Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Curriculum and Technology for Educators

Professional Development for teachers is essential in improving the education that our students deserve. Technology is the one area of development that brings beads of sweat to many educators. Established teachers are resistant to change, especially change that involves equipment that most of their students have mastered. The first step of any sound professional development program is to develop a belief that curriculum drives technology and not the reverse. Technology intervention cannot be mastered unless there is continued support and direction.
In 1992, Mandinach (Mandinach, 1992) described four stages of technology use: survival, mastery, impact, and innovation.
A teacher is in the survival stage when he/she:
· Struggles against technology
· Is assailed by problems(everything that can go wrong will go wrong)
· Does not change the status quo of the classroom
· Use technology only for directed instruction
· Has unrealistic expectations, believing that use of technology only will improve higher achievement
A teacher in the mastery stage when he/she:
· Has increased tolerance to hardware and software
· Begins to use new forms of interaction with students and classroom practices
· Has increased technical competence and can troubleshoot simple problems
A teacher in the impact stage when he/she:
· Regularly incorporates new working relationships and classroom structures
· Balances instruction and construction
· Is rarely threatened by technology
· Regularly creates technology enhanced instructional units
A teacher in the innovation stage when he/she:
· Modifies his/her classroom environment to take full advantage of technology enhanced curriculum and learning activities
These stages will aid you in determining the level of ability of your teaching staff. Being comfortable with these areas allows you to evaluate the ways in which you are going to improve the levels of your staff. At this point you are ready to begin providing professional development for the various levels of the staff at your school.
Here are implementations for professional development systems that research has shown helps to reach teachers in the improvement of their skills.
1. After-school = least effective - teachers are tired at the end of their day and concentration is limited
2. Technology rover/prep shops = a trainer is brought into the school and teachers are coached on their prep time or a roving substitute is made available for the time needed. This is cost effective and valuable for specific needs
3. Mini grants = small grant money is supplied to the teacher to learn a specific piece of hardware with the condition that the teacher comes back from the training and trains other members of the staff.
4. Summer or Off Track Institutes = multi-day institutes are one of the most valuable forms of professional development. Teachers are less tired and willing to explore the values of new technology
5. Distance Learning = has the advantage of allowing teachers to access professional development at a time and location that is convenient for them.
6. Research based Professional Development Programs = EIRC is an example of an institution that provides PD to school districts. These programs are research based and are very successful.
Regardless of the skill level or the professional development vehicle that a teacher uses to improve their technological skills, it is essential that the staff be encouraged to gain and improve their stages of growth.
This is a topic that hit close to home for me because I am a high school special education teacher in a Title 1 school district. I see my students disengage from school and drop out, often never attaining a GED or returning to complete their high school education.

Defining the Dropout Rate

The US Dept of Education’s Center for Education Statistics defines three categories of dropouts: event rates, status rates and cohort rates. Event rates are comprised of the percentage of students within a single year who drop out of their high school program without completion. Status rates reflect the percentage of students within an age range (typically ages 16 – 24) who have dropped out or are not enrolled in a high school program within a given year. Cohort rates are comprised of the total percentage of a specific group of students who have dropped out of school within a given year. The research I primarily relied upon used status rates for their data and calculations.

For the purposes of this paper, the dropout rate will be defined as: students between the ages of 16 and 24 who have not received a high school diploma or who are not enrolled in a high school education program.

Reasons Students Drop out of High School

The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) conducted research on the reasons students drop out of school and determined, based on surveys of dropouts, that the number one reason given by those individuals for dropping out of school was uninteresting classes. The second most prominent reason given by the individuals for dropping out of school was becoming disillusioned with school because of their associations with peers who were unengaged with the educational process. Other reasons found by the CEC for students dropping out of school include real life events such as pregnancy, the need to gain full-time employment to support their family and illness. Another prominent reason for students dropping out of school is the fact that they were on the failure track with their grades and felt there was no recovering. Based upon analysis of their findings and data, the CEC identified two other prominent reasons students drop out of school: student disengagement and lack of or low parental involvement in the education of their children.

Suggestions for Preventing Students from Dropping Out

I noticed one over-lapping theme to all of the suggesting for fixing the student dropout rate: Engage, Engage, Engage. To engage students in the content they are to learn enough to get them to want to stay in school, schools must consider if their curriculum is engaging and meeting the student at the level he/she is at. Another way to engage students is through the educators developing relationships with the students – either taking an interest in the student’s athletics, play and/or coursework. Parental involvement and community support is also improtant in preventing students from dropping out of school. If the parents and community put faith and support into the educational system and make a culture of learning, the student will be less likely to drop out.

Curriculum Mapping

Curriculum mapping is a collection of information on a school or school district’s curriculum, lessons, assessments and core content. Curriculum mapping is done for each subject or grade level in a school or district. It is drafted based on the 180-day school calendar to ensure that all required standards are covered during a particular school year. A curriculum map is not set in stone, but is a living document, designed to be adaptable to the changing needs of the school district and the state department of education.

