likely to find ways to earn negative attention.
- Wall of Fame. A Wall of Fame recognizes student achievements in out-of-school time activities. Give students, parents, teachers and community organizations an opportunity to post photos, news articles, etc. on the board showing all of the different contributions your students make to their community. Highlight their activities on your school’s website, Facebook or Twitter page (with parent permission of course) or in other school publications.
- Pizza with the Principal/Teacher. Teachers can identify students who are showing good citizenship or other positive character trait and give them “tickets” to win an opportunity to join them for lunch or other recognition. For many students, just receiving the ticket is as good as winning the lunch.
- Student of the Week. Through random drawings, highlight one student, or a student at each grade level, each week. Create a bulletin board with information the student brings to school, including photos of their hobbies, activities and family. Give the student some extra privileges like being first in line at lunch or a free homework pass. The principal can interview the student over the morning announcements. Ask teachers, family and friends to share why they think the student is special and share that information with the student and the school.
- High Fives. Create a wall in the school (or outside of a classroom) where students and staff can recognize others for doing something good, special or kind. I have seen this program in both public and private schools.
- Lunchtime recognition. Many schools struggle with inappropriate behavior and lack of courtesy during lunch and recess. Consider giving cafeteria / recess staff and custodians special tickets they can give to students who go out of their way to clean up and / or show kindness to others. Students can then put the tickets in a jar in the office for a chance to win a special recognition at the end of each week.
- Look Book. Several elementary schools have a Look Book in each classroom. When children are being extra kind or working above and beyond expectations, teachers ask the children to sign the Look Book. If students have their name in the Look Book multiple times during a week a note is sent home or they are asked to visit the principal. How often do children in your school get sent to the principal because they are being good? What a great paradigm shift!
- I Noticed Cards. Create pre-printed notecards (or post it notes) with a sentence starter recognizing something special that an adult might notice about a student. School staff (any staff) then can tear off a card, write a quick note and hand it to the student – or mail it home. Schools can either create them in house or purchase notecards from organizations like Search Institute or Positive Promotions.
Are you interested in more ideas? Check out these articles, blogs and other resources.
- Student Recognition Ideas by ehow.com
- Student Recognition Ideas That Work by paperdirect.com
- Ideas for Student Classroom Rewards by paperdirect.com
- Promoting a Positive Environment: Positive Recognition for Students and Staff by the National Center for Middle Level Leadership
What strategies do you use to honor and recognize all students for their contributions to the school community? How do you engage all staff (teachers, administrators, cafeteria, paraprofessionals, custodians, volunteers…) in honoring and recognizing students? Please share your ideas below.
Read the first four posts in this five-part series on implementing K-TECH in the classroom:
- Kick Start Your Classroom with K-TECH
- Kick Start Your Classroom with K-TECH (Part 2): Three Tips for Building Trust
- Kick Start Your Classroom with K-TECH (Part 3): Four Tips for Authentic Student Empowerment
- Kick Start Your Classroom with K-TECH (Part 4): Connecting Students in Meaningful Ways
Today’s New York Times features a front-page story about a South Texas trio that is academically able, but who face a litany of challenges as they seek to get a college education.
It’s a story that is repeated way too often in the United States, where a college education can open the door to the middle class, but also where students can easily fall through the cracks if they are not prepared for the rigors of college life. The students profiled in the NYT story were challenged by poverty, complicated financial aid issues, and an academic culture for which they weren’t prepared.
Too often, this is the case for those who are the first in their families to go to college.
The story makes the case for why cradle-to-career support is more important than ever. We know that underserved kids who get good grades are not always prepared for the non-academic intangibles that equal success. They need us to provide a safety net and a pathway to succeed.
“Everyone wants to think of education as an equalizer — the place where upward mobility gets started,” said Greg J. Duncan, an economist at the University of California, Irvine. “But on virtually every measure we have, the gaps between high- and low-income kids are widening. It’s very disheartening.”
A new study by Caroline Hoxby of Stanford University and Christopher Avery of Harvard University highlights how low income students with high academic ability never apply to a single competitive college.
We need to be sure that the high achieving, low income students in our high schools are being encouraged to apply to competitive colleges. There are other studies which show that when low income students go to stretch schools they are much more successful than when they go to schools that are less competitive.
