The 2021-2021 school year presented school districts across New York the opportunity to participate in a pilot program that gave students the chance to earn a Seal of Civic Readiness with their school diploma.
Multiple schools from across the state applied to participate in the pilot, including one from our CABOCES region, Salamanca High School. This program was created to offer students a wide variety of choices and opportunities to acquire and use their skills, mindsets and experiences to attain civic readiness. New York State defines civic readiness as the ability to make a positive difference in the public life of our communities through the combination of civic knowledge, civic skill, and civic action. To obtain and receive the Seal students need to earn multiple points based in demonstrating their Civic Knowledge and their Civic Participation. Schools have the flexibility to adjust projects and experiences to student interest and outcomes.
The Salamanca pilot was led by Global teacher Justin Hubbard who led his department in creating and adopting the criteria necessary to meet the requirements of the seal and his students in working to demonstrate participation to earn the seal. Students worked in various capacities of research, analysis, and presentation to demonstrate their knowledge and share information pertaining to the topics and projects they worked on. Several students were also able to travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in lobbying sessions with members of Congress.
Congratulations and thank you to the Salamanca SCR Committee and the students for all the work they completed and gaining valuable learning experience participating in this unique opportunity.
By: Rob Griffith, CA BOCES Professional Development
In recent years, educators have been working carefully to meet the ever-growing social and emotional needs of the students they serve. This includes attending professional learning opportunities, exploring new resources and connecting with educators in other districts to hear about how they are approaching SEL within their learning environments. One of the ways that Community Schools has been able to support SEL at the classroom level is by modeling the use of some of the new SEL resources developed by our Learning Resources team, commonly known as ‘SEL Kits’.
As educators within the region started to learn about the new SEL Kits, some had asked for support in how and where to use them within daily instruction. The ‘Be Brave Kit,’ is a great place to start when integrating SEL Kits into the classroom, as the contents of the kit are simple and versatile, yet facilitate some critical learning around neuroscience and emotion, particularly anxiety. The ‘Be Brave Kit,’ contains three books by the author Karen Young, “Hey, Warrior,” “Hey Awesome,” and “But We’re Not Lions.”
Recently, I had the pleasure of joining Kristin Rocco’s life skills classroom at Ellicottville Central School and Danielle Norton’s second grade classroom to model the use of “Hey, Warrior,” and help students understand why anxiety feels the way it does and where the physical symptoms come from. In collaborating with both teachers, we decided best to utilize the circle format to illicit maximum engagement in the lesson, as students are familiar with the process. Each class separately engaged in conversation around “scary” feelings, being worried and what happens in our bodies when we are anxious. We were able to use the book to add to our conversation and share some new learning about what happens in the brain and body when our amygdala switches on and fear and worry drive our actions. Students were able to practice some familiar skills of belly breathing and positive affirmations and make connections into how such skills can empower them in uncertain situations that may provoke feelings of anxiety.
It was an honor to witness such profound learning taking place in each classroom at ECS and we thank both teachers for partnering with Community Schools to explore one of our new SEL Kits. If you are interested in exploring any of the SEL Kits that are available, please visit resources.caboces.org or reach out to Alex_Freer@caboces.org. If your classroom or district is interested in collaborating with Community Schools to facilitate a lesson in SEL, please reach out to Kathryn_mendell@caboces.org.
By: Katie Mendell, CA BOCES Community Schools
Teachers in all CA BOCES districts have access to many ebooks and audiobooks for personal use. Whether commuting to work or committed to yard work, audiobooks are engaging when multi-tasking. Some titles I have read in OverDrive are: Memoirs of a Geisha (fascinating), Devil in the White City (historical, feats of engineering, and a heavy dose of macabre), The Exiles (soon to be on Netflix) and Think Again (choosing courage over comfort). Content includes historical, biographical, Pulitzer Prize winners, self-help, New York Times Best Sellers, fantasy, horror, and there’s titles to support professional development, too.
Currently, I’m listening to the memoir Finding Me by Viola Davis. Ms. Davis is an accomplished actress having received an Academy Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, and two Tony Awards. She is the only African-American to achieve the Triple Crown of Acting! The audiobook is narrated by the author and as such, delivers raw insight into poverty and being black Her story is one of hardship, resilience, and amazing achievement.
Audiobooks and ebooks help develop and strengthen comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary. This year, over 2000 ebooks have been checked out by students in the region. Cattaraugus-Little Valley takes the lead with the most student check-outs and Franklinville’s Ten Broeck Academy ties with Allegany-Limestone with the most teacher assigned titles.
If you are wondering what the top 10 titles are for students this school year, here they are:
Brian's Hunt: Hatchet Series, Book 5
A Tale of Two Kitties: Dog Man Series, Book 3
We All Fall Down
Wrecking Ball (Diary of a Wimpy Kid Book 14)
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
Grime and Punishment: Dog Man Series, Book 9
Naruto, Volume 1: Uzumaki Naruto
The River: Hatchet Series, Book 2
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series, Book 1
One of Us Is Lying: Series, Book 1
If you want to know more about using Sora personally or with students, reach out to your school librarian or contact me at Cecelia_Fuoco@caboces.org
By: Cece Fuoco, CA BOCES Learning Resources
Meet the Meeting Owl Camera, a new tool for video conference engagement!
The Meeting Owl camera has the capability to show an entire room of people or narrow the field of vision to a smaller view. The camera incorporates both a microphone and a speaker so all can be seen and heard. The Meeting Owl has a feature that will focus on the speaker(s) as they participate in the connection. Additionally, the Meeting Owl is platform agnostic making it incredibly versatile.
Does it sound too good to be true? Well, it may get even better...
The Meeting Owl camera can be paired with a Whiteboard Owl camera as well. This additional tool allows the presenter to write on the whiteboard and have the image(s) appear on the board as the presenter continues writing or creating images and presenting. This Whiteboard Owl camera makes the presenter semi-transparent while the writing/images on the whiteboard remain prominent.
The Meeting Owl is coming to your district! Each district in the CA BOCES Distance Learning CoSer will be receiving one Meeting Owl for use in their district. See your Technology Director for an opportunity to explore and use this incredible tool for use in classrooms, professional development, virtual meetings, etc.
If you'd like time to explore the Whiteboard Owl camera, please contact Karen Insley, Distance Learning Coordinator.
By: Karen Insley, CA BOCES Learning Resources
We just finished the month of April, which is sometimes known as Earth Month since Earth Day has been celebrated on April 22nd each year since 1970. Arbor Day is also the last Friday in April, when we are reminded to plant trees. But May is when we really start to reap the benefits of Earth’s springtime! After a relatively cold April (with a couple of warm days to tease us), May is a time we can really start to rub our winter-weary eyes and stretch our legs as we venture outside to see things come alive. May begins with a lime-green undertone to all the brown-grey branches and ends in a full explosion of leaves in our faces! Somewhere in between the tiny buds on the trees burst open to reveal the trees’ means of reproduction – their flowers. There is always a hint scientific truth to weather cliches, such as “April showers bring May flowers!” Many Native American cultures call the full moon of May “the Flower Moon”, very simply because of the obvious occurrences in nature during this time of year.
