About Me

My photo
As the 9th largest school district in the state of Ohio, the Hilliard City School District serves more than 15,500 students in grades K-12, through three high schools, three middle schools, two sixth-grade schools and 14 elementary schools.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

November 26, 2012

Homework: It Fails Our Students and Undermines American Education

I know many of you are having philosophical debates with staff around the issue of homework . . . what it should look like, when it should be given, if it should be given, etc.  This is a thought-provoking blog entry about homework and its relevance in today's classroom.

Mark Barnes is a junior high language arts teacher near Cleveland.  He made the decision to give up homework.  Barnes writes:
"For more than a decade, I peppered students with mundane nightly activities, as I had been taught to do by education professors and mentors, all of whom ran the old-school teaching playbook, like a young football coach running the plays of Knute Rockne or Pop Warner — ancient coaching legends whose methods would likely fail in the modern era. Year after year, I watched students get low grades in my class and fail standardized tests, blaming them instead of questioning my own methods."
Check out the blog.  Do you agree or disagree with Barnes?

Homework: It Fails Our Students and Undermines American Education

Finding Balance

My selection this week comes from Dan Kerr, a middle school principal, and discusses the importance of finding balance in your life.  With the holiday season coming up, I felt this article came at the perfect time.  We all have more than enough on our plates and our lives continue to move at warp speed, but as Kerr states below it is imperative we make time for ourselves:

"We all work hard to be the best educators that we can be, and sometimes we feel guilty for taking time for ourselves…….I get it. Don’t lose yourself in the process everyone, and be sure to put yourself first. It’s my feeling that without the proper balance in your life, you’ll never be the educator that your students really need. We still have five weeks to go until the Holiday break, so take care of yourselves! You’ll be all the better for it, and your students will feed off of your new found energy. Have a great week everyone, and remember to be balanced for our students and good to each other."
Finding Balance

7 Steps to Effective Feedback

Over time, the ‘Connected Leader’ has featured several articles about providing effective feedback to students.  The focus of this week’s article is principal providing meaningful feedback to teachers.  The author, Shira Leibowitz, is a practicing building administrator who speaks to overcoming the challenges of restricted time.   

As you know, one of the Characteristics of the Highly Effective Leader is  “makes regular classroom visits and provides on-going feedback to teachers”.   In our busy schedules and demanding roles, we must make time to observe the instructional practices of our teachers on a daily basis.  Leibowitz offers 7 steps principals can take that would allow time to give effective feedback to teachers:

1.  Schedule significant time in classrooms
2.  Schedule time for formal conversations with teachers
3.  Make feedback nonjudgmental and goal-focused
4.  Focus on relationships and face-to-face interactions
5.  Compliment
6.  Be transparent with evaluation
7.  Seek feedback for yourself.

7 Steps to Effective Feedback

Healthier Testing Made Easy: The Idea of Authentic Assessment

Grant Wiggins reminds us of the extreme importance of feedback and authentic assessment experiences in "Healthier Testing Made Easy: The Idea of Authentic Assessment."  While we balk at the die of more testing, it is clear that an increase in formative assessment is the key to improvement on tests of all kinds.  He reminds us to build authentic feedback into daily teaching and learning.  As for "authentic feedback," Wiggins says it's simply performances and product requirements that are faithful to real-world demands, opportunities, and constraints.  Students should be tested on their ability to "do" the subject in context.

We are reminded of a variety of analogies we've heard in the past...the soccer player who is unable to transfer the "drill and kill" to the playing field and the annual physical we try to "pass" rather than changing to a healthier lifestyle.  Understanding how and when to put knowledge to use is an important characteristic of expertise.  This is also the case for assessment of student learning.  We have to reclaim the primary purpose of assessment, which is to help our students learn better and to help our teachers instruct better.  Students deserve far, far more feedback (and the chance to use it) in our everyday assessment processes, especially assessment that models and demands "real-world" work.

