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12/13/2018

25 Things I’ve Learned from Nearly Four Decades in Education

By: Steve Gratz

Editor's Note: Our colleague, Steve Gratz, is retiring after many years in education. Steve’s blogs have challenged many education concepts and provided sage advice for innovation in education. Thank you, Steve. We wish you luck as you transition to your next opportunity.

GettyImages-1035083424.jpgI’m retiring from the Ohio Department of Education on Dec. 31, 2018, after 36 years in education and 10 state superintendents of public instruction — including two interims. Seven of those years were spent as a teacher of agriculture, and the remaining 29 were with the Department in various capacities — the last five serving as one of the agency’s senior executive directors.

When I started my career as a teacher of agriculture in 1983, I never envisioned the path my career would take. I’ve had the opportunity to teach thousands of students at the secondary and postsecondary levels and coach more than 200 Ohio FFA state officers. I love the teaching and learning process and will always consider myself a teacher and learner.

During my 29 years at the Department, I visited hundreds of schools — mainly high schools and career centers. I enjoyed visiting with students, teachers, administrators, board members and community members. Coupled with my teaching experience, these visits helped frame and solidify my teaching philosophy. At one time during my career, I thought I wanted to be a school administrator and went back to the classroom, but I soon realized I could have a greater impact back at the Department.

I have delivered hundreds of presentations throughout my career, including a few commencement speeches. During some of my recent presentations, I’ve shared a list of items those looking to redesign a school should consider. A few people asked for my list, so I felt it would be appropriate to share in my final blog.

These are not in any particular order of importance sans the first one. This list is not meant to be exhaustive but rather thought-provoking. This list is fluid, and I’m sure I’ll revisit it often.

  1. Transition all students to something and not out of high school. For too many years, we have been focusing on transitioning students out of school simply because they have met graduation requirements. It is time for us to adjust how we envision student success, and graduation alone is not the right measure. Graduation rates out of high school are not nearly as important as student success rates out of high school.
  2. Make your district the economic driver for your community and region by identifying in-demand sectors in your region — keep your talent local but don’t prevent students from pursuing their career aspirations. Some students may need coaching on differentiating a hobby and a vocation. The recently released OhioMeansJobs Workforce Data Tools website is an excellent resource to help start the process.
  3. Develop in-demand pathways beginning no later than grade 7, and show the progression of advancement. These begin as broad pathways and narrow as the student progresses. At a minimum, start a Personalized Professional Pathway program. This can be a quick win for students and the community.
  4. Blur the lines between technical and academic content. I firmly believe this will result in more meaningful teaching and learning. The burden shouldn’t fall on educators alone to make these connections. Employers, communities, and industry leaders should reach out and support educators in making academic and technical concepts real for students.
  5. Increase the number of integrated courses offered so students receive simultaneous credit. Integrated coursework and simultaneous credit can redesign the school day. If you don’t believe me, ask any STEM school.
  6. Increase the percentage of students completing Student Success Plans through OhioMeansJobs. Currently, this is only required for at-risk-students, but I encourage all students to have Student Success Plans.
  7. Ensure every school employee knows the career aspirations of every student. By knowing students’ career aspirations, teachers can contextualize their teaching to students’ interests during the “formal” teaching and learning process and help advise students during the “informal” teaching and learning process. I believe this would have positive impact on the ethos of the school.
  8. Embrace personalized learning for ALL students. Coupled with competency-based learning, personalized learning will allow students to progress at their own pace. The Future Ready Framework is a great resource to assist with developing personalized learning.
  9. Provide ALL students with the supports they need to succeed. This will look different from district to district; school to school; and student to student. A good place to begin is the Department’s webpage for Ohio’s Social and Emotional Learning Standards.
  10. Utilize the Literacy Design Collaborative and the Math Design Collaborative to ensure students are learning literacy and numeracy skills across all disciplines.
  11. Increase the percentage of students earning industry credentials, where applicable. Please make sure the credentials being earned align to students’ career aspirations.
  12. Increase the percentage of students participating in work-based learning experiences. There’s ample evidence-based research on the benefits of experiential learning not to mention the embedded work readiness skills.
  13. Increase the percentage of students earning the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal. The OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal is for ALL students, and research indicates that students who have the attributes aligned with the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal are more persistent in their postsecondary endeavors.
  14. Provide counseling to students for two years after graduation. I realize there are additional costs associated with this concept, but I truly believe this strategy would be extremely impactful to student success. This should be combined with the Career Advising Plan required of every district.
  15. Work with the Business Advisory Council and regional partners. Students need to learn skills that businesses require, so they can get well-paying jobs as adults. And who can do this better than business? Be sure to involve teachers with the Business Advisory Council too.
  16. Blur the line between secondary and postsecondary education. Schools need to increase work toward a system that eliminates grades, both student grades and class grades. Competency-based education is an excellent model for school redesign to help accomplish the elimination of grades.
  17. Encourage participation in all advanced standing programs when students are ready. College Credit Plus is one of the most robust dual-enrollment programs in the country. Districts with limited access to Advanced Placement (AP) courses can encourage student participation in Modern States' “Freshman Year for Free” program, where students can enroll and take tests in AP and CLEP courses for free.
  18. Start collecting longitudinal data on high school graduates. This data will prove invaluable when sharing the success of graduates. Data should include, but is not limited to, uninsured employment data and college persistence and graduation rates (National Student Clearinghouse).
  19. Establish metrics with your local board of education that define school and student success. These should be the metrics that are most important to the community.
  20. Continuous improvement is fundamental to ensuring students are prepared when they transition. This is imperative at all levels of the educational system.
  21. Communicate ad nauseum with school employees and the community members on the school’s or district’s vision and progress toward that vision.
  22. Maintain outreach to school and district alumni. One of my favorite ways to engage alumni came from a district that has a class reunion every year, including a parade spotlighting classes in five-year increments. After the parade, all alumni enjoy a picnic together at the community park.
  23. Share quick wins and promising practices on the SuccessBound webpage.
  24. Think big, start small, scale fast.
  25. Move forward with a sense of urgency.

