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Showing posts from January, 2009

Planning for Success

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Our intermediate unit hosted a joint meeting between our Special Education and Curriculum Advisory Councils on January 9, 2009.  We gave groups of administrators planning documents required by the PA Department of Education such as Strategic Plan, Professional Education Plan, Induction Plan, Technology Plan, Special Education Plan, School Improvement Plan...etc... These plans were from real schools in PA. We asked the teams to count up the number of initiatives listed across the plans and to evaluate the alignment between the plans.Their analysis was telling. While some plans had alignment, others did not. One group counted 87 initiatives within the document. This did not include any grants the district had. With scare resources such as time, money and personnel... can schools realistically achieve 87 goals? What about 50? What about 20? Myself, I think the answer lies closer to three or four. There are plenty of reasons why their is so much misalignment in plans.... multiple authors,…

On Their Way to 100% AYP

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For Shohola Elementary School, Delaware Valley School District, a 100% AYP is not an elusive dream, rather it is close to reality with a combined score of 90% proficiency for reading and 93% for math for grades 3 to 6. In addition, Shohola received top scores on PVAAS for both Growth and Achievement for 4th grade reading and math and 6th grade reading and math. Meaning their students are not entering school with exceptional abilities, rather specific curricular and instructional practices are contributing to student success. I sat down with James Purcell, Director of Elementary Education, to learn the secrets of their success.Their story begins with dissatisfaction with their Title I reading program. Their data indicated they were not moving their students. As Mr. Purcell said, "if you can't move the bottom group of students, you can't move your scores."They met with their numerous stakeholders, but it was the Title I reading specialists themselves that suggested th…

Schools Close, But Learning Continues

According to Susan Patrick, President and CEO of International Association for K12 Online Learning, all secondary schools (grades 7-12) in Singapore close for one week each year, but students continue their education through online learning. "Singapore trains all of their teachers to teach online, using a learning management system and digital content.  All secondary school teachers and students use online learning and they have 100% e-learning in their schools every day.  In fact, to ensure all teachers and students are comfortable learning any time, any place, Singapore holds e-learning week once a year.   They physically shut schools down and the continuity of learning continues through the well-developed and continuous use of the e-learning delivery model that is used in the face-to-face classrooms, too" (email communication, January 8, 2008).e-Learning Week provides several opportunities. It forces all teachers to utilize technology tools and to teach online for a week.…

10,000 Hours to Success

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Malcolm Gladwell, bestselling author and staff writer for the New Yorker, has a magic number for success. In his latest book, Outliers: The Story of Success,  Gladwell makes a compelling case for explaining success. Turns out factors such as innate ability do not factor into success as much as we might think. Turns out practice.... 10,000 hours of practice to be exact translates into success.From Bill Gates to Mozart to the Beatles and grandmaster chess champions, Gladwell uses the 10,000-Hour Rule again and again to explain their success. It's not that innate ability isn't a factor, it just isn't a determining factor. For a sneak peek at how Gladwell unravels his theory read the excerpt below:A research study comparing amateur and professional pianist "couldn't find any naturals that float to the top while practicing a fraction of the time their peers did. Nor did they find any grinds, people who worked harder than everyone else, but just didn't have what it …

Facebook: A Learning Tool For Teachers

Back in the fall I posted, Who's On Your Network, which discussed Will Richardson's article in Education Leadership entitled, Footprints in the Digital Age.  One of his recommendations was to join Facebook and to be perfectly honest... I didn't get it. What could I learn as an educator from Facebook?  As luck would have it, my husband's family is very active with Facebook, with Will's urging and their availability I decided to take the plunge. I have to say I am impressed. I have reconnected with family members, friends from high school and college, and colleagues from previous positions. With Facebook the past and present intersect, letting me in seconds catch up with friends and family. As an educator, Facebook gives me insight into the why and how students use social networking tools. In fact, I can see why students crave these tools. When you consider that building positive relationships is the corner stone of school improvement, how can we not investigate thes…

Controversy Over Cursive

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Twenty years ago ---- eek that's how long it has been since I graduated from high school, cursive was a given in the curriculum. Teachers used it, students had to be able to read it and write it. I can remember copying copious notes from the board in cursive. A lot has changed in those two decades. I now reserve cursive for signing checks and other documents. I rarely find I need to read something in cursive, other than perhaps a name. Typing, however, has become an absolute necessity. How important is cursive? With all the content that has been added, not to mention accountability.... how valuable is it? Do we need to spend time as early as third grade on teaching cursive?What do you think?Photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ocherdraco/88217480/

New Services

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Colonial Intermediate Unit 20 welcomes our newest consultant, Michelle Davis, to the Curriculum Department. Michelle will have a unique place on our team. Her position is designed to be a blend of special education, differentiated instruction and educational technology.The demand for this position stems from the steady increase in requests for assistive technology support for students with learning disabilities. The increase in requests coincides with advances in technology such as voice recognition, screen readers, spell check, podcasting, smart boards...etc. Michelle will help to facilitate teams, usually the IEP team, to identify barriers students have to learning and subsequent technology tools that will support student success in the inclusive setting. The emphasis will be on using technology tools already available to support student achievement. For example, last year we had a student whose disability created a barrier to conducting an oral presentation to his class. The team…

Planning for Differentiation

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An article in the Washington Post, Schools Look At Providing More Time For Teachers caught my eye recently which looks at teacher planning time. As you might imagine, teachers feel they lack planning time.... and they may have a point. The amount of planning time has stayed constant while requirements for inclusion and accountability have increased. My question is do we design curriculum to address these challenges from the onset or do we expect teachers to plan lessons, adjust their instruction for a variety of diverse learners, grade assignments, connect with parents and other colleagues, make copies in a 40 minute planning period?Why not differentiate the curriculum from the beginning?The graphic to the left depicts the Curriculum Planning Pyramid (Schumm, Vaughn, & Leavell, 1994) which represents how curriculum might be organized to meet the needs of all learners. The base represents the most important concepts you want ALL STUDENTS to learn. The middle layer represents additi…

Four Day School Week

Southern Columbia School District in Catawissa, PA, which coincidentally is my alma mater, is moving to a four-day school week for January and February. The school will still meet the mandated 180 day requirement, but estimates it will save thousands in heating and fuel costs. Teachers will still be at work participating in professional development at the high school. The teacher contract already included these days as a requirement and according to sources all the district did was realign the calendar. Click here for the news article.The idea appeals to me on many levels. As a professional developer having a week in between follow up sessions is ideal. I can imagine the amount of support and momentum that could be achieved with sustained support over an eight week period. As a parent, I think it would be a great time to work on larger assignments and projects that kids receive as homework not to mention the benefit of not having kids waiting for the bus in the cold. Child care could …