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Category: CA GEAR UP Events and Institutes

GEAR UP Schools Participate in SpringBoard Development

SpringBoard Logo Hi-Res

SpringBoard by CollegeBoard and California GEAR UP Partnership

SpringBoard® is the foundational component for the College Board’s College Readiness System, offering a proven Pre-AP program that increases participation and prepares a greater diversity of students for success in AP, college and beyond – without remediation. Based on College Board Standards for College Success and aligned to the Common Core State Standards, SpringBoard offers the only integrated college readiness solution that includes a rigorous curriculum, formative assessments and sustainable professional development.

SpringBoard workshops attended by ELA and Mathematics teachers from our pilot SpringBoard schools (King, Foothill, and Jones) last week as part of their SpringBoard professional development plan.  Both sessions were highly professional and effective in their content and delivery.

2014 ELA Scoring Student Work

 On November 12, 2014, nineteen teachers from Charles D. Jones Junior High School, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, and Foothill Middle School came together to learn to collaborate productively to examine student work and determine next steps for instruction. They followed a common protocol for examining, scoring, and discussing actual student writing that the teachers brought to the session and were empowered to form conclusions and make plans to differentiate instruction, focus planning, and adjust pacing to propel students forward. Teachers gained an understanding of how to use Scoring Guides to score student work and effective protocols to support ongoing professional collaboration around how to use student data to inform instruction. Susie Lowry, a national SpringBoard Lead Trainer, effectively facilitated this session.

Focus Question: How can common scoring of student work promote student achievement?

This SpringBoard workshop was highly successful, as expressed during conversations throughout the day and the closing reflections. The trainer, who traveled from Florida to be with the group, had a high level of experience and expertise. She was impressed with the teachers’ level of engagement, their content knowledge, and their collaborative spirit.  They all worked together very intently in grade level groups and exchanged contact information with each other from the three different schools represented.

2014 Mathematics Content Seminar

On November 13, 2014, thirteen teachers from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, and Foothill Middle School came together to learn more about implementing the new SpringBoard Pre-AP mathematics program aligned with the Common Core State Standards. This seminar provided an intensive study of a single course or middle grade level by examining closely the content, skills, pedagogy and assessments of the instructional units within a SpringBoard level. Through interactive modeling, teachers gained a deeper understanding of how to plan and deliver lessons using strategic instructional practices to support student learning that is aligned to the expectations of the Common Core State Standards. Tammy Buckshi, a national SpringBoard Lead Trainer and expert in mathematics instruction, facilitated the successful session.

The workshop was well received by the participants, as expressed during conversations throughout the day and the closing reflections. There was a noticeable positive increase in teacher engagement among some of the first-year implementers who seemed reluctant in the beginning. The trainer, who traveled from North Carolina to be with the group, had the pulse of the group at all times and was adept at adjusting activities and keeping participants’ attention.

The Springboard ELA workshop conducted at King on November 12th gave our teachers an excellent opportunity to receive much needed professional development around effective strategies to score student writing. The session was designed to show teachers how to score student work in grade-level groups, so they can apply the process to examine and score Embedded Assessments in grade-level meetings throughout the school year. 
 
In this era of teachers’ transitioning to teaching the Common Core State Standards, there is a targeted focus on students attaining the skills necessary to be successful in college and careers so the training was timely and effective. Teachers first received modeling of how they should score student writing, then practical strategies to provide students effective feedback.
 
By conducting the training in a collaborative setting, teachers were able to support each other’s learning. The trainer was especially skilled at dispelling some of the misconceptions of writing and some of the mistakes we have made in teaching writing like overemphasizing mechanics. 
 
Teachers walked a way with practical strategies and a system for collaborating over the teaching and learning of writing skills. Our students will greatly benefit from having teachers who have the skill-set to calibrate scores, identify writing models to serve as scoring guides, and provide feedback that will improve students ability to have highly organized, content rich writing experiences.
Shinay Bowman-Instructional Specialist, King Middle School
For more information on California GEAR UP and our partnerships please check out our website. You can learn more about SpringBoard here.

California GEAR UP Hosts Regional Leadership Events

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CALIFORNIA GEAR UP “Round-Up” in Riverside, CA

Developed to meet the diverse and complex needs of California GEAR UP middle schools, the 2014 Regional Leadership Events provided a forum for school teams to problem solve together and learn from each other about school practices, challenges and solutions.  The events were facilitated by Whole School Services Coaches with content designed to respond to the needs of each unique middle school community. Activities were customized to engage and support participating schools within each region aligned with target areas of growth identified in the School Self Assessment Rubric.

