Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

•March 3, 2008 • Leave a Comment
The two groups exploring Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment developed the following list of areas that should be explored as part of the Breaking Ranks process. 
  1. Depth over breadth
  2. Assessment through a variety of methods / meaningful assessment
  3. Interdisciplinary planning and teaching / how do you assess?
  4. What do grades mean?
  5. Project based learning
  6. 21st century learning

 

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Personalization

•March 3, 2008 • Leave a Comment

The two groups exploring Personalization developed the following list of areas that should be explored as part of the Breaking Ranks process.

1. Smaller class size

2. Advisory period

3. Electronic Portfolios / End of Year Projects

4. Flexible schedules

5. Personalized performance plans

6. Personal adult advocates

These issues will continue to be explored and evaluated as part of the Breaking Ranks process.

Collaborative Leadership

•February 28, 2008 • 1 Comment

This is a summation of what my group came up with for collaborative leadership.

  1. Longitudinal Leadership – We see the students after they have had many years of schooling. We often wonder what the elementary and middle school teachers have been teaching these kids. We should know. Having a leadership group (with a curriculum coordinator) is essential to develop our students. Also, this would help the teachers in the younger grades to know what the students will be exposed to in the high school. Finally, transitions are critical for students. How do we assist students stepping up from preschool – primary – elementary – middle school – high school – the world beyond.

  2. Interdisciplinary Leadership – Having committees to intertwine our instruction. For example, the students are presenting for the science project. All of the curriculum is involved in that project. Math – statistics, graphs, and measurement. English – grammar, reading nonfiction, and presentation. History – review of previous research. If we had a interdisciplinary team that worked with teachers, then this project would be enhanced. This is only one example of how we could work better as a team.
  3. Student focused leadership – Maybe a Family focused leadership would be more accurate. Having a leadership team that brings the family and school together. For example, having a parent who is a lawyer talk to a history class. Or having a quick meeting at half time of a basketball game to discuss dress code.

These were the three focal points our group came up with. Since I am new to blogging I did not know how to put in visuals to this post.

Ed Feeney

Demystifying Tuesday Meetings

•February 14, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Consider this an open invitation. Anyone interested in joining us on Breaking Ranks Tuesdays is welcome to come, listen, and participate. There seems to be a perception out there that we are holding a traditional class and that intrusions by non-class members would be inappropriate or disruptive. Nothing could be farther from the truth. While it is true that many of us are participating for graduate credit, the underlying mission of the group is centered around the needs of Auburn High School—and you don’t need to be an enrolled student in a class to participate or contribute.

Here’s a brief account of what’s been going on. As was covered in last week’s entry, we are spending a fair amount of time talking about organizational change management. Without a deep understanding and appreciation of what can go wrong with institutional change, an organization is almost consigned to failure. Consequently, we are making a diligent effort to ensure that everyone understands how successful institutional change occurs and what typically impedes progress.

We are now moving into AHS-specific conversations. We will be collecting and examining data as we further refine our identification of areas of concern and need. As part of this initial exploration, we will be dividing the group, based on personal interests, into three subgroups:

Collaborative Leadership
Professional Learning Communities
Personalizing the School Environment
Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

So, once again, feel free to join us or talk to multiple faculty members who are participating. While only some of us are Breaking Ranks on Tuesdays, we are all invested in the success of AHS. Your thoughts and opinions count.

Are We There Yet? Self-Assessment and Institutional Progress

•February 6, 2008 • Leave a Comment

What are some of the indicators that a school is responding to the changing needs of students and society? Our discussion yesterday centered around ways in which we can determine whether or not a school is positioned to respond to the future needs of students. Indeed, what are the key questions that illuminate a school’s relative health and responsiveness? Some of the questions offered included:

• Are interdisciplinary instructional efforts common among faculty?
• Are assessment practices regularly reviewed?
• Is there an identified core knowledge for all?
• Is there a cooperative environment among faculty and students?
• Are segregating practices identified and mitigated?
• Is there a culture of self-examination?
• Is there a willingness and commitment to collect and evaluate data?
• Do students and faculty want to be here?

