Projects are like poetry. Few of us would argue that we don’t see the value of poems in the classroom. We agree with Elena Aguilar who wrote in Edutopia, “We need poetry. We really do. Poetry promotes literacy, builds community, and fosters emotional resilience.” Even so, it’s a struggle to find the time between teaching multiple classes, monitoring attendance, planning, co-planning, team meetings, faculty meetings, calling parents, students conferencing, giving feedback on assignments, developing assessments, grading, entering grades, proctoring state tests, and (fill in the blank) to read more poetry, let alone bring it into the classroom.
Maybe though, there is time for one short poem today:
Bridges by Ernest Walsh
And quiet movements of the hands,
And silence . . . with secrets . . .
I built bridges
Over which we passed
And quiet movements of the hands,
And silence . . . with secrets . . .
Were bridges destroyed.
Bridges. Bridging teaching and learning. Bridging teaching and THE TEST. Bridging relationships – students, parents, colleagues, and our own families. So many bridges come to mind after reading that short poem. How can we build these bridges? What does a bridge between teaching and THE TEST need to be strong and flexible enough to withstand shifting winds?
We explored some of these questions early last year, during our project-based learning conference, the Big Learning Challenge (BLC). There were no easy answers or packaged approaches available. We dug in together, like we ask our students to do. We created, grounding ourselves in these realities:
We experienced first-hand the value we know PBL adds to our students’ 21st century skill practice:
As teachers, we need projects that will support our own problem-solving. How will you make time for projects if you know they will deepen your students’ understanding? How can you manage time when considering a project-based approach to your next unit? What might be a small project you could start with as your prototype for PBL? What is your simplest next step in making room for projects, and what would you possibly gain by trying?
Who’s got the time? We do, and to find support in a creative, PBL-focused space, join us at the Big Learning Challenge on January 28th. We welcome you to an experience of exploration and discovery, with plenty of support from our experienced and passionate facilitators as we build projects together and plan for how you can take those projects from planning to practice.
They were looking at me like I had sprouted horns or was speaking another language. Wait -- I was speaking another language; I was speaking English to 26 teachers in Shanghai, China.
I tried again, leaning on our interpreter, Serena, for support. I waited for understanding to cross their faces, for light bulbs to turn on. Instead, I saw blank stares and suspicious expressions. Then Serena said, “Yes, yes, they get it,” and motioned for them to get started. I moved around the room, table by table, asking teachers to flip their check-for-understanding card to the emoji that represented their thinking:
Most of them were thinking and some smiling. “Is it the positive kind of thinking (productive) or the negative kind (destructive)?” I would ask. For most it was the former. I circled back around to support those who pointed to destructive thinking or sad faces.
We were on the third day of a five-day institute, part of a partnership with YouXi, an organization that serves Chinese families and students by helping schools to raise their teaching standards and working with local teachers closely on their professional development. Our team was pushing them to engage with new ideas in what, we quickly discovered, was a completely new way of experiencing professional development.
“They’re used to being lectured to, taking pictures of the Powerpoint, and then being finished,” we were told on day two, “This is a tough transition for them to make.” While we did have a Powerpoint they took pictures of, the slides were mostly filled with opportunities for making meaning -- with questions, not answers. We had invited them on day one to experiment, on day two to imagine, on day three to collaborate, and on each of those days to reflect and to question. With two days left to go, I could tell they wanted me to give them an answer. How could I tell? They said it, that’s how.
“Just tell us the example. We will do it the way you say,” I heard more than once. Yet, our objective was to teach, inspire, and support these teachers in integrating 21st century assessments into their classrooms. I couldn’t do it for them. There were no answers to give, because they had the answers inside of them. As uncomfortable as we all felt -- the teachers with this new way of learning and me anxiously wondering, have I pushed too hard? Have I discouraged them, or are they in a positive struggle? -- the only way out was through.
I made my third round to each table. Each teacher was still in the room. Not only were they still present, but each one was working, either on their lesson or their rubric, so they had a way to assess learning in either:
They were doing it! They were intellectually engaged, absorbed in their attempt to make sense of this new framework, exploring how they might use it in their own classroom, investigating possibilities, and problem-solving individually and collaboratively. The day ended with presentations of their work.
We laughed with joy as Chinese language teachers demonstrated how their students would collaboratively embody a traditional story involving a fish and a stomach ache. We perched on the edge of our seats when a Biology Engineering teacher shared her lesson on artificial intelligence, winding her fascinating story toward her end goal to provide opportunities for her students to communicate their learning in multiple ways. We asked an art teacher question after question about the painting her 8th grade student did and how she planned to use the piece in a lesson focused on observation and reflection.
