Washington State Teachers Bring Real-World Problems to the Classroom

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Teachers at Sammamish High School meet for collaborative PBL curriculum planning. (Photo courtesy of Gabriel Miller/Edutopia)

Changing a high school curriculum — such as moving it from traditional pedagogy and assessment to problem-based learning (PBL) — is a huge challenge, and one that the faculty and students at Sammamish High School in Washington state’s Bellevue School District know well. They’re three years into a five-year transition to PBL with support from an Investing in Innovation (i3) Development grant.

Since the inception of i3 project in 2010, teachers and administrators at Sammamish High School have collaborated and redesigned 30 courses to incorporate PBL. They believe it will better prepare their students for college and careers by making content across the curriculum more engaging and relevant to the world students will encounter after high school. “Turning the school inside out,” is how Suzanne Reeve, a Sammamish High teacher leader, describes it.

Sammamish High teachers describe the process of integrating problem-based learning into a traditional curriculum through thoughtful planning and implementation.

Collaboration has been key for teachers and students as they make the transition from Sammamish’s traditional curriculum to problem-based learning. Seventy-five teachers so far have worked in subject-area teams to create rigorous coursework that engages all students. It’s a “really challenging mental shift” for the teachers, according to Adrienne Curtis Dickinson, another of the PBL teacher leaders, but the course redesign process is giving teachers a voice and the ability to decide where best to integrate problems or projects into the curriculum.

Dickinson, who is social studies teacher at Sammamish, is reporting on her school’s journey in Edutopia™, part of the George Lucas Educational Foundation, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, that is collaborating with the Bellevue schools on the implementation of its i3 project. Click here to read her latest report and watch a companion video in “Case Study: Reinventing a Public High School with Problem-Based Learning.”

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Posted in Academic Achievement, Grants, Investing in Innovation Fund (i3), Professional Development | 1 Comment

Promise Neighborhood Contributes to San Antonio Transformation

San Antonio is undergoing a transformation, one that involves reinvestment in its schools and neighborhoods, including Eastside, one of the city’s fastest growing and diverse communities. As part of Eastside’s transformation, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro unveiled the EastPoint brand earlier this month. Because of the neighborhood’s innovative initiatives in education, housing, and economic development, it was “in need of some major rebranding,” according to a press release. Mayor Castro joined Eastside community leaders to announce the rebranding effort, which affects the neighborhood’s approximately 18,000 residents.

At the heart of the EastPoint revitalization are a Promise Neighborhoods grant from ED’s Office of Innovation and Improvement and a Choice Neighborhood Program grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). For the Eastside Promise Neighborhood (EPN), the emphasis is on leveraging and strengthening the neighborhood’s assets and resources so that children and families are “inspired to stay, grow, graduate … and stay.”

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Posted in Educational Improvement, Grants, Promise Neighborhoods | 1 Comment

A Month to Support the Arts in Our Schools

The Music In Our Schools Tour, featuring Danielle Bradbery of The Voice, which starts in Disneyland and ends at Disney World, honors five schools for their excellent music programs. Pictured from left to right: Student Wendy Holloway; student Anthony Rodarte; singer Danielle Bradbery; Mickey Mouse; and student Angelisa Calderon. (Photo courtesy of Disney Performing Arts/Scott Brinegar)

The Music In Our Schools Tour, featuring Danielle Bradbery of The Voice, which starts in Disneyland and ends at Walt Disney World, honors five schools for their excellent music programs. Pictured from left to right: Student Wendy Holloway; student Anthony Rodarte; singer Danielle Bradbery; Mickey Mouse; and student Angelisa Calderon. (Photo courtesy of Disney Performing Arts/Scott Brinegar)

The arts are an important part of a well-rounded education for all students. Arts-rich schools, those with high-quality arts programs and comprehensive course offerings, benefit students in and outside of the art or dance studio, music room, or stage. “All children deserve arts-rich schools,” Secretary Duncan told an audience of arts education advocates in 2012, as he discussed the disappointing results of an ED survey that showed many students lacking adequate access to arts education.

