GV BOCES School Improvement

March 2022 Newsletter

News You Can Use

Embedded in the School Improvement (SI) newsletter you will find important updates, information, and resources from the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) & your regional Joint Management Team BOCES (Monroe 1 BOCES, Monroe 2 BOCES, Genesee Valley BOCES & Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES). Below are direct links that assist with staying current regarding news and changes at the state level.

2022-2023 Testing Schedules

The Elementary- and Intermediate-level Testing Schedule for the 2022-2023 school year has been published, as well as the January, June, and August 2023 Regents Examination periods. NYSED has provided these dates to assist schools and districts with developing their local school calendars for the 2022-23 school year.

Regents Examination Periods

January 2023, June 2023, and August 2023 Memo

Continue Your Professional Learning

The School Improvement (SI) newsletter also strives to continue professional learning for school administrators, teachers, and staff even from afar. This section of the newsletter will provide readers with timely and relevant learning aligned to evidence-based practices. If you would like more on topics outlined in the newsletter, please contact the SI department. Our contact information is located at the bottom of the newsletter. Enjoy!

Instruction with an Equity Lens

Part 1 - January Newsletter: Using Data to Establish Local Context

Part 2 - February Newsletter: Curriculum with an Equity Lens

Part 3 - March Newsletter: Instruction with an Equity Lens

Part 4 - April Newsletter: Assessment with an Equity Lens

Three Essential Ingredients for Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

Many educators are looking for ways to ensure their district, school buildings, and classrooms are equitable and responsive to the needs of ALL students. The three guiding pillars of a quality Tier 1 framework across classrooms include curriculum, instruction, and assessment. In previous newsletters, we have discussed using data and examining local curricula with an equity lens. This month, we will focus our attention on the classroom level and the instructional approaches that educators can leverage to ensure a culturally responsive and equitable learning environment.

Ingredient #1: Strong Teacher Efficacy

Collective teacher efficacy (CTE) is the collective belief of the staff of the school/faculty in their ability to positively affect students. CTE has been found to be strongly, positively correlated with student achievement. A school staff that believes it can collectively accomplish great things is vital for the health of a school; if a school community believes they can make a positive difference, then they very likely will (Visible Learning, 2015). Strong teacher efficacy is at the heart of a strong culturally responsive pedagogy. Strong teacher efficacy can potentially lead to stronger planning, organization and collaboration. Staff members tend to be more open to new ideas, and are more willing to take risks in the classroom. These risks could lead to improved instructional practice, and even finding more success with meeting the needs of their students. A teacher with a strong sense of self-efficacy has confidence in their ability to impact change and promote learning for ALL students (Hammond, 2015).

Ingredient #2: A Responsive Classroom Environment

When creating culturally responsive classrooms, there is a predisposition to focus on how to decorate the classroom with cultural artifacts, as opposed to cultivating an atmosphere that establishes social-emotional stability, and an environment that is responsive to ALL students. While classroom aesthetics and symbols is one approach, there is much more we can do to create a responsive environment. “However, do not forget that signs and symbols around us communicate with our collective unconscious mind” (Hammond, 2015, p.145).

Creating school and classroom cultures for staff, students, and families that value their own diverse cultural identities and others' is the first step towards a responsive classroom (Hammond, 2015). Below, you will find several suggestions from Hammond to develop those attributes in the classroom.

  • Establish an authentic connection with students in an effort to build mutual trust and respect.

  • Leverage trust to help students rise to higher expectations (aka; adults can be a “warm demander”).

  • Give feedback to students in a way that they can accept it and act upon it.

  • Create classroom routines and rituals. This allows students to put some things on “autopilot”, thus freeing up cognitive space for more challenging thinking on content and skills.

  • Teachers can spend time creating independent learners by developing social and academic talk/conversations structures. These norms allow students to reflect on their own thinking and consider ideas from other thinkers in the classroom.

  • Hold students to high expectations, and new intellectual challenges, while offering them support.

Ingredient #3: Culturally Responsive Instruction

At the heart of culturally responsive teaching is empowering students to effectively process information. Thus, culturally responsive teachers should be intentional about integrating information processing into their daily teaching. Cognitive scientists recognize three stages in this process: input, elaboration, and application.

Ignite, Chunk, Chew, and Review (ICCR) are four phases of culturally responsive lessons that help build intellectual capacity for all learners. (Hammond, 2015). ICCR is another type of direct, explicit instruction synonymous with Gradual Release of Responsibility. There are a variety of culturally responsive strategies that can be used within each phase of culturally responsive lesson design to help students acquire rigorous academic content in responsive ways.

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Below, you will find a variety of strategies to ICCR in classrooms to ensure students are effectively processing information.
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Equity Learning Walk Data Collection Tool

Progression Partners, Adapted from Des Moines Public Schools 2018

School Improvement Spotlights

School Improvement (SI) takes great pride in the work we do at the state level, regionally, and when working directly with component districts. This section of the newsletter offers insight into the work SI does and provides recognition to local districts that strive for continuous school improvement. Partnerships and collaboration are the key to everyone's success!

