Teams 5 & 6

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Susan Hess
Team 5

In Silva (2008), skills for the 21st Century boil down to critical thinking skills, that involve analyzing and evaluating with a creative mind in real-life situations. As educators, we are doing that provided teachers stay abreast of the technology and demands the work place needs. A teacher still copying her old dittos will probably not be one who is going to be an innovator when it comes to stretching her students’ minds.

Illinois’s decision to align with P21 is not surprising. But it lacks clarity. I say this because any good teacher should be trying to teach the 3R’s and the 4C’s in addition to providing rigor, coherence, and measurability into the classroom. But, what does that look like? What does a rigorous English lesson look like to you? Isn’t it up to the teacher and the students he or she is teaching? How do we define rigor for the whole state of Illinois? Of course we are not going to teach Clifford the Big Red Dog at the high school level. But, what if some students can only handle Holes by Louis Sachar because of their reading level? Isn’t that rigorous for some but not for others?

I believe we provide an environment that challenges students to think outside their comfort zone. That is when they are thinking critically, when they have to think hard and contemplate. When choosing technology, I intend to add blogs and even cell phones. I also want to add digital readers or even iPads, if available, because students learn when things are new and exciting. Since students embrace technology, they are more likely to “read my stupid book” if it is on an iPad, kindle, or even an iPod.

Choosing technology will be difficult because it is constantly changing. This is another reason that teachers need to stay abreast of their subject matter and the means in which to access it. If students have blogs in which to do a quick write or a story reflection, aren’t they going to be more likely to do it? What if all students had knowledge of Google.docs in order to work on group projects? They would never have to meet in person to work on the paper and could discuss it over Skye or Oovoo. This generation has grown up with technology.

Susan, I agree with you with you when you mentioned that it is very difficult to stay on top of the latest technology. As educators working with a population of students who tend to be 3 years ahead of us as educators when it comes to technology we do have a responsibility to provided curriculum that is technologically enhanced. However, in my experiences by the time district is able to invest the money and resources in new technologies they may are already 5 years behind. With that said your statement, “I believe we provide an environment that challenges students to think outside their comfort zone” is a common theme you will see in classrooms nationwide. Teachers will work to what is best for kids no matter how limited the resources.

I don’t feel that the 3R’s and 4C’s are anything new. Conditioned teachers have been using those concepts in their curriculum for years without the latest version of IPad’s software.

Finally, I do think we have a responsibility to stay on top of technology. I-Pads, smart phones, and social networks will be here for a long. Most importantly the opportunities these technologies offer to education is endless.
Mike Plaza



  • Response to Mike’s comment to mine:
Thanks for your comments. It sounds like we have similar views. I am not sure what the answer is to get the technology now to keep the kids at the top of the “technology game” because as you know, budgets for large technology purchases have to be approved a year in advance. By then there might be new technology or a new version. So I completely agree that we could be up to five years behind what the students know and are already learning on their own.
Susan Hess



Mike Plaza
Team 5

There are several points that Elena Silva discussed in her article that I agree with. She discussed the need for alternative assessment methods that not only meet the requirements for No Child Left Behind, but are comprehensive assessments for the demands of 21st Century skills. Both the article and Tim Magner addressed the concern of the lack of collaboration between corporate America and the education system. Magner and the 21st Century Readiness in Illinois pamphlet theories are based on the “4C’s”, but neither addressed how to embrace the “4C’s” into the classroom with the limited resources many school districts have.

I agree and in my practice I would create curriculum that had one or all aspects of the “4C’s”. However, I do not feel that I have the educational technologies resources necessary to prepare my students for the competitive market they will be entering upon graduation. In my opinion our students are well versed in technologies that can be considered “educational technologies”, but the traditional teaching model that we currently follow dismiss these technologies as “policy breakers” and “teenage nonsense”. Instead I feel educators should be working with emergency technologies such as Apple, smartphones, tablets, and digital media/text. In addition corporate America is responsible for working with educators on how these technologies are influencing the “everyday worker”.

