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
When Amy Peterson, a Special Education teacher at Friendship Central School, had her room at the front of the school she would always look at the beautiful opportunities in the front of the school. One year it hit her to pull some of the students she works with and some National Honor Society students to get some hands-on work during the school day. In time it’s turned into a May tradition to have Middle School students along with some help from other adults and Friendship staff to work on the landscaping in the front of the school.
The Middle School students also go out to Maple Grove Cemetery to help get ready for Memorial Day by placing flags and talking with area veterans. The Friendship 7th and 8th grade students build up these community service hours to help them go on the Washington DC trip in August.
By: Mark Carls, CA BOCES Professional Development
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
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
Another year and another group of new teachers hitting the CABOCES region. This year many of these new teachers have joined one of the 3 cohorts being offered through CABOCES. Helping work with around 50 new teachers in the area has a highlight this year. Through New Teacher Academy these young educators and future leaders have a chance to make connections with other area teachers, work with other teachers at their own school and learn about many of the resources offered through Learning Resources and other options at CABOCES.
Some of the items covered during these trainings: EDI with Tessa Levitt, NYSED resources, as mentioned before Learning Resources items available from Alex Freer and Kelli Grabowski, Restorative Practices as well as some different student engagement activities. As previously mentioned, there were 3 cohorts, based on district demand, some were face-to-face and others online. There was a cohort offered at the Belmont CABOCES Center and a different group at the CABOCES Olean Center meeting face-to-face three times throughout this school year. With the rough substitute teacher situation, another option was set to meet from November to May in an online Zoom meeting after school. The topics remained the same, but online they had shorter virtual sessions over seven meeting dates. It has been exciting to meet these new educators and to give them a chance to build connections with others to help them grow as professionals.
By: Mark Carls, CA BOCES
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
Nationally teachers of second and third graders are seeing an increased need for Phonological and Phonemic Awareness instruction. Phonological Awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate sounds within words in larger units such as onset, rhyme, and syllables. Although very similar, Phonemic Awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. This skill is typically mastered by second grade, however, due to the pandemic and different platforms of learning over the past two years, students are now lacking these basic reading skills.
The Olean City School District has been working diligently to find a solution to close these Phonemic Awareness gaps while also choosing a curriculum that would align with their Phonics program by Wiley Blevins titled From Phonics to Reading. After a lot of research and consideration they chose Heggerty to explicitly and systematically teach Phonological and Phonemic Awareness to students. Heggerty contains daily lessons that are meant to be around 12 minutes. Each lesson encompasses Phonological and Phonemic Awareness skills such as rhyme repetition, onset fluency, blending words, phoneme manipulation, alphabet knowledge, and language awareness.
Over the past few months, I have had the privilege in training teachers in Pre-K and Title I reading to implement Heggerty with their students. Pre-K has implemented this program for several weeks with all their classroom students. Title I is beginning to implement Heggerty with their students and will benchmark students on a six-week cycle to adjust students through data meetings in the hopes that some students may close the gap by the end of the year.
If you feel like Heggerty may be a good fit for your district and would like further information, please contact me at Janelle_Freer@caboces.org
By: Janelle Freer, CA BOCES Professional Development
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
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
Ninth-grade students at Portville High School were learning about Ancient River Valley Civilizations, and they were using the G.R.A.P.E.S. organizer as a tool to categorize the information for each civilization:
An essential part of studying ancient history is for students to learn that a great deal of what’s known of these civilizations comes from archeological evidence. This is especially true for the Indus River Valley Civilization because their writing has never been successfully translated; everything known is from the work of archeologists. Because of this, an idea was born. Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Carey’s students became archeologists. Mr. Carey spent time highlighting critical aspects of the Indus River Valley so that during “the big dig,” students could infer connections from the artifacts that they discovered.
“The Big Dig”: Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Carey found artifacts that represented each section of the G.R.A.P.E.S.organizer. Next, they put the items in Ziploc bags and buried them in the school’s long-jump pit.
This active exploration proved to be a great simulation for the work of archeologists; students were able to infer what the artifacts represented and demonstrate a better understanding of the civilization. An example of an artifact used was a die and a game token. These items illustrated true archeological findings in the Indus River Valley as numerous game pieces were found but very few weapons, suggesting it was a peaceful and prosperous society.
The students rotated through six stations (G.R.A.P.E.S.) and really enjoyed digging, finding, and making inferences and connections about each item’s importance. Active student engagement increased their interest and understanding. As learners and educators, “WE DIG IT!”