Their sustained struggle to make sense of new concepts resulted in the opportunity to teach and inspire one another. They were able to develop their own examples and become models for one another for what it looks and feels like to push through discomfort and come out on the other side, with a sense of confidence and pride that their learning was their own, and the knowledge that they could take it to places only they could imagine.
As teachers seek to cultivate their students’ questioning and discussion skills, as called for in component 3b of the Danielson Framework, they often turn to structures that are designed to promote conversations in classroom. There are many tried-and-true protocols that teachers use to help students frame their dialogues, but lately I’ve been playing with a real-world classic: speed dating. The speed dating protocol can be modified in many ways for a wide range of classrooms: the teacher can manipulate the duration and number of the conversations, the physical layout of the room, the delivery system for the prompts, and, of course, the prompts themselves.
In a 12th-grade ELA classroom at Fordham Leadership Academy, I wanted to kick off a unit on personal essays by inviting students to brainstorm responses to some of the prompts from the Common Application. Seeking to avoid using what the students called the “same old protocols,” I shook things up by inviting students to have a series of “speed dates” in which their conversations would be guided by those essay prompts.
Here are the main moves:
Illuminating Chaucer, an interdisciplinary project created with the New York City Lab School, showcases the creativity of students as they immersed themselves in the analysis of medieval times and Middle English literature. This project provided them with an opportunity to creatively express their reactions to classic works of literature
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The classics are often difficult to understand, even for experienced readers. As a result, students are often hesitant or frustrated as they engage with texts like The Canterbury Tales. However, by reimagining how they engage with these texts, we might be able to ease their experiences.
Diversifying your instruction is particularly useful as you explore ways prepare students for Regents exams. We invite you to use this text to reimagine the teaching of literature and explore how your students can create their own rhymes inspired and informed by their interpretations of the classics.
We see each teacher as they join the video call. One participant is already on, and we see her organizing stacks of paper on a table behind her computer. She occasionally looks over her shoulder, squinting to see if anyone else has joined the call. Ding! A screen appears, and a man is eating a spoonful of yogurt while he adjusts his camera to a better angle. We hear him typing rapidly, occasionally glancing at the screen, at us. When he sees he has another minute before the call officially starts, he goes back to typing. Ding! Ding! Ding! Three more teachers arrive and we see constant movement as one grabs her cup of coffee, another finishes taping up a poster on a nearby wall, and another efficiently rearranges the desk, so we no longer see the empty fast food wrappers and soda can in the corner of our screen.
Teachers spend every moment they can to keep up with the demands of their work. One of those demands, Danielson component 3b, requires teachers to implement practices that will spark discussion among their students. Keep the Kids Talking, which we offer as both an in-person workshop series and as an asynchronous online course, addresses this component by providing an opportunity for educators to learn targeted instructional strategies that create conditions for authentic, student-driven discussion in their classrooms.
When connecting with our most recent online course cohort via phone, we enacted our Thinking & Talking strategy, which enables the use of silent cues to communicate when you have something to say. To use this strategy, each person in the group is equipped with a small card that can be flipped to reveal that they want to contribute to the discussion, or that they’re still thinking. Participants can then call on one another as the discussion moves along, instead of waiting for a teacher or facilitator to decide who should speak next.
“This was valuable for my quieter students. With a simple card flip, they could show that they had something to say, and when another student passed to them, they were more easily able to join the discussion."
Before the end of the course, teachers are often sailing past proficient and onto distinguished along the Danielson Framework rubric for 3b, with the following goals well within their plans and practice:
Sustained reflection and discussion over the 12-week course provided the support these teachers had been searching for to move their questioning and discussion practice to the next level. For more strategies, join us for an in-person, 3-session series starting this February, or stay tuned for our next online offering of this course by checking out our upcoming events.
Parent-teacher conferences are just around the corner, and it's a valuable time for schools to reflect on promising practices and processes for communicating with parents. Research shows that parent engagement can have a significant impact on student achievement.
To support your efforts, we invite you to download our Real Talk resource, which is designed to help you identify what might be preventing communication with parents, and offers specific steps educators can take to improve & increase parent engagement.
For additional, in-depth support, reach out to our coaching team!
There’s a saying in Spanish that goes, “no cuentes los años, cuenta los recuerdos” (don’t count the years, count the memories). Like so often happens, a little gets lost in translation - a word play in this case. But the essence remains: rather than “counting”, you should “tell” your memories.
Inspired by the novel Like Water for Chocolate, students at the Bronx High School of Business collected some of their family recipes and wrote memoirs inspired and informed by their favorite dishes. Inside, you’ll find recipes for dishes such as, sweet beans cream, fish soup, and pozole - unique delicacies from around the world - each of which brings back a warm and nostalgic memory.
