The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) is pleased to announce that seven school districts, which are part of its New Vision for Summer School Network (NVSS), will include reading as a key component of their innovative summer programs this year.
Participating districts are: Boston Public Schools; Washington, DC, Baltimore, MD; Richmond, VA; Pittsburgh, PA; Wausau, WI; and FKO AfterSchool, ME.
Through a partnership between NSLA and myON, a business unit of Capstone—the leading school library publisher—students in these districts will have free and unlimited access to myON. This innovative, personalized literacy solution gives every student unlimited access to thousands of enhanced digital books with flexible supports that are matched to their interests and targeted reading levels, along with tools to track and measure their reading progress. Students can rate and review the books they are reading in a safe, social networking environment, build their own reading lists and take ownership of their own reading. More than 3.4 million students nationwide are currently reading on myON.
“The importance of providing young people with exciting and engaging ways to read during the summer months cannot be understated,” said NSLA’s CEO Sarah Pitcock. “For low-income youth in particular, it is critical to create a seamless pathway of learning from school year to school year. We are thrilled that through our partnership with myON, thousands of students from NVSS districts will have access to skill-appropriate, engaging books to read over the summer. Just as importantly, school districts will have a powerful, research-based tool to track reading progress over the summer and start the school year empowered by data and results.”
To support students and program staff and ensure that both are getting the most from the powerful myON reader web-based literacy environment, myON will provide individual accounts for every student and staff member in the participating programs. Professional development for staff and ongoing support will be provided, along with the opportunity to participate in myON’s national summer reading challenge, myMAGICALsummer.
“Our team is proud to partner with NSLA and these forward-thinking districts to engage students in the very important and exciting activity of reading throughout the summer months,” said Todd Brekhus, president of myON. “Research shows that students grow as readers when they read books that are of interest in their targeted reading level. Our experience over the past three years, in hundreds of districts across the nation, has been that kids really do enjoy reading during their school breaks when they have the opportunity and access to books. myON was developed to do both.”
PRP clients Vivienne and Norma Ming delivered the keynote address at SXSWedu yesterday! Watch the video below, and check out the conference’s full recap.
Source: District Administration
While the ambitious but costly tech rollout in L.A. Unified schools has made national headlines, one middle school in the district found a budget-friendly way to give students access to high-quality education technology. Thomas Starr King Middle School purchased 35 MacBooks and 40 iMacs from Mac to School, K-12’s leading provider of refurbished Apple devices.
“Thomas Starr King is one of the highest performing middle schools in the greater Los Angeles area. To maintain the bar we have set so high, it is imperative our students have access to the highest quality technology available,” comments Mark Naulls, principal at Thomas Starr King.
Naulls has engaged Mac to School on a number of occasions, citing in addition to quality of tech, the emphasis the company puts on long term relationships with schools, customer support they provide as well as the warranties offered.
“We are always looking for creative ways to get the most instructional value for every dollar we spend,” said Naulls. “Buying refurbished computers from Mac to School allowed us to make the most of our technology budget without sacrificing the quality of the devices.”
While the middle school could have paid more than $85,000 to buy new technology directly from Apple, Mac to School’s refurbished technology only cost them $33,000.
“At Mac to School, we believe every student deserves access to the best technology on the market,” said Robert Baker, Mac to School’s co-founder and president. “We want to give schools the option to get more technology at a lower cost – without sacrificing quality or capability. Stories like King Middle School’s only reaffirm that mission.”
In addition to providing school districts with an option for purchasing refurbished computers, Mac to School also offers to purchase Apple products from districts that are looking to upgrade or make room in their budget for new computers.
To learn more about Mac to School and the Apple products currently in stock, visit them online at www.mactoschool.com. Representatives from the company will also be attending the national conferences of CCSA (March 3-6 in San Jose) and CUE (March 20-22 in Palm Springs).