No one should look at this list and feel compelled to try to implement too many at one time. Ideally, school leaders would collaborate with instructional staff to prioritize new initiatives.

Those familiar with Ohio’s Strategic Plan for Education will see a strong correlation with my philosophy, especially with Strategy 10, and that makes me smile.

It has been a great and rewarding career in education, and I am looking forward to transitioning to my next career. Starting in early January, I will be helping a good friend with a program he founded — AgriCorps. AgriCorps focuses on ending generational poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. We’ll be traveling to Ghana, Liberia and Kenya to kick off 2019. Additionally, I’ll be assisting a few educational service centers and districts with school improvement and redesign.

I’m active on LinkedIn, so please reach out and stay connected.

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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12/6/2018

GUEST BLOG: The Power of Partnerships in Meeting the Needs of the Whole Child and Community — Lindy Douglas, Alexander Local Schools

By: Guest Blogger

GettyImages-470237304.jpgAs the superintendent of Alexander Local Schools, I am proud to tell you about our success providing students with wraparound services. Wraparound services are additional supports for students that help them meet their basic needs so they can focus and do well in school. The wraparound services offered in Alexander include mental health counseling and health care services. Some people may wonder if mental and physical health care have a place in school, but I firmly believe they do.

Alexander Local Schools is located in Athens County. It is a rural, Appalachian district. All the school buildings are located on a single campus. Unemployment, poverty and drug addiction affect many families in our schools. As superintendent, I became aware of the number of children who needed medical or counseling services. The teachers and I were running into situations where some children were not receiving proper medical attention. In many cases, it appeared the parents were not following through with planned appointments. Even when families recognized the need for these services, they still had to pull children out of school and travel to appointments. Parents worried about losing their jobs as a result of missing work to take their children for services. Some families did not have transportation or money for gas.

There are many challenges in our community, and I wanted to help address them. The other educators in my district and I began speaking with various agencies about how we could help families get the services and supports they needed. We decided to pilot a wraparound program by inviting one counselor from Hopewell Health Centers to put an office in our building for one year. We referred children to this counselor when they needed deeper, more intense counseling than what the school alone could offer. We worked with teachers and the counselor to build a positive rapport and buy-in with the staff, parents and community. 

What began as a one-year pilot has grown. Our campus now houses offices for four different service agencies. Currently, we have Hopewell Health Centers, Health Recovery Services, Athens County Children Services and Holzer on our campus. We give them space in our buildings for free so they can provide their services to the children. We also meet with the agencies annually to talk about what is working and what needs improvement. We encourage them to build their clientele in our community. During the summer months, they can continue using our facilities. 

These services have become a part of our school culture. Counselors are honorary staff members. They attend staff meetings, parent-teacher conferences and Intervention Assistance Team meetings. We embrace their knowledge and expertise. By providing services on our campus, we have seen improvements in our school and our community. The most significant improvements have been increased attendance and graduation rates, reduced behavioral issues and better scores on state tests.

Here are a few other benefits to implementing these programs on campus:  

  1. Convenient primary care and preventative medical services are offered to district staff, students and the community.
  2. There is increased access to health care providers without the need to travel to a larger facility.
  3. We have streamlined care from a community health and specialty care perspective. This keeps students in the classroom and student athletes on the playing field. 
  4. Students and families have an increased awareness of available services. Many may not have sought care otherwise.
  5. Student athletes receive athletic training support in partnership with Ohio University.
  6. The school’s ability to make direct referrals increases productivity and improves service agency caseloads.
  7. Barriers such as transportation, accessibility and parental time off work are eliminated.
  8. Having agencies on campus increases the attendance rate, and the agencies are experiencing fewer canceled appointments. Agencies are working closely with the district to meet insurance billing requirements.
  9. Support agencies report that partnering with the schools in some situations has helped them improve parental engagement.
  10. Being in the school building provides immediate access to communication with teachers and staff who see the students daily and often are the first to encounter behavioral issues. This helps the clinician take a comprehensive approach to treatment. Once a treatment plan is in place, educators and clinicians can monitor interventions and assess treatment success.
  11. Being part of the school reduces the stigma attached to seeing a counselor. Clinicians often wear school badges to help them blend in with school staff.
  12. The district has increased the number of professional counselors on staff.
  13. An outside agency can complete risk assessments for children who make threats. This allows for an immediate intervention.
  14. Students receive medical treatment immediately.   
  15. We are able to provide free sports physicals and a staff doctor for the football and basketball teams.

