PISA (the message)

All in all when it comes to PISA we may not be the top in the world nor the top in Canada. However we have maintained our position in the rankings.  Conversations about PISA need to truly focus on actions rather than rankings.  Thanks to Andy Hargreaves for pointing us to a blog (the meaning of PISA) that in the last two paragraphs explains what the top ranking nations have done to improve achievement.  The writing indicates that we do not need to blow up the system, nor turn the clock back and do things as we have done in the past. When you look at the following list you will see that we are indeed working on many aspects of this list, perhaps doing a better job of some. We are on the right track.  As a province and as divisions we need to continue to reflect on and truly focus on these key actions (identified in the meaning of PISA blog entry).

1.  Invest more in harder to educate students.

2.  Support young children and their families before they arrive in school.

3.  Recruit teachers from most talented high school graduates. Insist that new teachers master the content area for which they will teach and spend at least a year practicing the craft of teaching. Provide mentoring for beginning teachers from master teachers.

4.  Provide strong support for continued development of existing teachers.

5.  Career ladders for teachers with good pay.

6.  Curriculum consisting of high achievement outcomes and high quality assessments for all students that incorporate the kinds of skills needed to succeed in the most advanced economies.

7.  Strengthen technical and vocational systems to provide great opportunities for students to enter the adult world with confidence, skill, experiences and connections that lets them be productive and fulfilled.

8.  Provide ministries and divisions with the resources they need to accomplish these tasks.

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Prepare, Practice, Perform, Persist: 4P’s to Successful Engagement & Learning

Most kids want to participate in sport but are often turned off if they perceive they are not “good” at the sport.  PK, a recent grade 12 graduate could have made the choice “to quit” many times.  Throughout his schooling, he has achieved what would be considered average and above average grades.  There are times when school work was avoided or incomplete resulting in a low grade or zero.  PK loves sports, sometimes making the school basketball team, sometimes not, playing handball, loving to throw a football around, play volleyball etc.  PK loves baseball and pitched two no hitters in his midget year of AAA baseball–major accomplishments for a pitcher.

I can’t help but connect this story to the world of self assessment.   PK seems like a pretty typical graduate and he is.  A recent blog post by Luc Lerminiaux regarding student engagement and belonging explains three types of engagement:   Social Engagement, Institutional Engagement and Instructional Engagement.   After a successful baseball season, I asked PK what lead to his success on the field.  His reply related to aspects of engagement.

“Well, I got good coaching, I practiced, I worked hard to learn and perfect my skills and I persisted.” 

Not surprising that the 4 P’s above (preparing, practice, performance and persistance) contribute to success.  What a great message for any learner and teacher. As a teacher and mentor I plan to use these fantastic four P’s in the following ways.

1.  Continue to deepen understanding of assessment and instruction practices so that I am prepared to coach and encourage educators and students.

2.  Practice assessment techniques in meaningful ways.  Inquire about engaging kids in assessment.

3.  Perform and model perfected assessment techniques and strategies.

4.  Persist with educating about research based, assessment practices to kids, teachers and parents.

My hypothesis:  If we coach students to prepare, practice, perform, and persist in intellectual learning in meaningful ways, they will be more engaged in learning resulting in improved achievement.

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Early Years Evaluation: It Can Also Be About Family Engagement

Kinder MenuIn support of the Early Years Evaluation and of early learning, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education has presented six webinars.  Recordings of these sessions can be found on the RBE division website here.  The recordings are posted on the RBE site as they become available.

Today’s webinar focused on engaging families with EYE.  Many participants from around the province shared their ideas for sharing results with families.  While some schools choose to share results at three-way conferences there are many other ways to share.  Most of what follows is combined with parent outreach and/or education around early learning.  Here is the list that was shared.

  • a fun gym night and family potluck (Gymblast is a structured gym program that I have hired for my school…might be fun to do something like that with kinders and their families or grade eight students can be asked to plan gym activities for students while parents meet with teacher and all gather together at the end for a meal)
  • Pancake breakfast
  • a Muffin and Me morning.  Parents spend time reading with their child while teacher shares results with families.
  • Numeracy Games night
  • Carnival for Kinders – Results are shared as children participate in the carnival
  • Family and School Together – Six to eight families come to the school for games and a meal.  The meal can be potluck or one family providing for the rest.  As I thought about this option, I wondered if this might be a place where an School Community Council could be involved.

What great ways to engage families in their child’s education.  AND literature confirms that when parents become involved with their child at an early age, they stay involved.

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Engagement: Connecting With Our Learners

When I think of learner engagement, I find it helpful to think about engaging in learning and engaging because the learner knows he is important and cared about (belonging or connecting with your learners).  Both will improve student achievement.

Many RPS schools are in process of administering the TTFM survey.  The last leadership meeting focused on reading and dialogue regarding student engagement.  As a result an RPS principal asked staff to read about student engagement and as reflective practitioners, they were also asked to share one idea they would use in the coming week to engage the learners in their classroom.  One staff member wrote about what she was going to do and shared two documents with ideas about engaging learners.  Another teacher wrote about putting more emphasis on student interest.

I am a fan of sticky notes.  I was struck by this piece written by one of the teachers.

