M-STEP Spring 2015 Student Supports and Accommodations Webinar

News Uncategorized

From MDE’s Spotlight on Student Assessment & Accountability Newsletter:

These webinars will focus on what you need to know to be up to date with the latest information regarding the students supports and accommodations guidelines for the M-STEP summative assessments.

Topics will include Universal Tools, Designated Supports, and Accommodations, as well as which students qualify for these accommodations and supports during this spring’s testing cycle.

Dates of the webinars:

  • February 10 and 11: 8:00–9:00 A.M. and 2:00–3:00 P.M.
  • March 3 and 4: 8:00–9:00 A.M. and 2:00–3:00 P.M.

Participants need to only attend one of the sessions. To register for these webinars, please send an e-mail to [email protected] michigan.gov with the subject line Student Supports and Accommodations Webinar and include the date and time you wish to attend.

Interested participants may also call 517-373-7559.

The Tumblr Experiment, part 1: Introduction

Literacy & Technology Notes from the Classroom Oakland Writing Project

485559165In an earlier post “I Am Not Your Audience,” I talked about moving students away from the idea that I’m the person for whom they write, as well as moving them away from thinking that the purpose of their writing is to “score points.” Neither is easy. Precious few people ever really talked to my students about an audience beyond the teacher, or a purpose for writing beyond getting a good grade.

They seem to function in this mode: “I’m the speaker. You, my teacher, are the audience and, of course, my purpose, the only purpose, is to please you and get a high grade.”

That’s what kids are used to because that’s what they’ve been taught. But this isn’t how writing works in the real world. Being able to write well often means being able to read an audience and tailor a message in ways that make it effective. I don’t think voice develops without an audience. And I don’t think it develops with a static audience.

In order to become successful writers, my students need to get more out of that rhetorical triangle–Audience, Speaker, Purpose.

rheotricaltriangle

So I need to find a place where they can experiment with a real audience. Enter Tumblr.com, a microblogging platform where my students and I have been experimenting with ways to bend that rhetorical triangle.

What happened when I found a place where my students could explore their interests and develop their authentic voices?  What happened when I set them free to write “like themselves,” to take risks and find a real audience…

They asked me how many points it’s worth.

In that first post, I promised to share what I learned–good and bad. In this series of posts, I’ll lay out my classes’ process and what I was hoping would happen–not always the same as what did happen–but if I’m going to move with my students into a place where expectations, audience and purpose are fluid, I have to be ready to adjust, and adjust we do. In fact, that ability to adjust, what people sometimes call rhetorical dexterity, is exactly what we’re after. In this series of posts, I’ll put our work out there for you to judge–not the students’ work, but whether or not this experiment is, if not working exactly, at least worth pursuing.

In addition to following these posts, I’m inviting anyone who wants to see the experiment in action to follow me on tumblr.com. Throughout the series, I’ll include the hashtags that we use to identify our posts. Hashtags are a way of identifying and grouping posts by subject. I try to make mine unique to my class so I use a prefix that identifies the class and year — aplang15 for my AP Language and Composition classes in 2015–and a suffix that connects to the assignment–art, workandplay, twain. The hashtag for the assignment on art is #aplang15art. It makes finding what I and my students are looking for on Tumblr easy.

So, have a look at what we’re up to. I’m not promising everything there is rhetorical gold or best practice or even “cutting edge,” just an experiment, a way to find out what me and my students think.

Find me on Tumblr here. To read the entries below, click to enlarge.

Screen shot 2015-01-19 at 12.28.24 PM

Screen shot 2015-01-19 at 12.29.42 PM Click to read

 

RICKRick Kreinbring teaches English at Avondale High School in Auburn Hills, Michigan. His current assignments include teaching AP Language and Composition and AP Literature and Composition. He is a member of a statewide research project through the Michigan Teachers as Researchers Collaborative partnered with the MSU Writing in Digital Environments Program, which concentrates on improving student writing and peer feedback. Rick has presented at the National Advanced Placement Convention and the National Council of Teachers of English Conference. He is in his twenty-third year of teaching and makes his home in Huntington Woods.