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Cornucopia of Memories provides an intimate glimpse into its authors' most treasured memories, as well as their process of reflection and self-discovery as writers.
We invite you to use this text, particularly around this time of year, to inspire projects that explore culture, customs, and/or traditions. Each memoir in this collection can serve as a powerful example of how to incorporate rich imagery and sensory details into written pieces, as well as how to write from the heart!
A few weeks ago, the New York State Education Department released a memo outlining the changes to school accountability measures as a result of the legislation from the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act, which has replaced the widely known No Child Left Behind Act from 2001.
There are a few people, like myself, who geek out about education policy, and we’ve been waiting for this moment since President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law in 2015. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) imposed strict policies and guidelines for states to hold schools accountable for meeting student performance expectations, or face very real consequences. These consequences ushered in what I’ve described as the “Accountability Era” where school leaders, and teachers are held personally responsible for student performance on state tests. Where NCLB established federal expectations for testing and achievement benchmarks, ESSA removes the federal government from the equation and puts states back into the driver’s seat when determining what policies should be enacted in the state. Educators have been diligently watching the news to see how states are determining their priorities and expectations for their schools.
Like many other states, New York has been following an implementation timeline that has held steady on NCLB expectations while working to restructure a state system that policymakers can agree to, with input from the public. Though the NYS ESSA plan was approved earlier this year, there haven’t been many details as to how the new plan would be implemented, or how it might directly affect schools.
That is, until last month, when the NYSED released a set of changes related to ESSA. The 21-page memo is largely a technical manual, outlining the new system for school accountability in the state, new metric systems, and new designations for identifying schools who are below, meeting, or exceeding state expectations. I would never discourage anyone from reading the primary source, but most teachers and school leaders will likely find themselves a bit too busy to pore over all the formulas and definitions outlined there.
If you’re interested in the understanding the changes, but don’t have the time to review the entire memo, we’ve put together a summary of some of the biggest adjustments coming to New York schools, including new accountability designations and new metrics to measure school performance.
Change #1: New accountability categories
As of October 2018, NCLB’s categories like Priority School or Focus School have been discontinued, and have been replaced by the categories Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) and Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI). The state explained that schools will receive a new designation before the end of December 2018.
Comprehensive Support and Improvement is specifically for schools that fall in the bottom 5% of performance for the “all students subgroup, or have a graduation rate of 67% or lower.
One notable change is the identification of CSI schools based on how they compare with other schools across the state, rather than marking their progress against their school’s individual goals. Under NCLB, schools were given an accountability ranking based on their ability to meet their own unique target goals. The shift to focusing on a schools within the lowest 5% shifts the focus from an internal benchmarking system to an external benchmarking system where schools only need to be better than those in the lowest 5%. Likewise, schools that have seen major increases in performance, but struggle with the neediest populations, are likely to have a difficult time showing their growth in the shadow of traditionally high performing schools.
Change #2: Indicators for evaluation
During the NCLB era, schools were evaluated on annual test scores in English Language Arts and Mathematics, as well as graduation rates. Under ESSA, New York has broadened the number of measures that will be used for evaluating school performance to include five indicators for elementary and middle schools, and six indicators for high schools.
Each of these new areas of measurement taps into a host of new questions about how the state is defining student achievement and teacher performance. While we don’t yet have a full picture of how the evaluations will be structured at the state level, this basic blueprint helps us to identify the new and continuing expectations for school performance.
We’ll delve into additional components of this legislation, including the exploration of the state’s approach to setting annual and long-term goals, as well as new formulas for determining a school’s performance index. Stay tuned!
Each year, our Student Press Initiative publishes 20+ books in collaboration with student authors across the world. The creation of published work is no small feat, and we could not see these projects through to fruition without our team of publication coaches, who dedicate their time and expertise to each and every written piece. Each member of this team comes to us with deep content and pedagogical knowledge, and a passion for literacy, especially when it comes to creative writing.
Our publication team works alongside teachers to:
MEET THE TEAM
Disruptive students can often cause more problems for teachers than disrespectful or defiant students. Disruptions throw the lesson off track, influence other students, and can leave teachers feeling helpless in their own classrooms. How do you deal with their behavior? Try out our Three Sweeps resource to help address disruptive behaviors in productive ways.
For additional, in-depth support, reach out to our coaching team!
What happens when a school district stops buying published, packaged curriculum and starts empowering their teachers to collaborate strategically to design courses that address the unique interests and needs of their students? CPET partners Nazareth, PA Area School District are finding out that when teachers are co-authors of bespoke curriculum that is engaging to their students, teachers’ engagement with all aspects of the work also peaks.
