Future Ready Assessment: A head start towards personalized learning

Posted by Gabe Soumakian on July 19, 2016

The 7 gears of Future Ready Schools
The 7 gears of Future Ready schools

Often, we hear administrators tout their success with technology innovation by pointing to the number of 1-to-1 devices deployed in their schools.  At the same time, we hear it is “not about the technology” but rather it is changes in the teaching and learning process that transform our students as 21st century learners. Although there is a major shift toward digital transformation and innovation in our schools, administrators need to understand how to connect the dots and develop a comprehensive implementation plan that impacts student learning.

A good place to begin the process—or to validate that the district is headed in the right direction—is to have the leadership team collectively take the Future Ready (FR) assessment tool. The report from this tool will identify critical gaps as well as help guide you in the development of an effective implementation plan to fill those gaps.

This collaborative process of taking the FR assessment provides a professional learning opportunity to build the leadership capacity within your team. Your leadership team will benefit from this process and understand the major implementation shifts and design elements for appropriate technology solutions.  Through the assessment dashboard, your team will discover where your district is on the continuum for digital conversion, identify gaps, access strategies, and review your progress toward the development of a robust technical and human infrastructure.

What innovative leaders will learn from this process is the need to move beyond 21st century learning skills toward a personalized learning environment that prepares students for college, career, and life readiness.  Linking learning in the classroom to a real world setting makes the learning relevant and brings life to the curriculum so that students are engaged and feel connected to their future career paths.

Begin the process at www.FutureReady.org!  First, the district superintendent must take the Future Ready pledge.  Then, take the FR assessment.  Review the report as a team, then move your efforts to the next level by taking advantage of the resources available at the Future Ready Hub, especially the regional workshops.  Using this model will bring administrators in your region together to examine the data and connect your district with other leadership teams who can collectively move forward on the personalized learning continuum.

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Will Future Ready Make a Difference?

Posted by Stephen Vaughn on February 26, 2016

Future Ready logo with question mark overlaidMany superintendents of school districts in California have signed the Future Ready Pledge. Many of those districts have begun the process of evaluating the “readiness” of their districts for the future by using the great tools that Future Ready provides. They have developed plans to implement the suggestions generated from the surveys and tools. In some cases, districts have dedicated resources, including funds and people to implement and monitor their progress. However, even with doing all of this, I contend that it won’t be enough to make a significant difference for most school districts. Here is why.

There are still too many barriers to the implementation of an effective plan to be truly Future Ready. The first barrier is the existing employee contracts. Usually, most school districts have contracts that restrict and limit the process for staff development, as well as the evaluation process and the time that employees are in contact with students. The second barrier is the time constraints imposed by the transportation of students. This limits the options that are available for integrating training. The third barrier is the culture of autonomy that exists in most districts. Because most teachers still teach in isolation, they can ignore many of the requirements needed to have a 21st Century instructional program and no one will be either aware of it or able to do anything about it. The last barrier I will mention is the current tenure system. This system makes it very difficult to dismiss teachers who do not have the ability to implement an effective Future Ready program.

I recognize that there are a few districts that are making great strides, but the truth is most districts aren’t radically better than they were five years ago in terms of implementing a Future Ready program.  And I would submit that even in the case of districts that are doing well, the reasons why are tenuous and progress could end if a few things changed, such as the leadership of the district, the leadership of the associations, or the economy.

What do you think? Share your thoughts by clicking “Leave a comment” or by using the “Leave a Reply” form—you’ll see one or the other below this post.

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When Winning Isn’t Enough.

Posted by Geoff Belleau on December 31, 2014

It's not enough.As 2014 draws to an end, schools are reaching halftime in the Big Game of 2014-2015. Last Sunday, I watched the San Francisco 49ers win their last game of the year, and then bid farewell to a coach who has posted a winning record over the past four years. Twitter blew up with comments like “What are they thinking? Winning isn’t enough?!?” (And those are the nicer comments.) It made me stop to think, which led me to re-write this blog post.

What if winning isn’t enough? What if, over a span of four years, it’s not OK “just” to win and never fail? From what I read, the problem between 49ers management and the coach all boiled down to relationships; they just couldn’t get along.

