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1/24/2018

Better Here Machine: Seeing Future Ready Through Different Lenses

By: Stephanie Donofe Meeks

GettyImages-168267485-1.jpgAny “This Is Us” fans out there? In a recent episode of the television drama series, Randall, one of the siblings, was talking about getting his first pair of glasses as a child. He shared his experience with the “better here machine.” Have you ever had a vision screening? They put a device over your head so that it aligns with your eyes to find the proper lens strength to help you see more clearly. As each new lens is tried, you're supposed to look through and decide if you see better with the current lens or former lens. The technician or doctor will ask, “Here or better here?” as he or she switches quickly between lens strengths (which can be sort of amusing when they do it fast).

The character Randall used the “better here machine” as a way to explain his perspective looking back on his childhood with his siblings. I thought that was a powerful metaphor for the way we bring our own unique perspectives to a common experience, including education. In a personalized learning environment, all staff and students have different perspectives. The key to successful transformation to personalized learning is aligning various perspectives and taking advantage of the best aspects of each unique lens.

In my last blog, I talked about using a team approach and the Future Ready Framework to help districts prepare for creating true personalized learning environments for students. An essential component to becoming Future Ready is making a systemic digital learning plan before purchasing the next round of technology. This process includes creating a leadership team and using the district self-assessment tool to determine how prepared the district is to support digital learning environments. Districts get feedback that shows both areas of readiness and areas for growth. Looking at the alignment of all the elements for success can assure districts that their planning will be effective.

If a district uses the Future Ready Framework to help make strategic decisions regarding moving to environments that support personalized learning, the next step is implementation. Future Ready encourages specific roles, such as librarians and instructional coaches, to view the framework, strategies and connections through their specific lenses. Once a district team uses the districtwide lens to look at, reflect and assess its readiness in each element critical to success, the individuals on the team can see the specific ways they can implement the plan via their own unique lenses based on their roles in the district.

Each role’s customized framework helps implement personalized learning for the district based on the specific ways their work will support each gear. Let’s look at two role-specific examples through the lenses of principals and technology leaders that define the ways they can support personalized learning environments for students:

Future Ready Principals believe in:FR-Principal.png

  • Modeling the type of professional learning by empowering staff to lead, learn, fail, and repeat.
  • Making anytime, anywhere learning a reality.
  • Developing a plan to ensure ubiquitous connectivity in and out of school.
  • Advocating for the use of multiple strategies to meet the needs of diverse learners.
  • Working to build partnerships to communicate and agree upon a shared vision for student learning in their community.

Future Ready Technology Leaders believe in:FR-Tech-Leader-1.png

  • Making anytime, anywhere, anyhow learning a reality.
  • Supporting an open, flexible, robust digital learning environment.
  • Insuring data safety and privacy while promoting best practices in digital citizenship.
  • Planning for future innovation and technology that supports learning.
  • Creating a transparent environment that communicates to all stakeholders.

To see more information about the leadership roles within Future Ready, click here. As you can see, each role plays a unique part in helping the district as a whole move forward with transformation. By using the framework as its own “better here machine,” a district can create a clear vision and path forward by looking through the lens of the powerful gears and the educator-specific roles. For more information or questions regarding this framework, please contact Stephanie Meeks or follow #FutureReadyOH on Twitter. Future Ready also will be the topic of six sessions at the Ohio Educational Technology Conference Feb. 13-15.

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1/17/2018

GUEST BLOG: Identifying Which Goals are Critical for the Success of Your Students — Stephen Fujii, Marion City Schools

By: Guest Blogger

GettyImages-493334040.jpgI currently serve as a school administrator. Before entering education, I served as a military officer in the Armor Branch of the United States Army. I am extremely proud of my service to my country. And now I am extremely proud of my service to my community.

Thankfully, the roles of a military officer and a school administrator have many, many differences. But surprisingly, there are some similarities. For example, in both environments, being successful in meeting your goals is critical. My internal ongoing dialog in both worlds has been "How do I know that I am meeting my goal?"

As an educator, I often wonder how we know we are meeting our objectives in terms of teaching and learning. The classroom teacher has learning targets. These are informed by curriculum maps and formative and summative assessments. The building principal has evaluations of staff members and numerous tools for measuring student and teacher growth. District administrators have Ohio’s School Report Cards, the data used to create the report cards, parent input and state guidance to help them determine if they are making progress.

