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6/29/2016

GUEST BLOG: Leaders Ring for Freedom - Dr. Neil Gupta, Worthington City Schools

By: Guest Blogger

bell.jpgIn August of 1752, the bell arrived in Philadelphia.  Cast from London’s Whitechapel Bell Foundry, it weighed 2,080 pounds and measured 12 feet in circumference around the lip and 3 feet from lip to crown.  The original bell cracked, so it was recast twice with more copper to get a better sound and durability.  What a great history and symbol of freedom that is contained in the Liberty Bell!

The bell tolled at the passing of notable heroes, such as Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams.  Contrary to belief, it did not ring when the Declaration of Independence was first presented.  There were many speculations, stories, and rumors on the various cracks to the bell: its first ring, during a visit from a Revolutionary War hero, while tolling to signal a fire, and during the funeral of Chief Justice John Marshall.

As educational leaders, it is fitting for us to take this time the next few weeks to celebrate our freedoms from a national level as well as allowing it to invoke a similar spirit in reflecting on the powerful freedoms we possess as leaders.  Just as the Liberty Bell symbolizes the ringing of freedom, look at these “Five Freedoms We Can Ring as Leaders”:

#1 Ring for Freedom to Question

As leaders, we need to invoke our rights with freedom to question.  With limited resources, leaders don’t have time to waste implementing initiatives without support.  Leadership is not about surrounding yourself with “yes” people.  Leaders need to form an environment for teams to collaborate and question the need, process, and outcomes.  If you aren’t hearing questions or getting challenged by others, see if you are creating the proper environment for feedback to be freely given.  There’s a way to question without being disrespectful in a healthy way.  Questioning makes the team better; it reminds us that it isn’t about us.  And, it allows for the best idea to come from the collective ideas from the team.

#2 Ring for Freedom to Explore

Leaders need the freedom to explore.  Exploration provide leaders with opportunities to innovate, seek out others, and try new things.  Conferences and EdCamps are a wonderful way to learn from others.  Not just students, but adults need passion projects also as a chance to learn and grow.  Leaders should always be ready to name new initiatives or ideas they are pursuing as well as creating an environment for others to explore themselves.  Exploration provides leaders and their team with an opportunity to innovate, rejuvenate, and reflect.

#3 Ring for Freedom to Choose

I’ve been most impressed with the leaders and vision at Worthington City School District in their ability to foster choice for students to learn in many different environments and forum.  While choice brings about challenges of their own, it is refreshing to allow students and adults opportunities to reach goals in different ways that foster a one-size-doesn’t-fit-all world.  Are you really locked in to one method?  Should there be just one “right” path?  The inception of personalized professional development only fosters the notion that people have unique needs and wants, and leaders need to foster their choice.

#4 Ring for Freedom to Have Fun

At times, I have felt guilty for laughing while a work.  It seems taboo and actually strange at times.  I have worked in many places with people I only associated with at work.  Yet, this past year, I began working in a district with people I actually like! While the work is definitely hard to provide leadership and support in growing all students in a safe manner, this has been a first to be part of a team that fosters trust and true relationships.  I severely underestimated the amount of work that can be done with positive relationships, trust, and team-building to have fun.  Does you build your team by celebrating successes for individuals and the team.  Leaders freely build in opportunities for the team to celebrate and have fun!

#5 Ring for Freedom to Unfriend

For many leaders, it’s in their nature to lead with the desire to make everyone like them.  Yet, real leaders may have to make decisions that aren’t well liked by everyone.  While some people may be happy, they may understand the other perspective and reasons for the decision.  Yet, there are people that continue to disrupt, create hurdles, or are even downright nasty.  Yet, still some leaders feel the need to continue trying to reach out and maintain a relationship.  To a certain point, all leaders need to try to mend relationships; but, it may not always be the case.  Leaders need to ensure they are able to stay positive and lead for a marathon race, so it may be necessary to “unfriend” negative people.  There’s much freedom in this, and it isn’t a sign of poor leadership or responsibility – there comes a time when leaders need to focus on the willing and keep moving forward.