There’s no better time to echo the secretary’s pronouncement than in March, widely known as “Arts in the Schools Month.” Under the leadership of national associations representing teachers of dance, music, theatre, and the visual arts, a variety of activities unfold throughout the month — some that showcase the achievements of students and others that focus on the professional growth of arts educators committed to achieving the goal of arts-rich schools for all students.

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Posted in Arts, Arts Education, Professional Development | 1 Comment

Thinking and Acting Outside the Box in the Big Easy

Want to contribute to the exciting education innovations happening in New Orleans? Believe in schools that center every decision around the needs of students? Ready to challenge outdated assumptions about school and launch a bold, new school model in a city on the cutting edge of education innovation and school transformation? Then consider the NOLA Future of School Challenge from New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO) and 4.0 Schools (4.0), with the support of Khan Academy.

The NOLA Future of School Challenge is looking for bold, out-of-the-box individuals who can bring to life a new generation of responsive, student-centered schools, and will provide them with an opportunity to test their ideas, prototype their designs, and vie for funding and support to become a charter school that opens its doors in fall 2016.

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Posted in Accelerating Innovation, Charter Schools, Educational Improvement, Research and Development | 1 Comment

i3 Validation Grant Fosters Continuous Learning in Education Organization Going to Scale

An estimated 340,000 beginning teachers, according to the National Center on Education Statistics, will enter America’s public school classrooms this year, a more than 50 percent increase in new teacher hires compared to 1999. Many are teaching in classrooms and schools that serve some of the most disadvantaged students — those with the greatest need for a strong, skilled teacher. These new teachers, who are just beginning to master their craft, are working long hours trying to meet those students’ needs, planning lessons, and managing complex curriculum requirements, often with very little assistance.

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Mentor Shalini Patel (right) meets with new Chicago Public Schools teacher Emily Lopez to provide feedback following Patel’s observation in Lopez’s classroom. (Photo by Daniel Shea, courtesy of New Teacher Center)

Even the most promising new teachers are not fully prepared for the challenges of leading today’s classrooms. In too many cases, it’s a sink or swim experience, and students pay the price.

The right kind of support for new teachers is critical

Many district leaders across the country have recognized this issue and are responding by providing new teachers with some form of onboarding. Some districts simply offer a summer orientation, or a “buddy system,” that pairs new teachers with a teacher down the hall who can help them navigate school facilities in the first weeks. But districts implementing more robust models of induction — full systems of intensive support more focused on instructional delivery — say they are seeing more effective teaching and higher teacher-retention rates.

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Posted in Grants, Investing in Innovation Fund (i3), Professional Development, Teacher Quality | Comments Off

The Psychology of Creativity is Subject of Upcoming Webinar

Curious about what the latest psychological research can teach us about creativity, how it’s expressed, and how it can be measured? Join the public webinar on the psychology of creativity, hosted by the National Endowment for the Arts, on Wednesday, February 19, from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. (EST). James C. Kaufman, Ph.D., internationally recognized author and professor of educational psychology at the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut, will share his research and insights on such areas as everyday creativity, creativity assessment, and creativity and mental health.

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Posted in Arts, Research | Comments Off

“Any Given Child” Receives Grant to Endow Future Growth

Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child (Any Given Child), a program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, has a stronger future thanks to a $1 million gift from Newman’s Own Foundation. The funds will establish an endowment to help underserved communities participate in the program that presently serves 14 metropolitan areas, according to a Kennedy Center press release.

AGClogoAny Given Child works in two phases: Initially, the combination of a comprehensive audit of existing arts education resources and a community needs assessment identify resources as well as gaps in local arts education opportunities. They then become the basis of a long-range plan to bring equitable access to arts education for all K-8 students by aligning the existing resources of a school system with those of the community’s arts organizations and the Kennedy Center.

