Blog #4 State and Federal Legislation Analysis

Federal Legislation

U.S. Department of Education – Every Student Succeeds Act

http://www.ed.gov/essa?src=policy

This policy was written for all American students K-12 in 2015 to replace No Child Left Behind Act. It will take full effect in the 2017-2018 school year.

Key Elements

  • States can pick their own goals for both long-term and interim goals. These goals are to address proficiency on tests, English-language proficiency, and increase graduation rates.
  • States are required to adopt high academic standards for all students that will prepare them to succeed in college and careers.
  • States have to identify and intervene in the bottom 5% of low performing schools and where high school graduation rate is 67% or less.
  • Students 3-8 will continue to take standardized tests and one standardized test in high school. Results and vital information from tests will be passed onto educators, families, and communities.
  • States can create own testing opt-out laws and decided what should happen in school that miss the targets.
  • Students have access to high-quality preschool
  • Teachers no longer have to do teacher evaluation based off of student outcomes.
  • Includes resources to help train teachers on literacy and STEM.

 

State Legislation

2015 Minnesota Statute Read Well By 3rd Grade

https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=120b.12

This policy requires all school districts to adopt a local literacy plan to have every child reading at or above grade level no later than the end of grade 3.

Key Elements

  • All school districts must develop a plan to have all students reading at grade level by 3rd grade. The plan must include a process to assess students’ levels of reading proficiency, notify and involve parents, intervene with students who are not reading at or above grade level, and identify and meet staff development needs.
  • Requires the district to post its literacy plan on the official school web site and submit an annual report at the end of the year for Kindergarten through Grade 3 indicating the percentage of students who are not reading at grade level.
  • The district literacy plan must meet the following requirements:
    • Describe the district’s scientifically based reading instruction.
    • Identify students before the end of kindergarten, grade 1, and grade 2 who are not reading at grade level.
    • Notify parents annually of each student who is not at grade level. Information must include the student’s proficiency level, reading-related services provided, and strategies for parents to help their children succeed.
    • Provide interventions for students who are not reading at or above grade level.
    • Identify and meet staff development needs.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Blog #3 What comes first the data or the instruction??

One of the big questions in education is what is our driving force of instruction? Should our instruction be driven by the assessments and the data we collect or should our instruction drive our assessments? To a person outside of the education setting, one might say it is one of the same, but to teachers, we know it could be a world of a difference.

Two summers ago, I read the book Teaching with Intentions by Debbie Miller that was life changing for me. Her book was about defining your beliefs as a teacher and aligning your practices to those beliefs. Her chapter on assessments and reflections defined my belief on how and why we assess our students. Our assessments should be derived from specific skills and concepts that we know we want our children to know. Assessments and instruction should be woven together inspiring and building upon each other. “If we believe that reading is the sum of a discrete set of skills, and we emphasize skills in our teaching, we will choose assessments that test discrete skills” (Vogt & Shearer, 2001, p. 90). I believe that we should never assess children just to assess them or because the next pages in our teacher’s manual are a test. We should be assessing and collecting data with intention and based on the NEEDS of our specific students.

This year our school implemented a huge data collecting piece to our PLC expectations. We are expected to be giving “check in” assessments every week. One week reading and the next week math and so on. In our PLC groups we look at the data for the week, reflect on where our class is on those skills, what students need extra support, and how that support is going to be implemented into the day. It was a school wide push to get teachers to think more deeply about where their students are, on a more frequent terms, and with a systematic approach. The intention was good because great teachers know where their students are on any given skill and concept; but the results are drastically different from grade to grade. The pieces that are missing are the training on what quality data is, how assessments and instruction should support each other, and what to do with the data collected. I see this data collecting push as a first step to many years of fine tuning and  perfecting. I see the benefits of keeping a pulse on the class, as long as the assessments are quality and the data is being used to benefit the students.

This year I have grown as a reflective teacher and my lessons (especially my small group time) have become more intentional based off of the results of our assessments. The assessments that the kindergarten team write are intentionally written to support the skills and concepts that were taught over the last two weeks. Most assessments  are individual, hands on, or orally given. It is a time for my students to “show me what you know”. They love the one on one time with me and it gives me a clear picture of the skills and concepts they are grasping and which ones are still developing. It also gives me a chance to see where the disconnect is, if there is one. It has been very time consuming, but I have seen first hand how beneficial quality skill based data is versus a standardized test 3 times a year. I am able to talk with parents about specific skills we are working on and I am able to better pin point lacking skills and concepts in my students. The biggest benefit has been my increased awareness of what needs to be taught during my precious small group time. I know it is not a perfect process, but we are working through it.

Resource

Vogt, M., & Shearer, B. A. (2011). Reading specialists and literacy coaches in the real world.Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.

Blog 2: Literature-Based Approach vs Basal-Based Instruction

Reading instruction continues to be a hot topic.What are the best practices? Which type of  reading instruction is the most effective?  Do you teach from a basal in which you know you are teaching every standard, because the teacher manual tells you what to teach and when? Or do you take your reading standards and teach them through authentic literature?