Curriculum mapping serves many purposes for a school district. Beyond ensuring all standards are covered during the school year, curriculum mapping allows for communication between the teachers, school board, administrator, parents and other appropriate parties. Curriculum mapping programs also allow teachers to better collaborate not only within subject/grade areas, but cross-curricularly as well. Another purpose of curriculum mapping is to organize the school’s curriculum and to ensure it is appropriately aligned with relevant state standards.

The school district I work at recently implemented curriculum mapping utilizing an internet-based computer program called Atlas. For the past school year, the curriculum team, comprised of at least four teachers from each content area or grade level, has been uploading unit plans, formative and summative assessments, projects, worksheets and other resources to Atlas. The high school departments have fully completed their curriculum mapping, an the middle school and the elementary schools are on their way to completion. Use of the curriculum mapping program has benefitted the high school in many ways. First, it has allowed the teachers to share resources, assessments, projects and worksheets via the search function of Atlas. Secondly, it has given transparency to what the teachers and administrators are accomplishing as well as the expectations and responsibilities for student achievement. The transparency extends to the board of education. Each member of the BOE has their own log-in for the system. They are able to see that the teachers and administrators are aligning the curriculum with the standards and that the teachers are putting into practice the various initiatives of the district, including use of technology and differentiation. While curriculum mapping has brought definite benefits to the district, there have been some drawbacks as well. First, some teachers are not willing to share projects or worksheets they created. Secondly, the cost for Atlas and to pay the curriculum team to upload information to Atlas has been great. Despite the drawbacks of curriculum mapping, I believe that the process will ultimately benefit our school district by allowing the teachers to share resources and align curriculum, which will enhance the learning experiences of our students.
What is STEM education?
Since 2001, the letters STEM have been a normal part of educational vocabulary. STEM in reference to education stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. This approach to education is designed to revolutionize the teaching of subject areas such as mathematics and science by incorporating technology and engineering into regular curriculum. STEM Education attempts to transform the teacher-centered classroom by encouraging a curriculum that is driven by problem-solving, discovery, exploratory learning, and require students to actively engage a situation in order to find its solution.
The four parts of STEM have been taught separately and most of the time independent from each other for years. By adopting this philosophy, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics play an integral part in the teaching of the whole. The science, engineering, and mathematics fields are made complete by the technology component that provides a creative and innovative way to problem solve and apply what has been learned. STEM education program participants are using highly specialized professional applications at very early ages. Programs that are usually reserved for college-level classes, such as computer animation and CAD programs are being implemented in high school classrooms across the country as part of the STEM education initiative.
Since its implementation, critics have questioned the program’s ability to teach all students equally. This argument is a difficult one to hold. All students benefit from the STEM program because it teaches independent innovation and allows students to explore greater depths of all subjects by utilizing the skills learned; these skills are going to be required in order for today’s students to be tomorrow’s global leaders. All jobs are requiring workers to have a greater ability to think critically, work as a member of a team, as well as independently, and close the performance gap between American students and those young people from other countries.
In recent years, there has been a significant decline in the number of college students choosing majors in science or technology related fields. Much of this has to do with poor preparation for the classes during high school and the intense work required outside of the lecture setting in places like laboratories. Students have chosen easier majors and courses of study in place of taking on the fields that they wanted to enter due to poor preparedness. If the graduation rates continue with this trend, there will be a workforce shortage in areas of engineering and science fields.
The United States needs to be more competitive and build new standards for our students. In order for students to see advancements in their generations, it is important that they have a well-balanced education that includes STEM elements, as well as traditional classes in the Arts. STEM education is designed to teach the “whole” student and in turn will make them more successful members of society.

Closing the Achievement Gap

The achievement gap in education is a matter of race, socioeconomic status, gender, and intellectual ability. Across the United States, a gap in academic achievement persists between the different populations. This is one of the most pressing education-policy challenges that states are currently facing. There are three main measures that are used to determine the achievement gap which are the standardized tests, dropout rates, and graduation rates of the schools. The NCLB policies have been put in place to help bridge the achievement gap by 2014, but there are so many areas that need improvement across the country. The problems aren’t just in the schools but in the community and home as well so it is hard to address all the factors that lead to the achievement gaps in schools.
Even though closing the achievement gap is a necessary step in getting the United States p to par with other countries in an educational standpoint, there are many negatives of this initiative that could leave many students struggling. NCLB has put a spotlight on the achievement gap and requires that states set the same performance targets for all their students. That includes students from economically disadvantages families, students with disabilities, limited English proficiency, and from all ethnic and racial groups. Students who do not have the same advantages as others should not be held up to the same standard and teaching those students at the same level as upper to middle class students could hurt their education. For example students with disabilities cannot be up to the standard of the other students in the school and should be taught to their mental ability not to the standard of children without disabilities. Schools are only considered successful if they close the achievement gap so schools could lose funding due to the gap they have in their school because they have students who cannot reach the level of the standard that has been placed on the school.
While the standard does affect the subgroups that do fail to meet the performance goals, the district has to provide public school choice and supplemental services to those students. This would help the students to get help to reach the standard of the school as long as the district keeps on top of regulating the services. Early intervention for the students with disabilities would help the students to reach the achievement goals of the district sooner as long as the services are started early and kept consistent. The job of closing the achievement gap falls into the districts hand and while it would be a nationwide achievement for all the states to close the gap, I feel that we are still very far off. There are too many areas that won’t get the help they need to be able to close these gaps and taking away funding would only hurt the districts. Closing the achievement gap is something that should happen in the United States but I think that the districts need more help to be able to address the needs of every student.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The emphasis on STEM education

