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Week of November 16-22, 2015

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Veteran's Day Assembly - November 11, 2015

The Quest for Mastery

Joseph F. Johnson, Cynthia L. Uline and Lynne G. Perez


What practices do high-performing urban schools have in common?

What drives decisions about what gets taught, how, and to whom? In some districts, teachers base these decisions on the organization of textbooks, the timing of pacing charts, or lesson plans from prior years. Often, they base curricular decisions on content that needs to be "covered." In contrast, in many of the United States' highest performing urban schools that we have observed, teachers are making textbooks, workbooks, curriculum guides, and pacing charts secondary considerations. Their purpose is to teach in a way that is driven primarily by a commitment to ensuring that all students master agreed-on essentials. This distinction is not merely philosophical or theoretical. It is grounded in everyday practices.

Since 2005, the National Center for Urban School Transformation has identified and studied more than 90 urban schools that achieve impressive results. (See criteria.) These elementary, middle, and high schools do not uses elective admission criteria, yet their achievement results exceed state averages. These schools boast high levels of achievement for every demographic of students they serve, including English language learners. We have identified specific practices that characterize teaching in these schools (Johnson, Perez, & Uline, 2012)

.Many of these practices relate to the quest for mastery in everyday instruction. In particular, this means (1) educators plan lessons so that all students are likely to achieve a depth of understanding about a specific concept or idea and (2) educators are objective-driven as they strive to help every student achieve mastery.


Planning for Depth of Understanding

What It Is and Isn't

This type of planning aims to get students to demonstrate a thorough understanding of a set of concepts or skills. For example, a team of teachers might plan lesson activities that guide their students to explain accurately why each step in the process of solving a linear equation makes sense.

This type of planning is not getting students to demonstrate mere surface-level understandings, such as when a

teacher focuses on having students follow the steps for determining the value of x in a linear equation. In activities

that guide students to deeper understanding, students will not just complete the steps and solve the equation; they

will explain each step and the logic associated with it.


How It Looks in Classrooms

When we observed classrooms, we asked students, "What did you learn in this lesson?" In typical schools, we

frequently heard one- or two-word answers that named the lesson topic, like "polyhedrons," "the American Revolution" or "osmosis." Even when we probed, students tended to recite one-line facts, such as "The colonists fought the British" or "You multiply the base times the height," leaving us wondering what students really understood.

In the high-performing urban schools we studied, teachers were not satisfied when students memorized facts, recited formulas, completed algorithms, or performed other rote functions. Teachers also wanted students to demonstrate deeper levels of understanding by explaining concepts, describing relationships, evaluating arguments, analyzing

perspectives, and performing other tasks that required complex thinking.

For example, at Horace Mann Dual Language Magnet School in Wichita, Kansas, 5th graders exiting a science

lesson (taught in Spanish) explained that they learned about the forces that work together to make a volcano erupt.

They talked about the massive pressure that builds as the earth's plates shift. They eagerly described how gases,

magma, and rock escaping from the earth's surface caused different kinds of eruptions. The students had learned more than a few random facts. They had learned important concepts that would be useful as they developed understanding of other scientific phenomena.

The pursuit of this depth of understanding takes time. But teachers at many of these schools perceived that they had

more time because they were not trying to cover as many standards and objectives. Also, teachers frequently commented that they spent less time reviewing and re teaching.


Objective-Driven Lessons

What It Is and Isn't

Every aspect of an objective-driven lesson is designed to lead all students toward mastery of the lesson objective. These lessons go beyond displaying an objective as an act of compliance or routine. Posting on the board that "students will be able to describe the relationship between the earth's revolution around the sun and the four seasons" and having students read a textbook chapter on seasons and answer the five questions at the end is not objective-driven instruction.

An objective-driven version of this lesson might require teachers to create strategies to help students describe the relationship between the earth's revolution around the sun and the four seasons. The teachers could identify activities that will help students use key vocabulary words, such as axis, equator, and revolution. Students might model the relationship between the sun and the earth during different seasons, first for their state and then for various other locations, such as Alaska, Ecuador, Kenya, and Antarctica. As they implement the lesson, teachers would monitor whether students were engaged and take note of what students appeared to understand and not understand. They would then respond with additional examples or models.


How It Looks in Classrooms

In the high-performing urban schools we studied, objectives were specific destinations to which teachers promised they would take their students. In typical schools, some teachers state an objective as an indicator of what they will cover, such as "photosynthesis," "pages 128–130," or "English Standard 3: Compare and Contrast." In contrast, the teachers in high-performing urban schools specified precisely what students would be expected to understand or demonstrate before the lesson ended.

