Author Archives: lisajdavis

BrandEd comes to WPED – We’re talking Student Voice!

studentvoice

Gwen and I had the honor and pleasure of having Joe San Felippo and Tony Sinanis join us to discuss Amplifying Student Voice. We discussed not only the importance of developing student voice, but how to use that valuable information by putting it into action. Both guests share their own experiences where student voice has not only influenced but changed their schools and districts for the better.

Dr. Tony Sinanis is the principal of Cantiague Elementary School in Jericho, NY. Cantiague was named a 2012 National Blue Ribbon School and Tony received the 2014 New York State Elementary Principal of the Year Award and the national 2013 Bammy Award for Elementary School Principal of the Year. Joe Sanfelippo, PhD is the Superintendent of the Fall Creek School District. Prior to taking on his current role, he was an Elementary Principal in two rural school districts. #GoCrickets!

For more Tony and Joe, check out their BrandEd homepage at Bam Radio where you can listen to their variety of programs:  http://www.bamradionetwork.com/branded/
You can also buy their books – Principal Professional Development: Leading Learning in the Digital Age and The Power of Branding: Telling Your School’s Story on Amazon.Com.

Quick link to the program Amplifying Student Voice:
http://www.jackstreet.com/jackstreet/WPED.SanfelippoSinanis.cfm

 

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WPED – Encouraging a Passion for Life-Long Reading with JoEllen McCarthy

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We had the pleasure of speaking with JoEllen McCarthy (@JoEllenMcCarthy) about encouraging a passion for reading on our latest WPED program. Aside from the plethora of information that JoEllen has at her fingertips, she has a magical way of delivering it with enthusiasm and fun! If you haven’t had the opportunity to see her present, do yourself a favor and mark your calendar for any upcoming events. Her website with dates, blog posts, and many links to the resources she shares can be found here:

http://www.alwayslearningll.com/

 

Check out our latest program where we discuss encouraging a passion for reading for all students. We talk about the importance of a learning community that incorporates teachers, students, and parents. Also discussed is the transition from elementary to middle school and the needs students have as they grow. Resources are shared throughout the discussion – making this a fun-packed, information rich program!

http://www.bamradionetwork.com/creating-positive-school-culture/3125-encouraging-a-passion-life-long-for-reading-in-young-children

bam

 

 

 


Coffee Talk – “New Math”, Discuss

 

The idea for this post originated from an email discussing experiences with the “new math”.It evolved into this collaborative effort; a discussion between parents (and a Lead Learner as well) from two different states sharing their perspective on the new math method adopted by the Common Core Standards. We welcome your opinion – please share your thoughts in replies.

math

Tony Sinanis – Parent of a 4th grade student and Lead Learner

On June 2, 2010 the landscape of public education was changed dramatically when the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics for grades kindergarten through 12 were officially released to the nation in their completed form. These proposed national standards, which came as a result of the 2004 report Ready or Not: Creating a High School Diploma that Counts, were developed because both employers and colleges were demanding more of high school graduates than in the past and because these same graduates were lacking in the skills and knowledge they needed to succeed. The Common Core State Standards were developed as an opportunity to create a clear and consistent vision and understanding of what students are expected to learn in school so that educators and families know what they need to do to support their students. Furthermore, the CCSS are intended to address the “educational crisis” that exists in our country and is reflected in our inability to compete in the current landscape of the global economy. Our children are reportedly lacking the literacy, mathematical and critical thinking skills necessary to compete with learners from other countries and secure jobs that are relevant in today’s world. These standards and the aforementioned crisis have led to the “new math” unfolding in classroom across this country.

New math, as it has been coined on social media, by educators and families, is extremely concerning to me as an educator and lead learner. You see, I was educated by the “old math” way and I turned out fine. I am able to compute numbers, shop in a store and manage myself at the bank. I think the math experiences I had as a child prepared me for a success life where working with numbers has never been a problem. Unfortunately, the current landscape of public education tells us that way of teaching was good enough; didn’t go deep enough and didn’t challenge students to master important concepts. So, here we are today, struggling with the new math – educators, students and families – all struggling with new math. I mean come on, who really understands bar modeling? And does it really matter in the end? I am not sold on the idea but for some reason many elementary kids in this country are being exposed to this concept, and many other new math concepts, and are being told that is the way they must solve the problem. Really? We want all our kids to use the same strategy no matter what their learning style? For me, this is one of the biggest problems plaguing our schools today as a result of new math!

