Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Compacting: How Are You Challenging My Child?

My child is Advanced, and consistently scores well on test scores.  What are you doing to challenge him/her?

As an educator (and Differentiation Specialist), I provide your child with the education I hope my own child is provided.  I want my daughter to not only be challenged, but to be encouraged to take intellectual risks.

The up-and-coming vocabulary in education is Compacting.  However, this is not a relatively new concept.  Compacting is a research-based concept and proven to provide advanced students with  appropriate accelerated needs.  As stated in the link (which wonderfully summarizes the concept), "(C)ompacting can dramatically reduce redundancy, and challenge gifted students to new heights of excellence (Reis et al., 1993)."

So, what exactly is Compacting?  There are 3 steps to consider:

1)  Backward planning- I am a HUGE proponent.  Using standards as a starting point fosters making targeted, instructional decisions.

2)  Backward planning- I am a HUGE proponent of this.  Using benchmark data means teachers  make targeted differentiation decisions for instruction 
     a) With the above data, teachers determine the 1.  Standard Outcomes  2.  Students who have already mastered it, based on data

3)  Engaged curriculum- We e use data as a diving board- where students are able to leap from, based on what they already know.  Now students can engage in high-interest inquiry.  Since they already mastered the foundation content, we take it to a deeper concept.  

 Note:  I did not say we speed of the pace or scope and sequence.  Yes, I said "Deeper".  Depth over Breath has been around for years.  When working with advanced learners, Breadth is not necessarily better!  Please keep an open mind for Depth:  it's more engaging, more authentic, more...well, it's just Best Practice! (another blog for another day)
As stated in the article:  "They learn that if they do my best work, they are rewarded with harder and more work. Instead, we recommend that students' interests should be considered."

I read multiple articles about students being able to "bargain" about a unit.  I like this concept because it means allowing flexible understanding:  depending on the content, some will already have it mastered, some will not.  This allows a variety of children to be the "masterer".  These are the children who can take ownership over their educational experience.  They choose to Compact the curriculum, or to take the current learning experiences and build upon it.  For example, a student who bargains on a lesson about determining importance (Standard), may Bargain by working to help other students create a book recommendation commercial for morning announcements, using the most important details supporting the Main Idea.

This is 1 of many articles that coherently explains how Compacting is best used in the classroom, and I appreciate the research embedded in the article.

Image result for compacting classroom

So, What Is A Differentiation Specialist (DS), Anyway?

 Image result for differentiation
What is a Differentiation Specialist (DS)?  Having moved from a district as a Literacy Coach, to a district as a DS, I get this question all the time.  The role is new, yet not new.  Teachers differentiate daily, throughout every block every day.  So, why do we need a DS?  So what is my role as a DS?

This question is answered depending on the district.  Some districts employ this role to work only students identified as Advanced (and/or Gifted).  Some districts employ this role to work with struggling and and RTI students.  I am excited, because my district is shifting from my role being pigeon-holed to working Advanced students, to working with ALL students.

Best Practice suggests using flexible group for math and literacy.  This means using formative and summative assessments to determine student needs.  Teachers then create small groups based on trends.  While some students struggle frequently, they still have their strengths.  While some students accelerate frequently, they still have their weaknesses.  What do I mean by this?  I mean reality...this is the case for all of us!

Some students read fluently, but pay little attention to, and struggle with comprehension.  Some students find geometry a breeze, but algebra and word problems an obstacle.  This information helps teachers group students according.  As a DS,  I work with varying groups, because they change based on the content being studied.  I model and co-teach Best Practice lessons, provide quality resources, and offer suggestions for technology engagement strategies.

