Quality Review Information
February 7, 2011. Please see documents from today's Faculty meeting below. Thank you for your hard work as we transform our school together.
Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and my Journey from Homeless to Harvard (the book Linda is reading) is available from Amazon. Remember Katherine's keeping her GoogleDoc open in the teacher lounge tomorrow, January 4th.
Transforming Teaching Through Collaboration
According to a new report, 21st-century teaching and learning can only occur if teachers and school staff work together as a collaborative team; simple adjustments to antiquated school policies and structures that are already in place won’t help.
The research brief, titled “Team Up for 21st Century Teaching and Learning: What Research and Practice Reveal about Professional Learning,” was conducted by the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF), with support the Pearson Foundation. The publication gives school policy leaders and educators an extensive review of research and case studies on innovative teaching practices currently implemented by top-performing schools.
According to Hanna Doerr, NCTAF program leader and editor of the report, the research was undertaken as a reaction to the Obama administration’s mission to have every student college and career ready, and to close the achievement gap for low-income students.
“Making these goals happen will require changes that go beyond tinkering with today’s school designs,” explains the brief. “The most critical redesign will be that of the teaching profession—the work of teachers and the way schools are staffed.”
The significance of NCTAF’s report “is that it provides research-based evidence showing that the most successful schools are those that foster collaborative team environments, as opposed to simply attempting to identify individual ‘good’ and ‘bad’ teachers,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, in a statement.
The brief highlights five research articles, chosen for their breadth of scope and validity, and four case studies that show innovative professional learning communities in practice.
Though each research article and case study is unique and takes into account many differing factors, NCTAF says there are key principles of effective professional learning communities that can be seen within all of the accounts:
In addition to publishing the findings, NCTAF is putting the six principles of an effective professional learning community into action by creating learning studios that enable learning teams—composed of digital-age teachers, tech-savvy youth, veteran educators, and skill-based volunteers—to develop innovative responses to complex learning challenges. (Read “Let retiring ‘Boomers’ transform schools.”)
“This book directly challenges the current market-driven, industrial ideology espoused by self-identified reformers who spend little or no time in classrooms and don’t understand what’s need to prepare student for a knowledge economy,” said Weingarten. “We must move toward a more cooperative, team-based dynamic with shared responsibility if we genuinely hope to provide all children with high-quality public schools.”
NCTAF says the research brief will be available on its web site within the next few weeks.
There is now a box under the time clock for outgoing mail. Please confer with Ms. Marileysi Garcia to make sure that postage is on your envelopes. Ms. Garcia can put in the code for you and you can stamp your mail. Thanks!
Glencoe Books Online
From Mr. Glanville- Most of the books that we bought from Glencoe have on line versions. Teachers have to create an account at www.glencoe.com/ose. When they do, they will be given access codes for the online versions of the book. The bolded codes to the right are the access codes for the students to access the books):
Glencoe Literature SE, American Literature (9780078779800) E02DA3F607
Glencoe Literature SE, World Literature (9780078456053) DB524CC7D3
Students are able to read, have the texts read to them (audio), etc. I think we should make use of the website and perhaps purchase more book from GLencoe, because this is a wonderful support for our students.
Remember, we have a talented technician on staff- Ms. Shamsun Nahar, extension 2390. If you are using a computer that is slow, has an out-of-date web browser, whatever the case may be- please avail yourself of her excellent skills. Thanks!
Spanish Regents Listening Test
Begins January 4th, ends January 21st.
Basing Decisions on the Right Data
In this American School Board Journal article, author/consultant Douglas Reeves describes three blind alleys in educational policy decision-making – and two more sensible avenues:
• Spurious claim 1: I believe it. Some educators and parents have strong views, for example, the virtues of corporal punishment and certain methods of teaching reading. But these are views, not research-based claims. As Silicon Valley entrepreneur James Barksdale said, “Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion; they’re just not entitled to their own facts.”
• Spurious claim 2: It worked for me, or I tried that in my classroom and it didn’t work. “In both cases,” says Reeves, “the implied claim is that personal experience can be generalized to all students in all schools.” So although a principal might have been subject to corporal punishment as a child and turned out fine, he still doesn’t allow children to be beaten in school, and although we might know a person who was a heavy smoker and lived into her nineties, we still discourage students from smoking.
• Spurious claim 3: Everyone thinks this is a lousy idea. Determined opponents sometimes enlist “the popular will” against a leader’s initiatives. “When the ‘I’ becomes ‘we’ in discussions of reform ideas,” says Reeves, “then leaders become preoccupied with the need for popularity rather than effectiveness. They succumb to the idea that ‘buy in’ is the prerequisite for change, failing to acknowledge that effective change requires that people sacrifice time and energy – and pre-existing beliefs. Wise leaders do not conduct an endless search for ‘buy in,’ but acknowledge the truth – change is difficult and always involves opposition.”
• More solid ground: systematic examination of authentic cases – Individual school success stories are not definitive, but they provide leaders with detailed descriptions of the specific actions that successful schools have taken. Reeves cites three books in this vein: Bringing School Reform to Scale: Five Award-Winning Urban Districts by Heather Zavadsky (Harvard Education Press, 2009), It’s Being Done by Karin Chenoweth (Harvard Education Press, 2007), and How to Change 5,000 Schools by Benjamin Levin (Harvard Education Press, 2008).