After a year-long effort of research and writing, grades 7-10 ELA teachers in Nazareth are rolling out their new curricula, and the focus of our work has shifted to implementation. Our team is visiting middle and high school classrooms and engaging in coaching conversations with Nazareth teachers as they begin to experience early successes and surface early challenges to the redesigned courses.
These coaching conversations allow teachers the space and time necessary to reflect on their new curriculum but also assist them in translating their planning into instruction. As the process of implementing the new curriculum continues, the teachers and their CPET coaches gather data from periodic assessments, teacher reflections, and classroom observations in order to facilitate a cycle of inquiry through which Nazareth teachers will refine their prototype curriculum in order to make it even more valuable to their students.
Are you helping teachers tackle the curriculum design process? Here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Can't stop/won't stop: A cycle of inquiry that describes and then analyzes a situation should culminate in suggestions for action, and that action will yield a new set of data for description and analysis. The reflective practitioner never stops questioning and investigating.
2. UbD FTW: Sometimes the old ways are the best ways, so if you’re looking to support teachers as they plan instruction, consider falling back to the Understanding by Design framework.
3. Support matters: Not all teachers want to or are prepared to write their own curriculum. A little bit of framing and coaching can go a long way to help them feel ready and find success.
In partnership with PS114 in Brooklyn, our team recently conducted a needs assessment focused on two areas:
As a result, we saw PS114’s pass-rate on NYS tests double from 16% to 32%, and a marked increase in performance among the school’s lowest achieving students, who are also among the city’s lowest third. For the diverse students of this school, many of whom experience economic hardship, and the teachers who work hard to meet their needs each day, this growth was a great source of hope and inspiration.
Here’s how we approached the project:
To address the first goal, we ran pilots using units from JUMP Math, a curriculum written by Dr. John Mighton, an award winning playwright and mathematician from Canada. After a successful pilot in the 2016-17 academic year, we expanded our use of JUMP to all of PS114 in the 2017-18 school year. Relative to state targets, the school improved from well below the city average for impact on student achievement to above average.
To address the second area of focus, we ran cycles of inquiry -- a structured, ongoing process of goal setting, intervention, data collection, analysis, and adjustment of plans -- with teacher teams to ensure that we were optimizing our use of the curriculum.
As you improve your own practice, consider:
At the close of each Chancellor’s Day conference, we spend a few moments with our facilitators and event staff, reflecting on the day. Energy-wise, we’re typically bouncing between being inspired (how can we not be, having worked with such incredible teachers?) and exhausted, so we use a simple protocol to focus our minds on a few comments to share. We call it Hots & (k)Nots. We each share one highlight (hot) and one “I wish this could have been different” moment (not) also known as “I’d like to change this for next time” (untie this “knot”).
Following Inspire, Caroline Cooper, facilitator of the Critical Reflection through Poetry & Prose session, shared how inspired she was by the participants in her workshop. She said, “Teaching is an art, and they’re all artists.”
TEACHERS AS ARTISTS
Teachers from New York City and beyond started their Election Day with CPET Director Dr. Roberta Lenger Kang, who challenged them to consider life from the perspective of the Aspen tree, an organism connected to its community through a shared root system, growing on a strong foundation, seeking nourishment from the environment to stand tall season after season. Teachers moved into critical reflections sessions and then on to workshop sessions that most interested them – that spoke to their way of teaching or looked promising in inspiring the art they were creating, from lesson plans to analyzing student work to discovering ways to support themselves and others experiencing trauma.
We saw teachers create mobiles, balancing objects that represented elements of their heavy loads. Teachers collected student engagement techniques through a fast-paced bingo game designed to connect teachers as they worked. Facilitators provided resources for teachers to explore creative, collaborative, critical, and global mindsets, followed by space in which they dug a little deeper and found ways to integrate their learning in the classroom.
BEYOND PLANNED OUTCOMES
Throughout Inspire, educators participated in content discussion groups, engaged in critical reflection, collaborated with colleagues, interrogated relevant research, and previewed innovative workshops. They arrived willing to take chances, and with a commitment to enhancing their practice for themselves & their students.
As they reflected at the end of the day, teachers shared these ideas:
Self-care is important for both teachers and students.
Take care of yourself.
Students experience trauma – that affects their behavior. Students are NOT their behavior.
Behavior is communication.
Education changes, and so must we.
Try new stuff in the classroom!
Perhaps their words respond to a quote attributed to Pablo Picasso, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” Teachers are finding ways to remain artists, and that is inspiring.