STEM education is composed of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It was developed in 2001 by Judith A. Ramaley and was immediately adopted by many higher education institutions and various scientific communities. The idea for STEM education derived from the fact that throughout history, these four domains have innovated the world indefinitely. From these domains necessities such as the automobile, light bulb and personal computers were developed. It was felt that in recent years, American students were not populating these fields as much and such innovations were not being produced in America.

Within the last few decades, rapid scientific and technological advances have been happening all over the world. America was at one time leading the world in new innovations; though in recent decades, Asian countries such as China, Japan and South Korea have been dominating the world with new innovations. STEM education was developed with the intent to enhance American children’s interest in these four domains at an early age. American children need to become excited about science and math the way they become excited about art and music.

It is the intention of STEM education to target American children in their primary grades and spark an interest in the STEM domains. Thus, American children will choose math, science, engineer, and/or technology majors upon entering college. By exposing first and second graders with biology and chemistry labs, children may be inspired to grasp better attention in their science classes. Explaining the inter-workings of a computer before allowing the children to play on it the computer may peak their interest in technology and engineering.

STEM education is also heavily supported by the national government. President Obama and his administration feel very strongly about STEM education. President Obama recently deemed STEM education as a must have in American school districts. A national science fair was held at the White House in 2010 showcasing projects including solar cars, rockets and robots. President Obama frequently refers to STEM education in his national addresses; he mentions that China and India make math and science a top priority in their schools, and the lags Americans have in those fields. He also discusses the initiative to hire and train 100,000 teachers in the STEM fields.

Some criticisms about STEM education include the issues concerning the current job market. Many feel that due to the record shortages for engineering and technical jobs in recent years, there is not a reason to invest more funding in STEM education. Many engineers in the U.S. were (and currently are) unemployed because in the economy; others have seemed to have aged out of the profession with the reason being that they are overqualified for those positions. It is felt, by these critics, that emphasizing STEM education in children is insignificant due to the current stance of the American job market.

Though there are some negative criticisms about STEM education, it is personally felt that STEM education is very beneficial to children. Technology and science innovations continue to grow in today’s world, thus it is imperative that American students stay aware of the new developments. In a national study mentioned in an article in USA Today, American students were ranked ninth in out of thirty six countries in the field of science. Emphases on STEM education could help improved this ranking, and make these four domains not only essential for American students but also very interesting.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Curriculum Mapping

Curriculum mapping is becoming more and more prevalent in schools today. Curriculum mapping is a system that educators use to address the total education of the students in a school building and district. It is a “system that thematically aligns assessment, curriculum, and instruction” ( The goal is to be able to align curriculum both vertically and horizontally in a user-friendly manner.
There are seven steps of curriculum mapping that are based on the work by Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs. A curriculum team gets together and follows the following steps:
1. Collecting the data: This is where individual teachers gather material that shows what core skills are important, content taught, assessments that are used, and progress shown.
2. First Read-Through: Each team member reads through the material gathered to gain information and look for gaps, repetitions, meaningful assessments, alignment with standards, potential areas for integration, and timeliness. This should be done individually.
3. Small-Group Review: Members come together and share their findings from the first read through. Discussion is held and suggestions are recorded.
4. Large-Group Review: The small groups all come together into one large group and report out on their findings
5. Immediate Revision: Members address changes that can be made without further study.
6. Research and Development: A task force is assigned to do research and make recommendations based on the findings.
7. Begin the Cycle Process Again: Review and revision continue to keep maps up to date and aligned with the standards and objectives. (
There are several benefits to curriculum mapping. One of the most important being that it keeps the curriculum aligned both horizontally and vertically, as well as aligned to the standards. It can also reduce time being spent on shared planning. Teachers can follow the map and know what each other is doing. Mapping can reinforce to a teacher the value in what they are doing in the classroom. It also provides a great tool for communication between teachers within a school district, administration, parents, and community members. Another benefit of curriculum mapping is that it provides material for analysis of skills and assessment. It also makes it easy for new teachers to come into a school and know what is expected of them in the classroom.
There are several obstacles that a school will need to overcome when they are mapping. One is that it takes a lot of time and effort initially, and also to keep it up-to-date and current. There is also a lack of clearly defined goals. Some districts may find that there is a lack of agreement about the actual mapping form that is used. And finally, there is a lack of consistent vocabulary that is used.
Overall, curriculum mapping is a tool that is there to help schools and districts make sure that their curriculum is properly aligned within the district, as well as within the standards. If professional development is dedicated to making sure that everyone is on the same page with what is being taught and what is expected, we can hope that student achievement is followed.
Here is a clip on curriculum mapping from the expert herself, Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs:

Friday, July 22, 2011

Technology and Curriculum

The want and need for technology to be integrated into curriculum is continuously growing throughout the US. Integrating technology into a curriculum will enhance student’s learning and better prepare students for future jobs and careers. However, integrating technology into curriculums leaves many questions unanswered and not every decision maker in education on board.