Your Calling

There’s an inscription on the Liberty Bell that reads, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof” (Leviticus 25:10).  This is a calling to all of us, including leaders, to not only be free but foster it within others.  So, as you reflect on the five rings above, I ask you to proclaim your “freedom ring” in the comments below – what is it you want to “Ring for Freedom” as you prepare for the next school year?

Dr. Neil Gupta is director of secondary education for Worthington City Schools. This post originally appeared on his blog on June 27, 2016. You can learn more about Dr. Gupta by clicking here.

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8/17/2016

GUEST BLOG: 5 Promising Practices from High-Performing Schools - Bobby Moore, Battelle for Kids

By: Guest Blogger

essa10.jpgThe Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states to identify and provide comprehensive support to improve their lowest-performing schools, but gives them more flexibility to choose what strategies to use to reach that goal. This creates opportunities for states to partner with school leaders, teachers, and parents to pursue innovative ideas for moving education forward for all students. It also presents some challenges, among them:

What strategies have proven successful in accelerating the growth of all students?

For more than a decade, Battelle for Kids has brought together nearly 100 urban, suburban, and rural Ohio school districts to collaborate and innovate around promising practices for student success through the SOAR Learning & Leading Collaborative. We also partnered with the Ohio Department of Education to sponsor regional workshops featuring the promising practices of teachers and leaders in districts that have had great success in closing achievement gaps and improving student growth. And, we surveyed and held discussions with central office staff, principals, and teachers from high-growth buildings and districts in Ohio to help all educators learn what works to accelerate student learning.

Five high-growth strategies emerged from our engagement with these districts that could help schools across the country improve learning opportunities for their students: 

1. Limit goals and initiatives to focus on student learning.

One of the most consistent characteristics of high-performing schools is their ability to cut through the noise and stay focused on the core mission of educating students. While remaining compliant with state and federal requirements, high performing schools continually evaluate what they’re doing and will eliminate or suspend initiatives that are not directly contributing to improved student learning.  

2. Strategically leverage time, talent and resources. 

Rather than viewing time as a never-ending challenge, educators in high-performing schools embrace the challenge of time as an opportunity to optimize their strengths and refine their focus. Their most important questions are: What are our priorities, and how can we use time differently to better focus on our priorities? Effective and purposeful teacher collaboration is also an essential element in high performing schools. These schools also have implemented Multi-Tier Support System/Response to Intervention (MTSS/RTI) with fidelity. High-performing schools squeeze out every possible minute during the school day for high-quality instruction in math and reading, intervention and enrichment time, and teacher collaboration. 

3. Develop a balanced assessment approach. 

Nearly every high-performing school we discovered stressed the importance of developing the capacity of teachers to use formative instructional practices, design sound assessments, and use data from short-cycle/common assessments to understand where students are, where students are headed, and what students must do to get there. A rigorous, balanced assessment system is the only way to understand connections between the curriculum, standards, and how those concepts translate into student learning. Although this work is difficult and challenging, high-performing schools never abandoned their focus on pedagogy. 

4. Use multiple measures to inform improvement.

High-performing schools understand the importance of using multiple measures, including growth measures, to improve teaching and student learning. Sir Ken Robinson says if you focus too much on one set of data, you may miss lots of other strengths, talents, and innovation happening in your district. These schools collect and analyze data from year-end state tests, surveys of teachers, parents, students, and other internal and external stakeholders, as well as data from other districts against which they benchmark their performance. 

5. Empower teachers and develop leaders.

You may have heard that “Culture trumps strategy.” So what is your strategy for developing a great culture? A common theme across high-performing districts and schools is strong leadership at all levels. Empower means to give or delegate power, enable, or permit. High-performing schools empower, coach, and support their teachers. They also establish ambitious goals and hold high expectations for every staff member. By allowing teachers to help create the world in which they work, greater levels of engagement and ownership follow. 

Conclusion

As states and school districts prepare for full implementation of ESSA in the 2017‒2018 school year, these promising practices can serve as a guide to educators across the country for moving education forward and helping all students succeed.

Read Five Strategies for Creating a High-Growth School for more examples and suggested practices from high-performing schools. 

