The application of brain research and the education of neuroscience in the learning environment is becoming one of the major drivers of the 21st Century learning environment. The functionality of the brain and the stimulation of neurons within the brain has become the focal point of how to deliver engaging and rigorous student learning tasks. Simply stated, physical stagnation in the learning environment can limit the amount of blood flow and stimulation of neurons in various parts of the brain.
The pragmatic approach to ignite neurons and maximize the brain’s functionality is to organically increase the levels of the learners’ engagement in the performance-based learning tasks. Student engagement must not be confused with teacher entertainment strategies; engagement in learning tasks must resides within each learner’s locus of control. Engaged learners must be entangled in the movement, choice and communication method of performance-based application of learning.
- Learners should experience moderate physical movement, in a non-seated interaction, every 10-15 minutes. Physical movement stimulates the levels of blood flow through the body and promotes the rapid ignition of neurons in the brain.
- Within the boundaries of the academic content standards, students should have a performance-based assessment menu from which they pick and choose how they can best express their learning. Students’ choice of how they best engage will ultimately increase the students’ efficacy, personal accountability and rigorous learning.
- Working in small groups to enhance interpersonal communication skills or using social media technology to communicate ideas spurs the natural psycho-socialization skills required to construct new knowledge. Without communication in the learning process, isolation can limit the instant feedback, robust debate and learning broader view of critical concepts.
The EDWorks New Start, Fast Track and STEMLab theme schools are encased in the 21st Century Learning application of E=MC2 (Engagement = Movement, Choice and Communication) pedagogy and learning tasks. In a typical EDWorks school, teachers are maximizing the stimulation of students’ neurons by creating learning tasks requiring Movement, Choice and Communication. Students are active in articulating their learning through various E=MC2 practice such as:
- The EDWorks 5-10-5 process. The teachers articulates the big ideas for 5 minutes, the students move in groups for 10 minutes and gather detailed evidence of the big ideas, the students take 5 minutes to synthesis information in small groups. The learning environment adapts the same appearance of the medical round process one would see doctors implement in their professional practices.
- Graffiti – Students write personal responses to text/ topic following a prompt. The poster(s) are then put up for all students to view/ read.
- Gallery Walk – Students move from station to station viewing/ reading documents. They should have an instructional prompt that directs their thinking prior to movement. This strategy facilitates inference, deduction, analysis.
- Analogous Thinking – Analogy is the pre-requisite thinking skill for critical thinking development. Designing practice in analogous thinking enables students to think symbolically. In order to learn a concept, students must experience it in these phases: Concrete, Symbolic, Abstract.
- Role Play – Taking on the role of another requires higher level thinking and empathy. As you worked your way through the sessions today as both a student and a teacher forced your brain to work between two viewpoints. Great work on a difficult task!
- Bell Ringing – Auditory or visual imprinting is another strategy that can help students to quickly recall information, can signal a process, etc. Imprinting allows the brain to have another hook for new information.
Typically students have a choice of how they will apply their learning to help solve problems or be of value-add to their local community. In Detroit, students identified homelessness and poverty as community issue that directly affect students’ learning. The students worked with the school administration to add urban farming to the school grounds, therefore the local community can cultivate and sustain healthy and accessible food options. The students developed critical community partnerships and actively marketed their value-add approach through the development of a student service learning program. E=MC2 is a critical concept that empowers the students to apply their learning through the ignition of neurons and enhancing the function of the brain.
In his June 2012 Social Impact Exchange presentation, Jeff Edmondson reviewed the history of Strive as well as highlighted the focus of scaling practices, the creation of the Strive framework, the meaning of collective impact, the practice of continuous improvement through data, the understanding civic infrastructure, and the achievement of a greater social return on investment.
This video is a great introduction to the work of Strive, and a great refresher for those already familiar with the work.