About Mac to School:
Mac to School buys, sells and refurbishes all types of Apple computers and equipment. We serve the public and private education market, working with small schools up to large districts throughout all 50 states. Our mission is to deliver the best value to our customers while providing the highest level of customer service. Our team of Apple Certified Technicians employs customized tools to generate detailed audits and provide quality refurbishment.
Source: SmartBlog on Education
The 2014 SXSWedu Conference & Festival kicked off Monday in Austin, Texas. SmartBrief Education is on the ground, bringing readers regular coverage of the event.
Educational technology should not be intrusive in the classroom. It should be designed in a way that makes the most of the real world of teachers, families and students, according to SXSWedu keynote speakers Vivienne Ming and Norma Ming, co-founders of educational technology startup Socos.
“We can build technology that provides amazing support without you ever realizing that it was there,” Vivienne told attendees. “Technology does not need to be intrusive.”
“Stop trying to disrupt everything,” she added. “There are systems out there. Integrate them. You’ll get so much more done that way. We’re not talking about big intrusive technology.”
Here are five lessons Vivienne and Norma shared with attendees to help educational technology designers — and others — keep the promise of educational technology in the classroom.
Melissa Greenwood is SmartBrief’s senior education editor, with responsibility for the content in a variety of SmartBrief’s education briefs. She also manages content for SmartBlog on Education and related social media channels. Prior to joining SmartBrief, Melissa held a variety of positions in the education field, including classroom teacher and education editor and writer.
Source: Tech & Learning
Challenge: Since 2003, the student population at Northwest (TX) Independent School District (NWISD) has nearly tripled, averaging 1,200 new students each year. With such rapid growth, the district had to find a way to conduct real-time data analysis for academic needs, boundary planning, capacity analysis, and resource placement. To effectively address this, school leadership sought a more effective way to map out the boundaries and allocation of resources to meet student needs.
Solution: The district selected GuideK12, geovisual analytic software that visualizes student data on an interactive map to allow for real-time analysis. “The dynamic nature of the software helps us streamline the planning processes for everything from academic needs, facilities, and boundaries to looking at wireless access points throughout the district for the next phase of our 1:1 program,” says Dr. Edward Chevallier, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. “Being able to query our student data will allow faster, more effective decisions on aligning resources with the needs in the district, and [we can] better anticipate future needs to help us serve our community.”
By using GuideK12 to plan for the new building in 2015, the facilities, planning, and construction department was able to quickly and effectively map out multiple boundary scenarios. Seeing the data drastically improved the department’s ability to efficiently manage attendance zones and campus populations at new and existing sites.
Source: Tech & Learning
Challenge: Three years ago, when New York State adopted Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy and Mathematics, the Syracuse (NY) City School District (SCSD) needed to develop a strong, long-term platform for professional development around the Common Core implementation. The district saw the shift to Common Core State Standards as an opportunity with the potential to dramatically improve student achievement. They also knew that the success of educational change efforts hinged on a careful balance between supportive training and new practice demands.
District leaders envisioned an educator effectiveness system that would be based on a thoughtful, constructive use of tools, and they were determined to craft a reform plan that aligned support and evaluation systems to the demands of Common Core standards. They needed a road map to focus on key strategies and practices that would increase instructional rigor and the complexity of unit and lesson content.
Solution: In 2012, the district partnered with Insight Education Group to develop customized instructional frameworks that support the teaching required by Common Core standards. They created a plan for the district to obtain meaningful feedback from instructional leaders and teachers, build confidence in the validity of the tools, and develop PD that would support Common Core standards. SCSD formed a task force, and the Insight Education Group guided the task force in analyzing existing instructional effectiveness documents against what was being done across the country to construct the teaching and learning framework and the building leadership framework and rubric. They built additional frameworks to support the work of instructional coaches, library media specialists, and other positions across the district.
To ensure that teachers are evaluated equitably using the new frameworks and evaluation systems, Insight Education Group developed a certification process for principals, which was implemented prior to conducting high-stakes evaluations. Insight also facilitates monthly sessions for principals to watch video case studies and live co-observations. All teacher observers attend these sessions to increase their inter-rater reliability scores. School leaders also receive training on how to coach and develop both high- and low-performing teachers. Last, but not least, Insight Education Group provides PD for teachers to clarify and model the instructional practices described in the teaching and learning framework.
