Blog Post Category: teaching

6/8/2016

Teachers, Rejuvenate (Yourself and Your Practice) This Summer!

By: Virginia Ressa

Summer vacations are underway across the state. As teachers, we all look forward to summer as a time to relax and rejuvenate after the hard work of a long school year. Summer is our well-earned time to take care of ourselves. Each summer, I planned to read the books piling up on my nightstand, complete unfinished projects and set aside time to spend with my family — all things I didn’t have the energy for during the school year. Rest and rejuvenation are important for keeping ourselves physically and emotionally healthy.

This summer, in addition to taking a break to rejuvenate yourself, consider carving off time to rejuvenate your practice. During the school year, it is difficult to take time to reflect on our work and consider how we might strengthen our practice. This is the time when we can step back and reflect on what worked well and what we want to improve, without the pressure of the day-to-day responsibilities of the classroom. Here are some suggestions and resources to help you think about your practice this summer:

  • Read a book. While I know you want to read some books just for fun, I also encourage you to read something that will help rejuvenate your practice. There are so many books to choose from that it can be overwhelming. Check out this list of recommendations from EdWeek to help narrow down your choices.
  • Learn more about best practices. Visit the What Works Clearinghouse, which highlights the most effective research-based instructional practices. These guides and quick reviews are easy to read and can spur new thinking without taking too much of your time.
  • Prepare for your diverse classroom. As you reflect on the past school year, start looking ahead and consider new ways you can meet the different needs of all types of learners in your class. I’ve been learning more about Universal Design for Learning and how it can help us plan ahead for all students rather than retrofitting lessons to meet student needs. I encourage you to take a few minutes to review the guidelines from CAST and the many resources available from the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence
  • See what other teachers are doing. On the Teaching Channel, you will find classroom videos on topics we all struggle with, such as assessment, engagement, differentiation, feedback and more. You also can see Ohio teachers and students implementing Formative Instructional Practices in the FIP Video Library
  • Share ideas on Pinterest. I know a lot of us love clicking through Pinterest for decorating and craft ideas, but the site is also full of boards sharing great ideas for meeting student needs, organizing data and responding to evidence of student learning. Create your own board to collect the ideas you want to try with your students.
  • Sign up to receive updates from the Ohio Department of Education. You can sign up to receive regular updates on the topics that interest you most. This is an easy way to stay informed as new laws are implemented and opportunities become available for teachers and community members to provide input and feedback.

See how Mrs. Susie’s 4th graders are using formative instructional practices at Beechwood Elementary School

I know how hard teachers work throughout the year and how important it is to take time to rest and focus on yourself for a while. Take time to read a book just for fun! Stay up late and watch your favorite shows! Then, take some time to engage in professional learning while your head is clear and you aren’t rushed. It will help you to rejuvenate your practice for the new school year and revitalize your enthusiasm for your work.

Enjoy!

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

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6/23/2016

Beyond the Blend - The Age of Customization

By: Stephanie Donofe Meeks

It seems like no one really orders just coffee anymore. I was in a coffee shop recently, and the person in front of me ordered one of the most complicated drinks I've ever heard. It was something like this: iced-half-caff-ristretto-venti-four-pump-sugar-free-cinnamon-dolce-soy-skinny-latte. What does how we order our coffee have to do with how we should be treating education? A lot, actually!I was thinking how simple my coffee order was — a coffee with extra cream and Splenda — but then I realized, I also have a choice. I have the choice to make it simple, and I have the choice to customize it, if I want. Even with my simple order, I also had the choice of three different kinds of roasts and three different sizes of coffee.

We can have almost anything in our lives customized. Amazon suggests products for you; Netflix suggests entertainment for you; apps exist for your phone that allow you to customize what kinds of food, travel and even dating you would like to do. There are even apps to personalize your apps experience.

I think this begs the questions: If we have the ability to customize and personalize such trivial things as ring tones, should we not look at a bigger opportunity to use these tools to customize something as important as education?

Why should we shift to using digital experiences and tools to transform learning?

We are living in the information age and using digital technology anytime and anywhere to access information. Students in the 21st century need to be as engaged in their learning as they are engaged in their lives by using the technologies and tools of the digital age. It is not about the hardware though, it is about the headware. (Google Ian Jukes for more information. By the way, “Google,” as a verb, was added to the definitive record of the English language, the Oxford English Dictionary, in 2006!)

Being about the headware means it is not the devices or the apps. It is the thinking…it is the learning of what to do with the information that is now available 24/7. Jamie Casap, senior education evangelist at Google encourages this line of thinking for preparing students for new technologies that will be used in their future careers, “Instead of asking what students want to be when they grow up, Casap asks, ‘What problem do you want to solve?’”

