Thursday, June 30, 2011

School Improvement Network-Atomic Learning Partnership Gives Educators New Tools

Districts across the U.S. are utilizing numerous resources to provide teachers with a well-rounded professional development program. While the use of multiple resources allows districts to provide comprehensive training, it creates a challenge for end users in accessing resources from various websites and managing multiple logins.

To begin addressing this challenge, Atomic Learning and School Improvement Network announce a collaboration to provide shared resources to guide educators on a path to technology-empowered learning.

With the release of Atomic Learning’s new Effective Online Teaching and Learning spotlight program and PD 360’s Technology Pedagogy training, the companies have come together to build a free educator forum where all educators can explore the topic of online teaching and learning.

Learn more about the benefits of this partnership here.

Duane Sprague talks with Jon Blissenbach, Director of Product Management at Atomic Learning, about the recent partnership between Atomic Learning and School Improvement Network:

Monday, June 27, 2011

Does Class Size Really Make a Difference?

Principals and teachers across the nation have been fighting for small class sizes in spite of budget cuts and increased enrollments. For several years, San Diego has been successful in maintaining these small class sizes in a district of 130,000 students, but that may no longer be possible. Using state and federal stimulus dollars, San Diego has held class size to 17 in kindergarten through second grade at its 30 poorest schools. However, with stimulus money spent and budgets deadlocked, San Diego’s young students are looking at a future of 30 students instead of 17.

While educators debate whether the academic gain from reducing class size is worth the cost, research has shown that significantly smaller classes make a difference in the earliest grades. In fact, Mr. Barrera, the school board president, believes that the rise in the district’s state test scores — to 56 percent proficient in English from 45 percent three years ago — is due, in part, to smaller classes.

So, the question is: Does class size really make a difference?

Read the full article here.

Friday, June 24, 2011

One-to-One Laptop Program Helps to Raise Test Scores

How would lesson plans change if every student in your school in grades 4-12 had a laptop in the classroom? In Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina, students’ faces light up as they pick up their laptop ready for the school year to begin. 

Mark Edwards, superintendent, launched the one-to-one laptop program four years ago in an attempt to bring technology to the classroom on a more personal level. Most districts nationwide were using laptops in at least one grade at one campus, according to the 2008 “America’s Digital Schools” report from The Greaves Group and The Hayes Connection, but the success of such efforts isn’t widespread.

Yet, the 5,400-student Mooresville district has drawn national recognition, securing a visit last summer from Karen Cator, director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology. “I think Mooresville has a tremendous amount to offer in terms of leadership and what they've learned along the way,” Cator told local media.

Since the “digital conversion,” test scores in the district have increased, with overall student proficiency rates growing from 73 percent to 86 percent in three years, putting Mooresville in a fourth-place tie in North Carolina’s academic index ratings. And the district’s four-year graduation rate improved 22 points to 86 percent over five years, according to district data.

Read the full article here.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Teachers Welcome Media and Technology in the Classroom

According to a national survey tracking teachers’ use of media and technology in the classroom, nearly all K-12 teachers reported in 2010 that they use some form of digital media for classroom instruction. Types of media included interactive games, activities, lesson plans, and simulations. As teachers get more strategic in their use of technology and media, teachers are integrating media more thoroughly into content and instruction.

Teachers also report strong preferences and affinities for specific types of technology, often tied to the grade levels they teach. Teachers of grades 4 through 6, for example, use interactive whiteboards the most, with 47 percent reporting that they use them to supplement or support their teaching. A good number of K-12 teachers (17 percent) who don't have access to interactive whiteboards say they want them. Pre-K teachers, on the other hand, use and value digital cameras more than any other device. And, while cell phones are banned in most schools, 17 percent of high school teachers say their students use personal cell phones for classroom assignments or activities. 