I bring this up because our school is in the middle of this discussion. I teach in a charter school in which we have a little more freedom when it comes to the curriculum we choose to teach and the ways we teach it. Our only perimeters is that we teach the standards, create curriculum maps to prove it, and teach in a systematic way. We have some teachers that take this wonderful freedom and run with it. To step into their classroom is like a dream, kids are actively learning through cross-curricular themes, real literature, and hands on learning. We have other teachers in which this freedom is too much and prefer to teach from a basal. I am not here to judge, I am only raising the question on which approach creates stronger readers. I see the advantages and disadvantages to both.

When teachers have a basal reading program to teach from, you know that every standard is being covered, there is a systematic approach to teaching the reading components such as phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, and comprehension, and assessments are built in to make sure students are on track. There is less plan time for teachers, as the lessons and resources are already laid out and ready. However, I can’t help but to question the choice of books read. Are they the best choice or the best choice that is in a specific publishing company? Are there better books to teach specific strategies or skills? When it comes to comprehension, are the levels of thinking deep enough, fluent enough?  In a great classroom, teaching comprehension is a fluent, encompassing idea that is woven into your daily instruction. Teaching comprehension should not be teaching one skill for a week and then moving onto another skill for the next week, “Teaching strategies for strategies sake is simply not the point, comprehension strategies are a means to an end, not and an end in themselves” (Harvey & Goudvis, 2007, p. 14).

When teaching from authentic literature, teachers are able to choose high quality literature that was written with the purpose to be read and enjoyed. There is no copy rights involved or partial stories cut and pasted for time’s sake, just good ole quality literature!! The teacher is also able to create cross-curricular themes and dig deep within those themes to create deeper thinking skills, comprehension and vocabulary. Comprehension skills are able to built upon each other in a fluent way. Vocabulary or oral language can be more fully developed. The love of books can be fostered and engagement can be increased. The down fall of this way of teaching is that is takes time to connect to standards, plan, find books, create lessons/activities, and develop assessments. As a new teacher, it lacks structure and doesn’t have a scope and sequence of skills. This can take time for teachers to create a year’s worth of quality lessons. If a teacher is not fully committed or doesn’t have a deep understanding of what needs to be taught in that specific grade, skills and strategies can be missed.

I am so fortunate to have an amazing kindergarten team. We slowly moved away from the basal taking years to develop our program. We laid out standards, connected them to themes, found and bought books, and spent lots of money on teacherspayteachers (because who wants to entirely recreate the wheel). I believe there has to be a balance. Is it good for a teacher to be tied to a basal? Is it good for a teacher to throw the teacher’s manual away and jump into using 100% authentic literature quickly? I wish there was a way for teachers to have the best of both worlds! Does that even exist? What are your thoughts??

 

References

Harvey, S., & Goudvis, A. (2007). Strategies that work: Teaching comprehension from understanding and engagement. (2nd ed.).Stenhouse Publishing.

Blog 1: Importance of Literacy Leaders

Reading is the key that unlocks all doors in life. Frederick Douglass once said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” I know that the context from which he meant back then is different from now, but the words’ meanings still hold true. Once you learn to read, no one can stop you from achieving your dreams. However, with the demands of continually increasing standards and expectations of children and the declining of literacy rates in America, this does not make an easy task for teachers. Some days it even seems impossible to make sure that all students are reading at grade level. Below is a clip that inspires me to make the seemly impossible task of teaching all kids to read a worthy task to take on whole heartily!!

We as teachers know what we want to do, teach all kids to read, but teaching reading really is rocket science!! Reading is not a simple concept to teach; there are skills built upon skills that help strengthen reading abilities. There are different areas of reading that if they are not each fully developed, can hinder a child’s progress to become a strong reader. Figuring out which piece a child needs to strengthen can be difficult to pin point. There are also the physical body aspects that are needed to be working together in order to read. Your eyes, different parts or your brain, and attention span need to all be working together. Let’s face it reading is just plain tough for some people! As a teacher we are not just working with one unique child, but a whole classroom full of unique children to figure out and teach them to reach greatest potential. Once we have our students figured out, the other difficult part is knowing what the best practices are, researching the new ways and findings, figuring out which reading theories work, and how to manage all this in the 90 minutes of reading instruction a day. This can all get overwhelming, which is why literacy leaders are so important to schools, teachers, and students.

Literacy leaders are educated and experienced teachers that support classroom teachers, struggling readers, and administration. Their roles may vary from school to school and district to district. They are able to take the time to research and pass on the best practices, help implement reading programs, arrange valuable training sessions, help teachers set up literacy rich classrooms, work with struggling readers, help administration determine a school’s literacy direction or assessment program, and overall work with the teachers to best support the students. They are team players who are “responsible for creating and implementing a collaborative vision with the goal of improving the school’s literacy education program. {They} support a common vision, work to enhance the efficacy of all teachers through multiple professional development endeavors, support all levels of programming and evidence-based practice, and make data-driven decisions” (Vogt & Shearer, 2011, p. 58-59). Someday I hope to be able to do this, as my dream is that all students are given the gift of being literate and the chance to soar to great heights.

Reference

Vogt, M. & Shearer, B. A. (2011) Reading specialists and literacy coaches in the real world. (3rd ed.). Longrove, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.