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9/1/2016

Building Student Success Through Relevant Career Pathways

By: Steve Gratz

Credential for All: An Imperative for SREB StatesI had the opportunity to be part of the Southern Regional Education Board’s (SREB) Commission on Career-Technical Education that brought together legislators, educators and experts from across the United States to explore how to build career pathways leading from high school to good-paying jobs, training programs and postsecondary education in high-demand fields. Moreover, it focused on answering the question, "How do we help more young people earn credentials and degrees that matter in today’s economy?"

Labor market economists project that by 2020, two-thirds or more of all jobs will require some postsecondary education — either a certificate, a credential or a degree at the associate level or higher. At present, however, the SREB’s analyses of educational attainment data suggest that millions of young Americans are being left behind in the transition from high school to college and well-paying jobs. Significant numbers will never graduate, and many who do go on to college will not complete a credential with value in the marketplace. Furthermore, according to the Snapshot Report - Yearly Success and Progress Rates, fewer than 35 percent of all college-going students graduate on time.

For many young people, high school may be the last chance they have to acquire foundational literacy and math skills and earn a credential of value in the workplace. For these students, it is absolutely essential that we figure out how to get them into early advanced programs that will help them earn credentials. States can put more students on accelerated paths to credential attainment by offering career pathways in settings that blur the lines between high school, higher education and the workplace.

The commission’s report, Credentials for All, offers eight actions that can help reach the goal of doubling the number of young adults who hold relevant credentials or degrees by the age of 25.

Eight Essential Actions for Building Relevant Career Pathways

Action 1 — Build bridges from high school to postsecondary education and the workplace by creating rigorous, relevant career pathways driven by labor market demand.

  • Combine a college-ready academic core with challenging technical studies and require students to complete real-world assignments.
  • Align three stages of learning — secondary, postsecondary and the workplace — through strategies like dual enrollment and work-based learning.
  • Create guidance systems that include career information, exploration and advisement, and engage students in ongoing career and college counseling beginning in the middle grades.
  • Allow students to choose accelerated learning options in settings that provide the extended time needed to earn advanced industry credentials that lead to further education and training and high-skill, high-wage jobs in high-demand industries.

Action 2 — Expect all students to graduate academically ready for both college and careers.

Action 3 — Select assessments of technical and workplace readiness standards that offer long-term value to individual students, employers and the economy; carry college credits; and are directly linked to more advanced certifications and further study.

Action 4 — Provide all high school career pathway teachers, especially new teachers from industry, with the professional development and fast-track induction programs they need to meet high academic, technical and pedagogical standards and enhance students’ academic and technical readiness for college and careers.

Action 5 — Adopt a framework of strategies to restructure low-performing high schools around rigorous, relevant career pathways that accelerate learning and prepare students for postsecondary credentials and degrees.

Action 6 — Offer early advanced credential programs in shared-time technology centers, aligning their curricula, instruction and technology with home high schools and community and technical colleges.

Action 7 — Incentivize community and technical colleges and school districts to double the percentage of students who earn certificates, credentials and degrees by setting statewide readiness standards and aligning assessment and placement measures with those standards. Other strategies: Use the senior year of high school to reduce the number of students who need remediation, retool developmental education, adopt individualized support strategies for struggling students and improve postsecondary affordability.

Action 8 — Design accountability systems that recognize and reward districts, high schools, technology centers, and community and technical colleges that double the number of young adults who acquire postsecondary credentials and secure high-skill, high-wage jobs by age 25.

The alarming statistic in the Snapshot Report - Yearly Success and Progress Rates led the Ohio Department of Education to create a unique opportunity for seniors prior to graduation — the Senior Only Credential Program. Seniors who participate in this program have the opportunity to earn in-demand credentials in fields related to their career pathways that would serve as an “insurance policy” should they be one of the 65 percent who don’t persist and graduate on time from college. For example, in the health care sector, nursing is an in-demand job and many high school graduates head off to college with a goal to become a registered nurse. If we overlay the previous statistics, we may infer that fewer than four out of every 10 students will not persist and graduate on time. In this example, students could earn credentials including, but not limited to, medical assistant, STNA and phlebotomist. While this may not be their ultimate career goal, these credential are in a related field, they are in-demand in Ohio, and they would help the student earn a wealth-building wage should they have to postpone their college education for a period of time.

In addition to the Senior Only Credential Program, the Ohio Department of Education has created numerous resources for districts to utilize to help all students be more successful as they transition to post-high school endeavors. You can read about many of these resources at our Career Connections webpage.

In an effort to stimulate conversation through the ExtraCredit blog, I offer up the following questions and look forward to reading your comments.

  1. How do we help more young people earn credentials and degrees that matter in today’s economy?
  2. What can you do to increase the number of high school graduates who successfully reach their chosen career pathways?
  3. What barriers do you face if you would implement the eight action steps?
  4. What does it mean for all students to graduate academically ready for both college and careers?
  5. What changes need to occur in accountability systems to recognize and reward districts that double the number of young adults who acquire postsecondary credentials and secure high-skill, high-wage jobs by age 25?
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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9/8/2016

Owning Our Learning: What are you learning? How are you learning?

By: Virginia Ressa

This summer in my ExtraCredit posts, I wrote about professional learning, specifically personalized professional learning for educators. In Ohio, many teachers have Individual Professional Development Plans (IPDP) to plan their learning and earn licensure renewal. One of the goals of the IPDP is to allow teachers to identify their own goals and plan their own learning; this is a great opportunity to create goals that match your needs and interests! What are your goals in your IPDP? How are you working to meet those goals? Are you taking full advantage of available learning opportunities?

Last month, I challenged you to engage in professional learning, utilizing local and web-based resources to improve your practice. Since we know that modeling is one of our most effective teaching practices, I would like to share some of my professional learning with you.

My goal: To understand and apply Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles to the professional development I plan and provide and to support districts and schools in implementing UDL systemically.

How will I know when I’ve met this goal? When I have successfully planned and led a professional learning experience modeling UDL principles.

How am I going to close the gap between what I currently know and my goal? My plan includes reading about UDL from two different resources in order to see more than one perspective. I’ve already read UDL Now by Katie Novak – I need to find a second source. I will review the resources available on the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI) and CAST websites (both sites have videos, research papers, case studies, etc.) and read the research literature supporting UDL (realistically, I’ll read some of the research).

We often forget that our colleagues are great resources, so I’ll check with my work colleagues for recommendations and use outlets like Twitter, Pinterest and blogs to learn from colleagues beyond my local circle. I also plan to take time to reflect on my learning and practice (I wrote about the importance of reflection last month), so I can identify my questions about UDL as I’m learning. Then, working with colleagues at the Ohio Department of Education and OCALI, we will plan and lead professional learning for our staff.

That may all sound like a lot of work, but I worked on this plan all summer and am really enjoying my inquiry. It feels great to identify an area of study that I know will benefit my work and then take on the task of setting my own goals and finding my own path.

Here are some of the resources I have found for learning more about UDL:

I would love to hear what you are learning about and how you are learning. What resources are you taking advantage of? How will you know when you have reached your goal? Please share your thoughts via the comments below or through Twitter using @VirginiaRessa or @OHEducation and #mylearningOH or #ohedchat.

Virginia Ressa is an education program specialist at the Ohio Department of Education, where she focuses on helping schools and educators meet the needs of diverse learners through professional learning. You can learn more about Virginia by clicking here.

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9/15/2016

Credentials Count: Why Industry Credentials are Important for Our Students, Schools and Communities

By: Emily Passias

Industry-Recognized CredentialsThis week, the Ohio Department of Education is releasing updates to our approved industry-recognized credential list. This list of credentials allows students to qualify for high school graduation through the credential and WorkKeys pathway, as well as gives schools and districts credit on their report cards for their efforts to prepare students for careers. I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss why credentials are important for our students, schools, businesses and communities.

What’s in it for students?

In addition to being a key piece of one of Ohio’s new graduation pathways, there are many reasons earning industry credentials is valuable for students. The process of earning an industry-recognized credential (and career-technical education in general) allows students to experience education through work, about work and for work. Students learn more deeply by practicing and applying their knowledge through work and employment experiences – learning through work. They learn about workplace expectations in terms of professional or “soft” skills needed for employment, as well as learning about career pathways and what the labor market for particular occupations looks like – learning about work. And, they learn the job-specific skills they will need to perform day-to-day tasks – learning for work.

Earning an industry-recognized credential isn’t the end of something – for many students, it’s the beginning. It’s the first step in achieving career aspirations. It’s an opportunity to earn a good wage while pursuing additional education. Industry credentials aren’t obtained instead of going to college – often they’re part of a larger plan to help pay for college. Credentials are evidence of work ethic, drive and persistence that can be used to catapult students into the future. It’s an achievement to be celebrated and will continue to pay dividends back to the students throughout their careers.

It’s important to note that not all industries use credentials as validation of knowledge and skills. Students whose interests lie in those fields shouldn’t be required or encouraged to work toward credentials that won’t offer them value in their future careers. Instead, those students should work toward obtaining whatever is needed in their future careers. For some students, that might be taking advantage of College Credit Plus, while for others, that might be engaging in meaningful, work-based learning experiences in their areas of interest.

What’s in it for schools?

Let’s start with the practical – schools get credit in the Prepared for Success measure on the report card for students who earn approved industry-recognized credentials or groups of credentials. Including industry credentials in this component places an emphasis on the career readiness of students. In a world where “what gets measured gets done,” the inclusion of industry credentials in the accountability system signals Ohio’s commitment to the career preparation of students.

In addition to the Prepared for Success measure, industry credentials are a key component of Ohio’s new graduation requirements. In fact, earning an industry credential as part of the graduation pathway gives schools a bigger bang for their buck in terms of accountability, since those credentials both qualify students for graduation (thus counting positively in the graduation rate), as well as being included in Prepared for Success.

Accountability measures aside, I know from conversations with educators around the state that we’re all working toward the goal of ensuring our students are ready to move on to whatever comes after high school. Helping students earn industry credentials while still in high school is tangible evidence that your students are walking out the door ready for the future. If knowing your students are prepared for the future isn’t motivation enough to encourage students to work toward a credential, then I don’t know what is!

What’s in it for businesses and communities?

Imagine you’re a business owner looking to hire some new employees. A stack of applications sits on your desk, and they all look about the same. How do you decide which applicants to interview? How do you assess their knowledge and skills? This is where industry credentials come in to play.

Businesses across the state are clamoring for highly qualified employees with industry credentials of value. Finding, hiring and retaining high-quality employees is a monumental task. But, industry-recognized credentials help employers validate the knowledge and skills of potential employees and saves valuable time in assessing the skills of job applicants. Knowing an applicant selected for an interview has the knowledge and skills your company needs gives employers peace of mind that their future employees will be ready to hit the ground running. When businesses thrive, communities thrive as well. Having highly qualified workers can actually draw businesses to a particular area, creating even more job opportunities for local workers.

Let’s keep the conversation going!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on industry-recognized credentials and helping students be prepared for success.

  • What are you doing locally to help students earn credentials?
  • How can we restructure the high school years or the delivery of career-technical education programming to ensure that students have the time and opportunities to get the critical work-based learning experiences needed to qualify for many credentials?
  • How do we communicate the value of credentials to parents and students so that more students can take advantage of the opportunities afforded to them through earning approved industry-recognized credentials?
  • In my future posts, we’ll discuss how the department identifies credentials of value, as well as how to support students in earning industry-recognized credentials.

Dr. Emily Passias is director of the Office of Career-Technical Education at the Ohio Department of Education, where she focuses on state policies aimed at preparing students for college and careers. You can learn more about Emily by clicking here.

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9/22/2016

Recognizing the Ohio Teacher of the Year — The Process and More About the Winner

By: Julia Simmerer

Video produced by Pickaway Ross Career & Technology Center students in honor of 2017 Teacher of the Year Dustin Weaver.

Every year, Ohio recognizes one of its own educators with the distinguished Ohio Teacher of the Year award. The mission of the Ohio Teacher of the Year program is to honor, promote and celebrate excellence in teaching and the teaching profession. We recognize and utilize this network of exemplary teachers as leaders in school improvement initiatives and the recruitment, preparation and retention of quality teachers. We also invite our Teacher of the Year to apply for the National Teacher of the Year Award as Ohio’s recognized candidate.

I had the great privilege of working with the selection committee for the 2017 Ohio Teacher of the Year award by both reviewing applications as well as taking part in live interviews. Our committee reviewed many fine candidates for this year’s award, and the decision to grant this prestigious award to just one candidate was not an easy one to make. However, after a rigorous application and interview process, I am pleased to announce that we have made our decision:

The 2017 Ohio Teacher of the Year is Dustin Weaver of Chillicothe High School.

Mr. Weaver has 10 years of experience teaching Integrated Language Arts to high school students. Four years ago, he returned to his alma mater, Chillicothe High School, to reconnect and assist with “fixing a plethora of problems” in the community that affect all children. To this end, his accomplishments are vast. For example, Mr. Weaver was recognized for his role with a grant for Chillicothe Cadets — a $38,000 a year award focused on developing self-esteem, interpersonal and professional skills, and connections to school and community by securing employment at local organizations for students who might otherwise drop out of school. He also is currently collaborating with Ohio University – Chillicothe to modify methods classes with the end goal of improving retention of new teachers. I encourage you to continue reading about his other accomplishments by viewing his bio here.

The selection process Mr. Weaver navigated to become Ohio’s Teacher of the Year is rigorous indeed. Every school district in Ohio that wishes to participate may nominate a single candidate. These candidates are then reviewed by the member of the State Board of Education who represents the educational district from which the candidate is nominated. Only one candidate from each of these 11 State Board of Education districts is selected and asked to complete a written application. Based on these applications, the selection committee I served on invited only five finalists for live interviews.

In his interview, Mr. Weaver stood out immediately. The positive energy he brought to us by engaging and listening to each of his interviewers was contagious. One of the first things he did when he entered the room was move his chair aside and conduct the interview actively moving about the room. He was clearly passionate when he described his work with students during lunch and planning periods to focus on improving aptitude and ability for college entrance exams. The way he spoke effectively expressed how much he enjoyed working in the English lab he created to close the achievement gap for struggling students.

The selection committee I served on included representation from educational service centers, State Board of Education members, teacher unions, retired teachers and former Ohio Teacher of the Year awardees. I cannot express enough the sincere pleasure I received from getting to know so many fantastic educators during this selection process. Even though our committee could only select one teacher of the year, I can report to you that we have many other teachers in our great state who also are providing absolutely excellent services to the students of Ohio.

I encourage you to read more about Mr. Weaver and the other State Board district Teachers of the Year as their stories are truly inspirational.

Julia Simmerer is senior executive director of the Center for the Teaching Profession at the Ohio Department of Education, where she oversees the implementation of policies and programs that support Ohio’s teacher and leader corps. You can learn more about Julia by clicking here.

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10/5/2016

Reflecting on Our Practice: The Importance of Effective Feedback

By: Virginia Ressa

blog1.png In 2007, Hattie and Timperly discovered from their meta-analysis of almost 8,000 studies that feedback is nearly seven times as effective in improving student learning as reducing class size. They found that feedback is, “The most powerful single modification that enhances achievement.”2

In my work in researching, planning and leading professional learning around Formative Instructional Practices (FIP), I have become a strong believer in the power of effective feedback. For the past few years, educators have been talking about the highly effective practices that John Hattie identified. He found that feedback is one of the most effective practices for accelerating student learning; but not just any feedback can have the profound impact that Hattie found — it needs to be effective feedback.1

So, what makes feedback effective? The general answer is that feedback is effective when it results in increased student learning. The more specific answer is that feedback is most effective when it is specific, timely, accurate and actionable. Missing any one of these attributes, feedback can be confusing and may not result in moving learning forward.  

In my experience as a teacher, I can recall using phrases like “Good job!” or “Great work!” to praise students and encourage them to continue their success. I used to tell students to “Check your work again” or “Try harder next time” to help them focus more on their work and correct their errors. In hindsight, I’m not sure my feedback was all that helpful to students. I spent a great deal of time providing written feedback on my students’ work with very good intentions, but unfortunately, I’m now seeing that my feedback didn’t likely lead to increased student learning.