Both Silva and Magner discussed the need for educators to work with civic leaders when it comes to preparing schools for the 21st Century skills. When dealing with civic leaders I feel there is a political component that prohibits educators from achieving and implementing modern curriculums into the classroom. Unfortunately, many politicians do not have a background in education and a majority of politicians have a political obligation to corporate America who has an anti-education agenda. We as educators would have to be very cautious when we choose to support policies and procedures declared “law” by civic leaders because there may be a hidden agenda that ultimately destroy educational programs.

Mike Plaza


Mike,
I fully agree with your assessment that it would be beneficial for school districts to have the most recent, up to date technology available for our teachers and students. However, you seem to be assuming that there is not a financial variable to consider. As you may recall, at one time our District invested in Palm Pilots and those were abandoned rather shortly after they were purchased. With our yearly revenues increasing at a slower rate than inflation, how can schools keep up with the ever changing technological landscape while living within fiscal constraints?
More than likely, to afford this, we must be willing to give up some of our “old ways”. With textbooks becoming a larger percentage of our yearly supply budgets we may need to embrace publishing our own instructional materials. Even with ibook texts, there is a never ending yearly fee to “own” the rights to these books. It seems we tend to like to hang on to old habits while embracing the new.

-Eric Dolen

Response to Mike,
Thank you for your ideas on working with civic leaders to prepare schools for the 21st Century skills. You made some really good points about the “politics” that sometimes encumbers the decisions that politicians make regarding education. I was wondering though, if you could explain further the comment “majority of politicians have a political obligation to corporate America who has an anti-education agenda.” I’m not sure that I understand what you mean when you say that corporate America has an “anti-education agenda.”
Josh Schumacher


Response to Mike Plaza
Mike your response touches on the standardized testing of P21 skills. There are concurrent movements happening in our nation. The call for the Common Core State Standards can either conflict with or align to those advocating for 21st century skills. There are some interesting perspectives documenting the tension between the two movements at Commoncore.org in the following link http://commoncore.org/p21.php. Aware of the tension, P21 has put together a thorough document on where how CCSS and P21 align http://www.p21.org/storage/documents/P21CommonCoreToolkit.pdf. I think we will see much dialogue about assessment, standards, and 21st century skills in the next few years as we move toward a more uniform nationwide assessment. What will gain more attention the common core or 21st century skills and why?


Jim Britton
Team 6

21st Century skills are the essential tools that will transform the doors to the future into portals of worldwide access. In earlier centuries, educators merely had to equip students with the keys that will let them pass through the doors in their local community, such as the door to the steel mill. Yet, now because the communities to which they pass are without bounds, they must learn more skills that allow them to navigate a complex, doorless world. 21st century skills equip students to function in the interactive, critical culture of constant learning and adaptation. These skills allow them to learn, create, innovate, reflect, and communicate, and collaborate. Students need these skills because they are the new keys for a transformative and transforming world.

I was introduced to the P21 framework this year as District 211 leadership acknowledged how it lags behind in applying new technologies and looks to set forth aggressive goals to build infrastructure and capacity among technology, students, and staff. Had it not been for the commitment of Illinois in P21, we may have continued to exist in ignorance. P21 is a call to action, to serve the reality that our students will enter. I am pleased Illinois has taken that call.

To foster an environment for 21st century learning and demands, curriculum must first undergo revision. Jacobs’ (2010) analysis of the new essential curriculum assets that curriculum “should cultivate a culture that nurtures creativity in all our learners” (p. 17). The learning context must be designed so that students don’t get the right answers but are able to ask the right questions when confronted with a problem. As Silva (2008) points out, even Bloom’s taxonomy must be transformed to reflect concurrent, inter-related processes. Application while learning and as a means to learn will promote this culture. The use of technology activates the application of developing knowledge and skills. Technology provides linkages to information and to fellow learners to address problems and create perspectives and solutions.