Digital Writer’s Notebooks?

Literacy & Technology Notes from the Classroom Oakland Writing Project

From my earlier blog posts, you know that I have a workshop classroom where the notebook rules all. Like many of you, every piece of paper I give students is taped into notebooks and meticulously labeled. The notebooks hold the intricacies of the strenuous work of writing and the empathy of reading. Each student’s notebook is their own. In their notebooks, students can be their very best and sometimes even their worst. They can be an artist. They can be an author. They can be an editor. They can be themselves.

And they are.

Notebook 3 Notebook 2 Notebook 1

But now our whole world, our 8th grade Language Arts world, our writing community, has a new resident that we are not sure about. This new resident has brought a change to our community that affects our very being. In a time of change, my personal belief is that writing is an excellent release and the consistency of a notebook is a place of comfort. Yet, this visitor doesn’t consistently allow us this comfort. My school implemented a 1:1 iPad program in grades 6-8 around Thanksgiving.

There is a definite air of excitement regarding this new device. Students are cautious, yet fearless. Teachers are careful, yet innovative. On the one hand, I am a tech-person who hopes to teach kids new thought processes not just new apps; on the other hand, I love the act of handwriting and the thinking that comes with that physical work. But these new devices cause me to question: Is the world of handwritten notebooks relevant anymore? What is the best use of iPads for notebook work? And finally, what does a transformative digital language arts workshop classroom look like?

What is the answer?

Unfortunately, I don’t have a definitive answer for the use of iPads on a daily basis for Language Arts instruction, but I will share with you some ways I have used them and what has come of their use in my classroom.

The school release of iPads goes hand-in-hand with our opportunity to be a Google School that uses Google Apps for Education. I’ve been an advocate for the use of Google apps in the classroom for many years now, so it was an easy decision to jumpstart of iPad use in the classroom by diving into Google Apps and programs before moving to other tools.  Each time I use technology with kids, I hope to increase their digital citizenship knowledge by introducing them to tools and ways of thinking that they can use outside of my classroom as well. Google Apps were a perfect place to start.

Tool: Google Classroom

Google-Classroom-Logo1This tool is exclusively available for Google Education users and manages class lists and links to student’s Google Drive accounts.

The advertised benefits:

  • Sharing digital documents with a whole class that puts copies into students’ Drive folders.
  • Class lists help the teacher manage students’ work submissions.
  • Discussion threads allow interaction between classmates and teacher.

How I planned to use it: To distribute daily tape-ins (handouts that students tape into their writer’s notebooks).

What I think: I think this is a good tool to use for students to turn in summative projects. It’s not effective for sharing out materials with kids because it creates a very messy Drive for teacher and students. Classroom also fails to provide the opportunity to teach digital citizenship skills or online organization.

What students think: Currently, there is confusion between using Classroom to search for assignments and our district mandated Moodle pages. Students feel that it is a bit time consuming.

Tool: Google Drive

DriveThis platform houses online documents that can be created, shared, and collaborated on.

The advertised benefits:

  • Never lose a document again and have access to all documents that you may need at your fingertips.
  • It also allows collaboration and unlimited sharing of documents.

How I planned to use it: After my experiences with Google Classroom, I transferred to sharing documents with kids via Drive. I taught them how to organize their Drive into folders and name documents.

What I think: This is a good platform to use to share documents with contacts. It is also relevant for teaching students how to organize digital work. However, if students want to write on a tape-in, like we have in our notebooks, they have to copy the text I share and create a new document. This allows them to edit the document.

What students think: Overall, they like the opportunity to have all their documents online. They are at a variety of places concerning this work. Some students are all online – using Drive for everyday work in Language Arts. Some students use tape-ins in notebooks and work online. Some are all hard copy notebooks. I allow students this variety and choice.

