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A MiddleWeb Blog By Kevin Hodgson Note: This post is adapted from a vignette I shared during the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Meeting...
Lynnette Van Dyke's insight:
Teacher describes how one unit hooked a reluctant writer
"Curriculum Inspirations is a collection of resources for Middle and High School Math Teachers that demonstrate practical ways to engage students in the lively exploration of mathematics and mathematical thinking using problems from America’s longest-running and most successful mathematics competition. Developed by James Tanton, these resources include Ten Problem Solving Strategy Essays and Curriculum Bursts.
Ten Problem Solving Strategy Essays—These essays relate specific AMC test questions to Common Core State Standards Problem Solving Strategies, and provide a framework for how you might incorporate the rich mathematical concepts incorporated in these questions in your classroom. Curriculum Bursts—Short essays, paired with a Curriculum Inspirations Video, which provide a cohesive multimedia learning experience that explores the use of rich mathematical challenges from the AMC competitions in your classroom, in a way that ties to the Common Core State Standards and Problem Solving Strategies.
Via Jim Lerman
Designing An Adaptive Learning Program To Support Teachers
While technology is a powerful educational tool, it can’t and shouldn’t replace the teacher in the learning process. With so many committed, hardworking educators who make a significant, positive impact on their students, teachers are essential to effective student learning.
Via Rob Hatfield, M.Ed.
Should we flunk third graders who can't pass a standardized test? Here's what the research says.
Last week, the House Education committee at the state capitol passed a piece of legislation that would force schools to flunk any third grader who failed to get a score of "proficient" on the state's standardized reading test.
The legislation still has to pass both the full House and Senate and get a signature from the governor before it could become law. And, late in the week, there was news that state leaders may be putting the idea on hold while they gather input from teachers and school administrators (most of whom oppose the idea of flunking third graders based on a single test score).
So while everyone pauses to gather their thoughts about a proposal that could force nearly 40 percent of Michigan's third graders to repeat a grade, I thought it's worth taking a dive into the research to see how this plan has worked out in other places where it's been tried. It turns out, the idea has been studied quite a lot. So here are four main takeaways from the research:
1. Holding third graders back based on reading test scores can be part of a successful strategy to improve future test scores.
Much of the research about holding kids back, for any reason, has shown that it has a negative impact. The primary takeaway from that body of research is that forcing a child to repeat a grade makes it more likely the child will later drop out of school. But that research leaves us with a chicken-and-egg question: Did repeating a grade actually cause the kids to drop out later in life, or was repeating a grade just an early indication of a lack of interest in school work - which would have eventually ended in dropping out anyway?
The largest body of research on the specific policy of holding third graders back based on test scores comes from Florida, where the so-called third grade "reading guarantee" law has been in effect for a decade. To try to evaluate the laws' effect, and to answer the chicken-and-egg question, researchers at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research (a free-market leaning think tank) looked at outcomes for kids who were right at the edge of the pass-fail line for reading scores. As they wrote in their report:
By studying the long-term performance of children who just barely passed the test, as well as those who were just barely left behind, it was possible to compare two essentially identical populations: one set of students who moved forward despite only borderline understanding of the material; and another set who stayed behind a year and received tutoring, mentoring, and other remedial interventions.
So what did they find? From the report's conclusion:
The results of our analyses are very encouraging for the use of Florida's test-based promotion policy. We find evidence that students remediated under the policy make large academic gains relative to their socially promoted peers-gains that are meaningful and sustained at least through middle school.
It's important to note, though, that these "academic gains" are measured purely based on the students' future performance on standardized tests. So you could ask: Did repeating a grade make the students better learners, or did it just make them better test takers?
A recent working paper published by the Harvard Kennedy School takes a stab at answering those questions, by looking at whether students who were held back in grade three were more likely to be held back again in later grades. Turns out, they were less likely to be held back in later years. The paper also found no effect on whether the retained third graders would later be placed in special education, or whether they would be chronically absent in future grades.
It's still too early to say whether Florida's law had an effect on drop outs, since the first students subjected to the law are only now reaching graduation age.