So back to the age-old question:  "DS?  What does that mean?".  It means everything.  I do a conglomeration:  I analyze school data to create the SIP and professional development, I meet with teachers to determine class and individual needs, I collaborate with teachers on model/co-teach lessons, I provide resources...and even more resources.  What does it mean to be a DS?  It means being challenged by teachers, students, and parents everyday...it means having a fun and engaging day, every day.  It means providing a fun and engaging day, every day, for students. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Leadership vs The Blind Leading The Blind

What makes a good leader?  This has been a question I have been exploring since I accepted a new position outside of the classroom.  I have held leadership roles throughout the school, but this takes it to the next level.  So begins my journey to identify good leadership qualities and to develop my own.

This list of leadership qualities stems from my reading, grad school discussions, and personal experience.  Please add qualities you appreciate in a good leader!

* Visionary
* Clarity & Coherence (communication)
* Patience
* Empathetic
* Distributed Leadership
* Visible/Proactive (i.e. visit classes daily)
* Humor
* Available/Approachable
* Follow-through (timely)
* Calm
* Analytical
* Courageous (stick up for beliefs)
* Human: willing to admit mistakes
* Model: walks the walk

The Factory of Education

This VIDEO was shared by my Administration and Leadership professor.

You may have some "Mmmhhh.  I agree.  Already knew that." moments.  You may also have some "Aha" moments. 

The video covers research on ADHD throughout the U.S. regions, divergent thinking and longitudinal studies,  and the U.S.'s "factory" model on education.

I am not  offering my review, interpretation, or opinions.  I feel strongly enough to share this video with you and allow you to develop your own thoughts first.  Please share them!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Diane Ravitch & John Stewart

Dianve vs Finland, both teams win.
Video courtesy of Google Images
For years, we looked at Finland and wondered what they do that makes them so successful.  We used to do the same with China.  Years ago I watched a video about Chinese education (I wish I remembered the title).  China does not encompass the vast diversity which makes the US a melting pot.  China predominantly has less Chinese-learning students as the US does for ELL's.  China is also not known to address special education.  Their system appears to be a survival of the fittest experience. 
Now enter Finland.  Finland has a high educational success rate, and values professionals in the field.  So, what are they doing that makes them successful?  I repeat; they value professionals in the education field.  Education is supported, not spit upon by society.  Supports and resources are in place, not removed by politicians who have never been an educator themselves.  Teaching is a hard job, and Finland recognizes that.  What I have not heard discussed is another vast difference between Finland and the US-poverty.
Finland does not have a high poverty rate.  (See my past post on the effects of poverty on education).  In a study of 35 countries (HERE), the US had the second-highest poverty rate, whereas Finland was the second-lowest.  Poverty impacts education drastically.  Children attend school lacking nutrition, thus focus.  Children come in never having been read to, putting them years behind grade-level.  Children miss school due to transience.  Children are coerced into gang-relations for survival.  The list of effects goes on and on.  Poverty is a virus, nothing good comes of it and it needs to be contained, or it spreads and festers.  

The US can dream about being Finland in regards to education, but as long as we have a wealth of diversity and ELL's, it is comparing apples to oranges.  While diversity is an exciting melting pot, the immensity of poverty affecting education cannot be ignored, and once again is comparing apples to oranges.  In the mean time, we can still look at what Finland is doing right, and improve upon those areas.
I recently watched an interview of Diane Ravitch (Author of The Death and the Life of the Great American School System) on the Jon Stewart show.  It gave me such pride to see a public support of education by Jon Steward.  Other than Matt Damen, I have not seen many celebrities take such a strong stand to publicly support education.  These two have parents who were in education, thus appreciate the challenges educators face against the perception of their impact.  Not that it is their responsibility, but the gesture of support is appreciated and noted. 

Below are points by Diane Ravitch which rang true with what I know to be best practice.  For those of you not familiar with her, Diane used to work for the Bush administration and was initially in support of the No Child Left Behind Act.  After becoming deeply familiar with the Act, Diane reversed her supporting campaign, and has been a proponent of different types of reform (best practices), as illustrated below.

