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2/22/2018

STAFF BLOG: Together to Stabilize Education for Children in Foster Care — Tom Capretta, Family and Children Community Coordinator

By: Staff Blogger

GettyImages-519433758-1.jpgIn my work, I often present to educators, and I try to find ways to immediately engage them. One of my favorite activities to kick off a workshop is to ask participants to draw maps of places from their childhoods. I adapted this activity from Dr. Barbara Boone at The Ohio State University. Participants have five minutes to draw a map of any size, but it must include some places where they spent a lot of their time. Then, mapmakers discuss similarities and differences between their maps and the emotions tied to the places. Often, most maps in the room are similar. However, occasionally we get to discuss two very different maps. Many with geographically larger maps discuss how challenging it was to change schools and move between communities. At the end of the activity, we discuss what the maps of the students we serve might look like.

One-third of young adults in foster care reported five or more school changes. This is important because just one move can increase a student’s risk of not graduating or delaying graduation. Now, imagine what the maps of students in foster care might look like. Many of their maps would paint pictures of frequent moves that disrupt established relationships with trusted adults and their peers. In the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), lawmakers attempted to address the challenging and frequent transitions that students in foster care experience.

ESSA seeks to stabilize the education of children in foster care in four key ways. First, ESSA requires county child welfare agencies to work with school districts to identify the best educational setting for each student transitioning in foster care. The procedure for determining the best interest of the student should focus on maintaining as much of the student’s education stability as possible — including staying in his or her school of origin. Second, if a student can continue in the school of origin, ESSA requires the school district to arrange transportation services for the student in foster care. Transportation is key to ensuring stability. Third, if a student is unable to stay in the school of origin, ESSA requires that the new school begin the enrollment process immediately while working to remove barriers to enrollment and evaluating the student’s academic needs. Finally, when a student in foster care must change schools, districts must work diligently to facilitate the transfer of records as quickly as possible.

This shift in how we serve students in foster care will pose some challenges for districts and county agencies. For too long, school districts and child welfare agencies worked separately to support the same students. Today, ESSA challenges two distinct, large systems to work collaboratively and focus on what is best for students in their care. ESSA also challenges districts and child welfare agencies to share in the cost of transporting students in foster care. Even with these challenges, there are opportunities. Agencies and schools are building new channels of communication and systems to better meet the needs of the students they serve.

There are three critical actions that districts and county agencies are taking to effectively implement these requirements and build positive momentum around this work.

  1. Prepare: Districts and child welfare agencies must ensure that staff from the very top of an organization all the way down to support staff are informed of requirements. All staff must be ready to engage in procedures to support students in foster care. By being prepared, everyone can work to immediately enroll students and make sure they have the resources to learn and feel comfortable in their school settings.
  2. Coordinate: Districts and child welfare agencies should work together to write best interest determination and transportation procedures. With clear procedures in place, both parties can fulfill their respective responsibilities to support the educational stability of students in foster care. Many districts and child welfare agencies are forming regional or countywide networks that write these procedures.
  3. Collaborate: Districts and child welfare agencies are thinking outside the box and respecting the expertise of each party at the table. Together, they are creating solutions to complex problems. Both districts and county agencies have unique insights to the needs of each student. Those insights should be simultaneously respected. Working together to find student-centered solutions is what collaboration is all about.

All in all, ESSA’s new requirements for students in foster care is positive. These requirements ensure that school districts and county child welfare agencies are working together to keep relationships with trusted adults and peers intact. At the same time, they are making student-centered decisions for what a student’s best educational setting may be. While there are challenges, there are unprecedented opportunities to improve academic outcomes for students in foster care.

Tom Capretta is the family and children community coordinator at the Ohio Department of Education. He supports districts in their efforts to implement effective family and community engagement strategies and serve vulnerable student groups, including students in foster care. To contact Tom, click here.

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4/5/2018

STAFF BLOG: Family and Community Engagement is Something Good Schools Do — Tom Capretta, Family and Children Community Coordinator

By: Staff Blogger

GettyImages-607460110.jpgTracy Hill is the executive director of the Office of Family and Community Engagement at Cleveland Metropolitan School District and one of the 2014 Education Week Leaders to Learn From. The first time I heard her say, “Family and community engagement is something that good schools do,” it just clicked. She made the point simply and powerfully. Family engagement and community engagement are not separate from the everyday work of schools and districts. They are, in fact, critical to the success of that work. Research even shows that effective family and community engagement can result in better grades, test scores, attendance and enrollment in more challenging courses.

