Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The role of standardized testing

Teachers need tests to determine if students have learned what was expected of them and if it is the right time to move on to the next objective. 

The data gathered from tests identifies areas of difficulty, which can help teachers adjust instruction for subsequent cohorts of students. Tests show teachers, which students are achieving, and the instructional strategies that are effective. Results from standardized tests can help inform educational policy, school improvement, or instructional practice and develop an action plan.

There are socioeconomic issues such as the inequalities in school funding between wealthy and impoverished areas, which can have an impact on student achievement and test results. 

Standardized tests are just one of the many markers of progress, and alternative assessments such as observations, performance tasks, or portfolios should also be used by teachers. Results from alternative assessments can be more effective in communicating outcomes. 

Standardized tests can be used to observe changes in student test scores over a year in order to inform the public of an improvement or decline in student achievement.  The standardized tests can also be used as a tool to compare certain schools within the same district because they are similar in socioeconomics. 

However, one thing our state’s elected leaders can’t continue to do is place such an emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing.  Instead, we must focus our energy on empowering all students to care and understand the importance of obtaining a quality education. 

The goal of using data produced by standardized tests is to extract a correlation between the knowledge of the student and the effectiveness of the teacher. 

However, there is not a reliable learning assessment resource available to measure the different impact of each. "We can't use unreliable data to judge teachers and school districts". (Steve Cook, MEA President)

Besides the effectiveness of the teacher, the knowledge of the student is also affected by social factors such as student apathy, peer relations, poverty, and parent involvement. 

Standardized tests should not be on the cutting edge of education because it promotes teaching to the test, which can be counterproductive and dehumanizing.

However, tests cannot be the only assessment used to help with the evaluating, rating, and ranking of schools, teachers, and school systems. 

The toxic environment of standardized testing is causing teachers to consider leaving the profession because of the increase in pressure, wasted time, and negative impact on the classroom. Standardized testing has eroded student learning time, while doing nothing to shed light on the achievement gaps between schools. 

In 2002, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) doubled the number of standardized tests. Unfortunately, testing does not solve our problems. 

The use of standardized tests has not increased student achievement (National Academy of Sciences, 2011). The standardized test opt-out movement is spreading in the United States.

There are many factors that impact student achievement in schools, including measures like student attendance, access to advanced courses, and school discipline policies. These all need to be considered.  

Published in the Oakland Press Open Opinion Forum on April 12, 2014 and April 20, 2014.

Published in the Macomb Daily Open Opinion Forum on April 20, 2014

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Michigan Kids Can Move and "Bag the Junk"

Celebrate National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. We must spread the word about the importance and benefits of eating healthy and physical activity. 

Students seem to understand the importance of "watching what they eat". They are aware of the importance of eating healthy and following the food pyramid. 

Eating healthy, going to the doctor's office, and taking medicine when needed is part of life. Our literacy class had a "Genius Hour" discussion on the successes of getting healthy food options at our school and their favorite ways to get moving in order to have an active lifestyle.

Students need three meals every day to keep them strong and energized. These meals must include fruits and vegetables. 

Students agreed that eating at home more often is a good way to stay healthier. People tend to eat unhealthier when eating at a restaurant. 

Our school provides students with healthy food options within vending machines, cafeteria lines, our school store, and fundraisers. Even though students do not always like the idea that they cannot buy candy for a snack or soda pop, they have adapted to healthier food options such as fruit and water. 

Students enjoy the wholegrain Bosco cheese sticks, protein-filled chicken nuggets, and a salad bar filled with vegetables. However, they do complain at times that the gluten-free pizza tastes like terrible cardboard and sometimes the fruit is rotten.  

According to Blue Cross Blue Shield, nearly one in three children are overweight across the country, and Michigan has the 18th highest obesity rate in the U.S. Unhealthy kids are more likely to become unhealthy adults. 

Students need the expert recommended 60 minutes of exercise and physical activity per day. This can include swimming, riding bikes, jumping on a trampoline, walking around the block, and other outdoor activities.  