Goals of the Regional Leadership Events:

  • Develop and expand working, cohesive school teams;
  • Share and reflect on leadership and approaches for developing leadership;
  • Network to share smart practices and opportunities for continued regional work;
  • Reflect on progress in building a sustainable college-going culture using the SSAR;
  • Use data to identify and address challenges to access and equity for All students;
  • Develop implementation plans for of GEAR UP partner resources and services;
  • Complete the PDAP and Communication Plan.

 The North State Regional Collaborative hosted at the Tehama County Department of Education in Red Bluff offered leadership teams from GEAR UP middle schools and their feeder high schools a unique opportunity for vertical teaming and articulation.  Participants gained a renewed sense of, and commitment to, vertical teaming as a successful strategy to improve student achievement and access to multiple educational pathways. This event offers great promise for the future of the region as many school practitioners had been operating in isolation without direct interaction and planning with their lower and upper grade counterparts.

 Brad Trimble-California GEAR UP School Services Coach

 

Big takeaways: The exchange of ideas, events, projects, etc. as a result of the “reflecting on the past” exercise has been mentioned a number of times.  One (GEAR UP) site contact returned to school and, using her notes, immediately drafted a memo of implementation listing ideas to share with the rest of her staff.  The group-alike breakout sessions gave teachers, administrators, counselors and out of classroom advisers a chance to share job specific experiences in building a college-going culture.  The regional event provided an opportunity for participants to work collaboratively and function as a learning community.

 Jon Sides-California GEAR UP School Services Coach

 

Low-income students often have the greatest need for opportunities to make sense of their world and develop intellectual autonomy.  Without these experiences it can be challenging for them to articulate their needs and views.  Accordingly, it was a pleasure working alongside educators as part of GEAR UP’s early college access program so that we can rally around this common goal.  They were passionate about this need for equity and work hard every day to make it happen.

 Robert Kaplinsky-Featured Speaker

 

The mission of California GEAR UP is to develop and sustain the organizational capacity of middle schools to prepare all students for high school and higher education through a statewide network of support for adults who influence middle school students, specifically their counselors, faculty, school leaders and families. As a result of this expanded capacity, a higher proportion of students, particularly from backgrounds and communities that have not historically pursued a college education, will enroll and succeed in higher education. California GEAR UP is a program of the University of California Office of The President Education Partnerships department and has served whole school communities across the state since 1999.

 

Learn more on the California GEAR UP website and follow on Twitter and Facebook.

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North State Regional Collaborative-Tehama County

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PURPOSE:  The purpose of the California GEAR UP 2014 Regional Events is to develop regional support networks that provide opportunities for schools to learn from each other and problem solve together about common concerns and issues.  These events will be facilitated by Whole School Services Coaches with content based on advice from School Leadership Team members.  The events are customized to meet the needs of participating schools within each region and in alignment with target areas of growth identified in the GEAR UP School Self Assessment Rubric.

NORTH STATE REGIONAL COLLABORATIVE – DRAFT AGENDA

Tehama County Department of Education – October 15 & 16, 2014 

Guiding Question: How do we better support and engage our students as they transition from middle to high school?

Wednesday, October 15 Participants:

Berrendos, Happy Valley, Richfield, Shasta Lake, & Vista Prep.

7:30 Breakfast
8:008:15

 

 

 

10:30

 

10:45

 

11:00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12:00

 

1:00

 

2:45

 

3:00

 

 

Introductions & Agenda Brandon Santiago – Youth Speaks

  • Student engagement – Word Becomes Flesh with The Living Word Project.

 

Break

 

Vista Preparatory Academy Video

 

Presentation from Vista Preparatory Academy Covering Their Transition from Departments to Instructional Houses

 

  • Why were instructional houses implemented at Vista?
  • What have been the successes and challenges within this model?
  • How has this structure affected student behavior, school climate, and academic achievement?

 

Lunch

 

School Site Planning & Collaboration

 

  • Complete 2014-2015 Professional Development Action Plan
  • Complete 2014-2015 Communications Plan

 

Reflective Group Discussion

 

 

Conclusion & Charge for Thursday

 

 

 

 

NORTH STATE REGIONAL COLLABORATIVE – DRAFT AGENDA

Tehama County Department of Education – October 15 & 16, 2014

Guiding Question: How do we better support and engage our students as they transition from middle to high school?

