Thursday, December 27, 2012

New Year's Committment

In 2013, I am committing to completely redesign how my District offers professional development.  With all of the changes occurring in education, several things are clear:

1. The need for extensive professional development over a wide variety of topics exists.

2. Simply adding a professional development (day, hour, session, etc.) to teacher contracts will be insufficient to meet the learning challenge.

3. Traditional whole group 'sit and get' meetings destroy autonomous learning and must be dramatically scaled back.

4. Learning ownership must be transfered from the district/building level to the individual teacher level, thereby driving engagement and responsibility.

The re-design will be based in part on game-theory and tied to a set of District created teacher competencies, as well the teacher self evaluation and goal setting process in the new Ohio Teacher Evaluation System.

If it works out my additional commitment is to share the entire system/process with others.

What is your big professional goal for the new year?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Using Your Email Signature As A Professional Development Tool

With the numerous initiatives that are swirling around education, initiative fatigue is a worry of mine.  The catch-22 is the amount of new information that needs to be in-serviced on, versus the capacity of teachers to absorb additional change.

As I have been thinking about how to capture the attention of the teachers I work with, I began to think about how I use my email signature line.  In the past I've had a quote, but I find myself ignoring these quotes more frequently as they have become common place.

In order to capture teachers' attention, I decided to move in a different direction with my email signature line.  It started off with the top three lines (see below), as a way to promote my professional digital presence in a unique way.

I then added the last line, which is a rotating article that ties into the change initiatives I am currently leading in my District.

Finally, I added the twitter section in the middle.  I firmly believe that wide spread adoption of personal learning networks is a key component in re-inforcing and encoding the shifts that are currently underway in the field.  We can't 'professional development' our way out of the change hole we find ourselves in.  Individual teachers have to be empowered to take ownership for their own professional learning and development.  As the time to teach this change is scarce, I'm using my email signature to promote and teach this as well.

The key, to me, is the unexpected place where the learning opportunity appears.  The uniqueness is what I hope will make it enticing for teachers to spend the extra few minutes to click through and be led to the information I have for them.

The second key is to vary they content of the email signature frequently.  If it becomes static, it will be ignored, just like the quotes I've been turning my head to lately.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Re-thinking Classroom Procedures to Promote Close Reading

With all of the attention paid to close reading and text dependent questioning in the Common Core, I have had a heightened awareness when I visit classrooms to look for practices that promote these shifts.

However, sometimes the best learning comes from seeing the antithesis of the shift that is desired in practice.

As I was sitting in the back of the classroom recently, the teacher proceeded to hand out a well crafted assignment document, one which detailed all of the particulars of an end of semester assignment.

The teacher then spent the next twenty minutes providing an oral summary of the document, as thirty teenagers stared back in various stages of disengagement.

All of the work that went into crafting the assignment sheet......wasted.

Any responsibility on the part of the students to read and comprehend a detailed, multi-step set of instructions.....evaporated.

What I saw was a classic display of the old paradigm of teacher as gatekeeper and rationer of educational experiences.

If, as an education profession, we are serious about a deep infusion of literacy in our classrooms, then we need look no further than the time honored tradition of the teacher orally telling students what to do for a place to start making change.

An easy way to promote close reading is to start with a complete makeover about how we expect students to get information on assignments they are supposed to undertake.

If you go through the trouble of creating a document that explains the task, make your students responsible for accessing the task information from the document.  Simply talking about the assignment and having the assignment sheet as a fallback is a waste of everybody's time.

Will this be uncomfortable at first?   Sure.

Will you have to practice re-directs that force students to return to the text for evidence about the assignment?  Absolutely.

Will your students become more independent, self-directed learners over time?  Without a doubt.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

HB 555 - Part II

On Friday afternoon (11/30), BASA issued an email (below) calling for Ohio educators to contact their State Senator regarding changes to the educational accountability system.