Even with these resources, how do the classroom teachers and building and district administrators know they are consistently setting the right goals each day? In education, there are so many efforts aimed at improving outcomes for students. You hear leaders talk about the importance of improving attendance rates, graduation rates, literacy rates, ACT scores, college placement rates, college readiness scores, increasing dual enrollment credits, improving Advanced Placement scores and improving state assessment scores — just to name a few. Meeting any one of these goals is challenging and rewarding work. But how do we decide exactly which one we should focus on? We cannot afford to miss our goals. How do we know precisely which adjustments to make to better serve our students and communities?

One indicator that educators are setting appropriate goals is that students are fulfilling their potential. In Marion City Schools, we have learned that simply asking students to graduate high school is a vague goal and a disservice to our students. To clarify that goal and do what is best for our students means that we must focus on students beyond the time they are in our classrooms and schools. There is a lot of evidence that shows students are not persisting in higher education. Our graduates are changing their majors two or three times before settling on where they finally want to focus. Not enough students are graduating with credentials and relevant ways to apply their knowledge.

To set the right goals for Marion, we created our Portrait of a Graduate. This process was collaborative and intentional. We invited 20 community leaders and 20 influential school leaders to develop our vision. The Marion City Schools’ Portrait of a Graduate identifies the key skills, beliefs and knowledge students must have to be successful and gain acceptance to 1) a two- or four-year college or university; 2) the United States Military; 3) a high-paying, in-demand job in our city or region; or 4) an adult apprenticeship program. We call this High School Diploma PLUS Acceptance, and it is the goal we ask our students to aim for. Diploma Plus Acceptance helps students be better prepared for life after high school and prevents some of the pitfalls that many high school graduates face.

Posters hang in the hallways of each elementary, middle and high school in Marion City Schools to remind students of the traits we outlined in our Portrait of a Graduate. The posters remind students to strive to be "responsibly engaged in the community," "taking initiative," having "civic awareness," "focusing on growth" and "persisting to overcome adversity." And yes, we remind students to be “proficient on required curriculum and assessments in the state of Ohio." 

I am proud that our program has been featured as a SuccessBound program. You can watch the SuccessBound video about our accomplishments here. I am even prouder that identifying these traits and focusing on our students in these ways is one way our district ensures college success...if that is what our students desire. Emphasizing these traits and focusing on our students in these ways helps ensure career success! This is our most essential goal, and this is our greatest point of pride. This is #FutureReady. This is success in today’s world of education.

Stephen Fujii has a diverse background. He served in the military, taught in the classroom and currently is the superintendent of Marion City Schools. To contact him, click here. 

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1/3/2018

Ohio Students Are SuccessBound with the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal

By: Steve Gratz

OMJ_ReadinessSeal.jpgNearly a year ago, Ohio’s efforts to strengthen and expand career pathways got a boost thanks to a $2 million grant from the Council of Chief State School Officers and JPMorgan Chase & Co. Ohio is one of 10 states to receive a New Skills for Youth grant, which directly aligns with many of Gov. John R. Kasich’s Executive Workforce Board’s initiatives. It also aligns with many Ohio Department of Education activities geared toward making sure Ohio’s students are ready for the workforce of the future. To help schools and families better understand the needs of future employers, Ohio launched the SuccessBound initiative. The SuccessBound webpage includes resources to help make students aware of the different career-focused opportunities available to them.

Students who are SuccessBound take active roles in planning their futures by exploring career interests early and considering how to align their interests to careers. They consider what education and training are needed to reach their goals. They respond to financial concerns by earning free college credits in high school. And, they follow pathways that allow them to work in related fields while continuing their education. These students dedicate themselves to long-term goals and commit to continuous lifelong learning.

Aligned to the SuccessBound initiative is the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal. The seal was established as part of the sweeping workforce initiatives passed in House Bill 49 and outlined in Building Ohio’s Future Workforce. The OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal will be printed on students’ diplomas and transcripts once they meet certain requirements. The requirements include demonstration of work-readiness and work-ethic competencies. Students submit a form that records evidence of meeting the requirements. The form is validated by at least three individuals. These individuals are mentors to the students and can include employers, teachers, business mentors, community leaders, faith-based leaders, school leaders or coaches.

