College in High School Alliance to Promote Opportunities for Students to Earn College Credit in High School
KnowledgeWorks has been partnering with early college high schools for more than ten years and we have seen the power they have to transform not only students’ lives, but also those of their families and communities. That’s part of the reason we’re proud to be participating in the College in High School Alliance (CHSA), a collaborative effort by more than three dozen organizations to better leverage federal and state policies to support early college high school and dual and concurrent enrollment.
- Leveraging current policy opportunities to advance early college high school and dual and concurrent enrollment, such as through the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
- Elevating opportunities in ESSA “to expand and scale dual and concurrent enrollment and early college high school programs”
- Engaging in advocacy with the new presidential administration and Congress to support the evaluation of U.S. Department of Education (ED) Pell Experimental Site as well as expansion to additional sites
- Developing recommendations for advancement of dual and concurrent enrollment and early college high school programs in the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act
- Drafting recommendations for advancing these programs through the Higher Education Act
Though I’m careful never to admit it in front of my daughters, I never enjoyed math in school. But hearing Erin Morrison, a third grade teacher at Navin Elementary School in Marysville, Ohio, discuss how her students demonstrate mastery in different ways during math workshop makes me think that if I’d had the opportunity to learn a little bit differently, maybe I would have found something about math to love.
Morrison describes the six stations in her classroom, where students have the flexibility to choose one “must do” each week, as well as three “may dos.” She explains that this more open-ended approach allows students to play to their strengths – choosing the stations that are most comfortable for them, such as writing or hands-on – while also encouraging them to stretch themselves a little bit and try out new things. They also have the opportunity to work with a group, or alone, and while it’s clear they’re enjoying the freedom to go their own way now, it was an adjustment.
“The students were very used to being told specifically what to do,” Morrison said, echoing the math lessons that I, and probably you, too, remember. But in a competency education classroom, educators like Morrison deliver academic content as well as help students learn how they learn through coaching and facilitation.
Making – don’t tell my girls! – even math fun.
Learn more about how competency-based education encourages student agency:
Every community has various audiences with diverse perspective. Involved parents with kids in the school district. Business owners looking for skilled employees. Elected officials hoping to strengthen the local economy. Elderly neighbors whose kids graduated from the local high school years ago.
It can be challenging to communicate effectively with each of those community members. That’s where storytelling can play a role. Stories can speak across audiences, from the parent to the elected official to neighbor. Stories have power.
With interesting students, inspiring teachers and exciting events, school districts have never-ending stories to share with the community. But in today’s media age, local reporters are often spread thin and may not have time to dig for compelling stories while also covering contested school board meetings and elections. That doesn’t mean they don’t care about the positive stories. It means school district communication staff may need to share the story directly with the local media.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Charles Sosnik from edCircuit about the power of storytelling. With almost 30 years in the media world, Charles serves as editor in chief for MindRocket Media Group, helping to connect the stories and voices in education that are changing the world.
“School districts often have a great story to tell and no clue how to get their message out,” he said. “The local media, for the most part, doesn’t cover the wonderful success stories from within a district. For that reason, stakeholders often seem removed from the inner workings and rarely hear the positive side of education. We only hear the politics of it, and that story is rarely pretty.”
Learn three tips for developing an effective school district communication strategy, from Charles Sosnik:
- Create budget for communication. Districts should budget for media relations and publicity at the same rate that businesses do. While we don’t always view it as such, education is a business and can follow some well-defined rules that have successfully worked for businesses for many years. Like a business, districts manage budgets. A large district like Miami Dade or Wake County or L.A. Unified is a billion-dollar enterprise, and its success depends on the ability to be funded by its local and state governments, and by voters who approve or deny bond referendums. Even a mid-sized district operates on a $100 million plus budget.
- Hire a communication professional. Districts should establish a budget and hire media professionals who have the chops to successfully extend a message. Media is a very skilled profession; a superintendent or principal could no more run a public relations campaign than a media professional could run a district or school. They are very different skill sets, and it is short-sighted for a district not to take advantage of the professional help that is available.
- Be intentional and strategic about communication. Districts should take the time to decide on messaging. The only thing more expensive than crafting and executing a media plan is to not craft and execute a media plan.
Interested in district communication? Learn how this district used community surveys to develop their messaging strategy.