Because engagement with families and communities is so critical to school success, it is a part of any quality effort to improve schools. For example, when a district carries out the Ohio Improvement Process, the district must work with families and communities to collect data, determine needs, develop an improvement plan, work the plan and evaluate the plan. As the district does this work, it develops mutual relationships with families and community members. This allows everyone to recognize their roles in improving students’ education.

At a webinar I attended in August 2017, Ron Mirr, president of the Center for Active Family Engagement (CAFÉ), shared this process in simpler terms. Below are the five steps he outlined for meaningful and organized engagement:

  1. Commit: To get buy-in from the community and families, districts and schools must clearly define family and community engagement. Districts should develop policies that create a clear direction for engagement. Districts and organizations in the community must develop and subscribe to shared beliefs about family and community engagement.
  2. Assess: Districts and schools must assess the environment they operate in. To do this, they should survey stakeholders, review what they are already doing and identify opportunities for growth.
  3. Plan: Districts and schools should develop a team of parents, caretakers, students and community members. Writing a plan that includes all parties establishes a foundation of mutual trust. To be successful, schools and districts also must provide training to staff about how to engage families and the community.
  4. Implement: Districts and schools must move beyond traditional professional development and provide coaching. Their plans must include processes for checking progress and provide the necessary resources for success.
  5. Sustain: Engagement is not a one-time event. School and district teams must routinely review data and, if needed, adjust what they are doing. They should openly create and share the next steps in the process with their stakeholders.  

These steps align to the Ohio Improvement Process. They also are accessible to parents and community members. Intentionally engaging families and communities establishes trust. Trust leads to meaningful collaboration and support in other areas.

The draft of EachChild=OurFuture, Ohio’s five-year strategic plan for education, includes Eight Guiding Principles that recognize the importance of family and community engagement. The goal of the strategic plan is to help each child become successful with the guidance and support of caring, empowered adults. The plan itself is the product of engagement with more than 150 preK-12 educators, higher education representatives, parents and caregivers, employers, business leaders and philanthropic organizations. In fact, the draft is still being discussed at public regional meetings around Ohio. You can read more about EachChild=OurFuture and comment on the draft here.

Ohio and the nation are realizing the importance of family and community engagement. It is the perfect time for our state to be the meeting place for the 2018 National Family and Community Engagement Conference. The conference, hosted by the Institute for Educational Leadership, will be in Cleveland July 11-13. More than 1,300 people are expected to attend, and there will be more than 75 workshops. This is an excellent opportunity to see how schools and communities around the country are realizing mutual goals and making the most of family-school-community partnerships. Participants will leave the conference with strategies, tips and tools they can immediately apply to their work. To learn more, please visit the conference website or contact me directly.

Tom Capretta is the family and children community coordinator at the Ohio Department of Education. He supports districts in their efforts to implement effective family and community engagement strategies and serve vulnerable student groups, including students in foster care. To contact Tom, click here.

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5/10/2018

STAFF BLOG: Developing In-Demand Graduates Begins with Early Career Planning — Tisha Lewis, Career Connections Administrator

By: Staff Blogger

IDJW_logo.jpgIt’s graduation season and finding the answer to the age-old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is becoming critical for many students.

How exactly are schools preparing students to be ready for their first steps after graduating? Do students have the tools to move through the fog of decisions and challenges that await them after high school?

For me, these questions are more important now than at any other time in my adult life. My daughter is about to graduate high school, and I want her to be confident in her next steps!

If we expect our high school graduates to walk confidently across the stage at graduation, we need to prepare them in advance to make sound decisions about their futures. This preparation takes time and support from parents, teachers and community members. You can encourage students in your life to begin exploring careers and evaluating their talents well before graduation. OhioMeansJobs K-12 is a free, online resource that students can use to help them explore careers that match their interests and start conversations about their futures.

You also should know that this week is In-Demand Jobs Week. This is a celebration of jobs, industries and skills that are in-demand in Ohio. In-demand jobs pay well and have a high rate of growth projected for the future. Schools, colleges, universities, businesses and communities are working together to highlight and celebrate the many pathways to success our students can follow right here in Ohio. During this week, talk to your kids about the jobs and skills they think will be important to their futures. You can use OhioMeansJobs K-12 as a starting point.

Beyond just opening the discussion about in-demand careers, many schools are providing opportunities this week to help students understand how their interests and abilities can lead to careers. Students are exploring what careers are growing, identifying the problems they could help solve in their careers and learning how to prepare for those careers.

Schools are doing this through special events, but many also are making career planning a regular part of the school culture and academic programming. Check out these districts and schools around the state that are routinely incorporating career planning in their schools.