This year’s May full moon is on May 15th. As a bonus, this Flower Moon will undergo a total eclipse! An eclipse of the moon (lunar eclipse) happens when the Earth blocks the Sun’s light rays from reaching the moon. We can actually watch the shadow of the Earth cross the moon! To see this one, it will need to be a clear night on May 15th. The eclipse begins at 9:30pm that night and reaches totality (when Earth’s shadow completely covers the moon) around 11:30pm. You will know totality has occurred when the moon appears to turn a reddish hue. This is due to the Sun’s light rays refracting through Earth’s atmosphere, essentially bending around Earth’s surface to reach the moon. Let’s hope for a cloudless mid-May!
To get in the spirit of May, a fun activity is to make seed bombs. They are super easy, can become a springtime tradition, and are a fun gift! An added bonus to this Earth-friendly activity is that you can use paper scraps from a past craft activity, that would otherwise be thrown away.
You will need:
To make seed bombs:
You can make this springtime activity into an experiment. For each of the following options, see which variable makes the plants grow best. Keep track of the plant growth over time by measuring and taking observations down on a data table.
CA BOCES Advancing STEM Kits help elementary students understand our natural world. In Kindergarten, Grade 2, and Grade 5 students learn about what it takes for plants to grow, while students in Grade 1 and Grade 5 discover patterns of our moon. For more information about Advancing STEM Kits, check out our website, or contact me anytime!
Notice: The deadline is fast-approaching for an institute for teachers that are determined to implement the new science standards effectively. This is a chance to build NYSSLS-aligned assessments and integrate them into their classroom. There is an associated stipend as well as CTLE. The application process will be competitive and the deadline to apply is May 15th. Please share this opportunity with elementary teachers and secondary science teachers: Building and validating NGSS/NYSSLS Classroom Assessments
By: Kelli Grabowski, CA BOCES Learning Resources
Reading aloud to students leaves an impression for life-long reading and motivation for creative thinking. There are endless opportunities to foster creativity, problem-solving, questioning, and critical thinking skills through reading aloud to students. Interest, creativity, and visionary thinking became the focal points of the school wide read aloud with the book The Wild Robot by Peter Brown.
Throughout the month of March, Friendship Central School engaged students in a district wide reading of the novel, The Wild Robot in search of the answer to the question, “Can a robot learn to survive in the wilderness?” Students listened to the school administrators, Judy May (superintendent), Chris Cornwell (K-12 principal), and Paul Gilbert (assistant principal) as they eloquently demonstrated fluent reading to the district. Teachers, students, staff, cleaning personnel, and assistants participated as well. This experience exposed students to the real-world problems of communication, learning to get along with others, respect, and empathy for all.
Research shows that reading aloud helps students wrestle with complex ideas in a safe environment. Through literature, children begin to see themselves, other cultures, and communities. They explore classic and universal concepts such as relationships with families and friends that help children understand the social fabric of the world in which they live. (Gold, Gibson; nd). Elementary students at Friendship CSD exemplified this learning through projects. Several students, in partnership with their families, analyzed the main character by creating robots from loose parts. Other students understood the story from the perspective of the setting and created replicas of their mental images of the story setting.
Along with the adventure through story, middle school students participated in a career exploration. As a result of reading this novel, students showed an interest in robotics and how robots are changing the world. A representative from Keyence, Christopher Rickicki, presented careers in robotics and answered questions about automation in factories. Several students were inspired to learn more about technology and coding languages through this presentation.
Many conversations, activities, and fun learning experiences happen when we read aloud to students. If you are interested in learning more about engaging in a district-wide read aloud, you can request information at www.readtothem.org
By, Michelle Rickicki, CA BOCES Professional Development
Over the past few years, the New York State Education Department has been developing new Regents exams for High School Social Studies in both Grade 10 Global History and Geography and Grade 11 U.S. History and Government. These new exams are designed to reflect the shifts in instruction that were identified in the 2014 released Field Guide for Social Studies and assess students according to the practices identified in the Social Studies Framework for K-12 instruction. The first of these new Framework exams was offered in 2019 in Global II, while the US History exam was supposed to be offered for the first time in June 2020. As a result of shutdowns and cancellations this exam was never given. However, come June this brand-new assessment will be administered for the first time.
This new exam design has 28 MC questions that are attached to a stimulus, a Part II Stimulus Based Short Essay task where students will write 2 responses to 4 documents, and Part 3 will be a 6 document Civic Literacy DBQ Essay. The purpose of this new Regents exam is to align assessment to the content, skills, and practices of the Framework.
One of the most noticeable changes in the exam will be regarding Part II. Replacing the Part II Thematic essay, the Framework exam Part II has two stimulus-based essay responses. These will require students to both analyze and make connections between sets of provided documents and discuss the context surrounding these documents.
While many teachers are uncertain regarding this new exam, they are also optimistic as they reflect on how the Global II exam was both fair and challenging and are hopeful this exam will be the same as well.
By: Rob Griffith, CA BOCES Professional Development
Today’s changing society has promoted classrooms that have become faced with questions about COVID 19, current events, political viewpoints, and students wondering where they fit in within the new norms of society. As educators, we have a large responsibility to respond to the changes in society, along with differences in diversity, equity, and inclusion, and teach students not only to become college and career ready, but also civic ready.
You may be wondering, “what is civic ready?” Civic ready students are those who are alert, thoughtful, engaged, and inquisitive members of society. Developing classrooms that invite opportunities for change, and ways to create civic ready students, will assist in an overall investment to help better our society. As educators, we can assist in developing all students to learn how to become civic-minded students by teaching them to seek knowledge from multiple sources, reminding them to be alert to self-identity and bias, and teach them to be critical and engaged consumers and producers of media.
The Civically Engaged Classroom by Mary Ehrenworth, Pablo Wolfe, and Marc Todd, recently published in 2021, proposes vast, meaningful strategies for reading, writing, and speaking for change. This text will be of assistance in creating classrooms designed as spaces where truth is practiced, exposed, accepted, challenged, embraced, or even resisted.
Students already have a voice, and the work of The Civically Engaged Classroom, is to provide educators with new ways to work with teaching students to use their voices with confidence and power. The classroom can be a place for all students to experience what it means to live in community with others, while also challenging them to overcome differences.
At Pioneer Middle School, Art Teachers, Mr. Daggett and Mr. Necci are allowing students to use their voice in their Social Issue Poster Project. Displayed around the school are posters that encapsulate student emotion, passion, and engagement around a social issue. Students are encouraged to think about a social issue that is passionate to them, and the examples that are displayed around the school are powerful.
Think about the goal of creating civic ready students...
to create alert, thoughtful, engaged, inquisitive, and active citizens of society
Educators, this can be challenging. This is going to be an ongoing process for ourselves and for our students, however, this will allow for student awareness. Change will come if critical conversations are occurring in classrooms, and if we as educators are equipped to use critical lenses to sift through the abundant information and data that our students consume from their own devices. As we can see from these student posters, students powerfully “voiced” their opinions through these posters when given the opportunity to meaningfully and appropriately do so.
This book provides an ample number of resources for you to use in your classroom, and a vast array of eye-opening ways that we can ensure that all voices in our schools are heard.
Here are some examples of available resources within the text.
