By Diana Knudson November, 2015
Last month, I talked about the book Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. It explains the change process in ways you can so easily relate. We are all asked to change our teaching habits to encompass the common core standards. But why is that so difficult even when we know it is right—even when we know we would want our own children taught the new way. I just cannot summarize Switch. It is so concise in its 260 pages. You need to purchase it, read it, and let the pattern work in your life.
When we look at getting some results back from Smarter Balanced we will tend to jump to how high or how low the test scores might be and jump to many conclusions. We should instead ask these five questions to assess how well we are meeting the needs of our students (“Common Core Test Results: What Policymakers Need to Ask”, Education Week, October 7, 2015).
· How well are teachers prepared to teach common core content? These standards were designed to shift instruction and learning away from passive intake and rote repetition toward deep content knowledge and critical thinking.
· How well do school leadership and other facets of the school support strong, deep instruction? Teachers’ skills are bolstered by strong leaders with a clear vision for the school and rapport with its staff. How well do schools do attracting and keeping these administrators? Instructional leaders can make a huge impact.
· To what extent does the school comprehensively address student needs? Knowing what test scores mean requires understanding how many factors affect them. These factors can be how many students receive subsidized meals, how many live with one parent and/or in foster care, are homeless, have diagnosed mental/emotional health problems. School districts can engage community leaders to connect schools to key resources from health clinics and social workers to after-school programs and summer opportunities.
· How well are parents engaged as education partners? Parent engagement often gets more lip service than policy support. Partnering with parents—by hosting coffee hours, inviting them into classrooms, and encouraging attendance at parent-teacher conferences and PTA events—can significantly boost both test scores and teacher practice.
· How do district and state policies support or limit common core success? Any examination of test scores must take into account the state’s role in ensuring that schools have sufficient funds to support new, higher standards.
So when we talk about test scores, we need to remember students are a product of all of the above factors. No answer about any student’s test score is simplistic.
Our winner of our contest this month is Becky
Satterwhite at Cascade. Congrats!
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Edutopia's List of Educational Grants
Bookmark the "Big List of Educational Grants and Resources" to regularly check for grant opportunities. You can find a number of grants, from youth service learning grants to awards for young artists to resources from the Smithsonian and PBS Learning Media.
There are a number of ways to keep communication open between teachers, students, and parents. Digital communication is often the quickest and most effective method, and there are a number of apps and websites that facilitate open teacher-student-parent communication.
Start this process today by using a tool from Common Sense's list of the 13 easiest and most effective communication tools.
Explore the compelling reasons all schools should shift from a points based grading system to a standards and competency based grading system on the Montana Teacher Librarian site.
The site page compiles books, videos, presentations, and other resources to help you move toward competency based learning - and ultimately give students meaningful experiences that translate to and prepare them for the real world.
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