Showing posts with tag school leader effectiveness Show all posts >
I remember the early years with my children and the dreams I had for their success. Of course, my dreams and theirs didn’t exactly end up being the same. But what happens when a mother realizes that her dreams for her child may be shattered because that child struggles with auditory processing issues, dyslexia, or other challenges never imagined? That’s exactly what Irene experienced with her daughter, Maria.
Attending school proved difficult for Maria. As she advanced from grade to grade and the work became progressively more difficult, anything presented in auditory form was especially challenging. By sixth grade, Maria had been diagnosed with dyslexia and Auditory Processing Disorder and was labeled with a language impairment.
For obvious reasons, Maria struggled in school. Because of this, she was shy around other students, avoided reading, and required extensive help at home. Her family considered sending her to a private school, but Maria was unable to pass the entrance exams.
By the middle of sixth grade, Maria had attended several different schools and the last was a disaster. It was then that one of her mother’s friends suggested Bridges Academy, a private school that specializes in serving students with learning challenges. Upon enrollment, Maria’s life began to turn in a new direction. When she got into her mother’s car after school she often said, “Mom, they understand me here!”
At Bridges Academy, Maria’s dyslexia and auditory processing issues were analyzed further and the Fast ForWord program was recommended in addition to Maria’s coursework and intervention regimen. Jacky Egli, the Director at Bridges Academy, explained to Maria’s mother that she personally researched every program thoroughly and only used programs that were scientifically based. Irene trusted Jacky and felt it was important to follow her recommendation, so Maria gave Fast ForWord a try.
Maria’s reading level was at least three to four years below grade level when she entered Bridges. She also had struggled in other subjects, because every subject—even math—requires reading. But that soon began to change and, in time, Maria made significant improvements. Maria’s comprehension level increased more than two full grade levels last year. This improvement aligned with her participation in the Fast ForWord Reading and Reading Assistant programs. Over the last 6 years, despite the odds, Maria improved on the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test 7.3 grade levels. Because of this significant improvement, she no longer receives remedial instruction.
Irene sought the best for her daughter and found it in the caring attitude of the staff at Bridges Academy and the innovative programs they use to make a difference for struggling students. “Jacky walks the walk and talks the talk of the school’s mission,” says Irene.
Maria has transformed from a shy, struggling child to a vibrant, engaged student who participates in class, reads aloud to her peers and conducts presentations for content area classes in front of her classmates. She is an ambassador for the school who greets and escorts new students and parents through the campus as she participates in open house and school events.
And, most exciting of all, Maria has been accepted into a local college and is thrilled about rising to meet a challenge and a future that once seemed entirely out of reach.
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On November 5th, Dr. Martha Burns and Mr. Charles Wilson, principal of the Korematsu Discovery Academy in the Oakland Unified School District, presented a live webinar that explained the research behind the Fast ForWord program and how it took Korematsu from NCLB Program Improvement (PI) status to achieving double-digit learning gains -- and emerging from PI status in only two school years!
Dr. Burns focused on the neurophysiology of learning, specifically the importance of several key left hemisphere pathways. Dr. Burns noted that these pathways appear to be originally founded in object naming networks but gradually expand to symbolic representation systems. She described how information is moved from perceptual/comprehension regions in the rear of the brain to the anterior regions of the frontal lobe, where the learner can utilize the information in useful ways.
This process is particularly important in reading. Reading represents one form of symbolic processing in which the visual symbol corresponds initially to speech sounds and ultimately to words and sentences. Fast ForWord is particularly designed to activate and strengthen speech perception, comprehension and production regions and those key pathways that enable processing for struggling learners by:
The best testament to Fast ForWord’s capabilities is real-world success, which is exactly what Mr. Wilson provided in his section of the webinar. Korematsu is a heavily disadvantaged school with a 95% free lunch rate and a high percentage of ELL students. Korematsu found itself in NCLB Program Intervention status due to not meeting AYP requirements, at which point Wilson and his staff adopted Fast ForWord. In the subsequent school year, the Academy experienced double-digit gains on the CSTs and was named the Alameda County English Learner School of the Year.