According to Peter Theodore, of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, with over 50 learning theories available, a technology curriculum can be adapted for most of the learning theories, making implementing technology into a curriculum quite varied. An example of one learning theory, student-centered, allows the student to control their personal learning. This is possible because technology has the ability to access, store, manipulate, and analyze information. The student will spend more time internalizing the information and allow technology to help them along the way.

Integrating technology into a curriculum is more than computers and software programs in a computer classroom. Technology needs to be incorporated into the four aspects of learning: active engagement, participation in groups, frequent interaction and feedback, and connection to real-world experts. Research has shown that learning can deepen and be enhanced through technology. So what is the problem? Most schools are drastically behind in technology. Many schools have just begun exploring technology and what technology can offer schools, teachers, and students. If technology is used to its true potential, students will be able to survive in the highly technological knowledge-based economy we have today and will grow into in the future (

Several problems arise for teachers when technology is integrated into curriculum. Schools that have high standards make it difficult because the curriculum is so standardized. Teachers do not have the freedom to incorporate technology into their strict curriculum guide. Technology is also in danger of being excluded because it is not being used to its potential. John E. Cowan has the solutions for these unanswered questions that are keeping technology from being incorporated into curriculum full force.

Find what facilities, items, and people are available for support and access to technology:
1. What content needs to be covered?
2. What are the best teaching strategies and technology applications to cover the content?
3. What technology and connections are available?
4. How are equipment, labs, software, and support help scheduled?
5. What types of applications are available on the computers?
6. What is your technology knowledge level?
7. What is the students’ technology knowledge level?
8. Who can help?

Create a detailed plan:
1. What is the topic of the lesson and what needs to be covered?
2. What are the content-knowledge and skill objectives?
3. What standards are covered in the lesson?
4. How many days or periods are required?
5. What will be the grouping strategy?
6. What technology hardware and software will be used?
7. What access and passwords are needed for the lesson?
8. What system will be put in place to save and protect data?
9. What are the technology-knowledge and skill objectives?
10. What will constitute the sequence of events?
11. What supporting materials will be used?
12. What is the plan for deviation?
13. What can be done if technology fails?
14. How will the lesson-technology and content objectives be assessed?

By completing these two lists of questions, made by John E. Cowan, teachers will be able to integrate technology appropriately into the curriculum without any flaws. Teachers don’t have to come up with their own ideas. There are various recourses for teachers that will help them get the job done quickly and successfully. Websites such as Internet 4 Classrooms, CyberSmart, Teachnology, TeacherTube, Teachade,, Discovery Education Lesson Plans, Lesson Plan Z, Scholastic, and Microsoft Education are great places to go. Also, since using technology can make it difficult to assess students, grading rubrics or student portfolios are two methods of assessments that work well while still being able to incorporate technology and still sticking to the curriculum.

Closing the achievement gap

Shannara J. Williams

Closing the achievement gap

The U.S. Department of Education describes the achievement gap as the difference in academic performance between different ethnic groups. In California, the gap is defined as the disparity between white students and other ethnic groups and between English learners and native English speakers, socioeconomically disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged, and students with disabilities as compared to students without disabilities (closing the achievement gap, achieving success for all … There was a superintendent in California that is implementing a plan for closing the achievement gap. He plans to do this by charging his California P-16 Council to provide recommendations on what the State can do differently to assist local education agencies.

There has been a new urgency at the federal level. Recent changes in Federal education policy have put the spotlight on the achievement gap. The NCLB requires states to set the same performance targets for children From economically disadvantaged families, With disabilities, With limited English proficiency, and From all major ethnic and racial groups Schools are currently being considered successful only if they can close the achievement gap. There are a lot of schools that are struggling to meet the goals expected of them. I believe that overall many schools are closing the gap but it is not something that is going to happen over night. It will take time but from a good amount of the research I reviewed the gaps are closing slowly and steadily.

There are many ways that the achievement gap can be closed. One site showed a comparison of academic performance among African American, Hispanic, and white students on standardized assessments. Data form the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) shows that reading scores for 17 year olds narrowed dramatically for both African American and Hispanic students from 1975-1988. From 1990-1999, however, these gaps either remained constant or grew slightly in both reading and mathematics Based from that data, the Education Trust concluded that minority students whom make 12th grade, which many don’t, tend to be about four years behind other young people. It was also stated that African American and Latino 17 year old students tend to have similar academic abilities as a 13 year old white student.