Source: Tech & Learning
Challenge: As part of its district-wide priority to deliver high-quality professional development, the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) wanted to help teachers increase the quality of students’ IEP goals. DCPS faced the challenge of rolling out an online IEP goalbank system-wide that could continuously train teachers on aligning IEP goals with Common Core standards. In addition, teachers who were hired after the school year started would not have had access to the robust trainings provided in August.
Solution: To work on their IEP goals, DCPS partnered with Goalbook to develop a train-the- trainer approach to rolling out PD designed to increase the quality and alignment to the Common Core standards for IEP goals for students with disabilities. The district has 10 trainers that can deliver ongoing PD using Goalbook’s online repository to write student goals. For teachers hired after the school year starts, an online portal provides a customized version of Better Lesson (betterlesson.com), an online library of documents, presentations, full lessons, complete units, and courses that support the adoption of the Common Core standards and goals of the DCPS academic plan. Through its social networking functionality, the site lets teachers grow professionally and make connections with fellow educators across the district and beyond. The portal also provides relevant, differentiated, high-quality PD, including mini-libraries of resources on how to teach effectively, video clips showing great teaching by DCPS teachers, and an extensive library of videos and articles that show effective teaching techniques.
Are principals not effective instructional leaders?
Source: eSchool News
As states and districts have worked tirelessly to implement teacher effectiveness initiatives, largely driven by new and more rigorous teacher evaluation systems, the topic of principal evaluation has begun to take a more prominent role in the conversation.
And although principal evaluation is not a new concept, it is a fundamentally different conversation than it was several years ago. The field’s conception of what is possible relative to evaluative processes (i.e., using student achievement data to evaluate effectiveness) has significantly changed how we approach the process of evaluating both teachers and school leaders.
Several states and districts have begun to tackle the issue head on, working to ensure a rigorous and fair evaluation process is in place for school leaders. In fact, it appears that reform of principal evaluation systems is based, at least in part, on the fact that teacher evaluation systems have highlighted gaps in the effectiveness of school leaders to evaluate teachers effectively. Does this mean principals are not effective instructional leaders? Perhaps not.
However, it has signaled to the field that there is work to be done when it comes to assessing the effectiveness of leaders in our schools. When coupled with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, which require exceptional instructional leadership, the field is ripe for examining how to ensure that principals are indeed effective at supporting teachers in the very important work of serving the students in their classrooms.
The current widespread interest in reforming principal evaluation systems appears to stem primarily from two factors:
Teacher evaluation as the initiator for principal evaluation reform
The urgency of implementation of teacher evaluation systems plays a significant role in the desire of the field to revise how we evaluate school leaders. At a very basic level, the skills needed by principals to effectively evaluate teachers with new tools immediately highlighted the need for principals to:
As districts have worked tirelessly to implement such evaluation systems, they cannot ignore the pressing need to provide more intensive support (and feedback) to principals. Thus comes the “new” conversation on how to build principal evaluation systems that mirror the rigor of teacher evaluation systems as well as a focus on what matters most.
Leadership frameworks as the centerpiece of evaluation (and growth!)
While there are many questions to answer, at the foundation of any good evaluation system is a set of expectations for school leaders. The best practices knowledge base on effective instruction has been strengthened by the work of experts in the field who have introduced, among other practices, leadership practice frameworks and performance rubrics. States and districts across the country have either adopted existing leadership frameworks or worked to develop their own.
As an example, Syracuse City School District approached the development of its framework in tandem with the development of its instructional framework for teachers. Both systems were built through a collaborative process with stakeholders in the district. As a district, it built a custom leadership framework rather than opting for an “off the shelf” solution, as it wanted to ensure its school leaders had a voice in determining what should be included in the expectations for principals. The framework then became the guidepost for all professional development and support of school leaders, and was ultimately used to evaluate school leaders.
