January 2018 Articles

1/17/2018

GUEST BLOG: Identifying Which Goals are Critical for the Success of Your Students — Stephen Fujii, Marion City Schools

By: Guest Blogger

GettyImages-493334040.jpgI currently serve as a school administrator. Before entering education, I served as a military officer in the Armor Branch of the United States Army. I am extremely proud of my service to my country. And now I am extremely proud of my service to my community.

Thankfully, the roles of a military officer and a school administrator have many, many differences. But surprisingly, there are some similarities. For example, in both environments, being successful in meeting your goals is critical. My internal ongoing dialog in both worlds has been "How do I know that I am meeting my goal?"

As an educator, I often wonder how we know we are meeting our objectives in terms of teaching and learning. The classroom teacher has learning targets. These are informed by curriculum maps and formative and summative assessments. The building principal has evaluations of staff members and numerous tools for measuring student and teacher growth. District administrators have Ohio’s School Report Cards, the data used to create the report cards, parent input and state guidance to help them determine if they are making progress.

Even with these resources, how do the classroom teachers and building and district administrators know they are consistently setting the right goals each day? In education, there are so many efforts aimed at improving outcomes for students. You hear leaders talk about the importance of improving attendance rates, graduation rates, literacy rates, ACT scores, college placement rates, college readiness scores, increasing dual enrollment credits, improving Advanced Placement scores and improving state assessment scores — just to name a few. Meeting any one of these goals is challenging and rewarding work. But how do we decide exactly which one we should focus on? We cannot afford to miss our goals. How do we know precisely which adjustments to make to better serve our students and communities?

One indicator that educators are setting appropriate goals is that students are fulfilling their potential. In Marion City Schools, we have learned that simply asking students to graduate high school is a vague goal and a disservice to our students. To clarify that goal and do what is best for our students means that we must focus on students beyond the time they are in our classrooms and schools. There is a lot of evidence that shows students are not persisting in higher education. Our graduates are changing their majors two or three times before settling on where they finally want to focus. Not enough students are graduating with credentials and relevant ways to apply their knowledge.

To set the right goals for Marion, we created our Portrait of a Graduate. This process was collaborative and intentional. We invited 20 community leaders and 20 influential school leaders to develop our vision. The Marion City Schools’ Portrait of a Graduate identifies the key skills, beliefs and knowledge students must have to be successful and gain acceptance to 1) a two- or four-year college or university; 2) the United States Military; 3) a high-paying, in-demand job in our city or region; or 4) an adult apprenticeship program. We call this High School Diploma PLUS Acceptance, and it is the goal we ask our students to aim for. Diploma Plus Acceptance helps students be better prepared for life after high school and prevents some of the pitfalls that many high school graduates face.

Posters hang in the hallways of each elementary, middle and high school in Marion City Schools to remind students of the traits we outlined in our Portrait of a Graduate. The posters remind students to strive to be "responsibly engaged in the community," "taking initiative," having "civic awareness," "focusing on growth" and "persisting to overcome adversity." And yes, we remind students to be “proficient on required curriculum and assessments in the state of Ohio." 

I am proud that our program has been featured as a SuccessBound program. You can watch the SuccessBound video about our accomplishments here. I am even prouder that identifying these traits and focusing on our students in these ways is one way our district ensures college success...if that is what our students desire. Emphasizing these traits and focusing on our students in these ways helps ensure career success! This is our most essential goal, and this is our greatest point of pride. This is #FutureReady. This is success in today’s world of education.

Stephen Fujii has a diverse background. He served in the military, taught in the classroom and currently is the superintendent of Marion City Schools. To contact him, click here. 

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1/11/2018

GUEST BLOG: Small Steps to Big Learning... Using the INFOhio Early Learning Portal with Early Learners — Emily Rozmus, INFOhio

By: Guest Blogger

earlybird_vector_ring_flat.pngWhat does using technology with early learners look like? 

When I first started working with this age as a school librarian, it looked like more than 20 kindergarteners sitting in front of computers with their hands on their heads. Despite my relative inexperience with the age group, I quickly figured out that if there were keyboards in front of them, early learners would push the keys. There would be no direction or completion of any task without that temptation taken away. I first tried having them sit on their hands, but that produced a lot of rocking from side to side and even some inappropriate noises. Finally, “Put your hands on your heads!” seemed to work. They sat immobile in front of their computers, hands on heads, almost statue-like. Better yet, they were listening! We practiced that about five times. That took us to the end of day one of using computers in the library. Check!

As the weeks went on, I was successful in not only getting the 5-year-olds to log in but also in helping them learn to use a mouse and double click. Each lesson took the whole 45 minutes, but we finally were able to successfully log in, use the mouse and click with enough skill to get to a website. This was about six or seven years ago, and there were very few support resources to help a cash-strapped school librarian with early learners and technology. Instead, I used what I had: years of teaching experience, lots of strategies, flexibility and patience. It turned out that those were just what I needed to get my early learners logged in and learning.