Our kids don’t need to have every decision made when they graduate, but they should be actively working toward long-term goals and know the next steps along their paths. They also should know what jobs will pay well and have openings when they graduate from high school or higher education.

I will be forever grateful to the school, community and business people that provided my daughter with the opportunities and experiences she needed to be able to make plans for her future. She will graduate confidently with a plan for her future in place. With tools like OhioMeansJobs K-12 and exciting events like In-Demand Jobs Week, other students in Ohio can have that same advantage.

Tisha Lewis is the administrator for the Department’s Career Connections office. Click here to contact Tisha.

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6/14/2018

GUEST BLOG: Educators Rising...Inspiring the Next Generation of Teachers—Antoine Holloway II, Educators Rising Ohio

By: Guest Blogger

Ohio_Affiliate_Logo_CMYK-banner-size-1.jpgThroughout my entire life, my mom always pushed me to be a leader and not a follower, so I always hold myself to that standard. I believe that helped me get to where I am today. Today, I am very proud to serve as the president of Educators Rising Ohio. Educators Rising Ohio is a career-tech student organization that includes more than 1,000 students who wish to pursue careers in the education field. On a national level, Educators Rising includes more than 30,000 members. Career-tech student organizations such as Educators Rising Ohio have helped me and students throughout the state and country. I also am currently the captain of my football and wrestling teams, and I strive to push others in a positive direction. As president of Educator Rising Ohio, I look forward to further developing my abilities as a leader.

I would not be pursuing this field if it were not for Mr. Richard Wakefield. He is our lead instructor for the Heights Career Tech Prep Consortium Teacher Academy at Maple Heights High School, as well as our Educators Rising Ohio teacher leader. I took his career search class as a freshman, and I saw something in him. He is fiery and not afraid to challenge a student to do better. Where many teachers would throw in the towel, Mr. Wakefield keeps on pushing. He never stops. Mr. Wakefield saw something in me as well. He could see that I try to lead others. He could see that I am motivated by my struggles. When he asked me to join the Teacher Academy, he told me there is no better way for a man to give back to society than to become a teacher. He also told me that I could have even more influence because I am black, and there are very few black male teachers.

I have always loved sports and helping others. Mr. Wakefield has helped me realize that teaching and coaching would be a good career to enter after my football-playing days are over. I can see myself being a great teacher in the classroom and a great coach on the sideline. I can see myself using my talents and passions to change lives.

For now, as president, one of my first goals is to bring Educators Rising Ohio to more students. We are a student-led organization that not only teaches students how to become great teachers but prepares them for life as well. Educators Rising Ohio stretches students’ opportunities in life tremendously. We expose students to colleges and a multitude of careers and help each individual develop professionalism and character. By learning and applying these things in everyday life, success in life seems more attainable. From the beginning, children are always told to set goals and then take the necessary steps to achieve those goals. Educators Rising Ohio emphasizes that state of mind and immerses one in the field to get hands-on practice. Educators Rising Ohio prepares students for teaching and life. The organization also helps students develop relationships with people they would never meet otherwise.

Anyone who would like to join Educators Rising Ohio should visit this website. It is a great way to start your journey to becoming a teacher.

Antoine Holloway II is the current president of Educators Rising Ohio. He will be a high school senior in the fall. To learn more about Educators Rising, contact Angela Dicke.
 

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6/28/2018

STAFF BLOG: Addressing the Educational Needs of Students in the Juvenile Justice System—Nicholas Demetriou, Correctional Education Coordinator

By: Staff Blogger

GettyImages-683527292.jpgLike many states, Ohio is examining the way it approaches juvenile justice. Specifically, the Ohio Department of Education is looking at how we educate students involved in the juvenile justice system. The quality and type of education students receive while in juvenile detention are just two areas where we are beginning to see steady improvement. The importance of educating students involved in the juvenile justice system is clear. Money spent educating students in the system is a good investment and leads to a reduction in recidivism — the number of people who return to criminal activity.

While all high school graduates may face obstacles, imagine how much worse the obstacles facing students in the juvenile justice system can be. According to the Ohio Department of Youth Services, 47 percent of students placed in juvenile detention facilities need special education. This percentage is much higher than those students needing special education in Ohio’s traditional public school districts. As of 2017, the Ohio Department of Youth Services added a variety of educational services that give students the opportunity to earn their high school diploma or GED or participate in apprenticeships. Research shows that individuals leaving the juvenile justice system with a high school diploma or a GED is the single most effective tool to combat recidivism.

