It was about a year ago at this time that I found myself adjusting to the thought of not only a new position within our district, but a whole new world within education. If I only knew then what I know now!
For the sake of context… I was a high school German teacher for five years, then a building administrator for nine years, and then a district-level administrator for three years. The closest I ever came in those 18 years to Career and Technical Education (CTE) was as a building administrator, but my level of understanding of the depth and importance of these program areas was limited at best. Additionally, it is safe to say that I was blissfully unaware of the workforce needs that currently exist within our region or the amazing opportunities our students have to gain valuable knowledge and skills that don’t require a four year degree (I recently came upon this MPR article that speaks directly to this very issue).
Fast forward one year and I count myself lucky to have been selected to work not only with our outstanding CTE instructors, but with a growing group of business and industry partners committed to the success of our CTE programs. As the cherry on top, I get to work each and every day in a facility that serves as a statewide model for innovation and collaboration within CTE. This school year alone we have facilitated over 30 tours of CTECH, from middle and high school student groups to statewide CTE administrators and other Minnesota and Wisconsin school districts looking to replicate what our community has created for our students.
Here is just a taste of the opportunities our students have within RPS career pathways:
Students can take coursework in both plant and animal science as well as biotechnology. Plus, in 2018-2019 RPS will be offering a second level Veterinary Studies course designed to prepare students for an entry-level position in a vet hospital and to take the certification exam for veterinary assistant.
Our students have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with basic engine systems, auto repair and technology, as well as in-depth vehicle repair. Just last week students visited the Minnesota Department of Transportation to learn about transportation careers and earlier this year, as a result of a teacher externship with a generous business partner, several automotive students received job offers as well as post-secondary scholarships.
Courses offered focus on both finance and marketing, including a Sports and Entertainment Marketing course. As a capstone course, students can enroll in Entrepreneurial Strategies, working directly with industry partners to solve real-world business challenges.
Computer Science and Information Technology
Students have the opportunity to take coursework related to both programming as well as infrastructure. Newly added are courses that allow students to earn concurrent enrollment college credit in Mobile App Development and Java Script.
RPS Construction students complete their coursework alongside post-secondary students in the RCTC carpentry lab, accessing two levels of coursework focused on residential construction. Currently our construction students are working on-site at Mayo High School to complete a shed construction project.
Available courses cover the areas of Robotics, Civil Engineering, and Architecture and culminate in a capstone course where students engage in a comprehensive research and design project. In 2018-2019 we will be introducing an Apprenticeship with a national engineering firm that will provide a first-of-its-kind learning opportunity for a small cohort of students.
Effectively our first official career pathway, existing for nearly 20 years, Health Sciences offers students the opportunity to study Medical Lab Science, Pharmacy Technician, Therapeutic Medicine, and Certified Nursing Assistant. We are currently exploring the addition of a course in Phlebotomy in partnership with the Mayo Clinic where over 400 phlebotomists are employed in Rochester alone.
Student interested in Culinary Arts have the opportunity to take a menu of courses the expose them to international cooking, commercial culinary skills, baking, as well as employment in the restaurant industry. Starting in 2018-2019 students at the capstone level will have the opportunity to complete ServSafe certification, required by most restaurants as a basic credential for restaurant management staff.
Two distinct pathways exist within the manufacturing program, Welding Technology and Machine Technology. In machine technology students work closely with CNC mill and lathe machining while welding students learn and work with multiple forms welding. Students who complete both levels of welding are eligible for a tuition credit through RCTC for their one semester welding certification program.
Through the University of Minnesota’s College in the Schools program, we now offer two courses for students interested in becoming teachers. These courses are a combination of classroom as well as practicum experiences within RPS schools and programs.
In addition to those opportunities listed above, here are a few of the conversations that are currently happening as we look to expand our career pathway opportunities for our students:
I fully acknowledge that my blog post comes across as an advertisement for the CTE pathways and CTECH, but I believe that when we find and experience something as powerful and meaningful as I have this year it only makes sense to share it with others. I would strongly encourage anyone who hasn’t previously had the opportunity to see firsthand our CTE facilities to reach out and schedule a tour. It is truly amazing what our students are doing on a daily basis and I look forward to seeing what they do in the future.
This post brought to you by Brandon Macrafic, POSA focusing on Career & College Readiness and administrator at CTECH
Don’t you sometimes wish students could just see inside your head and understand exactly what you are thinking? That may be every teacher’s dream. If someone would invent a tool that allowed students to see inside our heads they would become a millionaire! Unfortunately, this invention hasn’t been created yet, so we need to find a way for students to “see” what we are thinking through strategic teaching methods. Marcia Dove and Andrea Honigsfeld call this idea “making thinking visible” in their newest book Co-Teaching for English Learners: A Guide to Collaborative Planning, Instruction, Assessment, and Reflection. In their book, they give several strategies for making thinking visible for students so that they can begin to magically see inside our teacher heads to increase reading and writing skills.