We must ensure every child has the supportive adults (teachers, counselors, older students) to make sure they apply to selective colleges.
Read more on the study: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/12/11/study-says-many-highly-talented-low-income-students-never-apply-top-colleges#ixzz2EqljPAoH
Inside Higher Ed
I heard about last week’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut during a meeting at work, but it really didn’t hit home until I walked in the door of my house and looked at my 10-year-old son. My first reaction was to grab him for a giant hug and tell him how much I love him. I can’t even begin to imagine the feelings of the children and families who are part of the school community. It will be months or even years before that community begins to heal. But, as was evident from the weekend news, incidents like this are “national tragedies” because they have such a far-reaching impact.
As children are returning to schools across the US this week, it is important for teachers and school leaders to have plans for how they will handle the questions about this tragedy and the school’s crisis protocols. These questions will come from parents and children. As with any tragedy, it will impact children differently. Some children will just need a little support and others may be so frightened they truly need support from a counselor or mental health professional. The more prepared staff is to handle the questions, the easier it will be to offer children and parents the support they need.
Here are 4 tips for helping students and families handle national tragedies.
- Provide students with an opportunity to express their feelings and concerns.
- Spend some time in class giving students an opportunity to share their feelings and concerns. School staff should focus on correcting misinformation and ensuring students that they are safe in school. It is best if the school identifies a specific time of day where this processing will take place. Maybe during homeroom or first period class. The American Psychological Association (APA)’s resource Talking to Children about School Shootings offers a good guide for discussion.
- If your students need more than just some time to talk about their feelings, Ryan’s Heart, a non-profit organization for grieving families, offers a handbook with activities to help students think about and understand their own feelings of loss. Consider completing one or two of these activities as a class or in small groups. Journal writing can also help students express their feelings in private.
- Keep an eye on your students’ mental and physical health. Sometimes, this type of event causes children to re-live their own personal trauma. According to APA, “…indicators could be a change in the child’s school performance, changes in relationships with peers and teachers, excessive worry, school refusal, sleeplessness, nightmares, headaches or stomachaches, or loss of interest in activities that the child used to enjoy. Also remember that every child will respond to trauma differently. Some will have no ill effects; others may suffer an immediate and acute effect. Still others may not show signs of stress until sometime after the event.” If you notice changes such as these, contact the child’s parent / guardian and your school’s guidance counselor, social worker or principal for more assistance.
- Make sure students and families understand the school’s safety and crisis plans.
- Every school has, and is required to practice, safety and crisis plans. As part of the effort to help children and families re-establish a sense of safety, take time to review and practice your school’s safety and crisis plans.
- Send home a letter to families reminding them of your school’s safety protocols and letting them know how your staff responded at school. Within the letter and on your school’s website offer them resources for talking with their children about national tragedies and warning signs. APA’s article Helping your children manage distress in the aftermath of a shooting offers practical tips for parents to help their children and themselves. The National Association of School Psychologists’ article Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers is another great resource for families.
- Encourage students to use positive strategies for coping with fears and stressors.
- Tragedies happen and there is little we can do to prevent them. However, as educators we can help children build resiliency skills which will allow them to better cope with fears and stressors in a positive manner. Encourage students to brainstorm ways they can make a positive difference in their community. Support them in fundraisers or in promoting violence prevention activities.
- The UCLA Center for Mental Health in Schools created Guidance Notes: Schools Helping Students Deal with Loss following Hurricane Katrina. While some of the information talks specifically about hurricanes, much of it is relevant for all types of losses that affect youth because it shares strategies for building resiliency.
- Quickly re-establish ‘normal’ school routines.
- While it is important for schools to take some time to help their children and families process national tragedies, we must be careful not to dwell on it. School leaders should be very clear with staff that once initial dialogues occur, school needs to be “back in session” quickly. Children heal more quickly and feel safer when they are immersed in their daily routines. If individual students need additional support, teachers should refer them to counselors, social workers or administrators.
For more information and resources, visit UCLA Center for Mental Health in Schools, The National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement or the American Psychological Association.
Sometime during the next few weeks, the U.S. Department of Education is expected to announce 15 to 25 winning applications for a federal Race to the Top-District. Winners will be awarded close to $400 million “to support locally developed plans to personalize and deepen student learning, directly improve student achievement and educator effectiveness, close achievement gaps, and prepare every student for success in college and careers,” according to the USDE.