Watch his full presentation, and the following Q and A session, by following this link: Jeff Edmondson at the Social Impact Exchange
In 15 years of working with the media, one thing that’s certain is competition among outlets can be fierce as news teams and editors work diligently to get the right story in front of the right people at the right time. In Guilford County, the presence of two major cities – High Point and Greensboro – adds even more healthy competition to the mix as reporters race to get the story first.
It’s wonderful to see, however, that the idea of collective impact isn’t lost on Guilford County’s media as it relates to childhood literacy. This entire summer, select members of the media have agreed to serve as guest bloggers for AchieveGuilford. Each blog post will show how reading has shaped their lives both personally and professionally, while also supporting Guilford County Schools’ (GCS) 3 Million Books Challenge. The thought behind this is to use local media “star power” and personal stories to motivate people to read and learn more about literacy issues.
Columnists like Doug Clark or Morgan Josey Glover from the News & Record and Owen Covington from the Triad Business Journal or TV personalities like Nicole Ferguson from Fox 8 and Tracey McCain from WFMY News 2 will highlight literacy as a fundamental building block of success. They will put getting “the scoop” on the back burner to work collectively in shaping attitudes towards reading.
What’s more, I’ve seen firsthand how collective impact influences community-based initiatives through my work with Guilford County Schools (GCS) and Strive member AchieveGuilford. The 3 Million Books Challenge of Guilford County Schools, for example, has received widespread support from our local businesses, nonprofits and government leaders (more to come on that in an upcoming blog post).
The 3 Million Books Challenge comes from GCS Superintendent Mo Green in which he has asked GCS students to read 3 million books by year’s end. With GCS’ strong commitment to excellence and the community’s assistance, last year’s goal of 2 million books was exceeded by more than 600,000.
Throwing the “operating in silos” concept out the window in order to see students flourish and thrive now and in the future is key to this initiative and is the only thing that has the power to create sustainable programs.
In Guilford County, local leaders, parents, teachers, administrators and the media continue to work towards the common goal of making every child ready, cradle to career. Joining forces to stress the importance of reading and literacy is one way Guilford County mobilizes around education. It isn’t always easy, but leaving personal agendas “at the door” has set our community on the right track where students become the ultimate winners.
Brian Cockman is a member of the AchieveGuilford communications committee and assists with their community relations. He’s also the President of Rooster Communications and is a product of the public school system in North Carolina having attended elementary, middle school and high school in Guilford County, UNC Chapel Hill for his undergraduate degree and UNC Greensboro for his MPA. Rooster Communications has offices in Greensboro, NC and Charlotte, NC. Brian can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @bcockman.
Third grade reading matters. While this critical benchmark is receiving more attention—rates have been trending upward in the region for the past five years—there’s more that needs to be done. Recognizing that early interventions are a better solving mechanism than retention, the Early Grade Level Reading Campaign is dedicated to increasing early reading success throughout Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Our campaign focuses on low-income, high need Cincinnati Public and Northern Kentucky Schools. This focus stems from the fact that more than half of low income third graders miss the third grade reading milestone every year.
The Strive Partnership and the Northern Kentucky Education Council, together with funders and non-profit leaders, are addressing third grade reading through three key strategies: early childhood interventions—kindergarten readiness, summer learning programs, and attendance. The campaign set an ambitious goal for every child to be reading on grade level by 2020.
But it’s not just organizations that play a role in early interventions. The community as a whole has to get behind the goal of ensuring third graders are reading on level. Campaigns through Readaloud.org, Reach Out and Read, and the Public Library are placing a strong emphasis on ensuring that books get into the hands of children. And with 61 percent of low income children without age appropriate books in their home, efforts like this are needed.
66 percent of Ohio third-graders read below grade-level, making them four times more likely to drop out. Getting 100 percent of students reading on grade level is not driven simply by the desire to hit a benchmark; we are driven by our desire to see students succeed in the future.
This guest post was written by Nia Williams, Strive Partnership Fellow. The Strive Partnership is the cradle to career collective impact effort based in Greater Cincinnati.
Very recently, the North Carolina collective impact partnership AchieveGuilford reached out to me, asking if I’d be interested in writing a guest post in their blog about the importance of literacy and the effect that reading has had on my life.