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Kenowa Hills Public School District: Providing Student Choice for Flexible Learning Spaces to Impact Learning
How might we nurture an environment where everyone has the space to thrive with learning? What does that suggest for what we expect from our students, colleagues, and leaders?
Authentic learning requires vulnerability, and we need to provide environments that allow for it. We need to think critically and creatively about what space provides the best opportunity for learning. This means space for group activities. Space for giving each other grounding moments. Space for elbow room. Space that opens more possibilities to better understand ourselves and the world.
This flexibility in working space can be seen throughout Kenowa Hills Public School District, from their youngest students to their older classrooms. The flexibility empowers students of all ages.
This is what Rebecca Perry, a kindergarten teacher at Kenowa Hills Zinser Elementary School, creates in her classroom. Kindergartners sit side-by-side, working as writing partners. They work throughout the room with flexible space and seating options. Some sit in scoop bucket seats, while others lay on the floor. Some sit at round tables in a play kitchen area, while others sit at their desks.
No matter where they choose to sit, they are engaged in their learning. Research shows that providing student choice within the three categories of environment, social, and learning increases intrinsic motivation. Teachers can impact students self-efficacy right from the start, simply by letting them choose their learning spaces
Lisa White, a sixth grade teacher in Kenowa Hills, has looked for creative ways to give her students flexible learning spaces, including Adopt-a-Classroom programs for supplies or sourcing alternative seating from Craiglist. “I find that the students are excited to work at their collaborative settings,” she said.
Lisa’s students agree. One told me that the flexible spaces support keeping focus on work and learning and another was excited for the collaborative options.
A creative, flexible classroom environment directly correlates to effective learning. It provides momentum and support for energizing school culture and student collaboration. An added bonus is that it doesn’t require a lot of money; it’s an area where we can achieve equity in simple ways.
“I feel that my students enjoy the writing experience more when they can choose a seat that is comfortable for them,” Rebecca said. “It also allows the students to be spread out more and less distracted by other students or other partnerships. My hope for flexible seating is to let all students be successful in their learning. If they need to choose a space that works for them to be successful, then I need to be supportive of that.”
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) opens up new opportunities for states to offer personalized learning options for students. This policy shift is important because states now have the opportunity to align state accountability, assessment, and student systems of support with a vision for personalized learning. This opportunity will empower district innovators who have pioneered personalized learning approaches while also conforming to federal requirements that align to more traditional education systems.
As states and district leaders ponder the possibility of this paradigm shift, it’s important to understand how this approach differs from the traditional education system.
The chart below illustrates the differences between a personalized, competency-based approach and a more traditional approach to education. Can you imagine how the differences in these core teaching and learning elements empower educators and students?Download a printable copy of this chart, which explains the difference between traditional learning environments and competency-based education.
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When I interviewed Keylynn Belrose Westfall last year, then a sophomore at Schenectady Smart Scholars Early College High School in Schenectady, New York, she told me that her “future is a priority.” She was on track to graduate early, in her junior year, and that’s just what’s happening for her this month.
She’s been accepted to Hobart and William Smith Colleges in upstate New York, and will also benefit from the support of New York’s Higher Education Opportunity Program, a highly competitive financial and social support program for traditionally underserved New York state students.
While speaking about what’s ahead for her, Westfall reflected on how she got to where she is today, and how grateful she is for the opportunity to attend a Smart Scholars early college high school.
“In seventh grade, I was frustrated in my math class because I felt like I was the only one participating. It was only second quarter, but if I wanted to take advanced math I had to complete everything that my teacher was going to cover for the rest of the year. She gave me a packet that covered everything, and I finished it in a weekend,” said Westfall, who went on to take ninth grade math classes a year early. “I didn’t realize the opportunity they were giving me back then, but they saw the potential in me.”
The early college provided the same level of challenge and support.
“Teachers at the early college aren’t just there to help you decide what class to take. They know you, and what’s going on with you,” Westfall said. Because of her experiences at the early college, she wants to pursue psychology and child social/emotional development to provide the same kind of support she received to others. “I’ve had a strong support system, and I want to help children that have gone through similar experiences, children that are struggling.”
To learn more about how Schenectady Smart Scholars Early College High School is helping students like Keylynn unlock their potential, download our case study.