Today, all Ohio early learning educators, even the cash-strapped ones like I was, have access to help! The INFOhio Early Learning Portal is a resource for educators and parents of learners ages 3-5. It contains more than 50 free or affordable websites and apps. INFOhio carefully chose and evaluated each one. The resources are aligned to the Ohio Early Learning Standards, and a helpful chart is available for each domain that provides a corresponding resource for the standards within that domain. Often, a specific component of the resource, like a BookFlix e-book, is given to support the learning outcome, making intervention and personalized learning easier for busy teachers.

It can be intimidating to integrate technology into a curriculum, especially if teachers don’t feel they have enough experience, devices or time to make it work with early learners. But, as I learned when I started, the best way to begin is to use what already is established and available. Many early learning curriculums and programs use centers, which is a great way to integrate technology. One or more centers could be set up with a computer or tablet with the INFOhio Early Learning Portal resource ready for students. This eliminates frustrations that may arise if children must access the resource on their own and provides more time for the student to work on the standard. Many preschools still are working on supplying students with enough computers or tablets for individual use. Centers allow students to work with the app or website in groups, not only learning content but also skills, such as taking turns, providing verbal support and positive peer interaction.

Another way to integrate technology into an already established program is during circle time or other teacher-student direct instruction. A great way to provide interactive and engaging lessons is to use a tablet with a small group or a projector with a larger group. Games and videos in the resources on the INFOhio Early Learning Portal are a great way to get learners moving and thinking. There are many great e-books available as well, which allow students to hear the story while watching the words appear on the screen as they are highlighted. This lesson plan for preschool featuring Early World of Learning is a great way to use an e-book as a read-aloud story. Starting off small by substituting technology for another tool or process is great way to gradually introduce the resource into the curriculum.

With first-hand, daily knowledge gained from working with an individual learner comes the irreplaceable skill of matching learner needs with level and strategy. Using technology individually with students is one of the most powerful ways to provide a foundation of learning. One-on-one interaction with feedback and praise cannot replace any automated program that does the same. Working with a student one-on-one is a great way to amp up the technology in the curriculum and use it to modify and redesign learning. For example, using apps such as Draw and Tell, Bedtime Math or Little Bird Tales can put a new spin on student creations, sharing with parents and assessing learning.

Using technology with early learners can be a daunting task, but starting with substitution and using what you already have can help eliminate many barriers — especially time or lack of devices. Choose one resource, or even one student, and integrate the INFOhio Early Learning Portal into your lesson. As you gain confidence, and the learners ask for more, you will find small steps will lead you and your students to bigger learning, not only in content but in skills and development.

The INFOhio Early Learning Portal was developed in partnership with the Office of Gov. John Kasich, Ohio Department of Education and Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and is maintained by INFOhio, which is optimized by the Management Council.

Emily Rozmus is an INFOhio instructional team specialist. She has worked in education for 24 years, first as a secondary English teacher and then as a district librarian. Emily has developed district growth plans, integrated technology, created instruction for information literacy, fostered teacher development and worked on teams to implement curriculum. At INFOhio, she focuses on helping educators use INFOhio resources to improve early learning. She also works to share research and best practices for helping students be better readers of INFOhio's digital text.

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1/3/2018

Ohio Students Are SuccessBound with the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal

By: Steve Gratz

OMJ_ReadinessSeal.jpgNearly a year ago, Ohio’s efforts to strengthen and expand career pathways got a boost thanks to a $2 million grant from the Council of Chief State School Officers and JPMorgan Chase & Co. Ohio is one of 10 states to receive a New Skills for Youth grant, which directly aligns with many of Gov. John R. Kasich’s Executive Workforce Board’s initiatives. It also aligns with many Ohio Department of Education activities geared toward making sure Ohio’s students are ready for the workforce of the future. To help schools and families better understand the needs of future employers, Ohio launched the SuccessBound initiative. The SuccessBound webpage includes resources to help make students aware of the different career-focused opportunities available to them.

Students who are SuccessBound take active roles in planning their futures by exploring career interests early and considering how to align their interests to careers. They consider what education and training are needed to reach their goals. They respond to financial concerns by earning free college credits in high school. And, they follow pathways that allow them to work in related fields while continuing their education. These students dedicate themselves to long-term goals and commit to continuous lifelong learning.

Aligned to the SuccessBound initiative is the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal. The seal was established as part of the sweeping workforce initiatives passed in House Bill 49 and outlined in Building Ohio’s Future Workforce. The OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal will be printed on students’ diplomas and transcripts once they meet certain requirements. The requirements include demonstration of work-readiness and work-ethic competencies. Students submit a form that records evidence of meeting the requirements. The form is validated by at least three individuals. These individuals are mentors to the students and can include employers, teachers, business mentors, community leaders, faith-based leaders, school leaders or coaches.