We all know that reading has the potential to teach children more about themselves and the world they live in, and allows them to envision what they, and the world, could be. For these reasons and more, literacy campaigns are an important part of community partnerships.
As I mention in my AchieveGuilford post, my role at KnowledgeWorks allows me to see the efforts that communities across the country are taking in order to better prepare young readers. From coast to coast, communities within the Strive Network are prioritizing early childhood literacy within their cradle to career pipeline. Two such communities, Greater Cincinnati (Strive Partnership) and Guilford, N.C. (AchieveGuilford), will be outlining their efforts in upcoming guest posts on the Striving for Change blog.
Check back later this week to learn about what these communities are doing to reach young readers.
If your community is part of the Strive Network, and you’d like to write a guest post on your partnership efforts, please don’t hesitate to contact me at BergJ@KnowledgeWorks.org.
Last Friday marked the final day to weigh-in on the new District Race to the Top language. We’re excited about many aspects of the proposal released in late May, and we hope to see the following policies remain in the final regulations to be released this summer:
Competitive Preference Priority for Results, Resource Alignment, and Integrated Services – The key to sustainability of results is widespread community engagement and alignment across the educational continuum. By engaging a wide range of local partners and aligning their resources to support shared goals, communities will realize and sustain significant gains in student improvement.
Productivity & Data Driven Decision Making – The emphasis on productivity through greater transparency of resources, ongoing continuous improvement, and resource alignment is key to transformative thinking at the district level.
In addition to maintaining the policies above, Strive sent a letter to the Department encouraging it to consider the following improvements to the proposed District Race to the Top program:
Eligible Entity – Clarify that districts can partner with intermediary organizations to drive continuous improvement, identify impactful practices, and align and leverage local resources to scale practices that will help the district meet identified goals.
Ongoing Engagement of Community Stakeholders – While we commend the Department for encouraging applicants to engage community stakeholders in the application process, we encourage the Department to ensure continued involvement of key stakeholders throughout the implementation process.
Inclusion of Non-Academic Indicators –This will give districts the flexibility to identify indicators relevant to their student population.
Encourage Regional Scale and Sustainability – As applicants demonstrate how they will achieve district wide reform beyond participating schools, we believe it is important to encourage districts to think beyond their traditional geographic boundaries.
Additional Metrics for Performance Measurement – Additional measures should be included in the performance measurement section to ensure a more robust picture of student learning, including metrics for grad-level reading, kindergarten readiness, and enrollment and completion of post-secondary education and/or training.
Drive Quality Continuous Improvement – We recommend strengthening the proposed language to ensure grantees implement a quality continuous improvement process, using data to improve, and scale best practices.
Elevate the Importance of Cradle to Career Partnerships and Alignment – Community collaboratives across the country have begun to move the needle on education reform, celebrating significant results that span from cradle to career. These collaboratives recognize the need for dramatic change across the entire education continuum and have committed to an ambitious vision that tracks success from kindergarten readiness to college and career success. The Department should encourage more communities to embrace this type of reform by applying a sliding scale to the competitive preference priority with maximum points awarded to districts seeking funds for a cradle to career approach.
We hope you all had the opportunity to submit comments to the Department, (you can download our letter, which explains the above recommendations in more detail, here) and we look forward to the release of the final regulations this summer.
Exciting news for the Strive Network! Cradle to Career language has been included in draft regulations for District Race to the Top program.
Included in the recently released draft is a competitive preference priority for Cradle-to-Career Results, Resource Alignment and Integrated Services. This is a great moment for the Strive Network, and a testament to the work that is being done in communities across the country to build cradle to career civic infrastructure. The inclusion of this priority validates our collective work, and is evidence of the value the Department places on these types of partnerships in helping to drive innovation and improvement in student achievement.