Tool: Evernote/Penultimate

penultimate_featureThis program’s purpose is online organization and notebook creation. Penultimate is an Evernote sister app which syncs data but also allows handwritten notes.

Advertised benefits:

  • Consistently syncs and backs up data, has several Google tie-in programs and a stylus appears like actual handwriting.

How I planned to use it: We could create digital notebooks much the same as our paper copies.

What I think: While not transformative, this app has potential as a digital writer’s notebook, but the program is rudimentary. It needs additional features like cropping pictures and more precise writing (even with the joint Stylus).

What students think: They would rather use their notebooks.

To learn more about handwritten digital writers notebooks with Penultimate, read this blog post by Two Writing Teachers.

Digital Notebook Page

a writer’s notebook page in Penultimate

Digital Notebook Page 2

 

In the end, I am playing with the programs and listening to my students, but I don’t have a definitive answer. Rather, I have a question for you: What do you think of writer’s notebooks in a digital world? And how are you handling them in your classroom?

pic 2Amy Gurney is an 8th grade Language Arts teacher for Bloomfield Hills School District. She was a facilitator for the release of the MAISA units of study. She has studied, researched, and practiced reading and writing workshop through Oakland Schools, The Teacher’s College, and action research projects. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Education at Central Michigan University and a Master’s in Educational Administration at Michigan State University.

Podcast Power: Listening Skills & Curriculum, part 2

Common Core Consultants' Corner Literacy & Technology

In my first post on the power of podcasts, I talked about their place in the ELA classroom.  Not only do they meet important standards, but they develop crucial listening skills.  And I talked at some length about Serial, a must listen to podcast.  So if you’re sold on bringing this medium into your classroom, what podcast do you choose and how do you effectively integrate it effectively from a curricular and skill standpoint?  Below are some ideas for how to think about choosing a podcast to work with what you’re already teaching.

Combine Nonfiction Podcasts with Narrative Reading to Study Theme

this-american-lifeThis American Life episodes are ideal to couple with fiction, especially if you’re focused on theme. The show is structured around a single theme each week.  So it’s quite easy to scroll through the archives and find a theme you might be looking for, especially because of the nice thumbnail descriptions TAL provides. For example:

Most of us go from day to day just coasting on the status quo. If it ain’t broke, why fix it, right? But when routines just get too mundane or systems stop making sense, sometimes you just have to hold your breath…and jump. This week, stories of people who leap from their lives, their comfort zones…even through time.  

from Episode 539: The Leap, This American Life

This episode pairs well with texts about risk-taking, the consequences of risk-taking, a desire to leave reality, and escape. I can imagine having students listen to it in conjunction with Into the Wild, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie and even Romeo & Juliet.

Or perhaps you’re doing a character study on the morality of characters in a text like Hamlet, Atonement by Ian McEwan, or To Kill a Mockingbird.  Students could list to segments of TAL‘s episode called “Good Guys” and compare these real life stories to the choices made by characters in the fiction text they’re reading.

Lots of men think of themselves as “good guys.” But what does it actually take to be one? To be a truly good guy. Stories of valiant men attempting to do good in challenging circumstances: in war zones, department stores, public buses, and at the bottom of a cave 900 feet underground.

from Episode 515: Good Guys, This American Life

The other beautiful thing is that each episode of This American Life is divided into smaller acts. So you can select one act to have students listen to or several acts.  Regardless of how many acts they listen to, when pairing narrative texts and podcasts, you’re having students read across texts, a key Common Core Standard:

Reading Anchor Standard 9: Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

Use Podcasts as Texts for Argument Analysis

themothWhen you use podcasts in this way in your classroom, students identify and analyze the implicit and explicit arguments being made in each “act” of a TAL podcast or other podcast, comparing the arguments within an episode.  They can then respond with their own written or recorded narrative argument about the topic. This American Life episodes provide listeners with a series of narrative arguments around a single theme.

