March 28 to April 1, 2016
WHAT'S UP THIS WEEK
Tues, Mar 29 - STAAR 7th Writing
Tues, Mar 29 - STAAR 8th Math
Wed, Mar 30 - STAAR 8th Reading
Wed, Mar 30 - LOL Mtg. 7:30 am
Wed, Mar 30 - Progress Reports
Thurs, Mar 31 - 7th & 8th Track Meet @ Birdville Stadium
Fri, Apr 1 - 8th gr. visit to HHS @ 10:45
Sat, Apr 2 - Band Pre-UIL
“PLC Lite” Versus the Real Thing
In this article in Kappan, PLC guru Rick DuFour and author/consultant Douglas Reeves say that, unfortunately, “PLC Lite” is the most accurate way to describe the current state of professional learning communities around the country. “Educators rename their traditional faculty or department meetings as PLC meetings,” say DuFour and Reeves, “engage in book studies that result in no action, or devote collaborative time to topics that have no effect on student achievement – all in the name of the PLC process. These activities fail to embrace the central tenets of the PLC process and won’t lead to higher levels of learning for students or adults.” They list the characteristics of a true professional learning community:
- A teacher team takes collective responsibility for students’ learning;
- A guaranteed and viable curriculum is established, specifying the knowledge, skills, and dispositions students are expected to acquire, unit by unit.
- Frequent, common, team-developed interim assessments measure students’ mastery of the curriculum.
- These assessments identify the students who need additional time and support; students who would benefit from enriched or extended learning; teachers’ individual strengths and weaknesses based on what their students learned; and areas where none of the team members were able to bring students to proficiency.
- A system of interventions guarantees that struggling students get additional time and support in ways that don’t remove them from new instruction.
All this flows from the four questions school staff are continuously asking themselves:
- What do we want students to learn?
- How will we know if they have learned it?
- What will we do if they haven’t learned it?
- How will we provide extended learning opportunities for students who have mastered the content?
“We recommend that faculty members keep a very simple one-page protocol that helps them focus on these questions,” say DuFour and Reeves. “Meetings that only address standards, that focus entirely on disciplinary issues and parent complaints, or that center on employee issues may be very interesting, but they do not represent the work of high-performing PLCs.”
They go on to discuss three areas that are particularly important in productive professional learning communities:
• Assessments – DuFour and Reeves draw a distinction between on-the-spot checking for understanding and periodic interim assessments – two equally important but quite distinct success factors. With the former, teachers direct questions at randomly selected students, move around the room checking students’ work, and use whiteboards, clickers, and exit slips to see how well students are grasping the material and follow up accordingly. Students are also involved in assessing their own understanding and taking increasing responsibility for improving their work.
With interim assessments, team members give students a test or performance-based assessment and use the results to identify struggling students, provide timely, systematic support, give students another chance to demonstrate their proficiency, and use the data to improve their classroom skills. DuFour and Reeves are scathing in their assessment of the “uninformative” interim assessment process they see in many schools. It often amounts to little more than shallow test prep including very brief team conversations concluding with, “Thank goodness that’s over – now we can go back to what we were doing.” Even if state tests consist largely of multiple-choice questions, teachers’ job “is not to mimic state tests but to challenge students to show what they know in ways that exceed traditional tests.”
• Data analysis – “Many PLC Lite schools have no process for collective analysis of student learning,” say DuFour and Reeves. Without that structure, teacher teams may spend time discussing their policy about student use of cell phones or sharing preferences about how to teach a skill (“I’ve always taught it this way”). All too many teams fall into the time-honored rut of teach, test, hope for the best, assign students to remediation, and move on. “Perhaps the worst examples of faux data analysis are the unfortunately named ‘war rooms’ in which district leaders display data from the previous year’s state tests and use this as a vehicle to publicly praise and humiliate principals and faculty members,” say the authors. “This is what military veterans call ‘fighting the last war’… The best examples of data analysis lead to specific actions by teachers and administrators so that an examination of the data leads to interventions and changes in instruction, feedback, and support.”
• Interventions – The key question is, “What happens in your school when students don’t learn what you have deemed is essential?” say DuFour and Reeves. “The least effective response to this question is that students must repeat a grade or a course… The research is overwhelmingly against retention, but facts are merely an annoyance to those with strongly held opinions.” What does work? Systematic, intensive, focused, immediate follow-up instruction at the individual or small-group level. “These interventions do more than improve student success,” say DuFour and Reeves. “They also dramatically improve faculty morale. Imagine what next year would be like if we had fewer repeaters and more elective classes. It might begin to restore the joy of teaching and the reason most teachers entered the profession: to make a positive difference in the lives of students.”