Clearly, to become one of 61 finalists (from an initial 372 applicants) is impressive. Winners are the best of the best, having submitted ideas that can positively impact education outcomes for kids for a long time. We are proud to note that at least two of those finalists – The Road Map Project Consortium in King County Washington and Reynoldsburg City School District in Ohio — incorporate important elements of the cradle to career approach in their proposal.
A December 2 editorial in the Seattle Times praised the Consortium for adding “more power to school-improvement efforts by bringing in the mayors, libraries and even the King County Housing Authority, the latter to help with summer reading plans in low-income neighborhoods.” Its goal is to double the number of students graduating from college or earning a career credential by 2020.
Reynoldsburg’s application incorporates blended learning, prescriptive data analytics to quickly help students in their areas of need and a “collective impact” approach. District officials described the approach as aligning school and community resources to improve systems and supports for all children. See what a leading Ohio newspaper is saying about the proposal.
Both proposals can be game changers in their respective communities. We are keeping our fingers crossed.
The world I come from has always revolved around education. My mom, aunt, grandpa and great-grandma are all teachers, so (unsurprisingly) I can remember taking “vacations” to local museums, parks and science centers from a young age. By the time I took my first steps into school, I had already developed a love of learning. As I grew up, so did this affinity for knowledge – to the point where I now feel as if I’m at school more than I am at home (which is occasionally true). I was lucky enough to end up at a public high school that has recognized the importance of education reform; as a result, I’m proud to say that I’m part of the first graduating class of eSTEM Academy at Reynoldsburg High School.
This recent shift to STEM-based education opened up many opportunities for me to explore fields pertaining to science, technology, engineering and math. I was able to take classes that were more focused on what I love to do (namely anything science related), instead of the standard stock classes that are typically required. Our curriculum heavily emphasizes “inquiry-based learning,” valuing the process of discovering, analyzing and solving a problem over merely getting the “right” answer. This has allowed me to develop real-world research and project skills that I can apply in the future to both collegiate and work settings.
Another unique aspect about my school’s program is the integration of internships. My school encourages internships for upperclassmen by allowing a flexible schedule that helps us mesh an internship and our classes. Because of this I am currently working with a local engineering firm testing the effects of an organic filtration system on the environment. The restructuring of my school’s curriculum has allowed me to participate in some awesome opportunities and learn skills that will be relevant in my future.
Beyond the knowledgeable and opportunities STEM has provided me, perhaps the most invaluable skill is the ability to think critically. In standard schools, students are assigned blocks of information that they must memorize and then regurgitate. STEM has challenged the run-of-mill methodology and instead focuses on students’ ability to analyze and solve practical problems. This has changed the way I view new situations, forcing me to look at them from multiple angles and, therefore, imagine multiple solutions. The applications of these abilities are incredible and enrich my life on a daily basis by enhancing my abilities to solve problems and overcome obstacles – both academic and social.
As with any academic program, my STEM education did not succeed purely on philosophy alone. The more practical side was implemented by dedicated teachers. Having gone through the program I know that STEM has attracted some of – if not the – most devoted and influential teachers I have ever met. These teachers put in an unparalleled amount of time into their work, not fueled by any material or self-interested desire, but instead by a desire to teach to the best of their ability. Their day truly does not end at when school lets out. They then go on to tutor a student after school, oversee a science club, prepare the next day’s interactive activities, finish grading papers, write recommendation letters and then perhaps go home and sleep before doing it over again. It is only through this sheer effort that STEM education can reach its full potential.
In the end it’s hard to cover all the ways in which STEM has changed my life. I’m so used to it now that I cannot really imagine what school would look like without it. I guess all I can say is that I am unbelievably grateful that I was lucky enough to end up at a STEM school, delighted that I was able to learn in such a compelling way, and thankful for the time that the teachers have dedicated to make this whole thing work.
This post was written by Jimmie Harris, a senior at eSTEM Academy at Reynoldsburg High School in Reynoldsburg, Ohio.