What do I mean by narrative argument?  Each act delivers a compelling story, and that story and the producer’s reflection on the events in the story, create an argument.  The creation of an implicit argument via narrative and reflection is incredibly difficult to do, as students discover when they try to write a personal essay.  But that difficulty is all the more reason to listen to TAL episodes and to even have your students create mini-podcasts, which I’ll talk about in my next post.

Suggested Podcasts: 

  • Is This Thing Working?, This American Life – Stories of schools struggling with what to do with misbehaving kids. There’s no general agreement about what teachers should do to discipline kids. And there’s evidence that some of the most popular punishments actually may harm kids. (tags: school, discipline, inequality, education system)
  • “Partners in Struggle” by Grace Lee Boggs, The Moth – This Detroit native and nationally known activist is inspired to begin activist work in the 1940s and meets her future husband. (tags: Detroit, activism, love, diversity)
  • “Who Put the ‘Pistol’ in ‘Epistolary’?” from “My Pen Pal,” This American Life – The story of a ten-year-old girl from small town Michigan named Sarah York, and how she became pen pals with a man who was considered an enemy of the United States, a dictator, a drug trafficker, and a murderer: Manuel Noriega. (tags: unlikely friends, propaganda, international relations, Michigan)
  • “Prom,” by Hasan Minhaj The Moth – A high schooler encounters racism when he tries to go to prom. (tags: teenage experience, racism, cultural diversity, big events)
  • “Scene from a Mall” – This American Life spends several days in a mall in suburban Tennessee, to document life in the mall during the run-up to Christmas. Also, a rift in a national association of professional Santas—the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas (yes, there is such a group). (tags: holidays, working teenagers, suburbia, place/environment, subcultures, competition)
  • “Allure of the Mean Friend, “ This American Life – What is it about them, our mean friends? They treat us badly, they don’t call us back, they cancel plans at the last minute, and yet we come back for more. Popular bullies exist in business, politics, everywhere. How do they stay so popular? (tags: friendship, teenage life, contradictions, bullying)

Developing Close Listening Skills

So you’ve decided what podcast to use and how it works with your curriculum. But how do you scaffold and support good listening skills?

186957826Multi-draft Listening

Just as we ask students to read a text more than once, they’ll need to listen to a podcast more than once.  I suggest taking an approach similar to the one you’d use with close reading:

First Listen – Listen to the podcast all the way through to make sense of the story and get the gist.  Pause occasionally to have students jot down names of people, questions that come up and big ideas that are explicitly or implicitly stated.

Second Listen – With your students, develop a listening agenda.  What questions do you/they want answered?  What’s the main idea of the episode? What aspects of the episodes structure contribute to their understanding?   Chunk the listening by stopping every 5-10 minutes to allow students to jot notes and add to their graphic organizers (see the next section).

Third Listen – This very focused listen allows the class, small groups, or individuals to return to specific points in the podcast to re-listen for deeper analysis in order to confirm or test initial theories they developed based on their early listening.

Student-created Graphic Organizers

Because students can’t annotate this audio text in the same way they can annotate a hard copy or even digital text, graphic organizers become really important.  Podcasts require a bit more work on the part of the student when it comes to annotation.  Below are some ideas for types of graphic organizers to help students structure their thinking:

  • Timeline of Key Moments/Events – A chronological list of key moments in the story that will help them later develop ideas about the episode’s structure.
  • Structure Picture – Students draw a picture of how they perceive the structure of an episode.  This might follow the more traditional text structure graphics we’re accustomed to or might be more of a mind mind.
  • People Map – As they listen, have students develop a map of characters and how they’re related — like this one on the Serial website.
  • Evidence Chart – Have students create a T chart.  For Serial, the two columns would be titled “innocent” and “guilty.”  As they (re)listen, they will record which evidence makes Adnan seem guilty and which evidence makes him appear innocent.  For another podcast, students might be gathering evidence regarding another question.  The columns might be labeled “pro” and “con” or “agree” and “disagree.”
  • Question Web – What questions remain unanswered? Students create a web of both factual and analytical questions, connecting those that relate to and generate other questions.