Another way to measure the achievement gap is to compare the highest level of educational attainment for various groups. Hispanic and African-American high school students are more likely to drop out of high school in every state. Of these high school graduates, college matriculation rates for African-American and Hispanic high-school students remain below those of white high-school graduates – although they have risen in recent years. Furthermore, of those students enrolling in college, Hispanic and black young adults are only half as likely to earn a college degree as white students

Overall, it is important for all academic leaders to know how to work effectively with all students regardless of their home life style or ethnicity. We need to develop ways to close the gap of students with disabilities, different social economic statuses, and language barriers. This is going to take great time but I do believe it can be accomplished especially since there have been great breakthroughs with the closing of the racial disparity achievement gap.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

21st Century Skills and Themes

At first, I had a healthy dose of skepticism regarding the topic of 21st century themes and skills. To be honest it screams trivial, educational buzzword that is merely “sound and fury signifying nothing”. Contrary to those prejudices, it turns out that the organization behind the ideology is billing the project as a potential panacea to the tyrannical testing conducted in schools.

By defining themes and skills that amalgamate an educational career, it creates a blueprint for educators and the school system to follow. The one drafted by those championing the 21st century themes and skills does not place the full onus on math and language arts (the primary targets of testing). Subject matter highlighting personal finances and civic duty are given importance to create a fully-functional, educated young adult. Critics might retort that learning to use a personal saving account and the importance of voting are not as crucial as say mathematics and reading. To 21st’s (21st century skills and themes) defense, we are in a recession and young people are known to become disenchanted or apathetic toward voting and civil service. On a large scale perspective finical and civic education seems the perfect topic to help alleviate the problems of today. Before the naysayers can accuse 21st of dismissing the fundamentals, it should be noted that you cannot manage your finances without math and you cannot understand a president’s speech without language arts. This just helps move the actual tests being given to the students include questions on “why should you vote” and not simply reading comprehension and math equations.

To reframe the objective of 21st, it can be seen as a circular three part cycle. First we determine what we value in a successful education. Then we implement that into a curriculum. Finally we test the students on those values to see if they have attained the education we intended to give them in the first place. So the equation reads as- values creates curriculum which we are tested on. The problem stems from the disconnect between values and testing (along with others undeniably). If teachers, administration, students, and parents saw testing as representative of their values, how could they not support it in good conscience?

The summation of my post covers the 21st century themes and skills. As previously stated, the themes of civic and finical literacy are highly regarded. Amongst their ranks belongs health literacy and global awareness. Well some isolationists might baulk at global awareness the remaining fours importance in a well-rounded individual is undeniable. Skills are divided into three groups that have some overlay between them. Learning and innovation focuses on collaboration, creativity, and problem solving. The second set is information, media, and technology skills compromised of information, media, and technology literacy. The final group coined as life and career skills aims at promoting adaptability, leadership, social skills, and self-direction. As a whole this project creates a more well-rounded individual in a curriculum better suited to cater to the needs of the student in the information age.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

21st Century Skills

21st Century skills and themes are abilities that are necessary for students to obtain in order to compete in today’s global world. Proficiency of core subjects and 21st century themes is critical for today’s students to be successful in society. The core subjects consist of English, reading or language arts, World languages, Arts, Mathematics, Economics, Science, Geography, History, Government and Civics. School communities have a duty to foster an understanding of academic subject matter at higher levels by incorporating the 21st century themes into the core subjects. 21st century themes are financial, civic literacy, health literacy, entrepreneurial literacy and global awareness.
These 21st century themes have been broken down into 21st century skills. The first skill set, learning and innovation is described as skills that separate students who are prepared for increasing complex 21st century life and work environments and those who are not. Learning and innovation skills focus on a student’s creativity, critical thinking, and communication and collaboration ability. Creativity skills emphasize creative thinking, working creatively and implementing innovations.
Information, media and technology skills, the second skill set concentrates on ability of students demonstrating a range of functional and critical thinking skills related to the areas of information, technology and media. The skills developed in this area are information literacy, media literacy and ICT literacy. Information literacy teaches students how to access, evaluate, use and manage information efficiently, critically, competently and effectively. Media literacy develops 21st century skills by promoting learning through media analysis and creation of media products. ICT (Information, Communications & Technology) Literacy skills focuses on the 21st century skills of applying the use of technology effectively.
Life and Career Skills are 21st century skills needed to prepare students to be able to navigate in the global workforce. The first group of skills within life and career promote the ability for students to become flexible and adaptable. In the 21st century world, people must have the capability to adapt to various changes on their jobs such as their role and responsibilities as employees and be able to work effectively in a climate of ambiguity and changing priorities. Being flexible is an imperative skill 21st century employer’s desire in staff particularly in dealing with feedback, and reaching workable solutions in multi-cultural environments.
Two additional life skills necessary for 21st century learners are Initiative and Self-Direction. Student must be taught how to manage time and goals while working independently. They also have to be self-directed learners and exercise the initiative to be life-long learners. Social and Cross-Cultural Skills in still the values of respect of others cultural different and to conduct themselves in a respectful and professional manner.
Productivity and Accountability are 21st century skills that students need to develop that teach them how to manage projects by setting and meeting goals, and prioritizing work to produce results.
Lastly, leadership and responsibility are the 21st century skills that develop interpersonal and problem-solving skills in students, assist with teaching them to inspire others to reach their very best via example and selflessness, and to act responsibly with the interests of others in mind.
21st century skills are interdisciplinary which connect to real world situations, making them relevant to students. I believe that when students can associate school subject matter to a pertinent part of their life, they invest themselves in the learning process. Technology has changed the way we access information therefore it is only logical schools change the delivery of education and learning goals. With technology is in almost every aspect of our lives, it is only appropriate that schools prepare students for living in that world by educating them with 21st century knowledge and skills.