Thursday, October 16 Participants: Berrendos, Central Valley, Corning, Happy Valley, Maywood, Red Bluff, Richfield, Shasta Lake, Vista Prep., & West Valley

7:30 Breakfast
8:008:30

 

 

 

9:30

 

9:45

 

 

 

 

10:45

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12:00

 

1:00

 

 

 

 

 

 

1:45

 

 

 

2:30

 

2:45

 

3:00

 

 Introductions & Agenda  Mark Cerutti – Associate Superintendent, Elk Grove Unified School District

 

  • Vertical teaming and regional work, a systems perspective.

 

Break

 

CaliforniaColleges.edu – California College Guidance Initiative

 

  • Curriculum and guidance solutions to produce college and career ready graduates.

 

Facilitated Breakout Sessions

 

  • Middle & high school leadership teams introduced to the Articulation Action Agreement.
  • Leadership teams meet within feeder patterns to discuss how systems might be built or improved.
  • Initial consensus building and brainstorming opportunity.

 

Lunch

 

Role-alike Breakout Sessions

 

  • Administration, Counselors, ELA, ELL, History/Social Science, Math, Science, and Special Education meet individually to further define their area-specific vertical teaming agenda and complete their components of the Articulation Action Agreement.

 

School Site Leadership Teams Convene

 

  • Complete 2014-2015 Articulation Action Agreement

 

Reflective Group Discussion

 

Schools Share Articulation Action Agreements for 2014-2015

 

Conclude

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The California Central Valley GEAR UP GET DOWN

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PURPOSE:  The purpose of the California GEAR UP 2014 Regional Events is to develop regional support networks that provide opportunities for schools to learn from each other and problem solve together about common concerns and issues.  These events will be facilitated by Whole School Services Coaches with content based on advice from School Leadership Team members.  The events are customized to meet the needs of participating schools within each region and in alignment with target areas of growth identified in the GEAR UP School Self Assessment Rubric.

The California Central Valley

GEAR UP GET DOWN

October 1, 2014

 AGENDA

 Theme: Developing the “why?” in leadership and cohesive teams to influence school change at GEAR UP school sites

Outcomes:    

  • Develop working cohesive school teams
  • Learn the tenets of cohesive teams and why they are important
  • Increase ability to influence others and the capacity to effect change
  • Share and reflect on leadership and approaches for developing leadership within the team
  • Network to share smart practices and build opportunities for additional regional work 

7:30 – 8:30 a.m.           Breakfast and Registration

                                    Lobby of UC Merced Extension Office, Fresno, CA

8:30 – 8:45 a.m.         Welcome

                                   Martin De Mucha Flores

8:45 – 9:15 a.m.           Morning Plenary Speaker

                                    Encarnacion Ruiz, UC Merced Director of Admissions

9:30 – 10:45 a.m.         Workshop Session I

  • The Dynamic and Cohesive Team
  • Leadership & Management – Why They Are Not Synonymous
  • An Equity Lens: Critical Literacy in Our Professional and Personal Development

 11:00 – 12:15 p.m.      Workshop Session II

  • The Dynamic and Cohesive Team
  • Leadership & Management – Why They Are Not Synonymous
  • An Equity Lens: Critical Literacy in Our Professional and Personal Development

 12:15 – 1:00 p.m.        Lunch   

1:10 – 2:20 p.m.         Workshop Session III

  • The Dynamic and Cohesive Team
  • Leadership & Management – Why They Are Not Synonymous
  • An Equity Lens: Critical Literacy in Our Professional and Personal

2:30 – 3:15 p.m.          Afternoon Plenary

                                    Raul Morreno, Coordinator, University Migrant Services

3:15 – 3:30 p.m.          Evaluations

 

“We don’t say good luck, we say never give up.” Anonymous

GEAR UP Fall Round-up in Riverside


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PURPOSE:  The purpose of the California GEAR UP 2014 Regional Events is to develop regional support networks that provide opportunities for schools to learn from each other and problem solve together about common concerns and issues.  These events will be facilitated by Whole School Services Coaches with content based on advice from School Leadership Team members.  The events are customized to meet the needs of participating schools within each region and in alignment with target areas of growth identified in the GEAR UP School Self Assessment Rubric.