Have ideas to share about good podcasts for student listening and how to use them in the classroom?  Please share in the comment section.  In my final blog post on podcasting, I’ll provide some ways of thinking about having students produce their own podcasts, and possible pitfalls in the process.

Delia DeCourcyDelia DeCourcy joined Oakland Schools in 2013 after a stint as an independent education consultant in North Carolina where her focus was on ed tech integration and literacy instruction.  During that time, she was also a lead writer for the Common Core-aligned ELA writing units. Prior to that, she was a writing instructor at the University of Michigan where she taught first-year, new media, and creative writing and was awarded the Moscow Prize for Excellence in Teaching Composition. In her role as secondary literacy consultant, Delia brings all her writing, curriculum design, administration, and teaching skills to bear, supporting districts in their implementation of the Common Core via onsite workshops and consultations, as well as workshops at Oakland Schools.  She is currently spearheading the development of literacy-focused online professional learning modules as well as the building of a virtual portal where Michigan educators can learn and collaborate.

Podcast Power: Boosting Listening Skills, part 1

Common Core Consultants' Corner Literacy & Technology

podcastDuring the twelve hour drive from Michigan to North Carolina and back over the holidays, I listened to a lot of podcasts. I admit it: I’m a podcast addict. Any time I have to drive for an hour or longer, I listen to a podcast–This American Life, The Moth, Ted Talks Radio Hour, Radio LabSnap Judgment… All that listening and driving got me thinking about using podcasts in the classroom and why it’s a relevant medium.

Connection to Standards

The Common Core Standards prioritize speaking and listening skills in a fairly rigorous way.  ELA teachers have always valued speaking and listening skills and given students the opportunity to develop them in their classrooms.  But with the adoption of the Standards, these skills are now clearly defined and progress in complexity from year to year, meaning teachers and departments have to think about how they’ll address speaking and listening in a comprehensive way. Often when we think of the speaking and listening standards, our minds immediately go to discussion–how to get students to engage in rich and complex discourse.  But in this post I want to focus on the podcast medium as a fairly exciting way for teachers and students to explore close listening together.  Listening to podcasts as nonfiction texts (a great way to infuse your curriculum with more nonfiction!) directly addresses these two standards:

Speaking & Listening Standard 2: Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
Speaking & Listening Standard 3: Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

Why Is Podcasting an Important Medium?

484812177I remember talking to a colleague a few years ago who proclaimed that podcasting was not new media.  She said it was just recorded radio and that podcasting was over.  But podcasting is so not over and it’s a lot more than recorded radio.  Sometimes podcasts never appear first on the radio at all.  So why is this an important and popular media form?

  • Podcasts are available on demand via our mobile devices, thanks to iTunes and the websites of popular podcasts. So we can listen anytime, anywhere.
  • There is a growing library of free, high-quality podcasts on a wide range of subjects.
  • They run the gamut of nonfiction genres: storytelling, informational, and argument-focused podcasts ranging in purposes from entertainment to news to self-help (exercise, nutrition, spirituality, emotional health).
  • We can multi-task while we listen–drive, make dinner, walk the dog, exercise at the gym.
  • As with other digital texts, the general public (students!) can create and publish podcasts–and they are in fairly high numbers.

Start with Serial

serial-social-logoIn October, I was over the moon when Serial, a This American Life spin off that follows a single story for twelve episodes came out.  From episode one, I was hooked.  So rather than talk about strategies for integrating this medium in your classroom (that will be my next post), I’m going to make a pitch for using this new podcast.  I would suggest that for high school classes, especially juniors and seniors, Serial is a great place to start.  (I’m not alone.  A California high school teacher has replaced the study of Hamlet with Serial.)  Why?  Well, here’s the context for the start of this story…

It’s Baltimore, 1999. Hae Min Lee, a popular high-school senior, disappears after school one day. Six weeks later detectives arrest her classmate and ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, for her murder. He says he’s innocent – though he can’t exactly remember what he was doing on that January afternoon. 