For example, at MacArthur High School in Aldine Independent School District in Houston, Texas, teachers posted three-part objectives that specified (1) what students would learn, (2) how they would learn it, and (3) how they would know they learned it. The objective influenced every aspect of the lesson—how teachers introduced concepts, how they engaged students in activities, which materials they used, how they integrated technology, what vocabulary they emphasized, what questions they asked, and what they asked students to demonstrate.

We found teachers using a wide array of strategies to engage all students—including students who were behind academically, students with behavioral and emotional challenges, students who were shy and reluctant to engage, and students who were English learners. Teachers frequently challenged students to explain their thinking and share their ideas. Instead of calling on students who raised their hands, teachers tried to ensure that every student participated by having students write responses on individual whiteboards, organizing short small-group conversations, calling on students randomly; using electronic polling, or engaging students in Socratic seminars.

Fisher and Frey (2007) describe a similar array of strategies for checking each student's levels of understanding.

Being objective-driven means not allowing students to sit passively and fail. When students participated, teachers in these high-performing schools observed closely, monitored student understanding, and adjusted instruction accordingly. Often, teachers tried to adapt their presentation of a concept to better connect it to students' interests, backgrounds, learning styles, prior experiences, or.


A Schoolwide Commitment

The constant pursuit of mastery requires a high level of energy from both teachers and students. In high-performing urban schools, educators help one another and their students sustain this level of energy through strong, positive collaborative efforts. Educators feel like part of a team and know that their administrators and fellow teachers want them to succeed. Thus, they are often eager to provide support to their colleagues.

Frequent acknowledgement of progress helps teachers see they are making a difference. In a similar vein, students in high-performing urban schools perceive that they are respected, appreciated, and valued. They know their teachers believe in them and want them to succeed, so they are willing to invest the effort to master challenging academic standards. Teachers in these schools lead students to expect academic success.

Students know that they are being taught rigorous academic content. They see themselves developing deeper understanding of this challenging content, and they become excited about their potential as scholars.


Taken from October 2014/Volume 72/Number 2 Instruction That Sticks pp 48-53 Educational Leadership

The Dallas Museum of Art comes to Kiest

The Dallas Museum of Art brought the Go Van Gogh, Arts of Mexico program to 2nd grade. They had pictures of various works of art including paintings and statues that can be found at the museum. The students were able to see and touch pieces of gems and jade from works of art and practiced using sand paper to experience how rough it would be to create some of those pieces of art.
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The City of Dallas Field Trip

The City of Dallas' EEI visits 2nd Grade

Second Grade Scholars learned about recycling and how simple things make a big difference in their community and the world they live in.

Itinerary Week of November 16, 2015

Monday 11.16 Announcements this Week 3A

Anti-Bullying Awareness Week- Wear camouflage

  • Report Cards Go Home Today with Parent Compact

  • DDI – 2nd Grade 8:00-11:00AM

    1st Grade 12:30- 3:00PM

  • Baby Shower- Ms. Quintero – 3:15PM

  • Literacy Cadre Training K-2 @ Casa View

Tuesday 11.17 Announcements this Week 3A

Tie a Knot in bullying- Wear a bow-tie/tie

  • Happy Birthday Ms. Williams!

  • Attendance is due by 9:00AM

  • DDI Grades 4 Writing & 5 Science 8:00-11:00AM

    DDI Kinder 11:45-2:45PM

  • SBDM Meeting @ 1:30PM

  • PLC at 3:15PM

  • Literacy Cadre Training K-2

  • Basketball Rhoads vs. Kiest

Wednesday 11.18 Announcements this Week 3A I’m too Smart to Bully – Dress as a Nerd

  • Attendance is due by 9:00AM

  • Tutoring 3:00-3:45PM

Thursday 11.19 Announcements this Week 3A

Be a Hero Against Bullying – Wear Super Hero shirt

  • Attendance is due by 9:00AM

  • Grade Level Meetings during planning

  • 3rd grade and 5th grade to The Arboretum

  • Tutoring 3:00-3:45PM

Friday 11.20 Announcements this Week 3A

It’s OK to be Different – Wear polka dots and stripes together

  • Happy Birthday Ms. Brown!

  • Attendance is due by 9:00AM

  • Spelling Bee Competition Grades 4-5 @8:30AM

  • Lesson Plans are due by 4:00PM

Saturday 11.21 Happy Birthday Alma Vazquez!