Physical activity can support better learning, attendance, and behavior in school. According to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, only one in three students are active everyday. 

Students also stay active and healthy by playing sports such as volleyball, football, hockey, soccer, baseball, and basketball. Many students play on school, recreational or travel teams. 

Students enjoy sharing their experiences and often make connections with their classmates. Many students dance at a studio, participate in karate, or do gymnastics after school. 

Enter the latest #MIKidsCan Contest. Click the link here

We must also be aware of the affects of eating disorders. 50%  of people with eating disorders meet the criteria for depression. 

25% of college-aged women engage in purging as a weight-management technique. In the United States, 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Happy Mother's Day

Women have influenced our children's lives for the better. Being a Mom is the toughest job in the world. 

My Mom, Sally Lerchenfeldt, is one of the best. She is my best friend.  

She is exceptional because she is kind, nice, and makes everyone feel important. I thank God every day for her. 

She loves me and has always been there for my family. She always came to watch my brother and I play sports. 

She consistently supported us at home with our studies. Her words were always an encouragement.  

She is constantly giving back to the community. I Love You, Mom. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Teacher Appreciation Week Reflection: What it Means and Takes to be a 21st Century Teacher

Why I Love Teaching

"I am not a teacher but an awakener." - Robert Frost

"Teachers have the most important job of anyone today." - George Lucas

Teachers matter. It's a highly rewarding and fulfilling profession. Teachers share valuable information and important skills to encourage a love of learning that will serve children the rest of their lives. 

Teachers are committed to making a positive impact on the future of each child they serve on a daily basis. 

There's a career for every passion. The education field is not always what I envisioned when I was in college. However, I am still motivated to get up each morning and serve students in our nation's schools. Being a role model and teaching students the skills and knowledge they need beyond the classroom is extremely inspiring, rewarding, and motivating. It is an excellent time to be a teacher. You have to love what you do in order to be successful. This gives us courage to meet our goals. Today's teachers need perseverance, passion, and hope. I pray that my teaching has a positive influence on my students and school.

The math, reading, and writing skills I developed as a student has allowed me to become a successful teacher. Playing sports and being involved in student government taught me valuable life lessons on teamwork, time management, and responsibility. Teachers helped me get to where I am today by providing me with an exceptional education. 

As a student, I learned the benefits of getting along with people from different cultures, which continues to assist me in my career, especially when I traveled to New Zealand for a teacher exchange program. My passions for public speaking, fitness, and volunteering have provided inspiration for my future. 

There were many educators that had a positive influence on my life. They encouraged me to explore my curiosities, supported me with my struggles, and celebrated my successes. They cared about me, my learning, my life, and they wanted me to find happiness within myself in order for me to be capable of helping others. They inspired me and pushed me to be my best in the classroom and on the athletic fields. I am now trying to pay this positive influence forward to my students.

For me, the motivation to teach has always come from the students in my classroom. It is essential to make lesson plans interesting in order to get students motivated about learning. There needs to be interaction between students. Moving around the room as I teach, keeping a smile, and being expressive has made a difference in my instruction. Students need constant positive feedback in order to inspire them to strive for success. I want to inspire my students to fight poverty, choose kindness, act on climate change, and recycle in order to save the environment.

National Education Association's Teacher Appreciation Week is May 4th - 8th. Recognize and celebrate the importance and contributions of educators.  

Thank a teacher for their hard work and dedication to our students. Being a teacher is not easy, especially in this day and age.  

Ensuring Teachers Remain in the Profession

When I graduated from Oakland University's School of Education and Human Services, I felt knowledgeable and ready to have a positive impact on future students. 
The required field placements and internships provided me with work experience that helped me make decisions about my future career. I learned that I wanted to teach middle school science, not kindergarten. The study habits I developed as an undergraduate helped me with success in graduate school. 