Relationships matter

Relationships matter. Getting along is important. It is something we try to instill in students early on. “Learn to get along and play nice.” What does that look like today?

It seems to me that there are at least four things we can do as educators so we don’t end up in the same kind of situation the 49ers are experiencing: look for new ways to curate, create, communicate and collaborate.

Curate

First curate. There is so much out there today and so much content. As a school leader or leader anywhere, no one has time to read everything. Also, you don’t want a censored feed delivered. Two of my favorite curated content providers are Zite (now Flipboard) on my mobile/tablet and paper.li on the computer (emailed or tweeted). Only recently have I started tapping all that is available with my Amazon Prime with Amazon music and Amazon movies.

Create

Look for new ways to create and share content with those around you. With a camera (both still and video), recorder, and so many new apps/tools released every day, the possibilities are endless. Teachers are some of the most creative people I know. Who else would take a app designed to make comic books and use it to identify parts of a carburetor in an auto class or document a process using the storyboard feature?  Don’t forget augmented reality apps like Aurasma to create 4D. Or how about starting to asking questions that must be answered with video and students can work together and to record then post the video to your YouTube channel. Be sure to have them answer these three basic questions before diving into a new technology: 1. What training have you had? 2. How will this impact how students learn on a daily basis in your class? 3. How will you keep inventory control? This will help focus the creativity.

Communicate

It seems like we almost can communicate too much now, but it’s a glass half full or half empty view and how each of us views the way and amount of communication that goes on today . Start where we are and let’s see what else we can do! Use Cel.ly, Remind or Twitter to connect with others. Don’t forget classic channels. My family sent out a few printed Christmas cards and letters to those we care about but not in the digital world. There were some tablets, and other mobile devices that were under the tree. Find a way to communicate with those around you using them so that they are a asset and not a hindrance. If you wonder how many devices are in your school or in your district, go sit on a bench during passing period or at lunch on a campus near you and just be a “fly on the wall” watching what comes out of backpacks/pockets as students/teachers move around the campus. How can these assets be tapped instead of banned?

Collaborate

Finally Collaborate. How can this be fostered? What is the difference between collaborating and cheating? Let’s be honest; that is a question that many struggle with. It needs to be answered, though, and a way to do just that is to start. Start small with something like Google Slides and have everyone create a collaborative slideshow. What is your favorite tool/app for collaborating?

There are many things up in the air right now with school funding, changes in staff with retirements, and any number of other forces, but nonetheless halftime for the class of 2015 is right ahead of us. Before we know it, these kids will graduate and a whole new class of seniors will start in the fall—as well as a whole new class of kindergartners with backpacks larger than they are. The time to get busy is now.  It’s not good enough just to win, we also have to get along!

P.S. Share your favorite tools in the comments!

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Formative and Summative Assessment

Posted by Jenna Mittleman on August 3, 2014

Cartoon of king speaking to subjects from balcony: Try to see things from my point of view.
© Baloo, Jantoo.com. Used by permission.

A recent exercise in my Leading Edge Certification for the Administrator course gave me a chance to reflect on the topic of formative and summative assessment. I read an elementary school scenario in which Antonio Roberts, a teacher on the school’s staff, was eagerly awaiting a meeting with Mary Brown, his assistant principal, who had done an observation in his classroom the previous day. To me, the scenario provided a good example of how important it is to recognize the projected outcome of each participant.

There needs to be an intentional connection

Mrs. Brown seemed most interested in providing feedback to Antonio about his students’ progress following implementation of the new reading program. After the observation, Antonio was asked to reflect on student engagement in his class. He expressed his concerns about his ability to differentiate curriculum to best meet student needs. This is a classic example of what I personally experienced with several teachers this past year. There needs to be an intentional connection to the agreed upon standards in pre- and post-observation meetings. Historically, teacher evaluations at my site have not been entirely meaningful. Sadly, I’m able to say this as I was a teacher at my site for over 11 years. Teachers have typically chosen two CSTPs as a focus in the beginning of the year and the follow-through & accountability to monitor and assess hasn’t been fluid between administrators and teachers.