• Most solid of all: looking for the preponderance of evidence – “Beliefs and anecdotes, no matter how compelling, cannot compete with evidence,” says Reeves. Sometimes there’s evidence on both sides of a pedagogical issue and it’s a tough call. But leaders don’t need evidence “beyond a reasonable doubt” (as they would if they were jurors in a criminal case). Rather, they need to decide based on “the preponderance of the evidence” (as they would in a civil case). “The evidence is not perfect, and neither side has a monopoly on the truth,” says Reeves. “But at the end of the day, you find that one side has made a sufficient case for public policy.” Reeves cites several books that have compiled solid evidence for effective practices:
- Visible Learning by John Hattie (Routledge, 2009)
- Learning from Leadership by Ken Leithwood et al. (2010)
- The Fourth Way by Andy Hargreaves et al. (Corwin, 2009)
- The Art and Science of Teaching by Robert Marzano (ASCD, 2007)
“Fact or Fiction” by Douglas Reeves in American School Board Journal, January 2011 (Vol. 198, #1, p. 40-41), no e-link available; Reeves can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Write More, Grade Less
For more than 30 years, Marzano and others have demonstrated that conventional grading practices are not only unnecessarily time-consuming for teachers, but also have a negative impact on student writing performance. The key issues are
RECOMMENDATIONS Teach one trait or feature (like “voice” or “transitions” or “sentence fluency”) at a time, using a rubric, as well as student/professional models to guide the work. Then, immediately give students the chance to practice that trait or criteria on a short writing assignment. That is,
assign and grade only one to three paragraphs for that trait only--with limited comments, and the opportunity for students to revise
have students peer–edit for that trait only (e.g. “Write 2-3 evaluative comments on your partner’s paper with respect only to the designated trait we just learned”)
Rather than always assign longer, comprehensive argumentative papers (with multiple supporting arguments and paragraphs) regularly teach students to effectively organize and explain only one point or argument in only 1-2 paragraphs.
To ensure their success, (and reduce the amount of time-consuming corrections you must make!) always teach them using student/professional models (“exemplars”) of good paragraphs, passages and written works—written by students or professionals. For instance,
give students professional or (anonymous) student papers or paragraphs which teach these fundamental (but not always explicitly taught) skills like the following: making a specific point or argument clearly, without confusing the reader or wandering off-topic; selecting and integrating appropriate quotations or evidence from one or more texts and then effectively expounding on/explaining the importance of that quote or evidence as it relates to the main thesis/point/argument you are making.
(If these basic features of good writing are routinely and explicitly taught, in carefully-sequenced steps, with exemplars, students will learn them, and there will be far less correcting to do).
Vet thesis statements! : Many papers are confused and incoherent (and devilishly hard to grade) because students don’t know how to develop and write a clear thesis or argument. Every year, at different levels of sophistication, the thesis statement must be taught carefully (with examples/models), i.e.:
Always “vet” thesis statements (Jago 2001) before students write or complete even a short paper or an outline (walk around evaluation/assessment can be adequate here—so that you don’t have work to take home).
Have students self-evaluate or peer-edit for any of the above using checklists (Stiggins and Spandel; CTW 145)
Vet Outlines: Have students freewrite, “web” or make lists of quotes, page numbers or evidence from their close reading of one or more texts. Then have them select their best points/content and then make a brief, working outline (which they can change if necessary—as writers do).
Inspect student outlines (“walk around” evaluation may be adequate here as well)
Carefully teach students to self-evaluate or peer evaluate to ensure:
Coherent paragraphs: clear, on-topic; with good use of carefully-selected quotes, evidence, “exposition” (i.e. where the writer clearly explains the significance of the quote or text reference to their argument or thesis) and to ensure that
each paragraph/section clearly aligns with, and does not deviate from, the thesis/argument
Have regularly-scheduled “writing days”, when you read and grade papers—while students read or write. During this time, students are free to come up to your desk if they have questions about their drafts
Have students evaluate/revise good or bad sample papers in pairs or by themselves--for one trait/criteria at a time (while you do walk-around evaluation/assessment)
-then have them write their own paragraph or two focusing on that same trait
BOTTOM LINE: IF WE VERY CAREFULLY and REPEATEDLY TEACH THE IMPORTANT ASPECTS OF WRITING AND THE ELEMENTS OF OUR RUBRICS—USING GOOD STUDENT/PROFESSIONAL EXEMPLARS—STUDENTS WILL WRITE BETTER.
THAT MEANS LESS TIME CORRECTING
IT MAKES IT FAR EASIER FOR STUDENTS TO SELF-EVALUATE AND TO PEER-EVALUATE MEANINGFULLY AND WITH CONFIDENCE.
IF WE IMPLEMENT PRACTICES LIKE THE ABOVE, THEN GRADING EVEN LONGER PAPERS, IN STAGES, WILL TAKE FAR LESS TIME, BECAUSE IT ENSURES THAT STUDENTS DO A LOT OF THE WORK FOR US—BEFORE HANDING THEIR WORK IN.
SUCH PROCESSES GREATLY REDUCE THE TIME SPENT GRADING, WHICH MEANS FAR MORE WRITING AND FAR MORE EFFECTIVE WRITING INSTRUCTION.
MAKE NO MISTAKE: WHEN STUDENTS WRITE--ESPECIALLY ABOUT WHAT THEY HAVE CAREFULLY AND CLOSELY READ—THEY ENLARGE THEIR INTELLECTS AND ARE PREPARE THEMSELVES FOR COLLEGE, CAREERS AND CIVIC PARTICIPATION IN A WAY THAT CAN”T BE SURPASSED.