The greatest benefit, and the thing that I am most proud of, is that we are now addressing the whole child. Addressing the whole child allows children to have necessary supports, enhances wellness and fosters learning and development. Ohio’s Strategic Plan for Education, Each Child, Our Future, recognizes how critical it is to meet the basic needs of the whole child, and we are working hard to do just that. Thanks to partnerships built within our own community, our small district is making a big impact on each student and our community.

Lindy Douglas is the superintendent of Alexander Local Schools. She has a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education and master’s degree in Educational Administration from Ohio University. She has been an educator for 29 years, working in public schools in Southeastern Ohio to better the lives of children by increasing their knowledge and improving their education.

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11/29/2018

New Kid at the Conference…What I Learned When I Stepped Outside of My Comfort Zone

By: Virginia Ressa

GettyImages-618766306.jpgI always enjoy going to conferences. Spending time with colleagues, discussing content and pedagogy issues and debating the latest concerns always renews my commitment to education. As a social studies teacher, I looked forward to the Ohio Council for the Social Studies conference every year. I looked forward to having lunch with old friends and talking about our shared struggle of making ancient history interesting to seventh-graders. I really enjoyed participating in this conference and similar conferences, like the Ohio Council for Law-Related Education’s Law and Citizenship Conference, each year. I knew people and was comfortable in those settings. But, looking back, I wonder if I was really learning anything new. I heard updates from the Ohio Department of Education, learned about new resources and maybe picked up some ideas on how to teach certain topics. There was a great deal of value in the renewal and re-energization those conferences provided, but was I really stretching myself? Did these conferences really challenge me to grow professionally?

My last blog post was about attending the Future Ready Ohio conference. I chose to write about that conference because I got so much out of it. Maybe it was because the content was new to me, and I didn’t know what to expect. I ventured out of my comfort zone and, as you might expect, I learned a great deal. This month, I attended all three days of OCALICON. Do you know about OCALICON? Some quick background: Here in Ohio, we are lucky to have a nationally recognized organization that works to improve achievement for students with disabilities. OCALI (formerly known as the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence) holds an annual conference that attracts more than 2,000 participants from across the country and even internationally. Since 2007, participants have come from all 50 states and 17 countries.

This year, the Department’s Office for Exceptional Children partnered with OCALI to hold its Special Education Leadership Institute in conjunction with OCALICON. It was a great pairing and allowed Ohio’s attendees to participate in some Ohio-specific events and access all OCALICON’s rich content. Participation was up to about 2,900 attendees! I was one of the new attendees, and I felt the mild tension of being in new territory.

When I was a content area teacher, OCALICON wasn’t on my radar. None of the special education conferences were. Yet, all my classes included students with disabilities. I had their individualized education programs (IEPs) and knew what kinds of accommodations I was supposed to make. That seemed like enough. I never realized how little I knew about students with different disabilities and how to support them in accessing grade-level content. By attending conferences only related to my content area, I was limiting my learning and my ability to improve my practice and meet the needs of all the learners in my classroom. At OCALICON, I found myself outside of my comfort zone — and it was great. There were a few familiar faces and session topics, but most were new to me.

Of this year’s 2,900 attendees, only 60 were general education teachers. This number grew slightly from last year’s 38. Still, the majority of attendees are special education teachers or intervention specialists and special education directors. I’m beginning to think we are approaching conferences in the wrong way. I’m a social studies teacher and know a lot about history because it is something I’m interested in. I read books and watch movies about history all the time. What I don’t know enough about is how to support students with multiple disabilities. What I don’t know enough about is how to use technology to provide students with intellectual disabilities access to grade-level content. About 80 percent of our students with disabilities can, with accommodations, access grade-level content. This would be much more doable if our intervention specialists were not the only ones who knew how to do it.

So, what have I learned? I’ve learned I should attend conferences that focus on content I don’t know a lot about. This is one of those “aha!” moments when I realize I’ve been looking at something the wrong way for years. I wouldn’t sign up for a course on something I already know, so why keep going to the same conferences? I know our content area conferences are valuable for networking and refueling, but I would argue that attending conferences outside of our comfort zones has a great deal of benefit as well. Conversely, for special education teachers and intervention specialists, that would mean attending a few social studies and mathematics conferences.

My challenge to you is to open your mind to a new, authentic learning experience by finding and attending a different kind of conference this year. For instance, you might consider attending the next Ohio Council for Exceptional Children conference. Without a doubt, you also will want to save the date for OCALICON 2019.