For more than 10 years, there has been a concerted effort to decrease the number of juveniles in secured detention. The Annie E. Casey Foundation believes juvenile justice, “can be smarter, fairer, and more efficient… that thoughtful, comprehensive reforms can reduce unnecessary or inappropriate confinement, improve public safety, redirect public funds to more positive youth development endeavors, and, in the long term, improve the odds that delinquent youth become productive adults.”

That brings us to the question, what can we do in Ohio to make the Annie E. Casey Foundation statement a reality? In 2014, former U.S. Department of Education Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder promoted a set of characteristics for providing students with a high-quality education in juvenile facilities. In a broad sense, these characteristics included:

  • Recruitment of qualified and dedicated staff;
  • Curricula that aligns with the local district and promotes postsecondary school readiness;
  • Proper funding for educational programs and support services;
  • Effective transitional services;
  • A trauma-informed staff and environment.

While these characteristics were for the nation as a whole, Ohio also created its own plan for improving juvenile detention education through our state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Ohio’s plan includes the creation of a position for a corrections state coordinator at the Department. Under the plan, each school district must have a local liaison who will act as a point of contact for juvenile justice education concerns. The plan also includes a commitment to improving juvenile justice education in the state of Ohio. Specifically, we are creating a strategy for improved communication and coordination between all stakeholders working with justice-involved youth and education.

While some detention facilities in Ohio have excellent coordination between the facility and local school districts, others do not. The plan calls strengthened relationships among those distinct systems. The plan incorporates relevant strategies such as trauma-informed practices and improved data collection and use related to children and youth in the programs.

In the past, the educational needs of juveniles placed in detention facilities were overlooked. Building relationships with juvenile facilities was not a priority for school districts. The districts may not even have been aware that the students lived in their districts because the students never officially enrolled in the districts.

This disconnect between detention facilities and districts also makes it difficult to transfer credits earned by the students. Imagine dedicating yourself to your studies for the first time in your life only to learn months later that the credits you earned in the juvenile facility are worthless in your home school district.

You can read more about Ohio’s ESSA plan here. Contact me, the Department’s new correctional education coordinator, with questions about correctional education for juveniles. Currently, I am working with correctional facilities across Ohio to make sure justice-involved students are receiving the same opportunities as students in Ohio’s traditional school districts.

Nicholas Demetriou is the Department’s correctional education coordinator. He has worked with at-risk youth in alternative learning communities as both a teacher and administrator.

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9/6/2018

STAFF BLOG: Getting to Class is the First Step to Academic Success — Brittany Miracle, Program Administrator

By: Staff Blogger

GettyImages-160187188.jpgMark your calendars!

September is National Attendance Awareness Month. Regular school attendance is so important it gets an entire month of recognition and celebration! (Not that National Taco Day on Oct. 4 isn’t cause for celebration, too.)

Did you know?

  1. Good attendance is important starting in kindergarten. Children with good attendance in kindergarten and first grade are more likely to read on grade level in third grade.
  2. By grade 6, poor attendance can be an early warning sign for students at risk of dropping out of school.
  3. By ninth grade, good attendance can predict graduation rates even better than eighth-grade test scores.
  4. A student’s attendance in the previous year can predict his or her attendance in the current school year.

Students miss school for many reasons. They may be absent sporadically due to illnesses, college visits or planned family events. Other students may face more significant barriers to regular attendance resulting in more frequent and long-term absences. Some absences may be excused and others are unexcused. Regardless of the reason for the absence, every day in school matters because some lessons cannot be made up at home.

Attendance has a significant impact on achievement throughout a student’s school career. How can schools help students get to school regularly? It’s simple — talk with your students and families about the value of regular school attendance!

Building a school culture that recognizes the importance of regular and improved attendance, rather than perfect attendance, keeps students’ eyes on the prize throughout the entire year. Schools can provide individualized resources and friendly reminders about regular attendance to empower students and families to improve their school attendance.

September is a great time to start talking about attendance with your students and their families and caregivers. Use these tips when writing attendance messaging for your school:

  • Mode: Share your message using a variety of methods, such as social media, email, radio ads, postcards, magnets and newspaper ads.
  • Partnerships: Emphasize that schools and families are partners who share a common interest in students’ success. Build partnerships throughout your entire community to share your attendance messaging.
  • Comparison: Use charts, graphs and positive language to show individuals how their attendance is changing over time or how it compares to their peers. This is effective when communicating with a student about individual attendance or when encouraging friendly competitions between classrooms to meet attendance goals.
  • Individualize: Consider students’ unique needs when talking with students and families about how to improve attendance.
  • Accumulation: Highlight that a couple of absences per month add up over the course of the year.
  • Self-efficacy: Focus messaging on how parents influence their children’s attendance. Empower older students to adopt strategies to improve their own attendance.
  • Simplification: Write in friendly language that is easy to understand and free of legal jargon.
  • Frequency: Communicate early and often — before students develop attendance problems — to underscore the importance of getting to school regularly. Start your messaging with the first day of school and continue through the end of the year.