GEAR UP Fall Round-up in Riverside Regional Institute

September 30, 2014

AGENDA

Outcomes:

  • Reflect on progress in building a sustainable college-going culture using the SSAR and sharing best practices
  • Use data to identify and address challenges encountered
  • Collaborate and network to explore access and equity with fresh eyes
  • Plan the implementation of GEAR UP partner resources
  • Complete the PDAP and Communication Plans

8:00 a.m.        Breakfast, Registration, Networking

9:00 a.m.        GEAR UP Leadership Teams Share Progress

Discuss and Chart:

  • Are you reaching all student groups?
  • How do you know?
  • What resources have been successful?
  • What obstacles have you encountered?

 10:00 a.m.       View TED Talk by Simon Sinek, Start with Why

  • 10 minute quick write
  • Be ready to share

11:00 a.m.      Job-Alike Group Discussions

12:00 p.m.     Lunch

1:00 p.m.       What are Transitory Change and Permanent Change?

How embedded are GEAR UP/ SSAR conditions in the whole school?

1:30 p.m.        GEAR UP Budgeting Expectations

  • Complete PDAP
    • Start from “why”
    • Where will resources be most effective?
  • Communication Plan

3:00 p.m.       Evaluation of Round-up       

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Bay Area Regional Leadership Institute Oct 7-8, 2014

The intention of this event is to bring Bay Area GEARUP schools together for two days of professional development, learning and exchange of ideas to build greater communication, collaboration and success towards building a College Going Culture at each of your schools this year.

Date: Tuesday and Wednesday, October 7th & 8th 7:30am – 4:00pm

Location: Mills College – Carnegie Hall, Oakland 

Theme: “Achieving Social Justice and Equity through Common Core strategies to Ignite Student Success”

Outcomes:

  • Deepening our understanding and facilitation of Common Core Strategies
  • Enhancing communications between Gear Up Schools, Partners and Community Based Organizations
  • Best practices and learning from each other – Role Alike conversations
  • Shared Parent engagement strategies for greater success
  • Sharing strategies for fostering a positive school culture that facilitates learning
  • Focused time to work on and your Professional Development Action Plan (PDAP)

Day 1

7:30-8:00 a.m. Breakfast and Registration

8:00-12:00 p.m.         Morning Session

        • Welcome, Introductions of the team, schools and GEAR UP partners
        • Expectations and ground rules and agreements for the 2 days
        • Keynote speaker –Social Justice and Transformative School Leadership topic
        • Open Space overview and setting our agenda together
        • 2, one-hour breakout sessions in the morning with multiple tracks each depending on the topics raised by participants.

12:00-12:45 p.m.          Lunch    

1:00-3:30 p.m.            Afternoon Session

  • 2, 45-minute break out sessions in the afternoon with multiple tracks each depending on the topics raised by participants

3:30-4:00 p.m.         Day’s Recap and Highlights/Evaluation

Day 2

7:30-8:00 a.m. Breakfast and Registration

8:00-12:00 p.m.         Morning Session

        • Overview of the day and topics available for discussion
        • Group exercise: What’s Your Why?
        • Role-Alike breakout discussions
        • 2, one-hour break out sessions in the morning with multiple tracks each depending on the topics raised by participants

12:00-12:45 p.m.          Lunch    

 12:45-1:00 p.m.            Inspiration Youth Speaks Artist to perform spoken word

1:00-4:00 p.m.             Afternoon Session

  • Regroup with your teams for a group debrief of ah-ha’s, best ideas and practices learned
  • Take what you’ve learned from the sessions your team members have attended and incorporate that into your PDAP for the year. Discussion and planning time for creating their PDAP so it’s completed when they walk out the door.
  • Evaluations

Potential topics for the breakout sessions over both days Could include

(but are not limited to):

  • Role-alike best practices
  • Parent engagement strategies
  • Valuable resources for undocumented students/families
  • Community school best practices
  • Successful common core strategies
  • Fostering a positive school culture
  • Creating strong partnerships with Community Based Organizations
  • Getting the most bang for our buck – working with the GU partners [MDTP, CEP, CaliforniaColleges.edu, PIQE, AAREA]
  • Effective leadership strategies

SoCal Regional Event EdCamp Schedule and Materials

September 30-October 1, 2014 Downey, CA

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An edcamp is a user-generated conference – commonly referred to as an “unconference” that relies on open space organizational technology to drive engagement at professional development activities. Edcamps are designed to provide participant-driven professional development for K-12 educators. Unlike traditional conferences, sessions are not planned or scheduled until the morning of the event using a scheduling board on which attendees can place an index card or post it notes with their potential topic session on it. This type of event:

  • is an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment
  • is an intense event with discussions, demos and interaction from participants who are the main actors of the event

This GEAR UP version of an edcamp is takes place with California GEAR UP schools from all across southern California and will focus on academic topics to support a the creation of a college going culture.

