Monday Messenger_vol 29_


Weekly newsletter.  Take a look!



Open Class

The team from American Renaissance School (6-8 grades) worked to plan for the implementation of “Open Class” in Powerschool for the upcoming school year. Following a DPI video orientation, the team discussed specific points including student access for posting and for responding to peer posts. We explored the site features and tools and considered various concerns regarding implementation.

After a review of the site, the team discussed ways to use linking content inside the page, the exchange feature and discussion board for students, universal access to all course content, online submission of assignments and assessments, data-driven tools for grouping students for collaborative activities and assignments. With each topic, deeper discussion ensued, during which time we were able work out details that might arise during implementation.

The team discussed the ramifications of blended learning, specifically related to Open Class, including how our school will implement, expectations for all users, should all classes be required to use the tool, and what are the policy implications for Open Class. 50% of all assignments for first semester will be submitted via Open Class and other electronic means, with a goal of 75% by year’s end. This should eliminate the need for DropBox. Create a common framework for course organization.

We discussed Non-negotiables as well as norms for Open Class. Discussed the logistics to inputting and updating grades.











What should courageous educators do?


Courage is not always encouraged — or appreciated — in education, author Alfie Kohn writes. To help encourage educators to show more courage to make changes, Kohn suggests they dig deeper, ask questions and take more responsibility. It takes courage and risk, but “if every educator who understood the damage done by those policies decided to speak out, to organize, to resist, then the policies would soon collapse of their own weight,” he writes. Education Week (premium article access compliments of (9/18)




Do We Invest in Preschools or Prisons? –




Shared byArne Duncan – Growing mountains of research suggest that the best way to address American economic inequality, poverty and crime is — you guessed it! — early education programs, including coaching of parents who…




Letter to Parents about Testing – New York Principals




Shared byPeter DeWitt – Please know that we, your school principals, care about your children and will continue to do everything in our power to fill their school days with learning that is creative, engaging, challenging…


25 Mind Mapping and Brainstorming Tools




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A Principal’s Reflections: The Best Feedback a Principal Could Get




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Eric Sheninger




7 ways administrators can help students develop resiliency


“We must all play our part — teachers, parents, coaches, and community leaders — to help kids develop and become resilient,” writes Whole Child blogger Kristen Pekarek. In a recent Whole Child Blog post, Pekarek shares an infographic that helps administrators understand how they can directly support this goal. The first suggestion is to provide accurate information to teachers and students. Read all seven.




American Education Isn’t Mediocre, It’s Deeply Unequal – Julia Ryan – The Atlantic Cities




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Bruce Baker


 – It’s so common to see studies about the United States’s lackluster academic performance compared to other countries, it’s barely newsworthy anymore. The American education system, the story goes, i…




Saturday reading program devoted to Tenn. students who are advanced






Tennessee’s Metro Nashville Public Schools and Vanderbilt University recently collaborated to enroll fifth- and sixth-grade students in a reading academy for learners who are advanced. The program, offered on Saturdays, is intended to help encourage students to read and allow them to think critically about texts. In one exercise, students were asked to read a Ray Bradbury story, “There Will Come Soft Rains,” before creating and editing one-minute videos retelling the story about what follows the disappearance of humanity. The Tennessean (Nashville) (tiered subscription model) (11/3)






Common-core-aligned report cards in N.C. district to come with guide


A North Carolina district has overhauled its report cards for elementary-school students, aligning the reports with the Common Core State Standards. Officials say the changes will be sent home with a guide for parents to help them understand the changes, which include awarding individual grades for skills that students are to master in each grade as well as the elimination of some grades and other changes. The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) (11/4)




The first year: 10 tips for new principals


“By the time they step into the position, most principals have already spent years — even decades — in the classroom as teachers. This experience certainly comes in handy, but rarely is it enough to keep new principals from being broadsided by new challenges,” writes ASCD EDge member Ryan Thomas. In a recent blog post, Thomas presents tips from Jan Borelli, a 20-year veteran principal. Borelli’s first tip is to learn to distinguish between alliance and friendship. Read all 10.




You want me to read what?!


The November issue of Educational Leadership tackles the question, how can teachers help their students understand informational text? In his article, professor Timothy Shanahan dives into the many aspects of informational text. Shanahan takes a look at the definition, why informational texts have become a big deal, whether such texts are developmentally appropriate for young students, and what it means for both English teachers and other content-area teachers. Read on.