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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11/20/2018

Thank You, Superheroes, for the Difference You Make in Ohio’s Classrooms

By: Jonathan Juravich

GettyImages-997953384.jpgA week after I was named the 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year, I received a note from an administrator in another part of the state asking if I really thought I “was the best teacher in Ohio.” I was taken aback by this question — the answer clearly is no. I am in no way the best teacher in Ohio or even at my school. But I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to advocate for and represent teachers from all corners of our state. And over the past year, I have had the opportunity to meet remarkable, inspiring teachers who are nothing short of superheroes.

My 5-year-old came home from her first week of kindergarten in Columbus City Schools proclaiming, “Mrs. Coneglio is a superhero without a cape.” Within those first few days with her teacher, she realized something very important — this teacher did remarkable things for her and the rest of her classmates. Mrs. Coneglio was not flashy with a sparkling uniform and a flowing cape. She did not have a mask concealing her identity. Instead, she was an everyday person with the extraordinary ability to build connections and bring her students into a state of awe.

During this season of thanks, I want to take the opportunity to thank the remarkable teachers across Ohio who give of themselves every day for their students and communities. These teachers believe in the power of their students as individuals. And for that, I am truly grateful.

I am thankful for teachers like Veronica Cotton, a third-grade teacher at John P. Parker Elementary in Cincinnati Public Schools, who welcomed me into her classroom with open arms. I watched her validate and then integrate her students’ unique experiences into their learning during Language Arts and Science. Thank you, Veronica, for reminding me, and all of us, that our students’ individual contexts fundamentally influence their learning.

Thank you, Dillon Sedar, art teacher at Munroe Elementary with Tallmadge City Schools. His students bring in works of art they create at home to trade with him. He proudly takes their masterpieces and gives them a piece of his own artwork. This connection validates their role as individual artists. Thank you, Dillon, for challenging and valuing your students’ individual voices and creative spirits.

I am grateful for the infectious positivity spread by Jen Savage, a teacher of the deaf at Windermere Elementary in Upper Arlington. In small, purposeful ways, she works tirelessly to make sure her students and their families are taken care of and well represented. Thank you, Jen, for all you do to make learning accessible to all students.

Thanks, Arthur Lard. Arthur is a business teacher at Portsmouth High School. He teaches financial literacy, educating his students about the economic risks that could profoundly impact their lives. He encourages them to be patient and take time to find their own answers instead of relying on teacher-driven decisions and solutions. Thank you, Arthur, for empowering your students as they consider their futures.

Many thanks to Bre Sambuchino of Loveland High School. Bre models selflessness for her students through community service-oriented instruction. The Day of Service she organizes for her high school students gets them into the community to make a very real difference for others. Students attach notes of love and affirmation they have written to coats they donate to a local center. Thank you, Bre, for inspiring the future leaders, teachers and citizens of our world with kindness and empathy.

To this small handful of educators and the countless others across Ohio, I say, thank you. Thank you for your leadership, your voice and your dedication to your students…our future. Though you might not wear a cape to school each day, know that those young eyes looking back at you see you in a theatrical way. They envision you in a stance of strength and power, with the wind in your hair and lights shining behind you. To those students. Your students. YOU are a superhero.

Jonathan Juravich is the 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year. For the 2018-2019 school year, Jonathan is taking a sabbatical from his position as an elementary art teacher at Olentangy Local Schools to serve as the Department’s teacher-in-residence. You can learn more about Jonathan by clicking here.

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11/15/2018

National Apprenticeship Week...A Fresh Look at a Classic Career Path

By: Steve Gratz

GettyImages-878440230.jpgNational Apprenticeship Week is a national celebration that offers leaders in business, labor, education and other critical partners a chance to demonstrate their support for apprenticeship. Gov. Kasich proclaimed Nov. 12-18, 2018, as National Apprenticeship Week in Ohio.

National Apprenticeship Week gives apprenticeship sponsors the opportunity to showcase their programs, facilities and apprentices in their community. The weeklong event highlights the benefits of apprenticeship in preparing a highly skilled workforce to meet the talent needs of employers across diverse industries. We’re seeing a resurgence of pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship opportunities across Ohio and the nation. Once considered a secondhand career path, today, pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs are providing excellent pay and benefits. Many apprenticeship programs provide a salary of $30,000 or more with full benefits throughout the training program. On average, apprentices who complete their training programs earn $60,000 or more per year after graduation. You can learn more about apprenticeships by visiting ApprenticeOhio.

There are 19 National Apprenticeship Week events in Ohio this year. Most events are centered around apprenticeships in advanced manufacturing and construction. For example, the Toledo Electrical Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee is hosting an event to bring awareness to SkillsUSA. SkillsUSA is a national membership association serving high school, college and middle school students who are preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations. Schools can participate in SkillsUSA and have students compete at the regional level. The event also includes information about the Toledo Electrical Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee and the programs offered, along with a tour of the campus.