There were definitely challenges I faced in my early years of teaching, such as how to do project-based learning, facilitate classroom discussions, and use technology effectively. A strong teaching internship experience and great mentoring programs have helped me become a successful teacher. Forging ahead on my own determination when the going got tough was essential. The wisdom that I gained with setting up classroom procedures and managing class time would benefit a newer teacher. 

Educators entering the profession need to deal with the challenges and successes of teaching through developing a positive mentor-mentee relationship. These types of relationships are necessary to help retain our top teachers and support new teachers as they come into the profession. Better professional development is also the answer and can be achieved with extensive, easily accessible support. There is something inherent about the teaching profession that is driving teacher's away, and the nature of internships, or lack thereof, in teacher education programs impacts retention. We must reclaim the agenda. 

The Top 5 Lessons I Have Learned in My Position in Public Education   

1. Be persistent. Never give up on students, parents, and colleagues. Everyone is in this together, and it truly takes a village to educate a child properly.
2. Be open-minded. Listen to other people and their opinions. The more information you have, the better decisions you can make. Communication is essential. 
3. Think positive. There is a lot of negativity out in the world, especially within the field of education. You need to have a positive outlook in order to combat all of the negativity.
4. Try different roles until you find your niche. Spend time with different people and in various extracurricular activities. Use your hobbies and passions as a guide.
5. Always want to learn. Whether it is a new technology or a new teaching strategy, teachers are life-long learners. We need to be learning alongside our students and show how passionate we are in seeking knowledge.

The Future of Public Education: 5 Snapshots of Modern Day Teaching in the 21st century

Being a teacher is one of the hardest jobs one could ever love. Teachers make a difference in the lives of students, parents, colleagues, and the community. The field of education is changing for the better. 

1. Currently, there is a focus on Depths of Knowledge Levels 3 and 4 in order to get students to critically think and apply what they are learning. Teachers are trying to make learning rigorous and relevant. They facilitate instruction rather than always being the deliverer. The students know the learning objectives.  

2. Digital technology makes learning personalized, engaging, and fun for students. Emerging trends with digital technology includes Web 3.0 and Anticipatory/Artificial Intelligence. Teachers need to have the trust, passion, and drive to use digital technology in their classrooms. They must be adaptable to learn new teaching techniques in order to meet student needs.

3. Teachers’ focusing on career readiness is essential. New jobs today require high Lexile levels. The English-Language Arts (ELA) teachers cannot do it alone. There is a laser-like focus on literacy because high Lexile scores equates to higher scores in other subjects such as math.   

4. Data analyses, such as growth models, are being used in teacher evaluations. The future is common core with smarter balanced testing. Our school uses the NWEA Map assessment to test for learning and literacy. Teachers are also giving their own assessments to monitor student growth.

5. Teachers are also responsible for a student’s personal development. Students are taught how to behave rather than just being punished. The student/teacher relationship is critical, and the focus is on student needs. Teachers cannot let students fail.

In addition to these five snapshots, issues such as poverty, student apathy, and lack of parent involvement should be considered when thinking about the future of public education. Other countries choose which kids go to school. In the United States, we allow all kids to go to a school with high expectations. This has an affect when comparing our schools to those of other countries. 

Change the picture with Communities in Schools of Michigan. Click here for more information. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Michigan-Shiga, Japan High School Exchange Program

The Michigan Department of Education and the Shiga Board of Education initiated the Michigan-Shiga Student Exchange Program in 1990. The program was originally operated out of the Michigan Department of Education, then Clinton County RESA and the Office of Gifted and Talented Education at Michigan State University, and since 2014, the Michigan Shiga Sister State Board along with their new co-sponsor, Asian Studies Center at Michigan State University, has operated it.

Each year the program offers 15 high school students an opportunity to travel to Shiga Prefecture in late June/early July to live with a Japanese family for two weeks. During their home stay the Michigan students attend school, participate in cultural and family events, increase their awareness of the Japanese culture and build lifelong relationships.

In early September, the Michigan students welcome their Japanese host students to Michigan. During their two weeks in Michigan, the Japanese students also attend school and participate in school and family activities while experiencing the culture here and extending the bonds between the two families. 