PARCC stands for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. The PARCC is a group made of up twenty-four states. These states are all working together towards one common goal. That goal is to create equal assessments for students in Kindergarten through twelfth grade so that they will be college and career ready. The assessments are in Math and English, and they are aligned with the Common Core Standards.
As stated, there are twenty-four states participating in this partnership. The states are broken into two categories: governing states and participating states. Governing states are the states that are piloting the assessments. These states include: Arizona, Arkansas, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island. The participating states are the states that are working together to design the assessments. These states include: Alabama, California, Colorado, Delaware, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. The PARCC assessments have recently undergone development and will be piloted this school year in some states. In the 2013-2014 school year, more of these assessments will be piloted. After data is collected adjustments will be made, and each state will administer these tests in the 2014-2015 school year.
These tests will be administered using the computer, and test responses will be graded by both humans and computers. The design of these assessments is varied. They consist of short answer, multiple choice, and open response items. Each cluster of grades (K-2, 3-8, and 9-12) will have different tasks and assessments. The Kindergarten through second grade cluster will consist of formative assessments where the teacher will track progress using various tools, for example, classroom observations. The third to eighth grade cluster will use the data accumulated from the tests to inform teachers, parents and students on the progress being made. The high school cluster will use the assessments to determine who is ready for college/career, and who may need more inventions put in place to help promote success.
When it comes to new techniques in the world education there are always positives and negatives associated with the alteration. The PARCC can be viewed in a positive manner for many reasons. Having a common set of assessments will be beneficial to students, teachers, parents and states. Students will be able to decide whether or not they are ready for college or for a career. There will also be no overlap. For example, if a student moves to a new state he/she will not be ahead of any curriculum, nor will he/she be behind that curriculum either. Parents will be able to have access to more information on the progress that their child is making in school, and they may be able to take a more active role in their child’s education. Teachers will also have more information about their students, which in turn could lead to more effective teaching. States would be able to assess their results with other states, knowing that the platform is equivalent. The PARCC also has its drawbacks. Students will be assessed approximately four times per school year. This means more tests and less time for instruction. With this high number of assessments in a school year teachers may feel added pressure to teach to the test. Finally the cost associated with implementing this new system of assessment may be high. Some school districts may encounter difficulty when budgets come in play.
In conclusion, the PARCC is going to have an impact on all of us in the very near future. It is important to stay current with on any new information that may come along.