Healthier Testing Made Easy: The Idea of Authentic Assessment

Gamification 101: Why A Badge Is Better Than An A

What if your son or daughter came home more excited about the badge that proves he/she can critical think to the point that they are a "Young Sherlock" than they were receiving an A?  Is it crazy to think that perhaps we are headed that way?  Does a letter grade truly represent learning or work? Does a badge prove that our students learning was earned by them instead of given by the teacher?  Why are students more excited about earning points on Modern Warfare and where they rank globally than if they receive an A or B?  It means more to their peers.  The value of a letter grade has declined in our students eyes because they can earn a C and pass just fine.  However, if you earn a certain ranking in Mind Craft, LOOK OUT…now you've reached "cool" status.  Is it hard to imagine that for some students, being the MInd Craft master is cooler than being the valedictorian? Interesting article that will challenge your thinking. Don't discard the thought that letter grades are losing value in the eyes of our customers.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

November 12, 2012

On Feedback: Thirteen Practical Examples Per Your Requests

The influence of feedback on student achievement is well documented.  Of course, it is also one of the seven characteristics of highly effective teaching that we have identified for our teachers.  Many schools have chosen feedback as an SIP focus for the year, and many of you are having ongoing conversations with staff about what quality feedback looks and sounds like.  Author and researcher Grant Wiggins recently published a blog entry with real, concrete examples of quality feedback.  

Here's one of my favorites (connecting to the feedback look for - "Students give feedback to the teacher about what they know, what they understand, where they make errors, when they have misconceptions, when they are not engaged, etc."):

"Every Friday, teachers collect index cards in response to two questions they pose to their 6th graders: What worked for you this week? What didn’t work for you this week (and why)?  Teachers report back to students on Monday, with a summary of adjustments that the teachers might be making, based on the feedback."

Take a look at all 13 examples and think about how you can share and discuss these with your staff.

The Future of Learning in a Networked Society

I've selected a video this week that ties in nicely to our ongoing focus on Innovation in Education and the need for change for the types of students we see today.  

“This is the first generation of people that work, play, think, and learn differently than their parents … They are the first generation to not be afraid of technology. It’s like air to them.” – Don Tapscott

If you can't squeeze in 20 minutes to watch the entire video, at least take the time to watch the first 5 minutes, as they truly capture the entire theme.

Off the Clock: Giving Students More Time to Demonstrate Learning

As you know, our district's CIP has an action step around grading and homework practices.  This week's article, Off the Clock:  Giving Students More Time to Demonstrate Learning, provides fodder to continue our thinking about these somewhat controversial topics.  Teachers make independent decisions about how and what constitutes a student's grade on a daily basis.  Often, their grading practices mimic the way they were graded in school.  When we pause to consider if our practices make sense in today's educational landscape, we often discover that they do not.

Today's article asks us to think about the antiquated practice of restricting the time students are allowed to demonstrate their learning.  Author, Kyle Redford points out that in our professional careers, it doesn't matter how long it took us to prepare the presentation or complete the report.  He correctly states, "Individuals are evaluated on the quality of their work."  I believe a School Improvement Team could have a meaningful conversation around this article.  

Performing Innovation Before the Norming and Storming

Jeffrey Phillips defines “forming and norming” as those meetings in which leaders trying to kick off an innovation initiative are blocked by issues, obstacles, and gripes that really aren’t reflective of the innovation, but have to be addressed before any innovation can truly begin. According to Phillips, it’s quite rare that a kickoff is actually about the innovation. Let’s face it. Until folks have shared their two cents’ worth and cleared the air about other issues, innovation takes a back seat. Too often, the very roadblocks that stymie innovation should have been addressed well before the big kickoff event. Phillips calls this “skipping the forming and norming, and moving immediately to the storming.”

Leaders become frustrated when laying out and implementing an innovation doesn’t happen naturally or easily, but this frequently happens because we have ignored the layers of issues and resistance created over time. Instead, Phillips reminds us to “clean up issues, communicate [our] goals, and set a consistent infrastructure in place.” Otherwise, the intended innovation will land at the top of the stack of other poorly defined, poorly supported projects and initiatives. So, the message is simple. Address key issues early, or as Phillips puts it, “...start the forming and norming activities early, so when your team is ready the storming and performing can begin in earnest.” 

Performing Innovation Before the Norming and Storming

Preparing Students for the Real World

I had the pleasure of taking a quick vacation to Florida this past weekend for a family members wedding. It's always great to reminisce with family isn't it? Catching up on what has been happening since the last time you spoke is always worth the travel time, until you broach the subject of education. You know what it's like, you're the educator so all targets zero in on you. This time I listened to a diatribe about how our students and teachers are failing and why can't they just learn like "we" did and perform like "we" did? I bit my tongue until I couldn't take it anymore and gave my best political answer to shut down their thought process. When boarding the flight this article popped up on Zite, and I thought it would be a good summary of the thoughts I wish I would have conveyed. All students are not the same, and they are dealing with so many underlying things that sometimes we aren't aware of it until we read a story like this. 

Preparing Students for the Real World