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Recently our partner, EdLeader 21 launched an initiative focused on districts creating a profile of a graduate. Their goal is to have 1000 districts develop and ratify their district’s profile of a graduate by June 2019. This is a big goal. The campaign will specifically focus on the following:
The EdLeader21 Profile of a Graduate campaign seeks to energize communities of educators, students and parents around a 21st century definition of student success. The campaign’s intent is to establish deep and broad support in at least 1,000 communities for teaching and learning practices that support student mastery of the 4Cs [critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity]. More specifically, we aim to:
- Inform the education field about why it is important for schools and districts to adopt a profile of a graduate.
- Provide tools and resources that support schools and districts in this process.
- Generate grassroots support for the development of profiles of graduates from a broad range of stakeholders including students, parents, teachers, community members, etc.
- Give high-profile visibility to schools and districts that have already adopted a profile of a graduate.
- Make an important contribution to the field of education.
- Improve collaboration among educators and supportive organizations and leaders in the field of 21st century education.
The campaign is spot on, important and is bold in its reach and goals. Beyond that, I see it being a catalyst and codifier on the policy front as well.
Many states are moving towards more personalized and competency-based systems. States such as New Hampshire and Maine are further along in those endeavors as they are moving statewide pilots towards a state mandated proficiency-based graduation requirement. Other states are focused on implementing pilots like North Dakota, Utah, Ohio or Idaho. Other states, like Maryland and Tennessee, are looking to begin their implementation using their state ESSA plan as the catalyst.
I believe that the profile of a graduate could play a codifying role for both states and districts. If I were a state chief, I’d require that a district that was applying to pilot a personalized or competency-based approach has a profile of a graduate. A profile of a graduate helps the community, district, school and teacher get to the root of the “why.” Why are we shifting our approach to teaching and learning? Why are we shifting our expectations of our students? Why are we creating new and differentiated opportunities for all students?
It’s because we want our children to be prepared for an ever-changing, complex and interconnected world. The world today demands an innovative approach to education that must be undergirded by what we want to see in our future graduates. We must deeply understand and internalize the “why” behind the “what” and the “how” of personalizing education. A profile of a graduate is that “why,” it is the foundation for transforming the education system. I applaud EdLeader21 for leading the charge and I’m proud to call them friends and partners.
Check out all the tools and resources at profileofagraduate.org.
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It’s graduation season, and one of the most rewarding experiences is hearing about the successes of learners I’ve had the privilege of working with in the past. Dulce Diaz is one of those students.
Dulce graduated in 2011 from Lindsay Unified School District in Lindsay, California, and was someone that was involved in every activity and was exceptionally supportive of her peers and her friends. She was in her junior year when we implemented competency-based education, and I could always go to her for honest feedback about what was working in her classes and what needed to be refined. She was also someone that the staff and the others learners really trusted, too, someone that they looked up to. No matter what challenges she or her family or the community were experiencing, she always had a sunny disposition.
The fact that she’s studying education policy now just fits. She helped us reform that initial implementation of competency-based education in Lindsay, and I love that she’s pursuing as an adult something she did so well for us a student.
At KnowledgeWorks, when you hear us talk about those we serve, you will rarely hear us mention a school district. To us, a school district is a collection of buildings. We don’t serve buildings. We serve learners. And teachers. And leaders. And community members. And business partners. And institutions of higher education. In short, we serve learning communities. And learning communities extend further than the reaches of a school district.
As KnowledgeWorks’ District Conditions for Scaling Personalized Learning tells us, community partnerships for the basis of any learning community:
Each district should cultivate partnerships with business, community, and higher education constituents in their communities (including local and county government, recreation, juvenile justice, faith-based, etc.). These entities should be involved in creating a district vision and strategic plan that is aligned with a broader economic and workforce development plan for the community. All aspects of teaching and learning within the district (curriculum, instruction, assessment, professional development, etc.) should be aligned to this vision. In addition, these partners should assist with creating various learning opportunities (internships, mentor programs, work-based experiences, service learning, etc.) and publish a list of these opportunities for all learners.
By bringing these partners in on the front end of a learning community’s planning processes, you can create a much more robust plan for supporting learners’ needs while also supporting the needs of the community partners you’re working with.