We know Ohio’s students must be ready to engage in a rapidly changing workplace. We also know that businesses are seeking talented workers who demonstrate professional skills, such as being reliable, drug free, personable and able to solve problems and handle conflict. To meet the needs of business, our current education system must identify and teach the professional knowledge and skills all Ohioans need to be job ready. The OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal will signify to employers that students have the professional skills valued by business and industry. These skills are essential in the 21st century workplace.

When this language was introduced in HB 49, I immediately thought about how I would approach helping my students earn this valuable credential if I was still in the classroom. The OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal requires students to demonstrate proficiency in the following professional skills to be deemed ready for work.

  • Drug Free - The student commits to being drug free.
  • Reliability - The student has integrity and responsibility in professional settings.
  • Work Ethic - The student has effective work habits, personal accountability and a determination to succeed.
  • Punctuality - The student arrives to commitments on time and ready to contribute.
  • Discipline - The student abides by guidelines, demonstrates self-control and stays on task.
  • Teamwork/Collaboration - The student builds collaborative relationships with others and can work as part of a team.
  • Professionalism - The student demonstrates honesty. He or she dresses and acts appropriately and responsibly. He or she learns from mistakes.
  • Learning Agility - The student desires to continuously learn new information and skills.
  • Critical Thinking/Problem-Solving - The student exercises strong decision-making skills, analyzes issues effectively and thinks creatively to overcome problems.
  • Leadership - The student leverages the strengths of others to achieve common goals. He or she coaches and motivates peers and can prioritize and delegate work.
  • Creativity/Innovation - The student is original and inventive. He or she communicates new ideas to others, drawing on knowledge from different fields to find solutions.
  • Oral and Written Communications - The student articulates thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively in written and oral forms.
  • Digital Technology - The student has an understanding of emerging technology and leverages technology to solve problems, complete tasks and accomplish goals.
  • Global/Intercultural Fluency - The student values, respects and learns from diverse groups of people.
  • Career Management - The student is a self-advocate. He or she articulates strengths, knowledge and experiences relevant to success in a job or postsecondary education.

As a teacher of agriculture, I had the fortune of teaching students throughout their high school careers. I reviewed the list of professional skills, I reflected on how I, as their teacher, could integrate these skills into the classroom experience for students.

For example, to be in the program, all students were required to have supervised agricultural experiences. During these experiences, students apply what they learn in the classroom in real-world settings. Today, supervised agricultural experience programs include entrepreneurship, placement, research, exploratory, school-based enterprise and service learning. Successful supervised agricultural experiences require students to demonstrate reliability, work ethic, punctuality, discipline, learning agility, critical thinking and problem-solving, professionalism and more.

During my time as a teacher, I made sure all my students were members of the Future Farmers of America (FFA). For those of you not familiar, FFA is the youth development organization for agricultural education students. It provides life-changing experiences for its members. FFA programs and activities allow students to further demonstrate the professional skills listed above. This is evident in the FFA’s Code of Ethics.

FFA members conduct themselves at all times to be a credit to their organization, chapter, school, community and family. FFA members pledge to:

  1. Develop my potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success.
  2. Make a positive difference in the lives of others.
  3. Dress neatly and appropriately for the occasion.
  4. Respect the rights of others and their property.
  5. Be courteous, honest and fair with others.
  6. Communicate in an appropriate, purposeful and positive manner.
  7. Demonstrate good sportsmanship by being modest in winning and generous in defeat.
  8. Make myself aware of FFA programs and activities and be an active participant.
  9. Conduct and value a supervised agricultural experience program.
  10. Strive to establish and enhance my skills through agricultural education in order to enter a successful career.
  11. Appreciate and promote diversity in our organization.

This blog is not intended to focus on the FFA — it’s merely my point of reference based on my personal experience as a teacher. There are numerous other programs and activities in schools and communities (band, choir, drama club, faith-based clubs and activities, 4-H, Invention Convention, science fair, robotics competitions, etc.) that can help students learn and demonstrate these professional skills. The key takeaway is to realize that many, if not all, of the professional skills required to earn the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal can be learned and demonstrated as part of a student’s total school experience and should not be considered additional work.