Read the full article here.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Why Job-Embedded Professional Development Is So Effective

Research has shown that job-embedded professional development, when conducted correctly, is more effective than traditional PD because it better addresses the needs of adult learners. In job-embedded PD, educators work on concepts or initiatives more than once, making the learning more effective and longer lasting. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

iPad 2 For Your Thoughts?

We’re looking for a new name for the world’s largest online community of educators and we’d love your help!

The PD 360 community is home to over 700,000 collaborating teachers, administrators, coaches, mentors, instructional leaders, and paraprofessionals. Community participants have the ability to create their very own forums with links to content they have found most useful in their everyday practices and upload files from external resources, all in a place where their peers can comment and discuss.

This is where you come in: we want to give the community a name that represents the rich resources that are shared within it, the learning and collaboration that happen on it, and the people who communicate every day through it.

Share your best ideas, and you’ll receive an iPad 2 if we choose yours!

Don’t have access to PD 360 and the community? No problem. Register here for a free 30-day trial, and let us know what you think.

Submit your idea on Facebook

Entries can be submitted until August 30, 2011 at 5 p.m. (MST). The winner of the iPad 2 will be announced September 6, 2011.
*If we do not select a name for the community from the entries posted on Facebook there will not be an iPad 2 recipient.
**If more than one participant enters the name we select, the first person to do so will be awarded the iPad 2.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Strategies to Improve Teacher Effectiveness: A Contest

School Improvement Network wants to hear from you! Teacher effectiveness has become a major concern throughout the U.S. with measurable outcomes lagging behind global competition.

“Principals and district administrators are in a unique position to see what works across a variety of classrooms,” said Chet Linton, CEO of School Improvement Network. “We want to hear from the leaders closest to the action, whose voices are important in the national debate.”

Between now and June 15, we are inviting principals and K-12 district administrators to post a comment to this post (500 word max) sharing their ideas for “Improving Teacher Effectiveness in Your School District.”

Twenty-five lucky winners will receive a professional development scholarship to the School Improvement Innovation Summit, a two-day conference in Salt Lake City, July 11-13 (valued at $1,200). The scholarship includes Summit tuition and free licenses to SINET online professional development, as well as online community access to 700,000 educators and recognition at the Summit.

The online public will then vote to determine the winners. Voting will occur June 16-20. Winners will be notified by email. Full terms and conditions are available here.

Please use your actual email address in the entry so we can contact you, or send us your name, school district, & email address in an email to with the subject line: CONTEST

Monday, June 13, 2011

PD 360 Creates Big Change in Small Missouri District

Although a small, rural district in a high-poverty locale of Polk County, Humansville R-IV School District in Humansville, MO is taking big steps to bring quality professional development to their schools. Like other rural districts, Humansville has been faced with budget cuts, time restraints, diverse teacher needs, a small teaching staff, and high teacher turnover.

While searching for solutions to some of their greatest challenges, Humansville R-IV discovered the quality research-based on-demand platform PD 360 and realized it was a perfect partner in achieving their professional development goals.

As a small staff, Humansville teachers are delighted with the ability to share support and ideas with teachers around the country through PD 360’s interactive communities and groups. Teachers and administrators can share best practices, learn from one another, and eliminate classroom isolation.

Most importantly, PD 360 is having a positive impact on student achievement. In the Missouri Assessment Program, Humansville’s Math proficiency scores have progressed from 26.9% in 2007 to 40.1% in 2010. And the Communication Arts proficiency scores have advanced from 32.2% in 2007 to 40.6% in 2010.

View the full case study of Humansville R-IV here.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Montgomery Offers a Different Approach to Teacher Evaluation

Measuring the success of teachers has been an ongoing dispute in the education community. Deciding which teachers should stay and which teachers should go isn’t an easy task for any district, but for Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland there is a unique system in place to help make those decisions.

The program, Peer Assistance and Review — known as PAR — uses several hundred senior teachers to mentor both newcomers and struggling veterans. If the mentoring does not work, the PAR panel — made up of eight teachers and eight principals — can vote to fire the teacher.