Bobby Moore is a Senior Director of Strategic Engagement at Battelle for Kids. Connect with him on Twitter at @DrBobbyMoore. This post originally appeared on the Battelle for Kids Learning Hub on March 3, 2016.

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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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11/10/2016

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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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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2/28/2017

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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3/22/2017

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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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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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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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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8/23/2017

GUEST BLOG: Remember Who You Are - Dustin Weaver, 2017 Ohio Teacher of the Year

By: Guest Blogger

ThinkstockPhotos-825216570.jpgOne of my favorite pastimes — both personally and professionally — is reflecting on my experiences. In many ways, the 2016-2017 school year was like all the others throughout my teaching career — incredibly fulfilling and extremely challenging.

But last year also was quite different. Serving as Ohio’s 2017 Teacher of the Year, I experienced opportunities that I had never dreamed of. I traveled to Dallas; Washington, D.C.; Coronado, California; and Huntsville, Alabama for amazing professional development seminars. I stood in the Oval Office and met the president of the United States. I also met 55 other Teachers of the Year who are just like you and me: they love teaching and, above all, they love serving young people and making a difference in their lives. 

Throughout my time with these educators, I have learned — over and over again — the value of educators; an understanding that takes me all the way back to my student teaching internship. A little more than a decade ago, my mentor teacher asked me, “Do you value what you do?” I have no idea what prompted her inquiry. I do know that my answer was, and is, overwhelmingly yes!

I value teachers because educator quality matters. A formidable amount of research has conclusively determined that teacher effectiveness is the number one variable that influences student learning outcomes. Because of this, we must continually increase the intentionality of our instructional practices, striving to become better teachers every period of every day. In other words, we must be the growth mindset we wish to see in the world.

I value teachers because of the ways in which they can and do impact the whole child. Almost without exception, our students are hurting. Many have encountered poverty, drugs, homelessness and abuse, and even our best and brightest often lack self-confidence. Thus, teachers must be extremely intentional not only in terms of their instructional practices but also in building strong relationships with their students.

While in Huntsville, I attended a dinner event at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. A few of the town’s residents had graciously prepared some delectable desserts for the Teachers of the Year. To be honest, I was exhausted from a long day of activities, and I hoped to mingle for just a couple minutes and then return to the dorm promptly to rest. However, after hearing I was from Ohio, one woman told me that I simply had to meet her husband. So, I did.

Mr. Saunders was from Ironton, not far from my hometown of Chillicothe. Like virtually everyone else in the room of several hundred people, he had served as an engineer for NASA. His travels had taken him from southern Ohio to New Orleans to Huntsville. I enjoyed listening to the stories of his engineering career, which he retired from at the age of 55. On a whim, I asked him what he had done since his retirement.

It turns out that, after a few years, he was offered a job as an engineering instructor at a local college. I asked him if he had any teacher stories. He proceeded to tell me of the time one of his students brought his father to meet him after graduation. The student proudly held out his degree and said, “Dad, you told me I couldn’t achieve this, but Mr. Saunders? He told me I could.” Throughout his story, he could not help but cry — and he was not alone. Mr. Saunders went on to tell me that, through all his incredible life events and accomplishments, he never experienced fulfillment that surpassed that which he felt as a teacher.

This event resonated deeply with me, and I struggled to understand why. Then, during a moment of reflection, it hit me. A few days earlier, I had watched “Moana” with my daughter. One of the recurring topics in “Moana” is the search for identity and the desire to know who you are and your place in the world.

As you begin the 2017-2018 school year, whether it’s your first or your 30th year in the classroom, do not lose sight of who YOU are. YOU are a teacher. YOU matter. YOU make a difference in students’ lives. Through your efforts, YOU can change your students’ life trajectories.

Best wishes for an outstanding school year! 

Dustin Weaver was an English teacher at Chillicothe High School when he was named the 2017 Ohio Teacher of the Year. In the 2017-2018 school year, he stepped out of the classroom to become the principal of Chillicothe High School. To contact him, click here.