Two English Language instructors accompany the Japanese students. The Michigan students are chaperoned by two experienced teachers who are members of the Michigan-Shiga Student Exchange Program Committee.

We are seeking Michigan families with students in grades 9 - 11 to host 15 Shiga high school students.  Michigan families are asked to only provide room and board, students will pay for all personal expenses.  

Shiga students should be provided their own bed. The Shiga students will reside with their host family from Friday, August 28 - Saturday, September 12.  

Host families will need to pick up their Shiga student in East Lansing at the Kellogg Center.  A farewell event will be held in Lansing on Saturday, September 12 at Springhill Suites.

During their home stay with their Michigan family, Shiga students will attend school each day and participate in their host family activities.  Two adult chaperons will be accompany the Shiga students and will be available for any assistance host families may need. 

No previous hosting experience nor a ability to speak Japanese is required.  An orientation meeting will be held the morning of Saturday, May 16 on the MSU campus.  Hosting students and their parents will be expected to attend this meeting.

Questions:  Please contact Kathee McDonald at mcdon288@msu.edu.

For more information, click here

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Four Strategies for Flipping the Classroom

Technology can help teachers “Ignite Learning” in the classroom by promoting literacy development and critical thinking. The ability to communicate and create is what sparks learning.

“Kids these days” are just wired to operate in a digital environment, which enables them to take control of their education. This technology captivates students and makes them desire to learn more about the content.

Elite and innovative educators are “Flipping the Classroom” in order to meet the diverse needs of students. The numerous FREE online resources available can create a classroom that extends beyond normal school hours and walls.  

This provides students with more flexible opportunities for peer interaction, learning the content, and developing technology skills. “Flipping the Classroom” and in-person environments is really the best of both worlds because students receive the benefit of face-to-face interaction with more opportunities to learn outside of the classroom. 

“Flipping the Classroom” consists of a combination of online learning using simulations, videos, and forums in addition to small group differentiated instruction facilitated by the teacher. These instructional methods are appealing to digital natives.

1. In the classroom, I use video clips from Discovery Education and Safari Montage to “Ignite Learning”. Our school district pays for an annual subscription to these websites.

Unfortunately, students do NOT have access to these videos at home. Therefore, I post videos on my classroom website from Khan Academy, TeacherTube, and Vimeo, which engages students at home for FREE.

Khan Academy (khanacademy.org) is a non-profit educational organization providing video tutorials and interactive exercises for a variety of subjects and grade levels. Their Virtual Teacher Workshop demonstrates how to create classes, manage students, collect data, and provide feedback and much more.

TeacherTube (teachertube.com) is a video sharing website similar to, and based on, YouTube. Teachers can also view audio, documents, photos, and blogs. Teachers can register and upload files for students or parents. Teachers can also upload students’ videos in order celebrate their work. 

Vimeo (vimeo.com) is another popular video sharing and social networking site. A community of professionals knows it for high-qualilty videos. It has a cleaner layout with no advertisements.

2. I facilitate the use of the Internet in order to have students conduct research, collaborate with classmates, and establish an online classroom presence. Students enjoy their time posting comments to a blog or on a social media site.

For my classroom blog, I use Google Blogger (blogger.com). Students can also create their own blog in order to show and present their work.

Blogger allows users to chose from different artistic templates. It also has widgets that users can use anytime to insert HTML codes, pictures, slideshows, links, videos, and much more.  

Edmodo (edmodo.com) is a secure social media site accessible through a code you generate in order to invite students. Teachers of all grade levels are using Edmodo to post assignments and allow student discussion.

Students can also upload assignments, take quizzes, and receive alerts. This is an excellent resource for sharing content with students while keeping them socially engaged.  

3. Graphic organizers, diagrams, and other tools can help focus student learning depending on the topic. This allows the teacher to have more time to assist students with work during class time and provides more opportunities for review at home.