Already this course has opened my awareness to what I do not know about tools that can aid dynamic interaction. For a teacher to teacher or a leader to lead in the P21 world, he or she needs to get plugged into the emerging technological strategies and tools. We have to know what exists and how to use it before we can capture its power to promote learning.


Jacobs, H.H. (2010). A new essential curriculum for a new time. In Jacobs, H. (Ed.), Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World. (pp. 7-17). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Jim,
You make an interesting comment that we need to know what exists and how to use it before we can effectively use technology to further learning. I agree with you wholeheartedly. However, I think we must change the way we go about implementing the use of technology. D211 along with many other school districts too often gets “bogged down” in trying to choose the best path towards the implementation of any new technology. We can no longer, operate under the model that we will start with a pilot program, and if successful decide that the entire faculty be trained to utilize the new technology or method. As most of us know, training in isolation of actual content practice and immersion leads to less than desirable results.
Instead, I feel that we need to let teachers experiment with various technological teaching/ learning methods within their PLT’s. If a PLT has found success it is their charge to share their success with a few other interested PLT’s throughout their own department, school, or other PLT’s across the district. I have always felt that, our district should hold a yearly best teaching practices conference with D214. At this conference D211 and D214 educators would hold breakout sessions on a wide array of presentations dealing with “what works”.
This leads us away from faculty feeling forced to adopt a particular new way of doing things to teachers feeling that it would be great to learn to use a tool that will help them be successful with their students. If we encourage small groups of teachers, the autonomy to try things first on an extremely small scale, would be less pressure to feel that we need to pick the perfect thing to do. Mistakes and failures should be seen as simply a crash course in learning. While we should act recklessly, we should not be afraid to embrace technology for the fear of failing.
How do you feel our District can help speed up our jumping into new technology? We historically have been rather conservative and very cautious about making sure we make the right decision at the cost of either reacting very slowly or not at all.
-Eric Dolen

  • Response to Eric’s comment.
Eric, you bring up some very interesting points. My concern about collaborating with D214 is this: we don’t even collaborate well within our own district. Recently, our district got together for departmental institute meetings. From colleagues I heard that some district PLT’s couldn’t even agree on a common benchmark assessment to use. Many of these people are going to be at different levels with technology, so it scares me that these same people might make recommendations about which technologies would be best for the district. I believe we could have to carefully choose those who are already somewhat informed about technology to be on a PLT committee. Which now we have another issue. How do we get people to experiment? Some still won’t even use the gradebook program unless it is written into the contract. I agree that the place to start would be the current PLT’s, but even that might have some issues.
Susan Hess


  • Response to Eric's comment to my (Britton's) comments

Eric,
You present some interesting ideas and intriguing viewpoints. The idea to engage in a best practice workshop with District 214 would be a step in the right direction. Gone are the days we can train people with new technology and leave it at that. We need to provide teachers with resources and opportunities to learn from one another. That sounds strikingly like a PLT, doesn’t it?

Sue,
Being the largest high school district in the state of Illinois provides us with some benefits. Would you argree being nimble is not one of them? I believe that the idea that we need to all agree within our district is a noble idea; however, the ability to get to this point often takes too much time. Too often, when we become mired in gridlock many initiatives tend to wither on the vine. Or, in the name of compromise, they take on a completely different shape than initially intended.
I think a better approach is to get as many people together that have the same interests and are willing to try out new methods. It may prove beneficial if we encourage our teachers to work with non-District 211 teachers. We all tend to be “experts” the further we travel from home anywayJ. Once there is a large enough number of teachers that” buy-in” to a particular idea, a critical mass will form. This critical mass of teachers would create "gravitational” type of force that would naturally pull other D211 educators into the fold.
By nature, I feel most people don’t like to be told what to do or believe. However, I think most will climb aboard the bandwagon if they see the merits of changing the way we do business.

-Eric Dolen




Heath McFaul
Team #5

There are strong arguments throughout each piece of assigned evidence that support advancing technology skills and thus closing the gap between what schools teach and what the real world needs. While I agree that schools must indeed align themselves with the world beyond academia, I have concern over how we truly get there.