2. You can't just flunk a bunch of third graders and expect them to become better readers. Intensive (and expensive) support programs are key.
If improving standardized test scores are your goal, it's hard to argue with Florida's overall strategy. From 1992-2011, Florida's test scores in reading, math and science outpaced all but one other state. As the Mackinac Center for Public Policy has shown, Florida's scores rose much more quickly than Michigan's, even though Florida had a higher percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch.
But no one believes that holding back third graders was the sole reason for Florida's test score improvements. For one thing, as the Mackinac paper above shows, Florida's biggest gains came before the third grade retention law went into effect. For another, the Florida law also came with some serious investments in helping kids learn how to read.
As the Brookings Institution noted in its analysis of Florida's law:
First, retained students must be given the opportunity to participate in their district's summer reading program. Schools must also develop an academic improvement plan for each retained student and assign them to a "high-performing teacher" in the retention year. Finally, retained students must receive intensive reading interventions, including ninety uninterrupted minutes daily of research-based reading instruction (a requirement that has since been extended to all students in grades K-5).
This raises another important cause and effect question for policymakers: Is it the grade retention that has helped Florida students improve test scores, or the intensive (and expensive) support programs for students who are held back?
Last year, Ohio passed a "read or flunk" law similar to the one in Florida, and one Republican state legislator offered her answer to the question. In a segment aired on the PBS Newshour, Ohio Sen. Peggy Lehner said she believed the state would have to spend an extra $50 - $60 million to make sure its new law is a success.
The "read or flunk" proposal being discussed in Michigan so far has no provisions for added spending.
3. Failing students based on test scores will disproportionately affect minority students.
At State of Opportunity, we've spent a considerable amount of time exploring the racial gaps in student test scores. By now, you probably know that black and Latino students don't perform as well on standardized tests as white students.
Some organizations, such as The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, even argue that racial test score gap exists because the tests themselves are biased against minorities.
So if it becomes enshrined in state law that no eight year old will pass the third grade unless they pass the test, it stands to reason that minority students will be held back at higher rates.
And, in fact, according to the Brooking's research cited above, the federal Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights reports that black children in Florida were nearly three times as likely as white children to be held back in third grade. Hispanic children were nearly twice as likely as white children to be held back.
What effect that has on the kids depends a little on whose research you believe. The team behind the Manhattan Institute study has concluded that the minority students who are held back do eventually catch up. But the paper from the Harvard Kennedy School reaches a different conclusion, finding that black students showed less improvements than white or Hispanic students after being held back in third grade.
4. If your system is built on test scores, teachers and administrators will find a way to game the system.
This is an issue that will come up whenever any accountability measure is put in place for schools. A working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research all the way back in 2002 showed how some Florida school districts re-classified students as disabled in order to keep those students' low test scores from hurting the district under new accountability rules.
So, this is nothing new.
In the first year of Florida's third grade retention policy, about 13.5 percent of all third graders were held back. Five years later, that number had dropped to 5.6 percent. The Harvard Kennedy School paper says most of the reduction was achieved because more 3rd graders passed the reading test. Most.
Florida's law, like the proposal under consideration in Michigan, has a provision to exempt certain students from being held back based on test scores. Researchers at the University of Arkansas found that those exemptions were unequally distributed among Florida's third graders. Specifically, black and Hispanic students were less likely to get an exemption, even if they had the same low score as a white student who did get an exemption. From the paper:
Controlling for other factors, African-American and Hispanic students with scores under the retention threshold are significantly more likely to be retained under the policy than white students with similarly low scores. African-American students are about 4% more likely to be retained under the policy than white students, and Hispanic students are about 9% more likely to be retained under the policy than white students.
The paper also concluded that students from low-income families were more likely to be granted an exemption that would allow them to continue on to the fourth grade, but that, ultimately, the students who were held back performed better on future standardized tests.
A growing number of states are considering these "read or flunk" retention laws. Stateline, a reporting project from the Pew Charitable Trusts, reports that 15 states plus the District of Columbia now have such third grade retention laws on the books. But the research on these programs is complex, and it's still not clear exactly what it is about the laws that helps students: holding them back a grade, or the intensive reading help they get when they're held back.
