These 7 keys are helping one district better prepare its students

In any given third-grade classroom, you can find a student who is reading at a level far beyond their age, and another who is still working on letter recognition. How does a traditional classroom teacher with 25-30 kids manage such a wide range of students? As a district leader, how do I support our teachers and ensure that they are challenging students who are at a higher level while providing struggling students with proper support?

These are the tough questions I asked myself when taking over as superintendent of Maury County Schools in Tennessee in August 2015. Within the first few months, we ditched the old literacy model to adopt a project-based focus; deployed instructional coaches (without hiring anyone); and launched a top-down, district-level approach that quickly gained bottom-up buy-in through school and community support. We also implemented a differentiated literacy program and digital library that measures reading with reading—not quiz scores and points.

Creating the Keys to Success

In my first days as superintendent, I did what I called a “22in22 Tour” where I traveled to all 22 schools in my district in 22 days. I know from experience that the best leaders are the best listeners, so I made sure to take the time to hear what school leaders and classroom teachers had to say about Maury’s administrative approach. I heard loud and clear that there were issues of trust, lack of resources, switching initiatives on a dime, and a need for truly aligned and supportive professional development. That’s when I knew I had to eliminate the top-down approach that the district had taken in the past (and many districts employ) and go through a process to determine our Keys to Success.…Read More

New professional development focuses on engagement through gaming

New online professional development course focuses on increasing student achievement through engagement with game-based learning

The ever-increasing omnipresence of digital media in student’s lives can be challenging for teachers as they compete for kid’s attention in and out of the classroom. With this in mind, Teach n’ Kids Learn (TKL) and DimensionU have teamed up to create a robust Online Professional Development course that supports teachers’ instruction in mathematics and language arts through gamification, quickly and easily.

Included for K-12 educators who enroll in the course by February 15, 2016, is a free DimensionU Class License (for up to 30 students), through the remainder of this school year.

The online professional development course focuses on helping teachers incorporate educational video games and applying game-based learning techniques in the classroom. The DimensionU portfolio of educational games creates high student engagement and offers a solid foundation with demonstrated improvement in students’ achievement results. In regards to the online course, TKL’s instructional methodology, guarantees teachers immediate implementation in the classroom, individualized support and well structured, easy-to-use examples for applying the newly acquired techniques.…Read More

America’s most challenging high schools

America’s Most Challenging High Schools ranks schools through an index formula that’s a simple ratio, reports the Washington Post: the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Advanced International Certificate of Education tests given at a school each year, divided by the number of seniors who graduated that year. A ratio of 1.000 means the school had as many tests as graduates…

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Video-based modeling enhances online training for Minn. Teachers

Like many states across the country, Minnesota has implemented strategies to improve mathematics education that include higher standards, greater accountability, and increased access to challenging curricula. Still, the teacher’s role remains central to mathematics reform, particularly for elementary teachers who set the stage for students’ future success in math. Content-specific, practical professional development for these teachers is therefore crucial to the success of these reforms.

Unfortunately, as financial resources shrink, providing professional development to these teachers has become alarmingly cost-prohibitive. Time, funding, and logistics pose significant barriers to all schools, but particularly to those in rural areas where wide disbursement of faculty makes regular face-to-face meetings expensive and inefficient. Even if financial and technical resources were available, often there simply are not enough qualified trainers to reach every teacher in need.

In 2002, Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) brought its digital video expertise into partnership with the Rational Numbers Project (RNP) in an effort to provide teachers and districts with wider, easier, and more cost-effective access to high-quality professional development. The RNP had in its repertory a five-day, face-to-face workshop for mathematics teachers that gave our collaborative project ideal source material on several levels: the workshop’s effectiveness was backed by 20 years of research; its content (focused on increasing student understanding of fractions through the use of hands-on manipulatives) lent itself to online adaptation; and the RNP staff people trained to lead the workshop were few in number but high in demand. …Read More