“The Futility of PLC Lite” by Rick DuFour and Douglas Reeves in Phi Delta Kappan, March 2016 (Vol. 97, #6, p. 69-71), www.kappanmagazine.org; the authors can be reached at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are We Conditioning Girls to Be Scaredy-Cats?
In this New York Times article, former San Francisco firefighter Caroline Paul, who’s run into countless burning buildings and crawled down a lot of smoky hallways, says she was frequently asked, “Aren’t you scared?” She found it strange and insulting to have her courage doubted. Her male colleagues were never asked this question. Of course all firefighters are scared at times – so why the expectation that women are more fearful than men?
Paul believes it’s because girls are conditioned from a young age to be skittish. Mothers, fathers, and teachers warn them away from activities that seem risky, like playing on the fire pole in a playground. Boys, on the other hand, are told to face their fears, be brave and resilient, and deal with the bumps and bruises that are part of a rough-and-tumble childhood. According to a 2015 study in The Journal of Pediatric Psychology, parents are four times more likely to tell girls to be careful than boys because of an unconscious belief that females are more fragile than males.
“When a girl learns that the chance of skinning her knee is an acceptable reason not to attempt the fire pole,” says Paul, “she learns to avoid activities outside her comfort zone. Soon many situations are considered too scary, when in fact they are simply exhilarating and unknown. Fear becomes a go-to feminine trait, something girls are expected to feel and express at will. By the time a girl reaches her tweens no one bats an eye when she screams at the sight of an insect. When girls become women, this fear manifests as deference and timid decision making… Books on female empowerment proliferate on our shelves. I admire what these writers are trying to do – but they come far too late.”
Not that injuries are good or girls should be reckless, says Paul, advising parents and educators to use common sense and carefully supervise potentially dangerous activities. “But risk-taking is important,” she concludes. “[B]y cautioning girls away from these experiences, we are not protecting them. We are failing to prepare them for life… We must embolden girls to master skills that at first appear difficult, even dangerous. And it’s not cute when a 10-year-old girl screeches, ‘I’m too scared.’”
“It’s Not Cute to Be Scared” by Caroline Paul in The New York Times, February 21, 2016,
Paul’s new book is The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure (Bloomsbury USA, 2016)
TWEETER of the Week:
Thank you to Elizabeth Cumbie for her participation in this week's campus Twitter Chat.
You can join each Tuesday at 8:00pm. Questions can be found in the Digital Learning News sent by Mark Thomas each week.
Questions? See Tosh or Christine. (@birdville_DL)
***Weekly Winners park in Houston's spot until June!***
(Don't forget to send Ms. Houston your Twitter handle when you join.)
Teaching ELA and Math Students to Use Their Brains in Similar Ways
In this article in Kappan, former ELA teacher Nancy Gardner and math teacher Nicole Smith argue that the Common Core standards form a natural bridge between the seemingly disparate subject areas of English language arts and math. The similarities:
• Grit – In both subjects, the new standards emphasize perseverance – sticking with a task, especially a difficult one. In ELA, this manifests itself in getting students to read more-difficult texts. “We want all students to have a productive struggle with texts,” say Gardner and Smith. “Sometimes this means more time devoted to shorter passages” – for example, spending two weeks delving into just two chapters of Frankenstein. In math, Common Core ramps up the importance of solving word problems with real-world relevance. “Teaching perseverance depends heavily on the questioning skills of teachers,” say the authors. “Teachers need to understand the how and why of good questions so they can help students dig deeply and avoid superficial responses.”
• Supporting claims – In both ELA and math, Common Core standards involve using claims, reasons, and evidence to back up arguments. In ELA, this means returning again and again to the text for actual evidence, versus the previous emphasis on relating texts to one’s own personal experiences and opinions. In math, students are asked to show the steps of solving a problem or completing a proof. “This means students start to articulate why a given answer must be true – or how a logical conclusion can be reached,” say Gardner and Smith. “In both ELA and math, the focus shifts from finding the what answer to how to find the best answer and why that answer is best. The conversation may even continue to include whether there is a best answer.”