The Writing Revolution in Cohorts!

Over the course of this past academic year, the ELA and social studies cohorts met at the LeRoy Service Center to learn the fundamentals and strategies of The Writing Revolution. As you may recall from the November SIT newsletter, the six fundamental principles, include:

  • Students need explicit instruction in writing, beginning in the early elementary grades.

  • Sentences are the building blocks of all writing.

  • When embedded in the content of the curriculum, writing instruction is a powerful teaching tool.

  • The content of the curriculum drives the rigor of the writing activities.

  • Grammar is best taught in the context of student writing.

  • The two most important phases of the writing process are planning and revising.

Beyond understanding these fundamental principles, over 60 participants also learned approximately nine sentence-level strategies as well as techniques for note taking, annotating and summarizing. The collection of these strategies offered teachers the resources and content knowledge necessary to make the explicit instruction of writing a reality in their classroom. Although sample sizes were relatively small, participants consistently observed improvement in student writing samples as implementation increased. The best part is - we are not done. If you are interested in starting a writing revolution in your classroom or school, look for the cohort onboarding sessions (as a prerequisite to join cohort next year) and/or the TWR multi-day crash courses both being offered in next school year’s SIT catalog!

Teacher Cohorts: Sprints with Retrieval Practice

Teachers attending cohorts this year have been busy ‘sprinting.’ No, they are not running through the halls at Genesee Valley BOCES, but rather are engaging in Teaching Sprints, a framework that can generate teacher expertise over the long term (Breakspear & Jones, 2021). The teaching sprint consists of teachers thinking deeply and reflecting about the elements of their practice in an effort to make an evidence-informed change to improve that practice. Specifically this year, the goal of the mathematics and special education 7-12 cohorts was to take a deep dive into daily, weekly, and monthly review. There is a vast amount of research supporting the regular implementation of retrieval practice strategies and their benefits (Jones, 2021). Retrieval practice consists of students recalling information from memory without (or with minimal) support. These strategies can shape students’ memories and make it easier to recall previously learned information in the future. Simply put, teachers have been practicing ways to get learned information out of their students’ minds, not just how to put it in.

Have you ever taken part in a quiz and felt frustrated because you know the answer to a question but you just couldn't recall it at that precise moment? You are unable to access the learned information when it’s required. That’s because when information has been regularly rehearsed and transferred into long-term memory, that’s not enough… we need to be able to retrieve it. Cognitive scientist, Pooja Agarwal, explains that this is when retrieval practice becomes so crucial to learning. Many of the strategies derived from cognitive science focus on the interactions between the working (short-term) and long-term memory. Information is processed through the working memory. Learning and not forgetting is more likely to happen when that information is transferred and cemented in the long-term memory. This happens when rehearsal (putting information in) and regular retrieval (getting the information out) are appropriately balanced.

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The most common application of retrieval practice in the classroom is using low-stakes quizzes to encourage learners to retrieve information from their long-term memory. Both multiple-choice quizzes and free recall quizzes are recommended. While developing quizzes may be a bit more time consuming, implementing knowledge recall tasks like ‘brain dumps’ are effective with little or no planning at all. They are simple and flexible learning strategies that not only show students what they know (i.e. what they are able to recall from memory), but also tell teachers what students are having difficulty recalling; thus, acting as a guide for future instruction. Retrieval practice strategies like brain dumps are low-effort and high-impact opportunities to celebrate what students have learned.

Teacher cohorts are built on the mantra that we all can continue to develop within the teaching profession. When teachers are considering a change to improve their practice as a result of professional learning, it should always be backed by research and evidence. Pooja Agarwal, Ph D. and Patrice Bain, Ed S. demonstrate in Powerful Teaching: Unleash the Science of Learning that the regular implementation of retrieval practice can dramatically improve learning (2019). The Teaching Sprints framework effectively established consensus and implementation with fidelity, so teachers could attempt to integrate the strategy (with assistance) and then work collaboratively to reflect on their processes.
A Conversation with Pooja Agarwal on Retrieval Practice

Genesee Valley BOCES Leadership Institute 2022

Registration is open for the 2022 Genesee Valley BOCES Leadership Institute! Click the link below to register on Frontline.

2021-2022 Regional Professional Learning Opportunities

Registration for upcoming regional professional learning opportunities can be accessed through the links below. Check out the various opportunities the School Improvement Team is offering during the 2021-2022 school year. We look forward to seeing you in the upcoming months!

Follow School Improvement on Twitter

Don’t forget that you can follow the School Improvement Team (SIT) on Twitter. The team is often posting information about upcoming professional learning opportunities, educational resources, and strategies for the classroom. You can stay in tune with what is happening at Genesee Valley BOCES and the SIT by following #gvbocessit.

Need Support?

Please direct all requests for service to the Director of School Improvement, Stephanie Burns at 585.344.7923.