Saturday, October 1, 2011

Activity or achievement?

Have you noticed that there's been a lot of activity in the district? 
In case this fact has been lost on you, let me get you up to speed on a couple things: 
  • Leyden continues to refine practices to benefit students with disabilities. The Special Education and Student Services Departments have had initial training with a new IEP system, and more training is to come. Everybody in the district has been working like crazy to make these changes. 
  • Curriculum Teams have been matching semester exams with standards. Ultimately, teams will do the same with unit exams. In addition, teams will continue with curriculum mapping.  
  • Faculty, administration, and support staff throughout district are figuring out  Google Docs, Forms, and Sites, and Twitter. With some upcoming training many, many more will be ready to use these tools to benefit students.
  • We continue to explore the possibility of going 1 to 1. Quite a bit of work has gone into investigating this, and more details are coming soon. Let's just say that would be a game-changer. 

Again, that's lots of activity, and I haven't listed everything that's going on. Not by a longshot. However, to paraphrase John Wooden, we have to be careful not to confuse activity with achievement.

So...... are we? Are we confusing activity with achievement? Is this all sound and fury, signifying nothing? Is this leading to something? How does it all fit together? Actually,  I believe strongly that we are achieving a great deal. We are making significant, fundamental changes that will lead to a better education for our students.

Wait. Scratch that.

We are making changes that will lead to THE BEST education for our students. (Yeah, that's right. A bigger font, bold, italics and even some caps thrown in there. That's how strongly I feel about it).

All the work we are doing has been to build and strengthen specific systems that will ultimately allow us to work smarter, not harder. These systems will work together, and in the hands of our staff, are going to lead to great things. For example:

Systems of Support: Through the hard work of our Special Education Department, we are refining the IEP process, changing how students are served, and improving how we communicate to each other regarding student needs. This year is going to be tough, but we'll get our processes and procedures straight, and it will benefit our students.

Professional Learning Communities (PLCs): With assessments matched to standards, we will be able to analyze our students' learning better and more easily than ever before. But we have to do the up front work first.  This year we will begin to test our new data analysis tool, Performance Tracker, with a few curriculum teams. We hope to expand its use to everyone by the end of the year. When you see what we can do with this system, all the work with assessments and standards will pay off big time.  In January, we will implement Curriculum Tracker, our curriculum mapping tool. Same deal: the mapping work will pay off in a hurry. This system is unbelievably powerful, it will allow us to work together better, and it will benefit our students. 
Personal Learning Networks (PLNs): The internet has provided us with interactive tools to connect us to colleagues and educators from all over the world. Social media tools such as Twitter, social bookmarking, professional Nings, and blogs offer new opportunities for professional learning. While the district will provide time for formal professional training, you will be able to develop your own personal learning network, one that provides what you need, when you need it. 

Tools to support learning with the 4 C's: According to Ken Kay, former president of the Partnership for 21st Century Skillsthe 4 C's of 21st Century learning are: Critical Thinking, Creativity, Communication, and Collaboration. We can use these to frame our thinking about teaching 21st century skills, especially in a 1:1 environment. The reason to bring in networked devices for every student, and to learn tools like Google Apps, won't be to teach technology for its own sake: it will be to support skills like these across the curriculum, skills that our students will need throughout their lives.

With the right systems in place, and the right tools put in the hands of our staff, all of this activity will pay off. It will lead to achievement for our students.  

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