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9/25/2017

GUEST BLOG: Reflections on Straight A Innovation — Spiraling Forward — Dr. Peggy Sorensen and Dr. Susan Tave Zelman, Ohio Department of Education

By: Guest Blogger

ThinkstockPhotos-179288743.jpg“It’s the greatest thing since sliced bread!” This is what we say when some new thing — an innovation — is likely to make a difference in the way we do things. In fact, selling bread as a collection of single slices made many things different. Sliced bread made sandwiches a standard size. Sliced bread meant an evenly toasted result popping up from toasters. Sliced bread was easier for children too young to use sharp knives.

And yet, we know one grandmother who sent her son back to the store when he brought home the first sliced loaf. She argued that it would get stale too quickly. Over time, bakers learned to make sliced bread last longer by adding preservatives (and subtracting some nutrition and fiber-containing bran). Generations came to accept that bread comes in plastic bags filled with soft white slices and stays soft for days. Between 1900 and 1970, sales of flour shifted from being 95 percent for use by home bakers to 15 percent, as the factory-made sliced version became accepted. Henry Ward Beecher described this change saying, “What had been the staff of life for countless ages had become a weak crutch” (Flamming, 2009, pp. 109-110).

But this is not the end of the story. As middle class Americans traveled the world, they experienced other foods and cultures. By 1973, James Beard noted new interest in a more wholesome and less standardized bread product. Some Americans were drawn to the yeasty aroma and better nutrition (Flamming, 2009, p. 110). This example shows that innovation does not travel a straight line. Change tends to be more of a spiral. While change takes us “forward” across time, innovations also go back and forth, like a pendulum. Our forward path looks more like a coiled spring or spiral.

Change in education is similar. Our forward path also moves back and forth in response to changing concerns. This pendulum movement turns our forward motion into a spiral. The Ohio Department of Education has just finished four years of funding innovative projects through the Straight A Fund. This is a good time to look at how we have spiraled forward.

As we look at the results of Straight A innovation, we see two sets of opposite forces. One set moves back and forth between making things standard and making them more personal. The other set teeters between academic learning and vocational education. Neither of these tensions is new, but today, we have a new context. Today’s school context is one of leaving behind a world of assembly lines and preparing students for a world of information.

Industrial-age learning moved students from classroom to classroom in an assembly line fashion. Schools were organized as if every 8-year-old had roughly the same needs and abilities. Teachers understood that not every student was the same, but if they aimed for the middle, most students could learn something. This has never been the entire picture of American education (Schneider, 2015). Even though many see public schools as being factory-like, they also were influenced by educators like Piaget and Dewey and theorists like Vygotsky and Montessori, who urged more consideration for individual student needs (Educational Broadcasting System, 2004).

Today, our Straight A projects can use technology to better meet the needs of each child. Montessori proposed classrooms with organized learning activities and a teacher trained to observe student behavior and provide the right lesson at the right time. Some of our Straight A projects have used technology to evaluate students’ needs and provide the right lessons at the right time. This includes individualized programs in early reading and mathematics (Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District’s DigiLit, Beaver Creek City School District’s e-Spark, Painesville City Local School District’s Early Literacy Initiative) and technology-rich “learning zones” or labs (Canal Winchester Local School District, Beaver Creek City School District’s DSchool Labs).

In some cases, technology prompted major building renovations. For example, Mentor Exempted Village School District has worked every year since its 2015 grant to update more classrooms. This includes current technology. But, it also includes flexible spaces for individual student work, whole-class teaching or small, student-led groups. As teachers have learned to use technology, they have started writing their own online courses. This means students don’t have to choose between two courses scheduled at the same time. North Canton City School District moved from desks and tables to “flexible furniture” that can easily be moved into different groupings.

Putting students first also has inspired innovation in education for groups with special needs. Cincinnati City School District and Princeton City School District trained more teachers to teach students learning English as their second language. Their project also translated forms and notices into other languages. These have been shared online with schools across the state.

Two projects use computers to help students with disabilities. The Autism Model School is using special online comic books to help students understand what they read. The Educational Service Center of Cuyahoga County is helping parents and teachers work together to support student behavior. Its online system lets it share videos of the students. Then, professionals can suggest ways to help that work at home and at school.