As the Silva text points out, the must have skills of a 21st century learner is the ability to apply their knowledge rather than to simply acquire it. There is nothing novel about this idea; it already exists in the form of our trade and technical school settings. These settings have long been institutions with a focus upon the hands-on, real world connection and I strongly support these forms of educational training. The P21 framework mirrors the same logic; prepare students for life beyond. All of this sounds simple enough, but how do we actually get there through the current educational model?

The P21 framework http://www.p21.org/storage/documents/P21_Framework_Definitions.pdf) offers a very sound and in-depth analysis of what current skills they believe are needed. I question how this can be built into our current graduation requirement structure. For example, the P21 framework hopes that within the core subjects for mastery, schools also weave interdisciplinary themes into the curriculum. How do we as district, begin to ask teachers to add, recreate, adopt, modify or change their current curriculum to also include components on global awareness, financial and economic skills, business and entrepreneurial literacy, civic literacy, health literacy, and environmental literacy? Does this begin to replace the current district content standards that we already have in place?

The P21 focus is inspiring and certainly needed...by some. Each year our district boasts a dropout rate of <1%, but one piece of data we haven’t collected is how many students actually graduate but completely lack any type of real-life skill. If the P21 platform seeks to fill-in that knowledge gap, then the broad scope must include preparing kids for the world of work immediately beyond high school. The educational environment must then include some form of vocational training, of which technology can indeed play a major role. Silva, Magner and the P21 site address a blended approach to the “3R’s and 4C’s” but neither actually address the more immediate need for some kids to have actual hands-on skills immediately upon graduation that can be applied in the workforce.

In my opinion, technology in education is what you make of it. The more important piece is that students are afforded the opportunity to utilize a wide variety of tools in order to better assess what they can use effectively. Personally, I’d like to see our district break away from the ultra-conservative, slow moving, and reactionary methods we usually employ, to actually attempt something groundbreaking that will create a natural spark the learners of tomorrow.

Heath I am in total agreement with you. I just learned that Stevenson High School has moved from traditional text books to digital text books. Every student is issued an I Pad and the software that supports the digital texts is supposed to be amazing. Most importantly they are seeing tremendous gains in student growth. With this in mind I am too frustrated to see that the “hands on” approach to teaching is slowly becoming a thing of the past. We are converting our shop classes over to computer labs and classes such as Production Tech and Building Construction are becoming obsolete. I think technology is patricianly to blame for this. Advocates for educationally technology would say that students do not have competitive advantage to taking Wood and Autos classes. They will say we need to teach them skills such as computer literacy and substitute Building Construction with CAD classes. Yes, these classes are very beneficial, but the value that traditional “hands on” classes have shouldn’t be over looked. Hands-on classes teach students how to be critical learners. They truly incorporate the 4C’s and 3R’s. Hands-on classes have a way of connecting with the non-traditional students. What will we do with students? I am also very concerned and I don’t have an answer.

Mike Plaza


  • Response to Heath’s post
Heath, I am wondering if you could clarify what you believe is the “ultra-conservative” view? I agree that our district is slow moving, especially when I heard that my daughter’s elementary school is already using iPads. Is this what you mean?
Susan Hess

Response to Heath,
Thank you for your ideas on integrating the ideas in the P21 framework into our current graduation requirements. You seem to be reticent to “ask teachers to add, recreate, adopt, modify, or change their current curriculum to also include components on global awareness, financial and economic skills, business and entrepreneurial literacy, civic literacy, health literacy, and environmental literacy.” I thought the same thing at first glance, however, once you really dig into what those components are, I think that including these “real world” components is a completely necessary step in developing a curriculum that includes less of a focus on memorizing content knowledge and more of a focus on critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration. For example, under Global Awareness, the P21 Framework Definition simply includes “learning from and working collaboratively with individuals representing diverse cultures, religions, and lifestyles in a spirit of mutual respect and open dialogue.” I was wondering how much you think teacher currently employ strategies like this and if it would really take that much change to get there?
Josh Schumacher