We're looking forward to our next Chancellor's Day event, which will focus on the power of project-based learning. The Big Learning Challenge will allow educators to design 21st century projects around a common theme, that they can then take back to their classrooms.
Can't make it for Chancellor's Day? Check out all our upcoming PD sessions to see which is right for you.
What would you say to America if you could? Current events challenge us to think about our changing country, and how new immigration policies deeply affect high school students and their families. At the Bronx High School of Business, one teacher joined forces with her students, many of whom are immigrants, and decided to speak to America. In Dear America, these young people share their experiences and opinions through essays, and tackle some common myths about immigration. The result is a powerful collection of student voices speaking to teachers, parents, and policy-makers
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November, the month of Election Day, is also a month when political ideologies and perspectives on various issues are discussed throughout the country. One issue that affects a great number of students in our school is the issue of immigration. The student authors of Dear America embarked on a journey of inquiry throughout their writing process, in an effort to share their personal perspectives on the subject.
We invite you to use this text to inspire writing prompts of your own, related to the issues that affect and resonate with your students most. Furthermore, we invite you to use these texts to foster the often difficult, yet critical conversations regarding immigration. We believe that when students explore the perspectives and experiences of other students like them, it can help create a safe space for sharing, making connections, and ideally, building empathy.
I was walking down the hallway of one of our classic New York City high schools, talking with a teacher who was struggling with classroom culture issues. They were explaining that day in and day out, it was the same thing with the same kids. I stopped dead in my tracks, turned to the teacher, and said, “The thing is -- if nothing changes, nothing changes.”
I wasn’t trying to be clever, it just seemed so clear and simple to me in that moment. If nothing changes, nothing changes. Why would we ever expect anything to change if we do not bring something new or different to the classroom? If we do not see our students differently, or if we speak to them differently? If we do not teach them differently?
The clearer this concept became in that moment, the clearer I saw this simple truth in all areas of my professional and personal life. I realized that when we have a goal that we want to reach, we must be the first to change our mindset and our actions. This is as true for school leaders working with teachers (both administrators and teacher leaders alike) as it is for teachers working with students. So when I recently had the opportunity to support a group of teacher leaders and administrators in a 3-day institute at Teachers College, I really wanted to focus on helping them develop a strategic plan for school change. We knew that nothing would change if nothing changed -- but we weren’t quite sure what should be changed first, which is why we developed this three-step process. This process allowed us to be reflective about the challenges that were most impacting the school’s student achievement and to work collaboratively to develop strategic solutions.
Step 1: Identify your leverage area
Before developing a solution, we need to determine the underlying problem and ultimate leverage area. Using the 5 Whys protocol helps us to dig below the surface and identify the root cause, which leads us to a new understanding of the problem. The 5 Whys begins with a basic statement of the problem, then prompts critical reflection to consider why this problem exists, in five rounds.
When working through this process we want to keep our critical reflection focused on factors that are within our sphere of influence. For example, if the problem statement is, “students are struggling on state tests,” and the probing question is “why?” and the response is, “poverty” … well, there isn’t really anywhere to go to solve this problem! It can leave us feeling very powerless, when that isn’t the case at all. This isn’t to say that poverty isn’t an underlying reason, but it isn’t the only reason, and it is far too broad a topic to be resolved by a small group of people. Instead, it is more productive and empowering to focus on areas in which we have more influence.
For example, students are struggling on state tests. Why? Because the tests are long and students get tired. Why? Because students struggle with test-taking stamina. Why? Because they get tired and bored, and it’s difficult for them to retain focus. Why? Because the texts or tasks are complex and they struggle to comprehend them. Why? Because they struggle with assessment literacy and text types or question styles become difficult for them to read.
This could go on and on, but notice how, when forced to keep the responses within the realm of the team’s influence, we actually got down to some concrete areas of focus. The 5 Whys protocol helps to unearth a tangible root issue that is contributing to the problem. By resolving the root cause, we can begin to see what we should change, so that things can change.
Step 2: Understand your connection to the challenge
In order to really incite change, every person needs to see how they are connected to the challenge, and articulate a way that they can personally contribute to the solution. By creating a personal action plan, each person is invited to consider the nature of the problem, how it's connected to their role, and what they can do about it as an individual. Through a series of sentence starters, a personal action plan asks educators to examine their current role and responsibilities, where they have influence or decision-making power, and to reflect on what they can do to make an impact on the root issue. When using the sentence starter, “one thing I can do to make a difference is…” you begin with a powerful prompt as you consider what you can do to influence change.