The second set of tensions is between academic and vocational focus. When public education for all children was developing, John Dewey was promoting manual education. Dewey saw manual training as important to social and intellectual development. He suggested this would enhance other learning. Others ran with the notion of students attaining employment skills for trades. This led to the development of industrial arts and vocational education for some students and more academic education for others.

Many people today believe we need more vocational education. Some talk about children who do poorly in academics but “know how to work with their hands,” or “are really good at tinkering with cars.” What this misses is that cars today are tuned by computers. Many things that used to be handmade are now digitized. If we want to get students ready to go to work, we must know what jobs look like today.

What we learned through our Straight A innovation schools is that job skills and certifications have changed. Trumbull County Career Center replaced a carpentry program with a program in personal training. It added aspects that focused on building a healthy working environment for staff and students. Tri-Rivers Career Center developed new programs in FANUC robotics — based on the hiring needs of local industry. Tri-Rivers also is showing other career centers how to meet their own local industry needs. Butler County Educational Service Center and Mentor Exempted Village have added courses in gaming, coding and story booking.

We see that business doesn’t need skills in transcription, key punch or shorthand. It does value management skills, like the Six Sigma program. Noble Local School District used GPS tracking and computer analysis to merge transportation systems with other districts. Their efficiencies and cost savings were evaluated for them through Lean Ohio’s Six Sigma program, which demonstrates the value of this new certification program in schools across the state.

Moving forward, many of those who implemented Straight A projects will be watching for changes in test scores and graduation rates but also expect to see other changes for students after they graduate. They tell us that they hear from other districts interested in what they are doing. Innovation takes time to take root and bring change. We anticipate a deeper understanding of results over time. 

Dr. Susan Tave Zelman is an executive director at the Ohio Department of Education. You can reach her at Susan.Zelman@education.ohio.gov. Dr. Peggy Sorensen is a social sciences research specialist at the Department. She can be reached at Peggy.Sorensen@education.ohio.gov.


References

Educational Broadcasting System. (2004). Concept to Classroom. Retrieved from WNET Education: http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/concept2class/constructivism/index_sub4.html

Flamming, J. A. (2009). The taste for civilization: Food, politics and civil society. University of Illinois Press.

Schneider, J. (2015, October 10). American schools are modeled after factories and treat students like widgets. Right? Wrong. The Washington Post.

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9/28/2017

GUEST BLOG: Using Virtual Backpacks to Help Students Explore Their Futures — Andrea Richison, Zanesville City Schools

By: Guest Blogger

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As an Ohio school counselor, one of my favorite roles is the promotion of college and career readiness. Currently, I serve a high school population where college and career awareness is on the forefront of many of my students’ minds. However, I previously served a kindergarten through sixth grade population. There was nothing more exciting than watching third- or fourth-graders explore their strengths for the first time and talk about what kinds of schooling could be in their future—whether that be a four-year college or a career-technical program. If you couldn’t already tell, I’m passionate about planting the seeds of career planning in our students. Witnessing a student light up with excitement when she tells you about her plans to be an engineer, a cosmetologist or a physician is one of the reasons I chose my own career as a school counselor.

However, there are always those students who are harder to reach. The ones that you ask, “What are your plans?” and they just look at you and shrug their shoulders. This used to frustrate me to no end. Surely, they must have some idea of what they want to do with the rest of their lives? But the reality that I have found is that some students have no idea where to start when it comes to college and career planning. That’s when, as a counselor, it’s time to step in and help them explore their interests and what may be a good fit for their skill sets. Last year, as the freshman and sophomore counselor at Zanesville High School, I got the opportunity to use the OhioMeansJobs backpack tool in ninth and 10th grade English classes.

Once my students set up their accounts with OhioMeansJobs, they quickly got started on the first step of building their backpacks, the “career cluster inventory.” Students indicated how well they enjoyed certain activities, such as fishing and drawing. At first, there were some complaints about the number of questions, but after a while, the once bustling room was hushed except for the sound of clicking from their computers. It was interesting to watch students’ faces as they read over activities and decided their levels of interests. And, as they began to finish their inventories, they started chattering about the “career clusters” that showed up on top of their lists.

