By: Guest Blogger
The 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.
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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By: Emily Passias
What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a question we all were asked as kids. Parents and educators want their students to be equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed, but too many students in Ohio aren’t getting started on learning the technical and professional skills they need until after they leave high school. Here at the Ohio Department of Education, we’re working to identify new and creative ways to ensure our students are ready for their futures.
And we need your help! We’re currently seeking input from Ohioans via our brief, online New Skills for Youth survey on how well our system of career preparation is working for our students, businesses and communities. We’ll use this information to develop a plan to ensure that Ohio students have the best career preparation in the country and that Ohio businesses have the workforce they need to succeed.
Parents: What opportunities would you like to see for your children in order to ensure they’re ready to achieve their dreams after high school?
Employers: What are the key skills you’re looking for in your employees? What could be done to support your engagement with schools in helping to develop your future employees?
Teachers, counselors and school administrators: What kind of career preparation already is going on in your schools? How can we support and expand these efforts? How can we help connect you with local businesses?
College and university staff: How are you connecting with high schools? How are you connecting with Ohio businesses? What can we do to make the transition between high school, college and the workforce as smooth as possible?
Community members at large: How can schools better prepare students for their futures in order to build stronger communities?
Our goals are big; we want all students to have the knowledge and skills they need to reach their aspirations, whether that includes college, the military or entering a career after high school.
We value your experience and ideas as we build our plan for the future. Your input will help ensure all Ohio students are equipped with the skills they need — whether those be technical skills or professional skills — to unlock their maximum potential and achieve their goals. Please take a few moments to complete our New Skills for Youth survey!
New Skills for Youth Phase One Snapshot: Ohio
Dr. Emily Passias is director of the Office of Career-Technical Education at the Ohio Department of Education, where she focuses on state policies aimed at preparing students for college and careers. You can learn more about Emily by clicking here.
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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.
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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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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By: Steve Gratz
We often take for granted that every student we serve comes from a household where their parents/guardians are high school graduates or received the GED®. Did you know there are more than one million Ohio adults who have neither?
In 2014, through state legislation, two options became available for Ohio residents to receive their high school diplomas — the Adult 22+ High School Diploma and Adult Diploma programs. Ohioans ages 22 or older who do not have their high school diplomas or GED® now have the option of enrolling in these programs. Did I mention that both options are FREE?!
The Adult 22+ High School Diploma is a credit recovery program that allows adults to obtain their high school diplomas by meeting the state graduation requirements that were in place at the time they enrolled in the ninth grade. Independent of local graduation requirements, residents take their courses through competency-based education that allows them to progress at their own pace. Once the graduation requirements are met within two years, students receive their high school diplomas from the districts where they reside. We have now helped more than 100 adults of ages across the board receive their diplomas just within the last year.
The Adult Diploma Program provides not only a high school diploma through the Ohio Department of Education, but also training for an in-demand occupation resulting in an industry credential. Adults enroll in training programs at community colleges or adult education training centers to gain hands-on skills that will allow for higher wage salaries. In less than 10 months, more than 200 Ohioans have earned both their diplomas and industry credentials. Graduates have even moved on to college for further training and degrees!
Both programs are available throughout the state. You can learn more about Ohio’s Options for Adult Diplomas at education.ohio.gov/AdultDiploma.
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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