Think Alouds are one way that makes thinking visible for students. It seems so simple. Just talk about what you are already thinking, yet it is extremely powerful for students. Teachers can model their thinking by making text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world connections. Check out this video to see a Think Aloud in action:
A Write Aloud provides a scaffold for students to guide them through the process of writing. Teachers can model a piece of writing so students can see the steps and procedures in the writing process. Throughout the process, the teacher explains verbally what he or she is thinking. The teacher can talk about why they selected a particular vocabulary word, phrase, transition word, or structure. Write alouds can be done with one teacher, or in a co-teaching partnership. In a co-teaching partnership, one teacher can do a think aloud while the other teacher takes notes or writes out what the other teacher is thinking in a structured format (or with a graphic organizer). Another idea is to have one teacher think aloud and write out what they are thinking, and then the other teacher performs a separate think aloud to show the differences in their writing and thinking processes. If you have a paraprofessional, it would be helpful to give them a frame for the think aloud so they can assist and/or provide other think aloud strategies.
A Scaffolded Comprehend Aloud is another version of a Think Aloud. While think alouds support different reading and writing strategies, Dove and Henigsfeld believe that scaffolded comprehend alouds “make thinking visible about processing and analyzing the language of complex readings at the word, sentence, and text level” (85). Dove and Henigsfeld provide the table below with different sentence starters (85-86). Each content area, and grade level, may have to adapt these, but this list can provide a start to using think alouds and/or scaffolded comprehend alouds.
Think Alouds, Write Alouds, and Scaffolded Comprehend Alouds are three great strategies to make our thinking visible to students. They provide a way for students to see inside our heads, model good reading and writing strategies, and allow students to use critical-thinking skills.
If you would be interested in trying any of these out with students, reach out to an instructional coach, or I would be happy to come out and model them beside you.
This post brought to you by Katie Miller, K-12 EL Implementation Associate
Finding a video on YouTube and inserting it into a lesson often feels like a no-brainer.
Want to introduce a concept in 10 minutes or fewer? Find a video!
Want an activity any substitute teacher could easily facilitate? Have her show a video!
Want a way for students to review an idea outside of class? Link a video to class website!
Unfortunately, although videos are often easy to find and play, they’re not always what is best for student learning. Time and time again, educational best practices show us that if students are really learning the material it’s because they are reading, writing, and/or speaking about their thinking.
Does that mean video has no place in the classroom? That’s not at all what I’m saying. Rather, we need to be intentional about why and how we use video as an instructional tool. We need to ensure that our students are thinking about what they are watching.
With each video you show in your classroom, there are some key things to consider (1) before, (2) during, and (3) after you hit play.
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What if my lesson plan included:
- Pacing targets
- Differentiated experiences based on students’ prior knowledge, skill level or interest
- More than one strategy for engagement
- Planned time for all students to speak or lead
- Plan B for students who need more time
- Plan C for students who need more challenge
You might be thinking: “Won’t this take a lot of time to plan? I teach many grade levels or different content within the same grade—I am not sure I have time.” Determining the learning objective and success criteria are often already embedded in curriculum; making a purposeful plan to share them with students in a meaningful way may take time. Most classrooms post daily learning objectives already; taking those visuals a step further to include what success looks like may be the first step you could take to make the learning more visible.
Planning instruction that engages students, increases student voice, includes instructional dialogue, and is differentiated takes time; however, you do not need to reinvent the wheel. Many instructional strategies work well within many different content areas and for various ages and can be used in rotation. See what works for you and your students. Knowing what it looks like when they have met your objective, though, is an important piece of the plan.
Making changes to how we’ve always done something is uncomfortable and can be difficult and overwhelming. Try not to take on too much or overthink—start small. Don’t keep the learning objectives and what success looks like a secret to your students—clarity precedes competence! Successful experiences builds confident learners and teachers.
Feel free to connect with Kari on Twitter @KollingAnderson, via phone at 507-328-4122, or via email.
Hattie, John. Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement; Routledge, 2009.
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Math + Football
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Minnesota STEM Resource Teacher Center
From the login, you can search by subject and grade level to find clusters of standards for your courses. (If you don't already have one, you'll first need to create an account.) Within each cluster, you will find pages of information that will bring you deeper into those standards. It's under these heading that you will find a treasure trove of information:
1. Open up the task so there are multiple methods, pathways, and representations.
- Ask students to extend their thinking by connecting as many of these representations as possible.
2. Ask the problem before teaching the method
- Instead of asking students to find the area of a 12 X 12 triangle, ask them how many rectangles they can find with the area of 24.
- Write an article to describe something. [ i.e. (y = mx + b) ]. What does this equation mean, how does it look visually, situations where it could be used, etc.
3. Ask the problem before teaching the method
- Use for any situation where a standard formula is used. [i.e. area of shapes, teaching pi, stats formulas].
4. Add a visual component and ask students how they see the mathematics
- Have students use drawings, graphs, manipulatives, or algebra tiles to help them to see the mathematics.