A large number of students in one ninth grade English class received “Agricultural and Environmental Systems” as their top cluster. The term agriculture was new to some students. When one student asked questions, I directed him to click on the cluster. The nice thing about the inventory is that each cluster contains a hyperlink to different explanations and occupations within that category. In this case, when the student clicked on the agriculture cluster, it pulled up the field of “mining, oil, and gas.” The student was actually very familiar with oil work because many of the parents in our school are employed by the oil industry. The student was introduced to new vocabulary and able to make a real-life connection to the career cluster.

For me, the backpack is refreshing because of the interactive, real-life application that students have the opportunity to explore. What’s even more convenient is the ability to save their results to refer back to and further engage in activities. In the span of one class period, we were only really able to fully explore the career cluster tool. However, once this result is saved, a student can log in to the account and complete other activities that stem from the cluster of interest. For example, a student can later go back and see the saved top career cluster and then pick a career to build a career plan from.

The backpack is an excellent tool for a student who needs a starting point. While it’s exciting when a freshman already has a career path in mind, it’s not always a reality. Also, even those who do have plans may discover career clusters that are better in line with their interests and strengths. While the backpack may not lead to a concrete career choice, it gets the wheels turning and allows students to have hands-on experience with career assessments, which are valuable for both the counselor and the student to spark conversations for future college and career planning. I feel like I’m just getting my feet wet with the backpack tool because there are so many different aspects to explore. But, I’m excited to keep learning and hope to spark my passion for college and career planning in my students.

Andrea Richison is a high school counselor for Zanesville City Schools. Currently she works with grades 9-12 as a student success counselor.

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10/26/2017

GUEST BLOG: Getting Off to the Right Start: Preventing Bullying in Your School — Jill Jackson, Ohio Department of Education

By: Guest Blogger

GettyImages-483374624.jpgOff to a great start is the theme the Ohio Department of Education is promoting for schools and students throughout Ohio. To prevent and address bullying behavior, we are promoting four strategies that create a positive school climate and a safe and supportive teaching and learning environment in Ohio schools. Promoting a positive school climate, along with implementing bullying prevention practices will help staff members, students and families be off to a great start this school year.

The first strategy is for every district and school to have an Anti-Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying policy that outlines how schools identify bullying behavior. An active anti-harassment, intimidation and bullying policy ensures all staff members, students and parents know how bullying behavior is defined and addressed in your school. School staff members should be trained to respond to bullying behavior when it occurs.

Second, school staff members should be trained to recognize and respond to bullying behavior. The Department requires educators to take Safety and Violence Prevention training every five years. This training gives school staff members skills to recognize, reach out and refer potential problems before they escalate. The Safety and Violence Prevention Curriculum reminds school professionals of the important role they play in the early identification of critical issues affecting students. It also attempts to raise school staff members’ awareness of the warning signs for mental, emotional and behavioral problems among students and advises educators on ways to reach out to these students and refer them to appropriate assistance. Through identifying student needs and providing appropriate interventions, educators can ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to succeed at school.

The third strategy to support your school community is to implement a schoolwide safety plan. Using the PBIS framework and schoolwide safety strategies, all school employees, social workers and mental health partners can create a culture of respect to prevent bullying behavior. Positive school climate and bullying prevention practices are the product of a school’s attention to fostering trust and safety; promoting a supportive academic, disciplinary, and physical environment; and encouraging and maintaining respectful and caring relationships throughout the school. Feeling safe and supported at school is fundamental to success for staff and students.

Finally, to address the individual needs of students, we recommend the development and implementation of a Student Action Plan. Bullying behavior undermines a student’s sense of security and distracts from a student’s ability to be successful in school. A Student Action Plan provides students involved in bullying behavior (either the target or perpetrator) with supports before, during and after the school day, as well as interventions for identified behavior needs.

October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, prepare to be off to a great start by promoting a positive school climate and bullying prevention practices this school year. This will promote healthy relationships, school safety, increased school attendance and greater academic achievement. October is a good time for administrators and staff to discuss how they can update their anti-bullying policies and practices to make them even more effective. Explore the tools available here, including a nine-minute video, the Department’s Model Anti-Bullying Policy and a guidance document that outlines everyone’s role in addressing student incidents and strategies for developing individual Student Action Plans.