Near my hometown of Bluffton in Allen County, GROB Systems, Inc., is hosting an open house for individuals interested in advanced manufacturing. GROB is a family-owned company and has been a leader in designing and building highly innovative production and automation systems. GROB has apprenticeship opportunities for individuals interested in manufacturing, computer numerical control, robotics, automation, machining and engineering. The company will hold an informational presentation describing the program in depth with a question and answer session to follow. After the presentation, GROB apprentices will take attendees on a tour of the very clean, state of the art, highly technical and temperature-controlled facility. Apprentices at GROB gain hands-on knowledge, a great hourly wage, a free associate degree from Rhodes State College, free health, vision and dental insurance, and a 401k match.

Ohio has many pre-apprenticeship programs that partner with companies like the Toledo Electrical Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee and GROB. Some of the most successful programs are located at Miami Valley Career Technical Center and Upper Valley Career Center. You can learn more about Ohio’s effort in establishing pre-apprenticeship programs by visiting the Ohio Department of Education’s webpage on apprenticeships and internships.

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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11/8/2018

Recognizing the Power of School Libraries and Librarians

By: Stephanie Donofe Meeks

GettyImages-819288850.jpgA strong school library program has a powerful effect on literacy and learning for all students. In a March 2018 Phi Delta Kappan article called Why school librarians matter: What years of research tell us, Keith Curry Lance and Debra E. Kachel cite research that supports this:

Since 1992, a growing body of research known as the school library impact studies has consistently shown positive correlations between high-quality library programs and student achievement (Gretes, 2013; Scholastic, 2016). Data from more than 34 statewide studies (including Ohio) suggest that students tend to earn better standardized test scores in schools that have strong library programs.

The work and impact of school libraries directly align to support Ohio’s strategic plan for education, Each Child, Our Future. School librarians especially support the four learning domains because school libraries serve as a connector among all four domains.

In the domain of Foundational Knowledge and Skills, school libraries clearly have a strong focus on literacy and technology. From teaching students about media and digital literacy to a lifelong love of learning, literacy in all forms is the key to a strong school library program.

In a conversation I had with Deb Logan, the president of the Ohio Educational Library Media Association (OELMA), she talked about why school libraries matter and how they promote student achievement. She commented that school libraries provide choices and support students as they find their voices. They help students consider using a source or not. School librarians teach critical thinking skills for evaluating media sources. A school librarian changes a school library from a repository of information to a place to create new information sources and students from consumers of information to creators of resources.

I am a former school librarian, and I keep my license current. I am proud to serve as the Department liaison to OELMA. OELMA just had its annual conference and, across the board, the sessions supported all four areas of Each Child, Our Future. For example, the session called Lending Hope in Times of Trauma supported social-emotional learning. The program described the session like this: School librarians have unique opportunities to lend hope and foster resiliency and wellness and create an environment of safe refuge for students in their school libraries.

Sessions focused on everything from literacy and technology to design thinking. They covered makerspaces and STEM — the librarians in Ohio are truly Future Ready and able to serve as reliable instructional partners and resources for students and staff in your schools.

In addition to the professional learning at the conference, OELMA honored some superhero Ohio school librarians who received recognition with an Ohio Educational Library Media Association Notable Award grant or scholarship. The awardees included:

  • Kristine Konik, Westerville City Schools - Leadership in Action Award;
  • Shelley Bertsch, Rossford Schools - Floyd Dickman Programming Grant;
  • Amy Price, Princeton City Schools - Intellectual Freedom Award;
  • Brandi Young, South-Western City Schools and Angela Wojtecki, Nordonia Hills Schools - Information Technology Innovation Awards;
  • Betsy Gugle, Columbus School for Girls - Outstanding Administrator Award;
  • Dr. Christina Dorr, Hilliard City Schools - OELMA Outstanding School Librarian Award;
  • Meagan Fowler, St. Joseph Academy - Library Leadership Ohio Scholarship.

OELMA provides up to two scholarships for licensed school librarians who are OELMA members to participate in Library Leadership Ohio. Library Leadership Ohio, a collaboration between the State Library of Ohio and OhioNET, is an institute designed to develop future leaders for Ohio libraries.

In addition to honoring educators, OELMA honors four K-12 students who value reading for pleasure and share their joy of reading with others with the Read on, Ohio! award.
Congratulations to the following:

  • Isaac Simkanin - Rootstown Elementary School;
  • Hannah Sadler - Hilliard Weaver Middle School;
  • Caitlin Klein - Maplewood High School;
  • Emoni Harmon - Rossford High School.

You can find more about all of OELMA’s awards, grants and scholarships on its website.

In addition to the conference, another source of inspiration for school librarians is Future Ready. The Ohio school library community embraces the #FutureReadyOH movement. See their commitment to be part of this here. High-quality school libraries are so important that Future Ready librarians across the nation designed a specific framework to help them align their work. The learner-centered focus on literacy drives the seven gears and the momentum for librarians to lead from the library. For districts, supporting a strong library program allows you to create an intersection where all four learning domains can unite…school libraries truly are the heart of it all!