The added benefit of including community partners in the initial stages of visioning is that it becomes harder for community members to throw stones at a glass house they helped build. Further, as one of our board members reminded me in a recent conversation, “Maybe, just maybe, if you’re bringing community members in to help with planning, you won’t be building a glass house in the first place.”
Another advantage of cultivating an inclusive learning community is that, often, you can leverage the assets that community partners bring to the table. Whether it’s hosting a literacy workshop in a church’s basement, a local community college ensuring the newly designed K-12 competencies align with their admission standards or a business leader offering extended learning opportunities to students, partners bring an array of resources than can do nothing but benefit the learning community.
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Personalized learning is integral to the learning community at Navin Elementary School, and the rest of the Marysville Exempted Village School District. For Lynette Lewis, the school’s principal, making sure her teachers are on board with this learning style is important.
“It’s important for our staff to understand that we’re following personalized learning and competency-based education,” Lewis said. She and her peers have seen education fads come and go and she wants her team to know that personalized learning is not as fad.
“This personalized learning, this growth mindset, this competency-based education is really grounded in science,” Lewis said.
Have that back-up of science and formal research is important for Lewis in shifting teachers’ beliefs and rallying the community around personalized learning because it is “what’s best for kids.”
Watch a video of Lynette Lewis talking about personalized learning and competency-based education at Navin Elementary School:
Are you looking to bring personalized learning to your district?
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Legislators in North Dakota, Utah, Illinois and Idaho are making moves.
Each state has used policy to intentionally create flexibility for districts. Through pilot programs, grant programs and awareness campaigns, districts now have opportunities to create innovative learning environments, including competency-based and mastery education.
As Anne Olson writes for edCircuit, these policies open doors for districts to personalize learning for students.
“When a state creates opportunities for districts to personalize learning for their students, through pilot programs, innovation zones or through other allowances through their state education agency, they send a message to districts that they are committed to growing and sustaining this work over time. They are making a commitment to innovative learning.”
Learn more about how states are expanding student learning options. Read Olson’s edCircuit article, “From Bismarck to Boise: States Take the Lead on Personalized Learning.”
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Prior to opening Marysville Early College High School, Principal Kathy McKinniss thought about community partnerships as a one-way assist, a sort of network that the school could call on for help. As her school has evolved, so have her views on strong partnerships.
Marysville Early College High School is Ohio’s first manufacturing-related STEM early college. When the Marysville Exempted Village School District started down the path of starting an early college, they looked to their community for partners. Honda of America Manufacturing, Inc., was a perfect match. By partnering with Honda, Marysville could ensure their students had access to hands-on real-world learning opportunities.
“The partnerships have to be beneficial for the school the partner,” said McKinniss. “From the inception of the [school] building, we sat down with our community partners and planned curriculum, we talked about the kind of equipment we would need to train students on and we spent a lot of time on the soft skills as well.”
Hear more from Principal Kathy McKinnis about Marysville Early College High School:
Learn six ways to maximize your school partnerships.
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When I describe competency-based education to friends and family — students moving through education based on mastery of skill rather than seat time, lessons personalized to the individual and students taking ownership of their learning — the reaction is generally “that sounds better.” Unless that friend or family member is a teacher, in which case a host of very good questions arise about the practicalities of teaching in a competency-based environment.
“I have 30 kids? Do I have to plan a different lesson plan for each of them?”
The answer to this is no. A learner-centered classroom doesn’t mean the teacher plans lessons for each student. Robin Kanaan, KnowledgeWorks Director of Teaching and Learning, explained that you don’t have individual lesson plans for every student: “Students co-determine with the teacher what learning targets they need to accomplish and how they could show evidence of their learning. This is possible through agency and equipping students to understand themselves as learners.”
“How do we get the kids to own it?
Student agency begins with the culture, shared vision and standard operating procedures. “The standard operating procedures that you design with the students should address problem-solving, beginning the process to get to student agency,” said Laura Hilger, KnowledgeWorks Teaching and Learning Senior Coach. For example, create a procedure for collaborative work groups, so when a student gets stuck they know what to do. Hilger goes on” Once students begin to demonstrate mastery with the cultural pieces, you then move those exact same expectations over to content through processes that require them to monitor their own learning.”