By: Anne Mitchell, CA BOCES Professional Development
Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is certainly not new, but if it wasn’t already, it is certainly now a top priority since the beginning of the pandemic. Students’ overall well-being has suffered, giving schools an extra challenge to deal with as instruction has returned to five days a week this school year.
One way Pioneer Middle School has addressed this challenge is by incorporating a program called Second Step. Second Step describes itself as “a holistic approach to building supportive communities for every child through social-emotional learning.” Started successfully in the district’s elementary schools during the 2018-19 school year, the middle school has embraced the program by incorporating Second Step Wednesday’s, where homebases are extended twice a month to allow for a particular SEL lesson to take place.
With vertically aligned and scripted lessons for teachers that are research-based and aligned to SEL standards, the program has thus far been a success. In addition, all teachers and students in the school are involved in the program allowing for common themes in each lesson to continually be supported and intertwined into instruction regardless of the class subject area.
But what exactly is Second Step? (https://www.secondstep.org)
Ultimately, the school will measure the success of the program by using the administration of a SEL screener, last given in April 2021, in Fall 2021 and Spring 2022. The screener analyzes student responses to a number of questions to determine if the student is at normal, elevated, or extremely elevated risk. By utilizing the screener, those students who are identified as elevated or extremely elevated risk are given a second chance to get the support they need to succeed, support they may have previously not received had it not been for the Second Step program.
By: Justin Shumaker, CA BOCES Professional Development
The goal of education is to encourage young minds to develop creativity, seek solutions and become forward thinkers who learn more than what we currently know. Many teachers in our caboces region are experimenting with play as an instructional tool so that children can make connections between disciplines and understand how the pieces of the world fit together. It is through play that children comprehend learning as a lifelong process of discovery and joy.
Early childhood experiences are critical to brain development. Studies show that positive early learning experiences through play allow children to develop social-emotional skills, deepen relationships, gain executive function skills, and manage stress. Over time, children who experience learning through play-based instruction have better overall health and longer life expectancy.
A play-based approach to learning requires child-initiated experiences and teacher supported learning. This learning requires careful cultivation and teachers are coming together to rethink how they are supporting our youngest learners. On October 22, 2021, teachers who attended the Foundations for Change: Rethinking Early Childhood Education workshop “played” with play-based learning kits from caboces learning resources. As they played, ideas for lessons, discussions, and questions flowed through the room. One walking by may have heard questions like:
Teachers engaged in discussion around the thinking of play as a tool for children to develop social and cognitive skills. They mature emotionally and gain the self-confidence required to ask questions. The conversations and interactions that happen through play are valuable opportunities to support children as they develop their identities early in life. Positive early experiences at school give children another opportunity to grow in a nurturing, language-rich environment.
Play-based learning also honors a child’s home experiences by building on the foundational skills learned at home. Parents are a child’s first teacher. Honoring each child’s home values inspires children to develop their identity and feel included in the learning environment. These ideas were reinforced by Robin Fuller, Early Childhood Development and Education Coordinator of Ardent Solutions in Wellsville, NY. Robin works tirelessly to make sure families with young children in Allegany County have access to resources. Robin presented teachers with materials to distribute to families. She also shared fun family activities that supplement free books donated through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. Through the Imagination Library, children (birth – age 5) in Allegany County are eligible to receive free monthly books in the mail. Check out the website for more information: http://www.ardentnetwork.org/dolly-partons-imagination-library.html
If you would like to learn more about play as an instructional tool for learning contact Michelle Rickicki or Jessica Schirrmacher-Smith.
By: Michelle Rickicki, CA BOCES Professional Development
Self-care has become the new buzz word in education. The pandemic reignited the importance of investing in SEL for students, but to reach students investing in educator self-care and wellbeing is a crucial part of this process. To ensure educators can model good self-care techniques they themselves must experience it. When we practice self-care and model it in the classroom early on, students can better model it in their own lives.
Let’s start first with a clear definition of self-care. Self-care is anything you do to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally well. Research suggests self-care promotes positive health outcomes, such as fostering resilience, living longer, and becoming equipped to manage stress.