Customizing learning for students is not a new concept; great teachers have always done it. The transformative piece is that by using digital tools for some parts of instruction, we now have the ability to customize for all students, giving them all educational opportunities that meet their needs as learners, as well as allowing them choices in the process. Who wouldn’t want that?

Next up in my blog series: What is personalized learning and just how do we customize education for students? One way is to adopt a blended learning approach to instruction, which you can learn more about by clicking here.

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

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7/20/2016

Owning our Own Learning: Personalized Professional Development for Educators

By: Virginia Ressa

A few weeks ago, Stephanie Donofe wrote on ExtraCredit about the need to personalize learning for our students. She reminded us that we ought to find ways to personalize learning for our students, using blended learning resources and frameworks like Universal Design for Learning, to meet the needs of our diverse student populations. The next logical step is to expand this way of thinking about education to include personalizing professional learning for teachers.

Unfortunately, our professional development (or “PD” as we often refer to it) planning often relies on efficiency rather than identified needs. But what if we thought about PD differently? What if we thought about it in the way Stephanie suggested we think about student learning? Could we identify our strengths and weaknesses to set learning goals? Could we make use of technology to differentiate our learning? In the 21st century, these shouldn’t sound like revolutionary ideas, but it’s just not how we “do PD.”

To make these changes, we need to start thinking about our own performance and identify our own strengths and weaknesses. I know that’s scary. We pour our hearts and souls into our work. We have college degrees and work hard to be the best we can be. But could we be just a little better? Of course we can, it’s just hard to admit. Research shows that teachers who improve their instructional practice reflect on their practice daily and solicit feedback from students and colleagues.

In order to “do PD” differently, we need to support each other in reflecting on our practice, creating learning goals and providing effective feedback — all things we would do for our students to ensure their learning.

Ohio teachers have access to many online resources and professional organizations, some of which I’ve included below. We also will soon have access to a statewide learning system from the department that will provide learning aligned to our standards and evaluation systems (keep an eye out for more on that soon). Many schools have teacher-based teams where colleagues support each other in their learning. We also have world-class institutions across the state — universities, museums, historical sites — that provide learning opportunities just for you.

My challenge to you is to utilize some of these options to improve your instructional practice this year. Take some time to identify your strengths and weaknesses, set your learning goals and seek out learning opportunities that meet your needs.

Next month, I will share some great resources available for professional learning. In the meantime, here are just a couple to whet your appetite:

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

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8/4/2016

Ohio’s Success with Online Educator License Applications

By: Julia Simmerer

The Ohio Department of Education’s Office of Educator Licensure has seen many changes over the last several years. These changes always have Ohio’s educators in mind, making the process faster and easier for you. As such, we’d like to review how we have improved the licensure process.

Our office now spends less than a week processing licensure applications thanks to a new application process rolled out at the beginning of 2014. This process, which is entirely online, makes it more efficient for educators to apply for and receive teaching credentials.

Licensure.jpg
Screenshot of the CORE dashboard, where educators can apply for licenses, view their current credentials and more. Click to enlarge.

All required information is now submitted online in the Connected Ohio Records for Educators (or CORE), a platform that educators and the department already use for other, various interactions. Educators and their districts can view credentials online at any time of the day, beginning the minute they are issued. The credentials display with consistent, verified, up-to-date information.

This streamlined approach allows districts to get educators in classrooms working with Ohio students easier and faster than before. Since July 2015, the new application process already has issued nearly 130,000 Ohio educator credentials.

The Office of Educator Licensure also has benefited from this improved system; we have seen a significant decrease in the amount of time it takes to process applications. Today, it takes our office five to seven business days to process most applications, and in many cases, applications may be processed in as little as one to two days! For licensure specialists, this allows for more time answering important questions and providing guidance to educators and administrators. This additional time is very valuable to Ohio educators and our specialists who have received more than 38,000 telephone calls this year alone.

We continually look to improve the licensure experience of Ohio teachers as they transition through different stages of their careers. Our work is highly customer-service driven, and we know the more efficient and effective we are, the more time and energy educators can spend toward enriching Ohio’s schools.

You can find more information about the Office of Educator Licensure, by clicking here.