Eric Dolen
Team 6

The Illinois State Board of Education is calling for all schools to be committed having all students learn 21st Century Skills. They define these skills as comprising of a combination of the basics (the three Rs) with what is referred to as the “four Cs”. The four Cs are: critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration and creativity and innovation.
I feel that these skills are definitely important skills for students possess. The United States has been an economic power based impart upon the innovative abilities of our society. With today’s global market, it is evident that the United States’ economy is not able to rely upon manufacturing. We must, instead, rely upon creating an economy that relies upon innovation.
I am aware that Illinois is one of the 16 states that have aligned itself with P21. I am not overly immersed with the details of how this will impact the curriculum and teaching/learning within our schools. I am not shocked that Illinois has chosen to align itself with P21. With Illinois not “winning” any federal Race to the Top Funds ( moving down from 5th place in round one and 15th place in round two), I am sure that aligning itself with P21 was appealing. Interestingly, it appears to me that Massachusetts is the only one of the 12 Race to the Top grant winning states that has chosen to aligned with P21.
I feel that the best way to provide an environment to help students achieve mastery of the 21 century skills is to provide students with open ended learning experiences. We need to harness each student’s natural curiosity to fuel their desire to learn. Educators should reexamine how schools place rigid time frames upon student learning and encourage students to take “risks” and allow for mistakes.
Technology can play a large role in helping us overcome the time and distance issues that may hinder learning. Technology will allow students to become more independent of their teachers and become the masters of their own learning. Hopefully, teachers will be viewed as resources and coaches that are available to help guide student learning- not drive it.
Educators need to be at peace with the fact that technology is advancing so fast that we will never be "caught up". Whatever technology we embrace today, will seem inadequate in a rather short period of time. We must learn to continually adapt and adjust to make the best use of the technology presently available.

Response to Eric-
You bring up some interesting points and some terms that I was not aware of.
  1. Can you clarify on what is the Race to the Top Funds...
  2. What do the different rounds entail and what would cause Illinois to drop? ( moving down from 5th place in round one and 15th place in round two)
  3. Is Illinois a grant winning state?

Dana Batterton (Team 6)

Response to Dana's response to Eric Dolen:
Race to the Top is President Obama’s grant that is awarded to states that developed and submitted a comprehensive educational reform initiative for their state. A little over a month ago, December 2011, Illinois was one of seven additional states to be awarded some federal grant Race to the Top round three funds. This brings the total to 22 states after the first three rounds. The amount awarded to states in this round is rather insignificant $43 million dollars as compared to what winning states received in the previous two rounds. Arne Duncan and the Department of Education judges the submissions in each round.
The Chicago Tribune has an interesting article about states that won previous rounds are not making good on their promised reforms.
http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-01-08/news/ct-edit-race-20120108_1_school-reform-education-secretary-arne-duncan-tough-spot

-Eric Dolen


Response to Eric,
Thank you for your ideas on the best way to provide students opportunities to master the 21st Century skills as defined in the P21 Framework. I agree with you that we need to provide students with more open-ended learning experiences in order to harness their natural curiosity and desire to learn, however, I am left wondering about your comment “educators should reexamine how schools place rigid time frames upon student learning.” How exactly do you believe this should be done?
Josh Schumacher


Response to Josh Schumacher's reply to Eric Dolen:
Josh,
With many educators understanding the need to differentiate education to meet the needs of our students, it seems antiquated that we cling to the concept of the Carnegie Unit which was developed in 1906. This unit (or credit) is a time-based reference for measuring educational fulfillment. Many institutions define this as requiring that a student complete 240 minutes a week for 36 weeks. Students must earn a determined number of credits in order to graduate.
It seems more fitting that we should focus on students achieving mastery of agreed upon skills that are standards based. Some students will naturally take longer to reach mastery within a set of particular skills compared to others. However, today we “fail” students for an entire course if they do not meet our expectations within a grading period. When students fail a course they are required to either repeat the same course or take courses in which we have lower expectations and standards. What if we kept the same high expectations but changed our expectations of time needed for them to demonstrate mastery? This would lead to incremental, continuous learning for all students regardless of their abilities and readiness to learn.