Resources to Empower Students Writing and Ensure that All Voices can be Heard:
The New York Times Learning Network: lesson plans, activities, and suggestions for how to
bring current events into the classroom
By: Jenna Fontaine, CA BOCES Professional Development
Imagine this being your classroom for a week!
High School students will have the opportunity to use this setting, as well as others, as their classroom for a week over the summer. Through our Environmental Science CoSer, students will investigate and study a variety of topics at a Marine Ecology Summer Camp located on the east end of Long Island.
Some of the topics to be investigated and studied will be physical and chemical oceanography, marine ecology, animal behavior, invertebrate zoology, marine fish, algae, seaside plants, birds, mariculture, man's impact on the marine environment and wetland conservation. All these investigations are led by a marine biologist who works in conjunction with the professional teaching staff.
Students will also get the chance to visit locations such as salt marshes, sand dunes, rock jetties and sand flats to collect marine specimens and learn about the characteristics and importance of each ecosystem. Crabs, clams, polychaetas, mussels, jellyfish and sea stars are among the organisms that will be observed in their natural habitat. Time will also be spent in the laboratory for dissections and lectures. Students will be expected to take notes in the field and laboratory, as well as keep a personal journal.
In addition to field work, students will visit a marine museum to learn about Long Island's storied whaling history as well as taking part in an actual fishing trip. Students will also visit the historic Montauk Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse in New York State. Marine biologists from Long Island will lead the students in their studies.
The learning opportunities in this program are unique and far-reaching. Through teamwork and field experiences, students will gain insights into the unique problems faced by organisms as they survive in salty environments. Students who are prepared for the rigorous schedule will have an unforgettable experience.
This is just one of the many opportunities that the Environmental Science program at CA BOCES has to offer! For more information on these programs, please feel free to visit CABOCES Environmental Science or contact Lance Feuchter at (716) 376-8379 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Lance Feuchter, CA BOCES Learning Resources
“A society that fails to value communality, our need to belong, is a society facing away from the essence of what it means to be human,” (Gabor Mate, Ph.D)
Crisis can bring about change and present opportunities in various ways. As our school districts navigated the pandemic, they were also faced with addressing other ongoing crises. Several deeply rooted systemic barriers to equity were magnified throughout the pandemic which led to urgency for action in schools across the nation.
As leaders and educators at Cuba Rushford Middle/High School focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the context of their school setting and community, one priority has been a mainstay; honoring student voice. Rather than making assumptions about equity and inclusion, leaders and educators utilized a survey to ask students their opinion, thoughts, and feelings on the matter. Survey data offered critical student insight on issues of DEI within the school community. Student input didn’t end there. Administrators, Dr. Katie Ralston and Chris Fee wanted to ensure that these critical conversations didn’t end by offering the survey, they created structures to allow these conversations to continue into the classroom. For three days in February, I was invited to join classroom teachers and facilitate restorative circles designed to discuss issues of DEI, while honoring student voice.
The concepts of DEI are embedded in restorative practices, which made the use of restorative circles a perfect tool to further address DEI at Cuba Rushford. The district has been working diligently over the past several years, and through a worldwide pandemic, to implement restorative practices district wide. One of the resources that the district has relied upon, was Kay Pranis’s book, “Circle Forward,” which provides several sample scripts for restorative circles. While spending the three consecutive days facilitating circles in various classrooms, I consulted the Circle Forward Module, “Difficult but Critical Conversations,” which provides several scripts related to DEI.
While working collaboratively with administrators in Cuba Rushford, it was promising to see that the focus on DEI and eradicating systemic barriers to equity included actions that support enhancing professional practice; building a school culture of care, and developing partnerships and relationships. As the district continues to empower students and explore DEI within their district and community, we plan to continue to work collaboratively in creating structures that support the underlying goal of achieving equity, honoring and celebrating diversity and maintain an inclusive environment.
By: Kathryn Mendell, CA BOCES Community Schools
One of the common questions that arises when CA BOCES component schools inquire about the Model Schools Cooperative Service (CoSer) is, “How can you work with our school [through Model Schools]?” In short, our work through Model Schools focuses on effective educational technology integration. There are examples of what this might look like on CA BOCES Professional Development’s webpage as well as our regional professional development offerings catalog.
In practice, the on-demand professional development through Model Schools has always been one of the most enjoyable aspects of my work, and my most recent trip to Genesee-Valley Central School not only reaffirmed that but also served to summarize well what that on-demand work can look like:
In the second and third photographs, students in Mrs. Halley Kasperski’s class worked through a “low-tech” task facilitated by Mrs. Lindsay Simpson to best catch the mischievous (or perhaps misunderstood) leprechaun. While I have seen and utilized it many times before, the slide Lindsay used to help students work through the Engineering Design Process struck me a bit differently as I was reflecting on our work. Whether a Model Schools coordinator works with educators in your district to help facilitate lessons on coding, lessons using physical kits through the Learning Resources program CoSers, or lessons emphasizing computational thinking, nearly all of these lessons work through a similar process to the Engineering Design Process.
For example, when Lindsay’s lesson was finished, I worked with separate groups of students to explore the littleBits kits that GV has available for students in the Innovation Center. When students arrived, we opened our inquiry with a Notice/Wonder dialogue to ask questions and imagine specific outcomes using the resources available; then students planned and created using those kits to see if their imagined outcomes were plausible; and lastly, we concluded by suggesting possibilities for extending the learning and revisiting what had taken place.
So what does Model Schools work look like? It can look like a mess. It can look like excitement. It can look an awful lot like an inquiry process or the Engineering Design Process. Ultimately, it looks like it’s worth it.
By: Mark Beckwith, CA BOCES Professional Development
Are your students struggling with their mathematical fluency? Are you looking for a highly engaging way to get your students to work on their mathematical fluency? Look no further than nerdlegame.com, a free platform where students can complete a Nerdle game and work on their mathematical fluency simultaneously. If you’re familiar with Wordle, you may notice that Nerdle is the math equivalent where instead of guessing the mystery 5-letter word, you are trying to guess the mystery 8-character math sentence.
Graham Fletcher defines mathematical fluency as a “students need to be accurate, efficient, and flexible in context”; “it is an outcome of meaningful problem-solving with purposeful practice.” Not only does mathematical fluency include a student's ability to be accurate and efficient, but it is also a measure of how flexible you are in your thinking. Many people think that mathematical fluency is simply about speed and accuracy with rote memorized facts, when it’s more important and powerful for students to know how to use these facts in context.
Take the following example from Linda Gojak, former NCTM President. At the beginning of the school year, I gave a class of third-grade students a sheet with 10 addition facts. Under each fact was the word “explain,” followed by a line. I asked one of the students the sum of the first fact, 8 + 9, and she immediately began to count on her fingers—certainly not the action of a student who is fluent with addition facts. Before she reached the sum I asked her, “What do you know that would help you find the sum of 8 and 9?” She thought for a brief time and replied, “Oh, it’s 17.” When I asked her how she had gotten that without counting, she looked at me and said, “I just took 1 off the 8 and gave it to the 9. That made it 7 + 10. That’s easy—it’s 17.”
One might argue that child was not fluent. I believe, however, that she demonstrated fluency and more. She was able to use her understanding of place value, addition, and the associative property to arrive at a correct response. She was efficient, accurate, and flexible in her thinking—all in a matter of seconds. What made the difference between her fumbling first attempt and her successful second one? It was being provided with the chance to stop and think about what she already knew and apply that understanding to 8 + 9.