Supporting this initiative is the Business Advisory Council Operating Standards that the Department will be posting guidance on later this week. Strong relationships between education and industry are essential. The Business Advisory Council Operating Standards guidance document includes examples of how education and industry can partner together. The Department plans on sharing examples from districts that have successfully implemented business advisory councils.

Finally, here’s a great article I read on LinkedIn that speaks on Industry’s Role in a New Education System. The article addresses what is needed from the next generation of employees, including the following:

  • Problem-solvers;
  • Innovation and the ability think for oneself;
  • Resiliency;
  • Passion to design and create;
  • Collaborative team members;
  • Good communication and presentation skills 
  • Individuals who successfully can transition from school to the workplace. 

Of course, these should sound familiar as they align with the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal, which should help all Ohio’s students be SuccessBound.

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12/6/2017

Formative Instructional Practices: Beyond the Basics

By: Virginia Ressa

ThinkstockPhotos-486325400.jpgWhat seems like ages ago, the Ohio Department of Education secured a Race to the Top Grant that allowed us to develop new tools and resources in collaboration with districts across the Ohio. Thus began my adventure into the world of formative instructional practices (FIP) and the challenge to lead the development of online professional learning resources with our partner, Battelle for Kids. The federal grant funds allowed us to create 57 online learning resources, including modules and guides, and a video library to support the improved use of formative instructional practices in all classrooms. The grant included a team of FIP specialists to work regionally with participating districts. We managed to reach half of Ohio’s districts and more than 40,000 educators!

Formative instructional practices are the formal and informal ways that teachers and students gather and respond to evidence of student learning. Notice that this definition includes students as an active part of gathering and responding to assessment information. FIP includes four core practices that research has shown to be among the most effective for improving student achievement. The four practices include the following:

  1. Using clear learning targets;
  2. Collecting and documenting evidence of student learning;
  3. Providing effective feedback;
  4. Preparing students to take ownership of their learning.

The FIP professional learning resources purposely focus on just these four core practices. This focus allows educators to improve their practice without the overwhelming feeling of having to change everything. During Race to the Top, the Department received overwhelmingly positive feedback about the FIP resources from administrators, teachers and even pre-service teacher education programs.

Then, the inevitable happened, the grant ended. Our team of FIP specialists went their own ways, our contract with Battelle for Kids ended and I took on other work. A couple of years later, I am very glad to report that FIP has survived beyond the Race to the Top grant and my relocation to the Department’s Office for Exceptional Children. With the help of Allie Sberna from the Department’s Office of Educator Effectiveness, I am glad to announce the next generation of FIP professional learning, FIP 2.0, back by popular demand!

We have received many inquiries about what happened to the FIP modules. You can now find all of the FIP resources on the Learning Management System for Ohio Education (LMS). Educators can access the LMS through their SAFE accounts. Once they log in, they will see a link within their list of available applications. Within the LMS are resources from across the Department, including everything from early learning to career-technical education.

Allie and I encourage Ohio educators to explore the additional learning and resources that go beyond the introductory level. Many schools began by promoting the use of the FIP Foundations modules — a series of five modules designed to introduce teachers to the basics of formative instructional practices and provide a big picture of how they can improve teacher practice and school achievement. We encourage you to go beyond the basics and enroll in one of the courses with more in-depth content.

These six additional courses go beyond the basics, focusing on specific practices and content areas:

  • Leading & Coaching FIP;
  • Clear Learning Targets (broken down by subject area);
  • Reaching Every Student;
  • Designing Sound Assessment;
  • Standards-Based Assessment;
  • FIP in Action.

The FIP courses can be used for independent study or as part of a blended learning experience that includes face-to-face meetings with colleagues. Facilitation guides are available within the courses and can be used to guide discussions about evidence-based practices, reflection on current teaching practices and goal setting for implementing new practices. FIP courses also can be integrated into Resident Educator work, growth and improvement plans and individual professional development plans (IPDP).

Wondering what happened to the FIP videos? They’ve moved to YouTube and can be accessed here. All the videos include Ohio educators and students during real classroom interactions. Along with each video, you will find information about the class and teacher, discussion questions and connections to the standards. What can you learn from their practice? How would you coach them to keep improving?

Allie and I are working to update all the FIP resources to reflect current language. For instance, Ohio’s Learning Standards are no longer the “new” learning standards. All the FIP resources will get a refresh over the next few months, but we didn’t want to wait for that to be complete to make them available to you.