Those of us who have worked in a low-performing school understand the immense challenge it is to improve student achievement, especially in the midst of record budget cuts. A lot can be learned from Mr. Wilson, a man who has achieved such great success for students in one of the most challenging educational environments. With a mix of leadership, determination, innovation, and inspiration, Mr. Wilson shows us that anything is possible.
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In a previous post I discussed some benefits of blended learning. Now I’d like to share how those benefits might be achieved within a hypothetical blended learning “classroom” using the Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant programs together in addition to a core curriculum and other technology.
The Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant programs are adaptive, technology-based tools that allow each student to receive differentiated instruction and progress at their own pace. While much of the work can be done independently, teachers play a critical role in reinforcing the concepts covered in the programs and intervening when students have difficulties.
With these programs:
The internet allows us to learn and experience the world in a new way and blended learning can help make the most of it for a generation of students for whom technology is a way of life. Technology isn’t replacing teachers but it certainly can enhance both learning and teaching opportunities and effectiveness.
[i] Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and Its Implications for Reading Instruction. http://www.nationalreadingpanel.org/Publications/summary.htm. June 21, 2012.
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In one of my favorite Scientific Learning webinars, "Our Changing Education Landscape", Dr. Bill (Willard) Daggett outlines a proven, step-by-step blueprint for successful change in the rapidly evolving education landscape. Dr. Daggett shares the results of a study conducted jointly by the organization he leads—the International Center for Leadership in Education—which locates and evaluates the most rapidly improving elementary, middle, and high schools in the United States—and the Council of Chief State School Officers.
The findings were encouraging and inspiring: Dr. Daggett asserts that contrary to popular opinion, schools are actually improving, especially those that are adjusting well to the deeper needs and transitioning priorities of 21st century education. In the webinar, Daggett presents the three stages (Why, What and How) these schools go through when undertaking their evolution into successful 21st century schools.
Educators at the nation's most rapidly improving schools first come to the realization that they have the power to change things. They actively decide to take responsibility for problems in the education system and identify themselves as the solution. Once that breakthrough is made, they begin to foster a culture to support change...and success follows. Coupled with other, practical motivations (e.g., the accelerated pace of technological developments, globalization, etc.), this shift in perspective gives school leaders plenty of incentive (WHY) to make the necessary changes to survive and thrive in the changing education landscape.
Schools that are rapidly improving have taken the time to identify exactly WHAT it is they need to change, and then decisively put into place innovative methods to make those changes. This requires a frank look at current and often antiquated models of teaching and evaluation, as well as the development of forward-looking models, which focus on interdisciplinary collaboration, significant real world application, and an embrace of technology (by both students and teachers).
Daggett suggests a three-year transition plan for schools considering HOW to re-imagine themselves in the changing landscape. It takes time to make the full transition to the Common Core State Standards, and to switch from old to new paradigms that focus on rigorous academic standards. Daggett also touches on the need for educators at all levels and in all subjects to prioritize reading proficiency, and uses the Lexile Framework (a system for measuring reading skills) to illuminate relevant statistics on how schools fall short.
About the presenter: Willard R. Daggett, Ed.D., CEO of the International Center for Leadership in Education, is recognized worldwide for his proven ability to move preK-12 education systems towards more rigorous and relevant skills and knowledge for all students. He has assisted a number of states and hundreds of school districts with their school improvement initiatives. He serves on several advisory boards, including the NASA Education Advisory Board and USA Today's Education Advisory Board.
According to a recent EdWeek article, it’s time for educators to step up their understanding of the science of learning. While educators are increasingly interested in how the brain learns, very few programs certify teachers and administrators in educational neuroscience. The result is that educators get their knowledge piecemeal from a variety of sources, say the experts—and that approach, though well-intentioned, leads to a fair amount of misinformation.