• Precision – In ELA, this includes close attention to grammar and word choice in students’ writing and in the texts they read – for example, why did the author use the word catastrophe rather than problem? In math, students are called upon to know what level of precision is necessary for a given task – for example, is the best unit of measurement centimeters or millimeters? – and debating with classmates about the most efficient and elegant way to solve a problem. “The importance of precision goes beyond being right,” say the authors, “to a deeper understanding of how right or how effective something is or isn’t.”
• Structure analysis – In ELA, why did the author use particular images or rhyme schemes? Why did the writer choose this extended metaphor? Why was the argument constructed this way? In math, students need to learn how to step back and look at the big picture as they analyze mathematical structure, looking for similarities, differences, and patterns. “This helps students make formulas their own and reach past the superficial level of memorizing a formula,” say Gardner and Smith.
• Using tools strategically – Common Core standards ask students to use vocabulary and grammar with skill and careful intent. This is essential given the way students are bombarded with words and ideas from the Internet and other sources, and the challenging nature of tasks they will face in the years ahead.
“Math and ELA Meet at the Common Core” by Nancy Gardner and Nicole Smith in Phi Delta Kappan, March 2016 (Vol. 97, #6, p. 53-56), www.kappanmagazine.org; Gardner can be reached at email@example.com.
AVID students with guest speaker, sophomore at U of Central Arkansas, Ruben Thompson.
Avoiding Common Errors in Applying Carol Dweck’s Mindset Thinking
(Originally titled “Mindset 20/20”)
In this article in Education Update, Laura Varlas takes stock of how Carol Dweck’s 2006 book, Mindset, has been applied in schools. Three critical observations:
• Effort. Some educators think Dweck is saying they should reinforce effort, not outcomes. Not so! says Dweck: “Our work shows that you can praise the outcome as long as you also talk about the process that led to the outcome… Telling kids just to try hard is not helpful. It doesn’t tell them all the strategies, resources, and input they’ll need to get there.” British educator Chris Hildrew agrees, “If our students fail a test, it’s not helpful to say ‘at least you tried hard,’ because clearly it was the wrong kind of effort.” Better to ask, “What strategies did you use? What didn’t work? What can you do differently next time?” Another approach is giving students commentary on their classwork, saving grades for summative assessments, and working with students to see where they’re at, what they don’t understand, and what they should try next.
• False mindsets. Some teachers give lip service to the growth mindset but secretly hold fixed beliefs about some students’ ability to succeed. Or they might frown on mistakes rather than treating them as integral to learning, or make the work easier so students won’t have to struggle. Dweck talks about the confusion-clarity cycle: “You get confused when you face something new. Then it becomes clear, and then you are ready to face the next round of confusion and work through that… Often, when kids feel confused about something, they feel like they’re back to square one.” She suggests giving a pretest and using it later to show struggling students the progress they’ve made.
• Triggers. All of us, teachers and students, are a mix of fixed and growth mindsets, says Dweck. Acknowledge that. Fixed thinking is part of you but it’s not you! She and her Stanford colleagues are searching for what activates fixed thinking – for example, encountering frustration about not having the knowledge or skill to do something well. Washington, D.C. principal Dawn Clemens and her colleagues urge students to train their brains to take a logical rather than an emotional stance toward learning problems: “I need to study these things for the next test” versus “The test was unfair and my teacher doesn’t like me.” And here’s a strategy for working with a student with a negative mindset: give his or her “fixed side” a name (Dwayne) and then use it to convey a growth message: “Let’s see if we can get Dwayne to really listen to this feedback and plan what to do next.”
“Mindset 20/20” by Laura Varlas in Education Update, March 2016 (Vol. 58, #3, p. 1, 4-5), available for purchase at http://bit.ly/1nJFGT5; Varlas recommends Jo Boaler’s website as a good resource for Mindset professional development: https://www.youcubed.org.