Serial website

Adnan, a popular student with strong ties to the Muslim community, is later found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.  He was 18.  And as the very first episode of Serial unravels for its listeners, the evidence was contradictory and, in some instances, spotty.

Other compelling reasons to use Serial in the classroom:

  • serialcollageIt’s great storytelling and relevant to your students.  The cast of characters is almost entirely high school students (or they were at the time of the murder) living through the things your students experience–juggling school and extracurriculars, navigating cultural differences between home life and school life, experiencing young love, making their way through the simmering stew of high school social life. This will seriously engage your students.
  • Serial has changed the face of podcasting.  It’s like the True Detective of radio (with a lot less violence).  People could not wait for each new episode of Serial to be released on Thursdays and there was no telling which direction the story would turn and if the producers would decide to declare Adnan innocent or guilty.  It has been downloaded more than any other podcast–more than 5 million times.  And unlike many mainstream podcasts, it was not orignially broadcast on the radio.  To read more about Serial’s popularity and possible reasons for it, check out this Salon article.
  • It has caused a stir on the internet.  People are blogging about it, arguing about it, and commenting non-stop.  There have been many articles published as the story has unfolded week to week.  The number of Serial-related threads on Reddit alone are a clear indicator of how this podcast has captured people’s imaginations.  And there’s a new two-part interview with the star witness whose testimony led to Adnan’s conviction and life sentence.
  • The Serial website contains all kinds of really cool visual artifacts related to each episode.  Using these in conjunction with the episodes means students can analyze across media–a Common Core dream!
  • Serial provides endless ways to study central idea/claim, argument and evidence, theme, bias, character development and text structure.

If you don’t want to commit to all twelve episodes of Serial, consider using only the first episode.  That 60 minute audio text alone will make for some very interesting and creative teaching and learning. In my next post, I’ll talk about developing close listening and annotation skills and other ways of using podcasts in the classroom.  I’ll also suggest specific episodes from other podcasts you might use.

Do you have any podcasts you love? Please share in the comments section.  And if you’re already using podcasts in your classroom, please share your ideas!

Reading Podcast Power: Listening Skills & Curriculum, part 2

Delia DeCourcyDelia DeCourcy joined Oakland Schools in 2013 after a stint as an independent education consultant in North Carolina where her focus was on ed tech integration and literacy instruction.  During that time, she was also a lead writer for the Common Core-aligned ELA writing units. Prior to that, she was a writing instructor at the University of Michigan where she taught first-year, new media, and creative writing and was awarded the Moscow Prize for Excellence in Teaching Composition. In her role as secondary literacy consultant, Delia brings all her writing, curriculum design, administration, and teaching skills to bear, supporting districts in their implementation of the Common Core via onsite workshops and consultations, as well as workshops at Oakland Schools.  She is currently spearheading the development of literacy-focused online professional learning modules as well as the building of a virtual portal where Michigan educators can learn and collaborate.

Moving from the ACT to the SAT in 2016

News

The Michigan Department of Education announced this shift yesterday.  For more information, see the press release below.

***

MDE News Release

Contact:    Martin Ackley, Director of Public and Governmental Affairs, (517) 241-4395

                  Caleb Buhs, Michigan DTMB, (517) 241-7422

State Awards Future College Assessment to College Board’s SAT for Michigan Students

January 7, 2015

LANSING –- All Michigan high school juniors will begin taking the SAT as the state-administered college assessment exam beginning in 2016 after the College Board won the three-year competitively-bid contract, the Michigan Department of Education and Department of Technology, Management and Budget jointly announced today.