This child wasn’t quick with blurting out the correct response but according to Linda Gojak, should still be considered mathematically fluent because “she was efficient, accurate, and flexible in her thinking.” This is the essence of the Nerdle game phenomenon. Students need to come up with the mystery math equation of the day utilizing any of the digits 0-9, =, and the four arithmetic operators +, -, *, and /.
How exactly can Nerdle game help students develop their mathematical fluency? Nerdle promotes mathematical fluency since it requires mathematically correct number sentences to be used. If what is entered is not mathematically correct, you will be required to fix it before submitting. As said before, any of the four arithmetic operators can be included in a Nerdle which requires students to be familiar with each, and it forces users to think flexibly about numbers to eventually determine what the mystery equation is. Another key benefit of using Nerdle with students is that it can be done individually or as a group, as a Do Now, Exit Ticket, or other quick formative assessment, depending on how you want to utilize the site in your classroom. It can also be useful for students from elementary age through high school.
Now, how do you actually play Nerdle? The ultimate objective is to guess the Nerdle in 6 tries or less. After each guess, the color of the tiles will change to show how close your guess was to the solution. In addition, here are the rest of the rule's users must abide by for the Classic Nerdle game.
From the initial Classic Nerdle game, there are now five game modes for users to try. These game modes are explained further below.
Classic Nerdle – The original Nerdle game. The aim of the game is to guess the Nerdle in six tries, by guessing the “word” that fills the eight tiles. After each guess, the color of the tiles will change to show how close your guess is to the right answer. A black tile signifies a number or operator that is not in the puzzle at all. A pink tile signifies a correct number or operator that is in an incorrect location. A green tile signifies a number or operator that is correct and in the correct location.
Mini Nerdle – The aim of the Mini Nerdle game is identical to that of Classic Nerdle only instead of eight tiles to guess, there are only six. A Mini Nerdle game could be beneficial for students who are not quite ready for the full Classic Nerdle game. As students build up their fluency skills, they could then begin to use the Classic Nerdle game.
Pro Nerdle – Is an amazing new gaming option that allows users to create their own Nerdle game to share with others. Additional operators including parentheses, exponents, decimals, and factorials are available and the user has full control over how many of the operators are enabled in their game. While Classic Nerdle is an eight-character puzzle with six guesses, Pro Nerdle can be up to sixteen characters with up to ten guesses. Once a Pro Nerdle is created, a share link is provided that can be sent to your students.
Speed Nerdle – This game mode has rules that are the same as the Classic Nerdle rules except you play against the clock and the first guess has been taken for you. But be careful, some rows have time penalties. 3,2,1….go!
Instant Nerdle – This game mode has rules that are the same as the Speed Nerdle rules except there are no time penalties. In addition, the first guess made includes all the operators and digits needed to complete the math sentence, but in the wrong order.
Each of the five game modes can be used to successfully help students increase their mathematical fluency in a fun and engaging manner. The Pro Nerdle game is an especially dynamite option that gives educators more control over the specific fluency skills they want their students to be practicing in the classroom.
If your students are struggling with their mathematical fluency skills, it may be time to try something new such as Nerdle. If you do use Nerdle, I would love to hear how it went! Give me a shout on Twitter @JTheRunningShu or email me at Justin_Shumaker@caboces.org to share or learn more about how Nerdle can be used effectively in the classroom.
By: Justin Shumaker, CA BOCES Professional Development
Teachers at Bolivar-Richburg are finding success with fun evidence-based practices in their classrooms. K-2 teachers are finding success with Heggerty Phonemic Awareness as well. This comes in addition to the core instruction from CKLA, which focuses on systemic reading instruction with introduction of sound patterns and structured to the "reading brain."
Interventionists are using Decodable texts and Heggerty Phonemic Awareness as well as Logic to supplement learning. Third-grade teachers have implemented Scholastic StoryWorks into their curriculum to supplement the NYS EL modules. This is all helping to build consistency and systematic practices for our early learners.
Much of this research has been around for the better part of 40 years. Thanks to organizations like The Reading League, which provides resources, online learning, podcasts, teacher training and even a new tv series called "Reading Buddies," we are now seeing the research in action. Started as a grassroots organization to inform teachers of the reading research, it's now working with chapters nationwide and even bringing in world-renowned psychologists, educators and reading gurus to its National Conference and regional trainings.
In sharing and embracing the research, the motto, "Know Better, Do Better' really rings true. Seeing this work in practice daily is not only empowering, but what's best for students to become gradel-level readers and writers.
Reference: www.the reading league.org.
By: Sarah Cartmill, CA BOCES Professional Development
Resources found in the school library should support curricula and reflect the cultures and identities of the community. School districts within the CA BOCES region may not consider themselves diverse if only considering ethnicities, nationalities, and languages spoken. New to school libraries are diversity audits.
Auditing resources is done purposefully for ensuring that the needs and interests of the school community are being represented, which is aided by an analysis of the community. An analysis may include reviewing the district’s demographics and learning about community groups and common interests; interviewing the school nurse, guidance counselor, and social worker for understanding the needs of students and families; and using surveys to gain feedback from teachers and students. Feedback helps determine who is or is not utilizing the library and why. A diversity audit should include environmental factors as well.
A clean room with comfortable seating is an inviting space. However, temperature, food allergies, pollutants, population density, sound, light, and even parasites (lice, fleas, bedbugs), can be a deterrence to visitors. Any deficiency noted on the audit can then be addressed as a new goal for the library. Some goals can be achieved relatively quickly while others may require additional funds and time. Creating awareness is a necessary first step. Another aspect of the audit is access to resources.
Resources, whether digital or print, not only support curricula but should reflect a variety of interests and identities and consideration must be given to how resources are accessed. For example, are library users with physical disabilities able to independently access the library and its resources? How might a hearing or vision impaired student find the library a welcoming space? How might a student who does not speak English know how to search, locate, and checkout resources? An analysis of the community helps the librarian determine what resources to purchase and set potential goals and objectives for the library.
Conducting a diversity audit is relatively easy to do once the community analysis has been completed. Below is a list of diverse topics for consideration:
Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC)
Adoption and foster care
People who have experienced homelessness or unstable living accommodations
Socio economic diversity
The Library 510 CoSer offers print and digital resources that support many of the topics noted above. If you are interested in a diversity audit, or would like to know more about vendor products for the library, please contact me at Cecelia_Fuoco@caboces.org.
By: Cece Fuoco, CA BOCES Learning Resources
It’s true…the Minecraft: Education Edition frenzy has finally hit the CA BOCES region in a big way over the past year-and-a-half. While Minecraft: Education Edition has been around for a few years now, many schools in our area are just now discovering the power and resourcefulness that comes with using it in the classroom.
When the pandemic hit in spring of 2020, a lot of teachers were forced to pivot to many online resources that might now have always been familiar to them. One of these software tools was Minecraft: Education Edition. The digital nature of Minecraft: Education Edition makes it an ideal tool for meeting students in an area they mostly enjoy (video games) and combines to form over 1,050 different pre-made lessons and activities of varying age levels, subject matter, and needed skill sets.