Nancy S. Grasmick, Maryland’s state superintendent of schools, called PAR “an excellent system for professional development.” Senior staff members from the United States Department of Education have visited here to study the program, and Montgomery County officials have gone to Washington to explain how it works. In February, the district was one of 12 featured in Denver at a Department of Education conference on labor-management collaboration.

Learn more about PAR and read the full article here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

School Improvement Network Facebook Fan Wins iPad 2

In the month of May, School Improvement Network gave our Facebook fans the opportunity to win an iPad 2. After weeks of "likes" and great comments from educators all over the world, we announced the winner on June 1, 2011.

Carrie Grona from Austin, TX was the lucky winner!

Thank you to all our fans for joining us for this contest, leaving comments, telling your friends, and for all the work you do to stay updated on the most innovative and effective classroom practices available! Don't forget to stay connected on our Facebook page to learn about teaching techniques, education news, case studies and more from School Improvement Network, including more opportunities to win.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Study Explores New Methods for Vocabulary Building

Children learn new words at various stages and through various techniques. While many of these techniques include flashcards and picture books, a new study suggests that children—and, in fact, all new language learners—can build up concrete vocabulary from interacting with a complex learning environment, not just repeated exposure to words in isolation.

Many language-development researchers believe children learn a new word gradually, taking a general meaning from encountering it multiple times in various contexts and gradually arriving at a more specific meaning. By contrast, the researchers for the new study argue that people instead make a best guess about a new word’s meaning based on the context in which they initially encounter it, and hold onto the meaning unless it is clearly found to be wrong.

“Where people were learning gradually, they were learning the wrong thing. They got more and more abstract descriptions in order to cover all the examples,” said Lila R. Gleitman, a study co-author and a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. “But little children don’t learn that way at all; they learn concrete before the abstract; they learn doll before they learn toy.”

Read the full article here.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Power of Professional Learning Communities

Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) are changing the impact of teachers in schools across the United States. Recently, Jackson Junior High School in Jackson, Missouri has noticed dramatic improvements since the implementation of PLCs.

There are four critical questions at the core of Professional Learning Communities: What do they want students to know? How will educators know when a student has learned it? How will educators respond when a student doesn’t get it? How will educators respond when a student already knows it?

Teachers and administrators at Jackson Junior High School say students and faculty are working collaboratively to answer those questions. And that partnership, they say, is paying big dividends.

The Jackson School Board heard and approved an evaluation of the instructional effectiveness of the junior high's PLC, which just wrapped up its third year. The collaborative culture has seen some real measurable results, according to principal Cory Crosnoe and junior high teachers. Discipline referrals have been cut by a third, and grades were up considerably in the first semester of the recently completed school year. F's made up just 3 percent of the grades, according to district statistics.

Read the full article here.

Learn more about creating and improving PLCs here.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

New Principal Leads School Turnaround at Chicago High School

Chicago’s Marshall Metropolitan High School is experiencing a drastic school turnaround with principal Kenyatta Stansberry leading the way. Stansberry, 39, is one of a new breed of principals charged with reforming some of the worst schools in the Chicago Public School system. This is her second turnaround high school. Where other educators run from buildings paralyzed by violence, chaos, and virtually no learning, Stansberry thrives.

"The minute you slip up, the minute they think you're not paying attention, they're going to think, 'It's OK. We're about to get away,'" says the mother of two and former preschool teacher who now butts heads with the most challenging of CPS students. "You have to be consistent."

That consistency has helped Marshall, a school that habitually landed in the bottom rung of the state's high schools, show signs of improvement this year. Attendance has gone up by 22 percentage points. Seventy percent of freshmen are on track to graduate, up from 30 percent last year. Results for the most recent Prairie State Achievement Exams won't be available until July, but school officials are confident of big gains over 2010, when only 2.6 percent of students met or exceeded standards.

Read the full article here.

What has been your experience with school turnaround in your district?