What’s the best way to incorporate the arts into STEM?


Incorporating the arts into science, technology, engineering and math education is a popular concept, but there is debate about just how it should be done, according to educator and teacher trainer Anne Jolly. In this blog post, she reviews the “pure STEM” and “pure art” perspectives. She also suggests several STEAM-related lesson plans, such as having students design musical instruments or using art to make engineered products more attractive. MiddleWeb/STEM Imagineering blog (11/3)




Should teachers pursue their own professional development?


In this blog post, middle-grades math teacher José Luis Vilson writes that teachers need to push to create their own professional development through technology and networking with other educators, even though they may be given little time or respect for doing so. “Being at the forefront of any movement is tough, but we have to push an agenda that validates our efforts as teachers,” he writes. Center for Teaching Quality/In the Middle of Teaching and Learning blog (11/1)




How to support suspended students — and welcome them back


Many teachers will experience having a student suspended from school, writes Carrie Kamm, a mentor-resident coach with the Academy for Urban School Leadership’s Chicago Teacher Residency program. In this blog post, Kamm suggests working with students’ families to keep them connected to learning, communicating daily with students during their suspensions and welcoming students back when they return — ready for a fresh start. Teaching Channel/Tchers’ Voice blog (11/1)




Report: Assessment, definition of career readiness varies


Data show that 96% of students nationwide are taking at least one career and technical education course and 38% are taking at least three, according to a recent report from the Center on Education Policy. The center found that student assessments for career readiness varies by state — and sometimes is determine by individual districts — with the most popular test being ACT’s WorkKeys. eSchool News (free registration) (11/6)




D.C. considers giving school leaders power to retain students


The Washington, D.C., Council tentatively has approved a bill that would give school leaders more power to hold back elementary- and middle-school students who are not performing at grade level. The measure, which effectively would end social promotion in the district, also would require students who are held back to attend summer school unless they’ve been excused. The Washington Post (tiered subscription model) (11/5)




Schools see rise in number of homeless students


School districts nationwide say they are seeing their population of homeless students swell, according to a recently released analysis by the National Center for Homeless Education, part of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. There are now 5,302 homeless students in the 59,000-student Mobile, Ala., school district — up from more than 2,000 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. School districts in many areas are stepping in to help serve the needs of homeless students and their families. Education Week (premium article access compliments of (11/6)




Ill. district puts extra supports in place for common core math


A school district in Illinois is making changes to its math curriculum to align learning with the Common Core State Standards. Changes include adoption of an integrated approach to teaching math. The district also has launched new courses and additional tutoring to provide extra support to students who may not be ready for more rigorous math classes. Chicago Tribune (tiered subscription model)/Downers Grove (11/5)




Using writing to improve middle-grades peer relationships


Former sixth-grade teacher David Rockower shares in this commentary how he used a letter-writing exercise to raise awareness and combat bullying and exclusion among students. Rockower first wrote his own letter to students expressing his concerns about such behavior — and sharing his own middle-school experiences — then invited students to write letters to him about their experiences with cliques, bullying and exclusion. “After this writing experience, there was a noticeable lifting of tension,” he writes. Education Week Teacher (premium article access compliments of (11/4)




Ga. policy puts emphasis on social studies, science


The adoption of the College and Career Ready Performance Index in Georgia has placed greater emphasis on social studies, science and language arts, besides reading and math. Now, officials in one district say they are launching a renewed effort to boost social studies training for teachers to boost students’ achievement. The Augusta Chronicle (Ga.) (11/6)




10 tips for teaching the twice-exceptional student


“You know the kid — the girl who struggles to read your science textbook but wins first prize at the science fair, or the boy who refuses to complete any work but aces every assessment. Often, that kid is twice exceptional gifted,” writes educator Daina Lieberman. In her Education Update article, Lieberman shares ways to help your twice-exceptional students thrive. She advises to begin by building relationships, because a child who trusts you is likely to ask for help. Read all 10.