The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is a collection of 24 states working together to develop a common assessments for grades K-12. PARCC became involved in the Race to the Top initiative in 2010 receiving $186 million grant. Race to the Top is government program set up to prompt reforms in K-12 education funded by the ED Recovery Act as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. PARCC will provide a common way for measuring the performance of students in all states. Therefore, meeting standards in one state will mean the same thing as it does in the other states.
The main goal of PARCC is to ensure that students graduating from high school are college and career ready. PARCC’s vision is to build a K-12 assessment system that accomplishes the following 5 statements:
• Builds a pathway to college and career readiness for all students,
• Creates high-quality assessment that measure the full range of the Common Core State Standards,
• Supports educators in the classroom,
• Makes better use of technology in assessments, and
• Advances accountability at all levels
The PARCC design will incorporate four features designed to improve the quality and usefulness of large-scale assessments. The concept of the design is to model the kind of activities and assignments should be doing throughout the year. A main focus of the assessment is to link it to instruction periodically throughout the school year. Therefore, students will be assessed closer to the time when instruction happens. This also allows for teachers to identify students who are struggling and areas which still need to be addressed.
PARCC states that “the overall assessment system design will include a mix of constructed response items, performance- based tasks, and computer-enhanced, computer-scored items”. The assessments will be given via the computer and scoring will be a combination of automated and human scoring. PARCC further breaks sown the types of assessment based on grades. Grades K-2 will be formative assessments, such as observations, checklists, classroom activities; all of which reflect aspects of the Common Core State Standards. Assessments for grades 3 – 8 will be given at each grade level and will include both through-course and end-of-year components. The assessments will include a variety of items including: innovative constructed response, extended performance tasks, and selected response. The high school PARCC assessments mirror the grades 3-8 assessments. Some of the minor changes include college-ready cut scores on mathematics and language arts literacy; which will determine whether or not a student is ready for college-level coursework. In addition, tests will be aligned vertically to make sure that students are on, and stay on, track to graduate ready for college and careers.
New Jersey is one of the 24 states that are working with PARCC; joining in the spring of 2010. In addition, New Jersey became a Governing State in the spring of 2011 and therefore actively helped shape the PARCC proposal for a common assessment system. Nearly 200 higher educational systems have also joined PARCC to develop the new high school tests. Fifteen of New Jersey colleges and universities have committed to participate in this process; Rowan University is not one of the fifteen. The overall thought is that college-ready assessments can then be used as part of the process for college acceptance.
There are obvious benefits to the concept of a national assessment system. The comparison of schools from state to state becomes clear-cut; therefore, easily ranking the states and their achievements. In addition, the common standards that go along with the common assessment make it easier for those students who may move from one state to another. Another benefit is that the assessments will be connected to teacher evaluation and possible merit pay. However, there are people questioning this concept and identifying many drawbacks. Will teachers focus only on “teaching to the test”? Now that students will be assessed several times throughout the year, will this decrease learning time? Is the overall cost of the process worth it? These are just some of the many questions that educators will discuss as they prepare for PARCC assessments that will be ready for states to administer during the 2014-2015 school year.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Data Driven Decision Making

What is Data- Driven Decision Making, sometimes referred to as D3M or DDDM? DDDM in education refers to teachers, principals, and administrators systematically collecting and analyzing various types of data, including input, process, outcome and satisfaction data. Collecting this data will guide a range of decisions to help improve the success of students and schools. Data are important sources of information to guide improvement at all levels of the education system and to hold individuals and groups accountable, Rand 2006. In the 1980’s corporations began, collecting combining, and crunching data from sources throughout the enterprise. Their goal was to improve decision making. Then two decades later NCLB law is pushing school districts to do the same, this time the goal is increased student achievement. While data alone cannot get students on the right learning path a growing number of administrators are convinced that the process can change education from understanding what works in classrooms to administrative processes and professional development.
The following are facts pros and cons about Data Driven Decision Making according to Administrator’s magazine:
1. If you’re not using data to make decisions, you’re flying blind. Running a school without a data warehouse is like being a plot without an instrument rating.”
2. Get ready to feel Threatened. “The downside to data- driven decision making is that it makes people more accountable; there are corners to hide.”
3. You will be spending more money, not less. It can be a costly long haul when implementing data- driven decision making.
4. Data- Driven decision making does not save time. “Data driven decision making focuses your time, but it is definitely not a timesaver.”
5. Your data’s cleanliness is next to Godliness. “Working with data is very deceptive and educational data is the most complex.”
6. Don’t shoot first and ask questions later. You should figure out exactly what questions you want the data to answer before you buy a turnkey D3M solution.
7. NCLB is just the beginning of your journey. Although NCLB is the driving force for data driven decision making school districts should view D3M solution in the context of sweeping and system- wide school improvement efforts.
8. Word of warning, D3M is highly addictive. “The more you use a data warehouse; the more you want to use it.”
Today many districts are forced with tight budgets and limited resources, having to make tough decisions about cutting programs with a data driven decision making system in place, administrators can quickly and easily analyze the correlation between student participation in these programs and other indicators such as student attendance, discipline incidents, and student achievement, giving them a clean picture about the effectiveness of each program. When forced to make cuts, ineffective programs can be eliminated based on real-time facts and figures.
In conclusion, when used appropriately data –driven decision making can be a powerful process for schools and districts. It can help to narrow achievement gaps, improve teacher quality, improve curriculum development, promote better communication with key stake holders, motivate students and enhance parental involvement in the education process. The most important thing is that it can help districts maximize the use of limited funds to achieve the best impact on student achievement.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Common Core Standards