Success Feedback

When providing learners with feedback on their successes, we need to be more specific than “Good job!” Students don’t always know what it is that they did well or how to do it again. It also doesn’t challenge students to move forward in their learning or to keep improving. Instead, success feedback should identify what a student has done correctly in relation to the learning target and point the student toward the next steps in his or her learning.

Intervention Feedback

“Try harder” tells a student very little about what procedural mistake may have been made or what requirement a student may have missed. It is vague, doesn’t connect the learner back to the learning target and provides little direction for what action needs to be taken next. Think about how this example of effective feedback helps move learning forward:

“Read the prompt and rubric again. Your response partially addresses the prompt, but you are missing some important facts to back up your argument.”

The teacher has pointed the student back to the learning target via the rubric, identified the problem with the response and provided a suggestion that the student can act upon. You’re probably thinking that it is going to take more time to provide such specific feedback, and you’re right, it will. However, it is time well spent because the impact on student learning can be so high.1

Is Your Feedback Effective?

blog2.png Pearson & Battelle for Kids. (2012). Foundations of Formative Instructional Practices Module 3: Analyzing evidence and providing feedback. Columbus, OH: Battelle for Kids.

Ultimately, feedback is only effective if it moves student learning forward. Take some time to reflect on your feedback practices and how students are using the feedback you provide. How could your feedback be more effective? Do you provide both success and intervention feedback that helps your students move forward in their learning? 

Effective feedback is one of the core practices of FIP because of its high impact on student learning. To learn more about effective feedback, you can complete module 4 of the Foundations of FIP learning path. This is a great module for teacher-based teams to work through together.

The FIP Video Library has examples of Ohio teachers and students using feedback to improve learning. Watching how other teachers make feedback part of their daily practice and involve students in providing feedback to each other may give you some ideas to try in your classroom. Here is an example of effective feedback provided by the teacher and students, as well as some self-assessment feedback that work together to move the learning forward for everyone.

1Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. London, England: Routledge.
2Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback.
Review of Educational Research.

Virginia Ressa is an education program specialist at the Ohio Department of Education, where she focuses on helping schools and educators meet the needs of diverse learners through professional learning. You can learn more about Virginia by clicking here.

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10/12/2016

More Than 52,000 Ohio High School Students Saved More Than $110 Million on College Tuition

By: Steve Gratz

blog.jpg Here’s an infographic that Sinclair Community College produced to share the impact of the College Credit Plus program in its region.
Last Wednesday, I traveled with Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor John Carey to engage in a discussion about College Credit Plus at Sinclair Community College with their President Dr. Steven L. Johnson. We were joined by several local school administrators, teachers and students who shared their experiences and perspectives on the program. The students were eloquent and convincing with what they had to say about the advantages of College Credit Plus. One student earned his associate degree at the age of 14, and the other students are on track to earn their associate degrees concurrently with their high school diplomas in May 2017. According to Dr. Johnson, more than 3,000 students enrolled in the College Credit Plus program in 2015-2016, helping local families save $3 million in college tuition costs. 

 

Sinclair is just one of many Ohio colleges that participate in College Credit Plus. The Ohio Department of Higher Education also produced an infographic that illustrates the net effect of College Credit Plus during the 2015-2016 school year. In its first year, the program had more than 52,000 participating students, and combined, they saved more than $110 million on college tuition. The 2015-2016 school year data shows that nearly 15 percent of Ohio’s high school juniors and seniors took advantage of the program, and more than 90 percent of those students received the passing grades required to earn college credit. Two-thirds of the College Credit Plus students (66 percent) took classes offered through Ohio community colleges. The balance was split almost equally among public university main campuses (11 percent), public university branch campuses (12 percent) and independent or private colleges (11 percent). The majority of students enrolled in five main core content areas: English (24 percent), social sciences (18 percent), math (13 percent), science (13 percent) and arts and humanities (11 percent). More than 90 percent received passing grades, resulting in earned college credits.
 
College Credit Plus gives students in grades 7-12 the opportunity to take college courses for free and earn high school and college credit before graduating high school.
 
Students have the following options for taking courses:

  • At a high school taught by an approved high school teacher;
  • At a high school taught by a college faculty instructor;
  • At a college location or online taught by a college faculty instructor.
Benefits for students and their families:
  • Earn high school and college credit for classes taken;
  • Provide rigorous college courses for college-ready students;
  • Get a head start by earning college credits that you can use to finish a degree or transfer to another college/university;
  • Reduce the time and cost to earning college credit;
  • Opportunity to complete college coursework within a strong and familiar support system;
  • College Credit Plus course grades are weighted the same as Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate and other advance standing classes on high school transcripts.

Click here for more information on College Credit Plus.

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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10/26/2016

GUEST BLOG: Chagrin Falls’ REALIZE U Competency-Based Education Grant Program – Becky Quinn, Chagrin Falls Exempted Village Schools

By: Guest Blogger

realize-1.pngIn December 2015, Chagrin Falls Exempted Village School District was one of five Ohio public school districts and consortia awarded a grant to allow students to take advantage of opportunities to learn on individualized paths at their own place, time and pace. Our district received $400,000 for the REALIZE U project, which will refine many tools to reflect student competency, grow the capacity of staff to meet the varied and changing needs of our students and develop additional opportunities for students to engage in personalized learning via the provision of enrichment programming.

The Competency-Based Education Pilot is designed to:

  • Promote innovative learning that has meaning to students, cuts across multiple curriculum areas and extends outside of the classroom;
  • Advance students to higher-level work once they demonstrate mastery of competencies, rather than advancing based on seat time in the classroom;
  • Give supports to struggling students before they advance and prevent further failure down the road;
  • Keep all students on pace to graduate and ensure those below level make rapid progress;
  • Graduate students with deeper college and career ready skills; and
  • Inform future development of statewide competency-based policies and programs.

Grantees are required to partner with a postsecondary institution and local businesses or community partners. Our district’s proposal reflected existing partnerships with Ashland University, Hiram College, InventorCloud (curriculum for Innovation Lab use), and the College Board (offering 26 advanced placement courses the PSAT to all students in grades 8-10). The proposal also acknowledged our support from the Chagrin Falls Education Association, as well as our participation in the Innovation Lab Network.

Highlights of our district’s grant project work underway in 2016-2017 include:

  • Funded opportunities for our secondary teachers to grow their capacity to reflect student competencies beyond the high school curriculum via:
  • College Credit Plus credentialing through online graduate coursework in the area of English;
  • Training via College Board relative to additional AP courses, including AP Research, AP World History and AP Computer Science Principles.
  • Funded opportunities for identified K-12 teachers to grow their capacity to reflect student competencies relative to students’ varied needs via graduate coursework, including:
  • Twenty-four district staff members currently enrolled in funded graduate coursework to earn gifted endorsements (they will be able to earn reading endorsements by summer 2017);
  • Two teachers enrolled in graduate coursework to earn reading endorsements (they will be able to earn gifted intervention specialist endorsements by summer 2017).
  • Development of summer programming to help students move into more rigorous levels of content in the upcoming school year, including the REALIZE U Summer Enrichment Program, Summer Math Bridging and AP Boot Camps.
  • Development of summer and school-year enrichment programming to personalize learning for students, including enrichment programming for students in high school, middle school and gifted students in grades 4-6.
  • Teacher training, identification and implementation of curriculum and instructional resources to reflect STEM competencies via Project Lead the Way, which is provided to all students in grades K-8.
  • Development of plans to implement personalized capstone research projects to showcase student mastery of content and research competencies in grades K-3, 4-6, 7-8 and 9-12 is underway, and at least one project per grade band will be implemented.

Our district identified “REALIZE U” as a systemic motto last school year. “U” not only reflects our commitment to each student (you), but it also represents potential energy in AP Physics. Potential energy is calculated by multiplying mass x gravitational pull x height (U = mgh). We have locally applied this formula as follows:

  • m = our students
  • g = ongoing challenges/conflicts/pushes and pulls on students
  • h = courses, goals and interests causing students to reach new heights

Thus, “REALIZE U” reflects our commitment to personalize learning to maximize the potential of all students. Our work within the Competency-Based Education Grant project directly supports this mission and vision.

Editor’s note: Ohio’s Competency-Based Education Pilot, established in House Bill 64, allows for five pilot sites to plan and implement competency-based programs. Competency-based education is a system of academic instruction, assessment, grading and reporting where students receive credit, not as a function of how much time they spend studying a subject, but based on demonstrations and assessments of their learning. Instruction is tailored to students’ current levels of knowledge and skills, and students are not constrained to progress at the same rates as their peers. Competency-based education allows for accelerated learning among students who master academic materials quickly and provides additional instructional support time for students who need it. The pilots used the 2015-2016 school year to apply and plan for their programs and will implement from the 2016-2017 through the 2018-2019 school years. To learn more about competency-based education, click here.

Becky Quinn is the director of Curriculum within Chagrin Falls Exempted Village Schools. In this role, she also serves as the district’s gifted coordinator. You can learn more about Becky by clicking here.

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11/3/2016

Credentials Count: Identifying Ohio’s Industry Credentials and How You Can Get Involved

By: Emily Passias

IRC.jpgSeveral weeks ago, the Ohio Department of Education released the 2016-2017 list of approved industry-recognized credentials, and I shared a little about why credentials are important for students, schools, businesses and communities. The credentials allow students to qualify for high school graduation through the credential and WorkKeys pathway, as well as give schools and districts credit for their efforts to prepare students for careers on their report cards. Today, I want to dig a little deeper into how we identify credentials for the list and how you can get involved in the process.

Which industry credentials?

All credentials are not created equal. Some credentials are the gatekeeper to employment — if you don’t have it, you’re not getting the job. One example of this is a state cosmetology license. If you want to work in Ohio as a cosmetologist, you must obtain the license first. It’s necessary for employment.

Other credentials fall into the “nice to have” category. These credentials validate that potential employees can perform particular tasks or have particular knowledge and skills. Employers use them in their hiring processes and may give applicants preference over those without the credentials.

And yet other credentials exist that, frankly, don’t have much value in the labor market at all. Employers don’t use or value them, and some aren’t even aware of them.

So, how do we decide which credentials to include in our system? We don’t want to encourage students to spend time, energy and money earning credentials that aren’t valued by employers — that doesn’t serve our students or our Ohio businesses well. The key is to encourage credentials that are in demand by Ohio employers.

When reviewing and updating the approved industry-recognized credential list, we identify those in-demand credentials in two ways. First, we use Ohio’s in-demand job list to identify Ohio’s most pressing labor market needs. Tying the industry credential list to Ohio’s in-demand jobs is key — as I mentioned above, earning credentials that aren’t valuable in the labor market doesn’t serve Ohio’s students or Ohio’s businesses.

We then scour job ads for those in-demand jobs to identify credentials that Ohio employers are asking for. Once we’ve identified the credentials tied to Ohio’s in-demand jobs, we do additional research on those credentials. What are the requirements to get the credential? Is it used as a standalone credential or as part of a stackable series or bundle of credentials needed for employment? We use that information to finalize the industry credential list and the point values associated with those credentials within the graduation pathway.

The second way we identify credentials for addition to the list is via application. Educators, business people and community members at large are invited to submit applications to the Department for credentials to be considered for the list. The main criteria, as set by the State Board of Education, is that credentials added to the list have evidence of significant and ongoing employer demand, at least at the regional level. The application window to submit credentials for consideration for next year’s list is open through Dec. 31. 

Between our identification of credentials tied to Ohio’s in-demand jobs and credentials added via the application process, Ohio’s approved credential list contains more than 200 approved industry-recognized credentials!

In my next post, I’ll discuss new and innovative opportunities to build programs that help seniors earn industry credentials as part of their pathways to graduation and success in their future careers.

Let’s keep the conversation going!

  • I’d love to hear your thoughts on industry-recognized credentials and helping students be prepared for success.
  • How are you communicating with families about industry-recognized credentials and the credential pathway to graduation?
  • What are you doing locally to help students earn credentials?

How can we restructure the high school years, or the delivery of career-technical education programming, to ensure that students have the time and opportunities to get the critical, work-based learning experiences needed to qualify for many credentials?

Dr. Emily Passias is director of the Office of Career-Technical Education at the Ohio Department of Education, where she focuses on state policies aimed at preparing students for college and careers. You can learn more about Emily by clicking here.

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11/10/2016

GUEST BLOG: What is Computational Thinking and Why is It Important? A New Role for Students — Megan Brannon, Garaway Local Schools

By: Guest Blogger

Computational ThinkingIn today’s technology-driven world, the role of the student is changing. Teaching used to be focused on learning facts, but now we are changing how we teach so that students can do more than just learn information…they use the information! Students today are less fact-memorizers and more innovators, creators and thinkers. They are learning to think outside the box and apply that to real-world problems. Because of this, we have seen a recent influx in the last four to five years in the amount of “computer programming” seen in both elementary and secondary schools.

Computer programming allows students to learn programming languages, which are integral to many jobs of the future. Programming (also known as “coding”) allows students to learn skills like explanatory writing, problem solving and a plethora of other skills applicable to the real world as a 21st century student. It also lets students refine their mathematics abilities. With coding, students are using computers to create worlds where only their imaginations can limit them.

Computational thinking is a cornerstone in all coding programs today. This step-by-step cognitive strategy is important for students to learn in order to become successful. It is a method that teaches students to think as if they are computers. With computational thinking, students are taught how to approach new information and new problems. Trust me…this strategy is not just for computer science classrooms! It is broken down into four steps: decomposition, pattern recognition, abstraction and algorithms.

Decomposition

Decomposition is when you break something down into its basic parts. This is an important skill because it teaches students how to become better learners by breaking large pieces of information into small chunks. It’s like taking small bites of a steak instead of trying to eat the entire steak in one gulp.

Pattern recognition

Pattern recognition is when students find order to something and then analyze (follow) the pattern to the logical answer. Pattern matching teaches students to look for commonalities between things. Then, once students see what is the same in the problem, they also can look for differences that might lead them toward an answer.

As humans, we tend to search for patterns in things in order to make sense of them. I find that this step is the easiest and most natural to teach to students. We teach children to sense and continue patterns from an early age.

Abstraction

Abstraction is taking the differences that students have found in the last step (pattern recognition) and then discounting them because they didn’t fit the pattern. Abstraction is important because students typically assume that all the information they have been given in a problem is typically going to be used to solve the problem, which isn’t necessarily true.

Removing unfit or unhelpful information is truly a valuable skill for students to have. It’s not only teaching them to double check information; it’s also teaching them to edit themselves and look for true solutions to a problem.

Algorithms

An algorithm is basically a list of procedural steps to complete a task. With this process, after figuring out the problem, students create steps to solve the problem set before them. Students should be able to write algorithms so that anyone can follow their directions to complete the task or solve a problem.

Why the computational thinking method?

As a K-6 computer teacher, I was first introduced to the concept of computational thinking through the Code.org curriculum that teaches computer science skills to students in grades K-5. Since then, many more learning modules have been added to cover more grade levels, but the foundational skills remain the same. All of my computer science students in grades K-5 learn the basics of computational thinking as well as giving step-by-step directions (algorithms) with this program.

I can honestly say that the first introduction to this lesson was difficult for even my higher level of students. As educators (myself as well), we tend to give students problems without teaching the method of problem solving explicitly. This method not only helps students with math and science challenges, but it helps them to become better thinkers across the board. Additionally, teaching students this cognitive strategy gives them something (in my experience) that is lacking in education today: dedication. The steps involved with computational thinking help students to “keep working” or “keep trying” to solve a problem. Our society tends to deliver information and solutions at the speed of light, so our kiddos aren’t used to sitting down and working toward a solution for an extended period of time — or sitting down and working at a problem that takes longer because it could have multiple solutions. Dedication and conviction to one’s work is most definitely a skill of the 21st century.

Why the four steps?

