Friday, October 28, 2016

Inacol Symposium 2016

Yesterday's keynote, Jim Shelton, made a strong point about the need for the people doing the work of changing school to a personalized learning model to tell their stories in compelling ways.  He highlighted that good deep thinking and data and research are important, but they don't move the needle, they keep it from falling back.  Its the stories of success and implementation and movement and of KIDS that really makes the changes we are working towards happen.  He reminded me that the PR efforts we put in are not for fame or glory, but rather to advance the cause that the model of school in America needs to shift and it needs to do so dramatically on a large a scale for the future of the country.

In the midst of a presidential election like one we have never witnessed before, the power and influence of social media and stories is evident and in our face.  The 24 hour news cycle is not dominated by pensive, purposeful, and thoughtful pieces, but rather by sound bites and stories that grab peoples attention.  So, there is power in grabbing people's attention.  We need to do that work, the work to keep kids and education at the top of mind with policy makers and legislators whose pen strokes and penchants for quick wins can create laws and policy that hinder and even hurt kids as the attempt to maintain the status quo.  Or, less tragic, but equally frustrating, they create laws that create bureaucracy, that create procedures, that take take time away from teachers who are really doing the work to reach kids and make them great.

I heard a call to action.  I heard not just a reaffirmation that the work we are doing in my district and is in important, but that there is a need to be a part of a broader conversation that can move policy and practice.  We have proof points around the country where we know both viscerally and through student achievement, that competency based, personalized learning works for each and every student. It creates equity, levels the playing field, and inspires educators, parents, and students.  We need to share that inspiration, we need to embrace the message, but most importantly, we need to be the message.

Friday, September 2, 2016

THe work we ask kids to do matters the most....

As we continue down the road of implementing different PL models, the question often comes up about what makes it different than really good standards-based instruction. Really, the difference is in student agency. Just like in a high impact standards based classroom, a core element of successful, rigorous learning is that there are clear learning targets with clear measures of the goal.  Kids need to know what they are learning, to what end they are learning it, and how they know when they have mastered it.

On any given day, with any given student, kids should be able to articulate the work they are doing and what they need to do to demonstrate mastery and that answer should be grounded in the language of the standards/competencies. 

If you are doing station-rotation with choice boards where kids are choosing must-do, can-do and earning points up,down, and diagonal – you are creating the illusion of student agency.  Agency isn’t about doing whatever you want, whenever you want, however you want.   Its about giving kids clear and unambiguous learning they need to do and then giving them the space to do it.

The way administrators can tell if this is happening is by examining the work that is asked of students and examining the scaffolding/support/instruction teachers provide to kids as they DO the work.  If the work is DOK 1- it may take a long time and it may fill up a day, but it doesn’t advance the cause of ensuring success for each student.  If the work is DOK 4 and the teachers provide little or no feedback and supportive instruction to students, then it doesn’t advance the cause of ensuring success for each student.

Each of you are working hard to change the student and teacher school experience and you considering all aspects of a student’s life.  We are attending to the social-emotional needs, the learning styles, and the environment and all of that matters to help make school a high quality experience.  But, that is all in support of the academic and 4C’s expectations we have for them. 

Spend time evaluating the quality, rigor, and connection to standards/competencies of the work your teachers give kids to complete.  Ensure that what mastery looks like is clearly defined through rubrics and scoring criteria and that parents, kids, and teachers all know that.