Step 3: Create a collaborative action plan
While everyone can individually contribute to a solution, more progress will be made if there is intentional collaboration. When educators work together to solve problems, they have a greater impact in a shorter time period. Consider the impact on struggling readers if one teacher uses a literacy strategy once a day for two weeks. The students will see that support 10 times. Now consider if five teachers used the strategy for two weeks. Students would see that strategy 50 times in 10 days. That kind of emphasis builds capacity within students at an exponential rate. This is what the collaborative action plan is all about. It helps to create a timeline, a team, and benchmark objectives to meet the goal.
Our ability to solve complex problems increases when we better understand the problem we’re trying to solve, when we’re able to get down into the root of the issue, and when we make a personal and collaborative commitment for targeted change. These strategies can be applied in all parts of organizations, and especially in schools where our actions impact the current and future lives of our students. Nothing changes when nothing changes. But when something changes -- anything can change, and you can be a part of it. Be the change you want to see
The Student Press Initiative is celebrating its 16th year of publishing student work, and our publication team is excited to continue empowering schools & students as they go public with their writing this year. Last year, we worked alongside schools in New York, North Carolina, Georgia, and Singapore to create 23 student-authored publications focused on everything from surviving high school to dystopian futures.
More publications are already in the works for this year, including one from our long-term partner, the Morris Academy of Collaborative Studies, whose students will be publishing their 10th anthology this spring.
Why student publishing?
If you’ll be at the 2018 NCTE convention, stop by and see our stellar coaches! They’ll be showcasing their research, best practices, and passion at this year’s event, which takes place in Houston, TX. Read on for a preview of their presentations!
The sunlight is still Summer while the breeze feels like Fall. Teachers stream in, eager to find their names at check-in and chat with colleagues on their way to hear the keynote speaker frame the day, “It’s not that differentiation is part of the work. Differentiation is the work itself. We all can make progress and we can all grow. Each student deserves a goal that they can work hard to achieve!”
So begins Differentiating Like a Star, one of four mini-conferences CPET recently offered to early career teachers from the Bronx. The New York City Department of Education, Office of Teacher Recruitment and Quality (OTQR), partnered with us to bring this series of professional development workshops to life. Each mini-conference was CTLE credit-approved and offered words of inspiration rooted in the reality of our classrooms, followed by a customized workshop session designed to model the practices and strategies of 21st century skills and work on authentic tasks educators could use in their classrooms.
The Art of Instructional Design: Many new teachers struggle with daily (or rather, nightly) lesson planning, which is often inefficient and ineffective for long-term learning. These breakout sessions supported teachers in taking their planning to a new level by helping them understand the basic components of any plan, and cultivate strategies for long term planning.
Differentiating Like a Star: Differentiating instruction is an essential, and often misunderstood, pedagogical strategy. These breakout sessions were designed to tackle one element of differentiation that teachers struggle with and provide them with a clear foundation for what differentiation is and isn’t, as well as provide tangible strategies for immediate implementation.
Digging Into Danielson: Each breakout session, aimed at understanding the Danielson evaluation system, focused on 1-2 of the key Danielson domains. Teachers explored the language of the rubric, made connections to their own practice, learned 2-3 techniques aligned with the expectation of Effective Practice, and created a plan for implementation.
Teaching Through the Test: Each breakout session analyzed high stakes assessments within each content area. Teachers anticipated their students’ strengths and likely challenges, and made connections to essential content knowledge and skills in addition to highly effective strategies for teaching through the test, rather than to it.
As each mini-conference drew to a close, teachers provided feedback, sharing that their experience exceeded expectations at a significantly higher rate than any other ranking! Participant comments point to accessible and expert facilitators, practical application, and engaging material:
I am from a caring mom
That cooks with pride
Baked ziti with chicken
And from T.V.,
I am from the hood
With gunshots that ring
More than doorbells,
my mother grew,
As red as blood.
That untitled work, by a student at East River Academy, a New York City public school that serves young people at the city’s Rikers Island detention facility, is among the 69 poems, narratives and essays found on the pages of “Free Minds,” a booklet published by Teachers College’s Student Press Initiative (SPI). Launched 16 years ago by Ruth Vinz, Enid & Lester Morse Professor in Teacher Education, SPI is just one facet of TC’s Center for the Professional Education of Teachers (CPET), which was created by Vinz as an outlet for students at the Academy and other schools to express their thoughts, their hopes and their dreams.
In May, District 79 – an alternative city school district that helps students under the age of 21 who have experienced an interruption to their studies – recognized CPET as an “Exemplary Partner” for its work with East River Academy, which includes professional and curriculum development. The honors were directed at the entire CPET team, which consists of the center’s director, Roberta Lenger Kang; SPI director Cristina Romeo Compton; Senior Professional Development Coach Courtney Brown; and a team focused on East River Academy Team whose members are TC students Shannon Alison and Andrew Ravin (both of whom are Zankel Fellows); TC Social Studies Education faculty member Erika Kitzmiller; and Senior Professional Development Coaches Greg Benoit (math) and Kristina Hopkins (science).