The lesson library (https://education.minecraft.net/en-us/resources/explore-lessons) is vast, fully-loaded, and includes some starter subject area kits to get started including lessons for Science, Math, Computer Science, History & Culture, Digital Citizenship, Social Emotional Learning, Equity & Inclusion, and much more.
Each lesson comes with student outcomes pre-determined, links to outside resources that might be referenced in the game, and even downloadable world files, as needed. Everything to get started is found here in this one-stop-shop for educators to browse, gather, and deploy.
Minecraft: Education Edition is free for Microsoft 365 schools, with the licensing coming alongside their M365 accounts. After downloading and installing the Minecraft: Education Edition software on their laptop or iPad, students login with their M365 credentials, and then can begin enjoying all the resource available.
Some lessons focus on the creativity side, like Build Challenges such as a Treehouse Building Challenge, a Pumpkin Carving Challenge, and more. Other lessons use the Minecraft worlds and blocks to create giant immersive worlds where students go on a journey to discover learning along the way, such as navigating their way through a plant and animal cell while seeing the organelles up close and a description of what each one does that they can add to their in-game journals.
It has been a hit with the students and teachers alike in the CA BOCES region thus far. More trainings are scheduled later this spring and summer, and we cannot wait to see what the teachers and students get to discover next!
By: Ryan McGinnis, CA BOCES Model Schools
Cuba, New York – Wednesday, February 16, 2022 – Twenty-two VEX Robotics teams from across Cattaraugus and Allegany Counties will be attending the annual CABOCES VEX Robotics Qualifying Tournament at Cuba-Rushford Middle/High School on Wednesday, February 16. Students will compete with and against teams from Belfast, Cattaraugus-Little Valley, Cuba-Rushford, Ellicottville, Fillmore, Franklinville, Genesee Valley, Hinsdale, Pioneer, Portville, Wellsville, and Whitesville. The middle and high school students will execute the 2021-2022 VEX Robotics Competition game, Tipping Point. The object of the game is to attain a higher score than the opposing Alliance by scoring rings, moving mobile goals to Alliance zones, and by elevating on platforms at the end of a two- minute match.
All teams can take part in the full qualifying tournament and a Skills Challenge. Teams also have an opportunity to participate in a Team Interview as well as be judged on their Engineering Notebook. Teams who earn advancement will qualify to attend the Northern New York State Championship in Syracuse on March 12, 2022.
To prepare for the tournament, students worked together to design, build and program a semiautonomous robot that could quickly and efficiently solve the specific challenges of the Tipping Point game. Teams studied electronics, programming, mechanical systems, animation, 3D CAD, computer-aided machining, web design, and materials fabrication. An equally important set of skills is learned through competition: communication, negotiation, project management, time management, and teamwork.
The tournament is possible because of a collaborative effort between Cuba-Rushford school and CABOCES. CABOCES ISS (Professional Development, Learning Resources, and Student Programs), along with the CABOCES Tech Support team and iDesign Solutions worked together to plan a successful tournament. Additional support and guidance, which was invaluable, came from Ben Mitchell from the REC Foundation. All details about the upcoming tournament are available at https://www.robotevents.com/robot-competitions/vex-robotics-competition/RE-VRC-21-6698.html#general-info
The CABOCES Qualifying Tournament is one of a series of VEX Robotics Competitions taking place internationally throughout the year. VEX Competitions are the largest and fastest-growing competitive robotics program for elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and college-aged students around the world. VEX Competitions represent over 24,000 teams from 61 countries that participate in more than 1,650 VEX Competition events worldwide. The competition season culminates each spring, with VEX Robotics World Championship, a highly anticipated event that unites top qualifying teams from local, state, regional, and international VEX Robotics Competitions to crown World Champions. More information about the VEX Robotics Competition is available at RoboticsEducation.org, RobotEvents.com, and VEXRobotics.com. To find out how to become involved in VEX Robotics in the CABOCES region, email email@example.com or call 716-376-8323.
About the REC Foundation
The Robotics Education & Competition Foundation manages the VEX Robotics Competition, which thousands of schools participate in around the world each year. REC states that one million students are reached worldwide through all the VEX robotics programs, classrooms, and competitions.
The REC Foundation seeks to increase student interest and involvement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by engaging students in hands-on, sustainable, and affordable curriculum-based robotics engineering programs across the U.S. and internationally. Its goal is to provide these programs with services, solutions, and a community that allows them to flourish in a way that fosters the technical and interpersonal skills necessary for students to succeed in the 21st Century. The REC Foundation develops partnerships with K-12 education, higher education, government, industry, and the non-profit community to achieve this work so that one day these programs will become accessible to all students and all schools in all communities. For more information on REC Foundation, visit www.RoboticsEducation.org.
By: Jean Oliverio, CA BOCES Student Programs
If you made it to your first day on the job without missing a turn, either you grew up here, or you can thank Gladys West. Even though the navigation technology is relatively new to everyday citizens (I specifically remember first placing a GPS monitor on my dashboard in 2008 in preparation for a trip to Washington D.C.), GPS technology has been under construction since the 1970s. Now I wonder what we ever did without it! Even after muscle memory has been committed to all the dips and turns on my 35-minute drive, I still set the map up on my phone every morning, maybe as an extra sense of security. (And how could I ever find the nearest Tim Horton’s without GPS?)
Gladys West was a hard-working, rural farm-girl from Virginia. She walked 3 miles each day to a one-room school, where she knew she had to learn as much as she could to get out of the blistering, back-breaking harvest work on her family’s small farm. She graduated top in her class, which earned her a scholarship to college.
After graduating from Virginia State College, West became a teacher. While teaching, she also earned a master’s degree in mathematics. The U.S. Navy recognized her talent in this field and hired her to do computer programming and coding. Although she earned her place in this prestigious program, at the time it was not common for a woman, especially a woman of color, to do such work. Amid a backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement, West felt the need to work extra hard to prove herself and provide a path for those that would follow.
In the late 1970s, West became the project manager for Seasat, collecting and processing data from satellites to monitor the oceans. Her detailed mathematical calculations helped to depict an accurate model for the true shape of the Earth – a slightly squashed sphere with many crevices, high points, and vast ocean basins. This information was the groundwork needed to create GPS.
GPS stands for Global Positioning System. It is a system of satellites that provides location and time information anywhere on or near the surface of Earth where there is an unobstructed line of site to four or more GPS satellites. Mainly used in the military in the early 1990s, the benefits of civilian use were soon realized and full capabilities of GPS were made available to the public by the year 2000.
Today we use GPS without even thinking. We ask our phones to find the closest gas station, it is used in emergency and disaster communications, self-driving cars cannot function without GPS. More efficient crop management, geotagging (referencing location on photos we take with our phones), and recreation such as hiking or Pokémon Go! all rely on GPS.
In the spirit of having a little fun with GPS, try your hand at Geocaching. This inclusive pastime not only utilizes the tech we all have at our fingertips, but it gets us outside and interacting with our world.
Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunt using a GPS-enabled device (a smartphone will do!). Geocachers navigate to a specific set of coordinates and then attempt to find a cache (container) hidden at that location. Caches can be found all over the world and almost anywhere you can imagine. They vary greatly in size and appearance – everything from large, plastic tubs to tiny camouflaged film canisters. Inside a cache there is usually a logbook for you to record your name and date of discovery and a number of items, trinkets, or souvenirs (treasures!). The rule is that you can take an item from the cache if you like, as long as you leave something of equal or greater value in its place. When you are finished, put the cache back exactly where you found it.
All you need for geocaching is a smartphone and a sense of adventure!
To get started, take a minute to head to https://www.geocaching.com/play to make an account. This site also has extensive geocaching information, videos, and tutorials. Once you have an account, you can download the free geocache app to your phone. This app will give you basic access to all geocaches with a difficulty rating of 1.5 and below (on a scale of 1-5). This rating will be easy enough to get you started.
There’s a treasure out there waiting for you, thanks to Gladys West!
By: Kelli Grabowski, CA BOCES Learning Resources
Canva is a free graphic design platform that's full of templates to create posters, presentations, videos, infographics and just about any graphic you can need. A drag and drop interface makes customizing the thousands of templates simple and easy while giving you the freedom to make them your own. Canva's wide array of features allow you to edit projects like a pro, even if you have little or no experience.
Many of us have used Canva personally and professionally, but recently we have been given the opportunity to explore Canva for Education. As soon as this became Ed Law 2D compliant (Thank you, Ryan McGinnis) districts immediately became eager to try it out and see how it can be used for both teachers and students.
Cattaraugus Little Valley jumped on board right away and tried it out with students and noticed the benefits to learning and student ownership that it can bring. Dave Conner, 7th grade social studies teacher used Canva for students to brainstorm and ultimately create/present their upcoming projects. They began with a simple template that was already on Canva.
Dave began with the above template, then was able to edit and make it match the exact needs he had for his project and his students. When the template was ready and to his liking, he could deploy it (assign it via Microsoft teams) directly to his students so they could have and edit their own copies. Dave could then review each students work and give them with feedback.
This is just one simple example, but as these students become more comfortable, they will be choosing and creating their own graphic pieces. I think of the many times our student clubs need to promote things such as school events or showcase things they have done. Rather than us, adults doing that for them they can now take ownership and create them themselves. To me, that student voice and ownership is the most important and useful part of Canva. If you haven't checked it out yet, take a look at Canva for education! This is a link to a helpful blog post of ideas for using Canva in the classroom!
By: Chelsea Skalski, CA BOCES Professional Development
6th-grade science teacher, Mrs. Cole, and 7th-grade science teacher, Mr. Pleakis, recently paired up for an exciting microscope experiment. As part of the 6th-grade, Lab Aids “Ecology Unit,” students had the opportunity to learn about the microorganism Paramecium and observe its feeding and searching behaviors. First, students watched the Paramecia on the large monitors in the new science lab. After that, students prepared slides with a drop of the solution that contained the Paramecia along with some food particles, and then they observed their behavior; students loved the up-close view. At the end, the students recorded their observations in their science notebooks. The investigation was a huge success.
By: Anne Mitchell, CA BOCES Professional Development
As we continue to navigate the new normal of Covid and “learning loss” (or as I heard it rephrased, “unfinished learning”) we’ve worked with other coordinators and teachers to develop and purchase some math intervention kits. As students continue to struggle with memorizing math facts and then using those facts in practice, it’s obvious that something isn’t transferring.
Over the summer, math specialist Graham Fletcher joined our Summer Math Institute and shared his knowledge of Building Fact Fluency Through Mathematical Storytelling, Harnessing the Power of the Purposeful Task (3-Act Tasks), and Demystifying the Fraction Rules We Teach. His sessions were well received, and he promoted new math kits he was working on.
Those kits are now on our warehouse shelves. Building Fact Fluency: A Toolkit for Addition and Subtraction and then another for Multiplication and Division are available to book for our teachers, instructional coaches, specialists, and interventionalists.
The Addition and Subtraction kit helps students learn their math facts by developing deep, conceptual understanding and procedural fluency at the same time. This comprehensive, research-based toolkit provides everything a teacher needs to help students develop number sense on the way to fluency—from cards, games, and videos to online resources, a facilitator’s guide, and hundreds of highly-engaging activities and tasks.
Research-based and standards-aligned, the Multiplication and Division toolkit invites students to think strategically about mathematics through multiple, rich, real-world contexts. These accessible contexts allow students to see how number facts connect to a wide variety of mathematical situations, explore the properties of the operations, and build a foundation of strategies they can draw from efficiently and with confidence.
LET’S BOOK SOME KITS!!!! Go to our resources page here to look at the new kits, older kits, and streaming resources. Keep checking back as we add more items to assist teachers in their craft and students in their learning.
By: Alexandra Freer, CA BOCES Learning Resources
Back in December of 2020, I shared a brief introduction to Microsoft’s Power Platform in the hopes that school districts would more seriously consider the opportunities available to create meaningful, digital solutions that were already protected under Microsoft’s data privacy agreement (DPA) and required no additional purchases. Who doesn’t love the sound of a product that doesn’t need another DPA and is free?
Since then, educators have not been wowed or interested much beyond Power Automate (to automate time off requests, mileage claims, and much more); but just recently, I was presented a simple request seeking a solution for a single scenario, and it evolved into solution for the entire middle/high school. Incidentally, the solution could work for your school too!
Tom Simon, superintendent of Portville Central School (PCS), asked Dave Suain, the director of the Envisioneering Center (the name of the space many schools would think of as a STEM/STEAM lab) to think about a digital solution to simplify the process of students obtaining a pass permitting them to attend the Envisioneering Center. Think about what a digital solution can do to improve the analog process of getting a hall pass in this situation: it eliminates the time that it takes to walk to the Envisioneering Center, it eliminates the time to walk back to class or to the room of the teacher needing to approve the pass, it can instantly notify each teacher as well as the student, etc. Since I help provide on-demand technology integration support roughly once per month at Portville, Dave asked my thoughts about creating the best solution.
After a little brainstorming, Dave and I settled on creating the quickest, functional solution possible to show how easy creating digital solutions to workflows can be with Power Automate so we could identify whether a more robust solution in Power Apps was worth the time and effort. Essentially, we created a workflow that is automatically triggered by a student submitting a response to a Microsoft Form containing three questions (What period do you need the pass? Who is your teacher that period? and What do you intend to work on during the period?), sends Dave the data from the Form, creates an approval process that terminates when Dave denies the pass or continues when he approves it, sends the pass details to the appropriate teacher if approved by Dave, and finally creates a Chat group in Teams communicating with everyone involved whether the pass was approved or denied. In not much time at all, the workflow was tested and ready to go.
Thankfully, Mike Torrey, PCS Technology Director, was apt to make sure that the IT department was in the loop during these discussions since technology specialists Wan Leong and Nicole Ramsey provided great support in making sure the workflow runs smoothly. This process will be piloted through the Envisioneering Center with a small group of students who frequent the space after they have returned from winter break.
Without hesitation, Wan acknowledged that the workflow would not be able to handle passes for the entire middle/high school, so we discussed how Power Apps was a much more desirable solution for that context. For example, any time we work with manually entered data, we must account for user error. In the workflow mentioned above, the student manually had to type in the teacher’s name into the Form, and Dave then needed to type in that teacher’s email address correctly in the approval process in order for the workflow to run correctly. In Power Apps, we can use connectors like Office 365 Users, Office 365 Groups, and/or Azure Active Directory (AD) to retrieve both student and staff names and email addresses exactly as they appear in AD so we can be certain the appropriate people are included in any of the notifications.