The College Board administers the SAT, a globally-recognized college admission test that lets students show colleges what they know and how well they can apply that knowledge. It tests students’ knowledge of reading, writing and math — subjects that are taught every day in high school classrooms in Michigan.

ACT, Inc. will continue to provide its WorkKeys assessment for all high school students. Both the college entrance assessment and work skills tests are required in state law to be provided free to all high school students, and each is periodically competitively bid through the state’s structured procurement process, as directed by the Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB).

 “The College Board’s SAT test is respected and used around the country,” said State Superintendent Mike Flanagan, “and Michigan high schools work with them now through their Advanced Placement program that helps students earn college credits while in high school.

“Their bid was rated the highest; provides valuable assistance to Michigan educators, students, and parents; is more aligned to Michigan’s content standards; and saves the state millions of dollars over the course of the three-year contract,” Flanagan said.

The College Board’s bid was $15.4 million less over the three-year contract than the next bidder and scored 10 percentage points higher by the Joint Evaluation Committee (JEC). In addition to staff from MDE and DTMB, the evaluation committee also included members representing the education community, including a high school principal; local school superintendent; a testing and assessment consultant from an intermediate school district; and a vice president from a Michigan community college.

Bill Barnes, principal at Charlotte High School and member of the JEC said: “The attention to detail with which the College Board created its proposal and the extensive resources that it will provide to schools and students to help them prepare for the test, make its college readiness assessment the best choice for Michigan.”

Another member of the Joint Evaluation Committee, Jim Gullen, a data and evaluation consultant for the Macomb Intermediate School District, said: “After two days of review and discussion, there was no question that College Board put forth the best proposal. Considering the quality of College Board’s proposal, the value presented in the pricing, and our current legislation, it is a good time to transition to the SAT to assess Michigan’s high school students’ mastery of the Michigan curriculum.”

Each year, the College Board helps more than seven million students prepare for a successful transition to college through programs and services in college readiness and college success — including the SAT and the Advanced Placement program. The organization also serves the education community through research and advocacy on behalf of students, educators and schools.

The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) is forming a team that will include the local, regional, and community college members of the Joint Evaluation Committee to assist in the transition to the SAT. In addition, the department will hold an onsite meeting with the College Board to discuss how it intends to positively affect the transition for Michigan schools, educators, parents, and students.

In its successful bid, the College Board included the following value-added components that will benefit Michigan schools and families:

  • Beginning in Spring 2015, the College Board will provide all schools and students with free test prep materials and online practice tests to help students prepare for the redesigned SAT in 2016.
  • Professional Development
    • In-person and technology-based training for local test administrators, proctors, and technology coordinators
    • Professional development for teachers, students, and parents in understanding the new SAT and analyzing test results
    • Professional development for post-secondary enrollment professionals in using the data/resources for admissions and financial aid decisions
  • An updated and relevant assessment
    • Redesigned SAT beginning in 2016
    • Aligned to Michigan content standards, evidence-based design
    • Additional item types beyond multiple choice
    • New forms developed each year
    • Reports available online
  • Simplification and reduction of school staff effort to request testing accommodations
    • No need to reapply for testing accommodations if already approved for the Advanced Placement Program, or the PSAT testing for National Merit Scholarship Qualification Test

The college entrance exam and work skills assessment are given free to approximately 115,000 Michigan high school students each year.

ACT WorkKeys is a job skills assessment system that helps employers select, hire, train, develop, and retain a high-performance workforce.  This series of tests measures foundational and soft skills and offers specialized assessments to target institutional needs.

As part of ACT’s Work Readiness System, ACT WorkKeys has helped millions of people in high schools, colleges, professional associations, businesses, and government agencies build their skills to increase global competitiveness and develop successful career pathways.

Successful completion of ACT WorkKeys assessments in Applied Mathematics, Locating Information, and Reading for Information can lead to earning ACT’s National Career Readiness Certificate (ACT NCRC), a portable credential earned by more than 2.3 million people across the United States.