Nation’s Report Card reveals slight increase in math, reading scores


Fourth- and eighth-grade students are making slight progress in math and reading, according to the recently released 2013 Nation’s Report Card. The National Assessment of Educational Progress — given every two years — shows 42% of fourth-graders and 35% of eighth-graders scored at or above the proficient level in math. That’s a one-point increase for both grades since 2011. Eighth-graders gained three points since 2011 in reading, but fourth-grade reading scores remained flat. Education Week (premium article access compliments of (11/7), ABC News/Associated Press (11/7)




Minn. district switches to inclusion model for students with disabilities


St. Paul Public Schools in Minnesota has closed most of its learning resource centers and placed students with behavioral and emotional disabilities at their home schools to have more interaction with their peers. The change has given most students a chance to be in a regular education classroom. Some student advocates and teachers raised concerns, such as not having enough aides and special-education teachers to co-teach in every classroom with students with disabilities. Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.) (11/7)




School districts push back against pressure to cut recess


While some school districts nationwide are trimming time for recess in favor of academics, a growing number of districts are pushing back against this trend — citing research showing the importance of play and physical activity in educating the whole child. Some schools are making this happen by partnering with Playworks, a nonprofit that works with schools in low-income neighborhoods nationwide. National Public Radio/text and audio (11/7)




Which type of parent support for the Common Core would be most useful?


“In response to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), many different groups have created documents for parents, education experts, and others that provide clear, consistent expectations for what students should be learning at each grade,” writes ASCD market research analyst Kit Harris. In her Whole Child Blog post, Harris examines the results of an ASCD SmartBrief poll that asked readers what parent activity has the greatest potential to support students’ transition to the new standards. Read on.






Resources, Articles, Links, etc. for Leaders of Teaching and Learning

Resources, Articles, Links, Etc.

Common Core in the Schools: A First Look at Reading Assignments

October 22, 2013


Tim Shanahan

Ann Duffett

Foreword and Summary by Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Kathleen Porter-Magee

As forty-six states and the District of Columbia implement the Common Core State Standards, questions abound regarding implementation, including the implications for curriculum and pedagogy. In Common Core in the Schools: A First Look at Reading Assignments, researchers analyze what texts English teachers assign their students and the instructional techniques they used in the classroom. This study is meant to serve as a “baseline” that shows what the very early stages of CCSS implementation look like. This “baseline” study—with a follow-up slated for 2015—shows what the very early stages of CCSS implementation look like:

Most teachers believe that the new standards promise better learning for their students, and an overwhelming majority of teachers say that their schools have already made significant progress toward implementing the standards, including relevant curriculum changes and professional development.

But findings from this survey also show that, for the most part, the heavy lifting of aligning curriculum and instruction to the rigor of the CCSS still lies ahead:

  • The CCSS emphasize the centrality of texts in the English language arts curriculum. Yet the majority of teachers still report that their lessons are dominated by skills and are more likely to try to fit texts to skills than to ground their skills instruction in what is appropriate to the texts they are teaching. Indeed, an astonishing 73 percent of elementary school teachers and 56 percent of middle school teachers place greater emphasis on reading skills than the text; high school teachers are more divided, with roughly equal portions prioritizing either skills or texts.
  • The Common Core asks teachers to assign texts that provide language complexity appropriate to the grade level, but significant proportions of teachers—particularly in the elementary grades—are still assigning texts based on students’ present reading prowess. Specifically, the majority of elementary teachers (64 percent) make substantial efforts to match students with books that presumably align with their instructional reading levels. This happens less often in middle and high school, with approximately two in five middle school teachers selecting texts this way. This means that many youngsters are not yet working with appropriately complex language in their schoolbooks.

The CCSS call for students to have substantial experience reading informational texts (including literary nonfiction such as speeches and essays). Despite some public controversy over this, most of the teachers indicated that they are already devoting significant proportions of time to teaching such texts in their classrooms. Nevertheless, many English language arts teachers (including 56 percent at the middle school level) assign none of the literary or informational texts listed in the survey, which represent both CCSS exemplars and other high-quality texts. 




Seven States Selected to Join Network for Transforming Educator Preparation

Seventeen national organizations commit their support


Paul Ferrari


One Massachusetts Ave. NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC 20001


WASHINGTON, DC – The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) announces today that 7 states have been selected to participate in a 2-year pilot focused on transforming educator preparation and entry systems to the profession. CCSSO created the Network for Transforming Educator Preparation (NTEP) to support states ready to take action in three key policy areas to ensure all educators are ready on the first day of their career to prepare our students for college, work and life. The participating states include: Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Washington. They are joined by seventeen national organizations committed to support the states’ efforts to accelerate change in educator preparation and entry into the profession by helping to communicate with their members and serve as thought partners.