Whether you adopt an existing framework or build your own, this is a critical first step in the process of building a quality principal evaluation system. And don’t underestimate the impact of this decision. Ensuring you are using a framework that suites your context is critically important.
Once you have determined what expectations principals in your district must meet, you must then design an evaluation system that will provide you with the information you need to determine if principals are indeed meeting those expectations while also providing data on opportunities for growth.
If there is one thing we have learned from reforming teacher evaluation, it is that it is not easy. We are continuously faced with hard decisions about what matters most.
In designing and improving principal evaluation systems, there are a number of questions to consider:
These questions are critical to the conversation, and represent the many facets of this process that need to be considered when designing such evaluation systems. And while we cannot attempt to answer all of these questions here, they represent the complexity of implementing an evaluation system that works.
What we do know is that it is critically important to ensure deep engagement of teachers, school leaders, and principal supervisors in the design, implementation, and revision of educator evaluation systems.
The good news is that many states and districts across the country have already begun to implement new systems of evaluation and growth, and many lessons have been learned through the process. Our work in several school districts and the State of Tennessee has taught us some important lesson when tackling such an initiative.
Lesson #1: Plan for a process in which deep engagement and conversation is encouraged. This is not easy, and will not be a quick conversation. The most effective systems will come out of a process in which multiple stakeholders are involved – particularly those with whom the tool will be used.
Lesson #2: Don’t build the principal evaluation system in isolation.This should be viewed as part of an effectiveness initiative, and thus should be built with the teacher evaluation system in mind. In fact, make every effort to allow the guiding principles of your teacher evaluation system to serve as the guiding principles of your efforts to assess and support school leaders. After all, this is all about providing meaningful feedback for all educators in the system.
Lesson #3: Less is more. There are thousands of things (or more) that good principals do. The goal is not to identify every single thing that needs to be evaluated. Rather, to make the system manageable, focus on the things that matter most. A usable tool will serve you much better in the long run over a framework with dozens of indicators and a long rubric.
Lesson #4: Make sure evaluators are normed. Like teacher evaluation systems, credibility is attained through effective implementation. In other words, are all of the evaluators equipped to utilize the evaluation tool and process in a manner that inspires confidence in the principals that the process is fair? When the principal feels as if the evaluator is unfair or unskilled, the system loses credibility immediately with the individual it is intended to serve. This takes a thoughtful norming process with support for those who need additional help figuring it all out.
Lesson #5: Don’t underestimate the roll of communication. Although the designers of such evaluation systems have the best intentions of creating a process that is fair and growth oriented, making assumptions about what people know and how they’ll respond can prove to be a significant set back. Make sure that there is a clear plan of communication from the beginning of the process through implementation.
The right work
We are in the midst of a very exciting time in the field. The pressures of implementing multiple, high-stakes initiates can be overwhelming yet we have seen the value of thinking about such initiatives as a system of development and support for educators in our schools.
This is the “right” work. We cannot forget why we’re in this field – to ensure students are achieving at high levels. And understanding the role of the principal in this process, and how to assess effectiveness should serve us well. Although the process may present challenges, we must continue to pursue systems that truly support the growth of leaders in our schools today.
Michael Moody, PhD, is CEO and Founder of Insight Education Group, a national consulting firm that supports the growth of teachers and school leaders to provide students with a great education. Since 2000, Insight has partnered with schools, districts, charters, states, and education organizations to design and implement initiatives that get results. Dr. Moody has served as a classroom teacher and school and district administrator. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rethinking Principal Evaluation: A New Paradigm Informed by Research and Practice, NAESP/NASSP. http://www.naesp.org/sites/default/files/PrincipalEvaluationReport.pdf
Source: THE Journal
A Los Angeles middle school has worked with a company that refurbishes Apple computers and tablets to purchase 35 MacBooks and 40 iMacs for less than half the cost of new machines. Thomas Starr King Middle School acquired the devices from Mac to School, a California-based company that delivers used Apple equipment to schools nationwide.