Quizlet (quizlet.com) allows teachers to create flashcards to help students’ remember and study vocabulary. There are also study tools and educational games for students to use.

Teachers can choose from the library of flashcards already made by others. There are six study modes, 18 languages, and it is very easy to share on a classroom website.

InstaGrok (instaGrok.com) is a great tool because it allows students to visually research a topic. Students use a graphical map that shows how concepts connect using key facts, links, images, and videos. 

InstaGrok allows teachers to monitor students’ research and note-taking activity. Up to 200 students can be linked to your teacher dashboard. 

4. There are many ways to create a flipped classroom. Teachers need a “Face of the Classroom” in order to provide a location to share these online learning resources with students and parents.

Weebly (education.weebly.com) is perfect for creating classroom websites and student e-portfolios. This resource allows teachers and students to express themselves using a variety of multimedia tools.

Weebly consists of an easy to use drag and drop website editor. Teachers can protect all student websites with a password in just one click.   

Remind (remind.com) is a communication tool that helps teachers connect instantly with students and parents. They receive it as a text message or e-mail.

Teachers can also send photos, documents, and links. This is an excellent way to effectively communicate the resources available on your “flipped classroom” website.

Published by Corwin Connect. Click here

This article will be presented at MACUL: 

Flipping the Classroom
Friday, March 20, 2015, 10:00 to 11:00 AM, Room 250B
Style:  Listen and Learn
Theme:  Innovative Models for Teaching and Learning

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Digital Learning Day

Digital Learning Day is Friday, March 13th. Below is a list of resources for teachers. 

Edutopia Digital Learning Day Resources and Tools: 

Spark 101 is an excellent resource you can use to engage students in STEM- based lessons that directly link to real industry scenarios.

NOVA Labs is another excellent resource that allows students to engage in case studies as "citizen scientists." 

Student activities promoting digital citizenship - 

Digital Wish Helps Schools Put Technology in Their Classrooms

Digital Wish (www.digitalwish.org) is on a mission to solve technology shortfalls in classrooms. Educators can use the school locator to find their school, register, and submit a lesson plan to win over 50 technology grant opportunities. Your local school is probably already in the system! Teachers can explore a massive free library of technology-based lesson plans, loads of fundraising ideas, and a grants database of additional funding opportunities.

Teachers are invited to register, tell their story, and make their technology wishes public on http://www.digitalwish.org. The online donation feature allows anyone to make a tax-deductible donation to a classroom's account, or purchase items from a teacher's wish list (like a wedding registry). Teachers can also involve their students in running a letter-writing campaign to attract supporters. There's a fantastic "how-to" PowerPoint presentation, plus dozens of printable worksheets and templates to help teachers integrate letter-writing into their curriculum. One school raised over $20,000 using this strategy.

Make your classroom Digital Wish come true! Registration is free and open to anyone at http://www.digitalwish.org.

Check Out These Grants and Fundraising Links on Digital Wish

Digital Wish is a vibrant and free resource for teachers who are seeking technology for their classrooms. Visit http://www.digitalwish.org for the following resources:
  • Over 50 Digital Wish Grants - Apply for 50 grants directly from the Digital Wish website.
  • Free Lesson Plan Library - Browse a free lesson plan library that includes extensive ideas on using digital technology in the classroom curriculum.
  • Grants Library- Search a database of grants available from third party sources, which may also help schools find much-needed funding for classroom projects.
  • Fundraising Ideas - Explore additional fundraising ideas.
  • Printable Letter-Writing Resources - Run a letter-writing campaign to raise money for technology in the classroom.
  • Shopping - Teachers can shop for technology resources and cast their Digital Wish.
  • Teacher Profiles - Create a detailed classroom profile with lesson plans, project ideas, and a classroom wish list. See example.
  • Supporter Class Locator - Supporters can click through a series of maps to locate a local school to make a tax-deductible cash donation or purchase an item directly from a teacher's wishlist. Digital Wish will match every donation with an additional 2% in funding.