In gauging the status of American high schools, the International Center’s survey findings of the 100 top performing schools give us insight into the elements that favor improved performance and satisfaction. Above all, however, one dictum seemed to resonate: rigor and relevance for all. A consideration of the balance required for high levels of rigor and high levels of application reveals many high schools, including our own, have work to do. Attention to achievement through core knowledge, stretch learning through rigorous coursework, student engagement through instructional practice and welcoming school culture, and personal skill development through individualized learning opportunities all contribute to an environment in which students and faculty can achieve sustained and meaningful results.

(Over)Reactions

•February 4, 2008 • Leave a Comment

The Tuesday meeting of the Breaking Ranks committee was dedicated to reacting to “Growing Up Online“. Our initial task was to discuss our visceral reactions to the program, which, quite predictably were a mix of fright, concern, confusion, and dismay.

As parents, many of us were concerned for the safety of our children. They are existing in an environment that not only can we not fully control, but few us completely understand. How can you not be concerned after watching the story of poor Ryan Patrick Halligan, bullied, teased, and ridiculed until his only retreat was to take his own life? How can you not be concerned after watching Sara find encouragement and guidance to further her eating disorder, not to help her overcome it?

As teachers we experienced many of the same reactions. There is concern for the safety of our students, we want them to be safe online and off. But we were also concerned for their social and educational well being. We see their reliance on instant gratification and multitasking as a lack of focus. We see their reliance on Facebook, IM’s and texting as a retreat from face to face socialization. What perhaps we don’t see is why these “technologies” are attractive to students, and most of us definitely don’t see how it fits into our classrooms.

Clearly these are not the same students we were teaching 15, 10, 0r even 5 years ago. Something has changed. Technology has changed. Students have changed. Have we changed? Should we change?

The discussion in our workshop quickly changed from our fears about technology and fear for our children to a discussion of how the technology can impact learning. Several teachers felt that technology threatened basic literacy skills. This a common concern among teachers. But, in fact, 21st Century Learning standards call for a return basic skills, and a focus on literacy.

After much discussion we came to the point that often we are afraid or wary of new technologies simply because we do not understand them. Calculators were cited as a prime example. For years math and science teachers were against the use of calculators in the classroom. But as we have come to understand them and they have become more robust, they are now a required part of the educational environment. The statement was made that the in reality the calculators have allowed teachers to teach better. The children still need to know their math basics, but the calculators allow teachers to display the math in a variety of ways that were not possible before. Teachers can teach better and students can learn better with calculators.

If this is true of calculators perhaps it is true of cell phones, iPods, texting, social networking (Facebook, MySpace), and other technologies. Maybe we just don’t understand the technologies yet? Maybe we can’t see the connections like the students do? One thing is clear, technology innovations are not slowing down, they are speeding up. If we get too far behind will we ever catch up?

Frontline: Growing Up Online

•January 24, 2008 • 23 Comments

The Breaking Ranks committee was assigned the task of watching the PBS Frontline documentary “Growing Up Online” which premiered on Wednesday night and is available here. The program looked at the effect the internet and technology is having on our children. It examined the shift in socialization from real world environments to virtual settings such as Facebook and MySpace and how these new experiences are being used in both positive and negative ways. A large focus of the program was on the effect that these new behaviors have had on the relationship between children and parents, which I think is a very important aspect of this issue. The program followed real world children and parents as they attempted to make sense of these new behaviors and the new boundaries in their relationships.

I recommend that as an educator and/or parent (or potential parent) you take the the time to watch the program and take stock of how you feel. Did it scare you? Excite you? Confuse you? Think about divide that exists between your awareness of technology and your students/children. Are there implications that effect the teacher/student or parent/child relationships? And finally, what positive impact can these new realities have on education? Can we find ways to use these new behaviors in our school?
I encourage you to comment to this entry. The true value in a blog is in the conversations that occur between the readers.

Eric Bouvier