In the news: The Value of Student Led Conferences

I hope people have seen or read Emily Richmond’s article on Student Led Parent Teacher Conferences in the Hechinger Report and then a shorter summary in The Atlantic Monthly. Emily talks about the use of Student Led Conferences as part of a student centered approach as a foundation to improve a school that had not been performing well. Her article wonderfully describes and identifies the process, purpose and outcomes of student lead conferences – from how students learn to organize their work, engage in long term planning, develop deeper learning outcomes and even how this practice indirectly increases family engagement.  I feel in love with the concept of Student Led Conferences when I visited Wheels Academy in the Bronx, a signature practice of EL Education (formerly Expeditionary Learning. And then I learned how this was a common practice across all 8 of the schools in my book, though they might be some slight variations on the process.  Student Led Conferences contribute to everything Emily captured but I particularly like how they provide an opportunity for students to reflect on their work to significant adults in their life.  How many times does any student engage in an in depth conversation about their performance beyond identifying what grade they got on a test, quiz, or paper with their family members at home?  Not only does presenting out to family members motivate students to prepare but it helps them own their learning –  take responsibility for the time and effort they did or did not put into their work and empowers them to advocate form themselves. One time, a student told her parents how much she wanted to go out of state to college despite the fact her parents were focused on having her attend a local college. Another time a student told his parents how having his newborn brothers, and twins at that, sleep in his bedroom was limiting his ability to study.  The teacher helps the students frame these issues so they are supported in their own advocacy and therefore, are empowered to identify and communicate what kind of resources or support they need from their families to be successful, or express their interests and share the hopes they have for their education which their parents may or may not share.  If Emily’s reasons or my reasons are not compelling enough for why we need to transition to student led conferences, how about this reason. Do you like to be talked about in the third person (and not absent) about your performance? Is that how you improve best and accept ownership for your success and/or challenges? If not, then why do we talk about students in the third person and at a venue where they are not even present suggesting they do not know themselves. At the end of the day, it is hard for any of us to grow if we are not provided with a structure and opportunity in a supportive environment to reflect on our work and then to share what we are learning about ourselves.

Nation’s Largest Producer of Teachers Meets to Discuss Common Core, Data, Clinical Preparation

Fullerton, CA – Teacher preparation programs from across the California State University (CSU) system, California’s and the nation’s largest producer of teachers, met this week at CSU-Fullerton as part of the New Generation of Educators Initiative (NGEI). Funded by the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, this learning community’s objective is to transform educator preparation in order to ensure California teachers are classroom ready to make the necessary instructional shifts to address the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards. Read more about their work here.

ConsultEd Strategists, an education consulting group for mission-driven organizations and philanthropists, managed the design, logistics, and facilitation of 2016 NGEI convening.

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Start with the End if Mind to Innovate

This week I was honored to be the keynote speaker at the A+ Houston’s Speakers Series on the Future of Education sponsored by the Chevron Foundation.  It was a great opportunity to be able to talk with business leaders, community leaders, higher education representatives, and K12 educators and leaders – including superintendents and principals. In preparing for the talk, it gave me cause to think about what it took for the schools in my book to make the shift to the six practices.  One thing I did not get to discuss in the book was the role of creating a shared vision for what we want our students to know and do in order for there to be true transformation. A shared vision brings commitment and direction and permeates throughout the school – the work, decisions, and behavior of everyone.  I was thrilled how well received then show this by contrast what we say we want our students to know and do (aka, deeper learning outcomes) but what we do daily to not develop those skills and could use examples from the school to show others how these schools walked the talk of their vision. HoustonAPlus

The Common Core Raises Questions About Teachers’ Questioning Skills

New PD initiatives aim to help teachers elicit deeper responses and interpretations from students
By Sarah D. Sparks

There are no stupid questions. But when it comes to the common core, teachers are finding that their questions could be asking a lot more of students.

Educators have called the focus on “close reading” one of the most critical shifts in the Common Core State Standards’ approach to literacy, and one that many teachers need practice to perfect.

Using questioning techniques, teachers can guide students to think critically about complex literary and informational texts and to construct evidence-based arguments based on them. But getting students to dig into deeper meaning requires going beyond simply asking them to cite an example or find an answer in the text. It means encouraging them to build interpretations and analyses from what they’ve read.

To that end, a number of new district and researcher-led programs are being developed to help teachers learn to ask better questions in connection with reading assignments or activities.

“What’s hard for teachers is forming these questions,” said Lindsay C. Matsumura, an associate education dean at the University of Pittsburgh who studies inquiry. Questioning “really requires a lot of planning to do it effectively.”

For example, in discussing E.B. White’s classic children’s novel Charlotte’s Web, typically a teacher might ask a student what Templeton the rat does to help Wilbur the pig. But a deeper question, Matsumura said, might be: ” ‘Is Templeton the rat a good friend?’ He really helps Wilbur, in the text, but you could argue his help always comes at a cost. What’s critical [in close reading] is you need to reasonably be able to take different perspectives on the text. That is getting to the heart of common-core standards.”

Read more here.

The Mask You Live In Curriculum

Jennifer Siebel Newsom directed a recently released film entitled “The Mask You Live” that follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America’s narrow definition of masculinity. They are due to release an SEL aligned curriculum this week! See more here.