5. Extend the task to make it 'low floor' and 'high ceiling'
- Ask the students how they see the problem.
- Have students write a new problem that is similar but more difficult.
6. Ask students to convince and reason; be skeptical
- Ask students to explain why they chose particular methods and why they make sense.
- Ask students: convince yourself, convince a friend, convince a skeptic.
Incorporating one or all of these six changes does not need to be difficult. I saw a great example while visiting the classroom of a science teacher earlier this week. He was teaching a chemistry class where he was asking students to find the density of irregular shaped objects. The students were given an overflow cup and a very short list of instructions.
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All six of Jo Boaler's ways for making a task rich can be met with this simple set of instructions and with a purposeful instructional pedagogy that allows all students to enter the activity, use their creativity, and explain their thinking Instead of telling the students what to do. This teacher let them figure out what to do and how to represent their results. He did not have to search the internet for a creative and rich tasks on density, he only needed to make simple changes to an activity in front of him.
If you have traditional STEM task that you'd like to develop into a rich one, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. I would love to help you develop your idea.
Setting aside historic trauma, there is one common factor that affects students across urban, rural, suburban, and reservation locations: negative racial stereotypes. These stereotypes are all around us from the food we eat to the Halloween costume store, from the films we watch to the books we read. The most common stereotypes seen are the dehumanizing mascots in our high schools, colleges, and major professional sports leagues. The topic of dehumanizing mascots reached the Minnesota school board in 1988 when they identified them as negative and harmful to students. In 2005 the American Psychological Association, in their Resolution Recommending Retirement of American Indian Mascots, proposed an “immediate retirement of all American Indian mascots, symbols, images and personalities by schools college universities, athletic teams and organizations.” This was “based on a growing body of social science literature that shows the harmful effects of racial stereotyping and inaccurate racial portals.” Nonetheless, such mascots remain representatives of our professional teams across the nation.
So what does this mean to educators? I am asking that, as an educator, you please be conscious of the images and messages used in your classroom. Please use reliable sources when teaching and discussing Native Americans, such as the ones found here. It is easy to teach about Native Americans only in the context of the past, as if Native Americans are now gone, but that is a fallacy. Sometimes we show images of them wearing headdresses, living in tee pees, and fighting with the “white man,” but forget to show the bigger picture. We do not want to leave Native Americans in the 19th century: Native Americans are here and are in today’s classrooms.
When thinking about what one teaches students, it is fundamental that students are taught that Rochester, Southeast Minnesota, the entire state, and the entire continent once belonged to hundreds of thriving societies. This nation wasn’t just empty space that was stumbled upon and inhabited with no impact to anyone.
In Rochester Public Schools we have approximately 150 Native American students. These students are on a continuum from full blood Native to second generation descendants. The families that make up these 150 students are from 37 different Native Nations. Our students’ collective knowledge about their home communities and their people vary as much as their blood quantum and tribal nation diversity. What is constant is that they all identify as being Native American.
The academic numbers here are largely representative of the rest of the state.
- Homework — I assigned homework almost every day without ever considering the value or purpose of the assignment, a destructive practice by itself. To compound that mistake, I checked for homework completion religiously, assigning students 2 points if the work was complete, 1 point if it was partially complete, and 0 points if it was missing. I now recognize that unless my students took it upon themselves to check their work for understanding, the work I was asking them to do was essentially meaningless.
- Extra Credit — I provided students with a menu of options for earning extra credit. Included on this list was bringing a box of tissues for the class. I now realize there were both instructional and equity issues with my practice. Instructionally I was detracting from the importance of the course curriculum and awarding credit for work that may or may not have been connected to what I truly wanted students to know and be able to do. From an equity standpoint I never stopped to consider the fact that some of my students’ families likely couldn’t afford tissues for their own home, let alone my classroom.
- Academic Dishonesty — I employed a policy related to cheating that was likely very common at the time. If a student was caught cheating on an assignment or assessment they relinquished all credit and were not afforded an opportunity to complete a make-up. I realize now that my tactics were punitive and made the behavior and consequence more important than the learning.
- Late Work — Similar to academic dishonesty, I subtracted credit from students who submitted assignments after the stated due date, sometime to the point of awarding no credit. This practice prioritized “when” my students were learning as opposed to “if” they were learning.
So what questions would I pose to my first-year-teacher self? There are four of them—simple in nature, but can be very difficult to answer:
- Why do I assign grades to student work?
- Ideally, what purpose should grades serve?
- What elements should I use in determining student grades?
- How can I best represent student learning in my grading?
These are the four questions that were posed to the Secondary Grading Committee when they created the Purpose and Beliefs document related to grading, as shown below:
In subsequent blog posts, I will be sharing some tips and tricks within some of these key grading and reporting areas. In the meantime, I encourage you to talk about grading and reporting with your colleagues and, if you don’t mind a good dose of passion, contact me and I'll join the conversation!
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