“States across the nation have raised expectations for all students and that means that we have a responsibility to ensure that educators are prepared to help all students graduate ready for careers, college and lifelong learning,” said Chris Minnich, CCSSO Executive Director. “These seven states are among those on the leading edge of making substantive changes in the policy and practice of educator preparation. Over the next two years they’ll work with educators, preparation programs, institutions of higher education, non-profit and for-profit education providers, districts and schools to improve the way we prepare our educator workforce. These states are taking a comprehensive approach to creating a system where educators are ready when they enter the classroom. By focusing on certification, preparation, program approval, and information on how graduates are doing in the classroom, these states will improve teacher readiness and thereby help students perform at higher levels.”

CCSSO released Our Responsibility, Our Promise -Transforming Educator Preparation and Entry into the Profession in December 2012. The report was developed collaboratively by state education chiefs and representatives of the National Governor’s Association and the National Association of State Boards of Education to identify key areas they can change to ensure every teacher and principal is ready on day one to help all students meet raised expectations. The report contains ten recommendations that focus on three state policy levers: licensure, program approval, and data collection, analysis and reporting, to improve the way we prepare our educator workforce. The states participating in the pilot will use these recommendations as the foundation for their actions and more specifically will:

  • Licensure: States will strengthen and change educator licensure standards and requirements to ensure teacher and principal candidates recommended for licensure demonstrate the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the high expectations for all students, and help teachers and principals continuously improve their practice throughout their careers.
  • Program Approval: States will raise the bar on the approval process for all educator preparation providers to ensure they deliver high-quality, rigorous training to potential educators, as demonstrated by performance assessments that show that candidates can apply what they’ve learned in actual school settings and with the range of learners they will likely encounter.  
  • Analyzing and Reporting Information to Improve Preparation Programs: States will formalize and refine the process for collecting, analyzing, and reporting educator pre-service and in-service performance data to ensure this information is used as tools to improve the way we prepare our educator workforce.

The network will leverage promising practices several states like California, Missouri and New Hampshire have used to begin to change policy affecting how teachers and principals are prepared and licensed to practice as well as the variety of new pre-service performance assessments being developed.  

– See more at:


Teachers Are Supposed to Assign Harder Books, but They Aren’t Doing It Yet – Eleanor Barkhorn – The Atlantic


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The Hechinger Report – One of the signature aspects of the new Common Core State Standards is their tougher demands on reading: They require students to read texts that are on grade level, even if the all students in a c…


Coding In The Classroom: 10 Tools Students Can Use To Design Apps & Video Games –


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Steven W. Anderson


The Softer Side of ‘No Excuses’ : Education Next


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StudentsFirst – Since their start in Houston in 1994, KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) charter schools have been the most celebrated of the No Excuses schools. Employing strict discipline, an extended school day …


What Do International Test Score Comparisons Mean?


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John Robinson – Uh-oh! Another study has appeared warning that we are falling behind other nations on international standardized tests. The National Assessment Governing Board released the results of a study compa…


Climate Change and Value-Added: New Evidence Requires New Thinking : Education Next


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Education Next – Anyone participating in the education policy debate for five years or more probably staked out their position on the use of value-added (or student achievement growth) in teacher evaluations  long …


4 Apps and Web Tools Perfect For Digital Art Class – Edudemic – Edudemic


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David Britten


Top authors — including Maya Angelou — urge Obama to curb standardized testing


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JudyArzt – More than 120 authors and illustrators of books for children — including Maya Angelou,  Judy Blume and Jane Yolen — urged President Obama in a letter sent Tuesday to curb policies that promote exce…






New and best-selling resources for your professional development







Solutions and resources that help you succeed!


Your professional development is so important to the students you serve. You owe it to yourself to check out our ASCD Back-to-School Resource Guide for Educators with new resources and solutions for teachers and leaders, including

  • New books and videos on breakthrough ideas for schools and districts.
  • Best-sellers with proven practices for every grade and subject.
  • Tools for implementing Common Core State Standards and other imperatives.

VIEW NOW to see what’s new for the new school year!