We know Ohio’s students must be ready to engage in a rapidly changing workplace. We also know that businesses are seeking talented workers who demonstrate professional skills, such as being reliable, drug free, personable and able to solve problems and handle conflict. To meet the needs of business, our current education system must identify and teach the professional knowledge and skills all Ohioans need to be job ready. The OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal will signify to employers that students have the professional skills valued by business and industry. These skills are essential in the 21st century workplace.

When this language was introduced in HB 49, I immediately thought about how I would approach helping my students earn this valuable credential if I was still in the classroom. The OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal requires students to demonstrate proficiency in the following professional skills to be deemed ready for work.

  • Drug Free - The student commits to being drug free.
  • Reliability - The student has integrity and responsibility in professional settings.
  • Work Ethic - The student has effective work habits, personal accountability and a determination to succeed.
  • Punctuality - The student arrives to commitments on time and ready to contribute.
  • Discipline - The student abides by guidelines, demonstrates self-control and stays on task.
  • Teamwork/Collaboration - The student builds collaborative relationships with others and can work as part of a team.
  • Professionalism - The student demonstrates honesty. He or she dresses and acts appropriately and responsibly. He or she learns from mistakes.
  • Learning Agility - The student desires to continuously learn new information and skills.
  • Critical Thinking/Problem-Solving - The student exercises strong decision-making skills, analyzes issues effectively and thinks creatively to overcome problems.
  • Leadership - The student leverages the strengths of others to achieve common goals. He or she coaches and motivates peers and can prioritize and delegate work.
  • Creativity/Innovation - The student is original and inventive. He or she communicates new ideas to others, drawing on knowledge from different fields to find solutions.
  • Oral and Written Communications - The student articulates thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively in written and oral forms.
  • Digital Technology - The student has an understanding of emerging technology and leverages technology to solve problems, complete tasks and accomplish goals.
  • Global/Intercultural Fluency - The student values, respects and learns from diverse groups of people.
  • Career Management - The student is a self-advocate. He or she articulates strengths, knowledge and experiences relevant to success in a job or postsecondary education.

As a teacher of agriculture, I had the fortune of teaching students throughout their high school careers. I reviewed the list of professional skills, I reflected on how I, as their teacher, could integrate these skills into the classroom experience for students.

For example, to be in the program, all students were required to have supervised agricultural experiences. During these experiences, students apply what they learn in the classroom in real-world settings. Today, supervised agricultural experience programs include entrepreneurship, placement, research, exploratory, school-based enterprise and service learning. Successful supervised agricultural experiences require students to demonstrate reliability, work ethic, punctuality, discipline, learning agility, critical thinking and problem-solving, professionalism and more.

During my time as a teacher, I made sure all my students were members of the Future Farmers of America (FFA). For those of you not familiar, FFA is the youth development organization for agricultural education students. It provides life-changing experiences for its members. FFA programs and activities allow students to further demonstrate the professional skills listed above. This is evident in the FFA’s Code of Ethics.

FFA members conduct themselves at all times to be a credit to their organization, chapter, school, community and family. FFA members pledge to:

  1. Develop my potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success.
  2. Make a positive difference in the lives of others.
  3. Dress neatly and appropriately for the occasion.
  4. Respect the rights of others and their property.
  5. Be courteous, honest and fair with others.
  6. Communicate in an appropriate, purposeful and positive manner.
  7. Demonstrate good sportsmanship by being modest in winning and generous in defeat.
  8. Make myself aware of FFA programs and activities and be an active participant.
  9. Conduct and value a supervised agricultural experience program.
  10. Strive to establish and enhance my skills through agricultural education in order to enter a successful career.
  11. Appreciate and promote diversity in our organization.

This blog is not intended to focus on the FFA — it’s merely my point of reference based on my personal experience as a teacher. There are numerous other programs and activities in schools and communities (band, choir, drama club, faith-based clubs and activities, 4-H, Invention Convention, science fair, robotics competitions, etc.) that can help students learn and demonstrate these professional skills. The key takeaway is to realize that many, if not all, of the professional skills required to earn the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal can be learned and demonstrated as part of a student’s total school experience and should not be considered additional work.

Supporting this initiative is the Business Advisory Council Operating Standards that the Department will be posting guidance on later this week. Strong relationships between education and industry are essential. The Business Advisory Council Operating Standards guidance document includes examples of how education and industry can partner together. The Department plans on sharing examples from districts that have successfully implemented business advisory councils.

Finally, here’s a great article I read on LinkedIn that speaks on Industry’s Role in a New Education System. The article addresses what is needed from the next generation of employees, including the following:

  • Problem-solvers;
  • Innovation and the ability think for oneself;
  • Resiliency;
  • Passion to design and create;
  • Collaborative team members;
  • Good communication and presentation skills 
  • Individuals who successfully can transition from school to the workplace. 

Of course, these should sound familiar as they align with the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal, which should help all Ohio’s students be SuccessBound.

Dr. Steve Gratz is senior executive director of the Center for Student Support and Education Options at the Ohio Department of Education, where he oversees creative ways to help students in Ohio achieve success in school. You can learn more about Steve by clicking here.

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