“In a study of 158 preservice secondary school teachers in the United Kingdom, Mr. Howard-Jones found that more than 80 percent believed incorrectly that students should be taught based on their brains' ‘learning styles,’ and another one in five mistakenly thought a student's brain would shrink if he or she drank fewer than six glasses of water a day.”
How well are you sorting fact from fiction? Test your knowledge of the brain and learning here.
"Creating a New Culture of Teaching and Learning" is a Scientific Learning webinar presented by Alan November, proposing that educators make the most of today's "small world" by turning classrooms into global communication centers and collaborating with fellow teachers and students from all over the world.
November's ideas about a new culture of teaching and learning are plentiful, as are his suggestions for further research. In this webinar, November proposes a pathway to a 21st century educational paradigm that is centered around information, collaboration, and empathy. Here are just a few of his thoughts on the subject:
Schools ought to abolish their "technology planning committees," which focus on "stuff" (wires, boxes, hardware). Alternatively, educational institutions should simply understand technology as the "digital plumbing" that works hand in hand with what November calls the "real revolution": the large amounts of information that flow through technology.
The educational experience can and should be supercharged with true collaboration. Collaboration can take place in the classroom itself, such as when certain students are tasked with the daily documentation of classroom activities via collaborative note taking, videography, and photography. Or, collaboration can take place across thousands of miles if teachers take the time to find classrooms in other parts of the world that are willing to work with a partner classroom on a given project. For example, a classroom in the US studying the American Revolution partnering with a classroom in the UK studying the same thing could help learners understand and respect differing perspectives.
When he asked the CEO of HSBC Bank in England what the most important "21st century skill" is, November received the surprising reply, "empathy." Empathy, the ability to identify with others and value their perspectives, is a crucial life skill in today's small world, for both students and teachers. Empathy helps teachers build relationships with educators in various parts of the world and encourages young people to become fearless global communicators who are able to work with anyone.
More than once during his presentation, November states that he hopes his ideas are "good enough to critique." He clearly sees the ideas he proposes as a jumping-off point for further exploration and conversation about how to make the most of our era's hyperconnectivity.
No matter where you are in today's small, small world, you’ll want to check out the entire webinar…and you can. Click here.
Alan November is an international leader in education technology known for his compelling thought leadership. He passionately challenges teachers and administrators to harness 21st century technology and create learning opportunities to prepare young people for an open, connected, and engaged future.
It’s clear that children from poverty are often at a disadvantage in school, and educators can find it challenging to help such students become positively engaged in their own learning. In a recent webinar for Scientific Learning, author and educator Eric Jensen (Teaching with Poverty in Mind), provides invaluable guidance for teachers who work with at-risk and low-income youth.
Jensen identifies a number of ways in which children living in poverty may differ from other children in terms of learning, and asserts that it is the responsibility of teachers to help bring about positive changes in students' developing brains to improve their learning ability. He provides a number of powerful observations and suggestions for purposeful teaching aimed at improving brainpower for learners from poverty:
At-risk learners are often lacking long-lasting, stable relationships in their lives. They may also require more assistance in developing the full emotional range to respond well to various kinds of stimulation. He states that "discipline" issues sometimes emerge when teachers expect more than what students are currently capable of, on an emotional level. Jensen suggests that classroom teachers help students develop a healthy range of emotional responses in order to build healthy, stable, trusting relationships as a foundation for learning.
Understand and control stress.
Jensen defines stress as "a physiological response to a perception of a lack of control over an aversive situation or person", and notes that at-risk students are likely to have more stress in their lives than other students. Teachers can help increase students’ perception of control by encouraging activities like peer mentoring and student jobs in the classroom, as well as offering more opportunities for students to make their own choices throughout the school day.
Develop a growth mindset.
Children who are raised in a poverty-stricken environment often need help developing a "growth mindset," which places more importance on attitude, effort, and strategy than on luck, genetics, and socioeconomic status. Since developing a growth mindset is teachable and free, Jensen challenges educators to rise to the responsibility of this important part of teaching.