Michigan high school students have taken the WorkKeys assessment since 2007.  Over 413,000 Michigan students have received an NCRC credential.

Although the contracts await final completion and approval of the State Administrative Board, the three-year contract for the college entrance assessment will cost approximately $17.1 million, and the three-year work skills assessment will cost approximately $12.2 million.

Inquiring Minds: Why Would We Use a Single Pedagogy?

Notes from the Classroom Oakland Writing Project

The_House_on_Mango_Street_(Vintage_Contemporaries)What they don’t understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you’re eleven, you’re also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two, and one.  And when you wake up on your eleventh birthday you expect to feel eleven, but you don’t.  You open your eyes and everything’s just like yesterday only it’s today.  And you don’t feel eleven at all.  You feel like you’re still ten.  And you are—underneath the year that makes you eleven.

– from “Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros

 As I sat at a conference recently…

I realized that I was eleven, but I’m also ten, nine, and eight.  I am eleven–in this case, a constructivist.  I believe that learners learn best when they build their own models for learning.  But I am also about direct instruction, in moderation, when necessary.  There are situations when it’s important for the instructor to model for a student how they can go about thinking about a subject.  This is the conversation that Sandra Cisneros’ character Rachel has with her audience on her birthday in the story “Eleven.”  It is, for me, the perfect metaphor for my constructivist beliefs.

I’m Eleven

elevenI believe that students construct lasting knowledge by immersing themselves in learning and creating diverse ways of exploring a subject or topic.  I also believe that there may still be some circumstances where direct instruction (in moderation) is necessary.  Over the last month, I have listened to explanations of the positives and negatives of inquiry-based learning, project-based learning, gradual release, and direct instruction.  As I have listened to hard-liners on all sides discuss the pros and cons, I heard Rachel’s voice saying, “I’m constructivist today.  What they don’t understand about teaching and learning and what they never tell you is that when you’re constructivist, you’re also inquiry-based, and project-based, and gradual release, and direct instruction…”

I’m Ten

number_tenJeff C. Marshall (2013) states that “…inquiry-based learning involves learners asking questions about the natural or material world, collecting data to answer those questions, making discoveries and testing those discoveries rigorously” (de Jong 2006a p.532). The National Science Foundation (2008) defines inquiry as “an approach to learning that involves a process of exploring the natural or material world, and that leads to asking questions, making discoveries, and rigorously testing those discoveries in the search for new understanding” (20).  I propose that these definitions do not exclude the use of multiple strategies to get students to think and create independently.  There isn’t a “one size fits all” strategy for making and doing.

I’m Nine

Why is there a need to exist singularly in one of these spaces?  Sometimes, as the instructor, I demonstrate how I have learned; other times I ask for students to discuss their own strategies for being metacognitive.  Sometimes I do both things–whichever it takes to allow students to understand how they should think about their own thinking.

I’m Eight

8Is my love of inquiry-based instruction always in conflict with direct instruction?  Is it true that if there is a place for the gradual release model, then I must, by definition, not be in favor of inquiry-based learning?  There are teaching situations that call for using the gradual release model (I do/demonstrate, we do the work together, you demonstrate the knowledge with scaffolding if needed, and then, you do it alone). As the student goes off to try the work on her own, the environment must be safe for mistakes, growing, and demonstrating learning in some new way that the student has or will discover.  I am back to being eleven and constructivist.

Flexibility and the use of effective instructional strategies appropriate for a specific learning situation and student should be applied for the benefit of advancing learning for that student.  Up underneath eleven, I am ten, and nine, and eight……

 

marciabondsMarcia Bonds is a 6th Grade Math and English Language Arts Teacher at Key School in the Oak Park School District.  She has been teaching for 17 years.  Marcia is a member of the Core Leadership Team of the Oakland Writing Project and was a co-facilitator of the 2014 Oakland Writing Project Summer Institute. She has facilitated professional development on inquiry-based learning for the Oak Park School District.