Tuesday, November 27, 2012

PBS Thoughts For The Mid-Year Blues

Over Thanksgiving break I experienced a PBS a-ha moment while standing in my kitchen.  My daughter had just deposited a half finished bowl of cereal (bathed in a sea of milk) on the counter.  While I wanted to huff and puff about waste, poor choices, irresponsibility, etc., I was instead drawn to thinking about several conversations I have had with principals recently regarding poor climates in their buildings.  Specifically, teachers' intolerance for relatively minor behavior infractions and the 'throw the students' out mentality that seemed to be gripping segments of their staff.  I then started thinking about how a true change in behavior for my daughter (and the kids in these teachers' rooms) can only be realized if I (and they) intentionally teach about the expected behaviors they desire to see (a core PBS tenant).  While all of this was going through my head, I grabbed my phone and filmed a quick PBS video using the cereal bowl story as the narrative prop.  Below is the remixed video, which you are free to use if you find it helpful in any way.

PBS Cereal Bowl Video

It is easy to love our students on the first day of school.  A true mark of a professional is the extent to which this love for our students is maintained and demonstrated throughout the year (even if it feels like it is waining on the inside).

UPDATE 11/28

In a serendipitous move, a counselor at my high school (@rosEcounselor) sent me the link to PBISworld yesterday.  It is a fantastic resource for positive behavior support strategies that cover a wide range of behaviors.  If you find yourself frustrated with a student, click on the behavior and then pick one or two strategies to commit to using for several weeks.  An important note is to make a firm commitment on the front end to persisting with the strategies.  Using a strategy once or twice and then moving on to something else when it doesn't take right away is a recipe for frustration.  Persistence and perseverance should be the words to live by when using PBS strategies.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

HB 555 - LRC and Accountability Changes

So here is an idea around a crowd-sourced response to the Ohio General Assembly re-write of the school accountability system.

I've drafted my response and change recommendations to HB 555 here.

Feel free to re-mix, mash-up, copy, add to, etc. this work.  The important point is to make sure your voice is heard on this bill that will have wide ranging implications.

The Legislative Service Commission Summary on HB 555 can be found here.

Find out who your State representative is here.

Below is the BASA legislative alert that summarizes their concerns.  While I don't agree with every point they make, it does serve as a frame of reference from which to approach thinking about recommendations you would like to make.

This bill is fast-tracked, so the time to have your voice heard is now.

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

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

Date:     Nov. 15, 2012

Re:       Update on New Report Card Legislation

Earlier this week, the House Education Committee accepted a substitute version of House Bill (HB) 555, legislation that will make changes to Ohio’s academic accountability system. HB 555 is on the fast track and considered a priority for the lame-duck session. Amendments are due tomorrow and the bill could be voted out of committee on Nov. 28 with a full House floor vote on Nov. 29.

There are some positive changes to Ohio’s report card system contained in the bill. However, there are several provisions in HB 555 that are troublesome, and we need your help in making sure legislators are aware of the negative effects these will have on districts.

Please contact your legislator immediately on the following issues related to HB 555:

What we support:
• A report card that includes a “dashboard” approach that provides information on various elements — including items for public information purposes.
• Changing from an adequate yearly progress (AYP) measure to an annual measurable objective (AMO) that will measure the reduction of performance gaps within subgroups as opposed to meeting or not meeting annual performance targets.
• A plan to transition to a new system that allows time for districts to understand the changes and also to work with their communities to educate them on what is expected going forward.

What we want changed in HB 555:
• While the bill allow s for a transition period, attempting to allow for the implementation of the Common Core Standards, the transition doesn’t apply to the current school year! We believe changes to the report card system should not begin until the next school year (2013-2014).

• The bill postpones the implementation of a “composite” or “overall” score for the dashboard, but only for two years. We oppose the use of a composite score! An overall or composite grade should be removed from the bill for the following reasons:
-    A composite score would undermine the transparency of the various report card/dashboard components.
-    Each component of the “dashboard” may have different significance among districts and communities.  It would be impossible to determine an appropriate “weight” for each component in a composite score calculation that satisfies the needs and preferences in every community across the state.
-    With no “average” report card score, districts are more likely to successfully address areas where performance is lower.