“How do I manage all the levels? “
Ideally, logistics will support learners, things like developing a schedule that supports your vision and utilizing learning spaces. “Regardless of how many levels you have, when you are planning a new learning unit, you could look at what most of the class needs when it comes to writing,” said Laura Hilger. “Let’s say a lot of students need persuasive writing. You would analyze what mastery looks like, and design focused lessons and activities that would support those levels. This lesson addresses the entire group, and then you would move into workshop model where everyone works towards the daily learning target such as rough drafting. While they are working, you might be pulling small groups to go deeper on the focused mini lesson or individuals that need further interventions or support.”
Hilger said that in the beginning of the process, teachers have more control of the flow and format. As teachers develop their classroom and culture, this format becomes more student-driven. As student demonstrate readiness, more voice and choice is given to them.
“How does working with students at different places impact the larger group?”
Heather MacLaughlin, an instructional coach with Marysville Exempted Village School District, said that when teachers were first introduced to personalized learning, many wondered with students working at different levels, how their whole group instruction would be impacted? As they collaborated to implement learner-centered practices this year, they began to see that while whole group instruction is still a strategy, much of the instruction occurs within the flexible groupings of the kids, and within math and reading / writing workshops.
Transitioning to a competency-based education system is a process and developing the right classroom culture and transparency to support student agency takes time. KnowledgeWorks helps school districts navigate these challenges and partners with teachers to effectively support individual student needs.
Are you looking to bring personalized learning to your district?
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Graduation is a special time of year, and it’s great to see how our learners are doing exceptional things as graduates and professionals, to see the goals they set in high school continue to grow and blossom into fruition.
I can recall having conversations with Emily when she was a high school student at Monmouth Academy in RSU2 in Maine, when she was looking for ways to accelerate her learning and get to college as quickly as possible. She made it happen, in part because we were implementing competency-based education at the time and she could move more quickly through material as she could demonstrate what she knew at any time, regardless of what grade she was in. Additionally, she was motivated to get her collegiate and professional life started. She graduated a year early in 2015.
But the piece I really remember about Emily was how much of a giant heart she had for her friends. She was always willing to help them learn, help them acquire new knowledge, and really just be there for them as a friend. She was also an exceptional student athlete and one of the first female wrestlers in the state. She didn’t think that was a big deal; she just wanted to win. Even when Emily was hurt and couldn’t participate in matches, she’d be on the sidelines, helping her coach and teammates with strategies.
Emily is studying a form of experiential therapy now, adventure therapy, and she couldn’t be more suited to the work of helping others.
To learn more about Emily and how her experiences in a competency-based environment are helping her to help others, download her profile.
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My ten-year-old nephew is in fourth grade in North Carolina. He plays the recorder, as all fourth graders in North Carolina do. Thirty-seven years ago, I went to fourth grade in North Carolina. I played the recorder, as all fourth graders in North Carolina did.
I realize that there are developmental reasons why schools introduce band around fourth grade. I realize that the recorder is considered relatively easy for kids to learn (though a quick Google search suggests that not everyone agrees). But for me this example illustrates vividly (and in screeching, haunting tones) how deep-set education traditions can be.
It’s hard to think about school being different than it is today. Most of us hold strong memories of its rituals: the first-day-of kindergarten picture on the front steps, the field trips, the progression from one grade to the next, the joy of summer break, learning to move among classrooms in middle school, the glare of Friday night lights. Many of the features that are strong and stable about school have stayed that way for good social and developmental reasons.
But as we consider possibilities for the future of learning, we need to remember that every one of those features represents design choices. Sometimes those design choices were singular and deliberate; sometimes, they developed over years of small decisions. If we want to achieve different outcomes for education – for example, to address persistent inequities or to shift what students learn so as to help them prepare for a future in which people could be working alongside and competing with smart machines – we need to make some different choices. Not necessarily all different choices, but some.
We need to question our assumptions about what school looks like. About why “We’ve always done it that way.” About how we frame the problems we are trying to solve. That way, we can identify new options. We can, potentially, find breakthrough solutions that could create better outcomes for learners. By outcomes, I don’t just mean better test scores. I mean things like more engagement with learning, stronger social-emotional development, deeper understanding of academics, and a stronger vision for one’s life. Or whatever you care about and are designing for.