Common core standards are the standards that are set by the state for each school which are made public for the students, teachers, and the parents. It outlines the standards for the success of the students for each school and the expectations of the teachers and students. Standards have always been different among schools in different states in the United States and it has been backed by the Constitution granting state governments the right to set the standards and goals for education within their own state. Since the US is competing with other nations a common set of core standards has been developed and adopted by some states. The standards will make a common goal for each state so the whole of the United States is on the same playing field. The Common Core Standards were developed to provide students with the skills necessary to be successful in both college and their careers, but the development of these standards have both positive and negative aspects.
It is important to note that not all states have adopted these standards but the majority of the states have and New Jersey adopted the standards in June of 2010. The issue of adopting the standards has been going on for some time and it is important to make a standard in the best interest of the students. It is also important so each school and each teacher is teaching the same things to the students. Each teacher would be teaching the same curriculum so the teaching would be uniform and a student coming from any state would have the same knowledge. A major problem that the US has in education is that it is not uniform and students from the east coast or west coast don’t always have the same level of education as those students in the Midwest. Implementing a standard of education in the US would help to make sure that every student is getting the same education and have the same opportunities. It will make the states accountable to be up to date on their curriculum and it would also help us compete with students from other countries. There would no longer be a gap in education with the standards and there would no longer be low expectations for the students or the teachers.
The problem with having the standards is that it takes away the right given to state governments in the constitution and the federal government will be running the standards which take away the power of the state. It also effects the funding of the state because if the state doesn’t accept the standards then they lost their government funding. It also takes away the flexibility and creativity of the teachers giving them less room to tailor the lesson to the specific student. It takes away the unique lessons that the teachers can give to the students from their life experience and the methods that they teach the students have to be from the standards. The standards also create a problem for low income, rural, or other areas where the education standard is lower. It will pose a real challenge to those schools and students because they will have to really raise the bar and it will be hard for them to get up to standard quickly. It could take time to get the schools up to standard and they could face losing funding or criticism if they don’t bring the students up to the standard quickly.
In my personal opinion the standard is a good idea so the students in every start are learning the same thing. I feel that a good teacher will be able to keep with the standard and manage to be creative at the same time. It is important for us to be able to compete with other countries and to be able to do so we need to as a country have a higher educational standard. The structure in education is important so teachers are accountable for what the students are learning and are held to a higher standard themselves. Having the standards will help the students in every state have the same education and opportunities giving the US more opportunities globally.

Marzano’s Classroom Instruction That Works

Shannara J. Williams

Marzano’s Classroom Instruction That Works

Robert Marzano is well known for his research in education. He has written a few books but the one discussed mainly is Classroom instruction that works: research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. This book along with various education websites carefully discusses nine strategies that will help to accomplish achievement and organization in the classroom or school I thought that Marzano’s nine strategies are very relevant to curriculum and every teacher would find them helpful when planning lessons for their classes. (,,

The first strategy is identifying similarities and differences. It is the ability to break a concept into similar and dissimilar characteristics allowing a student to understand (and solve) complex problems. I think the best example and idea that teachers can use for younger grade levels would be venn diagrams. I like this tool best for younger grades elementary through middle school because it allows students to compare and contrast their information in a chart. For visual learners this is better than just notes on a paper. Research also notes that graphic forms are a good way to represent similarities and differences. Next, summarizing and note taking allows students to eliminate unnecessary, substitute, keep what’s important, and analyze the information. There are a few ways that students can achieve this outlines, clusters, and column notes to name a few. I like this strategy because it allows students to review for possible exams and also to understand what they are reading.

Reinforcing effort and providing recognition deals with the effort and recognition speak to the attitudes and beliefs of students. Teachers must show the connection between effort and achievement. This ties into homework and practice because teachers must also show students a connection between class lecture and their purpose of homework. In reference to homework, it is best that teachers only give what’s necessary and understandable to the student without a lot of help from a parent. Research shows that although not all students realize the importance of effort, they can learn to change their beliefs to emphasize effort. Students will see that their work is recognized most effectively if the teacher allows students to share stories or posts a bulletin board that displays the student’s work. That is why it is important for teachers to also provide feedback!

The fifth strategy is nonlinguistic representations. Research states that knowledge is stored in two forms: linguistic and visual. The more students use both forms in the classroom, the more opportunity they have to achieve. Recently, use of nonlinguistic representation has proven to not only stimulate but also increase brain activity. The way a teacher can accomplish this is by using both physical models and movement to represent information. An example that I like is storyboards because students get to design it then present it to the class. The sixth strategy ties into this. With cooperative learning students could also work together with each other and do a presentation together and share their information with the class. Research shows that organizing students into cooperative groups yields a positive effect on overall learning.

Strategy seven and eight are setting objective and providing feedback, and generating and testing hypothesis. Setting objectives can provide students with a direction for their learning. Some of the research I read suggested that a contract can be used to outline the specific goals that students must attain and the grade they will receive if accomplished. As for generating and testing hypothesis, research shows that a deductive approach (using a general rule to make a prediction) to this strategy works best. This can be accomplished in a classroom by asking students to build something using limited resources. This will require students to generate questions and hypothesis about what may or may not work.

The last strategy is cues, questions, and advance organizers. Cues, questions, and advance organizers help students use what they already know about a topic to enhance further learning. Research shows that these tools should be highly analytical, should focus on what is important, and are most effective when presented before a learning experience. The way this strategy can be accomplished in a classroom is with the teacher providing guided questions before each lesson, think alouds, inferencing, drawing conclusion, and/or skimming the chapter to identify key vocabulary.

If all of these strategies are used in the classroom the student’s achievement will increase. All of these strategies engage students in classroom activities in various ways. It is important to teach students utilizing different strategies in order to keep them as active learners. I think that these strategies are very useful in the classroom and also understand how the administrators can effectively use them as well.