• Some items on the proposed dashboard are beyond the control of the school district, or some districts may not have the resources to excel in those areas. Beginning with the 2013-2014 school year, the following items should be “reported” — but not “graded” — for that school year or any year thereafter. These items should be for information-only purposes. The information may be valuable for the district, parents, and even state policymakers. Districts should not be penalized through a letter grade for the following components:
-    Annual measurable objectives (replaces AYP).
-    National standardized test fo r college admission participation rate and average score.
-    Advanced Placement participation rate and test scores.
-    Dual-enrollment program participation rate.
-    Kindergarten through third-grade literacy rate.

• Eliminate the “percentage of students determined “not to be ‘college ready’” category completely from the dashboard. Current available data on students requiring remediation in college (often quoted as 41% statewide) does not accurately portray the situation and should not be used against school districts. In the event that data inclusive of all students going on to an institution of higher learning (public and private, in-state and out-of-state) becomes available, this issue can be revisited.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

2012 Ohio State Education Conference Roundup

Just got back from the Ohio Education Conference (formally known as the State RttT Conference).  I spent most of the time live tweeting sessions (search #ohedconf for the whole transcript, or follow me @scarletandgray for session specific tweets).  Lots of stuff to process so here we go.

Conference Summary Links

Storify summary of conference events

ODE Wordpress session summaries

Principals Toolkit on the ODE Homepage

Common Core deployment tools

College and Career Readiness - H.S. to College Alignment

The high number of students who have to take remedial courses upon entering college continues to dominate the news cycle as well as policy discussions.  Establishing effective and specific metrics, along with associated underlying performance descriptions, will be important in informing the work at the high school level.  In Ohio, there is draft policy language (that must be finalized by December 31), that sets the ceiling for acceptable CCR scores throughout the State for the public universities.  Moving forward, every public university will accept the same scores as evidence of readiness for entry level, credit bearing courses.  While obtaining these scores does not necessarily guarantee admission to a particular university, it does create a shared understanding throughout the state as to what the performance targets are that signify readiness for entry level courses without remediation at 2 and 4 year institutions of higher learning.  An additional component of this policy is the exemption of students from having to take placement tests in order to determine readiness if they meet the necessary cut scores on the identified assessments.  However, students wishing to be exempted from higher level university coursework could still be expected to take placement tests.

By December 31, CCR benchmark scores will be established for the ACT, SAT, Accuplacer, and Compass.  At the conference yesterday, the following ACT cut scores were shared as the minimum necessary to be considered college and career ready.

Draft CCR ACT cut scores
English 18
Reading 21 
Math 22

On the high school end, PARCC just released their CCR performance descriptors that will signify college and career readiness.  The consortium has chosen to use a five point scale, with the attainment of a 4 indicating a 75% likelihood of obtaining a C or better in an entry level ELA or mathematics class.  

The full document can be found here.  
The press release, with a surface level summary, can be found here.

Straight Talk Session with the ODE Brass

When I saw this session on the schedule I put a big circle around it and made a beeline for the front of the room after the opening keynote.  I'll give credit to ODE, they're trying to make the best of the legislative rock and a hard place they find themselves between.  The movement of ODE towards customer service and being seen as a resource is evident (my opinion).  The willingness of Michael Sawyers and Jim Herrholtz to run a session as a pure Q and A with no powerpoint was refreshing.  This type of transparent access serves to build trust and a sense of shared ownership with district level personnel in the transformative work taking place in education around the state.

1. The New Tests

This isn't really new anymore, but for those who haven't heard:

Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II (or an integrated pathway of Int. I, II, and III)
English I, II, III
U.S. History and Government
Physical Science and Biology

3 - 8 PARCC ELA and Math

5, 8 End of Year Science*

4, 6 End of Year Social Studies*+

*Not grade banded as in the past (good news)
+Pending legislative action

Kind of new stuff:

10th graders in 14-15 (and maybe next year) will have to take a nationally normed test that demonstrates college and career readiness, as defined in legislation to replace the OGT.  ODE is preparing an RFP for vendors to compete to offer this test.  Early money goes to either the PSAT or the ACT Plan.  In a conversation with a senior ODE staffer after the H.S./College alignment session, it was indicated that ODE will pay for the administration of the test with the vendor they select, but that districts could potentially choose an alternate test as long as it is on an ODE approved list.  This matters because Districts that have already begun CCR alignment work (most likely with ACT or SAT products) will not want to switch to the other vendor if a working system is already in place.