Stephanie Donofe Meeks 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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11/1/2018

Each Child, Our Future…Something to Sink Your Teeth Into

By: Marva Jones

ThinkstockPhotos-76763121.jpgI first heard about Ohio’s Strategic Plan for Education when I began looking for my next gig at the Ohio Department of Education. As I read the plan, I thought: Now here is something I can sink my teeth into and make an impact. Honestly, I believed the Department needed something to guide its work, make policy decisions and connect with families, communities and partners to reach each child and affect their future. So, I read on.

There are more than 134,000 full-time educators serving in 3,600 public schools and educating approximately 1.7 million school children in Ohio. The strategic plan was built by Ohioans for Ohioans and launched by Ohio’s superintendent of public instruction and the State Board of Education in the summer of 2018. More than 150 Ohio-based partners worked to develop the plan. Approximately 1,200 Ohio citizens — including parents, caregivers, preK-12 educators, higher education representatives, business leaders, employers, community members, state legislators and, of course, students themselves — attended meetings across the state to review the plan and provide feedback. In total, more than 1,350 Ohioans helped develop the plan.

The plan made me think of my teaching days, but more importantly, it brought up memories of when I became a principal early in my education career. Being the head of a school combined my favorite aspects of education: student interaction, implementation of curriculum, mentoring and supporting teachers, achievement gains, reducing behavioral issues, and partnering with parents and community members. Everything we did focused on how we could positively impact the lives of the children. This sounds just like the strategic plan components.

Specifically, I had a flashback to when I became a new principal in 2006-2007 at Dueber Elementary in Canton City Schools. Being the youngest of 24 principals in the system, I thought about the monumental goal of educating each child. To do this, one of my main missions was to create partnerships with families and community members. I wanted the school to be a great place for students and a place where teachers loved working! That became my mantra.

This document provides an excellent summary of the strategic plan. It highlights that the strategic plan encompasses the following components:

Four Learning Domains — Foundational Knowledge & Skills, Well-Rounded Content, Leadership & Reasoning, and Social-Emotional Learning.

One Goal — Ohio will increase annually the percentage of its high school graduates who, one year after graduation, are: enrolled in post-high school learning; serving in a military branch; earning a living wage; or engaged in a meaningful self-sustaining vocation.

Three Core Principles — Equity, Partnerships and Quality Schools.

10 Priority Strategies — 1) Highly effective teachers and leaders; 2) Principal support; 3) Teacher and instruction support; 4) Standards reflect all learning domains; 5) Assessments gauge all learning domains; 6) Accountability system honors all learning domains; 7) Meet needs of the whole child; 8) Expand quality early learning; 9) Develop literacy skills; 10) Transform high school/provide more paths to graduation.

The state-level vision provides an aspirational guide for students, parents, partners and the education system: In Ohio, each child is challenged to discover and learn, prepared to pursue a fulfilling post-high school path and empowered to become a resilient lifelong learner who contributes to society.

My mission as a principal more than 20 years ago included many of these components. In my coming blogs, take a stroll down memory lane with me and discover how aspects of the strategic plan always have been sprinkled liberally throughout my career. I hope this will help educators see how the work we do aligns with the plan and helps us recognize the difference we are making for each child and the future. In my next blog, I’ll share my thoughts on partnerships.

Marva Jones is senior executive director for Continuous Improvement for the Ohio Department of Education. You can learn more about Marva by clicking here.

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10/25/2018

Safe, Inclusive Schools Prevent Bullying Before it Starts

By: Kimberly Monachino

GettyImages-950957410.jpgAs I walk down the halls of schools, I am always intrigued with the creative and empowering messages that appear on bulletin boards. Especially those messages that focus on inclusive school culture and creating positive learning environments. One tagline read, “Do the right thing even when no one is looking.” Another illustrated a colorful box of crayons with each crayon representing an individual child’s face with the caption “We are a box of crayons, each of us unique, but when we get together, the picture is complete.” Another bulletin board emphasized “Put a stop to bullying! Making others feel bad is never okay!”

I mention these observations in light of October being National Bullying Prevention Awareness month. This year’s Bullying Prevention Awareness Month marks the 10th anniversary of its initiation by PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center. Since 2006, the event has grown to an entire month of education and awareness activities that are being recognized by schools and communities throughout the world.

I am going to provide a basic definition of bullying, along with specific tips for teachers to prevent bullying. The tips are intended for all students, but with an emphasis on students with disabilities. We know that children who bully others also often target children who seem “different.” Children with disabilities are sometimes more likely to be bullied than children without disabilities.

First, let’s start with the definition of bullying. The word “bullying” is applied to a lot of different situations that may or may not necessarily meet the definition of bullying. Stopbullying.gov defines bullying as unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-age children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. The key in this definition are the words real or perceived power imbalance and the behavior is repeated over time.

Bullying is not when children have a conflict or argument. There are always going to be times when children do not get along with each other and situations of disagreement occur. This is part of healthy childhood development and teaches children the important skills of managing their emotions. It helps them develop coping skills.