Self-advocacy-promoting and supporting our own interests and well-being requires reflection and self-awareness. Like many districts across the region, Olean City School District has made staff self-care a focus by providing support and resources through their monthly Personnel and Wellness (PAWS) newsletter. Each month, the newsletter provides a topic that centers on monthly themes from the Onward Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators text written by Elena Aguilar. Staff have an opportunity to participate in a variety of SEL opportunities including some of the following:
As educators we must make the commitment to prioritize self-care in order to successfully be able to help others. These are some of the many ways to incorporate self-care with educators around the region. It’s like the saying goes “You cannot serve from an empty vessel” Eleanor Brownn.
By: Jillian Putnam, CA BOCES Professional Development
As school districts around the region approached the start to another school year during an ongoing global pandemic, many leaders recognized that social emotional learning (SEL), must continue to be a priority within their schools. Like many other districts in the region, Cattaraugus Little Valley, designated time within their opening staff days to provide SEL support, tools, and resources to educators.
On August 31st, CLV faculty and staff gathered to kick off the school year learning about an SEL tool that fosters a supportive learning environment. It is especially important when talking and learning about social and emotional skills and SEL, that adults take the time to self-reflect. In doing so at CLV, the group embraced the understanding that SEL starts within each one of us. As human beings, we are social, we are emotional and many of our daily interactions demonstrate this notion. Whether or not we explicitly teach “SEL” within our classrooms, we are modeling skills constantly, for students. Individually, each participant took inventory of their own social and emotional skills and attitudes by completing the “SEL Self-Reflection,” and then further discussed their perspectives on how their own strengths and weaknesses may impact interactions that they have with students, colleagues, and families, daily.
One thing all educators at CLV walked away with, was a practical SEL tool that can be used in classrooms district wide, regardless of class size or grade level: The 3 Signature Practices of SEL. As the group discussed each of the three practices, many concluded that they were doing more SEL within their classrooms or learning environments than previously understood.
What are the 3 Signature Practices of SEL?
Welcome & Inclusion Activities: brief interactive experiences that increase connection and allow all voices in the room to be heard
Engaging Strategies: vary in complexity, include reflection and processing time and can include brain breaks or transition techniques
Optimistic Closure: an intentional closure of any learning experience, that can be done individually or collectively and allows for a sense of accomplishment and forward thinking
Not only did the group walk away with a better understanding of SEL and the 3 Signature Practices of SEL, but they were each given a copy of the 3 Signature Practices Playbook, as a resource. The playbook offers a structure to support thoughtfully selecting and facilitating these practices. In addition, it offers a connection to the research base as the foundation for each practice and outlines key SEL competencies and skills for each suggested activity.
By: Katie Mendell, CA BOCES Community Schools
For the last several years, educators have been keen on utilizing drones as a tool for teaching and learning and have had to overcome a few obstacles along the way. Insurance options? Check. Students verified as recreational users? Done. Part 107 preparation for educators? No problem. However, with several changes in regulations taking place over the last year, it is due time to highlight some key details to help ensure that educators are appropriately taking to the sky.
As of April 21, 2021, new regulations regarding operations over people, over moving vehicles, and at night went into effect. “Drone pilots operating under Part 107 may fly at night, over people and moving vehicles without a waiver as long as they meet the requirements defined in the rule” (FAA).
Similarly, “All drone pilots required to register their UAS must operate their aircraft in accordance with the final rule on remote ID beginning September 16, 2023” (FAA). Essentially, this rule indicates that drones must be enabled with the ability to be identified remotely by other parties.
Most importantly, as of June, 2021, recreational fliers must pass The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST). Public schools this is both good and bad news. One the one hand, it is good since there has been additional clarity offered regarding whether educators fall under the commercial or recreational use classification; it seems more clear, now, that schools meet the requirements of a “community-based organization” and educators can be acknowledged as recreational users when utilizing drones for educational purposes.
The down side, albeit minimal, is that students also fall within the recreational user definition, and consequently, must be able to verify a completed TRUST certification as well. While the certification process itself is simple, the list of providers minimally require an email address and a name for the individual seeking certification which means a data privacy agreement must be obtained to be in compliance with Education Law 2-D. Until agreements have been reached, it is recommended for students to obtain their TRUST certification at home under the supervision of a parent or guardian.
DJI Mavic Mini/Mini 2
Not only are regulations changing, but the technology is as well. To make sure drone pilots were more easily able to fly and avoid Part 107 regulations, DJI released the Mavic Mini (and more recently the Mini 2) weighing only 249 grams, 1 gram beneath the regulation requirements. While this drone is small, it still captures high quality photos and video.