When Jason Swanson and I work with educators and others to explore the future of learning, we draw upon a toolbox of activities and approaches designed to help people see and explore new possibilities. Those tools draw from several fields: strategic foresight, creative problem solving, systems thinking, and design thinking. We use cycles of divergent and convergent thinking to help people consider options, select ones to explore further, look at them from fresh angles, and identify pathways forward. It’s fun! We very deliberately play with possibilities, in hopes of helping people see something they haven’t seen before.
As I was reminded in a course on everyday innovation recently, sometimes problems can’t be solved unless we think outside the lines of our existing frames, as the classic nine-dot puzzle below illustrates:
When I tried to solve this puzzle, I couldn’t, because I tried to draw the lines within the frame of the box formed by the nine dots. I assumed that I had to work within the apparent space. Similarly, the assumptions and mental models that we bring to education design choices help create its deep-set traditions and govern what we think of as being possible for the current system. They also affect what we believe is possible for changing the system. Reframing techniques can help us break through those assumptions and shift our mental models so that we can see new solutions.
Some of our education problems won’t be solved, nor our hopes for the promise of personalized learning realized, unless we think beyond school as we know it today.
How are you planning for the future of learning and personalizing learning for students?
When I graduated high school, I was branded with the what have become in education circles the three universal labels of expected academic trouble: minority, low-income and first-generation. These adjectives are freely tossed around in education research, grant proposals and conference presentations as the most surefire indicators of determining whether a student is unlikely to succeed. Education professionals all understand that students who fit this profile are, above all else, “disadvantaged.”
Certainly, the data bear out that this population academically underperforms more affluent, white students. However, for those who wear these labels, their primary use as markers of deficiency overwhelms their influence as sources of pride and resolve.
Over the past month, I have attended three public events where young people who fit these descriptions shared their stories of achievement. Each time, they were introduced as “at-risk” because they wore one or more of these labels rather than as exceptional and promising because of them. Each time, I cringed.
In an article I wrote for Insider Higher Ed about a year ago titled “Beyond a Deficit View,” I propose that education professionals who proclaim to be focused on “student success” commit ourselves to revising the deficit language and terminology we use to casually describe these students and the programs we assign to assist them. In the article, which I wrote when I was employed as a university vice president, I write:
“As long as being a person of color or of modest economic means, or the child of parents who did not go to college, is deemed to be, first and foremost, an indicator of potential failure, the integrity of our proclaimed expectation of success is undermined.”
Interview with Abbie Forbus: One Way Data is Being Used in Schools to Personalize Services to Students
Data is being used in every profession across the globe to expedite services, to increase product effectiveness, to predict consumer desires, and so much more. How and why is data being used in schools across America and where do educators face barriers? I’ve asked my colleague, Abbie Forbus, Lead Learning Designer and Facilitator, to speak about how she used data in her former position at Lindsay Unified School District as a counselor and later as the Dean of Culture.
Drake: Hi, Abbie. Thanks for joining me! On what looks, feels, and sounds like a rainy, chilly, Cincinnati day in early May.
Abbie: No problem, I’m glad to be here.
Drake: Now, let’s be honest with our readers. You are actually speaking to me from Dallas, where I assume you are enjoying nicer weather?
Abbie: (Laughter) Yes, I can’t complain!
Drake: Well, let’s get down to it, shall we?
Abbie: Fire away.
Can you briefly tell me about your former position at the Lindsay Unified School District?
I was a high school counselor for six years at Lindsay High School and then went on to be Dean of Culture where I helped learners with academic and/or social needs.
What data systems did you use and were they used across the district?
We used Empower by 3 Shapes to monitor learner progress data and Aeries was our student information system. Both are used district-wide.
What indicators did you utilize to identify at-risk students?
The two biggest indicators we used were, one, data that signified students were behind pace for the target graduation date and, two, data that identified students that were behind pace in a current course. Our goal was to catch learners who were falling behind in a course and offer interventions and supports to prevent them being behind for graduation.
After the data system identified students who needed extra supports, what actions would you take?
We offered lots of interventions that we tried to tailor to the needs of the learner. Examples of interventions include tutoring in the after-school program; extra support during weekly “Personalized Learning Time,” a flextime offered to all learners during the school day, spring break and summer interventions and parent meetings.
What challenges did you face with the data systems available?
We often struggled with getting all the information we needed in one report. Sometimes the information we needed was stored in the SIS and sometimes it was stored in the learning management system (LMS). Getting information together that would help us make the best data-driven decisions sometimes took a while, but was worth it if it helped us better meet the needs of each learner.
