September 2018 Articles

9/28/2018

Getting to know Future Ready Ohio — An Introduction to the Framework and Available Resources

By: Virginia Ressa

Ohio recently hosted its first Future Ready Schools Institute, which I was lucky enough to attend. Prior to the institute, my knowledge of Future Ready was limited to an understanding that the focus was on personalizing student learning. As a specialist in the Office for Exceptional Children at the Ohio Department of Education, I was hoping to learn how the Future Ready Schools initiative supports teachers in meeting the needs of Ohio’s diverse learners, including our students with disabilities, gifted students and English learners. It turned out to be a great two days and well worth the travel and time away from the office. I learned more than I expected and was left thinking about how the Future Ready Framework and its focus on personalized student learning can help Ohio work toward supporting the whole child.

Future Ready Framework

The Future Ready Framework has seven key categories or “gears,” with personalized student learning at the center. The outside rings emphasize the cyclical nature of transformation and the importance of collaborative leadership. Check out the framework on the Future Ready Schools website.

The Future Ready Framework

What I like about this graphic is that personalized student learning is right there in the middle, at the center of all of those other important pieces that are essential to successful school improvement. The framework details how each of the gears supports the goal of personalized learning. Clicking through and reading the content in the Future Ready Framework is a bit daunting at first — there is a great deal of content to engage with. Self-assessments can be used to encourage leadership teams to question and analyze their current practices, an essential step to any improvement effort. You’ll also see links to many evidence-based resources, research reports and case studies of successful reforms. There are even rubrics to assess our adult practices! Another nice feature of the site is that the content links take you back to the ideas in the seven gears — a consistent reminder they are all connected.

Personalized Student Learning

Being at the center of the framework, personalized student learning is called out as having the greatest importance in this model. You might think defining personalized learning is easy or obvious, but a quick Google search told me otherwise. So, how do the folks at Future Ready Schools define personalized student learning? They offer a couple of different descriptions depending on which “gear” you are focused on — I like the description connected to Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment:

Educators leverage technology and diverse learning resources to personalize the learning experience for each student. Personalization involves tailoring content, pacing, and feedback to the needs of each student and empowering students to regulate and take ownership of some aspects of their learning.

I like how this description uses the phrase “learning experience” because it acknowledges that learning is ongoing and not a set of isolated events. The description also includes two high-impact, research-based formative instructional practices: feedback and student ownership of learning. However, the most important word in that description is “empowering.” We can and should empower our students to be active participants in planning, regulating and assessing their learning. Empowering students to participate in decision-making provides opportunities for students to reflect on their learning, think critically about their work, self-assess and determine next steps toward success.

Personalized Student Learning in Ohio

The State Board of Education and the Ohio Department of Education recently approved a strategic plan, Each Child, Our Future. One of the plan’s three core principles is equity, stressing that, “Appropriate supports must be made available so personal and social circumstances do not prohibit a child from reaching his or her greatest aspiration” (Ohio Department of Education, 2018, p. 10). A focus on personalized learning will accelerate Ohio’s work toward implementing the principle of equity.

Aligned with Ohio’s strategic plan, Future Ready Ohio is working to advance authentic, personalized learning experiences. Future Ready Ohio helps districts develop comprehensive plans to achieve successful student learning outcomes by 1) transforming instructional pedagogy and practice while 2) simultaneously leveraging technology to personalize learning in the classroom. Future Ready Schools and the Future Ready Ohio effort can help districts as they work to contribute to Ohio’s strategic plan.

I encourage not only educators, but families and community members as well, to learn more about Future Ready Ohio. Did I mention the FREE resources available? Free self-assessments and rubrics are available to assist districts with creating and implementing action plans focused on empowering students to be ready for the future. I’ve just touched on one aspect of the framework — there is so much more to learn about the resources available to Ohio districts. For more information, contact Stephanie Donofe Meeks, the director of Ohio’s Future Ready work, and be sure to read her excellent blog posts.

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.

Leave a Comment
9/21/2018

GUEST BLOG: Career-Technical School Finds Innovative Way to Encourage Student Attendance — Jon Weidlich, Great Oaks Career Campuses

By: Guest Blogger

Editor's Note: September is Attendance Awareness Month. A few weeks ago, staff blogger Brittany Miracle shared tips for districts to improve attendance in their schools. This week, we hear from a career center that recognized the importance of student attendance and created a program to improve attendance.

Play-21-A.jpgTwenty-one days — the amount of time research shows a person needs to establish a new habit. That’s the foundation of a strategy to improve student attendance at Scarlet Oaks Career Campus in Cincinnati.

Scarlet Oaks launched Play 21 in 2017 to help students be more accountable for attending school consistently. The concept is simple; students sign a chart in their first and second period classes and when they’ve reached 21 consecutive days of attendance, they can enter a drawing for prizes. Posters around campus serve as reminders of the program.

At the end of the quarter, prizes are awarded to 21 students whose names are drawn. The prizes are relatively small: $10 gift cards, special parking privileges or early release to lunch, for instance. Recognition, though, is a real motivator. The school posts the winners’ names on video monitors throughout the campus.

Through Play 21:

  • Students can see their progress each day and know when they’re reaching the 21-day goal;
  • Students who falter—who miss a day during that period—can start over and still succeed during any given academic quarter;
  • Students who win prizes get public recognition for their success;
  • Students develop new habits.

“We’re trying to change the culture from punitive to positive,” said English instructor Stephen Tracy.  That is, instead of focusing on punishing those who miss school, the Scarlet Oaks staff celebrates those who attend regularly. 

The Scarlet Oaks Attendance Committee, comprised of a group of instructors (both academic and career technical), administrators, a counselor, a custodian and a cybrarian (librarian), wanted to eliminate the mindset that schools take for granted that students will attend. “Some of our students have barriers they have to overcome just to get to school in the morning,” said Roger Osborne, an exercise science instructor.

Osborne said Play 21 helps to provide an incentive for students to give extra effort. One student, for instance, missed the school bus but paid for an Uber ride to get to school on time.

And though Play 21 resulted in 10 students having perfect attendance in 2017-2018, that’s not necessarily the only goal. “We’re recognizing good, improved AND perfect attendance to school,” said Assistant Dean Ramona Beck.

Play 21 takes a holistic approach to attendance, combining student responsibility, teacher encouragement and administrative support. “The sign-in sheet is a daily check for both the teacher and student,” Beck said.

The hope is that, in just 21 days, students are developing good habits for a lifetime.

“They’ll be going to work when they leave us,” said Osborne. “We’ve got to get them ready. This aligns with our mission of preparing students for real life.”

Jon Weidlich is director of Community Relations at Great Oaks Career Campuses in Southwest Ohio. He has worked with and written about students of all ages, as well as schools, parents and communities for more than 25 years. Contact him at weidlicj@greatoaks.com.

Leave a Comment
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.

Leave a Comment
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.

Leave a Comment