Eric Dolen

Response to Eric (in response to his response to my response to his original post!)

I agree that the Carnegie unit may be an outdated idea, however, we all know that the biggest influence on student learning is the classroom teacher, thus we want students in class as much as possible. I also agree that the mastery of certain knowledge and skills is something that we need to evaluate as a way to improve our grading systems. I don’t agree though, that changing our expectations of time will equate to “incremental, continuous learning for all students regardless of their abilities and readiness to learn.” My fear with this idea is that the students you are speaking of (the ones who might fail courses) do not have good time management skills to begin with. These students might wait until the last possible days of the “semester” to complete their work. This may lead to decreased retention of information and low level of conceptual understanding. I think that instead of changing the time expectations, we should change the way we monitor and intervene when we see students struggling. We need continuous systems that track student learning so that we can quickly identify deficiencies and provide immediate interventions for struggling students.

Josh Schumacher


Josh Schumacher

Today’s students need a wide range of skills in order to be successful in the workplace. The traditional ‘reading, writing, and arithmetic’ skills seem to be losing favor with business leaders, legislators, and leaders of higher education. While a strong knowledge base in effective reading, informational and persuasive writing, and mathematical skills is necessary for future members of the workforce, current trends have brought other important skills and competencies into the limelight. These so-called 21st Century Skills include critical thinking and problem solving, creativity and innovation, communication, and collaboration. I believe that students do need to demonstrate proficiency in these skills. I also believe that these are skills that were (are) the focus of ‘gifted’ education programs. We are currently caught in a paradigm shift that moves from identifying students that are naturally gifted with these skills to the expectation that all students can expertly practice and show these skills.

While Illinois claims that it has aligned itself with the P21 initiative, I think that this claim is more theoretical than practical. The Illinois State Board of Education considers itself ‘on board’ with these 21st century skills; however, Illinois schools are slow to follow the eagerness of the State Board. The current Illinois State Learning Standards are woefully out of date and content driven. One of the biggest problems is that most 21st century skills require implementation that is rather messy. By messy I mean that the coherence, focus, specificity, clarity, and measurability of these skills are difficult. The State Board doesn’t want ‘messy’ questions, problems, or curricular issues. They want content and skills that they can measure on a standardized test so that we can demonstrate that we (as educators) are ‘distinguished,’ or at the very least ‘excellent’ in respect to educating our students.

The first way to provide an environment in order for students to develop 21st Century skills is to let go of traditional forms of education and assessment. Without a drastic change in the assessments procedures (including, but not limited to the PSAE), we educators will keep spinning our wheels.

Educators need to know what students are currently familiar with and what kids of technology that students will be using in the 21st Century workplace. This can prove difficult because students are often more tech-savvy that their teachers simply because they are members of an older generation. Teachers must also be willing to change their ways and adapt to the current reality of our economic and education arenas.

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Response to Josh Schumacher
I agree with your comment on regarding the assessment of 21st century skills, especially when high stakes assessment drives the process. Leading researchers and educators stress assessment for learning (Ann Davies, Rick Stiggins, Jan Chappuis, Robert Marzano) while, at the same time, federal and state legislatures stress measures of accountability that are often tied into high stakes tests. How can we rectify the push for accountability with meaningful and purposeful assessment? How can 21st century skills, such as creativity, collaboration, innovation, and problem solving, be assessed through a means that can be compared across populations of students?
A National School Board Association PowerPoint ties assessment and 21st century skills together (see http://tinyurl.com/79nnjbg). P21 has also published a whitepaper on 21st Century Skills Assessment (see http://tinyurl.com/6o2tnvp). As evaluations of administrators and teachers become linked with student achievement, it is important for us to remain cognizant of the nationally based assessments that are emerging.
Jim Britton