The purpose of California GEAR UP is to develop and sustain the organizational capacity of middle schools to prepare all students for high school and higher education through a statewide network of support for adults who influence middle school students, specifically their counselors, faculty, school leaders and families. As a result of this expanded capacity, a higher proportion of students, particularly from backgrounds and communities that have not historically pursued a college education, will enroll and succeed in higher education.

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Robert’s presentation focused on taking an objective look at Depth of Knowledge in math assessments.

Robert Kaplinsky-Featured Speaker

Robert Kaplinsky has worked in education for over ten years as a classroom teacher, district math teacher specialist, and University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) instructor.  He graduated from UCLA with a Bachelors of Science in Mathematics / Applied Science (Computer Science) in 2000 and earned his Masters of Education in 2005.

He has presented and done professional development at many schools and universities across the United States.  Robert has been published by Education Weekand the American Educational Research Association (AERA).  He has consulted for major publishers including Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Pearson.  Robert is a member of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (NCSM), California Mathematics Council, Orange County Math Council (OCMC), and Greater Los Angeles Mathematics Council (GLAMC).  He also co-founded the Southern California Math Teacher Specialist Network, a group that includes over 75 math teacher specialists from more than 5 counties.

Here are the materials from his presentation, which can also be found on his extremely useful website.

Presentation

Problem-Based Lessons Used

Common Core State Standards Resources

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MDTP presented on Day 2. MDTP primarily serves schools, colleges, and public universities in California. Please use the navigation bar on the left for more information about the project and what materials and services are available.

All CSU/UC MDTP tests are copyrighted, their content may not be used in other test forms. MDTP materials are provided to schools with the understanding that the tests will be kept secure and all test administrations will be scored by MDTP regional offices or MDTP licensed vendors (Datawise, Edusoft, Daskala). All licensed vendors are required to submit scoring data to MDTP to enable the project to send printed reports directly to students’ teachers.

MDTP regional offices (sites) are located on CSU and UC campuses and are supported by their campus and a grant from the California Academic Partnership Program (CAPP).

You can download the PDF of the MDTP presentation GEAR UP Institute (Writing in Math) (2b).

 

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Sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education, the question of how far we’ve come in eliminating segregated education is not a simple one. Gwen Ifill leads a discussion with Cheryl Brown Henderson of the Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research, Sheryll Cashin of Georgetown University, Catherine Lhamon of the Department of Education and Ron Brownstein of Atlantic Media.

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At lunch on the second day we viewed our new ‘Vista Prep’ video shot over the course of three years and with the leadership of a group of committed adults, GEAR UP, and community partnerships, Vista Middle School transformed from a failing middle school into a thriving Preparatory Academy. The focus of the transformation: creating a school culture centered around student success as the highest priority.

Access, Equity, and Common Core: GEAR UP Forums

jorge aguilar

California GEAR UP concluded their 2014 state-wide Leadership Forums with the theme “Social Justice and Equity: Common Core State Standards”.  Jorge Aguilar (pictured above) Associate Vice Chancellor for Educational and Community Partnerships at the University of California, Merced was the keynote speaker. His lecture was focused on ‘Advancing the Golden Rule Through Common Core State Standards’, which looked at the opportunity and obligation provided  by the common core state standards centered around  the notion that we will be able to measure  “college and career” readiness  through grade level assessments. His key question was: “How do we measure  whether ALL  students benefit from this policy shift?” You can view his entire presentation on our website here.

The forum was broken in to workshops for school leadership teams to attend. Forum workshop leaders brought relevant expertise and/or practical experience in specific areas of the Common Core State Standards, as well as an understanding of the work of California GEAR UP, grounded in the belief of social justice and equity in education. Workshops explored the connections between social justice and equity and the effective implementation of the CCSS in Mathematics, English Language Arts, or the development of critical thinking through the Arts. How do we teach ALL students to think critically– including low and under-performing students who may not have been exposed to high academic demands in the past? How will their learning needs be supported?

Workshop sessions were design to be participatory and interactive–not merely PowerPoint presentations. Participants engaged in activities and conversation. The workshop leaders facilitated dialogue among participants using a variety of strategies to promote thinking and “talk” to understand. GEAR UP Coaches as co-facilitators assisted the workshop leaders and sessions included time to answer questions from the audience and respond to guiding questions posed to the participants by the group leaders.