After teaching this method for a few years now, I have found that my students are much more detail oriented because they have learned how to decompose a problem. Breaking a problem into parts allows students to better explain their thoughts and ideas to both myself and each other. In that way, students also turn into better explanatory writers. This also is true for the algorithm step in the process. Breaking down a problem (decomposing) and then turning it into directions (algorithms) are key skills that can be used across subjects.

Additionally, the concepts of pattern matching and abstraction are ideal for an educational setting, especially when you understand how the brain works. When we learn a new topic, we put it into a category in our brain (activate a schema/prior knowledge). This is like pattern matching — we are looking for other things with the same pattern somewhere in our memory bank. Research says that activating schema helps students understand and remember information better because it fits into a pattern or category we already comprehend. In this way, I believe that teaching students to pattern match and abstract teaches them to put things in categories in their brains so that they cannot only comprehend and remember the problem at hand, but they can process it easier as well.

Classroom resources

Below I have listed some links for resources on this concept. Check out the Code.org Lesson on Computational Thinking as an introduction. There is an accompanying video that helps to explain the concept very well!

Teachers Pay Teachers Products

Adult Literature

Children’s Literature (K-5)

Megan Brannon is a K-6 computer teacher at Garaway Local Schools. You can contact Megan by clicking here.

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11/18/2016

Connecting Dots: Standards, Tests and Preparing Students for Success

By: Chris Woolard

When I talk to my family and friends about the work we do at the Ohio Department of Education, it usually only takes a few minutes for their eyes to glaze over. And while I believe that technical conversation about curriculum, standards, assessments and results is important, that conversation doesn’t always capture the reality of what is happening in schools and what it means for our kids. That is why it is so important to think through some practical examples and how the system builds toward students’ future success.

As I did in my previous blog post, I find it helpful to think of this through my role as a parent. So in non-technical terms…what is all this stuff parents are hearing about? Standards are the things that my kids need to know and be able to do, and these things are important to their future success. The curriculum is the way a school chooses to teach that important information and is selected by teachers, schools and districts — not the state. Schools in different parts of the state may choose to teach this information in different ways. State tests are an important marker in gauging how well students are learning this info. School and district report cards give parents and communities information on how well schools are doing. And all these pieces build on each other.

So, let’s look at some real examples…

Ohio's Learning Standards are essentially statements of important things that we think that all Ohio students should know and be able to do. There are some really important things that 4th graders need to know. The fourth grade math standards have a focus on measurement and data. Some of the specific standards include:

Solve problems involving measurement and conversion of measurements from a larger unit to a smaller unit.

This includes:
  1. Know relative sizes of measurement units within one system of units including km, m, cm; kg, g; lb, oz.; l, ml; hr, min, sec.
  2. Use the four operations to solve word problems involving distances, intervals of time, liquid volumes, masses of objects, and money, including problems involving simple fractions or decimals, and problems that require expressing measurements given in a larger unit in terms of a smaller unit
  3. Apply the area and perimeter formulas for rectangles in real world and mathematical problems. For example, find the width of a rectangular room given the area of the flooring and the length, by viewing the area formula as a multiplication equation with an unknown factor.

So in fourth grade, students should know the various measurement units and be able to apply them — this is an important real-world skill. Many schools are now implementing standards-based report cards that give parents feedback on how well students are progressing on these standards.

Then at the end of fourth grade, students take Ohio’s State Tests, which examine how well fourth graders can demonstrate knowledge of those standards. Here is an example from the spring 2016 fourth grade test:

In that example, students are demonstrating their knowledge of these measurement units.

But that is not the end of the story, the system builds on these concepts as students progress through their school years. In seventh grade, middle schoolers are performing more complex calculations. In this example from the spring 2016 seventh grade test, students are asked to apply knowledge of measurement to a circle:

As students continue to progress, the standards help them prepare for life after high school. All students will be taking the ACT (and/or the SAT), and many will be moving on to college. Here is a practice question from the ACT:

Remember that standard from fourth grade where students must “Apply the area and perimeter formulas for rectangles in real-world and mathematical problems”? Here they are, demonstrating that exact same knowledge on the ACT.

The skills and knowledge that students gain early in their school lives builds and prepares them for success. Standards-based report cards give feedback on progress along the way. The state gives school report cards that let parents and communities know how well schools and districts are doing with these important content standards. So for example, the community can see how well students are doing on those fourth grade standards such as working with units of measurement of distance, weight and time. In this example, the school is meeting expectations in fourth grade math:

My middle child is now in fifth grade, but he worked on those important skills last year and I am glad he did. He is going to need them.

Sometimes, discussion of education policy is technical, but education is really personal. It is about our kids and making sure they are ready for the future. Visit these links for more information on Ohio’s Learning Standards, assessments and report cards.

Chris Woolard is senior executive director for Accountability and Continuous Improvement for the Ohio Department of Education. You can learn more about Chris by clicking here.

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12/1/2016

Reflecting on Our Practice: Teaching Behavioral Expectations

By: Virginia Ressa

The new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) places strong emphasis on evidence-based practices. The intention is that educators should use practices that have been proven to be effective through significant research studies. For example, in October I wrote about effective feedback which has been shown through multiple studies to improve student achievement. We know this practice to be highly effective in making learning goals or expectations clear to students. Being clear about learning expectations helps students focus and provides them with goals to work towards.

As we begin our transition to ESSA, I suggest we think about putting together two highly effective, evidence-based practices. Through Formative Instructional Practices (FIP) professional development, teachers find the value of using clear learning targets to teach academic knowledge and skills. Ohio schools use Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), a proactive approach to improving school climate and culture that is evidence-based. PBIS helps schools establish positive expectations and classroom rules for student behavior. When we put FIP together with PBIS we have FIPPBIS… I’m just kidding we do not need an acronym or fancy name to implement effective practices. When we put them together we have evidence-based practices we can apply to the teaching and learning of behavior.

Here is a great video on teaching students how to speak respectfully to their classmates from the Teaching Channel!

Putting two practices we know are effective together – clear learning targets and behavioral expectations – would lead to the use of clear learning targets for teaching behavioral knowledge and skills. We could go beyond just posting “rules” to creating and sharing learning targets that would lead students to be able to meet the expectations of the rules. For example, we often post rules that are broad or even vague: “Complete classwork on time.” We expect students to meet this rule because we agreed on it as a class. And then, what happens when they don’t meet the rule? Students are often punished for not meeting classroom rules – a phone call home, maybe missing recess or detention.

But, what if we changed how we think of classroom rules? What if we thought of them like we do academic standards? When we have an academic standard we want students to meet, we make that standard clear to them and provide steps they can take towards mastery of the standard. If our expectation is for students to understand the causes of the Civil War, we would break that down into smaller steps, provide learning opportunities, assess student understanding and reteach if necessary. We can do the same thing with classroom rules.

Going beyond the posting of rules to breaking them into smaller behavioral learning targets can help us teach students how to meet the rule. We take the time to teach students academic content they don’t know, so why not take the time to teach students how to behave in a school setting? For instance, in order to complete their classwork on time, students need to know exactly what we mean – we need to make the expectation clear and possibly break it down into smaller steps. How do you make sure you complete your classwork on time? First, students need to know what “on time” means. Is it when class ends? What time does class end? Next, students need to practice budgeting their time and break large tasks into smaller steps. Students may also need to practice starting their work on time. Understanding and practicing these components will increase students’ ability to meet the behavioral expectation.

When I reflect on my time teaching middle school, I remember struggling with students not following rules. I thought my rules were clear and I even engaged students in writing the rules. After learning about PBIS, I realized that my rules were negative and included “don’t do” or “no” to this or that. Clear learning targets could have broken down vague and ambiguous rules into smaller, clearer expectations.

Take a minute to think about the rules in your classroom. Are your students meeting the rules? Are they stated positively? What if you thought of the rules as standards and taught students how to meet them? Could you increase students’ ability to meet the expectations in your classroom and school?

Virginia Ressa is an education program specialist at the Ohio Department of Education, where she focuses on helping schools and educators meet the needs of diverse learners through professional learning. You can learn more about Virginia by clicking here.

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12/14/2016

Recognizing Educator Success on Ohio’s Resident Educator Summative Assessment

By: Julia Simmerer

State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria congratulates the educators who finished with the top 100 scores on Ohio’s Resident Educator Summative Assessment.

State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria congratulates the educators who finished with the top 100 scores on Ohio’s Resident Educator Summative Assessment.

This fall, I had the pleasure of attending, along with nearly 300 other guests, an event at the Ohio Statehouse to honor the educators who finished with the top 100 scores on Ohio’s Resident Educator Summative Assessment (RESA) in each of the last 3 years. The event was hosted by Educopia, Ohio’s partner in developing and administering the RESA, and featured a string quartet from Dublin Jerome High School, refreshments and the opportunity for attendees to get to know fellow educators and administrators from all across Ohio.

So, what is the RESA? Successful completion of the assessment has been a requirement for all of Ohio’s Resident Educators seeking professional licensure in Ohio since 2013. In addition to required mentoring activities with experienced educators, this performance-based program includes four tasks that include submitting videos, lesson plans and student work from their classroom instruction. Successful completion is no small feat, as RESA tasks are less ‘busywork’ and more designed to capture and showcase the essential skills that make effective educators prepared for leadership in Ohio’s schools.

Congratulatory remarks were offered by distinguished guests that included State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria, Ohio Representative Andrew Brenner, national education policy expert and author Charlotte Danielson and Educopia CEO Mark Atkinson. The recognized teachers beamed with pride and graciously accepted this acknowledgment for their dedication to the teaching profession and Ohio’s children.  Following formal remarks, it was great to see the speakers and awardees discussing the program, networking and posing for pictures.

It was inspiring to gather with this truly select group of teachers — they worked so diligently to become the top performers out of nearly 16,000 teachers who have taken the RESA since 2013. It was clear to those in attendance that the best is yet to come from this dedicated group of Ohio educators and classrooms will benefit from their efforts for decades to come!

Julia Simmerer is senior executive director of the Center for the Teaching Profession at the Ohio Department of Education, where she oversees the implementation of policies and programs that support Ohio’s teacher and leader corps. You can learn more about Julia by clicking here.

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12/21/2016

Teaching Students to Think for Themselves, Solve Problems and Think Critically

By: Steve Gratz

I spent most of my teenage years working on the farm. My experiences there naturally taught me how to solve problems, and we referred to this as “common sense.” We would even use the term to describe our more astute neighbors and friends who used good sense and sound judgment in practical matters.

As I think about my days working on the farm, I realize the agricultural way of life was built on a solid foundation of solving problems. Confronted with a unique problem, I could engineer a solution or temporarily jerry-rig it until I could get back to the shop for a permanent solution. I also remember the time one of my friends made a delivery of construction materials to a client and during the delivery he realized that he forgot a large box of nails. Instead of driving 30-miles back to the company, he simply purchased the large box of nails at a competitor’s store. He used good sense and sound judgment – common sense.

Like many of my friends, I developed my problem-solving skillset through work-based learning experiences throughout high school. In fact, I can’t remember a time during high school where I wasn’t working and serendipitously honing my ability to solve problems in the context of real-world situations.

In my 30+ years of education, I have participated in my fair share of philosophical conversations. Most of these conversations focus on the teaching and learning process, but the conversations often bleed over to a more holistic discussion on education. Some of those conversations focus on how to teach students deeper thinking skills and the ability to solve problems.

One of the most authentic ways to help students develop deeper thinking skills and the ability to solve problems is through work-based learning experiences. Recently, I was meeting with education and business leaders at the North Central Ohio ESC. A local physician shared that one of his recent hires earned her medical assistant credential through her work experience and not through the traditional path of attending medical assistant training program.

Absent of the ability to have work-based learning experiences, educators can help students develop deeper thinking skills and the ability to solve problems by requiring them to solve realistic problems. This can be done easily by using the project-based learning approach promoted by organizations like the Buck Institute. Another example is the Southern Region Education Board’s Advanced Career model. Most project-based learning approaches call for designing and implementing challenging, authentic projects and assignments in the context of realistic problems, ideally with employer and business involvement.

The passage of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) marked a major step toward ensuring all students are prepared to graduate from high school ready for college and careers. For example, districts may support efforts to integrate academic and technical content in the classroom that lends itself to students developing deeper thinking skills and the ability to solve problems. This can be done simply by developing and implementing coordinated instructional strategies that may include project-based learning and experiential learning opportunities for in-demand careers and occupations.

Here’s an example that provides a real-world application using the Pythagorean theorem. The picture below shows the formula for the Pythagorean theorem. In the picture below, side C is always the hypotenuse. Remember that this formula only applies to right triangles.

Picture1.png

Students may be taught the Pythagorean theorem as illustrated, or the lesson could be enriched by making it a real-world application or, better yet, as part of a project-based lesson.

And here is how the theory is applied to roof framing in the construction industry where the Pythagorean theorem is referred to as the 3-4-5 rule.

Picture2.png

This example is overly simple, but it is used to illustrate how connecting academic content standards to real-world applications can make the teaching and learning process more engaging and relevant for students. By helping students solve more real-world problems, students should begin to think more deeply about the standards they are learning.

One of the tenets of project-based learning is that the teacher helps students navigate through the learning process and assists students in solving problems, allowing them to take more responsibility for their learning – effectively teaching them to think for themselves. Teaching students to think more critically and to solve problems is a life skill that is immeasurably valuable to students.

I’m indifferent if it is called common sense, good sense and sound judgment, or the ability to solve problems; it is a life skill that needs to be integrated into all aspects of student’s education. It can even instill a sense of confidence in students, especially as they learn to apply this life skill to other aspects of their life.

Let’s teach students to think for themselves, solve problems and think critically.

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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1/10/2017

Reflecting on Our Practice: Setting Goals

By: Virginia Ressa

As a new year begins, many of us set goals for improving ourselves or accomplishing something we have always wanted to do. Yet, so many of these New Year’s resolutions end up unfulfilled. I’ve asked myself, year after year, was I not committed enough? Did I pick the wrong goals? Did I not try hard enough? Did I just get lazy or distracted?

Research tells us that setting clear goals that are “SMART” is important to our success. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. Though the acronym can be defined multiple ways (the A can be attainable or achievable), the big idea is that we set goals that are clear and within our reach. When we set a goal that is too far beyond our current ability it is likely that we will lose our focus and commitment before we meet the goal. Is running a marathon a realistic goal for you? Or should you start with the goal of running a 5K?

video1.jpgWe also need to know exactly what we are working toward – goals need to be clear and specific. “Get more exercise” is vague and can’t be tracked and measured. A more specific goal would be: “Build up to exercising three times a week by the end of March.” That is more specific, measurable, time-based and likely achievable.

You’ve probably already guessed where I’m going with this line of thinking – we can apply this same to setting goals with students. “Do better in math” is not the same as “earn an average of 80% correct on math facts practice sheets.” When we help students set goals that are specific and measurable they are more likely to achieve those goals. One of the most effective strategies is to make learning intentions clear. When learning intentions are clear, students understand what the expectations are and can track their progress towards those expectations. Consider our math facts example: a student who improves from 50% correct to 65% correct on their practice sheets can see progress and know they are moving in the right direction. If the goal had simply been to do better in math, the student would have seen some progress but without the benefit of knowing what the measure of better would be. Has she met her goal at 65%? Does she need to get 100% correct to be better? This confusion is akin to our adult who makes a resolution to get more exercise – there is no clear goal to tell them when they are successful.

video2.jpg

As with every teaching practice or strategy we talk about, this one is not fool proof and will not work in every situation. However, it is a strong guideline to keep in mind when setting goals. If we want our students to be successful and meet high expectations, we need to be clear with them about what success looks like and what those high expectations are. Otherwise they are muddling through a vague set of criteria, trying to do better, not knowing if they are improving and lacking a clear destination.

Virginia Ressa is an education program specialist at the Ohio Department of Education, where she focuses on helping schools and educators meet the needs of diverse learners through professional learning. You can learn more about Virginia by clicking here.

