Thursday, December 30, 2010

Utah Implements Common Core Standards

Math and language arts courses in Utah schools are getting a makeover with the new Common Core Standards. The initiative is “designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills our young people need for success in college and careers,” according to the Common Core mission statement. With changes such as math labs, renaming the curriculum, new books, and more, there is much to look forward to for Utah students and teachers.

To learn more about Utah's Common Core Implementation Click Here

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Closing the Achievement Gap through Vocabulary Building

Schools all around the country are faced with the immensity of the achievement gap. Shrinking, and eventually eliminating, the achievement gap is crucial for socioeconomic, racial, and other groups affected. San Diego Unified School District is taking a stab at closing the achievement gap through a new approach at vocabulary building. While traditionally students would look up a word in the dictionary if they didn’t know the meaning, about two dozen schools in San Diego Unified are teaching students how to use their everyday knowledge to find the meanings of words they don’t know. In the real world there isn't always a dictionary on hand. The hope is that students will be able to retain meanings and learn new meanings for themselves without depending on
external resources.

To learn more Click Here

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Parents Offer Their Own School Bus Service

Cache County parents in Utah ran into a dilemma when they were told their courtesy bus service would no longer be available. Although some of these Smithfield residents live within walking distance of Sunrise Elementary School not all parents feel the streets are safe for their children. So what did these parents do? They decided to create their own bus service. After meeting regulation after regulation, eventually Ty Haguewood was able to offer bus service to 82 kids in the local area.

To learn more Click Here

Monday, December 20, 2010

Governor Christie Appoints Christopher Cerf to be New Jersey Education Commissioner

Recently, Chris Christie nominated Christopher Cerf, a former New York education official to be the New Jersey education commissioner. Cerf backs Gov. Christie’s commitments to school choice, merit pay, and accountability. Cerf also recognizes a need for equality in education among different socioeconomic groups and hopes to improve the educational circumstances of those in poverty. Teacher unions are somewhat optimistic about the new appointment hoping that it will spark a fresh start to negotiations with administration.

Read the full article at The Wall Street Journal

Friday, December 17, 2010

Online Mentoring for Florida Middle School Students

In the past, students have depended upon parents or older siblings to help them with their homework. While some have parents and siblings that have a vast knowledge of math, English, and science, not all are as fortunate. At John F. Kennedy Middle School in Rockledge, Florida all students are now getting the same quality of help with their homework through an online mentoring program. Students now have the option of logging on to their school website and, for one hour, getting help from their teachers, while both the students and teachers work from the comfort of their own homes.

To learn more about how the online mentoring program works Click Here

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Full-time Programs for Gifted Students

When most of us think of struggling students, we think of the students struggling to meet state standards and those demonstrating low test scores. However, there is another group of struggling students, those who struggle due to lack of stimulation—the gifted students. In Minnesota schools, administrators and teachers are striving to address the needs of the highly gifted students by providing specialized programs that are more than just a few hours away from the normal classroom—these programs are full-time.

To learn more about these full-time gifted programs Click Here

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Addressing the Challenges Associated with Change in Schools

Today, reform is a topic being discussed in every avenue of the education world. The “how,” “who,” and “why,” are all details administrators and lawmakers are seeking to establish. As reform takes its place in the classroom, however, there may be certain challenges that arise with implementation. Eric Sheninger, Principal at New Milford High School in N.J., outlined his first-hand experience with change and the obstacles associated with it in his blog post on the ASCD blog.

Do you agree with the challenges Sheninger lists?

What are some of the obstacles your district faces with education reform?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Students Get Excited About Reading During the Holiday Break

During the holiday season most students spend their time doing anything but homework, but Donalyn Miller’s students are doing quite the opposite this year. With enthusiasm, each child in her classroom plans well in advance what he or she will read over the Christmas break. She explains that when the students plan to read in advance, reading when they are not in school becomes less of a burden and more of a pleasure as they decide which ones to explore.