Here's the new stuff:

It has not been determined if these will be considered end of course or end of year tests yet, nor has the testing window been determined.  There is still considerable debate as to what 'computer enhanced' questions mean, as well as what the performance assessments will look like.  Early indications are that the performance assessments are shaping up like the old short answer/extended response questions (this is a concern).  ODE indicates that they are pushing back on this, as it doesn't fit with how PARCC initially sold this section of the test.

Current 9th grade students will be the last to be subject to the OGT and the old accountability system.

Current 8th grade students appear to be destined to a blend of the OGT (since they will be starting H.S. in 13-14, while the OGT still exists) as well as the PARCC exams when they are juniors (NOTE: This is reading between the lines.....ODE has not released a testing transition blueprint -we can expect one later in November 2012, which will include blueprints for the new 4/6 SS and 5/8 Science tests).

Current 7th graders will be the first group taking all of the new PARCC and State Assessments.

2. The New Accountability System

The first question is how high stakes are the new tests?  In other words, how many will you have to pass in order to graduate?

ODE appears to be moving away from the test as an add on requirement towards a testing paradigm that drives credits.  The thinking is that 20 - 30% of your final grade in a class will be derived by your performance on the end of year/end of course exam (ODE will set this level at some point in the future).  This moves away from the minimum proficiency mindset and rewards higher levels of performance.  Failure to do well puts passing the course at risk, thus jeopardizing the earning of the credit necessary to graduate.

A determination of how this would all be translated onto the LRC, as well as the meaning of the different CCR PARCC levels in terms of accountability for Districts, has yet to be figured out.

At first glance, this does place more value on student performance in a given course, and it decreases the disconnect between classwork and the hodgepodge of skills and content that made up the OGT.

The second question is how will the local report card evolve?  Lost in the concern over the testing transition is the fact that Ohio's NCLB waiver is conditional and will expire in June 2013.  In order for an extension to be granted, a new accountability system (this is where the A-F ratings and increased rigor in gap closing as a replacement for AYP measures comes into play) must be enacted by the legislature and signed by the Governor.  This work was supposed to take place this fall, but was sidelined by the attendance scandal.

Essentially what we should prepare for are a rolling wave of report card transitions, with different iterations in 2013 and 2014 before a final new LRC goes online in 2015.  For 2013 the LRC will measure the old metrics in new ways (A-F potentially, new gap closing measures, potential reduced V.A. weight, etc.).  The 2014 report card could add the new nationally normed college readiness test which by statute is supposed to replace the OGT (bet on the ACT Plan or PSAT, with the potential for Districts to choose).  Finally, 2015 will take the new tests and combine them with the then 'old' definitions of District performance.  As cut scores are being developed in 14-15 and revised into 15-16, the report card data will still be fluid.  Finally, how value added will be calculated and applied as a measure, both on the report card and for teacher ratings is anyones guess.  I'm assuming the V.A. system will have to be reset in 14-15 to account for vast difference between the old and new measures.

3rd Grade Reading Guarantee

There was lots of discussion about the mechanics of the law and the unintended consequences that are already being foreseen.  The biggest issue is with the requirement that students who are deemed to be not on track be placed with a classroom teacher that:
1. Has a reading endorsement or
2. Passes an ODE approved reading assessment (not currently identified) or
3. Is considered highly effective (based on previous evaluations, but not formally defined yet).

Michael Sawyers indicated that there is a push for legislative change during the lame duck session to waive #1 and #2 above for those students who are not on track based on the Diagnostic in K-3.

The other hot topic of conversation was the portion of the law stating retained 3rd graders should be given on grade level instruction in areas where they have demonstrated proficiency, and that mid-year promotion is required should retained third graders demonstrate proficiency either on the fall 3rd grade OAA or on the alternate test of reading approved by ODE (still undefined as well).  How this gets handled from a staffing and logistics level is a huge concern for districts.