Did you have to do any communications with the community and families to help them understand the supports?
Yes, our parent population was mostly Spanish-Speaking and lacking computer literacy, therefore communication with parents was most effective when we reached out to them via phone or in person. The Lindsay community wanted their children to be successful in school and was very receptive to extra support for their learners.
In an ideal world, what data or data system would have allowed you to do your job better?
If all our systems could talk to each other, that would have been great! Sometimes we had to hand enter information from a program that we were using just so it could be stored in a place where learners and learning facilitators could access it, and could easily be queried. For example, we would use Reading Plus and Scholastic Reading Inventory for literacy data but had trouble getting this info in a place where it could be accessed by each of the eight learning facilitators a learner might have in high school. And then to go a step further we were looking to pull reading levels of learners by period class alongside their English language level, a report that would take several days using loads of queries from several systems.
Is there a difference in the role that data use plays in a competency-based education (CBE) school when compared to a traditional school?
The biggest difference I noticed in Lindsay’s journey from traditional to CBE is that in CBE the data is continuously changing, since you are looking at growth not set grades. As a high school counselor in a traditional system, it was “easy” to pull the D and F list at the end of each grading period. However, in a CBE system a D and F list does not exist. We would look at progress or lack thereof. Once we got a list of learners who were not making significant progress, we would drill-down even further and figure out where each learners’ gaps were and which interventions would be appropriate.
Can you describe the advantages of being able to provide students with personalized data-driven services?
As a counselor, it’s so refreshing to be able to look at the whole child and have a conversation with them to see how we can best meet their needs. Generally, we found that our high school learners knew exactly what they needed to do to get back on pace; this is a byproduct of a transparent curriculum. The counseling team empowered learners to choose appropriate interventions based on individual needs and the number of targets they needed to complete.
Drake: Abbie, thank you for answering my questions and giving our readers a little taste of how and why education professionals are using data and where barriers may exist.
Abbie: It’s been my pleasure!
In a conversation with 27 of the current state teachers of the year and the 2014 National Teacher of the Year, KnowledgeWorks had the opportunity to tap into the minds of the best of the best in the world of pedagogy. This group of great thinkers gave some insight into the positive and negative forces that affect the journey to personalized learning.
What are the positive forces that encourage personalized learning?
- Educators Want Students to Succeed: Teachers want their students to have buy-in. They want a positive school environment for their students that includes authentic relationships. Teacher leaders have an intrinsic motivation to impact student learning.
- Changing World: The information age and our rapidly changing world is driving innovation in schools. We can no longer ignore the fact that our children all have different needs. There is an increased awareness and focus on meeting individual needs. Our students are becoming globally aware and have a desire to increase their global awareness.
- Interdisciplinary Learning Movement: Cross-curricular instruction, STEAM, and Project-based learning are a few of the edu-speak terms nowadays that encourage incorporating multiple disciplines into lessons and activities. This movement also highlights a focus on authentic student learning rather than the seat time.
- Technology: Technology is changing the way teachers “do business.” Resources are becoming plentiful and more accessible; teachers are utilizing these resources in the classroom to better meet the needs of their students. Technology is also transforming how we monitor learning progress and learning goals of individual learners.
What are the negative forces that inhibit personalized learning?
- Traditional Structures: Many of the age-old structures that exist in schools today no longer make sense. Some examples of these structures: accountability structure, funding formulas, allotment of resources. A highly structured school schedule can also be a barrier to personalized learning. It takes a lot of time and effort to build new structures that make more sense.
- Fear of Change: Change can be hard no matter what profession you are in; we tend to be comfortable with the status quo. Teacher mindsets can inhibit personalized learning as well as the fear of going away from a traditional structure in the classroom. Teachers are aware of the collaboration time needed to personalize learning and the time it takes to create tiered resources. There is a lack of professional development when it comes to personalized learning.
- Lack of Clarity of Vision and Lack of Communication: It takes a lot of time and effort to create community support and transparency. Often there are politics that a district must navigate through to create change. Sometimes the district or site leadership is not equipped or committed to change which could be a huge barrier in a shift to personalized learning.