With all of these factors to consider, maybe its wise Michigan legislators have hit the pause button on the proposals here.
Literacy is the ability to use available symbol systems that are fundamental to learning and teaching – for the purposes of comprehending and composing—for the purposes of making and communicating meaning and knowledge. —Patricia Stock, Professor Emerita, Michigan State University (June, 2012)
Literacy extends beyond the print-only world of reading and writing. Literacies are shaped by contexts, participants, and technologies. Today's context including developing technologies, along with visual, audio, gestural, spatial, or multimodal discourses. —from the NCTE Policy Research Brief Literacies of Disciplines (2011)
Being literate is at the heart of learning in every subject area. Being literate is necessary for learning. As students progress through school and engage with subject areas more deeply, concepts become more challenging. Students use a greater variety of learning resources with more and more complex language and structure and increasingly sophisticated graphical and numerical representations. Students learn writing and reading strategies, using evidence and reasoning pertinent to each subject area, to comprehend and represent knowledge using traditional and emerging media. —Principles for Learning (2010) ACTE, CoSN, NCSS, NCTE, NCTM, & NSTA
Literacy has always been a collection of cultural and communicative practices shared among members of particular groups. As society and technology change, so does literacy. Because technology has increased the intensity and complexity of literate environments, the twenty-first century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies. These literacies—from reading online newspapers to participating in virtual classrooms—are multiple, dynamic, and malleable. As in the past, they are inextricably linked with particular histories, life possibilities and social trajectories of individuals and groups. —NCTE Position StatementDefining 21st Century Literacies
Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society. —The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Position Paper (2004) The Plurality of Literacy and its Implications for Policies and Programs
Scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine have determined the precise anatomical coordinates of a brain “hot spot,” measuring only about one-fifth of an inch across, that is preferentially activated when people view the ordinary numerals we learn early on in elementary school, like “6” or “38.”
Interestingly, said Parvizi, that numeral-processing nerve-cell cluster is parked within a larger group of neurons that is activated by visual symbols that have lines with angles and curves. “These neuronal populations showed a preference for numerals compared with words that denote or sound like those numerals,” he said. “But in many cases, these sites actually responded strongly to scrambled letters or scrambled numerals. Still, within this larger pool of generic neurons, the ‘visual numeral area’ preferred real numerals to the false fonts and to same-meaning or similar-sounding words.”
Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
FREE DOWNLOAD WITH REGISTRATION
"As grantmakers and nonprofits are looking for ways to collaborate more effectively, many are experimenting working with and through networks to achieve greater impact. Because networks are by definition loosely controlled and emergent, understanding how to effectively support them feels like a mystery to many grantmakers.
"GEO's newest publication sets out to crack the code behind the network mystique. In fact, there is a method to working more efficiently and effectively through networks, and a critical first step for grantmakers is adopting a network mindset, which may require dramatic shifts in attitude and behavior for some.Cracking the Network Code outlines four principles that comprise the network mindset, illustrates the principles with a range of examples of networks that have achieved real results, and offers practical questions and recommendations to help grantmakers achieve the benefits and avoid common pitfalls of working through networks."
Jim Lerman's insight:
Do not be misled by the title of this whitepaper; it is not just for grantmakers. In my view, it as a guidebook for anyone on how to thrive in the new organizational space of nodes and hubs. "Those who embrace the network mindset see their organization as one part of a larger web of activity directed toward a cause, not as the hub of the action....The network mindset is about advancing the mission even before advancing the organization."
If you have been influenced by ideas such as Connectivism, or authors such as Mihalyi Czikszentmihalyi (Flow) or Carol Dweck (Mindset) or Clay Shirkey (Here Comes Everybody), or people such as Gandhi, King, or Mandela, then you will be right at home with Cracking the Network Code. It is about how to get things done through maximizing the power of networked collaboration.
via The Scout Project
Via Jim Lerman
Date: January 16th, 2014 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm ESTLocation: Online
Schools around the country are engaged in efforts to implement the Common Core State Standards.