Schools teams will now return to their sites with a better understanding of creating a transformative community-wide college going culture while being better equipped to leverage GEAR UP resources. Being a California GEAR UP school is a 6 year process, of which schools are embarking upon their third year. California GEAR UP School Services Coaches will meeting with schools across the state to facilitate use of GEAR UP tools, work on implementing Professional Development Action Plans, and scheduling Partnership and Statewide Services.

The purpose of California GEAR UP is to develop and sustain the organizational capacity of middle schools to prepare all students for high school and higher education through a statewide network of support for adults who influence middle school students, specifically their counselors, faculty, school leaders and families. As a result of this expanded capacity, a higher proportion of students, particularly from backgrounds and communities that have not historically pursued a college education, will enroll and succeed in higher education.

For more information on California GEAR UP, please visit our website.

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TOOLS Program at-a-glancs Announced

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Targeting Improvement: Instructional Rounds

 

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Superintendent/Principal of Pleasant View Elementary School Dist Presents Instructional Rounds at California GEAR UP Leadership Institute

(Repost from AASA School Administrator Journal.)

Similar to physician training, this new model emphasizes collegial classroom observations, diagnosis and a plan of action

BY COLLEEN GILLARD

When Mark Odsather moved into the superintendency of the Pleasant View Elementary School District in California’s San Joaquin Valley four years ago with a mission to turn around one of the state’s most impoverished and low-achieving districts, his first visit was to the lower school’s kindergarten.

Watching the young pupils answer yes/no questions to the story the teacher had just read, he noted the group of mostly English language learners didn’t have much to say. And it wasn’t just the kindergarten class — none of the children in the school seemed to be talking in class.

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Kathy Greider (right), superintendent in Farmington, Conn., records notes during an instructional rounds visit to classrooms in her district.

Across the country in Connecticut, students in affluent Farmington’s high-achieving school district were struggling with a different problem — answering open-ended questions. “They couldn’t really explain the concepts or their thinking,” said Superintendent Kathy Greider.

And in Melbourne, Australia, when Katherine Henderson, director of schools in the Western Metropolitan Region, visited some of the region’s 150 schools to ask about their rock-bottom performance, she was told by teachers that she “didn’t understand,” that with such dire backgrounds of poverty, neglect and/or language troubles, “these kids just can’t learn.”

A Defensive Culture
Now, a few years later, the picture looks much improved in all three school districts. Despite different pedagogical problems in widely disparate settings, all three have been helped by an innovative and fast-growing program that improves teaching and learning by focusing on transforming the leadership culture among school and district educators.

Called instructional rounds, the approach is modeled after the training doctors receive in medical rounds. In hospitals, groups of doctors and residents visit patients to observe and collect and review data to diagnose and then recommend a plan of action. As a collegial model for communal growth and continuous self-improvement, the process serves doctors well — something the developer of instructional rounds, Richard Elmore of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, found inspiring and distinctively helpful for a profession famous for the isolation of its teachers.

Like the medical version, instructional rounds has groups of educators (central-office to building-level staff) visiting classrooms in each other’s schools to observe and take notes around a particular problem of practice. The group (or network, in rounds parlance) then analyzes the collected evidence to find meaningful patterns before suggesting remedial action.

Despite offering prescriptive help to the schools in question, the work’s overall ambition is to bring school improvement to scale districtwide. Key to this involves changing the often-defensive culture and professional practice of the network members themselves.

Rounds is designed to correct something Elmore describes as “a profession without a practice.” For historical reasons having to do with the way it evolved from one-room classrooms, teaching lacks the rigor of many disciplines.

“Rounds professionalizes the process of defining problems and problem solving,” says Stefanie Reinhorn, a doctoral student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education who works as a facilitator with school teams that come to Harvard to learn about instructional rounds. The highly technical steps in instructional rounds help “force professionals to act like professionals,” she adds, “through forcing conversation to focus laser-like on student learning.”

Observation and self-scrutiny can be hard and scary. “It takes courage,” says Reinhorn, a former instructional coach in the Boston Public Schools, “to bare your problems to your colleagues,” even if rounds protocols require observers to be objective and nonjudgmental. “Rounds really has nothing to do with teacher evaluation — something that is basically disconnected from actually learning about what is going wrong in the classroom.”

Instead, classroom observers concentrate on a predefined problem of practice (lack of rigor in the classroom, for example) in the core learning experience. This is what Elmore calls the “instructional core,” the actions of teacher and student in the presence of content.