With that being said, I think there are some significant upsides to the entire new math experience. First and foremost, we are introducing less concepts to children and we are challenging the children to explore these concepts at a deeper level. This focus on deeper understandings is important because it challenges the children to move beyond basic computation and apply concepts to different real life situations. Another piece of new math that I value is the idea that we are seeing an increase in the use of manipulatives during the introduction of new concepts so the children develop a concrete understanding before moving on to a more abstract one. It is a powerful evolution to observe. Finally, our children are developing stronger problem solving skills, which will serve them well in any scenario or situation. So, do I love everything about new math? No! Do I think we need to make some improvements? Yes! And the main thing we need to remember is that each of our children learn differently – some like the old way while others embrace the new.

coffee

Lisa Davis, Parent of kindergarten, 5th grade, and 7th grade students

Being the mom of 3 school aged children, you can be sure that the subject of “new math” has often been a topic of conversation. I also held the position of President of my elementary school PTA last year, the first year of implementation of common core in the state of New York.

I cannot tell a lie, none of the feedback from parents has been positive. For my daughter in 4th grade, the new math seemed less of an issue than for my 6th grade son. He had a rough time. As a matter of fact, so did his entire grade. The gaps in the curriculum proved very challenging. The pace was incredible, and the new “rigor” was certainly there. These factors on top of a transition from elementary school to middle school did not play in the favor of my son and his classmates.

At PTA meetings, I heard frustrated parents share homework questions, and discuss issues with helping with their children. Pictures were posted on Facebook and Twitter, showing 1st grade math problems that made even math majors scratch their heads.

Even with these experiences, I am not ready to definitively say that the new math is a failure. I still question where it came from, why it’s so different than the way we learned, and what created the need for such a change. But my inquisitive mind also wants to figure it out. I want to see why this is meant to be the answer we’ve been waiting for, that I didn’t realize we had questioned.

So we’ve been sold some promises. This new math will allow children to have a better number sense. They will be able to do “mental math” faster and at greater lengths than before. After a foundation of this math style, students will have a better understanding of math functions.

Ultimately, when asked my opinion on new math – I’m still undecided. There’s no question in my mind that new math was improperly rolled out. If the state had decided to begin new math in kindergarten last year, I think we would have been spared a lot of headaches. But as we can’t turn back the clock, I chose to be optimistic and hopeful that this new curriculum will deliver.

coffee

Gwen Pescatore, Parent of 1st grade, 4th grade, and 7th grade students

When I was taught math, we weren’t often just given a formula and set of numbers to compute. We were given a problem; one filled with words and numbers. We then needed to take the scenario and pull the pieces of information we needed to solve the problem at hand. Sometimes this meant completing several steps – and we always had to show our work and label our answers. Math was always real. It was calculating the tip for a waitress, the amount of carpet we needed for our room, how long it would take to drive to our vacation destination, how much time we would save if we increased our speed, and so on.

This part of the “new math” I am ALL for. I believe we need to show kids how what they’re learning in the classroom relates to their real life today and in the future. From here, I think I disagree more than I agree. I think there’s truth to the statement that “one size doesn’t fit all”. Showing our kids a variety of ways to solve a problem is wonderful. We not only appeal to different learning styles – but also ways to solve a problem in a variety of situations…but at what point are we throwing too many options at them? When does it simply cause confusion? When does it create a larger issue that you are spending so much time sharing the various ways to solve the problem, and not enough time allowing kids to become proficient using a select few? Also, why are we forcing kids to use a particular method to solve the problem?In my opinion, as long as they can solve the problem, show their work and explain why they chose the method they did – I say let them choose.

Personally, I feel lucky to be in the position we’re in at our school. When the math program changed over, we had several options to learn about it, what to expect as far as the writing and reading to come, and the timeline we should expect it may take our children to adjust. I have yet to see or hear people in our school or district sharing out math problems that they, as adults, struggle with when lending their child a hand doing homework as I’ve seen done in other places. I’m not saying there aren’t kids struggling. We do after all have a large ESL population. But…I don’t feel the struggles are as extreme.