You can read the language here: http://www.ed.gov/race-top/district-competition/competititive-preference-priority
Since these are draft regulations, we encourage you all to submit comments in support of this language throughout the comment period – which ends today. You can submit public comment here: http://www.ed.gov/comment/reply/12250#comment-form
The final regulations will be released in July.
Be on the lookout for more information about webinars that we are planning to co-host with partners such as the United Way Worldwide and Promise Neighborhoods Institute to think through how communities doing this type of work can ensure programs and resources are aligned in order to participate in this competition.
Finally, we hope you will all take a moment to celebrate this recognition of the hard work you are doing every day!
The Common Core academic standards are being implemented to ensure that the US has a more rigorous curriculum being taught in a very clear and coherent manner. This process was designed so that parents and students have an understanding of the college and career skills students will need to know, in order to be well prepared for 21st Century living and working. The implementation of 50 states Common Core curriculum is a dramatic shift in state sovereignty and control of educational standards. With such a transformational initiative, states and local districts have to be aware of the change process that will follow the implementation of the common core academic standards.
Technical change and adaptive change are two critical aspects of change that must be the focal points when nations, states and local districts make transformative changes. The implementation of the Common Core initiative requires a level of technical skills that define what is changing and what needs to be taught. The technical change aspect of the Common Core initiative requires the clarity of the standards to be taught and aligned to sets of desired outcomes. With technical change, every single item will be mapped out step-by-step. The adaptive change aspect of the equation leans more on “how” the Common Core standards should be taught because students do not arrive to the school house in neat little packages. Human beings are more complex than a step-by-step map. So the adaptive challenge is to amplify learning anyplace, anywhere and anytime. The adaptive challenge for the Common Core will be personalizing the standards with the students and cultivating distributed learning as the norm for 21st Century learning.
The K-TECH principles (Knowing, Trusting, Empowering, Connecting and Honoring) are adaptive change tools local levels can use to amplify the Common Core initiative. Once students see themselves as the focal point of the Common Core initiative, students will become more engaged in their amplified learning. As students feel connected to their learning environment, the use of 21st century learning tools become more of an adaptive skill as well. The Common Core provides the great technical change needed to fix a broken system, the adaptive change helps build the robust practices and capacity not prescribed in the Common Core initiative.
Yesterday, more than 30 Strive Network communities participated in a Network-member webinar focused on the different ways that these Cradle to Career partnerships can best communicate their work to the media and to local community members. After Carly Rospert, Communications & Strategic Assistance Associate for the Strive Network, unveiled the brand new Communications Toolkit, two panelists (myself and Director of Public Relations at KnowledgeWorks, Byron McCauley) spoke to communities about how they could communicate their work locally using both traditional and social media outlets.
Working in the Marketing and Communications group at KnowledgeWorks, one of my responsibilities is to support both the Strive Network and the Strive Partnership with their communication needs – which range from editing documents, to conducting interviews, to creating content, to managing their social media. Having managed social media for both, I’ve seen how powerful a platform it is for connecting, amplifying, and networking.
During the Strive Partnership’s tutoring campaign, Be the Change, social media was just one of the mediums used to get the word out. @StriveTogether pushed out information and news articles about the campaign, whose goal was to recruit 2000 tutors for students in Cincinnati Public Schools. After a few tweets were sent out, one community follower replied simply, “Where is the link to apply?” I responded with the link, and the follower soon signed up to become a tutor at a local elementary school.
Both @AchieveGuilford and @Learn4LifeCbus reached out to the @StriveNetwork via social media when their Cradle to Career partnerships were taking shape and establishing themselves. These connections, which were followed by emails and collaboration plans, led to an Op-Ed from Jeff Edmondson that ran in Guilford, coordinated in part by @AchieveGuilford; and social media guidance for @Learn4LifeCbus, which helped inspire the new Communications Toolkit.
Building off of these experiences and many, many more, we were able to form the Strive Network Communications Toolkit. Yesterday’s webinar was a great success, and we’re happy to announce that the new Toolkit is now available for Strive Network members. To access it, log on to the Strive Network Partner Portal.