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Math specialist Christina Garrity reports on the patterns she and her colleagues uncovered during an instructional rounds visit in the Farmington, Conn., district.

 

Research shows that “educational leadership best succeeds as shared leadership that exploits the collective wisdom of the staff,” says Dennis Buzzelli, former superintendent in Tallmadge, Ohio, who works as a school improvement consultant and rounds facilitator in Akron. Instructional rounds, he adds, asks educators to talk about and establish a common understanding of what good teaching and learning look like.

A Rural Network
Rural districts don’t get a lot of outside attention in terms of school improvement efforts, says Odsather, who doubles as superintendent and principal of the 560-student, K-8 Pleasant View district in the farmlands of the California Central Valley. About 93 percent of the Pleasant View students qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, and 80 percent are Hispanic with an equal number of English language learners. Turnover is so high that 80 percent of those who begin in kindergarten leave before 8th grade. Some neighborhoods are plagued by gang violence.

What really upset Odsather upon arrival in Pleasant View, though, was the quality of education students were receiving. “Rural schools are easily forgotten,” says the veteran educator, who came from an upscale Seattle suburb, Bellevue, Wash., and grew up alongside the children of Microsoft millionaires.

“The kids here are no different from the ones I was raised with — only they’re treated differently,” Odsather says. “Not much is expected of children of migrant farm workers.”

In casting about for improvement tools, he read the initial Harvard Education Press book on instructional rounds published in 2009. “When I started, my mind was just melting,” he says. “I was confused by how the concepts led to school improvement, but intrigued by the idea of identifying and calibrating what high-quality education might look like. I liked the idea of rigorous and collegial self-reflection. To reach for professionalism based on honesty and transparency really appealed to me.”

Odsather contacted peers across the region, mainly superintendents from districts with similar demographics, to form a six-district (five K-8, one K-12) network spread 200 miles across the San Joaquin Valley.

“The first thing we learned in trying to develop problems of practice was that we were too passive,” he explains. “We weren’t truly focusing on the things we valued, like raising expectations. Recognizing this was a huge help.” The superintendents began meeting three times a year before moving to monthly gatherings. Classroom observation visits in Odsather’s district focused on why the young students weren’t talking. What the leaders learned was the classrooms lacked opportunities for conversation.

The Next Level
What to do about it — or developing the next level of work, in rounds terminology — was more challenging. Pleasant View ran training for the leadership team on addressing the deficiencies in instruction. But deeply embedded institutional practices are difficult to change. “I’ll be honest,” Odsather concedes, “I had staff leave rather than change how they ran their classrooms.”

Adds Reinhorn, the facilitator at Harvard: “Fixing is often more an issue than investigating the problem. This is when lateral accountability within networks becomes important.” In this regard, Odsather’s fellow superintendents offered critical help with advice and feedback.

Odsather worked with his small staff to create norms and strategic structures around project-based lesson planning. The aim was to stimulate student conversations, leading to higher levels of critical thinking.

“One of our first staff conversations was to talk frankly about our hopes and fears,” he says. “It turned out many worried about losing control of the classroom if the kids work in groups. But it turned out the kids were much happier with hands-on, group projects. Classroom management was less of a problem than before.”

In the revamped kindergartens, youngsters in groups of four took turns talking about story prompts. Meanwhile, 8th graders began discussing their work around rubrics that clarified standards of excellence.

Odsather met with his two schools’ leadership teams for two hours each week. More importantly, teachers’ schedules were upended to give them 45 minutes before class daily for joint lesson planning. In emphasizing structures to help realize change, faculty set norms to improve meeting efficiency with expectations for punctuality, productivity, transparency through peer observation and positive feedback. They then created their own teacher evaluation systems around ongoing improvement.

Now, three years into the process, Odsather claims the information collected during rounds and the networked adult learning has guided him in how to improve teacher skills and knowledge, while reorganizing the school day to empower teacher collaboration to better support teaching and learning in the classroom.

“Rounds has invigorated my staff to become owners of their craft — to find the tools to be successful in creating classrooms that encourage kids to solve problems, think critically and creatively, as well as communicate their ideas clearly and articulately,” says Odsather. “Our expectations have soared. We had a high gang population and graffiti problems when I arrived. Now, we no longer have the fights and discipline problems we once had. Teachers say we have given the kids their innocence back.”

Farmington Network
In its ninth year of instructional rounds, Farmington’s school district of 4,000 students and seven schools is a mature example of a district well into the application of instructional rounds.