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

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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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9/8/2016

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

By: Virginia Ressa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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9/22/2016

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

By: Julia Simmerer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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10/5/2016

Reflecting on Our Practice: The Importance of Effective Feedback

By: Virginia Ressa

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

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

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

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

Success Feedback

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

Intervention Feedback

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

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

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

Is Your Feedback Effective?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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12/1/2016

Reflecting on Our Practice: Teaching Behavioral Expectations

By: Virginia Ressa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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12/14/2016

Recognizing Educator Success on Ohio’s Resident Educator Summative Assessment

By: Julia Simmerer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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1/10/2017

Reflecting on Our Practice: Setting Goals

By: Virginia Ressa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2/16/2017

Ensuring Student Safety: Understanding Ohio’s Background Checks

By: Julia Simmerer

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

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

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

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

Initial Applicants

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

Renewing a License

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

Permanent License Holders

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

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

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

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2/23/2017

Locating Information: WorkKeys, Credentials and Graduation

By: Steve Gratz

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

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

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

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

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

Characteristics of Level 6 Locating Information items:

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

Skills required of Level 6 Locating Information items:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2/28/2017

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

By: Guest Blogger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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3/7/2017

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

By: Paolo DeMaria

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

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

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

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3/9/2017

Reflecting on Our Practice: Collecting Evidence of Student Learning

By: Virginia Ressa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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3/22/2017

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

By: Guest Blogger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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3/31/2017

Ohio's Troops to Teachers Program Grant Request Submitted

By: Julia Simmerer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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4/27/2017

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

By: Virginia Ressa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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5/4/2017

Hooked on Education: A Personalized Learning Project

By: Steve Gratz

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. A detailed understanding or profile of each learner;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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5/9/2017

Reach Out to a Teacher Who Made a Difference

By: Julia Simmerer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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5/11/2017

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

By: Paolo DeMaria

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

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

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

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

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

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5/25/2017

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

By: Guest Blogger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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6/14/2017

There’s More than One Way to Scramble an Egg

By: Virginia Ressa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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6/21/2017

GUEST BLOG: Five Tips to Help Educators and Their Students Learn All Summer Long - Emily Rozmus and Erica Clay, INFOhio

By: Guest Blogger

Students who don’t read over the summer are at risk for slipping down the Summer Slide. But students aren’t the only ones who need to keep learning in the summer. Teachers use their summers for intense professional development, often provided by their districts. The summer is the perfect time for teachers and students to explore new areas of interest and personalize their learning. Tip #1: Start your summer learning by exploring resources that are high-quality, easily accessible and allow you to create your own learning goals.

With INFOhio, Ohio’s PreK-12 Digital Library, all Ohio preK-12 educators, students and their parents have free access to fun and engaging learning activities to last all summer long. INFOhio travels with you no matter where you go. From home to the beach, or from daycare to the public library, INFOhio’s resources are available anywhere there is an internet connection. You’ll need to know your INFOhio username and password, but finding your username and password is easy! Visit www.infohio.org/goto/getpassword. Fill out the form and look for the username and password on the result screen. Write your username and password on a sticky note that you keep on your computer or with your device. If school isn’t out yet, print it on INFOhio flyers for parents or on bookmarks for students and send them home on the last day of school. Are your students already out for the year? Use your school’s social media channels to let parents know where they can look up the INFOhio username and password.

Parents can set aside time each day to engage children with learning activities that are challenging and foster creativity. Tip #2: Connect your students and their families to free, engaging, hands-on learning activities that can help close the achievement gap. INFOhio provides free, downloadable "Beach Bags" full of learning activities for children. Beach Bags make it easy for students in grades preK-3 to connect to eBooks, printable Little Books and fun learning activities from INFOhio. Beach Bags guide young learners through INFOhio resources like BookFlix, Early World of Learning, World Book Kids, Science Reference Center and ISearch. In addition to Beach Bags, Camp INFOhio offers a virtual camp with five days of activities to promote science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) learning for students in grades 4-8. If school is already out for you, send a note to caregivers to let them know where they can access the Beach Bags, Camp INFOhio and more on the INFOhio website.

For teachers, "summer is the perfect time to recharge," according to this article from Educational Leadership about ways that being a better student will lead to being a better teacher. Tip #3: Develop your own professional reading plan on a topic that interests you. INFOhio’s 15 for Educators flyer lists leading educational publications available at no cost to Ohio educators through Explora for Educators from INFOhio. Educators can search for specific topics or browse different editions to explore different concepts that may be important to them. To learn more about finding relevant learning materials, see this recent Teach With INFOhio blog post.

INFOhio-4.png

During the summer months, no educator wants to be tied down to a restrictive course schedule to earn their contact hours. Tip #4: Use online learning modules to learn at your own pace. With INFOhio’s Success in Six, learn how to differentiate, teach students important research and information literacy skills, incorporate STEAM in the classroom, read online text closely and find helpful blended learning and 1:1 tools for your students. Each module contains an overview to bring you up to speed on the topic and then guides you to sites and tools to explore more deeply. Modules include activities that let you practice new skills while earning certificates for contact hours. You can complete one or all of the modules in any order. The best part is Success in Six is available at no cost to all educators!