Like the larger Phantom and Mavic models, the Mini is extremely easy to operate, but the fly more bundle is substantially cheaper for the DJI Mavic Mini and the DJI Mini 2 at $399 and $599 respectively.
Lastly, I think it is important to bring us back to educational implications. There are limited curricular resources written that utilize drones as an educational tool and are freely available, so educators must carefully consider the ways in which they intend to facilitate learning with these devices. To keep the conversation going around educational drone curriculum, reach out to Mark_Beckwith@caboces.org
By: Mark Beckwith, CA BOCES Professional Development
As the school year drew to a close, most teachers across NYS would welcome the end of June in a fashion indicative of rest and relaxation, particularly after the tumultuous 2020-2021 academic year. However, the end of June for many teachers in the Salamanca School District was one focused on professional development and personal growth. Various teachers from the Salamanca School District spent the end of June discovering the aspects of personalized and blended learning, delving into their current instruction practices to reflect on their forms of instruction, and designing personalized learning experiences for their grade level and content areas that can be used with their students next school year. This was certainly a contrast to many other educators across the state and a way for them to take a personal approach towards student achievement.
Participating teachers were first led in examining the aspects of personalized, student-centered learning and were introduced to ways in which student choice and personalized learning can be tailored to student interests and needs. They explored ways to create a classroom environment and structure that gives students ownership over their learning, and how to leverage technology in a blended environment to promote student achievement through interests, choice, and adaptation of tasks. They spent time reflecting on current instructional practices, looking for ways to incorporate a blended and personalized approach into their current instructional model, and worked to construct resources aligned to those principles.
Through exploration of the various methods and materials used for instruction and assessment, teachers worked to create resources that would assist their students as they travel down their individualized learning path during the upcoming school year. Depending on grade level, content area, and achievement objectives, teachers would work with various models and methods they had learned about to create a personal learning experience for their students.
By: Rob Griffith, CA BOCES Professional Development
As the timeline for roll-out and implementation of the New York State Computer Science and Digital Fluency Learning Standards draws nearer and nearer to the first-year implementation phase, there are several resources that are worth considering to help both staff instruct and students demonstrate proficiency with these standards.
Google Applied Digital Skills
I know, I know. The first section in a Microsoft-themed article dealing with Google seems misleading. This is only one of two non-Microsoft sections, and I saved the other for last. I promise. I felt obligated to open with Google’s resource since it has been available for a little while longer, and more people are familiar with it.
Google Applied Digital Skills provides over 100 lessons for users to access with their EDU or personal Google account(s) ranging from everyday use of products like Docs and Slides to business use developing financial literacy or creating resumés.
Microsoft Digital Literacy
Microsoft Digital Literacy is for anyone with basic reading skills who wants to learn the fundamentals of using digital technologies. Resources can be downloaded in a variety of languages at the bottom of the Microsoft Digital Literacy webpage or they can be accessed by working through the online courses Working with Computers and Devices and Working and Collaborating Online through LinkedIn (no account necessary).
Microsoft Learn is a free, online training platform that provides interactive learning for Microsoft products and more. Microsoft’s goal is to help you become proficient on their technologies and learn more skills with fun, guided, hands-on, interactive content that's specific to your role and goals. Additionally, as students and staff sign in with their Microsoft 365 accounts, they are able to track their progress, collecting experience and bages along the way. (This is similar to the Microsoft Educator Center but contains additional resources and learning pathways for uses beyond the role of an educator.)
Microsoft Imagine Academy
Microsoft Imagine Academy is one of Microsoft’s newer education releases that should have educators, especially those explicitly teaching computer science and digital fluency, very excited. District Microsoft 365 administrators can get the ball rolling when licensing agreements are renewed using the Microsoft Imagine Academy Quick Start site.
Carnegie Mellon University’s Computer Science Academy
CMU CS Academy is an online, graphics-based computer science curriculum taught in Python provided by Carnegie Mellon University. We create novel, world-class Computer Science education for your classroom —and it’s entirely free. WIthout signing up or creating accounts, students and staff can access CMU CS Academy’s Hour of Code module to get a glimpse of what the coursework resembles through CS Academy.
By: Mark Beckwith, CA BOCES Professional Development
Although it’s been a trying year for most students and teachers, there have been quite a few interesting activities at Friendship Central School. Here are a few:
Tech Thursday Spotlight Students: Alaric and Gavin Magnani are among the next generation of skilled welders from the BOCES Welding Program. More than that, they are always willing to help others succeed as well. Recently, the brothers have taken Morghyn Ross, under their wings. Morghyn is a 7th grade student who has been working on a welding project in the shop. Alaric and Gavin have been giving Morghyn some pointers to help her become a better welder. Morghyn has been stepping out of her comfort zone to learn new skills. Great job Alaric, Gavin and Morghyn!