The Advisory Committee on Head Start Research and Evaluation, established two years ago, recently released an outstanding final report containing recommendations for the future of the federal Head Start and Early Head Start programs. U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius lays out 3 broad recommendations: a data-driven focus on school readiness and other key outcomes; the use of evidence-based practices; and improving continuity of services and aligning early childhood services from prenatal through age 8.
The three recommendations are completely complementary with the concept of collective impact and the process of building civic infrastructure. The first focuses on the need to use data for the purposes of continuous improvement and ensuring you have the assessments in place to inform decision making. The second is about scaling those practices found to have real impact. And the third is to make sure these programs operate in a completely integrated way with other services.
The question will be whether there is the social capital to take these recommendations and put them into action. For years communities have known how critical this issue is and how woefully short we have fallen in delivering better results. But every community has strengths to build on. We just need the right leaders to align behind identifying these strengths and weaving them together into a comprehensive learning system that nurtures the development of children from the earliest ages.
Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky have done a phenomenal job modeling this type of aligned support around early outcomes. Most every other community we have interfaced with is interested in this aspect of the educational continuum. Let’s hope this report sparks national reform to complement the growing local movements to get better results at the earliest ages.
I was able to see Deb Delisle, the United States Department of Education Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education, speak at the Strive Network Convening, which I attended in September. Delisle participated in a panel discussion called “Investing for Impact: Lessons Learned in the Shift to Funding What Works.
Months later, I’m still thinking about what she said.
Delisle posited that when we discuss education reform and focus on closing the achievement gap, that we’re not asking the right question. She went on to say that the term closing the achievement gap really puts the onus or responsibility on what a child has done or hasn’t done. From her perspective the conversation should be reframed to focus on the opportunity gap or expectations gap. This refocuses the conversation to thinking about the extent to which we provide all children opportunities or access to highly rigorous and personalized learning environments that will prepare them to be college and career ready.
That’s powerful stuff and gets to the heart of what I see us doing at EDWorks.
A few weeks after the Convening I led Delisle on her site visit to Reynoldsburg City Schools District schools, one of our partner districts. She made this same statement at that visit and said she is on a one-woman mission to change the conversation in this direction.
As a result of what she said, I have already begun thinking about how our work and messaging can support her mission. Does changing the focus from achievement gap to the opportunity gap affect how you think about education reform? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments area.
It’s always a great thing to see hard work and collaboration pay off. For the past many months, people from, Reynoldsburg City Schools District, Battelle Memorial Institute, EDWorks, Ohio Education Matters, Education Elements and Strive have been partnering to submit a proposal for a Race to the Top grant. While we still have to wait for the final award decisions, we can be happy knowing that Reynoldsburg City Schools District was recently named finalists for the grant.
“These finalists are setting the curve for the rest of the country with innovative plans to drive education reform in the classroom,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in the announcement today.
The R3: Reynoldsburg Race to Results proposal is designed to personalize instruction by increasing choice for parents and students, deploying blended learning, creating an adaptive data analysis system and expanding college and real-world experiences for all students via a community-wide education partnership. Reynoldsburg aims for all students to graduate from high school with recognized credentials showing they are ready for a career, with significant college credits aligned with their postsecondary goals, or both. District Race to the Top Funds would support the design, development, implementation and expansion of:
- Choice: Families and students choose where / how / what they learn by selecting among high quality, interest-based schools and have some control over content and instructional delivery methods
- Blended Learning: Students progress at their own pace with personalized digital content, maximizing opportunities for highly individualized support and instruction from educators
- Adaptive Analytical Framework: Educators and families make better informed decisions using the power of sophisticated data analytical models commonly deployed by industries (e.g. national defense, health care)
- Partnership: Reduces costs and increases services inside and outside the school, expanding students’ opportunities for learn from and be supported by experts, organizations and businesses throughout the community
For those of us here at EDWorks, we’re excited for the opportunity to help Reynoldsburg expand upon the success they are already seeing in their first schools of choice. It’s also a wonderful opportunity for us to continue to partner with two of KnowledgeWorks’ other subsidiaries: Ohio Education Matters and Strive.
The other Ohio school districts among the finalists were the Cleveland Municipal School District and the Maysville Local School District near Zanesville in Eastern Ohio. The finalists were selected from 372 applications.
USDOE will select 15 to 25 to receive grants ranging from $5 million to $40 million. Grant awards are expected by December 31, 2012.