Join this free Web event to hear about two different school-based initiatives that are using collaborative structures and processes as the foundation of their ongoing work to address the challenges of implementing the Common Core. The members of this panel discussion will be sharing both their successes and their challenges, engaging in a dialogue about the past, present, and future of their respective efforts. Join this unique online event hosted by the National Center for Literacy Education where panelists and audience members have the opportunity to learn with and from one another—sharing lived experiences and discussing questions of practice.
This Web event provides an example of a virtual Practice Exchange. Participants come together around a common interest to share their practices with one another. The use of an adapted version of the Peer Consultancy or Tuning Protocol provides opportunities for panelists to receive feedback not only from each other but from the participants as well.
John Nelson, Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Services in the Chula Vista Elementary School District (CVESD), California. Dr. Nelson is a passionate advocate for meeting the needs of English learners; he began his career in education as an elementary bilingual education teacher and also served as an adult ESL instructor. Most recently, he has published articles for Education Week, Journal for Staff Development, and District Administrator on supporting English learners through Response to Intervention (RtI), Instructional Leadership Teams, and developing and implementing a common instructional model for teachers.
Matthew Navo, Superintendent of the Sanger Unified School District, California. Navo is the youngest superintendent in the SUSD's history. He's worked in the district as a high school assistant principal, principal of two elementary schools, an alternative education principal, and special education teacher.
Bob Hill, Former Superintendent of Springfield Public School District, Illinois. Hill has been the Director of Education Initiatives at the Ball Foundation for the past decade, where he served as a member of a team dedicated to the re-design of learning and schooling.
What distinquishes collaborative inquiry from other approaches to educator professional learning?
This excerpt from Michael Palmisano's Taking Inquiry to Scale: An Alternative to Traditional Approaches to Education Reform (NCLE & NCTE, 2013) discusses the differences between collaborative inquiry and traditional forms of professional learning.
What distinquishes collaborative inquiry from other approaches to educator professional learning?
Collaborative inquiry offers an alternative to one-size-fits-all and top-down approaches to educator professional learning through its approach and its results. Collaborative inquiry changes the professional learning experience by reframing how professional knowledge is constructed and applied. Moving from professional learning approached as the acquisition of methods and structures developed outside the classroom and the school, collaborative inquiry places educators in the role of actively constructing professional knowledge through treating their classrooms and schools as sites for investigation.
Professional learning centers on investigating shared problems or questions of practice as they relate to student learning. The student learning problem, not a prepackaged one-size-fits-all solution, is the departure point for inquiry. Recurring cycles of planning, action and reflection characterize the professional learning experience. Educators engage in learning and conversation from inside their practice and build on their professional knowledge by examining and reflecting on new learning through the lens of prior knowledge and experience, new information and data, and the impact of their actions.
Collaborative inquiry engages educators in self-directed and participatory learning, moving beyond collective passive learning to learning with and from colleagues through action and reflection. In the supportive context of collaborative inquiry, participants explore agreements and disagreements about learning and teaching, uncover tacit knowledge, and come to individual and shared understandings of how, why and under what conditions instruction and leadership yield positive student results.
The results of educator engagement in collaborative inquiry speak to its effectiveness and viability as an approach to educator professional learning. Evidence of improved instructional practice, increased student achievement, and organizational conditions that support high achievement are documented in multiple studies involving elementary and secondary schools in various settings serving diverse student populations. Results also demonstrate increased teacher agency in their practice and ownership of their professional learning. The persistent problem of transferring new learning into practice is overcome by centering professional learning on practice. Through collaborative inquiry, individual and collective action become more intentional, coherent, and evidence based.
Educators from the John Stanford International School, in Seattle, Washington, have provided these resources and tools for teaching global competence.
Sample global competence unit plans for various grade levels provided by Seattle Public Schools. Each unit contains state standards, global perspective, essential questions, timetable for the unit, and student and teacher goals.
Via Rob Hatfield, M.Ed.