Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Report from the Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment December 2015

Report from the Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment
December 2015

Areas of Focus 2015-16

Vermont’s Act 77 was voted into law in 2013 and provides for the education of students through development and expansion of high-quality educational experiences, integral in the evolving 21st Century classroom, through the following strategies:

  • Expansion of the existing Statewide Dual Enrollment Program
  • Expansion of the Early College Programs
  • Increased access to work-based learning
  • Increased virtual/blended learning opportunities
  • Increased access to Career and Technical Education (CTE)
  • Implementation of Personalized Learning Plans (PLPs)
In WWSU these secondary school shifts are being addressed at a systems level under my direction, through the development and implementation of the WWSU Action Plan. To support students in developing their readiness to fully engage as secondary school students, we believe we must work collaboratively across all schools PreK-12 to develop the skills and dispositions best suited to 21st century learning environments. Without this intentional partnership individual classroom or school success cannot be maintained.
In 2014-15 I attended a series of workshops to help develop this action plan under the guidance and support of the Great Schools Partnership, along with a cross-representative team from our Supervisory Union which included Amy Rex (Harwood), Tom Drake (CBMS) Denise Goodnow (TBPS), Duane Pierson (Moretown), teacher Matt Henchen (HUHS), and teacher Adrienne Magida (TBPS). This WWSU Action Plan has evolved to be the primary guiding document for all schools in our Supervisory Union. In the past, each school developed their own action plan and WWSU also had a plan. This new plan is our effort to begin a  transition to a single document to guide our work across all seven entities.

The WWSU Action Plan spells out the research-based strategies we believe will help to improve the education of all WWSU students. The document is organized into the following sections.
Teaching and Learning
Organizational Design
Community Engagement
Operations and Management

Development and Lead Facilitator of the WWSU Leadership Team for Excellence In Education (LTEE)
Semi annual retreats, and monthly meetings are held to support shared implementation of the WWSU Action plan. Under my direction, a new model for leadership for this purpose has been initiated. The WWSU Leadership Team for Excellence in Education (LTEE) is both a governance and decision-making body responsible for setting the direction of the schools with a focus on  student-centered learning design, learning proficiencies and growth indicators, along with the systems and practices that support them. The LTEE is comprised of twenty-two teachers and administrators from all seven schools in WWSU.

The LTEE promotes two-way communication through the creation of structures to solicit input from a broad range of constituents and to communicate decision and/or information in coherent ways using multiple modalities. Additionally we  create opportunities for dialog within the learning organization and between the school and community. My role is as a facilitator of the professional learning of the team so as to establish a baseline understanding of these topics, and prepare materials to support these lead educators in bringing back the training to staff in schools. I provide additional support at the building level through regular meetings with individual principals, school based teams, and through work on smaller curriculum development teams as noted below.

Currently I direct the development work in curriculum and assessment to align with proficiencies through teacher work groups in Mathematics, English Language Arts, Visual Arts, Performing Arts, World Language, These teams meet at least monthly to work collaboratively to design materials that will be used in our new proficiency model.

I am also a member of the Harwood Union Leadership Team (teachers/ students/ admin) which meets daily. Our team is directing the process of changing to a proficiency based system in preparation for the incoming class of 2020 (next year’s freshman) who will be the first to graduate in the new model. This means a complete overhaul of course offerings, policies, and grading practices in all subjects across the board. This is the most significant work underway in our Supervisory Union and requires a tremendous amount of thoughtful planning, communication and professional development.

As part of this work I serve as a member of the Harwood Academic Policy committee which oversees the policies related to these transformational changes. As this is new work, Vermont does not offer model policies and as such,  the Harwood Administration and I are developing these policies through models from other proficiency based schools across the country.

Community Engagement Initiative/Nellie Mae Grant
Last Spring WWSU was granted funding through the Nellie Mae foundation to build and sustain improved community engagement. As the lead for this project, I organized the Community Engagement Coalition; 32 members comprised of our WWSU  LTEE  and a representative group of community members from various towns. Our coalition has received technical assistance from Everyday Democracy to design avenues to improved engagement. Our coalition has identified the strategy of “Community Conversations” (a.k.a. Study Circles) to engage community members in dialogue about the changes being implemented to align with Act 77, and to identify ways the community can improve the educational experiences of our students through strengthened partnerships and better communication.