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1/25/2017

GUEST BLOG: Innovation Begins with the Problem — Dr. Susan Tave Zelman, Ohio Department of Education

By: Guest Blogger

Straight-A-Fund.pngIn four years with the Straight A Fund innovation project, I have been gifted with the experience of seeing some highly creative and effective changes to the way we do school across the state. Ohio’s Straight A Fund supports ideas from local educators to promote better learning and cost savings within schools and districts. Working with our projects has led me to understand not only what works on the path to improvement, but also some of the pitfalls and distractions that may interfere with solid innovative thinking.

Successful change starts by defining a problem. A problem may be some nagging area that demands a solution, but a problem, in innovation terms, may also be something that is currently working but could be improved. Defining a problem before we look for solutions may seem quite simple, obvious even. However, without thinking about what we want an innovation to accomplish, it is very easy to become sidetracked into adopting some shiny new solution that does wonderful things—but is not a good fit for our situation. In education, just as in our personal lives with things we purchase, new bells and whistles can sometimes be very appealing. But like a Christmas toy that is only played with for a few moments before it is cast aside, some attractive new education toys also fail to live up to expectations. They may be too difficult in comparison to their value, poorly understood by the students who use them or offering a solution to a problem we don’t have.

As an example of innovation working well, the Straight A Fund has created a number of technology solutions. These projects have purchased hardware and software and trained teachers to be able to use them. As we consider how well these projects put their new technology to use, it is clear that the ability to successfully use these innovations and keep using them over time is increased by understanding the distinction between technology “toys” and technology “tools.” Successful projects have put technology tools to use in solving a problem they identified up front. Problems that have been addressed using technological tools include the need to teach students in a classroom who all have different strengths and abilities or the need for small and rural districts to connect their students to a wide variety of courses.

Defining a problem may require that we take a careful look at the way things are—even things that have always been and seem to be working as expected. Transporting students to and from school is an example. One of our innovative projects has improved transportation at a lower cost by merging across districts and using software to lay out the most efficient routes, compute idle time and even track when students are picked up and dropped off. This first required them to think outside the box of what they were accustomed to (that every district must have their own transportation system). A bonus associated with that project was the launch of a mobile app to communicate with parents on whether their student’s bus is on time, running late or on the way. And, the savings they experience from innovation can help expand on other education programs.

One final understanding that is helpful to the identification of a problem is look at it locally. Research and data can help us spot general trends in education to be on the lookout for. But, they may still need to be considered in terms of how they impact our own district. As an example, the cause and strategies to address chronic absenteeism will vary for each district.

In 2017, we hope to see continuing innovation in schools across the state, building on what we have learned in the Straight A Fund innovation program.

Dr. Susan Tave Zelman is an executive director at the Ohio Department of Education and oversees the Straight A Fund. You can reach her at Susan.Zelman@education.ohio.gov.

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2/16/2017

Ensuring Student Safety: Understanding Ohio’s Background Checks

By: Julia Simmerer

The vision of the Department’s Center for the Teaching Profession is that all students have access to qualified, effective educators in safe, nurturing learning environments. Requiring our licensed educators to submit to regular background checks is one of ways we can help ensure Ohio’s educators share that vision.

Our Office of Professional Conduct frequently receives questions about Ohio’s background check requirements for licensed educators. Navigating through statutory requirements can be tedious and does not always provide practical guidance. Licensed educators and those applying for a license for the first time want to know what background checks they need to complete and when they are required.

Before getting into the requirements, it may be helpful to define the different types of background checks. By background checks, we simply mean a fingerprint check. Fingerprints are forwarded to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI) for processing, where they look at the applicant’s criminal history in Ohio. This is commonly referred to as a BCI check. BCI then forwards the fingerprints to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to check a person’s criminal history in all 50 states. This is commonly referred to as a FBI check.

The type(s) of fingerprint check(s) required is determined by whether the person is an initial applicant, renewing a license or permanent license holder.

Initial Applicants

A person applying for an initial license must complete both the BCI and FBI checks at the time the application is made. The checks must be no older than 365 days at the time they are used for initial licensure.

Renewing a License

Those renewing a license are only required to have an updated FBI check every five years, as long as the following two conditions are met: the person has previously completed a BCI check and the person has lived in Ohio for the last five years. If these conditions are not met, the applicant must complete both the BCI and FBI checks for their application. When the applicant submits to renew a license (and this applies to permanent license holders as well), the date the application is submitted determines whether the applicant has completed an FBI check within the preceding five years or whether the person needs to update that check.

Permanent License Holders

Any person who holds a permanent license is only required to have an updated FBI check every five years, as long as the person has previously completed a BCI check and has lived in Ohio for the last five years.

Hopefully this information provides a quick and easy to understand overview of background checks. If you want to explore this topic further, you can find detailed information about the process by clicking here.

Julia Simmerer is senior executive director of the Center for the Teaching Profession at the Ohio Department of Education, where she oversees the implementation of policies and programs that support Ohio’s teacher and leader corps. You can learn more about Julia by clicking here.

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2/23/2017

Locating Information: WorkKeys, Credentials and Graduation

By: Steve Gratz

Picture1.pngNearly 34 years ago, I started my career as a teacher of agriculture. One of the foundational instructional units all teachers of agriculture taught was “soils.” While teaching the soils unit, I would have students bring in a soil sample from their fields or gardens, and we would determine the soil texture of the sample. Soil texture is the fineness or coarseness of a soil—it describes the proportion of three sizes of soil particles: 1) sand—large particle; 2) silt—medium-sized particle; or 3) clay—small particle. Soil texture is important because it affects water-holding capacity—the ability of a soil to retain water for use by plants; permeability—the ease with which air and water may pass through the soil; soil workability—the ease with which soil may be tilled and the timing of working the soil after a rain; and the ability of plants to grow (for example, some root crops, like potatoes and onions, will have difficulty growing in a fine-textured soil).

Once we determined the percentage of sand, silt and clay, we would use the Soil Texture Triangle to determine the type of soil the student sampled. For example, if a student’s sample was 75 percent sand, 15 percent silt and 10 percent clay, the soil would be a sandy loam as determined by the Soil Texture Triangle. The Soil Texture Triangle might seem a bit difficult to read initially, but once you are instructed on how to use it, it becomes rather simple.

This blog post is not designed to teach you how to test soil or determine soil types, but rather to illustrate an example of a question that could be included on WorkKeys—an assessment that measures workplace skills. The WorkKeys assessment combined with an industry-approved, in-demand credential will result in a pathway to graduation for students.

The WorkKeys Locating Information assessment includes four levels of difficulty (3, 4, 5 or 6). According to ACT’s website, Level 3 is the least complex and Level 6 is the most complex. The levels build on each other, each incorporating the skills assessed at the preceding levels. For example, Level 5 includes the skills used at Levels 3, 4 and 5. At Level 3, examinees look for information in simple graphics and fill in information that is missing from them.

The soil texture triangle question is a Level 6 question because the question is based on very complicated, detailed graphics in a challenging format. Examinees must notice the connections between graphics, they must apply the information to a specific situation and they must use the information to draw conclusions.

Characteristics of Level 6 Locating Information items:

  • Very complicated and detailed graphs, charts, tables, forms, maps and diagrams;
  • Graphics contain large amounts of information and may have challenging formats;
  • One or more graphics are used at a time; and
  • Connections between graphics may be subtle.

Skills required of Level 6 Locating Information items:

  • Draw conclusions based on one complicated graphic or several related graphics;
  • Apply information from one or more complicated graphics to specific situations; and
  • Use the information to make decisions.

Recently, I have been engaged in conversations with school administrators about the rigor of the WorkKeys assessment since it can result in a pathway to graduation for students. Through conversations, I find that most school administrators are unfamiliar with the WorkKeys assessment since it is new to the graduation pathway conversation. The WorkKeys assessment has been around for more than two decades and is supported by data from 20,000 job skills profiles and rooted in decades of workplace research. The WorkKeys assessment is based on situations in the everyday working world. It requires students to apply academic skills to correctly answer questions. WorkKeys can certify that students are ready for career success by measuring their skills, which will then help employers find, hire and develop quality talent.

I first took the WorkKeys assessment in 1996 and I received a composite score of 18. A score of 13 is required for students to qualify for graduation for the classes of 2018 and 2019. For the classes of 2020 and beyond, students will need a composite score of 14 or higher. The composite score is unique to Ohio and isn’t used by WorkKeys or other states. The composite score was established to not only ensure students are prepared for career success, but also so they can advance within their chosen pathways where advanced skills will be necessary.

I would encourage all educators to take the WorkKeys practice assessment to become familiar with the test. The practice test is free through OhioMeansJobs. Make sure you review the instructions prior to taking the assessment. On the official assessment you will be allowed to use a calculator and will be provided with a formula sheet of conversions similar to the one found by clicking here.

By the way, you can access numerous videos on the internet if you really want to learn how to determine the soil texture in your garden. You also can try your hand at answering a Level 6 Locating Information question using the Soil Texture Triangle.

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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2/28/2017

GUEST BLOG: “Hidden Figures” Hidden No More - Pursuing the American Dream — Donnie Perkins, The Ohio State University

By: Guest Blogger

Editor’s Note: On Jan. 21, Superintendent Paolo DeMaria hosted a screening and panel discussion of the movie “Hidden Figures.” The event explored what we can do to continue to engage and inspire young peopleespecially women of colorto explore STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers. The Department collaborated with Battelle, COSI, The Ohio State University, Columbus State and Wilberforce University on the event. In honor of Black History Month, we invited Donnie Perkins to expand on the insights he provided at the event for this blog post.

hidden-figures-1000x600.jpgKatherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and numerous other colleagues, known as the “West Area Computers,” are finally receiving their due from another African-American woman, Margot Shetterly, in her book and Oscar-nominated movie “Hidden Figures.” President Barack Obama also recognized Katherine Johnson, a physicist, scientist and mathematician, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 for her service to NASA.

As a native of North Carolina during the Jim Crow era, I know firsthand the impact of racism, including the sting of colored and white schools, bathrooms and water fountains. Despite legalized segregation, pernicious racism, sexism and blatant hate throughout society, the West Area Computers—these “Sheros”—made major contributions to NASA and the space program. We stand on their shoulders!

I applaud the faith, dignity, courage, tenacity and academic and engineering excellence of the named and unnamed West Area Computers. They demonstrated the long-held African-American adage: “You have to work three times as hard to get half as far as the white man and still you will have miles to go.” Johnson, Vaughan, Jackson and their co-workers are true role models for ambitious women of all races and backgrounds today.

Shetterly’s book and movie raised several questions for me. Why has this true story remained hidden for so long? Why wasn’t this set of facts included in my history, science, math or engineering curriculum and textbooks throughout my educational experience? Are there more “unsung heroes” that we do not know about? Students should ask these questions every day, and teachers and faculty should be prepared to respond in the affirmative.

This true story offers insights on two levels—opportunity loss and the strength of diversity. Continued segregation and discrimination rob our society of great talent, innovation and leadership in engineering. It also demonstrates that intellect and talent are not vested in one group or another, that diverse teams, despite rampantly inequality, can achieve great things that benefit all citizens of our nation and the world. Just imagine what we could do when the nation decides to value and leverage our differences and similarities in pursuit of equality and justice for all and the American dream.

Our country and the world need more talented engineers. African Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, Native Americans and other underrepresented citizens—female and male—are a ready source. I offer a call to action:

Encourage women and diverse students to ask questions, particularly about the history of their ancestors’ contributions to American engineering, science, technology, innovation and culture.
Encourage teachers and faculty to research and include the contributions and innovations of women and diverse citizens in their curriculum and textbooks at each level of our education system.
Set high academic expectations for all students and support their efforts to achieve excellence.
Promote greater awareness of the engineering profession with increased collaboration between K-12 schools and colleges of engineering.

The truth cannot be hidden; excellence always rises to top. Diversity and inclusion drive excellence!

Donnie Perkins is chief diversity officer for the College of Engineering at The Ohio State University, where he leads college-wide initiatives that advance outcomes and integrate diversity and inclusion into the fabric and culture of the college. You can contact Donnie by clicking here.

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3/7/2017

Superintendent’s Blog: Putnam County Districts Collaborate to Engage Students

By: Paolo DeMaria

On Monday, State Board of Education President Tess Elshoff and I had the privilege of visiting four districts in Putnam County. Although they are small, the districts — along with all the districts throughout Putnam County — are collaborating with one another to improve student engagement and student preparation for their future success. The Putnam County Educational Service Center plays a key role in facilitating all of this great collaboration. The students are taking exciting and relevant courses that are preparing them to go down any number of paths after high school — to college, to other postsecondary training or right into in-demand jobs. I saw 3D printing capability being used at Kalida High School and a garden gazebo designed by vocational agricultural students at Leipsic High School. I heard original music composed by a student and played by the band at Columbus Grove High School. These are fantastic examples of project-based learning and other strategies to engage the young minds of students. While at Ottawa-Glandorf High School, I recorded a conversation with a fantastic teacher, Mrs. Holly Flueckiger. We discussed how hands-on teaching and learning has benefited her and the students in her Human Body Systems, Anatomy and Bio-Medical classes. See our conversation here:

You can see more of our visit to Putnam County at twitter.com/OHEducationSupt. You can also follow State Board of Education President Tess Elshoff at twitter.com/Tess_Elshoff.

Paolo DeMaria is superintendent of public instruction of Ohio, where he works to support an education system of nearly 3,600 public schools and more than 1.6 million students.

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3/9/2017

Reflecting on Our Practice: Collecting Evidence of Student Learning

By: Virginia Ressa

I feel like I really know and understand something new when I’m able to create an analogy that represents the new concept in different terms. There’s a fancy word for that — analogical thinking. This month, I’ve been thinking about how we collect accurate evidence of student learning through an analogy with the changing of seasons.

ThinkstockPhotos-507302242.jpgIt’s March, and spring is on its way! As far as I can tell, it seems to be arriving early. How do I know that? Well, I know the vernal equinox is around March 20, because I learned that years ago. But beyond my recollection of the date, I know what spring in Ohio looks and feels like, and I see evidence all around me. I see bulbs starting to sprout up in my garden bed and the grass beginning to green. I haven’t needed my heavy winter coat in a week or so, and my gloves have been forgotten. Have you seen the trees starting to bud? Did you notice how much later the sun is setting?

These are all small pieces of evidence that we take note of as we wait for spring to start. Some of the evidence might be formal, like the meteorologist reporting changes in high and low temperatures. If we slow down and take notice, there is a great deal of informal evidence available, like the changes I see in the plants along the path where I walk my dog. There also is some dubious evidence of spring’s arrival that comes to us via Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhog Day and misleading evidence in the form of a March snowfall. If we really want to be sure that spring is coming, we can put into place a plan to document the changes we see over time, with the hope that we’ll see those changes come together by the equinox as we expect.
 
Watching students learn and grow is remarkably similar to watching the seasons change. We set goals of what we want them to know and be able to do and then observe their progress toward those goals. As teachers, we know that some of the most valuable evidence is gathered informally by listening to students talk through problems or noticing their use of new vocabulary. We don’t always document this growth, but we see it happening and respond accordingly. Once a new word becomes a regular part of conversation, we might introduce more challenging words as students work toward the learning goal. We also can collect formal evidence — pieces of writing, completed math problems, responses to critical questions — and document student progress using rubrics or other grading methods to record where students are in their learning. We work hard to make sure our students are on track to reach their learning goals in the time we planned, but sometimes they get there faster than we expected and other times it takes longer — just like spring arrives late some years (hopefully not this year!).

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In this video from FIP Your School Ohio, Mr. Cline shares and shows
how he uses clear learning targets in his Grade 7 Math classroom.

Evidence of student learning isn’t always straightforward and accurate. Sometimes we are confounded with unclear evidence delivered by characters like Punxsutawney Phil — which is likely a sign that it’s time to reassess. Maybe a group assignment misleads us into thinking all of our students have mastered a concept. A homework assignment may come back showing evidence of a parent’s understanding rather than the student’s. Our students may become confused during a unit of study and all of a sudden it’s snowing in March. Each of these pieces of evidence are worth considering and responding to. You might want to have the student complete an individual assignment to double check his or her understanding. Rather than rely on homework, an in-class activity may give you more accurate evidence. And if it starts to snow, you may need to go back a couple of steps and reteach the content that caused the confusion.