Teachers play an important role in preventing true bullying and can create safe, bully-free zones in their classrooms. Teachers also are aware that students with disabilities are more likely to be bullied than students without disabilities and often are the first line of defense. Here are some tips on ways teachers can be proactive in preventing bullying of all students, with an emphasis on the unique needs of students with disabilities.

Champion                                                                                                     
Be a champion of preventing bullying by making sure you know your school and district policies on bullying and work to make sure they are implemented. Resources are available to help district develop their local policies.  

Build self-advocacy
Teach students who have disabilities how to advocate for themselves. Help students who struggle with social skills to recognize when someone is being hurtful, and give them language to use to help them respond.

Teach tolerance
Teach students self-awareness and empathy through literature. Books like The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka or The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt teach self-awareness and review multiple sides of a conflict in a story or scenario. Literature with protagonists who have disabilities, like Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos, Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine and Wonder by R.J. Palacio are wonderful for building students’ awareness of specific disabilities. These stories also build empathy that transfers into real-world scenarios.

Build positive classroom climate
Create a positive class climate that is predictable, consistent and equitable. Take time at the start of and throughout the year to model problem-solving and communication. Go out of your way to recognize each student for his or her unique strengths and talents.

Respect
Let your students know you care about and respect them. Show your students you are available to listen and you want to help them.

Activities to promote prevention
Develop activities that focus on identifying bullying in books, TV shows and movies. Use teachable moments from these to discuss with your students the impact of bullying and how characters resolved it.

Morning meetings
During morning meetings, empower students to talk about bullying and peer relations. It is important to allow students to take leadership roles in planning and leading the meetings to help them gain critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.

Teach students to be “upstanders”
Students need to know that when they don’t stop someone from bullying, they’re contributing to it. Teach your students to be upstanders by showing them how to quickly recognize bullying and basic techniques to stop it — like not creating an audience or inviting the victim into their group.

Share experiences through multimedia
Challenge students to create multimedia projects that express their thoughts, opinions and personal experiences with bullying. The technology encourages creativity and individualism, and the ability to share their experiences builds students’ communication and advocacy.

Supervise hot spots
We know bullying is more likely to occur when teachers aren’t watching. Figure out your school’s “hot spots” for bullying — the places with less supervision and more students. It is important to ask others in the building, such as custodians, office assistants, cafeteria workers and bus drivers where they see problems.

These tips are meant to begin the conversation on how we can make each and every child feel welcome and accepted in our schools. The actions and behaviors you demonstrate contribute to the success of every child. Always remember the power you have as an educator to make a difference in a child’s life.

Kim Monachino is director of the Office for Exceptional Children for the Ohio Department of Education. You can learn more about Kim by clicking here.

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10/18/2018

GUEST BLOG: Introducing the Ohio Arts Education Data Project — Tim Katz, Ohio Alliance for Arts Education

By: Guest Blogger

GettyImages-483277730.jpgMost people agree all students deserve high-quality arts education that develops important skills needed to succeed in today’s competitive workforce. A nationwide public opinion poll conducted by Americans for the Arts this year showed that more than 90 percent of adults believed the arts should be taught throughout elementary, middle and high school. The skills developed through arts learning — collaboration and cooperation, problem identifying and problem-solving, decision-making, design thinking, articulation and critique, constructive communication — are the leadership skills identified as key attributes sought by employers around the world in the 21st century.

Since 1989, the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education, Ohio Arts Council and the Ohio Department of Education have worked together to gather data and periodically report on the status of arts education in Ohio’s schools. The logical extension of this work is to deliver the information in real time. These Ohio partner agencies now have engaged New Jersey-based Quadrant Research to help put annually updated arts education information in the hands of those who care about it most — parents, local school boards, teachers, students and other local stakeholders across the state.

The Ohio Arts Education Data Project launched in September 2018, and Ohio is proud to be among the first few states in the nation to provide online arts education data dashboards to the public!

The online dashboards allow the user to review school, district, county and statewide levels of arts education data. Interactive, color-coded dashboard displays show arts access and enrollment data as reported annually via the state’s Education Management Information System (EMIS) by 3,377 traditional public and community schools. Data for future school years will be added annually, allowing the project to show the status of arts education over time. Demographic data is from the National Center for Education Statistics.

The data for the 2016-2017 school year show:*

  • Most students (98.3 percent) have access to some form of arts instruction, while 93 percent of students have access to both music and visual art.
  • Eighty-four percent of all students participated in arts education courses. This represents more than 1,413,734 students.
  • Participation in music (82 percent) and visual art (78 percent) were by far highest among the four artistic disciplines, which also include theatre and dance. Music and visual art are more widely available in Ohio schools. Out of the total student population, 1 percent participated in theater and fewer than 0.5 percent in dance.

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  • In 2017, there were 28,258 students, or 1.7 percent, who did not have access to any arts instruction. There were 117,750 students who did not have access to both music and art. However, between 2016 and 2017, there has been a 35 percent improvement (reduction) in the number students without access to any arts instruction.
  • Student participation varies greatly between traditional public schools and community schools. In traditional public schools, 86 percent of students are enrolled in the arts as compared to 60 percent for community schools.