The US continues to lag behind many industrialized nations as measured by the international summative assessment Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). The question seems very simple to me. “How is this possible?” Yet, the solutions are complex and nebulous because student learning practices are not aligned to the critical outcomes required by the PISA. Creating a “show-me” type of learning environment, often referred to as performance-based assessment, creates a learning culture focused on doing and problem solving. The ability to test and defend a proposition creates a vibrant level of debate and stimulates the levels of inquiry in the learning environment; thus, spurring ingenuity and innovation.
To tackle the PISA learning tasks, schools can infuse 21st Century Learning Skills as a remedy. 21st Century Learning Skills are compartmentalized into six performance-based student learning tasks called the 6-Pack. The 6-pack is a systemic approach that can be inserted in the learning tasks of any unit or lesson plan as both formative and summative assessments; therefore, not becoming another “flavor of the month” stand-alone instructional strategy. Utilizing the 6-pack requires students to reconstruct learning by focusing on the synthesis, application and evaluation of information. Thus, the 6-Pack performance-based assessment process was strategically implemented by high school teachers in Detroit Public Schools in order for students increasing rigor in their learning.
The 6-Pack process is a system that empowers students to make a choice as to which assessment tool(s) they want to apply when demonstrating the application of learning. Students have a choice of which 6-Pack item(s) best illuminate and enhance their learning. Provided with a choice, the learners can use 6-Pack performance-based assessments to articulate their comprehension and application of the academic content. An individual or groups of students can work on multiple 6-Pack tasks everyday as a formative assessment component leading toward the development of an authentic summative assessment. Students become more accountable for their learning, stay on task and are more engaged while utilizing these 6-Pack learning strategies. The 6-Pack strategies are an essential value-add for 21st Century learning communities seeking to propel the levels of ingenuity and innovation in learning.
- Persuasive writing
- Use graphic organizers
- Interview skills
- Oral presentations
- Use of technology demonstrations
In our very fast-paced world, sometimes it’s hard to stay focused on what matters. I just received a good reminder.
Jeff McClellan, principal of MC2STEM High School in Cleveland, Ohio, emailed me a link to an article about a student at his school, David Boone. I didn’t have to overcome barriers nearly as difficult as the ones faced by this young man, but I came from a working class, single-parent household (father died when I was 14) in the small town of Oxford, Ohio. I went on to be the first in my family to attend college. With encouragement, support and high expectations from a handful of teachers and principals, and despite discouragement from my guidance counselor, I graduated with honors from Harvard College in 1987 with a degree in Government.
My 25th Reunion will be held in Cambridge this week.
I worked alongside McClellan when he was a principal at Lima Senior High School of Multiple Intelligences as part of the Ohio High School Transformation Initiative. We all worked under the tenants that would later go into forming what EDWorks is today and Boone is just one reminder that what we’re doing works and that it matters.
Congratulations to McClellan and his entire team for seizing upon this young man’s potential and doing whatever it took to insure his success! It’s why we’re all in this work.
Engaging community members in improving educational outcomes is key. Both federal and local levels seem to agree that extensive government intervention in the “how to” community engagement process is not the answer for local implementation of new educational reform policy initiatives. The challenge is to develop a comprehensive community engagement approach in order to convert policies to the best practices that yield desired results.
As communities are engaged, identifying who to engage and providing clarity around tasks are critical first steps. Initially, there are two groups that should be identified for engagement: grassroots and grasstops.
The grassroots are the local informal community leaders with prolific social capital in the community and a dynamic social network that can engage community members who feel left out of the decision making process. These informal leaders are savvy with the amplification of information via technology or persuasive dialogue; most importantly, they can quickly mobilize community members. The grasstops leaders are the local business and policy partners with key access to legislative and monetary structures. The grasstops leaders can help advocate for and sustain the long term goals of the local initiatives, even as local and federal leadership structures change. Engaging both grassroots and grasstops groups can create a robust driving force to amplify local initiatives any time and any place.
