Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Shift in Focus

A big apology is due for my inattention to this blog. I've immersed myself (and anyone who will listen) in the new Mass. System for Educator Evaluation while continuing to track happenings in the Common Core world.

Because many of you continue to access this blog, I'll keep it up. Please let me know about broken links and resources needing updating. And look for an invite to a new blog that will connect all state and federal initiatives to the educator evaluation system's teacher rubric.

Wishing you all well,

Monday, July 30, 2012

DESE's Model Curriculum Units Roll On: Year Two

Four Model Curriculum Units – Now Available (1/16/13):

ESE has released four units, located at, as prototypes for district use: Grade 3 ELA/Literacy: Whose Story Is It? The Craft and Structure of Writing about History (Topic – Plymouth); Grade 6 Mathematics: Ratios and Rates; Grade 8-10 History/Social Science: US Constitutional Rights; and Grades 9-12 Science and Technology/Engineering: Energy-Physics. 

Older News:
At Devens July 30, 2012, DESE Associate Commissioner Julia Phelps unveiled plans for a second year creating Model Curriculum Units.

In year two, participating teachers will pilot 35 units in 62 districts; they will also build 50 new units. Many Cohort I teachers have returned, and they're joined by 75 new teachers. Design teams will include a mixture of Cohort I and II teachers. And for the first time, a Voc-Tech team (creating a culinary unit) is on board.

Today Cohort I teams received feedback and revised year one units, while the new teachers work with Jay McTighe and Understanding by Design. On Tuesday teams begin work on new units. Friday brings an Educator Evaluation System presentation, especially as it relates to MCU work.

Science: only one unit from year one is moving forward! In order to catch up with the other content areas, teachers will study existing units that are in the public domain. Teacher teams will apply three different rubrics to these existing units before selecting a unit to revise.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Less is More: Linking Initiatives

At the state conference for superintendents (M.A.S.S.) held last week on Cape Cod, Karla Baehr, lead architect of Massachusetts' Educator Evaluation System, recommended that districts find points of connection among initiatives in order to save time and narrow the scope of their work. In particular, she pointed out the opportunities for connecting the Common Core State Standards with the EES, suggesting that one action may address a goal from the CCSS and another from the EES. This efficient approach to planning is similar to what classroom teachers do when they teach ELA standards through history or science content, or math standards embedded in a science project.

To my mind, linking initiatives will reduce the initiative fatigue that many teachers (and districts) experience. When educators are able to engage in one set of actions that simultaneously fulfills the expectations of two initiatives, it helps them make sense of both initiatives and feel less put-upon.

At our July 26 Curriculum PLC meeting, we'll begin to identify the most fruitful connections between the Educator Evaluation System and the Common Core. Please comment below to learn more about this work-- or to contribute your own ideas.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

System-Wide Collaborative Supports

My two previous posts explored specific collaborative techniques-- strategies designed to make meetings more collaborative.

Because collaboration among educators is essential to effective implementation of the Common Core and the Educator Evaluation System, we need to utilize structures that build collaboration across schools and districts.

The most common collaborative structure is the Professional Learning Community. PLCs, also called learning teams, capitalize on the strengths that every educator brings to the table. At their best, PLCs analyze student work or other data, identify what the students need next, and collaboratively plan instruction that responds to those needs.

Instructional Rounds are a way of placing instructional practice at the core of school improvement and building a shared understanding of effective instruction. Learning Walk-Throughs, a closely related practice, are being implemented across Massachusetts with support from DESE's Implementation Guide.

What structures have you used to build collaboration?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

More Models for Collaboration in Schools

As districts begin to implement broad initiatives like the Common Core and the System of Educator  Evaluation (SEE), collaboration between school leaders and teachers is needed more than ever. I re-read "Creating Collaborative Cultures," from a 2009 issue of Educational Leadership to seek strategies that will build collaboration in districts.

This collaborative strategy can be applied to narrowing the focus of the SEE to a few rows in the rubric. To follow this strategy, the school leader sends out necessary information and guiding questions in advance of the meeting and then uses Garmston and Wellman's focusing four model (brainstorm, clarify, advocate, canvass) to reach consensus on a small number of rubric-defined focus areas. This collaborative process can be expedited and made more democratic through the use of clickers-- I have a set for the Promethean I'd be happy to apply to this work. This same strategy could be used to identify points of connection between the Common Core and the SEE.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Change comes from the Top Down and Bottom Up

In this terrific and timely ASCD Express article, Partnerships that Improve Education, Phillip Jason Caposey reminds us that the success of any initiative depends upon teacher buy-in. As he puts it, "True school improvement only occurs when the goals of the individuals involved match the goals of the organization."

Caposey points out that many educators feel that new initiatives like the Common Core are being done to them. In response, he advocates for an implementation approach centered on collaboration between teachers and administrators. And he points out that "Collaboration is a learned skill that needs to be taught for education partnerships to work." Caposey suggests using the norms below to build greater collaboration:
  • Common purpose and objectives for meetings must be established and articulated.
  • All conversations must relate to the common purpose.
  • Data and research must be valued above belief or judgment statements.
  • Keep disagreements at a professional level, not a personal one.
  • Once consensus is achieved, all must support the decisions. 
How is your district achieving greater collaboration?