Check out Attendance Works’ website to see which districts across the nation are participating in National Attendance Awareness Month and get ideas to promote attendance in your school. Share your attendance activities with us this month and all year long on social media by tagging @OHEducation on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

Brittany Miracle is a program administrator at the Ohio Department of Education. She coordinates school improvement initiatives and student support strategies—including efforts to improve student attendance. To contact Brittany, click here.

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9/13/2018

STAFF BLOG: Ohio’s Evidence-Based Clearinghouse...A Resource to Empower Educators — Heather Boughton, Director of Research, Evaluation and Advanced Analytics

By: Staff Blogger

GettyImages-947450908.jpgI have a 2-year-old and 5-year-old at home, and I often feel that much of parenting involves making up semi-reasonable answers to a continuous stream of questions. I do this with the hope that my kids don’t realize I am just figuring this parenting thing out as I go. Currently, “Why?” and “How does that work?” are among the most popular questions. Recently, I am getting follow-up questions like “How do you know?” or — on far too many occasions — “Why don’t you know?”

If I am being honest, I cannot say that I am always patient with my kids’ questions, which can range from the existential, “What is the meaning of life?” variety to “Why can’t you find that one tiny Lego piece that is essential for my current creation?” Sometimes I get both questions in the span of one breath.   “Mommy just doesn’t have all the answers, dear” is sometimes the best I can muster.

Fortunately, there are days when I can take a step back and appreciate how amazing it is to be born with this curiosity and desire to learn about how things work in the world. In those moments, I remember how important it is to encourage my children to ask their questions and, beyond simply providing answers, I can teach them how to find answers.

I’m a bit of a research and data geek, so I find it exciting to consider how my children are natural researchers, constantly collecting evidence and information. I sincerely hope they will keep this curiosity as they grow, using it not only to enrich their own lives but also to benefit others.

As professionals in the education field, we should all get in the habit of asking questions, seeking out answers and then applying what we learn. Doing so is a powerful practice that lies at the very heart of continuous improvement in education. True continuous improvement requires a commitment to working, every day, to improve all students’ educational experiences, opportunities and outcomes.  

Ohio’s Empowered by Evidence initiative celebrates that power and aims to support Ohio’s educators as they seek answers to the important questions about education in Ohio’s districts and schools. Consider the following questions, fundamental to continuous improvement:

  • In our state, in our districts, in our schools and classrooms, what are our students’ most critical needs?
  • What are the ways we can meet those needs?
  • Are some options for meeting those needs better than others?
  • Once we decide how we are going to address a need, how will we know whether we are successful?

As significant as these questions and their answers are, equally important is how do we know? What is the evidence — or the proof — that what we believe to be true is true? What is the evidence that we will use to support the decisions we make to improve education? And how will we know the steps we’re taking to improve student outcomes are working?  

Think of all the things that Ohio’s educators do every day to support Ohio’s students. When every day is an opportunity to give the best supports possible to each student in Ohio, it is critical the decisions we’re making and the actions we’re taking to do so are evidence based.

Evidence-based strategies are those things that educators are doing that have been evaluated, through high-quality research, and proven to work. When educators use evidence-based strategies to address their students’ needs, they can be confident those strategies will work. 

Ohio’s Evidence-Based Clearinghouse is available to everyone as part of the Empowered by Evidence initiative. It is a new collection of resources designed to help educators connect to evidence-based strategies to support their students. It brings the power of research — asking and answering questions about what works in education — to Ohio’s educators in a meaningful and actionable way. The clearinghouse sheds light on the use of evidence-based strategies, helps educators find evidence-based strategies that fit their needs and offers information on resources developed by other national clearinghouses.

Using evidence-based strategies can go a long way toward enabling success for each student. Ohio is committed to assisting educators in this effort and ensuring Ohio’s Evidence-Based Clearinghouse will serve as a dynamic and growing resource for educators in Ohio’s schools.

Heather Boughton is the director of the Office of Research, Evaluation and Advanced Analytics at the Ohio Department of Education. She believes in the power of data to tell stories that will shed light on education in Ohio.  She works to empower educators to use information, data and research to improve education for Ohio’s students. To contact Heather, click here.

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