In order to address the negative forces toward personalized learning environments for our students, the Teachers of the Year suggested that we begin to transform professional learning. They stated that professional learning needs to be personalized and ongoing. It should be job embedded and sustainable. They are asking that teachers have the resources and climate to support personalized learning implementation. And finally, personalized professional learning should be both bottom up and top down.
Professional learning needs to be personalized and ongoing. #PersonalizedLearning
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For more on implementing professional development in a personalized learning environment, including teacher interview excerpts and school and district examples, read “The Shifting Paradigm of Teaching: Personalized Learning According to Teachers.”
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How do you engage an audience around a goal? How do you convince them to care?
These are constant questions for communication professionals in any field, including personalized learning.
Throughout the field, communicators have used various strategies to share why personalized learning is the best path forward for education. We’ve written inspiring student success stories and told tales of school transformation. We’ve pulled graduation data and shared dire data about a future filled with unknowns. We’ve created videos and taken beautiful photos, shared parent quotes and explored teacher perspectives.
Unfortunately, these messages fall flat unless you tap into the audience’s specific motivations. Parents may believe an education system that worked well for them will also work well for their children. Community members may be skeptical of ‘feel-good’ messages without concrete facts. Educators may disengage around ominous data.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach for school communication and community engagement.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach for #schoolcommunication and #communityengagement.
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Lessons learned from one community on effective communication to the community
Recently, I chatted with Lisa Snyder about the need for Lakeville Area Public Schools to figure out their ‘compelling why.’ When the Minnesota district started exploring personalized learning, the entire community needed a mind shift and better understanding to support the movement. There was a common argument among parents: “If I was educated in this way and am now a successful adult, why won’t it also help my child succeed?”
Students will grow up and enter a world where work and life look very different than today, Lisa explained. Education isn’t preparing students for that future.
To effectively communicate, she knew the district needed to learn more about their parents and community members.
“We weren’t connecting with our stakeholders and understanding what parents wanted for their kids,” Lisa said.
The district dug deeper into community motivations and concerns through a survey, with one main takeaway: Parents were concerned their children might not find work in the region after school, forcing them to move home or across the country for work.
District leaders then looked to local economic data and found that by 2020, most jobs in Minneapolis and St. Paul – the nearest urban area – would focus on healthcare and technology. With that, the district considered the curriculum and any gaps in preparing students for those fields, and they readjusted their communications approach and strategic plan. They focused on telling a data-driven story about how to prepare students for a successful career with a local company.
Since implementing community surveys, the district has not only built community will around personalized learning, but has also passed three school levies in six years.
“We asked the right questions and aligned our responses to what parents and communities said they wanted for kids,” Lisa said.
Are you looking to rally parents around personalized learning? Here are twelve tips from Superintendents in districts that have already made the switch.
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Is college worth it? It’s a fair question to ask, especially when looking at tuition costs, impending debt from student loans and thinking about the potential financial return on investment.
In 2014 I asked that question and the data showed that college was indeed worth it. The data then showed that individuals with an associate degree earn more, on average 21% more than high school graduates.
Is that still the case? According to a new study from the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education, people with an associate degree earn significantly more than people with just some college credits but no degree.
- Women with an associate degree on average earn about 26% more than the earnings of women who have some college but no degree
- Men with an associate degree on average earn 18% more than men with some college and no degree.
Those numbers reinforce the value of programs like early college high schools, where students can earn up to 60 hours of college credit, or an associate degree, while still in high school. Or, said differently, students can graduate from high school with college credentials in hand, but none of the debt, ready to out-earn their peers by a significant amount.
According to The College Payoff, a report published by the Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce, the earning gap between people with and without degrees is even larger as degree attainment goes up.
- The average worker with a Bachelor’s degree will earn 35% more than someone with an associate degree
- The average Master’s degree-holder will earn 17% more than someone with a Bachelor’s degree
- The average Doctoral degree-holder will earn 33% more than someone with a Master’s degree
These numbers assume degrees in job markets that are healthy and growing. That doesn’t apply to all fields and geographies. But, as an investment in your future, currently college is a wise one.
Seeing how much the data has changed over just three years reaffirms for me the need to continue to monitor the value of a degree. As the world of work and definitions of career readiness shift over time, these numbers will continue to evolve.
Learn more about early college high schools, which put students on the fast track to degree attainment.
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