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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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.

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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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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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8/30/2018

GUEST BLOG: Bringing Life to the Classroom from Across the World—Jarrod Weiss, Broadcast Educational Media Commission

By: Guest Blogger

BEMC-Logo-Transparent.jpgWhen I was a classroom teacher, I was always looking for ways to catch and keep the attention of my students. High school social studies combines a subject that most students find “old” with the battle to be interesting to teenagers who have unending entertainment at their fingertips.

My goal was to bring to life a subject I felt was important in developing well-rounded students, with hopes they would become benevolent global citizens. But, that wasn’t always easy. With a background of history and theatre in my blood, I did all I could to make my classroom come alive — multimedia, games, activities, music, drama, even dressing up like historical figures — and while I was successful more often than not, the experience was sometimes nothing short of a Herculean challenge.

No longer in the classroom, I have the advantage of reflecting on what I could have done differently to liven up the high school history class. If I had known then what I know now about the capability to bring live, interactive experiences into my classroom, I may have spared myself the experience of dressing up like Napoleon Bonaparte (he’s not that short – we’re about the same height).

In Ohio, we are fortunate to have OARnet’s dedicated and robust digital backbone to connect to almost every student, classroom and educator. Every day, students and classrooms are connecting through live, interactive video with content, classes and educators from all walks of life and in every corner of the globe. State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria has told us he “believes in the power of video,” and we can bring that power to all Ohio classrooms and students.

Students in the Buckeye state can take College Credit Plus courses in their schools with teachers and professors from anywhere in Ohio. Classrooms can visit the Underground Railroad with the Ohio History Connection or experiment with kitchen chemistry alongside the team at COSI. Students looking to learn more about careers or earning the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal can talk live with professionals in career fields across the spectrum. If a school wants to offer Mandarin Chinese or American Sign Language, it can give students the opportunity through live classes from a distance.

Hindsight has enlightened me to the fact that while I was doing everything I could to ignite the fire of excitement for learning in my students, I could have been working smarter to open a whole new world to my students through live, interactive education. The goal of education is to show students what the world has to offer and prepare them for success in that world. With the state of Ohio’s live, interactive capabilities, that can be done with the click of a mouse.

At the Broadcast Educational Media Commission, we can get you connected. Get in touch with us at any time at videosupport@broadcast.ohio.gov or call us at 877-VIDEO-40 (877-843-3640). You also can learn more at our website, broadcast.ohio.gov, and learn more about distance learning options through the OhioDLA at ohiodla.org.

Jarrod Weiss is the chief of Operations at the Ohio Broadcast Educational Media Commission and a former high school social studies teacher in rural Southwest Ohio. You can follow him on Twitter @GreatWeissOne.

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8/23/2018

Telling Our Stories to Advocate for Our Profession

By: Jonathan Juravich

GettyImages-877618024.jpgMy 5-year-old daughter loves routines. And bedtime is when routines reign supreme. There is the bath, new pajamas, brushing teeth, talking about our favorite parts of the day, two books, two songs and lights out. Every night, this same order of events leads her to know that regardless of whether the sun is still up or not, it is time for bed.  

There are two pieces of this routine that are my favorite. The stories. As my daughter tells me about her favorite part of the day, I hear about her friends, their preschool hijinks, the kindness of teachers or the harrowing adventures on the playground. Sometimes she tells me that eating dinner as a family was her favorite moment or how her baby brother gave her the stink eye and she can’t stop laughing about it. Regardless, Josie uses descriptive language as she recounts the details to make me feel included.

And then, I read to her from books. Since her birth, I have delighted in reading her my favorites — “Where the Wild Things Are,” “The Wizard of Oz” and all things written by Mo Willems. Through these books and many others, I can open her world up to adventure, imagination, possibilities and life. Her head resting on my shoulder — she hangs on each word.

Why do we love stories so much? They engage us, they challenge us, they ignite thinking and dreaming. They make us feel included and open our eyes to new experiences and ways of seeing. Stories are important.

As the 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year, I took part in a formal induction with the other incredible state teachers of the year. Time and time again, we were challenged to tell our stories. As educators, we all have them.

Stories that are hilarious, teachers dressed in sumo suits rolling across the gym floor after their students met a fundraising goal.

Stories that are heartbreaking, a friendship bracelet shared with me from a student with pediatric cancer who said, “We will be best friends forever, as long as that is.”

And stories that are downright inspirational, the student with autism who found her voice through cartoon illustrations thanks to the support of her teachers who saw her as an individual.

Stories are meant to be shared. To tell our families, our circle of friends, the community, lawmakers and other educators about the important work we do every day. It is one thing to share a funny story, but what about the why? What are you trying to highlight, advocate for or change? Through storytelling, we advocate for our profession and for one another. See, stories make things personal. It is one thing to share data, numbers, pie charts…but narratives about the successes of real-life students and educators are truly powerful.

It might mean making reflection and journaling a part of your nightly routine, so you don’t forget the stories of the day. Or taking a moment to sit and gather a repertoire of narratives that you want to make sure you share with others. Take time to think about those students who have made a direct impact on you, those teachers who have inspired you to be the educator you are today, those pieces of personal history that brought you to the field. Write them down, think them through, internalize the important facts, characters and resulting outcomes.

For this school year, I am stepping away from my classroom to work as a teacher-in-residence at the Ohio Department of Education. During this time, I will be sure to share the stories of the exceptional educators and students the Department’s work influences. I look forward to connecting with teachers throughout the state and sharing our unique stories.

We all need to take a moment to stop, reflect and then share. Because these stories, these pivotal moments, should remind us why we joined this remarkable field of education.

Jonathan Juravich is the 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year. For the 2018-2019 school year, Jonathan is taking a sabbatical from his position as an elementary art teacher at Olentangy Local Schools to serve as the Department’s teacher-in-residence. You can learn more about Jonathan by clicking here.

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