You don’t need a weather station to know spring is coming, and you don’t need lots of formal tests to know your students are learning. Evidence comes in many forms — from informal to formal — you just need to be a careful observer. If you’ve set clear learning targets with your students, you can look for those telltale signs of growth as you work toward the goal. And, remember, if you run into a groundhog or spring snowfall, take the time to reassess to make sure you’re all headed in the right direction.

Virginia Ressa is an education program specialist at the Ohio Department of Education, where she focuses on helping schools and educators meet the needs of diverse learners through professional learning. You can learn more about Virginia by clicking here.

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3/22/2017

GUEST BLOG: Empowering Today’s Girls to Become Tomorrow’s Leaders — Stephanie L. Patton, Columbus City Schools

By: Guest Blogger

Editor’s Note: March is Women’s History Month. In honor of this month, we invited Stephanie Patton to reflect on her experience as an administrator of a public, all-girls school.

Stephanie-Patton-small-4.pngThe day I received a call with an invitation to lead my district’s all-girl middle school, there was a hint of surprise followed by a little hesitation. An all-girl middle school, I thought to myself, what an interesting concept. Having years of experience teaching and more than a decade of experience as an administrator in dual gender settings, it should be no big deal, right? I have educated girls my whole career.

What I have learned is that there is a difference between providing an education for girls and how girls learn. In a single gender setting, the strengths and weakness of how girls thrive in an educational environment are magnified. I now understand the complexity of a woman begins in the preteen years, followed by adolescence and young adulthood. Some days, to my exhaustion, I learn. Girls want to be heard, girls want to be seen and girls want to be perfect. I want my girls to have a voice, I want my girls to break the glass ceiling while everyone is watching and I want my girls to be brave—not perfect. This is easier said than done. How do you build up a girl to be confident when society lays her foundation as beauty and image through outlets of social media and where self-worth and value are placed on how many likes you get on Instagram?

Creating a nurturing environment that empowers young girls to love the skin they’re in, recognize their own voices and lead by example is what we are striving for in our school. Having a strong advisory program where everyday challenges can be discussed, along with strategies on how to overcome them is central to how we start each day. We also partake in yoga and meditation, so we can self-reflect, focus and de-escalate all of life’s stressors.

As women, we share many key roles that require balance such as wives, mothers, professionals and entrepreneurs. We are strong contributors to the world. If we don’t instill this reality in our youth, we are not doing our job as educators. Now I know the question will be, what about academics? And I say, you should see a classroom where girls are empowered to raise their hands and express their intellect with confidence. What a sight to see where girls are leaders in science, math and technology. You ask my students what careers they are interested in and they will tell you everything from a forensic scientist or marine biologist to an attorney or philanthropist. The difference, I have learned, is that they see power in their futures as females, outside of a male-dominated world. Not as an isolated experience, as a different experience that is made up of equals. The first graduating class of our middle school will be graduating high school this year, and I can’t wait to see what awaits them. Data has shown that they have fared well among their peers in high school—single or dual gender.

As we embark on Women’s History Month, we are focusing on women who are the unsung heroes, women who have made strides and contributions to society with little fanfare. The emphasis is on average, everyday women who are brave, who have a voice and who have made a difference in society. The women they see within themselves.

Stephanie L. Patton is principal of Columbus City Preparatory School for Girls in Columbus City Schools, a school committed to cultivating a challenging and enriching educational environment that encourages every girl to reach her full potential. You can contact Stephanie by clicking here.

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3/31/2017

Ohio's Troops to Teachers Program Grant Request Submitted

By: Julia Simmerer

logo.pngVeterans working toward becoming teachers in the state of Ohio have allies in their transitions to second careers. Not only has Ohio eliminated educator license fees for veterans and active duty service members and their spouses, but the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Veterans Services will soon work together to administer the Ohio Troops to Teachers program, providing significant support to military service members during each stage of becoming a teacher in Ohio.

Ohio’s Troops to Teachers program collaborates with the U.S. Department of Defense’s National Troops to Teachers program. The program’s mission and purpose is to assist eligible military personnel in their pursuit of teaching as a second career in public schools where their skills, knowledge and experience are most needed to relieve teacher shortages — especially in math, science, special education and other critical subject areas.

The Office of Educator Effectiveness, within the Center for the Teaching Profession at the Department of Education, recently applied for a grant to significantly increase the funding of Ohio’s Troops to Teachers program. With this grant, the departments of Education and Veterans Services seek to increase the depth and breadth of Ohio’s Troops to Teachers program services.

Ohio’s Troops to Teachers program has the capability of providing substantial assistance to current and former service members seeking employment in Ohio as teachers. These veterans often run into hurdles that can complicate the process of becoming a teacher.

Undecided on committing to becoming a teacher as your second career? Speak with one of our program staff members who will be visiting college and university veterans centers, military organizations, and transition and education seminars across the state. Overwhelmed at the thought of transitioning careers, navigating the process of applying for a license and obtaining a teaching position? Visit Ohio’s Troops to Teachers program website and reach out to program staff members who are dedicated to individually counseling members of Ohio’s Troops to Teachers. Worried about finding a job or how to make the greatest impact through your service as a teacher? Work with Ohio’s Troops to Teachers program to identify open teaching positions, especially in critical areas such as the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. After fees are waived for active and veteran service members and their spouses, is it still not economically feasible to obtain an educator license or move your family in order to secure a teaching position? Apply through Troops to Teachers for a stipend or bonus to help ease these financial burdens.

I am proud our office has submitted a request for these grant funds, as I see Ohio’s Troops to Teachers program as just one of the many ways we can give back to our active duty and veteran service members who have sacrificed so much to serve and protect us. I hope that with these additional funds, we can reach out to even more veterans who are interested in becoming teachers and that our Troops to Teachers program can ease some of their burdens in continuing to serve the students of our state.

Julia Simmerer is senior executive director of the Center for the Teaching Profession at the Ohio Department of Education, where she oversees the implementation of policies and programs that support Ohio’s teacher and leader corps. You can learn more about Julia by clicking here.

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4/13/2017

GUEST BLOG: A School Counselor's Advice on Industry Credentials - Christopher Wilde, Lorain County Joint Vocational School

By: Guest Blogger

Editor’s Note: An industry-recognized credential is verification of an individual’s competence in a specific trade or skill. They are issued by authorized third parties such as business or trade associations. To learn more about Ohio's Industry Credential Program, click here.

Industry-Credentials-1.pngHigh school students earning industry credentials is not a new concept. Career-technical high schools and comprehensive high schools have been doing it, and doing it well, for years. What is new is the attention these industry credentials are receiving by becoming part of the graduation pathways for the classes of 2018 and beyond. With industry credentials being clearly identified as an option toward graduation, it has many parents and educators asking questions about what they are, who can earn them and why they may be the best options for some students.

The first two questions are easily answered. Industry credentials are the certifications needed to hold particular positions in virtually every trade in business and industry. As educators, we have had to earn specific licensures and certifications in order to perform our given roles; our licenses are our “industry credentials.” Parallel to this are cosmetologists who earn their state board licenses or auto body technicians who earn their iCAR certifications. When students leave high school with these credentials, they are ready to enter the workforce, working meaningful jobs that have higher income levels and great ability for upward mobility.

All high school students have access to vocational training that leads to industry credentials. The vast majority of career-tech programs are designed for 11th and 12th grade students. Through career exploration activities starting as early as elementary school, students are exposed to career options that can begin with earning industry credentials while in high school. Students can choose, usually during their 10th grade years, to begin direct, relevant education that will lead to industry credentials and employment in locally identified, in-demand careers.

The question as to why the industry credential route may be the best option for the student is much more difficult to answer. This is due to the fact that there are so many reasons that this may be the best option for a particular student. There is an often-used quote in education that states, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life thinking it is stupid.” The career-tech industry credential route speaks directly to this idea. Students are able to get out from behind their desks and engage in real, relevant skills training. Many students who find it difficult to thrive in traditional classroom settings blossom when they are given the opportunities to showcase their own specific strengths and intelligences.

For many of our students, the traditional college and university track is something they do not desire. Media’s depiction of the soaring costs of attendance at traditional universities, anecdotal tales of college grads taking all of the minimum wage jobs in an area, cultural backgrounds that emphasize skilled trades, and individual career interests in career-tech fields all contribute to students looking to get jumpstarts on their careers. Ohio’s inclusion of these career paths as a means to graduation has further legitimized these students’ and families’ choices.

For me, the validation of these choices is evidenced by the growth I witness in my students. People like to be useful. It is a widely accepted idea. Our students are no different. I have the opportunity to witness these students thrive as they strive to meet attainable, meaningful goals. Instead of the anxiety and frustration they may have faced when their days consisted of being measured strictly on academic prowess, students are encouraged and excited to be able to showcase their unique skills. In the end, these students get to experience pride and achievement where, previously, they may have fallen short. This sense of efficacy is priceless moving forward into adulthood. These students know they CAN achieve and they CAN succeed; they have worth.

This is not to say that students can’t have the best of both worlds. Most programs leading to industry credentials also include articulated and/or transcripted college credit. The articulations these programs offer can vastly decrease the amount of time students must spend on their postsecondary training — sometimes earning as much as a year’s worth of college credits. We have one motivated student who is currently on track to finish her high school career with an industry credential in the transportation field and an associate degree in business from our local community college. For this student, earning an industry credential is a critical piece to a comprehensive career plan.

The world of industry credentials in the high school setting is ever-changing. The Ohio Department of Education encourages local stakeholders from education, business and industry, and economic development to advocate for the credentials that are vital to their regions. More and more certifications and licenses are being acknowledged every day. If you haven’t taken the time to explore the options your local career-tech schools or comprehensive high schools have to offer, do so. If not for your own education and knowledge, do it for all of those fish in our schools (no pun intended) still trying to climb that tree.

Christopher Wilde was a high school English language arts teacher for three years. After referring countless students to the school counselor, he decided he wanted to be that support and has now been a school counselor at Lorain County Joint Vocational School for eight years. You can contact Christopher by clicking here.

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4/21/2017

Superintendent's Blog: On the Road in Northern Ohio for the 2017 State of the State

By: Paolo DeMaria

One of the things I love about my job is traveling to different schools around Ohio and seeing education policies in action. On April 4, Gov. John Kasich’s annual State of the State Address was held in Sandusky, Ohio. In events leading up to the address, I visited several northern Ohio schools and got a glimpse of just a few of the outstanding education programs offered in our schools.

Community-connectors-1.jpgOne of my first stops was to Tiffin Middle School, where I spoke with students and mentors in the Seneca Mentoring Youth Links program, made possible by a Community Connectors mentoring grant. Students in the program otherwise may not have positive adult role models in their lives. It was encouraging to hear directly from students and mentors about the roles they play in one another’s lives. Particularly notable was the observation that mentors learned and grew almost as much as their student mentees.

I visited a preschool at Bellevue Elementary school. This amazing program earned five stars — the highest rating — in Ohio’s Step Up To Quality rating system. I was impressed with how these students are already developing a sophisticated academic vocabulary. During one activity, they were naming shapes like “sphere,” “cone,” “cylinder,” etc. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t doing that when I was 4 years old! The district’s investment in its youngest students — many from low-income backgrounds and who may have other special needs — will lay the foundation for future success in school, including giving them a leg up on meeting the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. My visit concluded with a discussion with the students’ families, where they shared with me the powerful impact the program has made in their children’s lives.

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At Terra State Community College, President Jerome Webster hosted a great event that highlighted the power of partnerships. I heard from panelists representing businesses, colleges, high schools and education partners. The panelists talked about how the partnerships they formed are meeting the area’s workforce needs and creating hope and opportunity for adult learners. Programs like the Ohio Adult Diploma and College Credit Plus are helping Ohioans, young and old, find paths to better employment or advanced education. College Credit Plus helps students get some college credits while in high school. The program is free and can help students reduce student loan debt and begin their college freshman year ahead of their peers. Earning an Ohio Adult Diploma can be life changing for the 1 million adults in Ohio who do not have high school diplomas. It opens new doors to better jobs and, for many, it offers a pathway out of poverty. 

Fab-LAb-2-4.jpgCulinary students at EHOVE Career Center treated me to a fantastic lunch, where school leaders joined me to discuss programs at the career center. We toured the school and experienced 21st century learning as I tried out the school’s fascinating virtual reality model of a human heart. The school exemplifies project-based learning in its Fab Lab. It was phenomenal to see what students were able to create here! The lab lets students identify engineering projects and see them through from concept to design to production using a wide variety of high-tech equipment (laser cutters, 3-D printers, etc.). Students have fabricated everything from engines to a huge version of Ohio’s state seal — all while gaining STEM skills and exploring in-demand jobs. Superintendent Mastroianni is providing great leadership at one of Ohio’s great career centers.

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Next, I visited Perkins High School in Sandusky. At an Ohio Business Roundtable discussion, business and community leaders talked about how to develop a skilled workforce that can grow Ohio’s economy. We learned about programs in Perkins Local School District and Sandusky City Schools that are creating partnerships with businesses, as well as opportunities for students to make connections to careers. Students made presentations about how the skills they are developing now will help them in the future. It was inspiring to see students making those career connections early on and taking full advantage of their high school experiences to get ready for the future.

My final visit was to Sandusky High School. Sandusky City Schools received Straight A Funds that they used to create internship opportunities for students. The students are interning at local companies and organizations that are connected Straight-A.jpgto the global economy, such as NASA, PNC Bank and the Ohio Army National Guard. I very much enjoyed talking with students in the program. They have great insight and they tell it like it is — one student asked me about the emerging alternative graduation requirements, wondering what motivation students would have to attend classes and do their best if we make graduation easier. I also enjoyed talking with teachers about the joys and challenges of teaching in high school.

It was really neat to see so many aspects of Ohio’s education system in a single day! My colleagues on the State Board of Education, President Tess Elshoff and Board Member Linda Haycock, joined me for several events. At every event, we were able to have meaningful, engaging dialogue with educators, students, families and citizens. It was clear to me that we all want the very best for our children. Educational opportunity is critical to advancing individual students and Ohio’s economy as a whole. I genuinely appreciate all of the teachers, administrators and school personnel who work every day in the best interests of our students. I also want to thank all of the schools and districts who hosted these events. There are some truly fabulous things going on in our schools. It was an incredible experience, and I learned so much in our conversations. 

You can follow State Board of Education President Tess Elshoff at twitter.com/Tess_Elshoff and Board Member Linda Haycock at twitter.com/linda_haycock.

Paolo DeMaria is superintendent of public instruction of Ohio, where he works to support an education system of nearly 3,600 public schools and more than 1.6 million students.

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4/27/2017

Reflecting on Our Practice: Collecting Evidence of Student Learning, Part 2

By: Virginia Ressa

When I wrote my blog entry last month, I didn’t plan on writing a follow up, but assessment is just one of those topics educators can discuss and debate forever. As educators, we each have our own personal theories and experiences that color our assessment practices. Even the language we use when talking about assessment can differ. Our professional lexicon is full of synonyms, maybe euphemisms, for assessment: test, quiz, written response, essay, performance, project, presentation, etc. You get the idea, right? At the essence of all of these tasks — whatever you call them — is the goal of collecting evidence that will tell us where students are in their learning.

I know the phrase “collecting evidence of student learning” is a mouthful; assessment and test are both braces.jpga lot shorter and easier to use. So, what’s the difference? Why bother with the long phrase? The difference is in what kind of information we want and how we plan to use it. The term “assessment” carries with it a connotation of a singular event, while the phrase “collecting evidence of student learning” suggests a process of ongoing assessment that seeks to track student growth over time.

The purpose of assessment has traditionally been to assess students’ knowledge and skills against a set of norms or standards. We’ve given these types of assessments in Ohio for many years. Districts and schools use these types of assessments at the local level, too. For example, career-tech students know they’ve got to exhibit proficiency in order to earn their credentials. These types of assessments provide a snapshot of what a student can do at a certain point in time, not unlike your school picture from eighth grade. It provides us with important, but limited, information about who you were at that point in time — braces and all.