Farmington began this work in response to discovering that while their high school students may have been acing college-entrance exams, they remained unable to explain their thinking. Assistant Superintendent Kim Wynne says these students, whom she calls “high-achieving, passive learners,” had great knowledge recall but failed at critical thinking.

When the district discovered Elmore’s newly developed theory of school improvement, Farmington moved forward with just one network, the District Leadership Council, composed of central-office staff, the school business manager and the district’s seven principals and assistant principals. Jointly, they visited classrooms in a different school every six to eight weeks.

But they quickly found changes to raise critical thinking skills would not be possible without reaching deeper into the classroom. So, the Farmington leadership expanded its networks to include teachers, with each school running its own network.

Enthusiastic teachers formed their own networks organized around core subjects, enlisting subject-area instructors at all schools (including the high school department chair) to meet in this subject-based, multigrade, vertical network twice a year. To create more independent learners in English language arts, the instructional rounds network examined whether providing writing scaffolds, graphic organizers and sentence starters made students overly dependent on teacher guidance, Superintendent Kathy Greider says.

At the high school, student representatives who were added to the network suggested the curriculum would be more interesting if it were made more relevant to their lives. “Today, we are seeing ownership of school improvement from students to (the) central office,” says Wynne, the assistant superintendent.

While raising achievement results is the ultimate goal, Farmington’s leaders say they evaluated their success in terms of improved student engagement. “This, we assess through noting [whether the students or the teachers are] asking questions in the classroom, as well as in the answers students have about what they are learning and why,” Greider says. “To our gratification, they increasingly have answers.”

 FeatureGillard3
During a debriefing session of instructional rounds in California’s Pleasant View Elementary School District, Superintendent Mark Odsather (center) explains how to use pieces of evidence to identify instructional patterns.

At the high school, student representatives who were added to the network suggested the curriculum would be more interesting if it were made more relevant to their lives. “Today, we are seeing ownership of school improvement from students to (the) central office,” says Wynne, the assistant superintendent.

While raising achievement results is the ultimate goal, Farmington’s leaders say they evaluated their success in terms of improved student engagement. “This, we assess through noting [whether the students or the teachers are] asking questions in the classroom, as well as in the answers students have about what they are learning and why,” Greider says. “To our gratification, they increasingly have answers.”

Victoria’s Surge
In the 77,000-student region she leads in Victoria on Australia’s southeastern coast, Katherine Henderson was tired of hearing accounts of teachers doubting the ability of students to learn. She set out to ensure every child would succeed.

It took five years, but by 2012, her region of considerable poverty and a large immigrant population moved from ranking last among the state’s nine regions on every measure of statewide testing to third. The upward change was so dramatic, the state Department of Education built a case study around the work.

“No school can improve without good leadership,” she says. “Sure, I could have dismissed all 150 principals and started over, but I had the tools with rounds to improve schools through improving the current leadership.”

After launching the work with Harvard’s Elmore on-site, she recruited as rounds facilitator Thomas Fowler-Finn, former superintendent in Cambridge, Mass., to provide ongoing guidance. They divided the region into seven networks of 16-22 schools each and began network training by dissecting current educational research to raise understanding of what good educational practice looks like.

“Early on, there was tremendous anxiety among staff over a sense of exposure, especially when principals were presented with irrefutable evidence about teaching and learning problems in their classrooms,” Henderson says. “We had colleagues who had socialized together but never discussed their mutual practice,” who suddenly were asked to move beyond camaraderie to brutally appraise each other’s and their own teaching practices.

The teachers learned they couldn’t assume any one of them had a professional knowledge base, Henderson adds. “But over time, as they began to trust the dedication of their colleagues to mutual improvement, they were better able to face the challenges.”

Henderson described it as fascinating work. “We had classrooms where teaching was excellent but which still weren’t succeeding because what really matters is what the children are saying and doing. We ended up with a coherent and shared focus across the region. It was very, very satisfying and exciting to bring people from very different professional levels and lift them up together.”

Summing Up
Odsather, the superintendent in his fourth year leading California’s Pleasant View schools, captures the instructional rounds experience this way: “I often think of Richard Elmore saying, ‘You hire people on their ability to learn, not on the basis of a resume.’ Now when I interview people, I ask about their greatest weaknesses as a teacher and what they’re doing about it. I’m really interested in their thoughts on how to improve their practice.”

Pleasant View Elementary is in year 3 of 6 as a California GEAR UP School. 

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