Changes can be scary, especially when it can make you feel helpless and/or inferior. Schools need to do their part to eliminate as many of those fears as possible by providing families with information such as why there is a change, what “new math” looks like, an approximate length of time it may take for their kids to adjust…and where they can turn for help, when they need it, to be able to help their children at home.

A special thanks to Tony for being our first post collaborator! You can find Tony on Twitter at @tonysinanis and his blog at http://www.leadingmotivatedlearners.blogspot.com.


Twitter for Parents in the Eduworld?

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Image Credit : http://www.sxc.hu/

The Journey to Finding Your Voice and Place on Twitter

When I first began my Twitter journey, I was consumed by all the information available. I drank everything in; constantly re-tweeting posts so I could have a record of articles I wanted to read, jumping on every chat that showed up in my feed, and reaching out to authors and other individuals that I had respected from afar. The experience was exhausting, but so worth the late night info binges!

After much time, I feel that I have finally found my Twitter voice. As a parent interested in education, it has been a windy road. Finding a chat that genuinely wants, not just welcomes  a parent’s lens is not a given. There are certainly educators who are not interested in conversing with non-educators.  I may have also brought my baggage with me. I spent just as much time looking up terms in the beginning as I did sharing my thoughts. Cutting through the edu-jargon and acronyms took time.

One thing I had to remind myself as I got more into the Twitter world, which is easy to forget, is that there are people behind those posts. Some are nice, some not so nice.  Some with valuable information to share, some….. And some individuals have agendas that don’t include me or other parents. Twitter is a reflection of the workplace for educators. Some strongly hold on to hierarchies, even antiquated ones. Some really want to change those paradigms and reshape education as a true partnership with not only parents but students as equal players.

All those hours sifting through chats, hastags, and follows, I have found people that really challenge my mind, respect my input, and encourage more interactions. I have found educators who respect parents making the effort to learn more about education. I have found chats that appreciate and seek parent points of view. I am always appreciative of educators who are evolving and refining their perspectives. Those are the people I want to learn with. Those are the people who inspire me to push myself to reach for more.

One of my goals as a Parent Leader has always been giving parents a voice; enabling them to have a seat at the table. Twitter has been an instrumental tool in allowing me to contribute in conversations with teachers and administrators. In order to successfully find your way, you have to hit a few bumps and then pick yourself up and carry on. The journey is part of the prize.

Some of my favorite chats include:

#PTChat, #NYEDchat, #COLChat, #ArkEdChat, #TMSHawkChat, #FinnedChat

This post is dedicated to some truly special educators:

@TonySinanis, @DaisyDyerDuerr, @thomascmurray, @JohnFrtisky, @donald_gately, @timdwalk, @DavidHochheiser

Thank you!


First Post of 2014

A wise dear friend tweeted this today, and I found it to be the perfect first post for 2014.

gwen

 

To a year of making mistakes, challenging limits, forging through comfort zones, learning so so much and changing the world!

Thank you partner — You always inspire! XoXo


School Transparency; For or Against?

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Over the past year our principal has made transparency a top priority in my children’s elementary school. For us, transparency looks like: multiple emails throughout the week highlighting the learning taking place on all grade levels, daily tweets by both the principal and classroom teachers, frequent blog posts by teachers and students, and opportunities for frank and honest discussion at PTA meetings. This format has been so successful that it seems the other schools in the district have decided to implement similar tools as well.

As schools shift to implementing more technology and social media, it seems to bring forward reasonable anxieties. Parents are very cautious about the privacy of their children as well as what this new push means in the classroom. Parents question the need for such transparency and have concerns about the possible effects of this new media format.

As a proponent for transparency I would like to layout my argument for not only accepting it, but encouraging it.

My analogy – Transparency at school is like a newspaper; there is so much information available, yet you choose what is most important to you. If you are interested in the weather – proceed to the weather section. If that’s not for you, you might choose to focus on local news, and of course there is world news. You get my point – we sift through information all the time. School transparency is the same concept. Whether it is test scores, curriculum changes, in-class lessons, etc. information is available for parents to see.

As principals and teachers incorporate transparency, there is often a push towards new technology options. Learning programs, apps, and social media sites require a growth period. We need to allow for schools to get comfortable with these new tools and customize them to our needs. Also, districts need to determine and publish guidelines for how and when these new technologies are used. As with any tool, they are only as good as the user. Making technology meaningful and useful is a challenge for all those involved.