Each assessment event provides us with a snapshot of student knowledge and skills at a particular time Glasses.jpgand place. But, can one photograph show us a complete picture? Of course not. Take a minute and think about your high school yearbook photo. It provides a lot of information about you on the day the picture was taken, but the information is limited to that one piece of evidence. We know it doesn’t represent how you changed throughout high school, how you got taller or cut your hair to look like your favorite musician. It doesn’t explain why you chose those glasses and that tie. And, unfortunately, that one picture might not accurately represent you. Maybe you had a bad hair day or the photographer didn’t tell you when to smile. One snapshot can only provide a limited amount of information, and sometimes it may not be reliable.

In our classrooms, it is often more useful to think of assessment with the purpose of measuring student growth. Measuring growth requires us to envision assessment as a series of events over time rather than as singular, isolated events. What if we took a series of photographs over time? How would a series of photos give us different information than the single snapshot? When we have evidence we’ve collected over time, we can compare current performance to past performance to look for change, hopefully in the right direction. We can look for patterns of misconceptions, strengths and weaknesses or opportunities for acceleration — all of which can inform our instruction in order to meet the needs of our students.

If a snapshot is a single assessment event that measures achievement, then a series of snapshots of student learning is a process of assessment school-picture.jpgthat encourages us to measure and respond to growth. Collecting evidence of student learning over time and in different formats provides us with more details about what students know and can do. If we only have that one photo of you in your high school yearbook, we have no way of knowing if the picture is reliable. Why weren’t you smiling? Was your hair always that long? Multiple pieces of evidence help us to identify and account for evidence that isn’t reliable: a misleading test question, homework completed by a parent or maybe just a bad day for that student. Each photo we take can’t possibly tell others all they need to know about us at that point in time, and no single assessment event can tell us enough about student learning to inform our instruction.

Ohio’s Formative Instructional Practices modules include a course on measuring student growth. Click here to access the Department’s Learning Management System, which is free to all Ohio teachers.

Virginia Ressa is an education program specialist at the Ohio Department of Education, where she focuses on helping schools and educators meet the needs of diverse learners through professional learning. You can learn more about Virginia by clicking here.

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5/4/2017

Hooked on Education: A Personalized Learning Project

By: Steve Gratz

Fish on prototype lure.jpgA few months ago, Dan Keenan, executive director, Martha Holden Jennings Foundation, called and asked if he could send my contact information to Fairport Harbor School District superintendent, Domenic Paolo. I agreed and had a wonderful phone conversation with Dr. Paolo about the schools’ Hooked on Education project. Domenic invited me to Fairport Harbor to witness the project and visit with teachers and students.

Hooked on Education is a personalized learning project that had an authentic beginning that started with a 3-D printer, a student-centered teacher and a struggling student with a great idea. Fairport Harbor is located next to Lake Erie and much of the economic development of the region is stimulated by the lake. The Fairport Harbor School District has a K-12 enrollment of around 750 students. It is a unique district as they do not have a transportation department — all students walk to school.

One of the students at Fairport Harbor had a history of consistently being in trouble during his middle grade years. Domenic indicated that the student’s discipline was such a challenge that many teachers confronted him on how best to handle the student. It just so happened that one teacher was finally able to connect with the student due to a shared interest in fishing. The teacher encouraged the student to use the district’s 3-D printer to create his own fishing lure. Fortunately, the student accepted the challenge, and that’s how the Hooked on Education project was born.

After several weeks of work, the student provided Domenic, who is also an avid fisherman, with his prototype lure. Visually, it left a lot be desired, but Domenic was positive and told the student he would give it a try on his next excursion. Domenic shared with me that he pulled that lure out toward the end of his last fishing trip and much to his surprise, the student created a lure that worked!

Fundamental to the success of Hooked on Learning is the need for excellent teaching, which places students at the center of the instruction; and deeper learning where inquiry and higher order thinking are incorporated into relevant curricula. Today, the project has 30 students learning Ohio’s Learning Standards that are embedded in their project-based learning lessons. Observing the classroom where students and teachers were engaged in multiple disciplines and at various grade levels was refreshing. The teacher’s enthusiasm for being part of this unique culture left a smile on my face and feeling as giddy as I was when I was in the classroom. Moreover, the Hooked on Learning project has been designed to give students a better and deeper learning experience by developing community connections, increasing access to excellent teaching and engaging student talents and interests by personalizing their learning, so they can develop all their “intelligences.”

Domenic commented that, “personalized learning makes our project possible.” He shared that the power of the district’s model of personalized learning grows out of four interdependent components used to develop personalized learning plans:

  1. A detailed understanding or profile of each learner;

  2. A clear set of standards toward which each learner is progressing;

  3. Collaboration with each learner to construct a customized learning plan;

  4. A well-chosen project that is relevant, embedded in the community and developed around the talents and interests of our students.

Domenic and I wrapped up my visit by tagging along with a few students and one of the project-based learning teachers to visit MJM Industries, where students were negotiating the final specs on their initial production-quality mold that will be used to launch the manufacturing of their first line of fishing lures. After the brief review of documents, the CEO and the teacher discussed the process more thoroughly to enrich the learning experience for the students.

What a rewarding visit, and how lucky these students and teachers are to be engaged in the educational system at Fairport Harbor. Domenic has more planned for the future and is hoping to share the lessons that he has learned throughout this process and to learn from other educators. This summer, Fairport Harbor and Mentor Schools will host a symposium for blended and personalized learning at Mentor’s Paradigm Building, and participation is free for Ohio school district personnel. The objective of the symposium is to learn from the nation’s best practitioners and create a foundation for Ohio to harness the power of personalized learning. Contact Domenic Paolo for more information at dpaolo@fhevs.org.

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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5/9/2017

Reach Out to a Teacher Who Made a Difference

By: Julia Simmerer

Apple-hand.jpgTeacher Appreciation Week is an important time to take a moment to reflect and reach out to a teacher who has made a difference in your life. As senior executive director of the Center for the Teaching Profession, my daily work focuses on ensuring educators have the support and development they need to work with all students in our schools, so educators loom dearly in my heart on a daily basis. It is nice to take a personal moment to step back and reflect on my own experience with a teacher who made a difference in my life, my fourth grade teacher, Ms. Sharon Tobe. My experience as her student shaped both my academic and personal life, and I am grateful I had her as a teacher.

I remember Ms. Tobe as a teacher who saw positive aspects of every student in our class. She found potential in students that they may not have seen in themselves — establishing an environment of high expectations for all. I was a very quiet and shy student who often flew under the radar of my teachers, until I entered Ms. Tobe’s room. She connected to me, as well as each and every student in that classroom and built an undeniable repertoire. For me, it was the continued encouragement that I was capable of great things and was encouraged to always do my best that stood out the most. She took a student who did not necessarily like math and helped me find a love for and confidence in myself that I could do math. She encouraged continual improvement, that I could do even one more problem correct than I did before. My confidence grew and a love for math developed.

Turn the clock forward, I myself became a teacher. I did not fully realize the significance of teacher recognition until I experienced it firsthand. I had a student, Mike, when I was a sixth grade teacher, and little did I know the impact I had on him at that time. When he graduated medical school, I received a kind message from Mike and his family about what I had done for him as his sixth grade teacher — blowing me away. The importance of his message to me cannot be understated. Even though many years had passed, his message had a profound impact and filled my heart.

Often teachers work hard without knowing how they are influencing the future. This is why Teacher Appreciation Week is so important — the profession helps shape the future in many unknown ways. Take a moment to reach out to teachers who have made a difference in your life and let them know what they have done for you. This is the true reward for the hard work and effort teachers put into their classrooms year in and year out. It is never too late to let teachers know this.

I can’t thank Ms. Tobe enough for the difference she made for me in those early years of schooling and beyond. It is the perfect time to reach out to her and let her know. I encourage you to do the same.

Julia Simmerer is senior executive director of the Center for the Teaching Profession at the Ohio Department of Education, where she oversees the implementation of policies and programs that support Ohio’s teacher and leader corps. You can learn more about Julia by clicking here.

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5/11/2017

Superintendent's Blog: Our Thank You on This Teacher Appreciation Week

By: Paolo DeMaria

Ohio is blessed with fantastic teachers. Many of them have been in our K-12 classrooms during this National Teacher Appreciation Week, teaching our children the knowledge and skills they’ll need for success in higher education, careers, and future learning and life.

Each day, they greet their children with smiles and energy and help them discover the joy of learning. They care for their students and nurture hope and enthusiasm.

Take Dustin Weaver at Chillicothe High School, for example. This English teacher’s passion for making learning engaging and positive is one of the many reasons the State Board of Education named him 2017 Ohio Teacher of the Year. Dedicated to continually improving, Dustin invites his colleagues to critique his videotaped lessons as they work together to hone their teaching skills. Dustin exemplifies teaching excellence, and he’s not alone. As teacher of the year, he simply shines light on the outstanding work thousands of Ohio teachers are doing each day to make a difference in their students’ lives. Does anyone deserve our gratitude more than these committed men and women?

I congratulate and thank these professionals for their hard work, their dedication and for serving such a vitally important purpose. I’m grateful to them, because the hard work they do means successive generations of Ohioans can live prosperous, satisfying lives and keep our communities, state and nation strong in the future. We need our teachers. Thank you – all of you – for what you do. Happy National Teacher Appreciation Week.

Paolo DeMaria is superintendent of public instruction of Ohio, where he works to support an education system of nearly 3,600 public schools and more than 1.6 million students.

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5/17/2017

Get 2 School. You Can Make It! – Cleveland Addresses Chronic Absenteeism

By: Chris Woolard

Get-2-School.jpgIt is important for Ohio’s students to be in class every day ready to learn. Ohio defines chronic absenteeism as missing 10 percent or more of the school year for any reason. This is about 18 days, or 92 hours, of school. Whether absences are excused or unexcused makes no difference — a child who is not in school is a child who is missing out on their education.

Cleveland Metropolitan School District understands the importance of getting every student to school every day. The district is wrapping up the second year of its citywide attendance campaign, “Get 2 School. You Can Make It!” The campaign promotes the importance of regular school attendance throughout the entire city with billboards, yard signs, radio commercials, social media, phone outreach, home visits and videos. The campaign lets students know that they can make it to school today, they can make it to school tomorrow, and they can make it to their college or career goals.  

“Get 2 School. You Can Make It!” works to remove barriers that contribute to students being chronically absent and rewards good and improved attendance through a data-driven decision-making process. The campaign rewards students for on-track attendance, which the district defines as missing 10 days or less per year or 2.5 days or less per quarter in order to prevent students from becoming chronically absent. Before the “Get 2 School. You Can Make It!” campaign, nearly two-thirds of students in the district missed more than 10 days per year. After the first year of the program, the district reported 2,400 more students on track with attendance compared to prior years.
Cleveland Metropolitan School District leverages strategic partners to ensure the entire community works together to make attendance a priority for all students. Community volunteers have joined the district to ensure the success of the campaign. The Cleveland Browns Foundation is a signature partner for “Get 2 School. You Can Make It!” Cleveland Browns players have recorded phone calls, visited schools and appeared in videos to remind students to get to school. The Browns players have to show up every day to be successful, and they carry that message to students — you have to show up to school every day to succeed.

Beyond enlisting players to motivate students to get to school, the Browns Foundation and district partnership strategically removes barriers students face in getting to school.
The Browns Foundation convened a meeting with Cleveland Metropolitan School District and Shoes and Clothes for Kids to positively impact attendance by donating Special Teams Packages to 2,000 students in the district. A Special Teams Package provides students with three school uniforms, a casual outfit, socks, underwear and a gift card for shoes. This partnership helps students who may not be attending school due to a lack of shoes or clothing. Cleveland Metropolitan School District uses data to strategically target students who need clothing to get to school and tracks attendance of students who receive Special Teams Packages to ensure the program is making an impact.

A key part of the campaign’s success has been shifting the mindset from only recognizing perfect attendance to rewarding good or improved attendance. The Browns Foundation has partnered with the district to provide incentives to schools, classes and students who have shown improved attendance. The Browns Foundation has leveraged partnerships and brought other corporate partners to the table, including Arby’s Restaurant Group, which has donated monthly lunches to reward classrooms showing improved attendance and academic performance. GOJO Industries, Inc., is another partner to recently help out with this initiative and will provide Purell hand sanitizing products to schools. Starting next school year, GOJO also will help pilot a hygiene program at a network of schools to curb absences due to illnesses. Again, the district will track data to measure the program’s effectiveness.

As part of encouraging students to come to school, the district has created “You Can Make It Days,” which are days the district has determined to have lower attendance than other days of the year. Cleveland Metropolitan School District analyzed data and identified specific days students are more likely to miss, such as the day after a snow day or the day before a holiday. The district uses “You Can Make It Days” to encourage consistent attendance throughout the year and emphasizes the importance of attending school each day. On “You Can Make It Days,” students who are at school may be treated to surprise visits from Cleveland Browns players, treats from CEO Eric Gordon or raffles for prizes provided by community partners.

The district and the Browns Foundation recently hosted a Chronic Absenteeism Summit held at FirstEnergy Stadium to share their successes and lessons learned with other districts, policymakers and national experts.

To learn more about the program, visit get2schoolcleveland.com.

Chris Woolard is senior executive director for Accountability and Continuous Improvement for the Ohio Department of Education. You can learn more about Chris by clicking here.

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5/25/2017

GUEST BLOG: Finding the Balance - Amy Harker, Perry Local Schools

By: Guest Blogger

Perry-20Tout8.jpgPerry Local Schools, located in Northeast Ohio, is a small, rural district with a mission to inspire all students to achieve personal excellence, pursue world-class standards and become self-directed lifelong learners. We want all students to leave Perry Local Schools with hope and a skill set to be prepared for life. Authentic learning experiences are key to helping our students become workforce ready. To reach this goal of readiness, we are creating personalized learning opportunities for our students to ensure they have the tools necessary to be successful. At Perry, we want to find the right balance of traditional education and evaluation measures, along with authentic experiences, that have a performance-based assessment component. Student voice and choice play a key role in helping students have an awareness of their learning and understanding of their strengths and areas of growth.

We want our students to be able to answer the following questions as they navigate through their educational journeys:

  1. What are my strengths and interests?
  2. What do I want to be?
  3. How do I get there?
  4. Will I be successful once I get there? 

Pathways at Perry, spearheaded by Todd Porcello, Perry High School principal, shows the educational pathways available at Perry High School. In addition, we began a Learning Through Internship course that provides real-world career experiences, along with building employability skills. Our Virtual Career Center has the information for parents, students and community partners. High school teacher Rita Soeder has worked to ensure that the course guides students toward career readiness. Robert Knisely, the principal at Perry Middle School, has led his school to ensure the students have a balance of academic, behavior and career skills. The scope and sequence is found here: Middle School Pathways to Success.

In order to move forward with authentic learning, we need to have assessment systems in place that will support authentic learning initiatives. Working toward that balance, Perry Schools has been part of two grants that focused on competency-based education.