Based on what I heard, I would get a hold of the alternate test to demonstrate reading proficiency, and I would make this the focus for every student who did not score at the minimum cut score (390 for 12-13 and 392 for 13-14) on the spring third grade reading OAA.  Summer school for these students would ONLY focus on reading, with the alternate test administered at the end of the summer session in order to get as many students through as possible to 4th grade.

ODE staffers did make it a point to emphasize that the intent of the law is about providing interventions and support for struggling readers prior to 3rd grade, and not about retention.  As a matter of policy, the intent is pure, but the needle of the conversation has moved towards the portions that are problematic from an implementation perspective.  Michael Sawyers indicated that less than 10 kids per district will be affected by retention (when looked at throughout the State).  However, for urbans, this number could potentially be much higher.  The point should be to implement the K-3 diagnostics with fidelity and remediate with urgency in order to avoid large numbers of students who could potentially be retained.  At the end of the day, we should want every student to be able to read effectively as a matter of life survival.  Looking at the law from the positive perspective as opposed to the negative bent will make the work easier to do.

IIS (Instructional Improvement System)

What was supposed to be the rollout turned into a generic overview of the system, as negotiations got hung up at the last minute between Ohio, Massachusetts, lawyers, and cross state procurement systems.

Every district in Ohio will be required to have an IIS (Instructional Improvement System).  The bottom line is you can go with the State system or adopt your own as long as it meets requirements outlined by the State.  Given the pricing structure the State is promising (no details yet but ODE reps were tripping over themselves to indicate how cheap it was) I would imagine most Districts will fall in line with the State product.  For 13-14 and 14-15 the costs will be picked up by ODE through RttT, and then costs transfer to local Districts.

Of note:
  • iLearn Ohio will be integrated into the IIS
  • An assessment bank will be included with the IIS (I asked an ODE rep about this directly after the session and was told that the questions will be provided by a third party provider and should come in at around 80,000 items).  The potential for shared work around the creation of common assessments is HUGE here.  This was not talked about in the general rollout session.  If the level of lesson planning and curriculum map sharing throughout the State actually happens in this system, it is not hard to imagine a scenario where Districts could collaborate on creating common assessments aligned to the standards and share the work.  This could allow for a degree of standardization between Districts and an ability to get beyond the subjectivity that plagues locally created formative and progress monitoring assessments currently.
  • The IIS appears to be a one stop shop for teachers, and is based on a dashboard model.
  • The announcement of the vendor has been pushed to mid to late November, and the initial rollout (along with the iLearn redesign) will be at eTech in February.
  • Field testing with pilot districts will take place in 2013, with the rollout scheduled for early 2014.
  • If you would like to put your District name in to be considered for the IIS pilot,                   contact Tom Walsh at ODE.

Social Media

If you haven't figured it out yet, ODE is making a MAJOR push in this area (and modeling what we should be doing as districts as well).

Two items I took away from the conference:
  1. Identify specific people who take ownership for the publishing of digital content, and clearly define their rolls.
  2. Set paramaters as to the types of articles/information that should be shared in each dedicated space.  For example, what types of information should be shared on a building twitter feed? This will make posting decisions easier and streamline the sharing process.
The post: Review: BYOD and Blended Learning Project Timeline from the Edlightenment blog provides more information about social media policy parameters within a BYOD context.

Final Thoughts

It's an exciting time to be in education.  The shift away from minimum competency standards towards college and career readiness for all is a huge change, but one worth working for.  As the pace of change  quickens, bold action is required to make schools relevant destinations for learners in the personalized age we live in.  Figuring out how 21st century thinking and learning tools can be integrated into daily instruction, and how the torrent of data points about students can be used to provide customized student support, will require creative action on the part of all teachers and administrators.  ODE, once seen solely as a regulatory watchdog, has moved towards a blend of oversight as well as supportive resource for all of the changes occurring in education.  Connect with others, stay positive, and remember that above all else, the work we do is about creating a better tomorrow for our students.

Finally, a special thanks to the tech director for my district, who I attended the conference with.  The professional dialoge and deepening of learning that arose from the shared experience mattered.  You can follow him @zjvv77 or misterv.net