Learn more at Teacher Magazine

Monday, December 13, 2010

Salt Lake Schools On the Way to Decreasing Dropout Rates

Increasing dropout rates are affecting high schools all across the country. While many districts are scrambling for a solution to this crisis, Salt Lake schools may be taking a step in the right direction. Three counselors at Highland High School formed a Freshman Success Team where students failing in their freshman year are closely monitored to make sure they don't continue failing. These counselors become their mentors as they also attend extracurricular activities of those they help as well. Although the program is for freshman, the school has seen a major increase in class passing rates and a decrease in dropout rates.

Learn more about the decline in dropout rates from Deseret News

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Changing Face of Education: School of One

The traditional classroom model is quickly becoming extinct with new instruction methods and systems appearing every day. One of the people contributing to this shift in education is Christopher Rush. Rush is co-founder of a new learning system called School of One. According to his system, students would “choose” each day which teacher they will work with and what activities they participate in based on their answers to an algorithm. Although School of One is making a difference, Rush admits that some elements will work and some won’t, but it is important to continue to try new things.

To learn more about School of One Click Here

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Administrators’ Role in Establishing Successful PLCs Proficiency 2 of 5: Model Collaborative Behavior

This post if from guest blogger Amy Chamberlain, a content producer at School Improvement Network.
Note: This is part two of five in a series that discusses how administrators can support and sustain the growth of professional learning communities (PLCs) in their jurisdiction.  
The Sanger Unified School District in Sanger, California is an area of high diversity and rapid demographic change—and one that is experiencing a tremendous amount of student success. Much of this they credit to the widespread use of professional learning communities, or PLCs.

When they are well established, PLCs have a measurable and immediate effect on the quality of teaching and student success. Every educator I talked to in the Sanger Unified School District told me that their PLCs played a key role in the tremendous turn-around they and their students enjoyed (in seven years, the Sanger Unified School District went from a program improvement district to one of the top in the state; two of only thirty-five California Blue Ribbon Schools are located in SUSD).

While the day-to-day work of PLCs happens at the faculty level, administrators play a key role in creating an atmosphere where true collaboration can flourish. Sanger administrators developed five proficiencies that encouraged healthy PLCs throughout the district. These proficiencies are:

1) Develop instructional expertise
2) Model collaborative behavior
3) Hold PLC members accountable for good results
4) Create environments where trust is possible
5) Get—and stay—involved in faculty PLCs

This blog entry focuses on the second proficiency: modeling collaborative behavior.
Marc Johnson, the Superintendent of the Sanger Unified School District, inherited a culture that he describes as “fractured and broken.” The district had been seen as a meat-grinder of sorts, with the result being high levels of suspicion, mistrust, and a closed-door approach to teaching. Eleven years ago, when Marc became the superintendent, he saw that the culture had to change. No longer could teachers function as “independent contractors” and meet the needs of a highly diverse student body. “We had to move to a team approach,” he says.
To encourage this fundamental shift in behavior, Marc began to model collaborative practices. Successfully shifting a set of assumptions, he claims, “requires that leadership is actively engaged.” He explains, “Collaboration is not something that just teachers do. We have professional learning communities that are really functioning at all levels. I have a deputy superintendent and an associate superintendent and we are in almost every respect a professional learning community as well.”

Moving toward a culture of collaboration can generate fear amongst staff who are not used to sharing their teaching strategies and results. Because of natural resistance to change, Marc says “no one can assume that a culture of collaboration will develop. You have to nurture that. You reframe the conversation so it’s never about the person. It’s about the outcome, and how we can collectively work together to change that outcome.” Focusing on results, rather than on the person, helps establish the trust necessary for true collaboration. John Yost, principal of Washington Academic Middle School, sums up the point of these collaborative conversations: “You’re on a treasure hunt, not a witch hunt.”