“One thing I got while reading the article was taking the time to let all my kids know that I care about them.  My plan for the morning was to put a post it note on the inside of each of their lockers telling them something I really like about each of them.  I found this weekend using communication through Igo that they really like that one on one written communication from me and I also wanted to let them know something I find special about them.  In line with our focus on respect this month it is respect for each other and respect for ourselves.  I want to keep the warm fuzzy post it notes going in the room and hopefully with the addition of a pack of post it notes in each of their lockers at the end of the week they will feel the need to start using them in the manner I am.”

Imagine the impact of us letting our kids know that we care about them every day.  All it takes is a bit of time, modelling and a pack of sticky notes.  Eventually they will be doing this for one another and demonstrating care, kindness and respect.  

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Top 7 Views/Reads/Actions RE Student Engagement

In my last post I discussed types of student engagement.  Educators, whether  presenting/facilitating with adults or with kids, read the room and try to get a sense of the engagement.  I used to think that eye contact was absolutely essential and told me whether I was engaging my learner.  Today I know it is quite common to see both adults and kids multi-tasking…..emailing, texting, facebooking, twittering during a learning session.  I am not sure that they are always disengaged.  For example, I found myself recently tweeting while at a conference.  It has become a type of record of my learning and helped me to share some of the presenter’s ideas on assessment to a wider audience.  I can also flip the coin and say that sometimes I have become disengaged with the topic and used the time to multitask checking email or browsing the internet.

Professional learning has impacted ways in which I think about engagement.  The professional learning includes attending conferences, professional learning conversations such as book studies and co-planning, attending webinars.  The bulk of my professional learning however comes from reading.  Here is my top 7 list of reading/viewing/actions related to engagement.

1.  Cory Miller’s Ted Talk – This is one of the most inspiring and reflective eleven minutes.  Thanks Cory for sharing your passion.  Cory reminds us that if we allow our students to lead the way in regards to our professional learning and our classroom planning, we cannot fail.  We all know when one or more of our learners are disengaged.  The question for me is what will I do?

2.  Ten Simple Strategies for Re-engaging Students – Marcinuk reminds us that we often don’t have to overhaul our entire classroom or school in one night but take small incremental steps.  He suggests ten strategies for engagement.

3.  The Relationship Between Student Engagement and Academic OutcomesWhat Did You Do In School Today research series publication. (2012)

4.  The relationship Between Instructional Challenge and Student EngagementWhat Did You Do In School Today research series publication.  (2012)

5.  Latest Insights Into Students’ Intellectual EngagementWhat Did You Do In School Today research series publication. (2012)

6.  Supporting Student Engagement in Math – SPDU one day session (Saskatoon).

7.   Supporting Student Engagement in Literacy  – SPDU one day session (Saskatoon).

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Engagement Relates to Academic Achievement

All Regina Public Schools are administering the Tell Them From Me Survey.  One of the measures in the survey based on student voice deals with engagement.  Student engagement is a “disposition towards learning, working with others and functioning in a social institution”.  It includes students’ sense of belonging at school, the extent to which they value schooling outcomes and their psychological investment in learning.  Students who are socially engaged are actively involved in the life of the school; their friends are there and they are involved in sports or other extra-curricular activities.  Students who value schooling outcomes and meet the formal rules of schooling are considered institutionally engaged.  These students feel that what they are learning at school is directly related to their long-term success.  Some students meet the institutional demands of school, but they are not truly engaged in their learning.  Intellectual engagement requires a serious emotional and cognitive investment in learning.  Students use higher-order thinking skills to increase understanding, solve complex problems and construct new knowledge.  Once your school completes the TTFM survey, you will have access to a report indicating social engagement, institutional engagement and intellectual engagement according to their responses of your students on the TTFM survey.  I encourage you to examine your data, (student voice is important) and come up with at least one action at your school that addresses what you are seeing in your TTFM data.  This shows our students that we are acting in positive ways to what they are saying.

I like how this chart clearly shows characteristics of personalized, differentiated and individualized learning and be a springboard for engaging conversations at the school level around engagement in learning.

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”https://www.slideshare.net/bbray/personalizedlearninchart&#8221; title=”Personalized Learning Chart Version 2″ target=”_blank”>Personalized Learning Chart Version 2</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/bbray&#8221; target=”_blank”>Barbara Bray</a></strong> </div>

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Tom Guskey was a keynote presenter tonight at the Finding Our Way Conference.  He reminded us that the number 1 purpose of Grading is to communicate the achievement status of students to their parents and to students.  His words regarding our communication with parents are noteworthy.  He cautioned educators about our language……a language that is often confusing for parents.  Parents dislike terms like emergent and developmental.  A sample of parent interviews indicates they think emerging is some kind of monster in a lake and that developmental is thought of as remedial. 

Thomas also stated how much parents appreciate descriptive feedback and pointed out that progress reports are but one way of communication with parents.  The audience was surprised when Guskey indicated that when parents were polled, 60% of them feared phone calls from the school because they were worried it meant the child was in trouble or was hurt.  He then stated how one administrator changed the culture in her school by wearing a belted holster with her CEL phone in the holster.  She implemented the “Good News Call”.  When she observed something positive about a child, her phone was immediately pulled out and a telephone call made to parents.  After greeting the parent she gave a quick description of what the child was doing and then handed the telephone to the student. 

Educators are familiar with the Annual Open House.  Guskey’s research also shows that parents love the Open House.  They love it because it is a chance to connect with the teacher.  What do parents want to know about the teacher?  They want to know if the teacher is competent and they judge this by how the teacher communicates and what they communicate with.  Second, they want to know that the teacher cares about their kid. 

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