Build executive function.
Working memory, the ability to retain fresh information long enough to do something with it, is a component of executive function—a term which generally refers to a collection of cognitive processes of the brain. According to data presented in the webinar, working memory at age 5 is a far greater predictor of student success at age 11 than IQ. It is also a more reliable predictor than reading scores, motivation level, math scores, or attitude. Jensen advises that if educators focus on building their students’ working memory, they will get significant improvements across the board.
Students from poverty often need more help engaging in the classroom. To help students become truly engaged, he suggests the use of physical activity, music, drama, social work (cooperative groups, teams, partners, etc.) and positive affirmations.
Above all, Jensen advises educators to avoid giving up on “difficult” students by deciding that certain kids “can’t be taught,” and provides powerful examples of at-risk children succeeding in large numbers in supportive environments. He also admonishes, "If you don't teach it, don't punish kids for not being good at it!”
Categories: Reading & Learning
You are looking to make changes to your school district’s technology infrastructure or offerings. You have a plan for what you would like. But is it a blueprint?
Many times our school systems are put in the very difficult position of “expanding technology” or “finding online solutions” because funding becomes available on short notice or parents of students are putting pressure on the school system to buy more technology. We get excited to go out and execute a plan.
Immediately talks happen to purchase tablets, desktops, interactive white boards, servers or maybe run new wire. A plan is underway.
The challenge from this is that many times expenditures come in higher than expected and we end up purchasing technology that does not ultimately serve as a solution to a specific problem, like declining test scores. We have teachers with tablets in hand or interactive white boards on the wall, but with no direction on how to use either and for what.
We do not have a blueprint.
A blueprint ensures that your technology purchases have a measurable impact on a problem your school or school system faces.
So, how do you build a blueprint that will ensure that technology expenditures are building a measurable, core foundation in your schools and ultimately providing a solution to a specific problem like lagging reading scores?
Here are a few things to consider when building a blueprint:
Technology is changing, fast.
Statistics show that currently there are four students for each piece of instructional technology, which is significantly different from just a decade ago when it was twelve to one. Even though students have more access now than ever, know that this number will change even more in the next five years.
Are you prepared? Do you have a blueprint in place to make sure it is not just technology for every student, but technology that provides a solution to a specific set of problems?
Position the technology with a blueprint and engineer your way to results you can measure.
Blended learning, the combination of independent online learning with supervised brick and mortar programs, is on the rise. While there were 2.94 million students participating in a hybrid learning program in 2010, it is expected that the number will be 10.07 million by 2015.
This growth pattern surpasses homeschooling, virtual schools and online charter schools. Schools employing these methods believe that students are more engaged with a 24/7 access model and have seen improvement in both district achievement and graduation rates. It does require a culture shift that includes a strong emphasis on trust, but there are many benefits.
Through a blended learning program, educators can move beyond the “one teacher, one textbook model” of education in a host of ways, including:
The trend toward blended learning within a district often begins in a specific school or grade level. For example, some districts start using blended learning strategies with their alternative education program, as the students are monitored by teachers at the alternative school but are supported by their general education teacher’s instruction, which can be delivered virtually. Others have found it makes sense to prepare students taking AP classes by providing virtual summer reading groups that include discussions and self-assessments in pre-class learning.
As blended learning takes hold with the starting group, the enthusiasm often quickly spreads when teachers see the opportunities for stronger student engagement and enhanced learning. Some districts also have found it helpful to implement online professional development programs as another way to help teachers gain acceptance and make the transition to blended learning.
Teachers can build powerful learning systems over time by adding online components to their classes. Starting gradually allows teachers to learn at their own pace and gives them a better understanding of what is needed on the teacher’s side to make blended and online learning more successful for students. A simple way to begin is with a blogging program, posting stimulating questions to foster student discussion, then guiding students in ways to respond appropriately to their peers in writing. Once the initial tools and processes are mastered by teachers and students, teachers can expand the initiative by asking students to turn assignments in electronically, encouraging students to participate in discussion boards or providing online quizzes that are self-graded.