The first step in this process was to survey the community to see what level of understanding already exists, and to poll the community about priorities that matter most. From this survey I will be working with a few team members to develop the facilitator’s guide which will used during the Community Conversations which will take place the four Mondays in March (7, 14, 21, 28) from 6:00-8:00 at HUHS. A kick off to this event will take place on January 14, 2016 also at HUHS in the auditorium. The kick off event features a screening of the film Most Likely To Succeed- a documentary film featuring a high school that has embraced a new way of educating students to better prepare them for today’s 21st Century world. This film will help launch the conversation about what our community values and desires for our students.

Integrated Field Review
This year WWSU has been selected to participate in the pilot process of the Integrated Field Review. The Integrated Field Review  help assess the degree to which the Education Quality Standards (EQS) are being addressed in Vermont schools, identify best practices and to support the continuous improvement of our schools. The study will provide information about equity and access to high quality program both within our supervisory union and in comparison to others across the state.  I will be leading this process in our own schools which will take place later this Spring. I will provide an update about this process and the findings in a later report.

Statewide Advocacy: Vermont Curriculum Leaders Association

For the past three years I have served as the Chair for the Vermont Curriculum Leaders Association (VTCLA). At the start of my tenure, attendance at meetings was sparse, membership was low, and the group lacked focus and purpose. Our steering committee tackled the issue through revamping the vision and mission of our organization, and through collaboration with the agency of education, to bring greater attention to the issues Vermont’s curriculum leaders share. Our membership has increased significantly, and the majority of supervisory unions across the state are now represented. Our priority is to share common practices and implementation strategies for developing proficiency-based learning systems statewide. I feel this organization is a great support to me in my WWSU work and feel confident that others in organization feel the same. I was happy to turn over the reins to a new chair this year, but remain in the leadership of the organization as secretary/treasurer.  

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

What do Katie Novak and Universal Design for Learning have to do with Mindsets and Personalized Learning?

Often large scale professional development sessions can seem arbitrary and disconnected from the building-based or classroom-level work at hand. The truth is that conceptually there usually is alignment, but often the connections are less evident to participants and the purpose can remain unclear. This brief overview is an effort to improve the experience of all participants for our September 4th inservice by showing the connections between the various “initiatives” underway and why we believe Katie’s presentation will be a good fit.
With the passing of ACT 77 our WWSU schools must redefine teaching and learning to include the components emphasized by the new law.

  • Flexible Pathways to Graduation
  • Personalization
  • Work-based Learning
  • Virtual-blended Learning
  • Dual Enrollment 
  • Early College
At the heart of the legislation is a belief that all students must reap the maximum benefits of their educational experience to prepare them for the 21st Century expectations of college or career. As such, we asked all WWSU faculty and staff to read the book “Mindset” by Carol S. Dweck over the summer. Dweck’s work emphasizes how we must empower students with a growth mindset so as to maximize their potential and help students respond more productively to setbacks. Like a solid foundation of a house- these fundamental beliefs and principles will be an important underpinning to the transformed school system we are working collaboratively to create.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) offers us high quality “building materials” and “tools in the tool belt” as we remodel our structure. Planning for student learning to occur in a classroom where individualization/personalization is emphasized is no small feat, but when instruction is planned with each learner in mind, students spend more time engaged in learning and less time confused and unfocused. In these learning environments classroom rigor is augmented and productivity increases. Whether your school has been working toward proficiency-based teaching and learning for years or if you’re just starting out these essential elements are critical to the success of your endeavor.

We all have to believe at our core that we can engage and challenge all students to learn in our classrooms. We can’t prevent all the challenges students will face, but we can alleviate them by designing a learning environment that leaves no room for failure. To do this, we need to be surrounded by people who have that same belief in the power of teaching.  This group mentality is called “collective efficacy”. Teachers with [this mindset] have better outcomes than those who believe they will not succeed.                                                                                 
Dr. Katie Novak

Katie’s work in UDL is an excellent complement to the work in Math Best Practices, Brain-based teaching and learning (w/ Bill Rich), and the work of the Tarrant Institute. As we continue to improve our Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) and data-team efforts across schools, this emphasis on high-quality “Tier 1” instruction is essential to improving student outcomes. All of these professional development pathways have one thing in common; they put a focus on students in the center of the learning experience. Broadly defined, student-centered learning  shifts the focus from teachers teaching to the learner learning. The goal of all of our professional learning this year will keep that singular focus in the forefront.