ExtraCredit, the official blog of the Ohio Department of Education, offers commentary and insight on a wide range of education issues from department experts and guest bloggers from throughout Ohio’s schools and support organizations. We encourage your ideas, feedback and comments to promote a two-way dialogue. See our Comment Policy for more information.

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8/12/2016

What Training and Skills Do Students Need After Graduation? We Want Your Input!

By: Emily Passias

NewSkillsForYouthLogo.jpgWhat 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?

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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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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.

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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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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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7/11/2016

How Ohio is Giving Adults a Second Chance at Earning Their Diplomas

By: Steve Gratz

Adult-Diploma.pngWe 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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6/29/2016

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

By: Guest Blogger

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

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

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

#1 Ring for Freedom to Question

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

#2 Ring for Freedom to Explore

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

#3 Ring for Freedom to Choose

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

#4 Ring for Freedom to Have Fun

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

#5 Ring for Freedom to Unfriend

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

Your Calling

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

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

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