Word WITHIN the Word...
luc (light) lucid, translucent, Lucifer, elucidate
rupt (break) erupt, disrupt, rupture, corrupt
grat (pleasing) gratifying, gratitude, ingrate, grateful
medi (middle) median, mediate, medium, mediocre
soph (wisdom) sophomore, sophisticated, philosophy
curr (run) current, undercurrent, currency, incur
tempor (time) temporal, contemporary, temporarily
migr (wander) migrate, migrant, immigrant
trans (across) transfer, translate, transmit, transfusion
gamy (marriage) monogamy, polygamy, gamete
Art is LIFE
The Science Achievement Gap and How It Might Be Closed
In this article in Educational Researcher, Paul Morgan, Marianne Hillemeier, and Steve Maczuga (Pennsylvania State University/University Park) and George Farkas (University of California/Irvine) document the significant gaps in U.S. students’ science achievement by race, income, and ELL status. For example, the 50th- percentile scores of English language learners are lower than the 10th-percentile scores of non-ELL students. “Low levels of science achievement are no longer a ‘gathering storm,’” say the authors, “but now are rapidly approaching a ‘Category 5’ in their potential to derail the nation’s long-term global competitiveness. If left unaddressed, and given the nation’s increasing economic disparities, low science achievement may be experienced by growing segments of the U.S. adult population. The result may be an electorate with more limited ability to understand pressing public policy issues necessitating greater scientific literacy as well as lower employment and economic prosperity.” Climate change, genetic engineering, and hydraulic fracking are current issues requiring sophisticated understanding.
It’s clear that disadvantaged children enter kindergarten with knowledge deficits about the natural and physical world, say the authors, which is attributable to to less exposure to early science talk, reading, and experiences. Although disadvantaged students make steady progress in science achievement as they move through the grades, it’s not enough to catch up with more-advantaged peers, so the gap persists – their graphs of subgroups’ progress through the grades are virtually parallel to each other.
Morgan, Hillemeier, Maczuga, and Farkas investigated the degree to which several factors affected science achievement: family characteristics; parenting quality; school demographics; school academic climate; students’ general knowledge; reading and math achievement; and approaches to learning. They found that parenting quality had relatively little impact on students’ science achievement, but their math and reading proficiency were key factors as they moved through the grades, along with self-regulation, the degree to which their school had a high concentration of poor and minority students, and the instructional resources teachers had at their disposal.
These findings point to the importance of intervening early to fill in knowledge gaps – in early-childhood and preschool programs and parent education – and then working on a broad front in elementary and middle schools to bolster students’ reading, math, and behavioral proficiency. The quantity and quality of science instruction are crucial as well. “After the early-elementary time period,” say the authors, “children, especially those who are at risk, may begin to internalize views of science as ‘hard’ or for ‘eggheads’ or mistakenly resulting from fixed ability, leading elementary and middle-school teachers to confront attitudinal as well as academic barriers when trying to address science achievement gaps.” But the authors are optimistic that, with attention to the key factors, the science gap can be narrowed.
“Science Achievement Gaps Begin Very Early, Persist, and Are Largely Explained by Modifiable Factors” by Paul Morgan, George Farkas, Marianne Hillemeier, and Steve Maczuga in Educational Researcher, January/February 2016 (Vol. 45, #1, p. 18-35), available for purchase at http://edr.sagepub.com/content/45/1/18.short; Morgan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Teacher's Lounge MUST be Kept Clean... We ALL use it!
Future Dates & Info
Tues, Apr 5 - Shot Clinic in Auditorium 9:00 am
Tues, Apr 5 - HHS Color Guard in gym @ 4:00 pm
Wed, Apr 6 - Faculty/Gr. Level Mtg.
Thurs, Apr 7 - Outstanding Citizen Banquet @ FAAC
Sat, Apr 9 - Choir Solo & Ensemble Contest
Week of Apr 11 - National Library Week
Week of Apr 11 - BOGO Book Fair
Tues, Apr 12 - 7th Grade Parent Night for online courses 6:00 pm
Wed, Apr 13 - AVID Site-Team Mtg.
Thurs, Apr 14 - All Day ARDS
Fri, Apr 15 - Theatre UIL School Performance
Sat, Apr 16 - Theatre UIL One Act Play Competition
Sat, Apr 16 - Regional Art Competition Junior Vase
Wed, Apr 20 - Report Cards
Wed, Apr 20 - Band UIL?
Thurs, Apr 21 - Band UIL?
Sat, Apr 23 - North Tx Teen Book Festival
Sat, Apr 23 - AVID Banquet @HHS 6:00-10:00 pm
Wed, Apr 27 - LOL Mtg. 7:30 am
Wed, Apr 27 - Administration Professional's Day
Thurs, Apr 28 - Band Beach within Reach Festival
Fri, Apr 29 - Band Beach within Reach Festival