There has been some buzz about the overcrowding issue in Washoe County and the implications for students and families throughout our district. The most thorough public examination of this came Tuesday when the Board heard an overview from Dr. Paul Lamarca, Dr. Kristen McNeil and Pete Etchart.
To gain a sense of what was shared, consider the slides below. You can read through Regulation 6111 here. You can also watch the presentation beginning at minute 1:22:18 here.
On Super Bowl Sunday, a few hours before the game, I created a DonorsChoose.org account and started a project. My hope was to raise $800 in order to get four Chromebooks for my classroom. Just five days later I learned my project was fully funded. Naturally, I’m suddenly a believer in DonorsChoose.org and I will use it again.
If you are unfamiliar with DonorsChoose.org, you can read a much more thorough description here. In short, DonorsChoose.org allows a teacher to create a project that is shared with the public. Community members can then make a tax-deductible donation and when your project is funded, approved vendors ship you your items. DonorsChoose.org does not take a cut of any of the monetary donations but they add a “suggested donation” to your project. This may explain why my final project cost was closer to $1000 than the $800 in laptops I received.
The Good: DonorsChoose.org is intuitive and there are videos and tutorials to help you generate ideas, titles, and narratives. You are not expected to fill-out a lot of forms or comply with typical grant criteria. It took me less than an hour to complete the description of my project and find the items I was looking for from the approved vendors. Relative to the $800 I was asking for, the one-hour of time seemed reasonable.
The Bad: There are some minor formatting issues at DonorsChoose.org including separate paragraphs of text I submitted becoming one large paragraph. As a teacher, I didn’t want the public to think I did not know some basic conventions of English. Likewise, you do not get to choose your pull quotes that may or may not be the elements you want to highlight.
The “suggested donation” of $150 automatically becomes part of your project cost, which I had not anticpate.
Final Verdict: If you are a classroom teacher, I recommend using the site. I grew frustrated with the lack of consistent access to workable computers for my students and DonorsChoose.org gave me a strategy to remedy this issue. I suspect all classroom teachers have a wish list and DonorsChoose.org may be the perfect way of filling your room with the things you need.
You can view my DonorsChoose.org profile here and my Chromebook project here.
This week marks the beginning of the “20 Day Twitter Challenge.” The 20 days are an opportunity for educators to collaborate and share ideas, anecdotes, questions, pictures, and student artifacts around the implementation of the Nevada Academic Content Standards and the Common Core.
Consider being part of the conversation that begins Thursday, February 25th.
I recently started making regular visits to the website https://next.bloomboard.com/. I like the site because professional experiences have been curated around content directly matched to the classroom. Topics include early literacy, writing, classroom management, planning, Shakespeare, blended learning, Project Based Learning, math… in short, just about everything a sited-based educator is going to want ideas and support with. Paramount, all the experiences are free.
To illustrate what I am speaking to, consider this example Narrative Reading, Writing and Comprehension in Fifth Grade. The Topic has you review some learning, look closely at a couple of lesson plans, and watch a lesson demonstration. This is not profoundly different than most workshop models except any learner can opt into the experience. Moreover, you can see that the progression of experiences is targeted and specific.
There is also a community aspect to the site. Apart from learning from others, an educator can create their own content and learning exercises. This is the case with Karen N. Nemeth is an author, consultant and advocate for early education for children who are dual language learners. She has written books for teachers, administrators, families, and children on this topic. Karen has leadership roles at NAEYC, NABE and TESOL.
It is certainly worth taking a look at Bloomboard. Perhaps you will discover that platforms like this can level the playing field and allow all educators—regardless of what kind of state and district professional support they have—opportunities to learn and grow.
I was invited to review the instructional shifts with graduate students in the Educational Leadership program at the University of Nevada, Reno. You can review what was shared by clicking on the linked documents below.
A part of the evening was also spent debriefing a video Dr. Dan Willingham who subtly explains the huge challenges facing building educators. It is worth reviewing the video and considering the “mental obstacles” of the teaching profession.
EL 703 PowerPoint
EL 703 Focus Questions
I continue to maintain and post to the website www.63000resources.com. Recently, a number of teacher created Core Knowledge materials were shared with me and I posted these. Likewise, everything I am creating for my own classroom (here) are being uploaded.
The orientation of 63000resources remains unchanged: only free, scalable and vetted materials are shared so the user can focus on instruction.
One of the biggest challenges being back in the classroom is not getting a full picture or the context for the instructional changes I am asked to make. Often, by the time the message has made it all the way back to my school, it has been modified, simplified and—regretfully in some situations—completed altered. Consequently, new initiatives feels disjointed, obligatory and poorly connected to other tasks and efforts. This is why it is helpful to find primary source material to more fully understand why we are being asked to do the things we are asked to do.
Listed below are three videos that are worth taking a look at. The first is of David Coleman, one of the architects of the Common Core and now the president of the College Board, explaining changes to the SAT. The second is of Dale Erquiaga, Chief Strategy Officer for Nevada and member of Chiefs for Change and the last is of Dr. Donald Bear, the Director of the Duffelmeyer Reading Improvement Clinic, describing the value of Word Study. Taken together, they help contextualize the policy and pedagogy we are asked to implement in our classrooms.
Dale Erquiaga: Former Nevada Superintendent of Public Instruction Dale Erquiaga reviews the legislation that was passed in the 2015 legislative session and expands on what informed each initiative. Viewers will have a much better feel for the coming changes including Read by Grade 3, new funding formulas, and anticipated work in 2017. Full video here.
David Coleman: “Assessment without opportunity is dead.” This is how Coleman begins his speech at the 2015 Schools for Tomorrow Conference. Coleman highlights how more than 50% of students in the bottom quartile of income and scoring in the top 10% on the SAT, will not apply for a highly selective university. Coleman sees this as building a “wall” of inequality and reforming SAT and providing equitable test preparation is part of the solution. You can watch the full video here.
Dr. Donald Bear: Although a lot of educators are being asked to implement Word Study or are being asked to extinguish the use of traditional spelling protocols, few understand why. Dr. Donald Bear provides the research and relevant activities to promote, vocabulary, phonics, and spelling through the use of Word Study.
It is worth noting that all of these videos can be accessed for free. This is especially important as educators continue to transition from traditional modalities of profession development to something more aligned to the 21st Century.