Continue reading on the Teachers College website.
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From the Darkness, a collection of memoirs written by the junior class of Hoboken High School, treats the reader to tales of conflict -- the driving force behind all great literature -- with monsters. Through confrontations with nature, man, society, or themselves, these young authors discover their strength, tenacity, and beauty.
USING THIS PUBLICATION IN THE CLASSROOM
“Darkness” is a fitting theme for the month of October. We encourage you to use this text to embark upon a study of conflict and support students in expanding their understandings of this literary element. How can it be represented in various genres and texts?
Furthermore, we invite you use this publication to explore writing projects inspired by questions such as: How does a teenager combat nature? How do they confront one another? How do they confront themselves?
Enjoy reading the life stories of these students and learning about the fears of adolescence. We hope they will leave you inspired to face your own monsters!
Each summer, the Literacy Unbound initiative hosts an intensive institute, drawing educators from around the world to work alongside New York City high school students to generate an original production inspired by the study of a shared text. Out of this immersion, teachers design original curriculum. During July of 2018, the Literacy Unbound Institute joined teachers and students to become players who embraced The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair, as their text.
At the start of the two-week intensive, players shared both excitement and curiosity as they entered this new experience of investigating the 1906 novel, exploring the harsh conditions immigrants lived under in industrialized Chicago. How would they connect with these characters? Could they find themselves within this story? What does “Literacy Unbound” really mean?
For the next eight days, players deepened their understanding of the text alongside teaching artists who guided them in the use of expressive movement, writing within a historical context, innovative dramatic techniques, film-making, and music mixing to create a unique performance. On day nine, audience members were welcomed as fellow travelers, moving from their home country into the unknown, experiencing The Jungle, remixed through installation, spoken word, movement, and multi-modal artistic expression, culminating with a conversation between players and audience.
One audience member commented on how confident and clear student-players were when speaking to a full-house audience, answering questions about the text and the meaning they made of it, both in their educational pursuits and their personal lives. A teacher-player responded, “That’s what happens when students are confident! This process provides the space in which students build that kind of confidence in themselves as successful readers and creators.”
At the close of the Literacy Unbound Summer Institute, players reflected on their experience, in part by completing the phrase “Literacy _________” with the words:
Their advice for future players? Take the chance!
We are proud to announce our new partnership with MiSK Schools in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia! MiSK Schools aim to foster resilient and independent young adults who can take on the as-yet-unknown challenges of the 21st century and flourish in this rapidly evolving time. As such, MiSK Schools and CPET have embarked on a project to design a series of Extended Learning Activities (ELAs) that are aligned to a bespoke iteration of the Global Capacities Framework (GCF), a series of aspirational educational objectives that were developed in the early days of the Global Learning Alliance (GLA) and have been refined over the subsequent years by CPET coaches and various other GLA members. However, this partnership with MiSK Schools represents the first time a school as adopted a version of the GCF as foundational aims of a course of study.
MiSK Schools consider themselves a startup, and, as such, were interested in a rigorous, transparent design process that would allow them to innovate beyond traditional extracurricular activities. The first step in this process was research-based and hewed closely the design thinking steps of empathize, define, and ideate. Working from the office at Teachers College, our team conducted an inventory of MiSK Schools’ extant ELA offerings and evaluated their alignment with the schools’ stated mission. Along the way, CPET introduced MiSK Schools to the GCF as a tool that could prove useful in evaluating the ELA program while also serving as objectives for the redesigned ELA courses.
Next, we traveled to Riyadh to work side-by-side with MiSK Schools leadership and teachers to prototype, test, and implement this new vision for ELAs. This semester, MiSK Schools’ students across grades PreK-6 were offered a range of ELA courses in the domains of Arts, Media, and Communication; Leadership; Physical and Mental Sports; Religion, Culture, and Community Service; and STEAM. As students progress through their courses, their teachers are gathering formative assessment data that, as part of an ongoing cycle of inquiry, will support them in reflecting on their success and challenges, refine the courses as needed, and offer new iterations of them in the second semester.
Looking ahead, we’re excited to continue this work with MiSK Schools as we collaborate strategically across cultures and time zones to craft a customized solution to meet the needs of the schools’ students.
Each year, our coaches work alongside teachers and school leaders, providing on-site and online professional development to help them achieve their goals. As you consider your goals for the 2018-19 year, let us know how we can support you!