The long-range plan is implemented in phase two and local educators and artists take advantage of a wealth of resources available from the Kennedy Center’s education department, ranging from professional development for teachers and teaching artists to supplemental lessons with online interactive learning modules available at ArtsEdge.

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KIPP Study Results Show Achievement Advantages for Middle School Students

Last March, the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) released its review of the portion of a Mathematica study showing that students attending KIPP middle schools scored higher than matched non-KIPP students. The study involved use of a quasi-experimental, matched-student research design, and WWC found that it meets WWC evidence standards with reservations (see definitions below)

ies wwcIn its recently released final report on the KIPP study, the WWC determined that the research described in the lottery-based, randomized-control trial (RCT) portion of the same study meets WWC evidence standards without reservations for the one-year follow-up and meets standards with reservations for the later-year follow-ups because of high sample attrition in those years. In the RCT portion of the study, students who entered the lottery and won were compared with those students who entered the lottery but did not win. While the WWC has conducted reviews of other studies focused on the charter sector, the only charter model that the WWC has reviewed, both in this review and in previous reviews, is the KIPP model.

Specifically, the experimental portion of the study found that students who were offered admission to 13 KIPP middle schools scored significantly higher on mathematics assessments in the first and second years after the lottery as well as in the fall of the third year after the lottery than students who entered the lottery but did not win admission to KIPP charters. For the comparisons of reading assessments between the KIPP and non-KIPP students, however, there were not statistically significant differences in any of the years.

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Posted in Academic Achievement, Charter Schools, Research | 1 Comment

Solving the Innovation Alignment Challenge With an Ecosystem Approach

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A New York City school student and parent, with the help of a software developer, view data on high school choice available through the School Choice Design Challenge. (Photo courtesy of Innovate NYC Schools)

“The lack of innovation in education is not due to a lack of creativity, but the misalignment of student and educator need to the market supply of innovations.” That’s the guiding premise of Innovate NYC Schools, a 2011 i3 Development grantee that is using technology to increase the degree of alignment and making students and teachers integral to the change process. The project is furthering the development and evaluation of the “Education Innovation Ecosystem,” a network of NYC schools, partner districts, solution developers, and investors that is helping to meet the STEM-related learning challenges of middle and high school students.

Two dynamics in school system bureaucracies combine to stymie innovation: On the one hand, changes in policy only get you so far; they “don’t lead to durable improvements in practice,” contends Steven Hodas, Innovate NYC Schools’ executive director. Moreover, this fact, he says, often causes the most innovative companies on the outside of the school bureaucracy to take a pass on responding to school systems’ RFPs to develop new products or services.

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Posted in Accelerating Innovation, Investing in Innovation Fund (i3), STEM, Technology | Comments Off

A Class Act Leaves the OII and National Stage

In December, OII said goodbye to Edith Harvey, the director of Improvement Programs (IP), who retired at the end of December after 26 years of service at the Department of Education. Prior to her position within OII, Edith served as program officer in the Office of Migrant Education and as branch chief in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, where she was responsible for teacher quality, advanced placement, and equity programs.

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Edith Harvey congratulates Arts Education Partnership 2011 Young Artist Award winner Jackie Sanders.

Before coming to ED, Edith held teaching and administration positions at various educational levels, including executive director of a Head Start program serving low-income children throughout Washington, D.C. She also worked as program coordinator for the Lincoln (Neb.) Public Schools and program director for the Nebraska Department of Education, where she developed state policy and trained school superintendents and administrators throughout the state on equal educational opportunity requirements, specifically Title IV, CRA, and Title IX. She also taught elementary and adult basic education for the Missouri Board of Education and has many years of experience working with at-risk, low-income populations and on areas relating to gender and race equity.

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Posted in Arts Education, Educational Improvement | 2 Comments