The app is still a work in progress, but we made a great start. It also bears repeating that the app itself is not being utilized at this time, but it is available for future use and development. Use the how-to guide below to get started in your district, too.
Getting Started with the Digital Hall Pass Power App Template
Step 1: Create Three SharePoint ListsLists is Microsoft’s take on what were formerly known as SharePoint Lists to allow users to create lists (i.e. tables or collections of data) without having to establish an entire SharePoint site. Rather, Microsoft Lists is now its own application that can be found by signing into your Microsoft 365 home page and finding Lists in the App navigator.
Although my preferred data manipulation tool is Excel, Power Apps seems to interact with SharePoint much nicer; and since Lists is built directly on SharePoint, Lists are the recommended data source for beginners. Power Apps allows for other connections such as Microsoft Dataverse, Access, or a SQL server, but most people will not have a need to interact with these more complex alternatives. Lists is also a great application for monitoring and sharing item inventories, tasks, and more since it can be shared with viewers and collaborators in the same manner you would share a file from your OneDrive.
For the Digital Hall Passes Template, you will need to create three lists, each of which using the same column titles and column types (it will be less work if you completely establish the first list and copy it as a template):
Step 2: Create an Automated Workflow in Power Automate
In order to help the app run more efficiently, it was not designed to delete records from any of the SharePoint Lists but rather modify specific records for their respective approval statuses. Therefore, the process also requires an automated workflow in Power Automate to remove expired records from the Active MHS Passes list, delete records older than 30 days from the Last 30 Days MHS Passes list, and update the PassStatus to PAST in both the Last 30 Days MHS Passes and All MHS Passes History lists if either adult did not acknowledge the pass before it expired.
This workflow requires four steps outlined below:
Step 3: Import the Digital Hall Passes Template in Power AppsAmong the many benefits to Microsoft 365 is the ability to collaborate and share resources; thankfully, Power Apps shares this benefit making it simple for district leaders to download the Digital Hall Passes .zip file and upload it to Power Apps by selecting the “Import canvas app” option.
Upon importing the app, you will need to update the import to create the file as a new app, and after minimal processing the open will be ready for a few final touches to make it operational:
Before sharing this app with students and staff, I would recommend making several other adjustments that may not be necessary but will give the app the personalization it deserves for your district. I have listed only a few, but don’t let your imagination stop there.
Beyond that, I say we should go to the drawing board and think of all the ways we can create in-house, digital solutions that require no additional purchases or DPAs.
By: Mark Beckwith, CA BOCES Professional Development
Many adjustments and new learning experiences came into being in classrooms since March 2020. One of those new learning experiences came in the form of virtual field trips. So many more virtual field trips were added in response to safety guidelines and the ease of connecting to an expert or an educational experience, like a museum or zoo.
In response to the changing learning experiences available to classrooms we have added programming from Virtual Field Trips: Explore the World without leaving your classroom. Virtual Field Trips has pre-recorded videos in the following content areas: social studies, geography, life science, and ancient civilization curriculum that are standards aligned, span grade levels from Kindergarten through 9th grade and offer additional resources like worksheets, printables and assessments with each video.
Each video is narrated, some are even available in a world language! Videos range in length from 5-35 minutes in length. Since the videos are pre-recorded they are NYS Education Law 2d compliant and can easily be added to the district platform that is used to communicate to students about learning experiences.
This will be a value add feature to the Distance Learning CoSer 420. This is offered at no cost to your district classrooms if you are in the CoSer. We are finalizing access to this new offering so it will be easy and useful for educators. Please don’t sign up for an account on the website. We would like all CA BOCES accounts to go through our program for cost as well as data privacy concerns.
You can learn more at the website: virtualfieldtrips.org
By: Karen Insley, CA BOCES Learning Resources
It is not uncommon for educators, particularly those with a keen focus on teaching and learning (as opposed to maybe business or technology), to analyze education through three lenses: curriculum, instruction, and assessment. As Thomas Guskey (and others) have noted, what is missing, however, since “few leaders have training on effective grading practices” is a fourth lens of grading and reporting. Although, I have been quite encouraged over the last several months of working in the CA BOCES region to be involved in numerous conversations focused on this fourth lens with a variety of school districts.
The emphasis of these regional conversations has been standards-based grading (SBG), and I would say naturally so. For example, how do curriculum coordinators and other educational leaders typically audit or analyze curriculum, instruction, and assessment? It is from a standards-based approach. Why, then, should grading and reporting be any different? Furthermore, SBG has presented many benefits that are often neglected in percentage-based practices, and those percentage-based practices have many pitfalls that need to be addressed.
What’s Wrong with “Traditional” Grading Practices?Before I present several concerns that arise with traditional grading practices, I need to mention that these practices aren’t completely flawed and do have some merit. For example, teachers can and have gained much insight into what students know and do in analyzing summative assessments through item analysis and more. I am not saying that these practices have no good or merit; I am, however, saying that these practices need dramatically improved.
1. Percentage-based practices aren’t the only traditional practices.
Thankfully for me, my mother decided to gift me with my first-grade report card for my birthday this year, and I was intrigued by the categories used to identify the learning I had demonstrated. For instance, when I observed an S-, S+, or an O on the report card, the legend clarified whether I was working toward satisfactory progress, I demonstrated satisfactory progress, or I had demonstrated outstanding achievement, respectively, in the areas shown. The competency- or proficiency-based model shown here (such as what we see in SBG) has also been around for three decades or more.
2. Averaging scores is an inaccurate reflection of what students know.
In ninth grade, I refused to study for a geometry exam because I “knew” the material, and I also “knew” my time that week would be better spent playing my favorite Playstation 1 game. When I completed the test, I also “knew” that I failed it. Thankfully, I was 0 for 3 in being right that week, but I did end up with a 66% on the exam; I remember that vividly not only due to the conversation I had with my teacher upon her handing back my work but also because she allowed me to prepare for a substantially more difficult assessment in which I received (I think) a 98%. The real question, then, is which score should go in the gradebook? 66%? 82%? Or 98%?
In my experience, I find that most teachers would submit the 82%, a decision that is both inaccurate (since the student has evidence to demonstrate they achieved a 98%) and a disservice to the student who met the goal that you wanted them to meet in the first place: they have the knowledge and skills you wanted them to have for that assessment.
3. Averaging scores does not accurately represent how evaluating and reporting works in most real-world environments.
Nearly every example that I can think of when trying to determine how people are evaluated is based on a proficiency model, typically either pass or fail; and for each example, if someone receives a passing rating or a highly proficient rating, then that is their evaluation, not the average of the previous evaluations.
Consider a sports analogy here. Imagine your favorite college basketball team is an 11 seed in the NCAA Championship Tournament with an 18-15 (wins-losses) season record. Because they managed to achieve more wins than losses and have found their way into the NCAA tournament, you rate their success as a B going into the tournament. However, to your amazement, your favorite team wins the tournament and is titled this year’s NCAA tournament champion (congratulations!). Unfortunately, when averaging the wins and losses for your team, they still only receive a B. See the problem here?