This wasn’t the first time the school had worked with Mac to School. According to Principal Mark Naulls, he has been impressed by the company’s customer support and warranties.
“We are always looking for creative ways to get the most instructional value for every dollar we spend,” he said. “Buying refurbished computers from Mac to School allowed us to make the most of our technology budget without sacrificing the quality of the devices.”
In the latest deal, purchasing the computers directly from Apple would have cost $85,000 — about $1,133 on average per machine. The refurbished technology cost $33,000, about $440 per machine.
Mac to School also purchases used Apple equipment from districts that are refreshing their computers. The company sells refurbished Macs, iPads and Apple accessories in quantities from five to 500. Products include a one-year warranty, free shipping, operating system installation and custom imaging.
When special education teachers write learning goals for their students, measurable details are important, but often hard to identify. According to a recent study by San Francisco State University (SFSU), Goalbook helps ensure a student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is aligned to standards and differentiated according to the student’s unique needs.
Dr. Susan J. Courey, professor of special education at SFSU, along with faculty member Dr. Phyllis M. Tappe, conducted the study to help their student teachers develop more personalized learning goals for their students.
“Adopting Common Core standards is uniquely challenging for special education teachers. Our job is to identify learning objectives that meet each student’s needs while maintaining academic rigor,” said Courey. “A clearly defined IEP is so important to students with special needs, and actionable goals are a vital part of that plan.”
The professors developed a research-based rubric and evaluated the goals written by their students, assigning each a score on a 20-point scale.
The goals developed using Goalbook as a resource scored an average of 17.5, compared to an average score of 5.0 for goals developed without Goalbook. In other words, goals written with the support of Goalbook contained two and a half times more information for planning and measuring an individual student’s success.
“We thought Goalbook would have a positive effect, but the results were phenomenal. Providing teachers with supports that suggest ideas for dealing with ability gaps helped our student teachers to significantly improve their ability to write effective IEP goals,” said Tappe. “The quality of resources, ease-of-use, and relation to the Common Core State Standards are the keys to Goalbook’s success.”
Goalbook’s online platform helps teachers design learning objectives aligned to research-based frameworks, including Universal Design for Learning, and provides a repertoire of instructional strategies aimed at providing all students access to the general curriculum.
“Research has proven over the decades that teachers are the most important school-based factor that impacts student learning,” said Daniel Jhin Yoo, co-founder and CEO of Goalbook. “However, the attrition rate for special education teachers in our schools outpaces that of any other teaching professional. Goalbook is designed to empower special educators by supporting their critical work in designing personalized learning goals and scaffolding instruction so that all students can reach their full potential.”
“Goalbook is a unique resource,” affirms Courey. “It provides a rich collection of resources for teachers, assuring that all students have access to the general education curriculum, which will better equip them with the skills they need to succeed in college and their careers.” For more information about Goalbook, visit them online at www.goalbookapp.com
Goalbook’s mission is to improve student outcomes by empowering teachers to transform personalized instruction in the classroom. Goalbook offers a holistic solution for teacher development and support, integrating innovative technology, professional development, and leading pedagogical research into its online platform. The team works closely with district partners on tailored implementation and professional development plans. Founded by former teachers and administrators, Daniel Jhin Yoo and Justin Su, Goalbook partners with over 200 district customers in 40 states. Goalbook was part of ImagineK12’s inaugural class and the first company funded through New Schools Venture Fund’s Seed Fund. Learn more at www.goalbookapp.com.
About San Francisco State University
Founded in 1899, San Francisco State University today is a globally focused community of more than 30,000 students, faculty and staff. In a region known for innovation, creativity and progressive thinking, San Francisco State University is the intellectual heart and soul of the surrounding city. Acknowledged as a leader in community service learning, the liberal arts and international education, SF State is also a major civic force, partnering with government, business and educational leaders to advance both the University and the region.