  • Response to Jim (in response to my original post)

    I agree that educators must be cognizant of the nationally based assessments that are emerging, in fact, I believe that educators must be on the committees that develop these assessments. My concern regarding this process lies in my understanding that many of these assessments are created by panels of politicians and people who work for for-profit companies that create and administer assessments. Perhaps I am either too cynical or too naïve. I remain concerned that the standards and assessments that are currently being developed will not be implemented with reliability or validity in the actual classroom. This turns out to be a lose-lose situation for both teachers and students.

    Josh


  • Response to Sue Hess

Sue, this is exactly what I mean when it comes to the statement regarding “ultra-conservative.” Although our district is well known for many things, being innovative and cutting-edge is certainly not one of them. Have you forgotten that our student information system is running on MS DOS?

Heath McFaul


  • Response to Josh Schumacher

Josh, your comment regarding the state of Illinois loosely aligning itself to the P21 initiative is somewhat understated. The Illinois Learning Standards are designed to provide us with a definition of what all students across the state are expected to know and be able to demonstrate. Two years ago the ISBE adopted new and even more rigorous learning standards in core curriculum areas. This has yet to translate well into the actual classroom because teachers are already inundated with objectives, standards, goals, and expectations – one of them being our incessant need to collect data. Thus the continued drive of standardized tests, as Josh suggested. This, at a time when our district is spending money on assessment experts to train our staff, basically advising that standardized tests are a poor reflection of student knowledge. What this ultimately has done is create yet another layer of frustration upon an already overloaded teacher workforce. Josh, the need for change in how we assess is urgent, and although we are being given “best practices” in theory, I agree that the transfer to actual classroom practice will be painstakingly slow. The hesitation most teachers seem to have with making drastic changes to their grading practices is questioning the support behind them.

Heath


Dana
Team 6

Eric and Sue,

I wanted to comment on your earlier postings regarding PLT’s. I understand what you are both saying in terms of getting people to share ideas and materials within our own PLT’s and the need to share outside of our district. I think one obstacle teachers face is the challenge to work within the timeframe for the benchmark assessments. I know English teachers are struggling to make assessments created last year fit into new CLS’s and get it all done in a short amount of time. I think the buy-in is a struggle. Overall, we (the district) need to do a better job of making Ruby Payne, Robert Marzano, The DuFours, and everything else in the alphabet soup work together so that new ideas don’t sound like the flavor of the month. I think it is already a struggle to get teachers out of their classrooms and then ask them to collaborate on a certain task, but it is something that teachers are getting used to. Sustainability is always in question though. Teachers want to know that what they invest time in is here to stay and not going to be something different the following year.

I taught in D214 and really admire how their PLC’s work. I think collaborating with D214 teachers would give D211 teachers a new perspective on how to structure PLT time and also what we accomplish. In my opinion D214 has greater success with their PLT’s because they have more frequent late starts and overall time to work in groups. We haven’t met as a PLT in late start time since December? and won’t meet again until February and it definitely makes it difficult to collaborate and see something through. Time is definitely needed in order to achieve more success in our PLT’s.
-Dana

Dana Batterton
Team 6

I agree with Magner and Silva when they state that students entering the workforce are not prepared with the problem solving skills needed to compete and excel. I also agree with Magner when he says that there is a gap between what is learned in school and what students need for the workforce. I see this in my classroom when students don’t know how to research a topic on the internet and don’t take initiative to seek help. Our students are lacking the skills to make it in the real world. As a coach and teacher, I approach each lesson and obstacle by thinking about what the student can learn from the situation and how it can transpire to their future. As a coach, it was important to stress time management and prioritizing because these are skills needed throughout life. I believe students do need to know the 3R’s and 4C’s and that not many of my students are ready to move on having mastered all of these skills.