If you like what you have shared with your students and what you are learning in your own summer professional development, don’t keep it to yourself. Tip #5: Pass it on! Share those ideas with colleagues. Encourage them to do the same. It’s a great way to expand your personal learning network. If you are active on social media, use #INFOhioWorks along with #MyOhioClassroom to let colleagues around the state know how you’ll use what you are learning this summer when you go back to school in the fall. You, your students and your personal learning network can have a fun and engaging summer while laying the groundwork to start the next school year, ready to launch!

Emily Rozmus and Erica Clay are instructional team specialists and the bloggers behind Teach With INFOhio. INFOhio, Ohio’s PreK-12 Digital Library, provides free access to educational resources to all Ohio preK-12 schools, serving nearly two million students, their families and their teachers. INFOhio is a division of the Management Council of the Ohio Education Computer Network. To learn more about using INFOhio in and out of the classroom, find us on social media and the Teach With INFOhio blog.

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6/29/2017

Learn from Everything: A Conversation with Leadership Expert Mark Sanborn

By: Steve Gratz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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7/6/2017

The Educator Standards Board: Promoting Educator Quality

By: Julia Simmerer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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7/20/2017

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

By: Guest Blogger

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

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Bob and Rachel Weidner with Senators Beagle and Hackett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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7/27/2017

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

By: Guest Blogger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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8/4/2017

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

By: Stephanie Donofe Meeks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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8/10/2017

A Great School Year Starts with Knowing Your Students

By: Virginia Ressa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a very Happy New Year! 

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

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8/23/2017

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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8/30/2017

A Spotlight on Ohio’s Teacher of the Year Candidates

By: Julia Simmerer

OTOY_2018-3.jpgEvery year, the state of Ohio recognizes educators with the distinguished Ohio Teacher of the Year award. The mission of the Ohio Teacher of the Year program is to honor, promote and celebrate excellence in teaching and the teaching profession. We recognize and use this network of exemplary teachers as leaders in school improvement initiatives and for the recruitment, preparation and retention of quality teachers. We also invite the Ohio Teacher of the Year to apply for the National Teacher of the Year award as Ohio’s recognized candidate.

There are two phases of recognition; the regional award and the state award. This year, Ohio recognizes 10 regional awardees. Five of them are finalists that a panel of education and community stakeholders from across the state are considering for the 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year.

Here is some information about all 10 outstanding teachers:

  • Mr. Mark Suter teaches high school computer tech courses at Elida High School and is the director of Grit9.com, a small business run by students that provides web design and other tech services. His classroom is a mix between a mad scientist’s laboratory and a startup company. “Always a student, sometimes a teacher,” he promotes risk-taking and trust through modeling.
  • Mr. Jay Welenc conducts instrumental music ensembles at the Toledo School for the Arts and teaches Music Theory/Music Business, Introductory Piano/Music Theory and career-tech primer courses. For 15 years, he has sparked the growth of the ensembles and the music curriculum.
  • Mrs. Rachael Murdock (a finalist) teaches Advanced Placement English and serves as lead teacher at Stivers School for the Arts in Dayton. She is a National Board Certified educator and a strong advocate for equity in urban education.
  • Ms. Bobbie Foy is a valued member of Medina High School as the art teacher for the last 19 years. She has amazing enthusiasm and works tirelessly to develop innovative activities that meet the needs of her students.
  • Mr. Jonathan Juravich (a finalist) strives to cultivate creativity, ingenuity and enthusiasm in his art classroom and throughout the school at Liberty Tree Elementary. He also reaches out to the greater community by developing programs for the Columbus Zoo, festivals and through his work as a leader in the Ohio Art Education Association.
  • Mr. Daniel Scarmack is the Woods Technology teacher at Hubbard High School. He has a master’s degree in 21st Century Teaching and Learning and takes pride when students truly see satisfaction in their work.
  • Mr. Kiel Gallina is an intervention specialist with Lake Local Schools. He promotes student involvement in their learning and strives to lead by example both in and out of the classroom.
  • Ms. Patty Couts (a finalist) is a strong advocate for positive classroom climate in her kindergarten class at Indian Valley Local Schools. She strives to use research-based reading strategies while promoting understanding of how children from poverty best learn.
  • Ms. Megan Large always wanted to be a teacher, and she has dedicated herself to the profession and her students at Bloom Vernon High School. She gives her all while setting high expectations for her students.
  • Dr. Matthew Luginbill (a finalist) is a kindergarten teacher at Cuyahoga Heights Elementary and makes it a point to say that he doesn’t ever plan to leave. His passion for education and his students is evident when he uses hands-on learning and some very innovative strategies.

I encourage you to read more about these regional Teachers of the Year. Their stories are truly inspirational. Soon, the Department will announce which of these outstanding educators is the 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year.

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

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