Jill Jackson is an education program specialist at the Ohio Department of Education where she leads the Department's anti-bullying efforts. She can be reached at Jill.Jackson@education.ohio.gov.

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11/2/2017

GUEST BLOG: Not Even Once... Addressing the Opioid Epidemic — Christa Hyson, Cincinnati Health Department

By: Guest Blogger

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 is the health communication specialist at the Cincinnati Health Department and project grantee for People’s Liberty. She combines her public health skills and youth prevention education to execute, Not Even Once. Click here to learn more about the Hope Curriculum. You can learn more about Christa and her project here.

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11/8/2017

GUEST BLOG: Investigating Living History—Jodi Singleton, Caldwell High School

By: Guest Blogger

Editor’s note: In honor of Veterans Day and the inaugural Purple Star Awards, we invited Jodi Singleton, a history teacher at Caldwell High School, a Purple Star school, to reflect on the meaning of Veterans Day. Purple Star schools demonstrate a commitment to supporting students and families connected to our nation’s military. On behalf of the Ohio Department of Education, we thank all veterans and current service members who sacrifice so much to protect our freedoms.

471112096-Vet.jpgHow can we best engage students in the history classroom? How can we encourage them with the enthusiasm and intrinsic desire to learn the truth of our past? The answer lies in those around us...the one you might see in the grocery line ahead of you, the one patiently waiting his turn at the doctor, the one who proudly salutes as the flag is presented at the local football game or the one who sits quietly at the Veterans Day assembly with tears in his eyes, pride in his heart and memories that won’t fade. The answer to the original question is simple...teach our students to talk to our veterans. These men and women who have made sacrifices unknown to many of us are the true primary sources that our students need to know.

As educators, we often find ourselves studying new classroom strategies, taking part in workshops and conferences, and continuing our education. While all of this is beneficial, the lessons I have learned from those who have served have proven to completely intrigue and captivate my students. When discussing Vietnam — and when I tell students about the bounty that was offered to the North Vietnamese for my stepfather’s life — you can hear a pin drop in my classroom. As we talk about his bravery and his willingness to serve others on the field with injuries before worrying about himself, the students yearn for more. They realize the sacrifices he made and understand the camaraderie of the military and each service member’s duty to protect one another. He truly deserved his Navy Commendation Medal.

Yet the stories do not stop there. Two years ago, a family member sent recovered letters to my mother that my grandfather wrote during his service in World War II. While he has passed, and I greatly miss him, I hold those letters close, sharing excerpts with the students, yet longing to hear the words from him personally. I embrace his words, study his handwriting and imagine the emotion he felt. I have had others in my family serve as well, and I continue to listen as they find themselves ready and willing to share. These stories are priceless. Someday, when the veterans of past wars are gone, we will find ourselves yearning for deeper understanding. The raw emotion, the stories of heroism, the sacrifices of tours of duty, active service and combat will all be left behind as we rely on textbooks to teach our students.

Where does this leave us? The mission is laid out before us. Seek out veterans, thank them for their service and invite them into your schools. Teach your students to investigate the living history before them. The legacy our veterans leave with us is the reason for our freedoms. It is for those who have served and are currently serving that we continue to work with military families in our schools and to find ways to honor veterans.

It is with great honor that Caldwell High School earned a 2017 Purple Star Award. Through the communications of our guidance counselor, military families can stay connected, have smoother transitions and know that their students have the best care. Even schools such as ours that have very few families from this background can accept the challenge set before them to strive for excellence.

Servicemen, servicewomen and veterans of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Airforce, National Guard and Coast Guard...thank you for your service!

Jodi Singleton has taught for 15 years in the Caldwell Exempted Village School District in southeastern Ohio. She is certified to teach language arts and social studies for grades 4-9 and integrated social studies for grades 7-12. She earned a Master of Arts in Education from Muskingum University. Outside of the classroom, she enjoys spending time with her husband, two children and extended family. You can reach Jodi at jsingleton@caldwell.k12.oh.us.

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Last Modified: 6/1/2016 4:16:44 PM