While I think P21 has value, I sometimes think that there is a disconnect between reality and what looks good on paper. The P21 model looks good on paper, but without the proper practices and resources to implement the model- it means nothing. Schools are struggling to change. Math teachers are having a hard time teacher literacy of math and reading teachers are struggling to incorporate skills from other disciplines without losing the literature. Teachers are being pulled in so many directions- preparing students for state assessments, meeting NCLB, and now having to change curriculum to fit P21.

As I consider what students need to know and how to create a nurturing environment where they can hone in on these skills, I can’t help but think about my son’s pre-school curriculum and inquiry learning. It makes so much sense and is so different from how our public high schools are set-up. We currently send students through an 8 period, 50 minute day where they learn content independently. That is not how the real world works. Students need to be able to evaluate something scientific by utilizing different disciplines such as reading, writing, problem solving, math, communicating with others to be able to work through situations in life. Students need to know how to ask questions and what kinds of questions will take them from point A to point B. Students need to be able to use a variety of technological resources and to know when it is appropriate to use such technology. Technology is expensive and is always changing which makes it difficult to provide resources for students; nonetheless, students need to be exposed to a variety of resources to help them understand what is available when it comes time.

  • Response to Dana
You bring up a very good point about the alphabet soup. Here we like to call it the flavor of the month. We like to jump on every bandwagon in this district, and we try to do too much at once. I find we are good at a lot, but we are not superior at very much because we don't have enough time. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that there is not enough time to put all of these things together that teachers are being asked to do; yet we are working on rolling out Infinite Campus for several months. Some items get the "hurry up" approach, and others get the lolly-gag speed. It is difficult to figure out at what rate we are supposed to be working on a particular project. Now I agree with you and Eric that maybe we need to at least see what another district like 214 is doing and if we can learn something from them and their PLTs.

Sue


In response to Josh:

In theory, a lot of what the P21 curriculum seeks to establish should be part of the natural learning environment, The example you offered is certainly one that can and should be embraced in all classrooms - I support the concept fully. My concern is within the measurement. If teachers have the sense of being measured, or judged, upon their ability to meet these standards, they will naturally feel the burden of "something being added to their plate," regardless of the obvious benefit. I agree that many of the ideals within the P21 framework should be natural. The paradox is that "natural" shouldn't need a measurement - you either do it, or you don't. Perhaps the bigger issue here is that schools should look at the P21 curriculum and use it as part of their evaluation process. Thus building a culture of teachers that is learning from and working collaboratively with individuals representing diverse cultures, religions, and lifestyles in a spirit of mutual respect and open dialogue.

In this case the P21 model is still being used as a measurement, but you're building a school culture behind it, not just a quick lesson plan that meets an objective so you can cross it off your list.

Love, Heath

Response to Heath:
Heath,
You stated that our district quotes the drop out rate and you questioned how many graduating students lack the skills to move on into the world. Do you know if the district tracks how many students attend a college or university and drop out after 1 semester/1 year? Or how many of our students graduate from college?Going further, I would be curious to see what our students end up doing with their lives? The types of professions they enter? It would be interesting and difficult to track our graduating students to see if they are prepared for college/the workforce beyond graduating from our schools.

Dana Batterton


Response to Dana:

Dana,

I'm actually very interested in those same questions. I do believe our district has some loosely tabulated statistics on how many kids plan to attend college right after high school (not sure if it's broken into 4-year, 2-year, community, etc.), but I don't believe we follow-up beyond that. As you eluded to in your previous post, there is very likely a large amount of students that graduate from Palatine, but do not finish any type of formal educational training beyond. Which, in my opinion, opens the argument that we need to do more to meet student needs. Instead, we stick with graduation requirements that prepare kids (very well, I do admit) for higher education, but not so true for the world of work. I've had many conversations with very capable students that have no intention of going to college. The question then becomes, do we have a greater responsibility as a high school system to recognize our population differences and to start preparing kids for the world of work, not just the world of higher education?

Heath McFaul