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The Public School Insights Blog

What if I do more than share grades with parents?

I recently met with two parents and their son. It was a conference to discuss how he was doing in class and what they could do at home to help. If that kind of interpersonal communication is the "Gold Standard" of analog communications, we have to concede it's not the only way we can communicate with families, nor is it the most sustainable. But let's start with the conference and the tools for opening communication. Then on to other options.

Unlike years past, my year-round calendar does not allocate minimum days for conferencing anymore. My single conferences lasted one hour and fifteen minutes after school. To replicate this for my class of 28 students would require 35 hours. Quality communication? Yes. Replicable on a frequent basis? No.

While the recent conference was enlightening for the parents, student, and myself, I came away with two big wonderings: ...

In the early 70s, when I was a young administrator on New York’s Long Island, I was exposed to a program called Individually Guided Education out of the Kettering Foundation. The program focused on individualizing education for students by reorganizing schools and the classroom. During my 27 years as a superintendent I made numerous attempts to personalize learning. I established non-graded, multi-aged grouped environments, year-round schools, competency based assessments, open classrooms (you old enough to remember those?), schools without walls, and just about anything that might break us out of the traditional, assembly line, graded school.

Nothing worked. The decks were stacked against us. Parents of the non-graded students insisted on knowing what grade the student was in, as did the state department of education ...

Have you ever wished that you had more hours in the day? If you have, you’re certainly not alone. Teachers have a lot to do and only so much time to do it. At the 71st ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show in Atlanta, I will be presenting a session called “Time to Teach: Getting Organized and Working Smarter” (session #1161 on Saturday, April 2, 8:00–9:00 a.m.) To get you started, here are 15 of my favorite tips for saving time!

  1. If you have a large task that you have put off doing, break it down into small tasks that you can accomplish in short periods of time. Then, schedule them on your to-do list. Reward yourself when you have completed each one. ...

Spring forward! My least favorite Sunday morning of the year. Sure, spring is coming and the daylight will linger in the warmer temperatures, but losing that hour can be rough for an already sleep-deprived nation. But it’s even worse for our nation’s teenagers, who already get less than the recommended hours of sleep needed for their growth during this time of transition into adulthood. And this is not just about being overscheduled or overstimulated, up all night texting with their friends; it’s about the science behind the adolescent need for more sleep. ...

Van Henri White has seen the impact of poverty and violence in his native Rochester, N.Y. After graduation from Georgetown University Law School, he served as an assistant district attorney and the city’s “Crime Czar.”  He later opened a private practice specializing in school safety issues, and in his most famous case, he represented the mother of a 13-year-old student who was stabbed to death by a classmate in a lawsuit against the Rochester City School District.

But a few years after that case, Mr. White decided to try to instill change within the high-poverty, predominantly minority, and low-performing school district by running for a seat on the school board. Since being elected, he has initiated efforts to boost the graduation rate and reduce truancy, improve school safety, address lead poisoning and examine school discipline policies. For the past two years he also has served as the chair of the Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) ...

Sandy Boyd, chief operating officer at Achieve, discusses the organization's research around the "honesty gap" – comparing state test results to NAEP scores. Achieve's analysis has revealed gaps in student proficiency levels. This is important, she says, because many parents feel their children are subjected to too many tests but yet they do not have accurate information about student performance from those tests.

"We think it's really important that states be as honest as possible about how students are actually performing," she said. "Our hope, too, is that states will get better about improving how they communicate this information to parents and to schools and to teachers so that test results can be meaningful and that people understand what those test results actually mean." ...

Your data has just been kidnapped and you will have to pay a ransom to get it back. This is the modern day “Stick-em up” and it is more common than you think.

Ransomware is becoming the crime of choice for cybercriminals to extort money from corporations, as well as individuals. It is not about stealing your data and sharing it with the world. It is not about privacy. On the contrary, your data is still residing on your system. It is about locking you out of your own system and data until you pay a ransom, and there is nothing you can do about it. It sounds unreal, but it is true. ...

By all insider accounts, the Student Success and Academic Enrichment Grants program (SSAEG) – Title IV, Part A of the newly enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – is House Education & The Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline’s baby. SSAEG is a large flexible block grant that emerged in the House version of what ultimately became ESSA’s final bill. Under ESSA, SSAEG funds travel from the U.S. Department of Education to states, and then from states to school districts, via Title I formula. SSAEG allows districts to spend their allocations on everything from computers to school counselors to foreign language programs. The program’s only requirements are that districts receiving more than $30,000 in funding conduct needs assessments and spend 20 percent of their dollars on health and safety programs, 20 percent on well-rounded education programs, and at least some of the remaining 60 percent of funding on technology. The only caveat for districts receiving any SSAEG dollars is that they cannot spend more than 15 percent of their funds on technology devices, equipment and software. ...

As performance assessment of teacher candidates becomes more widespread and as more video evidence is collected in classrooms, we have to make sure that everyone involved with these videos—and other artifacts assembled for assessment purposes—understands how they may and may not be used. I’m pleased to report that a broad base of educators, convened by AACTE to bring various stakeholders’ perspectives to the discussion, is making promising strides to help safeguard the personal information of both teacher candidates and the students in their classes.

I wrote about the importance of this topic last year (see “Safeguarding Student Data Is Everyone’s Business”), celebrating the White House’s call for heightened attention to protecting students’ digital privacy. The whole education field must engage in this campaign, and AACTE takes its role seriously. Since last fall, we have been convening an Information Privacy Task Force to develop principles regarding the secure and ethical use of classroom video and associated materials collected in performance assessments of newly prepared teachers. ...

Rhea-Claire Richard and Bailey Debardelen, fourth-grade teachers at S.J. Montgomery Elementary School in Lafayette Parish, La., share how the Common Core has encouraged deeper learning in their classrooms. Both teachers began their careers about four years ago, when the state switched to the Common Core, and both appreciate the in-depth learning the standards have brought to their classrooms.

For example, Ms. Richard notes that the previous English/language arts standards might have asked students to identify a main character in a story. "Now, I may ask my students, 'How do the actions of the main character affect the plot of the story?'" she said. "They’re going so much deeper. They’re having to look at the author’s craft, how the author wrote what they did and why they chose the words they used." 

Should political forces in the state force teachers to revert back to lower-level standards, these teachers say they will still continue to teach Common Core's higher-level concepts because they have seen the advantages for their students. Listen to the podcast, or read the transcript below for more information. ...

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