As we embark upon another school year, we're thrilled to be cultivating new partnerships, digging into new projects and collaborations, and welcoming new team members. We're also excited to share some of the impactful work taking place at the Center.
Global Learning Alliance (GLA) summits are an opportunity for delegates to convene, collaborate and create a vision for the future. This year’s Summit took place in Helsinki, Finland, with the help of our partners at the University of Helsinki & Helsinki Normal Lyceum.
Over the course of three days, the 2018 Summit welcomed delegates from four countries - Finland, Singapore, Sweden, and the United States - to collaborate on how schools around the world are leveraging 21st century skills and dispositions. As a founding member of the Alliance and a leading provider of professional development, CPET was in attendance to help further these global conversations.
In addition to educators, administrators, and school leaders, we were also joined by high school students, who presented the findings of their cross-cultural research project. We recognize that cross-cultural collaboration is a powerful force that challenges all participants to think outside of their own context and consider the universality of the day's most pressing issues. This powerful inquiry project, focused on wellness and well-being, posed questions about how the current generation of students deals with stress, anxiety, and self-care while striving towards their goals. Their presentations helped inform the work of this year’s delegates, who will continue to develop action plans to help students meet their goals.
As part of a new partnership with iZone, a division of the NYC DOE which focuses on innovative education practices, our team has been facilitating a series of workshops aimed at deepening teachers understanding of project-based learning. Over the last few months, our coaches have helped educators examine the theory and principles behind project-based learning, and have demonstrated what it can look like in practice. Through imagining, defining, and designing their own PBL projects within these workshops, our hope is that those who attended are able to enact their plans starting this fall. Interested in project-based learning for your school? Partner with us!
For nearly 15 years, CPET has sponsored recipients of the Arthur Zankel Urban Fellowship as they work in partnership with the Center and our Student Press Initiative, which focuses on helping teachers and school communities to plan and produce all-inclusive learning experiences that culminate with students publishing their writing.
This year, we’re excited to welcome a new cohort of fellows - David Baksh, Brad Campion, Chloe Dawson, Jennifer DeCerff, and Van Anh Tran - each with impressive skills and backgrounds. We’re confident they will make wonderful additions to our team!
A few weeks ago, this group of bright & determined Fellows gathered to envision a year of growth - for themselves, and the CPET community. With support and supervision from our advanced professional development coaches, each Fellow will have a unique opportunity to make a sustainable impact on the lives of New York City students.
Book of the month: using student publication to reflect on experiences in times of growth and change
Adolescence is a time of significant transitions, and this publication reflects the voices of elementary and middle school students whose poems and narratives touch on a variety of momentous shifts in their lives. Writers from PS 36 and Fredrick Douglass Academy II have written, edited, and revised works to represent the rich transitions they have anticipated, observed, and undergone. Their pieces resonate powerfully and convey beautiful insights into their personal lives, communities, and futures.
USING THIS PUBLICATION IN THE CLASSROOM
With the start of the academic year, students begin a journey of learning, self-discovery, and conflict. More often than not, their journeys have something in common: change. The young authors of Transitions: From There to Here share an exploration of their life through writing. They engaged in project-based learning, their voices were celebrated, and they became a community of learners as they worked on this publication, which we consider an authentic assessment of their learning.
Just like these young writers, many more are part of the multitude of projects the Student Press Initiative helps design and execute each year. Teachers and students across the city reimagine writing curriculum so that it is authentic, celebratory, project-based, and Common Core aligned. In this way, the Student Press Initiative aims to reconnect teachers with the ideals that first brought them to the classroom.
We invite you to explore the poems and narratives written by students, professionally printed and published and available for purchase through Amazon. Furthermore, we encourage you to consider the possibility of pursuing a student publication project of your own this year! We believe this anthology, along with the 650 others we’ve helped publish over the years, serves as a powerful example of the humanizing effect of writing and the quality of students’ work when they write purposefully.
The CPET team is currently in Helsinki, Finland for the 2018 Global Learning Alliance Summit. With visits to the University of Helsinki and Helsinki Normal Lyceum, the 2018 summit will continue the unique university-school partnership and bring together educators around the world - from the US, Finland, and Singapore - to reflect on the characteristics of world-class education. This year's summit will have two primary features: to discuss the outcomes of the collaborative, cross-cultural project-based learning research study on Wellness and Human Well-Being, and to explore educational policies and practices from around the world, with a close-up view of the Finnish school system.
We can no longer sustain a 20th century in a 21st century world — and the GLA is committed to cross-cultural research collaborations as an effort to define a pedagogy that takes into account the dynamic needs of our changing world. The task before us is to educate students today for the world they’re poised to lead tomorrow.
To learn more about the GLA and this year's summit, visit here.