First, we are part of the consortium (Perry Schools, Cleveland Heights-University Heights City Schools, Kirtland Local Schools, Maple Heights City Schools, Orange City Schools and Springfield City Schools), through the Educational Service Center of Cuyahoga County, that received a grant from the Competency-Based Education Pilot to create an innovative and scalable competency-based assessment system. Knowing that students must leave our schools with the abilities to learn at deep levels, pursue personal passions and strengths, and build skills to be career ready, we have been working to establish an assessment system that will capture components that standardized tests do not. Stanford University’s Center for Assessment, Learning and Equity (SCALE) supported this effort throughout the year. Perry Local has begun the implementation of our learning Six Practices for Self-Directed, Authentic Instruction (adapted from the Buck Institute and SCALE) and aligned it with the Formative Instructional Practices, which include the following:

  1. Setting a Clear task — focus, clarity and coherence; [FIP 2]
  2. Proficiency rubric clarifies expectations, measures progress and supports feedback/goal setting; [FIP 2/4/5]
  3. Relevant, challenging issue/question-connecting curriculum through life skills in real-world, worthwhile work;
  4. Student agency: voice, choice, decision-making and growth mindset; [FIP 5]
  5. Learning is personalized to student strengths and interests; [FIP 5] 
  6. Exhibition: product is critiqued by public/experts to include clear feedback. [FIP 4]

One of the goals of our work with the Competency-Based Education Pilot grant is to have more valid, varied and richer measures of student learning. We have paired that with creating authentic learning experiences that are vetted to meet rigorous criteria for measuring the learning objectives. During this grant period, two cohorts of teachers received professional development, where our teachers created performance tasks in four content areas. We learned methods and components that are included to ensure that these types of tasks ask students to think and produce to demonstrate their learning. These tasks could be authentic to the discipline and/or the real world. We learned about the four types of assessments but concentrated on three: curriculum-based, on-demand and constructive response.

A highlight of our consortium team’s work included a critical dialogue between higher education institutions and K-12 districts to understand each other’s work, so we can begin to align and transition our students as they matriculate to postsecondary work. 

As we looked closely at our instructional practices, we wanted to include not only content (cognitive learning), but also to begin to intentionally teach life competencies (noncognitive factors). Our second area of work for this year is collaborating with seven school districts (Perry Schools, Chardon Local Schools, Fairport Harbor Exempted Village Schools, Mayfield City Schools, North Olmsted City Schools, Olmsted Falls City Schools and Wickliffe City Schools) to identify, define and determine how to monitor and evaluate life competency skills (otherwise known as noncognitive factors, 21st century skills or employability skills). The district’s cohorts of 10-12 teachers worked with Camille Farrington, from the University of Chicago and EdLeader21, to identify, define and build the strategies of “how” we can embed life competencies into our instruction. In addition, using information gathered during the EdLeader21 Professional Development and the Competency-Based Education grant work, we are creating our graduate profile.

Three years ago, we began Authentic Learning Personalized for Higher Achievement (ALPHA), which is a twist on learning how to do the project-based learning process. This project not only provides instruction in the process, it is a collaborative between school districts where students are teaching students about project-based learning with teachers participating by having the process modeled for them. This is a great way to begin a slow introduction of project-based learning.

Career mentoring is an articulated plan from grades 5-12 that allows students to explore interests and passions; take assessments, interest inventories and job skill identifiers; and find a career pathway(s) for selection of coursework.

Personalized Learning at Perry Schools highlights the details of our ALPHA project and our career mentoring program, along with additional information on our Life Competency Grant work, which are just a few ways we are working to individually tailor the learning process for our students.

Amy Harker has been an educator for thirty-one years. Currently she is the Director of Student Services and College and Career Readiness at Perry Local School District. In 2017-2018, she will assume the role of Northeast Regional Career and Innovation Specialist. You can contact Amy by clicking here.

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6/2/2017

Superintendent's Blog: STEM Students Offer Solutions to the Opioid Crisis

By: Paolo DeMaria

Last fall, I invited Ohio’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students to join the conversation about one of the biggest problems facing our state — the opioid crisis. I worked with the Ohio STEM Learning Network to issue a design challenge for students. I asked them to come up with innovative solutions to opioid abuse in our state. I know that Ohio’s youth are a great source of creativity and brilliance. So, I was not surprised when more than 1,200 students responded to the challenge and came up with hundreds of possible solutions.

On May 18, Battelle hosted the Opioid Solutions Showcase, where some of the best ideas were shared. These included a pill bottle that could be programmed to limit medication doses and an app that allowed concerned family members to track the whereabouts of a person struggling with addiction. I was really inspired by these young people. In the video, I interviewed a student team from the Dayton STEM Academy. The team created a piece of legislation that addresses the opioid crisis. The project is a fantastic example of how STEM education is so much more than rigorous coursework in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It is actually about project-based learning that allows kids to apply the skills they learn from a variety of classes to real-world problems.

Paolo DeMaria is superintendent of public instruction of Ohio, where he works to support an education system of nearly 3,600 public schools and more than 1.6 million students.

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6/14/2017

There’s More than One Way to Scramble an Egg

By: Virginia Ressa

ThinkstockPhotos-466406260.jpgI like to think of myself as a “lifelong learner,” but my husband keeps finding ways to challenge this notion. Do I really want to learn about classic '70s rock music? I’m fairly sure I could have lived without learning how to tile a foyer — though it did turn out pretty well. A while ago, he was watching cooking shows, finding recipes for “us” to try out. I was game for trying new recipes. I’m a pretty good cook, but my repertoire is definitely limited.

In the course of our mini adventure through cooking shows and new recipes, my husband told me about a video of Gordon Ramsay demonstrating how to make the perfect scrambled egg. Wait. I know how to scramble eggs. I’ve been scrambling eggs since I was a teenager. It’s simple, and there really is just one way to make scrambled eggs…right?

As adults, there are some things we’ve been doing for such a long time or so often that we have come to believe there is just one way to do that task, and we already know how. Teachers often think about their classrooms and instructional practices this way. We know what works, so we keep using the same methods over and over. Once we have found a practice that works well, we recreate it with each group of students with the underlying notion, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But is your method for teaching addition using buttons as manipulatives the only way to do it? Is it the most effective? What if you talked to other elementary teachers and asked what their best practices are? Maybe there’s another method that might also work well?

I eventually acquiesced and agreed to watch the video on scrambling eggs. I found out that there are, indeed, other ways to scramble eggs. There was Chef Ramsay using a pot instead of a nonstick frying pan. He had a spatula but not the flat kind I use to make eggs; he used the rubber kind that I mix things with. The most surprising part of his technique was the addition of crème fraiche. I was incredulous — I had never heard of anyone making eggs this way. I immediately got out the eggs, butter, a small pot, the spatula that Ramsay said to use and a container of sour cream (turned out I was all out of crème fraiche). I don’t know if I had set out to prove Ramsay wrong or if I was really intrigued about a new way of scrambling eggs. Of course, the eggs were really good. Light and fluffy, with a bit of a rich flavor added by the sour cream. Not only was Ramsay right, so was my husband. I had to swallow my pride and admit that there is more than one way to scramble an egg. Now, almost every Sunday, I make really good scrambled eggs for our brunch. I’ve experimented with some variations, like sour cream, and have found some small changes that work for me. I’m just confident enough to think I can improve on what Ramsay does.

When we think about our personal and professional lives, there are probably dozens of these types of everyday things we do that we would never consider doing differently. We have routines that we build into our classroom expectations because we think they work well. How do you help students get ready to leave the classroom? Do they wait at their desks for the bell? Do you have them line up along the tape on the floor? Here is a video from a teacher who uses music to focus her students on lining up for lunch. This is probably much more effective than the rush of middle schoolers I had waiting to push the door open and run to the lunchroom. Beyond classroom management, we also become comfortable with how we teach content. How do you teach the basic concepts of your subject area? Do you use a set of graphic organizers every year? Could you integrate technology to make the use of graphic organizers more effective? My point is simply that there are always other techniques to consider. Find out what your colleagues are doing. Check out the Teaching Channel for videos of all types of classroom practices. Take time to think about the teaching and learning happening in your classroom and how you might experiment with new ways of doing things that have become accepted practice.

If we are going to profess the benefits of being lifelong learners to our students, we need to be willing to be lifelong learners as well. I rewatched Ramsay’s video this morning and saw that it has more than 22 million views. Maybe we have more lifelong learners in our midst than I thought. In case you are feeling the need to learn how to do something differently, here’s an article from The New York Times with a series of videos about how to wash your hair. Yes, there is more than one way to wash your hair.  

Virginia Ressa is an education program specialist at the Ohio Department of Education, where she focuses on helping schools and educators meet the needs of diverse learners through professional learning. You can learn more about Virginia by clicking here.

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6/29/2017

Learn from Everything: A Conversation with Leadership Expert Mark Sanborn

By: Steve Gratz

ThinkstockPhotos-518815488-1.jpgLeadership is key in business and in education. Those of us in education understand the critical importance of the education leader in every school district and school building. While contemplating this blog post, I wanted to focus on the importance of leadership regardless of the industry and your position within that industry. As a result, I decided to reach out to my friend and leadership guru, Mark Sanborn, and ask him a few questions.

Mark and I have been friends since the 1970s and lived together as members of Alpha Zeta fraternity at The Ohio State University. Today, Mark is an international bestselling author and noted expert on leadership, team building, customer service and change. You can learn more about Mark at his website.

During my career, I have had the opportunity to be a personal coach to more than 200 individuals. A vast majority of these individuals have gone on to secure leadership positions, not only in education but also in industry. With the shared passion for leadership, I decided to ask Mark a series of questions on being a leader and leadership. Although the questions I asked Mark are fairly broad, they are transferable to those of us in education.

1. If you were beginning a career today or were still early in your career, what would you do differently? What advice would you give to those in that stage of life today?
Happily, I wouldn’t do anything differently. My strategy those many years ago is valid today: try lots of things. Get as much diverse experience as possible. More often than not, we find our true calling through experience — trial and error — rather than contemplation. You don’t find out which foods you like by thinking about them but by trying them. The same is true with career strengths, likes and dislikes.

2. What is the greatest change you've seen in the workplace since you began your career? Does that change the way you lead today? If so, how? 
The greatest change is the complexity of business and life. We’ve always faced change and challenge, but technology has been one of many factors that has dramatically increased complexity. We are deluged with information. Nobody can know everything there is to know nor even hope to keep completely up to date. That means leaders need a carefully designed learning strategy that includes trusted experts and sources to help fill in the blanks, the things we don’t know.

3. What three words might people use to describe you as a leader? 
The more accurate answer would come from those who have experienced my leadership, but based on feedback I’ve gotten, those descriptors would include erudite, intense and funny. I invest much time in thinking and learning (hence erudite). I’m very focused on what’s important (hence intense). People who don’t know me well would be surprised to find I’m a prankster who finds the humor in almost everything (hence funny).

4. You seem to write a lot about your experiences with others and what you learn from them, such as you did in “The Fred Factor.” What would you hope people most learn from you and your work?
I hope people learn how they can learn from everything they do and observe. That’s how I was able to extract good ideas and lessons from my encounters with my postal carrier Fred Shea. G.K. Chesterton said, “The world will never lack for wonders, only wonder.” If we stay interested, curious and engaged with life, we can keep continually learning and growing.

5. What is the hardest thing you have to do as a leader? What have you learned that has helped you in this area? 
One of the hardest things I’ve done as a leader is let an employee go who was a good person and conscientious employee but not the right fit for the job. The person didn’t have the skills or demeanor to succeed in the role that was required. Employers and employees need to recognize that all jobs are role specific, and being good isn’t enough if the employee isn’t the right person for the job. I’ve learned the importance of clarifying what is needed in a position and to determine if a possible candidate is just a good employee or the right employee for the job.

6. What one business or leadership book would you recommend to young leaders, besides one of your own, to help them in their leadership?
There are many excellent books on leadership, but I’d suggest “Good to Great,” because Jim Collins does a great job of showing how the leadership piece fits into the bigger organizational puzzle. I like his take on Level 5 Leaders and that his book is based on quantitative research.

7. What motivates you personally to get up in the morning? What is it that keeps you pushing for more personally or professionally? How do you continue to find inspiration in life? 
For me, it comes down to faith, family and friends. Those three aren’t the icing on the cake — they are the cake. If you are clear in your beliefs and care for the relationships that matter, the rest follows. After that, I am about combining purpose and profit. Making money is easy, but making money by being of larger service and benefiting others is a blessing. I feel fortunate in my work to be able to do both.

I encourage you to reflect on the questions I asked Mark and think about how you would respond to the questions. This would be a great activity to share with other school leaders in your district.

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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7/6/2017

The Educator Standards Board: Promoting Educator Quality

By: Julia Simmerer

Ed-Standards-Board-1.jpgI would like to take this opportunity to highlight a group of Ohio educators that produces critical work in support of the teachers in our state and the quality education they provide to our students. If you haven’t heard of the Educator Standards Board, you’re not alone. So, I want to share some insight into the board’s members and the good work they do.

(L-R) Educator Standards Board members Jeannie Cerniglia, Jeff Cooney, Jeff Brown, and the Director of the Department’s Center for the Teaching Profession, Julia Simmerer. Photograph property of ideastream®

The Educator Standards Board’s mission is “to collaboratively promote educator quality, professionalism, and public accountability on behalf of the students and citizens of Ohio.” The Educator Standards Board is a recommending body to the State Board of Education and primarily develops and maintains sets of educator standards designed to ensure our state’s high expectations of educator quality are met. Here is some of the work the Educator Standards Board has accomplished thus far:

Tasked with duties that impact nearly every level of an educator’s work, a heavy burden lies on the Educator Standards Board to address the needs of all of those involved in Ohio education. Therefore, the very structure of board membership is designed to reflect the many groups that comprise our multifaceted field of education.

The Educator Standards Board is comprised of 21 voting members. Ohio law specifies that the board’s membership include individuals currently employed as: school district teachers (with representation from several student age groups, as well as from a chartered nonpublic school district); school administrators; a member of the Parent Teacher Association; and individuals employed by institutions of higher education that offer teacher preparation programs, with representation from private and state universities, as well as community or technical colleges. The State Board of Education appoints members of the Educator Standards Board nominated by teachers’ unions, educational associations that represent teachers, administrators, parents, school board members and institutions of higher education.

As you can see, it is true stakeholders who build the foundations upon which we identify the rigor necessary to be a school educator or administrator in Ohio. I’ve had the opportunity and privilege to attend many Educator Standards Board meetings and see the impressive work that the board produces. I believe that not only does the work of the board benefit its diverse membership but, additionally, everyone who has had the chance to work with and observe the board, myself included, has grown from the experience of hearing from so many different perspectives. If you ever happen to meet current or former members of the Educator Standards Board, thank them for their work toward ensuring a high-quality education for the students of our great state.

Julia Simmerer is senior executive director of the Center for the Teaching Profession at the Ohio Department of Education, where she oversees the implementation of policies and programs that support Ohio’s teacher and leader corps. You can learn more about Julia by clicking here.

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7/20/2017

Respect and Enjoyment: The Keys to a 58-Year-Long Teaching Career — Staff Report

By: Guest Blogger

Any seasoned professional can talk about how he or she has grown over the course of a career, but Ohio teacher Bob Weidner has an especially lengthy career to reflect on. Weidner recently retired after 60 years of dedicated service. He spent two years of his career in the U.S. Army and the remaining 58 teaching high school.

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Bob and Rachel Weidner with Senators Beagle and Hackett

Athletics were a major part of Weidner’s life and were one of the main reasons he wanted to teach. In high school and college, he played football and baseball and ran track. As a student athlete, he idolized his coaches. He wanted to teach so he could coach and be the same great role model to his students that his coaches were to him. So, after his time in the U.S. Army, Weidner began teaching and coaching at Newton Local School District. He then spent the next 35 years teaching and coaching football at Beavercreek City Schools. He believes coaching allowed him get to know his students better and fostered the mutual respect that he believes to be critical to successful teaching. After more than 35 years of teaching and coaching, many people might consider a well-deserved retirement. Weidner, however, spent 20 more years teaching at Troy Christian Schools.

Weidner recalls that on his first day of teaching, he was nervous and forgot what lesson he was planning to give. Thankfully, his professors had given him some advice on what to do in this situation. Following that advice, he simply told the class that he would try again the next day. In the following days, he prepared by writing the lesson on the chalkboard in advance.

Now, an undeniable classroom veteran, he can offer wisdom to new teachers. “You have to enjoy what you do, and you have to be sure you’re the boss…They have to have respect for you, and you have to respect your students,” he said. The respect his students had for him was clear on the two occasions the class valedictorians cited him as their most influential teacher.

Over the years, Weidner taught primarily biology but also covered physical education, health and anatomy classes. Even though the classrooms and subjects changed, some things never did. “Kids are kids,” Weidner said. “They haven’t changed any. I enjoyed them at every level.”