The initial phase of this robust community engagement process is being implemented by EDWorks New Start partner Central Collegiate Academy, a Detroit public high school recently featured by the U.S. Department of Education. The work at the local level by Detroit Public Schools is designed to build capacity and sustainability from a combination of community members and business partners. Implementing such a community initiative requires the development and cultivation of authentic collaborative relationships across all formal and informal groups.
In Detroit, like many other communities across the country, schools are synergy of the local community. At Detroit’ Central Collegiate Academy, the school made it a goal for students to engage their community by applying what is learned in school to help solve a local problem. The school hosted a summative performance-based assessment gala with their various community engagement partners so students could showcase their efforts. They combined both grasstops organizational leaders (St. John Hospital, Detroit Parent Network, United Way, Sodexo USA and Focus Hope) and grassroots leaders (students, parents and community advocates).
The students provided academic tours and demonstrated how they applied what they learned in school to enhance their greater Detroit community. Students provided performance-based demonstrations of their work with local homeless families, alternative and sustainable energy resources in Detroit and genetics and family health services in Detroit. Additionally, St. John Hospital provided a tour of the new health facility inside the school, designed for students and families to have access to quality preventative health care screening. Detroit Parent Network, Focus Hope, United Way and Sodexo were able to engage parents and families with the daily services they provide in the school for families daily.
The reason why the school was able to have such a success in their community engagement process was due to their block-by-block approach. The school identified every community membership group in each block of the school’s attendance zone. The school recruited both grassroots and grasstops members into the school to develop a sustainable private-public partnership that is built to last.
I was just recently part of a discussion with several of the Strive Cradle to Career communities about how they’re working to promote shared accountability within networks that are building collaborative action plans.
It became clear throughout the conversation that this is one of the toughest challenges that partnerships wrestle through. There is no denying it – collaborative action is hard work. It requires a level of collaboration that goes beyond rhetoric, to a place where partners are asked to set aside individual agendas, change behaviors and adopt new practices. It is time-consuming in that being data-driven means being willing to take the time to analyze and make difficult decisions. And in most cases, it requires network partners to do something that is above and beyond their “day jobs.”
As the discussion continued, Dan Ryan of All Hands Raised in Portland stressed that we need to be “writing a new job description,” one which includes collaborative action as one of the core competencies. This will likely require partners to re-evaluate all of their many responsibilities and prioritize authentic collaboration around a shared vision and common measures, with the expectation that this type of action will get to improved outcomes.
Geoff Zimmerman of the Strive Partnership in Cincinnati, Newport and Covington added that we must find a balance between how much support and capacity the backbone provides to the collaborative action work, with how much we expect partners to change how they’ve been operating in order to adapt to the “new job description.” If the backbone provides too much support, partners will not change their behavior and this work cannot be sustained.
So the questions are: how do we write the new job description for this work, making collaborative action a critical competency for our partners’ “day jobs”; and as backbone support organizations, how do we provide the right balance of capacity building and support to catalyze systemic change and make sure our partners don’t want to quit their “day jobs?”
Working with a few sites recently, I came to realize that “enlightened self-interest” is a beautiful thing. It’s often referred to in the negative because of the perception that people are being selfish if they think about how the partnership work could help an individual partner succeed. But in the end, real and sustainable partnerships do have to meet the unique needs of each partner while serving the common good.
As a practical example, these sites are all having trouble getting one or two sectors to actively engage in the partnership work. When we thought this through with them, we realized we really needed to capture both what would likely bring them to the table AND what could be keeping them away. In the end, this matrix will have to be tailored for the needs of each partner. Doing this by sector can get you a good start, helping you to understand what would be the “enlightened self-interest” of the partner to actively engage in the work. These sites now have plans with concrete talking points for how to get the much needed and critically important partners actively involved.
In the end, each partner will need the work of a cradle to career partnership, and the civic infrastructure that emerges, to meet their own mission and goals. Because, in the end, it is the alignment of all these efforts that will lead to long-term success. And that really is in all of our “enlightened collective interest.”