The updated Ohio Legislative Service Commission report on HB 555, which contains all of the changes as voted on and approved by the House, as well as the the BASA rebuttal talking points can be found here.

The most significant change is the increase in the percentage of students required to score proficient in order to meet an indicator from 75% to 80%.  This change, coupled with the increase in rigor (via increased cut scores and eventually test construct) could have a huge impact on school districts.

There are also significant changes to the gifted accountability measurements as well as the inclusion of Honors Diploma attainment as an accountability measure.

While there are many indicators that are within the control of districts to influence, there are parts of the accountability system that will be difficult for districts to affect.  For example, National standardized test participation rate and average score could be troublesome.  How can a district be held accountable for the number of students who elect, of their own volition, to take a standardized test on the weekend?  Another example is Advanced Placement (AP) participation rate and test scores.  The mere fact that there is a wide variance in the types of AP offerings around the State should be enough to take this off the table as a graded metric.  Look a little deeper, and there is more trouble to be found with the inverse relationship between increased access and test performance.  By exposing more students to AP, a District is creating exposure in the form of a potential negative test score outcome.  Exposure and increased access should be the goal, but districts will be forced to make tough decisions if a numbers balancing game ends up occurring in order to meet the metric.

Please take an hour of your time, browse the links, and share your thoughts with your State Senator.

A sample letter (that can be customized) can be found here.


To:          School board members, superintendents, treasurers and other school business officials

From:     Michelle Francis, OSBA — (614) 540-4000
               Tom Ash, BASA — (614) 846-4080
               Barbara Shaner, OASBO — (614) 325-9562

Date:      Nov. 30, 2012

Re:        Immediate Senate Contacts Needed on Report Card Changes!

Yesterday, the Ohio House passed House Bill (HB) 555, the school district report card reform bill. While there are a number of provisions in the legislation that we support, there are several issues that still concern us. We need your help in contacting senators now!

Lawmakers are telling us they are not hearing from school district representatives. So even if you have already made a contact about HB 555, it is crucial that you contact your Senate member immediately. The General Assembly is making changes to school district report cards that will affect you in the current school year.

HB 555 goes to the Senate Education Committee next week for consideration and is expected to move quickly. The full Senate could vote on the bill as early as Dec. 11.

Please use the following talking points when you contact legislators. These are changes we are seeking in the Senate. A rationale for each change can be found in our “Senate Amendment Request List,” which is available below.

1. The transition should not start during the current school year — changing the rules in the middle of the game is unacceptable!

2. Do not use letter grades for certain components on the dashboard that school districts cannot control!
• Advanced Placement participation rate and test scores
• Dual Enrollment Program participation rate
• National standardized test for college admission — participation rate and average score
• Kindergarten through third grade literacy rate

3. Do not dilute the value of the dashboard with a composite score. We oppose a composite score, both during the transition period and in the future.

4. Raising the student “cut score” on state tests through the anticipated PARCC assessments, while at the same time raising the “standard” for the passage rate for districts from 75% to 80% in HB 555 could impact districts dramatically. The simultaneous convergence of these factors (more rigorous curriculum, new and more challenging assessments and higher cut scores) has the potential to devastate students and districts unnecessarily. The movement of the 75% standard to 80% should be removed from the bill. We support raising the “cut score” but not the “standard” benchmark passage rate.

5. We need a “safe harbor” for school districts! Districts currently rated “continuous improvement” and above should not be subject to identification for purposes of EdChoice vouchers and charter school expansion as a result of the major changes anticipated with this bill for at least three years as HB 555 is implemented.

Important Links:
Click here for the rationale for the talking points: Senate Amendment Request List<>.
Click here for legislator contact information: General Assembly Website<>.
Click here for the current version of HB 555: HB 555 As Passed by the House<>.
Click here for a summary of HB 555: LSC Summary<>.

We hope you will make contacts with senators before the Senate takes up HB 555. Please let us know if you have questions about the bill.