Weidner takes pride in the accomplishments of his former students who went on to work in fields related to the courses he taught. “I had several that were doctors and some that were in pharmacy. That always makes you feel good.” Weidner says although he didn’t have a favorite subject to teach, he did have a few standout classes. He noted, “I don’t know if it was the courses that were enjoyable or the kids I had in class.”

Becoming inspired to teach and coach is certainly admirable, but what exactly is it that inspires someone to dedicate so many years to teaching? For Weidner, the answer is the pure pleasure of teaching. One might even consider Weidner living proof of the adage, “time flies when you’re having fun.” “I just enjoyed teaching and enjoyed the kids, and it just felt like one contract after another and all of the sudden, it was 60 years,” he said.

After 60 years, the teacher who forgot his lesson on the first day of school is still humble. He said he did nothing special except, “Teach for a long time and coach for long time.” Now, he is receiving a lot of attention. The Dayton Daily News wrote an article about him and the Ohio Senate honored him. Here at the Ohio Department of Education, we think that 58 years of impacting students’ lives in the classroom is something special. Congratulations, Mr. Weidner!

— Staff report. Have an inspiring story you would like us to tell? Send your story ideas to Toby.Lichtle@education.ohio.gov.

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7/27/2017

GUEST BLOG: Ohio’s In-Demand Jobs List: Preparing Your Students for Successful Careers — Emily Modell, Governor's Office for Workforce Transformation

By: Guest Blogger

ThinkstockPhotos-638787162.jpgOne seemingly insurmountable challenge that students and their families face is determining where to start when researching, and ultimately pursuing, a career. Students today have so many options, pathways through which to pursue opportunities, and qualified individuals to look to for advice. What they don’t always have, though, is an abundance of data to help guide that decision-making process.

Educators and parents — as you work diligently during the summer months to prepare your students for success in the upcoming school year, consider Ohio’s In-Demand Jobs List as your resource to keep track of the current and projected hiring needs of your students’ future employers.

Ohio’s workforce needs are evolving quickly due to emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, drone technology and autonomous vehicles. Chances are, you already know and think about this on a regular basis. As some of the most influential individuals in the lives of Ohio’s youth, you have the power to help prepare the next generation for the changes they will inevitably see in their lifetime.

The effort to prepare our youth for a dynamic workforce environment must be collective — by reaching into our communities and collaborating, we can ensure that our youth have access to resources of all kinds to reach their career and life aspirations. Schools and businesses across the state are collaborating to build a workforce prepared for in-demand jobs.

One real-world example of a business with a workforce need collaborating with a school district is the Marion City Schools and OhioHealth partnership. When OhioHealth built a new healthcare facility in Marion, they realized they did not have enough nurses, lab technicians and medical assistants to support the doctors. OhioHealth collaborated with Marion City Schools to create a career pathway program that prepares high school graduates to work in these fields.

Jon Smith, a Marion Harding High School English teacher notes, "Our job as educators is to prepare our students the best that we can to move forward when they leave our building, and in many communities across America, credit accrual is just not enough and students need something more. The idea behind the career pathways initiative is going to be crucial to the development of better students and, therefore, better communities across our state and our country.”

Recognizing the need for collaboration and leading by example, the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation partnered with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and employers across the state to release a list of more than 200 of Ohio’s top occupations.

Ohio’s In-Demand Job List was created using data and input from the following sources:

  1. Results of a survey sent to more than 2,100 businesses in Ohio, asking them to forecast the top five most critical hiring and certification needs over the next one, three and five years;
  2. Ohio labor market information;
  3. Job posting trends and data from OhioMeansJobs.com;
  4. JobsOhio regional forecast.

The In-Demand Jobs List aims to provide insight for all stakeholders into the current and evolving needs of Ohio employers so that students, parents, educators, workforce professionals, legislators and employers alike can be aware of workforce needs. For teachers, it can help guide classroom instruction and provide opportunities to link lessons to workplace skills. For counselors, it can help guide career counseling discussions; for administrators, future decision-making; and for parents, curiosity and learning at home. While we cannot predict what’s next, we can take steps together to prepare the next generation for success now and in the future.

Emily Modell is the Outreach Coordinator at the Governor's Office of Workforce Transformation. You can reach her at Emily.Modell@owt.ohio.gov.

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8/4/2017

A Year on Pause: A Very Personal Perspective on Personalized Learning

By: Stephanie Donofe Meeks

HAPPY-NEW-YEAR-8.jpgHello, everyone! You last heard from me more than a year ago, as I was in a car accident last summer. It was of the lucky-to-be-alive magnitude kind of car accident, and I am so grateful to be back at work now. This year on pause gave me time for some deep reflection during my recovery process.

In particular, I was struck by the parallels between personalized learning and my recovery. At the hospital, the trauma team used a set of protocols for unconscious victims to establish and triage my injuries. Based on this thorough assessment, the team determined I had broken both legs, among other damages. The assessment was extensive, and the trauma surgeons began treating the breaks immediately, using typical treatments for typical fractures. My right leg, however, was not a standard break, so alternative methods were used for my situation. If the team had done what it usually does for a fracture, I would not be walking today.

Lying in bed healing for two months and then recovering for another eight, I had a lot of time to think. The idea of my personalized treatment had me thinking about personalized learning and what it really means. I could overlay my situation to exactly how personalized learning can help students succeed. Some students respond to the typical and usual methods of instruction and succeed. Some students do not and need other strategies to achieve success. Most students have areas of strength and areas of challenge in learning. For example, standard teaching methods may work with them in social studies but not in science. I think too many times we look for a single-point solution in education…one tool or resource that will work for everyone…and that just is not the case.

Digital tools can assist, but they are not the only solution. Multiple solutions can be used to support multiple needs. In addition, a small set of tools can be applied differently to personalize learning for students. Perhaps you utilize online resources; do all students use them the same way? If you think of your resources as currencies, how will you spend them? This could include time and space—something as simple as a different room arrangement or a different structure for in-class time can help personalize learning for students. What are resources you have that can be used differently? How can standard assessment protocols be used to personalize a learning plan?

I did not recover alone. I had a team of support, from the initial trauma team to the physical therapy team, as well as an alternative therapies team. They were so willing to look for solutions for me to walk again; they never gave up looking for solutions, even ones they had not tried in the past. In education, we have many kinds of teams. How do we best utilize our support systems to personalize learning for all? What are the first steps that you can take to help personalize learning for students?

With the start of a new school year, we have the opportunity for a new beginning, new thinking and new planning. NONE of us can predict the future—but with the right tools and planning, we can be ready when it comes. HAPPY NEW YEAR—make it awesome!

Next up in the series…using a framework with a team approach to personalize learning.

Stephanie Donofe is director of integrated technology at the Ohio Department of Education, where she supports technology integration innovations and blended learning initiatives for districts and schools across the state. You can learn more about Stephanie by clicking here.

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8/10/2017

A Great School Year Starts with Knowing Your Students

By: Virginia Ressa

ThinkstockPhotos-477634708.jpgHappy New School Year! My colleague and friend, Stephanie Donofe, ended her blog last week by wishing everyone a happy new year. I thought it was perfect — that’s exactly how I feel at the start of a new school year. It may not be Jan. 1, but you’re starting anew: redecorating, buying supplies, planning lessons, organizing resources. It is a fun time of year, as long as the weather doesn’t turn too hot.

One of the most interesting aspects of a new school year is meeting your new students. They may not be new to the school, you may know of them from your colleagues or even have data in a file, but you don’t truly know your students until you spend time with them. There are lots of “interest inventory” tools out there to ask the students about themselves. Some of these are probably a lot more useful than others. Do you really need to know Johnny’s favorite food? Maybe, but I bet there are questions you could ask that would reveal a whole lot more about your students and their lives than asking for their favorite foods. Maybe it would help to ask students about what comes “easy” to them and what things they consider “challenges.” I saw a set of writing prompts that asked “would you rather” questions like, “Would you rather be really tall or really short?” or “Would you rather live in the city or the country?” These types of writing prompts also are great conversation prompts and could elicit important details about students’ lives, their interests, fears and more.

In Ohio, we have a very diverse student population. Almost 3 percent of our students are learning English as a second language. That might not seem like a lot statewide, but it is significant if those students live in your district. Students with disabilities make up 14.5 percent of our population and are learners in classrooms across the state. The most startling of the statistics I looked at today is the percent of our students who are economically disadvantaged: 49.9 percent. That’s half of our 1.7 million students living in households struggling to meet their financial needs, which we know has many repercussions. Part of those students who are economically disadvantaged are the 1.2 percent who are homeless; that is 20,185 homeless students in Ohio. Right now, Ohio is experiencing a record number of students needing stable, out-of-home care as a result of the current opioid epidemic.

When we meet our new students, especially those new to the district, they don’t come with signs on their foreheads that tell us what their needs are. We have to work hard to identify their strengths and weaknesses and to understand what their environments are like when they leave our schools. I don’t say that to sound depressing — I promise, I’m not here to spoil your new year. I bring up these issues because it is essential for teachers to learn about their students so they can better meet students’ needs. This is not an easy task, and we often unintentionally revert to applying stereotypes and making assumptions. In such a diverse state, making assumptions about who our students are is definitely not best practice and reminds me of my mother’s admonition about the result of making assumptions (do you know that one?).

I’d like to share with you a personal story that isn’t all that pretty. When I began teaching, I was working in an urban alternative school with “at-risk” students. As a history teacher, I thought it would be fun to start the year off by making timelines of our own lives. I created a sample on the board with details of my life, then I asked my seventh-graders to draw a timeline of their lives. I wanted them to go back before they were born and include their parents and other family members on their timelines. There was one student who just would not get to work. As a new teacher, I felt that if I let him “get away” with that, it would set a precedent for the year. So, I urged him to get to work a couple of times. I tried changing my tone from friendly to stern. Still nothing on his paper. I set a consequence, threatening to send him out of the room if he wasn’t going to participate. He made the decision to leave the room himself and cursed at me on the way out. What I found out when I talked with him later was that he didn’t know much about his family or when or where his parents and grandparents were born. Because I never asked him why he wasn’t working, I didn’t understand his behavior or his learning needs. I was naïve in assuming this would be a “fun” activity for all my students. I hadn’t considered the complicated emotions it might elicit because I didn’t yet know my students.

That’s a hard story to share so publicly. I have to remind myself that it was many years ago, and I was very young. But that’s not an excuse and doesn’t make my naïveté okay. What helped to make things right was the frank and honest discussion my student had with me about his life and the apologies we exchanged as we both pledged to ask rather than assume.

As you meet your new students, remember that there are many things you don’t yet know about them. Ask lots of questions, provide opportunities for them to share their experiences and lives with you and their classmates. Share some of your own personal stories, even your strengths and weaknesses. Take the time to stop and think before you assume anything about a student. A student may be learning English for the first time, but she also may be proficient in reading and writing one or more other languages — she already has strong literacy complex thinking skills that you can foster. A student receiving free lunch may have a more stable home than the student who comes in with a full lunch box every day. The student identified as having a learning disability is likely able to achieve at the same rate as his peers if provided the right supports.

I encourage you to embrace the diversity of your classroom by getting to know your students and avoiding making assumptions about them. This is a lesson I learned the hard way — I hope this is a time when you can learn from another teacher’s mistake.

Have a very Happy New Year! 

Virginia Ressa is an education program specialist at the Ohio Department of Education, where she focuses on helping schools and educators meet the needs of diverse learners through professional learning. You can learn more about Virginia by clicking here.

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8/16/2017

Redesigning the Senior Year

By: Steve Gratz

8-16-17-Steve-road-2.jpgMy wife is a school counselor at Worthington Kilbourne High School, and we have interesting discussions on preparing students for their transition from high school. I’ve been an advocate for graduating students to something (i.e., college remediation-free, in-demand jobs,  apprenticeship programs or the military) rather than simply graduating students from high school. In addition to both being employed in education, my wife and I enjoy riding our tandem bicycle. A couple of weeks ago, we spent several days riding our tandem in the Lake Tahoe Region on the California side. If you’ve never been to Lake Tahoe, you’re missing out.

During one of our tandem rides several years ago, we were discussing graduation options for students. The context for the discussion pertained to the state changing the school year from days to hours. Because of this change, many districts were struggling to add electives so students had more options for courses during their junior and senior years. I remember asking my wife how she would counsel a student on her caseload who has interest in becoming a registered nurse. Aside from the graduation requirements, she would recommend that the student take additional math and science credits and take advantage of Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) — this was prior to the days of College Credit Plus. I remember following up with questions about encouraging students to attend the Delaware Area Career Center, and she responded with the all too familiar response how students didn’t see the career center as a pathway of their choosing. Our discussion focused on establishing courses at Worthington Kilbourne High School that allowed students to earn industry-recognized credentials in in-demand pathways.

When I came to the office the next Monday, I suggested to Jamie Nash, the associate director in the Office of Career-Technical Education, that we needed to design courses for seniors only, where they could earn industry-recognized credentials in in-demand pathways. Jamie worked with other staff in the office and created a new program that grew into the Senior Only Credential Program. The Senior Only Credential Program was designed to complement, and not compete with, our traditional two-year programs at our area career centers. The Senior Only Credential Program can be offered as a career-technical education (CTE) program where the course can receive supplemental funds to operate the program or outside of CTE. If it is conducted outside of CTE, the school would not receive supplemental funds, but the credentialing program could be offered earlier then the senior year. Regardless of which funding structure is utilized, the course can be taught by a professional under the 12-hour temporary teaching permit. The 12-hour temporary teaching permit can be issued to a non-licensed individual who holds at least a baccalaureate degree with a major in the subject to be taught or has significant experience in the industry sector.

Since the inception of the Senior Only Credential Program, its utility has continued to evolve. Days to hours has come and gone, and the original demand for the program has changed to where today, the Senior Only Credential Program is a viable option for students to graduate and serves to mitigate risk as students enroll in postsecondary education.

8-16-17-College-competion.jpgResearch indicates that 36 percent of students attending public colleges or universities graduate in four years. While the number does increase to nearly 58 percent after six years, the completion rate for students attending Ohio public colleges or universities isn’t stellar. Today, students who earn industry-recognized credentials prior to graduating from high school can use the credentials to earn college credit and for gainful employment while they pursue additional postsecondary credentials and degrees. Furthermore, earning industry-recognized credentials in in-demand pathways can serve to mitigate the risks associated with pursuing additional postsecondary credentials and degrees. We know that sometimes life gets in the way, and if postsecondary students need to take some time off from their studies, they know they can use the credentials they earned in high school to help them get in-demand jobs in Ohio until they can return to their studies. Additionally, those students who are successful and graduate on time can use the credentials to help pay for their postsecondary education.

Just last week, I visited with Tom Johnson, mayor of Somerset, Ohio, and with Randy Leite, dean of the College of Health Sciences and Professions at Ohio University, about opportunities in health sciences in southeastern Ohio. I shared with them how school districts could implement a credentialing program in the health sciences for several credentials including, but not limited to, phlebotomy, medical assistant, and state-tested nursing assistant for high school students. Randy immediately added that students graduating with these credentials could continue and become registered nurses with one additional year at Ohio University and preferably continue to earn bachelor of science degrees in nursing.

Today, students have many options where they can earn industry credentials — a pathway that was typically completed at the career center. Students can earn credentials not only at their area career centers, but also at their local high schools through credential only programs, at area community colleges through College Credit Plus (see Stark State’s Learn to Earn Program) or even through work-based learning using Credit Flex.

Redesigning the senior year, or even the entire high school experience, takes major commitment from school leaders, faculty and staff. Fortunately, there are great examples of this work taking place throughout Ohio. I am familiar with the work at Fairport Harbor, Perry Local, Marion City, Akron City and Cleveland to name just a few. On Oct. 24, 2017, the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Educational Service Center Association are holding another career pathway network meeting to help school districts learn how to develop enhanced career pathways and more meaningful partnerships with business and industry leaders in their communities. This will be a great opportunity for school leaders to learn from their colleagues about redesigning the senior year or even the entire high school experience.

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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