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  • The overall student-to-arts-teacher ratio in Ohio schools is 217 to 1. For visual art, the ratio is 412:1; for dance it is 762:1; for music it is 427:1; and for theater it is 933:1.
  • Note that the data does not include any representation of arts instruction provided by non-school entities nor does it include extracurricular arts-based activities taking place in schools.

The project partners look forward to working with stakeholders throughout the state over time, using Ohio’s arts education data, to celebrate successes, identify areas of need, and facilitate sound research on the contributions of arts learning to overall student achievement and school success.

See Ohio Arts Education Data Project at: https://oaae.net/ohio-arts-education-data-project-introduction/

* Summary data and graphics above from:
Morrison, R., 2018. Arts Education Data Project Ohio Executive Summary Report (draft at time of submission)

Tim Katz joined the staff of the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education (OAAE) in 2012 and has been the executive director since 2014. Before that, he served for 15 years as the education director of the Greater Columbus Arts Council.

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10/4/2018

ENCORE: Not Even Once... Addressing the Opioid Epidemic — Christa Hyson

By: Guest Blogger

Editor's note: This blog was originally published on Nov. 2, 2017 but some things are so good they deserve another look! Christa wrote this blog when she worked at the Cincinnati Department of Health. She is now the Senior Manager, External Relations for the Health Collaborative in Cincinnati.  We are re-running the post so everyone gets a chance to learn about the HOPE curriculum.

11-2-17.jpgI am not a teacher by profession, but I try my hardest to be a good one. I have great admiration for what classroom teachers do every single day across the world. Whether it was a part of previous positions I’ve had or currently in public health — teaching has always been an integral part of my work. In addition to teaching, I’ve had the opportunity to work with youth on prevention education curriculums ranging from tobacco to communicable disease. None have been as challenging as attempting to address the opioid epidemic.

I don’t claim to have all the answers to solve the opioid epidemic across this country, but I wish I did. It has torn apart families, crumbled portions of our workforce and completely rocked the medical community. This epidemic has no road map. There is no established, evidence-based practice that says if you do “x,” then you will receive “y” as a positive result.

As a public health professional, I try to think of ways to avoid adverse health outcomes. While this sounds oversimplified, prevention is the backbone of public health. Working for the Cincinnati Health Department, I am a witness to the constantly moving pieces of this epidemic — from endless overdose data, to potential policy changes, to Quick Response Teams and resource identification.

Working from different angles on this epidemic, I felt more could be done on the prevention side. I was fortunate to find an organization willing to fund a prevention initiative. My project is entitled Not Even Once. Not Even Once aims to implement the HOPE (Health and Opioid Prevention Education) curriculum at Oyler School. Oyler was strategically selected as a pilot site for HOPE due to the high number of overdoses in the surrounding neighborhood. Prevention curriculums like HOPE are key — key to saving lives, saving resources and most important, preventing youth from ever starting to abuse drugs.

What makes HOPE different is that it is the opposite of most anti-drug programs. It is pro-youth empowerment; pro-good decision-making; pro-self-respect. Kids are told, “No,” enough. This curriculum puts them in the driver’s seat of their own lives. It gives them the tools to use throughout their lives to build resiliency, self-respect and community awareness. It goes beyond basic knowledge, skills, behaviors and attitudes and turns it into functional health knowledge.

A few learning objectives of HOPE are:

  • Understanding the components of healthy, safe and respectful choices;
  • Identifying trusted adults;
  • Knowing how to ask for help; and
  • Understanding the differences between over-the-counter and prescription medicines.
I started teaching HOPE in June 2017 for ages 9-13 and will continue through December. From the moment the project began, I was astounded by the openness of the kids and their profound awareness of this epidemic right on their doorstep. One night a few weeks into class, my phone rang — it was a parent of a child in class, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Again, I was taken aback by her honesty. She stressed how difficult it is as a parent to talk to her children about what’s going on 15 feet from their doorstep. Instead, she tells her kids to “always stay inside” instead of playing at the park across the street.  

Some people have told me that kids in certain drug-ridden parts of town are “lost causes.” I vehemently disagree with this, especially with my kids. Because they have HOPE. I believe in the village. I believe we will overcome this epidemic one day, with people who have rallied together to empower others to fully utilize talents to create a society of empathy.

This project would not be possible without the generosity of the Carol Ann & Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation, People’s Liberty and especially Dr. Kevin Lorson, Ohio Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance president and professor and Physical Education program director at Wright State University. I am eternally grateful that he was willing to take a chance on me to implement HOPE.

Christa Hyson works for the Health Collaborative in Cincinnati. Previously, she was a health communication specialist at the Cincinnati Health Department and project grantee for People’s Liberty. While at the Cincinnati Health Department, she combined her public health skills and youth prevention education to execute, Not Even Once. Click here to learn more about the Hope Curriculum.

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