As an incentive to be online during remote instruction each of the Middle School and High School student were given duct tape determined by the number of hours they connected via Zoom. The students then had the opportunity to come down in the middle of January to duct tape the principal, Chris Cornwell and the Superintendent, Judy May to the wall. The elementary had a similar incentive to throw snowballs (marshmallows) at certain faculty and admin.
The 4th graders completed their simple machine projects again this year with quite a few interesting machines created for Mrs. Crabb and Mrs. Costello’s class.
Lastly, the Middle School and High School students in Tech class created trebuchet’s where they had a contest to see who could shoot the marshmallow to a target. The students earned points for hitting the board, going through the bigger hole near the bottom and even more for shooting the marshmallow into the smaller hole near the top.
By: Mark Carls, CA BOCES Professional Development
Conversations centered on healing from the Covid-19 pandemic have taken center stage in many educator circles. All learners have had to figure out how to come back together after a lengthy separation. Learning spaces look very different as social distancing measures are practiced. Even though spaces look different, students and teachers are finding ways to create classroom community and bring healing to families through learning.
Finding healing through learning develops resilience and healthy communities. Research shows that humans learn best through times of engagement and times of rest. This holds true for adults and children. This rhythm is also vital for creativity and curiosity. Combining creativity and curiosity through engagement allows children to chase after their dreams of becoming literate. Literate children flourish and create healthy communities.
One example of this can be seen at Friendship Central School. Students, faculty, staff, parents, and community workers engaged in a community reading of the book The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate, throughout the month of March 2021. Partnering with Read to Them, the school participated in the One School, One Book program. Children and families created several projects that showed their understanding of the book. Staff frequently participated by reading aloud to students. Middle school students completed project showcases while high school students competed in a door-decorating contest. The excitement throughout the building and the community lifted spirits and opened spaces for unity among the Friendship Community.
By: Michelle Rickicki, CA BOCES Professional Development
The current school year can be considered anything but traditional and causes some to look forward to a time when things can go back to ‘normal’. Others see the current situation and departure from ‘normal’ as a way to continue personal growth and development regardless of the situation and demonstrate the ability to be innovative and responsive to any situation. One such individual is Andover High School Social Studies teacher Harold Brown. Having lived what some would consider a non-traditional life, Mr. Brown is well prepared to face challenges head on and accomplish the mission of educating his students regardless of the time, place, setting, or circumstances.
The ability to both recognize and respond to present situations is a hallmark of being able to succeed, and Mr. Brown possesses this ability in abundance. Maybe the awareness to positively respond and be dedicated to improvement is the result of the experiences he has had during his life. Growing up in a military family and contributing twenty years of his own life to military service, combined with almost two decades of teaching in both parochial and public schools, have enabled Mr. Brown to understand what it takes to adapt to situations and continue to push towards a clear objective. Regardless of where his experiences have come from, they have equipped him to be prepared for the current state of education today. His continual desire for personal learning and his attendance of multiple professional development opportunities are indicative of the growth mindset and the thirst for knowledge that Mr. Brown possesses and works each day to instill in his students. His teaching style is a true manifestation of his personal belief that one should go into education to enjoy the subject matter and his passion for history is easily recognized and displayed throughout his classroom. His willingness to learn things has been evident this year as he has worked to adapt his instruction in many ways, whether it be incorporating the use of Breakout rooms or using communication and chat platforms to keep his students learning and engaged. No matter the application or format he is, always seeking ways to help his students develop their skills while connecting to the content.
While this year has been anything but typical and has been subjected to so much change and expression of opposing viewpoints on multiple topics, the focus Mr. Brown has on preparing students for achievement and increasing their learning has not changed and remains a constant regardless of instructional model or format. This year may be viewed as a blessing since it has provided so much material and sources that can be examined for reliability, bias, and propaganda and given Mr. Brown the opportunity to be innovative and utilize various technologies to showcase to students the many aspects of the world in which they live. For a social studies teacher there is no better situation and circumstances than those which polarize our society providing opportunities to present students with the chance to learn the most desirable and pursued objective of Mr. Brown, for students to think for themselves!
By: Rob Griffith, CA BOCES Professional Development
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