How are you using formative instructional practices? Share your work via Twitter using #MyOhioClassroom and #ohFIP.

For more information about FIP: Beyond the Basics, you can contact Allie and me using the information below.

Virginia Ressa
Office for Exceptional Children
(614) 728-6920
virginia.ressa@education.ohio.gov

Allie Sberna
Office of Educator Effectiveness
(614) 369-4071
alison.sberna@education.ohio.gov

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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11/29/2017

ENCORE: Teaching Students to Think for Themselves, Solve Problems and Think Critically

By: Steve Gratz

Editor's note: This blog was originally published on December 21, 2016, but some things are so good they deserve another look! We are re-running the post so everyone gets a chance to read this staff favorite.

I spent most of my teenage years working on the farm. My experiences there naturally taught me how to solve problems, and we referred to this as “common sense.” We would even use the term to describe our more astute neighbors and friends who used good sense and sound judgment in practical matters.

As I think about my days working on the farm, I realize the agricultural way of life was built on a solid foundation of solving problems. Confronted with a unique problem, I could engineer a solution or temporarily jerry-rig it until I could get back to the shop for a permanent solution. I also remember the time one of my friends made a delivery of construction materials to a client and during the delivery he realized that he forgot a large box of nails. Instead of driving 30-miles back to the company, he simply purchased the large box of nails at a competitor’s store. He used good sense and sound judgment – common sense.

Like many of my friends, I developed my problem-solving skillset through work-based learning experiences throughout high school. In fact, I can’t remember a time during high school where I wasn’t working and serendipitously honing my ability to solve problems in the context of real-world situations.

In my 30+ years of education, I have participated in my fair share of philosophical conversations. Most of these conversations focus on the teaching and learning process, but the conversations often bleed over to a more holistic discussion on education. Some of those conversations focus on how to teach students deeper thinking skills and the ability to solve problems.

One of the most authentic ways to help students develop deeper thinking skills and the ability to solve problems is through work-based learning experiences. Recently, I was meeting with education and business leaders at the North Central Ohio ESC. A local physician shared that one of his recent hires earned her medical assistant credential through her work experience and not through the traditional path of attending medical assistant training program.

Absent of the ability to have work-based learning experiences, educators can help students develop deeper thinking skills and the ability to solve problems by requiring them to solve realistic problems. This can be done easily by using the project-based learning approach promoted by organizations like the Buck Institute. Another example is the Southern Region Education Board’s Advanced Career model. Most project-based learning approaches call for designing and implementing challenging, authentic projects and assignments in the context of realistic problems, ideally with employer and business involvement.

The passage of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) marked a major step toward ensuring all students are prepared to graduate from high school ready for college and careers. For example, districts may support efforts to integrate academic and technical content in the classroom that lends itself to students developing deeper thinking skills and the ability to solve problems. This can be done simply by developing and implementing coordinated instructional strategies that may include project-based learning and experiential learning opportunities for in-demand careers and occupations.

Here’s an example that provides a real-world application using the Pythagorean theorem. The picture below shows the formula for the Pythagorean theorem. In the picture below, side C is always the hypotenuse. Remember that this formula only applies to right triangles.

Picture1.png

Students may be taught the Pythagorean theorem as illustrated, or the lesson could be enriched by making it a real-world application or, better yet, as part of a project-based lesson.

And here is how the theory is applied to roof framing in the construction industry where the Pythagorean theorem is referred to as the 3-4-5 rule.

Picture2.png

This example is overly simple, but it is used to illustrate how connecting academic content standards to real-world applications can make the teaching and learning process more engaging and relevant for students. By helping students solve more real-world problems, students should begin to think more deeply about the standards they are learning.

One of the tenets of project-based learning is that the teacher helps students navigate through the learning process and assists students in solving problems, allowing them to take more responsibility for their learning – effectively teaching them to think for themselves. Teaching students to think more critically and to solve problems is a life skill that is immeasurably valuable to students.

I’m indifferent if it is called common sense, good sense and sound judgment, or the ability to solve problems; it is a life skill that needs to be integrated into all aspects of student’s education. It can even instill a sense of confidence in students, especially as they learn to apply this life skill to other aspects of their life.

Let’s teach students to think for themselves, solve problems and think critically.

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