Making sure that the focus for California Standards for the Teaching Profession are selected in a meaningful way pending the teacher’s strengths and needed improvement is critical.  To help create this alignment, using a Google document would be beneficial in providing the expanded version of each standard which could potentially be highlighted in a Google doc as a reflection or post observation practice by the teacher. Considering the traditional methods of pen and paper reflections that my teachers currently use, this would be a giant step in the right direction. Allowing the evaluator and the evaluatee to share a living document that is specifically created to provide clarity about strengths and weaknesses would be a valuable tool.  This is the type of collaboration that must take place regularly throughout the year and feedback should be given in a timely manner that can be revisited regularly. In order to ensure significance of formative teacher assessments and summative evaluations…all assessments matter. Formal and informal evaluations are key elements in making employment decisions about teachers. The implementation of this process must be considered because the success of the students and the teachers greatly correspond.

The importance of collecting data

Last year, I used a tool on my iPad, “Classroom Walk-Through.”  This allowed me to provide teachers a quick snapshot providing feedback about lesson delivery, differentiation, resources, class environment and assessments. I loved that it allowed me to insert comments and email a PDF directly to the teacher and copy myself afterwards.  While I did find this to be a useful tool, I struggled with the time it took to complete as a minimum of 20–30 minutes was usually needed. Also, this was another email for the teacher and myself to receive and it required additional time to look up the CSTPs the teachers were focusing on to ensure alignment.

A more meaningful conversation with Antonio and Mrs. Brown could have occurred if student data was discussed.  Asking teachers to collect student data and create a portfolio to present is another idea. Also, using a web tool such as Mindomo to create a mind map can help teachers create a visual of how they can best meet the needs of their students and explicitly list the differentiation activities to be used in a given unit for specific students.

When discussing student achievement and characteristics of formative and summative assessment and teacher evaluations, the two words that surface for me are expectations and rigor.  If formative assessments with students are to be collaborative, while discussing strengths and setting goals, teacher evaluations should shadow this informal and conversational method.  Moving from poorly constructed expectations for students or teachers to clear and rigorous expectations helps transition from teacher centered to student entered and from administrator centered to teacher centered.  Furthermore, moving from general practice to specific practice is a must-do. Let’s practice as administrators what we expect of teachers.  Teachers, like students, should never be surprised of their summative evaluations if this process is completed properly.

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Classroom Walkthrough Google Style

Posted by Michael Graham on February 4, 2014

Cartoon person walking with Google Classroom walkthroughs (CWT) give administrators data. This data is important for providing relevant professional development to the teaching staff as well as a good way to be involved more in the classroom. Since we have implemented CWTs we have seen gains, but the data was slow and cumbersome to disaggregate. Paper forms had been the norm, but at the beginning of this year we implemented a Google Form for CWTs. The transition has been spectacular. The data is coming in faster and in real time. I am able to share it with the assistant superintendent and superintendent easily and that gives me justification on how to spend the precious professional development dollars.

 The use of a Google Form for CWTs is not for building administrators who “Cant handle the truth.” The results are live and in your face. As we developed our CWT instrument we thought that we would shine in many areas. The form does not lie. Be prepared to see the truth in the data.

For example checkout some of our data below.

When the data comes back to the spreadsheet Google will automatically create graphs. Follow the steps below to access the Summary of Responses.

  1. Open the associated spreadsheet that collects the form data
  2. Click Form
  3. Click Summary of Responses

As you can tell we need some work on technology integration. It is a slow process for my new school but we are on the right track. I am a new assistant principal that prides myself on my technology integration chops. The data does not lie. I am not having as much impact as I should.

Truth alert! Our English Language Arts teachers have the highest percentage of master’s degrees and national board certification. As administrators we tend to visit the good teachers more to reaffirm our great impact on our teachers as the instructional leader.

In the link below I have shared our CWT instrument with you. Please take some time to evaluate it and modify as necessary. I have outlined some steps so anyone with a Google Account either through a school managed domain (@yourschool.org) or a Google managed (@gmail.com) domain can access.

  1. Click the link here to open the form.
  2. Click on File, then on Make a Copy.
  3. The form is yours to modify!

To find out more about Google Forms and how to use them in the classroom, read my book, Google Apps Meets Common Core published by Corwin.  Also, check out Survey Templates Ready to Administer Using Google Forms right here on portical.org!

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