"Everybody is looking at Finland, but they don't do standardized tests.  The teachers create the assessments then look at what students need."  Success of such practice is illustrated in the DuFour's books on Professional Learning Communities (PLC's).  The practice of teacher-created assessments is the foundation of a PLC and "data-informed" instruction, but I ask: what about those schools/districts not creating rigorous common assessments?   When teachers create the assessments, they must ensure they are rigorous and aligned with Common Core Standards.  This data can be used to provide additional instruction and support.  These frequent assessments are much more useful data-points than a 1x/year standardized test.

Jon Stewart recognizes how mind-blowing it is that teachers are blamed.  His mom was/still is an educator, and believes the haters have no idea what it's like to do the job.  There is a consensus amongst waiters that every customer should work the profession before dining out.  The same is for education-walk a mile in their shoes before you judge.

"America is not overwhelmed by too many bad teachers, America is overrun by too much poverty...we should be talking about how do we make sure our children have adequate health care & do we have PreK education..." ~Diane Ravitch

To see the full interview, click the link below.
 Video courtesy of Google Images

Monday, August 5, 2013


What makes a good leader?   This has been a question I have been exploring since I accepted a new position outside of the classroom.  I have held leadership roles throughout the school, but this takes it to the next level.  So begins my journey to identify good leadership qualities and to develop my own.  

Self-Improvement is a large part of my professional career.  Accepting a position as a Literacy Coach meant I needed to model leadership qualities.  To prepare for my new role, I spent the past four seasons reading as many texts about leadership that I could get my hands on.  Although each text had its own ideals to offer, the biggest take-away, and repeated message I observed was the importance of being a good listener
There is a plethora of research on what makes a strong educational leader/administrator.  This is not the topic of today's blog.  That is a topic for another discussion-stay tuned!

Below are the texts that I committed to reading as I began the new chapter in my career as a leader.  They are not in any particular order, and not all stand-out texts.  Hopefully one or two will benefit you.

1.  Coaching Conversations: Transforming Your School One Conversation At A Time by Linda M. Gross Cheliotes & Marceta A. Reilly
2.  Instructional Coaching by Jim Knight
3.  The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
4.  Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone
5.  Reading People by Mark Mazarrella
6.  The Leadership Engine by Noel Tichy
7.  Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath & Barry Conchie
8.  Leadership Mastery: How To Challenge Yourself and Others To Greatness by Dale Carnegie
9.  The 5 Essential People Skills by Dale Carnegie
10. The Quick and Easy Way To Effective Speaking by Dale Carnegie
11. Raising The Bar and Closing The Gap by Richard and Rebecca DuFour
12. The 5 Levels of Leadership by John Maxwell
13. Quiet Leadership by David Rock
14. Training Camp: What the Best Do Better Than Everyone Else by Jon Gordon

15.  The Personality Code by Travis Bradberry
16. Unsinkable:  how to bounce back quickly when life knocks you down by Sonia Ricotti  
17.  Driven by Data :  A Practical Guide to Improve instruction by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo
18.  Leverage Leadership:  A Practical Guide to Building Exceptional School by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo

Research: Impact of Parent Involvement

Children spend 70% of their time outside of school. (Michigan Dept. of Edu)

86% of the general public believes that support
from parents is the most important way to
improve the schools.  (Rose, Gallup, & Elam, 1997)

Decades of research show that when parents are
involved students have:

Higher grades, test scores, and graduation rates
Type of Involvement
Better school attendance
Increased motivation, better self-esteem �� Although most parents do not know how to help
their children with their education, with guidance
and support, they may become increasingly
Lower rates of suspension
Decreased use of drugs and alcohol (Parent Teacher Association)

When schools encourage children to practice
reading at home with parents, the children make
significant gains in reading achievement
compared to those who only practice at school.14
 Tizard, J.; Schofield, W.N.; & Hewison, J. (1982).  
But what needs to be taken into consideration is "The strongest and most consistent predictors of
parent involvement at school and at home are the
specific school programs and teacher practices
that encourage parent involvement at school and
guide parents in how to help their children at
home." (Dauber and Epstein (11:61)