The same holds true for occupations such as doctors and attorneys and even educators. We are assessed regularly; we are given opportunities to demonstrate proficiency and improve if previous attempts are not up to the established standards; and we receive proficient ratings, obtain medical degrees, and licences to practice law if we meet those standards.
4. Zeros are debilitating.
In many ways, zeros glorify failure and do not accomplish what many educators claim they intend to. Educational Partnership’s Research Brief and The Case Against Zeros in Grading both point to how we, as educators, need to more greatly scrutinize assigning a score of 0 in percentage-based systems. In essence, a 0% or a score of zero communicates “this student knows nothing here,” and in most instances, that simply isn’t true.
5. Percentage-based practices are highly subjective.
The next time you are looking for an experiment during a staff meeting, have your staff write their answers to the following questions on Post-Its and have them review everyone’s answers. You are likely going to get nearly as many answers as you have staff, and you will likely find that it is difficult to achieve consensus in response to each question.
Notice how a student in Classroom A and Classroom B would fail whereas a student in Classroom C would pass the course when the teacher set up the gradebook to disassociate what the student did from what the student knew.
Why Does SBG Have More Appeal?Like my disclaimer for percentage-based practices, I need to add one for SBG as well. I do not think SBG is the only pathway to improve educational practices, nor am I convinced that it is necessarily the best way (consider A New Kind of Classroom, A Crusade to End Grades in High School, Schools and Grading, and The Case Against Grades), but it does seem evident that SBG has more merit than traditional, percentage-based practices.
1. SBG is a proficiency model.
The major benefit to this point is the shift in philosophy and thinking. In a traditional grading model, if a student receives a 78%, the emphasis is “here is what I did wrong,” “I messed up,” and “this score has finality to it.” In SBG, however, the emphasis is always placed on specific goals and growth. Furthermore, there is always opportunity to do just that, grow and improve.
2. SBG emphasizes quality over quantity.
I think it is most common to use a 4-point scale in SBG models (although it isn’t necessary), so we will use that model for our foundation. This scale is qualitative, not quantitative, since each identifier (1, 2, 3, and 4) represents a category. When a student receives a rating of 1, they understand that they do not yet possess the knowledge and skills to demonstrate proficiency on the intended learning target even with support from the teacher; receiving a rating of 2 they understanding that they are working toward proficiency; receiving a rating of 3 they understand that they have demonstrated proficiency with the intended learning target; and receiving a rating of 4 the student understands they have exceeded the proficiency expectation for that target.
3. SBG clearly communicates students’ content knowledge and skills.
As stated in the point above, parents also are able to state what a 1, 2, 3, and 4 represent whereas it is left partially to the imagination to establish what something like an 85% means (since it depends on any number of variables and scenarios). In essence, when seeing a 1, parents and guardians should acknowledge that their student needs substantial support; seeing a 2 means the student is working toward proficiency; seeing a 3 indicates the student has met proficiency; and seeing a 4 means the student exceeded expectations. Furthermore, these indicators are also associated with specific standards to provide additional context and clarity.
For the student, communication also includes clear expectations on learning goals and assessment measures (see the ELA, Math, and 3-8 Performance Level Descriptions for examples).
4. SBG disassociates academic achievement and student behavior.
Because SBG requires clear expectations and assessment criteria, student behavior is clearly distinguishable from academic achievement (as opposed to most percentage-based systems). I would like to point out, though, that opinions here start to diverge depending on which proponent of SBG you follow. On one hand, some contend that student behavior should be absent from a gradebook, whereas others argue that behaviors should be measured according to explicit targets but reported separately from academic performance.
5. SBG is more “valid, reliable, fair, and useful.”
Thomas Guskey states that “reporting must be valid, reliable, fair, and useful.” Others such as Rick Wormeli and Robert Marzano agree due to SBG’s increased focus on descriptive feedback and an emphasis on mastery learning.
What Do We Do Now?Minimally, I hope you more thoughtfully consider how you and your school and your district implement grading and reporting practices, and I hope you tackle some of the hard questions. Questions like, “What about the transition from high school to university?” and “Can we convert from our SBG scale to a 4.0 GPA?” Then, I hope you work toward more effective grading and reporting practices, and hopefully, I will be able to help along the way.
By: Mark Beckwith, CA BOCES Professional Development
When students let their minds drift off, they are losing valuable learning time. Getting all your students focused, eager and on task in class can be challenging. Lack of engagement interferes with students’ learning and retention. When students are thoroughly engaged; they are actively listening and learning.
To increase classroom engagement, teachers need to create a toolbox of routines and activities. The activities can be general purpose and apply to various subject areas. The activities will allow students to tap into various regions of their brain and move them from the recall level to more advanced thinking and learning.
A few RULES of ENGAGEMENT
Class Warm up that involves collaboration and competition.
More student voice than teacher voice.
Class Check in with a quote, a challenge, or quick write.
Physical Movement gets kids focused: Brain Gym, Chair Yoga, hand-clapping patterns, snapping/clapping in pattern.
Create TEAMs (Together Everyone Accomplishes More).
Use Quick writes when you want quiet think time and reflection.
Attention Signal when giving directions: Give me 5, chimes or chant.
Equity Sticks: create equity and gives everyone an opportunity to show what they know.
Teaching Styles: to keep kids engaged and motivated move from teacher-centered to student-centered throughout the lesson.
Cultivate engagement and be aware when your students are paying attention and deeply engaged. Teachers should create an active learning environment in which all students are on task in their thinking and speaking.
If you are interested in learning more about student engagement, there is an upcoming regional workshop entitled, Student Engagement Strategies for Learning, on January 11, 2022.
By: Tessa Levitt, CA BOCES Professional Development
An increase in stress and burnout among teachers have been at the forefront of conversation since the onset of the pandemic. Our systems have directly experienced the implications of such issues, in several unforgiving ways. Combined with the number of additional challenges posed to our schools, and the impact that each issue can have on another, the search for solutions has been an ongoing, yet urgent process.
In working with Wellsville and considering research in developing a district strategy for supporting teachers throughout the 2021-22 school year, a monthly schedule of offerings focused on educator resilience, entitled, “Empowered Educators,’ was created. The sessions are offered monthly, for one hour after school hours and are optional.
Over the past few months teachers have come together during this session to connect, reflect, process and specifically focus on individual resilience building strategies to counter the impact of stress and burnout.
A few of the resources utilized to support this work are “Onward,” written by Elena Aguilar and “Paws to Comfort,” written by Jen Marr. Aguilar’s research focused around the 12 strategies that hold the most leverage for cultivating educator resilience and have been central in the development of specific tasks throughout each session. Marr’s work addresses the significant need for the act of comfort and the gap that exists, as she refers to, “the awkward zone,” in which individuals choose not to respond and comfort due to lagging skills. Both resources are relevant to the present challenges facing teachers, both individually and collectively, and have been invaluable in the work that has taken place thus far at Wellsville.
As the school year progresses, an open invitation to join the monthly sessions exists. In addition, the group continues to work collaboratively to reflect on this model of support, in the hopes to grow and evolve this type of support within their district moving forward.
By: Katie Mendell, CA BOCES Community Schools
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