In the end of June, I attended the Ohio ASCD conference. One of the breakout speakers, Denny Thompson, presented a very informative session about the direction in which Ohio is headed.
As this is a long PPT (and I’ve already relayed my own opinion about “death by Power Point”), I want to highlight some areas of interest.
- College and career readiness-I knew a gap existed between what kids can do when they graduate high school and what colleges expect them to do when they enter as freshman (I recommend reading the first half of In the Basement of the Ivory Tower for anecdotal proof of this gap), but seeing the statistics is disheartening. Much like school districts struggle to have vertical alignment between buildings (from MS to HS, for example), we struggle as a society for vertical alignment between HS and college. I got the impression from Thompson that a lot of work is being done to bring together stakeholders in both areas to have discussions in this area. CCSS, though, as the first 11 slides examine, aim to increase HS curricula standards to better prepare kids for college and careers.
- 21st Century skills: Slides 12-24 discuss the 21st Century skills component of education progress. So often when we hear “21st Century skills” and “21st Century learners”, we think of technology, and unfortunately, many of us have small anxiety attacks when we think about how little technology our districts actually have (funding issues, space issues, etc.). I, personally, have two 21st Century strategies I want to pass along that I have already worked into my lessons for this year and am super excited to try out:
- polleverywhere.com: This site is free to educators. You can create multiple choice and short answer questions, and students can text their answers from their cell phones. I’m using it this year with my bell ringer activities (I’m a stickler for tardies–kids must be in their seats when the bell rings!). For one of my memoir lessons, I asked “Why do you think authors write stories about their lives?” A. To become famous, B. To entertain, C. To learn lessons from their experiences, D. So they don’t forget what happened. Of course, all answers here are correct, but think about the conversations that could happen at the beginning of the period as I get ready to intro. memoirs. And, let’s face it, kids text all the time.
- Google Voice: This is also free. You can create your own phone number through Google and can set it up so when people call that number it rings to your personal phone, or another option (the one I prefer), is for it not to ring to any personal phone at all. Kids can text and call/leave voicemails at that number. I plan to have them call in answers to questions because one of the CCSS is the use of correct spoken English–this would be an easy way for me to grade that!
- Back to the 21st Century slides…Thompson’s slides (and ODE’s perspective on 21st Century skills) are not just about technology. They’re about critical thinking skills, appropriate work ethics, employability. More than just the anxiety-producing “get every kid on a 1-to-1 computer system.”
- Academic Content Standards start on slide 26. Thompson gives practical advice on what teachers should be doing now to prepare. His advice in the session was to start trying to incorporate the model curriculum, become more familiar with what the standards are asking you to do. I know my goal this year is to incorporate more informational texts (remember, we’re shooting for a 70%/30% nonfiction/fiction split by senior year).
- In all content areas, CCSS is looking at less “stuff” and more in-depth “study”. A different presenter at the conference talked about “close analysis” of a text. She said at one of the seminars she attended, they discussed spending three days (!!!!) breaking down the Constitution in a MS class. Less “stuff” and more practical pieces. The same presenter (an ELA person) said ELA teachers have to move away from fiction because “what adult male needs to know how to analyze a story when he’s working in a warehouse?” Practical it is.
- Model Curricula– Slides 43 to 50 talk about the model curricula. When I last heard, both the math and ELA Ohio model curricula were finished while science and history were still in draft form. Here is the ELA model curriculum; Here is Math; Here is Science; Here is Social Studies. I thought the Model curricula was cool because the plan is for them to adapt to changing resources. If you click through some of the content areas and grade levels offered, you’ll see the documents are chock full of links to resources you can use right now. As resources/links change, the goal is for educators to submit new resources/links and for the model documents to be updated once a year. How cool?
- Assessments are addressed in slides 51-63. This discusses formative, summative, and portfolio assessments. If your district is already implementing RtI, you are a step ahead of the game because the formative/summative assessment structures are similar to doing Tier 2 progress monitoring in your Tier 1 classroom. You’ll have short-cycle progress assessments in your general education classroom.
- Slide 67 has a timeline for moving toward CCSS. Check it out.
It’s a lot to digest, I know. There’s a lot of chaos in education right now. But one thing stands true…through all this muck and fog, there are some truly great things happening for our kids right now, and in the end, doesn’t that make it all worth it?