John Wash Elementary School principal Wes Sever modeled collaborative behavior for his staff by reaching out to other principals in his area and creating his own PLC. “I realized there were other schools making the same reforms we were making,” he said. “So I started meeting with the principals of the three schools that were closest to us demographically.” These informal meetings evolved into the “Northside PLC,” a valuable learning and collaborative resource. “It’s a friendly competition,” says Wes of the group. “We are learning from them and they are learning from us.” When John Wash Elementary became a national Blue Ribbon school, Wes said, “Two of the schools in the Northside PLC had results similar to mine. So I had to call up the [Blue Ribbon] committee and find out why those other schools weren’t nominated too.” The next year, three of the four Northside PLC schools were nominated as Blue Ribbon schools. “Collaboration breeds success,” Wes notes. “When I ask my faculty to collaborate, I’m not making them do anything that I’m not doing already.”

Effective administrators do more than just encourage faculty to collaborate. They model good PLC efforts to demonstrate their commitment to establishing an atmosphere of collaboration and trust. Faculty are much more willing to move to a culture of group work when administration models this behavior for them so they can see the benefits.

Part Three: The next blog entry discusses Administration Proficiency #3: Hold PLC members accountable for good results.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A New Approach to Math Teaching

"It doesn't matter how much you know. It matters what you can do," states Thomas Gaffey. Gaffey, a math teacher at Philadelphia’s High School of the Future, has created an atmosphere of real-world, interactive learning in his classroom where you won’t find a textbook, desk, or paper in sight. His Project 100 course is a combination of geometry, algebra, and estimation and students are finding that math is more than numbers on a page.

To learn more about Thomas Gaffey’s techniques Click Here

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Students Are Not College-Ready According to Common Standards Analysis

Yesterday, a report was released identifying how many of the nation’s students presently meet the Common Standards based on their performance on the ACT assessment. Surprisingly, in an analysis performed by ACT Inc. the scores showed that 38 percent of 11th graders hit the proficient range in reading, and the results were worse in mathematics than in English/language arts. The study also showed a trend of racial and ethnic minority students performing lower than their white peers.

To view the full report from ACT Inc. Click Here

Monday, December 6, 2010

What Type of Education Reform without Race to the Top Funding?

Earlier this year, numerous states were notified they would not receive the federal funding from President Obama’s Race to the Top competition. Since that time, state leaders have been faced with deciding what to do with the education reform plans that had been started or established to meet Race to the Top qualifications. Some states are saying they will still try to meet all of the initiatives they had planned, while others believe their plans just aren’t possible without the extra funding.

To learn more Click Here

Friday, December 3, 2010

Technology in Education and Other Topics Discussed at National Summit on Education Reform

On Wednesday, the National Summit on Education Reform came to a close with state education secretaries, superintendents, professors and business executives voicing their ideas on the current state of education in America. Major topics included charter schools, technology, and the re-authorization of No Child Left Behind.

To learn more about the summit Click Here

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Andres Alonso's Successful Approach to Education Reform for Baltimore Schools

In Baltimore, Andres Alonso is taking leaps and bounds in his approach to education reform. Baltimore city schools previously has been known as one of the worst school systems in the country, but now, for the first time in years, the system has gained students instead of losing them. In 2007, when Alonso was hired, many of Baltimore’s citizens did not support his methods. However, after 3 years in the school system, Andres Alonso is proving he can make a difference in Baltimore city schools.

Learn more about Andres Alonso’s impact on Baltimore city schools at The New York Times

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Black Visits Schools After Being Granted Waiver

Photo taken by Rob Bennett for the Wall Street Journal
On Monday, Cathie Black was granted a waiver to become the next chancellor of New York City Schools. Since the waiver signing, Black has spent the majority of her time speaking with students, parents, and teachers within the school system she will be responsible for managing and improving. Although the waiver has been signed, Ms. Black officially begins her chancellorship on January 3, 2011.

Read more about Cathie Black's response to the granted waiver at the Wall Street Journal.