Incorporating a virtual option into their classroom model enables teachers to more easily and effectively communicate with parents, collaborate district-wide via online communities and distribute curriculum materials. When curriculum maps are loaded into the district learning platform, students, parents and teachers can see where they are in the curriculum, and where they should be, at any given point in time.
The addition of virtual learning options can also solve pacing disparities that are more difficult to address in standard classrooms, such as providing more rigorous programs and college courses (engineering and biomedical classes, etc.) for advanced students. Similarly, students in need of credit recovery can be grouped in virtual learning programs that help them catch up and move forward, rather than re-teaching in the traditional environment.
Transitioning to a blended learning model is not about spending more, but about reallocating resources, changing mindsets and creating a paradigm shift within an existing culture. Most importantly, though, it’s about doing what is right for kids. The world they live in is fast, flexible, and online, and their schools should be, too.
Dim the lights and listen. Rumbling and stomping fills the classroom. First grade students sit up and lean forward in their seats, readied with excitement and anticipation as their science lesson comes to life. A Tyrannosaurus Rex lurches into the room, right in front of their eyes. Students observe the mighty carnivore as it tromps through the classroom, taking note of its activities, its eating habits and its demeanor.
This scene heralds a new age of interactivity for 21st century classrooms throughout the country. The vivid, clear and extraordinary images provided by today’s 3D technologies dramatically expand the possibilities for classroom learning. Teachers understand the impact this type of technology has on students and are harnessing its power to bring the classroom to life and help students more easily grasp difficult concepts.
The possibilities for 3D-enhanced student learning experiences are limitless. No longer is learning based simply on textbooks or computer-based tools. Rather, 3D technology is being used to supplement and enhance the standard curriculum, giving students the opportunity to observe and explore phenomena up close in their own classroom via “3D field trips,” without the hassle of leaving the school grounds.
For the study of science, this is particularly exciting. Students can explore the solar system, taking extra time to observe the topography of Mars. They can fly along with a bee to learn about the hive, pollination and the important role bees play in the sustainability of our food chain and environment. With 3D modeling, students don special 3D glasses to immerse themselves in an experience such as looking inside the human body to observe how the brain works, or watching how a dissected frog’s internal organs function in real time.
As “digital natives,” younger generations are primed to respond to technology-based teaching techniques in the classroom. But with scarce education dollars at stake, what evidence is there that 3D technologies can positively impact learning outcomes?
Thus far, schools that have adopted these new tools have reported good results. Student attention has increased—especially among learners who have tended to be disruptive or inattentive during more traditional instruction. All types of learners are more engaged in creative thinking and actively participating in the lessons and discussions, with ELL students and gifted students particularly benefiting. Learners have been shown to grasp and retain information more effectively than their peers who learn the same material without 3D technology, and have shown significant increases in academic achievement.
Some say today’s 3D tools are just the beginning, and have started to imagine an enriched instructional world in which students will use yet-to-be-developed tools to visit historic sites, see how regrouping is done in subtraction, and tour a variety of ecosystems. An ultimate goal would be for 3D technologies to stimulate higher-order thinking in ways that 2D tools can’t, confronting students with experiences that they must consider and respond to in novel and creative ways.
The possibilities of 3D tools are promising, but how viable are they long-term? Can schools afford them? Will the supply of fresh 3D content become more readily available across subject areas? Will students step in, as some have predicted, creating content to fill current gaps—and will the content they create have the same type of positive impact on student learning outcomes that some early adopters have seen? Can 3D technology help schools produce more active and informed citizens? Can it help produce more highly skilled, tech-savvy, innovative workers to compete in the global marketplace?
There is no doubt that 3D technology has awakened classrooms with a new energy and new potential for richer, deeper learning. It has the power to turn our learners into explorers, their curiosity awakened and their skills and senses “switched on.” Now don your 3D glasses, because the rest remains to be seen.