Formative assessments are an invaluable tool utilized by educators to indicate educational growth and progress in students. Gust Elementary School in Denver has begun to utilize student self-assessment, with some indicators of success.

Students are given a rubric, or key indicator of what their work ‘should’ look like. With the guidance of their teacher, they make corrections as needed. The advocates behind self-assessment claim that students learn more by being given the opportunity to analyze their own work and make the necessary corrections. By involving students in the process, they are able to track their own educational growth. Ultimately, it has students becoming more invested in their education.

The faculty and students at Gust stand by their model. Students have embraced it and educators claim real progress. Self-assessment is popping up in schools and districts around the country. If you have had experience utilizing this model, please share your experiences in the comment section!

How Tech Start Ups May Change Education As We Know It

This enlightening article explores in detail how tech start ups hold the potential to revolutionize education. The traditional classroom environment comes with limitations; educators are usually stuck with a set curriculum that needs to be covered within a specific time-frame. Furthermore, the student-to-teacher ratio makes individualized learning nearly impossible. While teachers undoubtedly do their best to make sure every child understands the content, they cannot dedicate excess time while the rest of the class suffers. Similarly, students ahead of the curriculum cannot be given special time to cover more advanced concepts.

By utilizing digital mentoring, we can overcome these obstacles of traditional ed; and therefore offer a truly tailored experience for each child. Imagine if you will, a learning environment where curriculum was developed based upon each child’s current progress, strengths and weaknesses. And attention was given to them upon a one-to-one basis. While this does currently exist, it’s primarily in a testing stage. The results so far are promising: dramatically increased testing scores from the student participants.

The Controversy Around AP Courses

Throughout the country there has been a gradual shift towards pushing for more AP (Advanced Placement) Courses; specifically, a push for higher enrollment within them.  AP Courses are typically offered to high school students with no upfront cost to them (the school district pays about $90 per AP exam taken). Successful completion of an AP exam (usually a score of 3 out of 5, marking a passing rate) entitles a student to use that course towards college credit in most colleges and universities. One inherent benefit to the student who passes the exam is the reduced cost in college credit attainment. It has also been argued that students who don’t pass the exams still benefit from the exposure to the rigorous curriculum of these courses.  From my experience in leading the push to greater access of more academic rigor for America’s students, I strongly support this notion.

There has been a call to question the motives of The College Board (the non-profit organization that offers AP exams); as we have seen this increase in course enrollment and availability correlated with decreased passing rates. Opponents often say that students are being pushed into taking courses that may be too advanced for them. They question if there is a profit-motive behind the increased enrollment, and assume that The College Board is to blame. The linked Chicago Tribune article here, explores this controversy.

If we are to return America to top-status academically, we must tap all ways to increase rigor, relevance, and results with our school kids. This reigns especially true for our under-served, under-exposed, and under-performing students.

I am deeply saddened to report that Dr. Phillip C. Schlechty, founder of Schlechty Center, passed away early yesterday morning. Like the thousands of educators he has influenced, I am left deeply saddened by this news. Phil was a leader in providing insightful education models for young minds.

Phil has done a masterful job of ensuring the continuity of leadership needed for this transition. Although our mentor and friend passed away yesterday; work at the Schlechty Center will continue to honor Phil’s legacy of creating engaging school’s for today’s students.

A Warm Holiday Wish for All

As we approach the end of the year, it is usually a time of reflection and dreaming for the future to come. I wanted to extend a warm holiday wish to all who follow my blog. May the time spent with family be merry and spirited. I sincerely hope that 2016 is a year filled with joy, prosperity and serenity for you!

Happy Holidays!,

Dr. Joseph Wise

The Power of Apology

In a simple, but powerful message; this blog post from EdWeek explores the power that educators have over young minds. It makes a good point, that teachers are human; and therefore, inherently imperfect. Mistakes are made, rough days are had, and on occasion an off-the-cuff comment towards a student may slip.

We’ve all been there, educators or not, that moment when we say something harsh or crude. The key to properly resolving such an outburst is the same in any work environment: a genuine apology, an acknowledgement that comments or actions made were in poor taste.

This proves particularly crucial with students. Regardless of outward appearances of students based on their attitudes; they generally look up to educators as role-models. And as much as a harsh comment can result in a lasting sting, the sign of humility and an ability to make amends for wrongs done will make for a much stronger lasting impression for the positive.

Consequences of Expanding Teacher Vacancies

Expanding numbers of teacher’s vacancies is not news; it’s been a highlight of the issues facing American education for the past couple of years. However, the consequences of these open positions are beginning to rear their head: students, particularly in high-poverty schools, are finding their classes being taught by a rotating slew of substitute teachers.

For students already struggling in subjects, this can spell disaster. The lack of consistency means that educators are further disadvantaged at coaching students who are behind the curve; inhibiting that student’s continual progress and achievement.

Nothing short of a crisis, high-poverty schools already host the highest risks of dropout in the United States; and although speculative at this point, it would come as no surprise to find that the lack of quality, consistent education resulting in more students failing to graduate from these schools. 

Miguel’s Story

Miguel Carter grew up a child in the foster care system in Florida. He was shuffled around from home to home, and has attended over 10 public schools.

Due to the lack of consistency, Miguel found out from a high school guidance counselor that he wouldn’t be able to graduate with his peers due to being 12 credits short. When searching for answers, he was informed about Acceleration Academy as an option to earn his high school diploma. Miguel enrolled and shined bright, an exemplary student; he worked tirelessly to earn those remaining credits.

Miguel is flying to Chicago this week to meet with the Board of Directors to tell his story to them. We could not be prouder of his achievements, his hard work and dedication to pursuing education. If you would like to read more about Miguel’s story, click here to read an article published by the Polk County Democrat (local paper).

Massachusetts’ Rejection of Common Core

Recent steps taken by the State and statements stemming from Mitchell Chester (the Commissioner of Education), show that Massachusetts will be stepping away from Common Core testing and standards. At his recommendation, the Board of Education has decided to drop the nationalized testing and develop one specifically for the State. As the leader in public education for the United States, Massachusetts’ leaving Common Core may set some precedent for others that have expressed interest in leaving the national education standards.

Union President, Randi Weingarten, Defends Hillary Clinton on Charter Schools

Original NYT Article

Ideally, the charter system should not have to be serving the role that it has unfortunately taken in education: as competition to wholly-public schools. Each and every school should be driven to provide quality education to all, especially to underserved and underperforming students; typically public schools have fallen short of performing this essential service though.

The acts of corruption witnessed in certain charter schools are unforgiveable for the individuals who were involved. However, those actions and some of the undesirable effects the charter system hosts shouldn’t define charters as a whole. It’s easier to place blame on the system, rather than taking the time to analyze the problem schools and executives. The charter system is undeserving of such blanketed statements; and it’s shortsighted to fail acknowledging the valuable role that they play in reaching out to those students who would typically be left behind in public education (particularly true in large cities). Charter schools provide opportunities to leave the education-opportunity by the economically-disenfranchised of this country.

A more viable, and sustainable approach would be to look towards implementing measures that force greater transparency.

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