It is my firm belief that when schools offer to share information with parents, don’t say no. Never close the door to information about your child. While you may not want that information today, it might not be available tomorrow if you change your mind. Collaborating with administrators and teachers by sharing concerns while maintaining the flow of information is key. Most importantly, it gives us a seat at the table.


Reflections of a PTA President

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Image Credit – http://office.microsoft.com

As this year comes to an end, so does my PTA presidency. It is definitely bittersweet. It seems the perfect time to look back at the experience and carefully examine the ups and downs of the position.

As a new president, I came to the job optimistic and energized, ready to get to work. I walked in with certain beliefs of how things should be done, and the time commitment I had made. Little did I know that you can never fully be prepared for what is coming around the corner.

I have never been as proud of my school as I am today. Our efforts have been incredible in so many ways. We were recognized as a National Blue Ribbon school. We donated almost $10,000 to our adopted school, Hegarty Elementary, which was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy. At the same time, we were able to provide financial support to our staff family that suffered in the storm. We had amazing programs including Caldecott winning author visits for our students. We had wonderful events for our families like Fall Festival and Picnic around the World. We were present in school board budget meetings and fought for important expenditures in our school. We were also involved in an effort to have our Board of Education write a resolution against high stakes testing. We educated parents on new academic programs in the district. It’s truly been a remarkable time to be PTA leadership.

The relationships formed will definitely be one of the most positive parts of my experience. I was able to really get to know my principal (@cantiague_lead) and contribute to the magic that happens every day at Cantiague. His leadership and passion inspired me to give a little more, push myself to learn and share. The teachers I worked with reinforced everything I believed about the staff. They are so dedicated and true experts in what they do. Their dedication to our children made it impossible not to give 100% in making Cantiague the best place it can be.

The families of Cantiague are the real treasure. The generosity, spirit, and commitment to providing the best environment for learning and growing is what makes our school what it is. Cantiague is a very special corner of the world where children come first….always.

I will always be grateful to the PTA presidents who came before me and the ones who will follow. To borrow a cliché, it is a true labor of love. The amount of work is unimaginable, but the payout is the same. It is my greatest hope that our incoming presidents will experience the same joy and sense of accomplishment I have gained. If you put your whole self in it, you will learn so much. Not just about the school, district, or education, but about yourself. The job isn’t for everyone, but for those up for the challenge it is so worth it.

I look forward to my new position of Past President come June 11. I know the relationships I have made will only get stronger and better. I also know that our incoming presidents will do a wonderful job and make this PTA their own. I can’t wait to see the new direction we go.


TALI Hosted Diane Ravitch And I Was There!

Last week I was so blessed to have the opportunity to see Diane Ravitch speak to Take Action Long Island (TALI) in Woodbury, NY. The audience was filled with over 1,100 educators, parents, activists ready to learn more about the state of public education in New York and the country.

Topics of her speech included: the widespread attacks on unions (which in her words are an attack on the middle class), Race to the Top (origins and effects), High Stakes Tests, Charter Schools, Vouchers, and Cyber Schools, Teacher Evaluations (APPR), Data Mining, and ALEC. Her comments were succinct and insightful, and she provided many sources to back up her analyses.

Her explanation of high stakes testing really struck a chord with me, especially since my school aged children are right at the heart of testing years. Her words resonated one at a time, as she discussed the goal of these assessments – they don’t close the achievement gap, they measure them. She spoke of the achievement gap, which is more accurately an economic gap because it is clear that economically challenged students suffer the most from high stakes tests. She explained that tests aren’t scientific instruments, but social constructions. As many parents know firsthand, she explained that high stakes tests destroy real teaching as instruction inevitably becomes “teaching to the test”.

The educators in the room all applauded when she said that the true purpose of public education is to nurture and promote character, integrity, and citizenship.

Diane shed some light on charter schools, exclaiming they are not public schools, but private schools using public money. They cherry pick students and either kick out or deny students with IEPs and English Language Learners. These students are then sent back to public schools where all students are guaranteed an education. The problem becomes that public schools are depleted of funds because monies are going to local charters, cyber schools, and vouchers, leaving the district without proper funding for these children. The most remarkable fact she shared was that even after these schools weed out “undesirable” or challenging students, they still score lower than public schools. Charters have been wrought with scandal. There isn’t a week that goes by that we don’t hear about embezzlement, impropriety, or other questionable acts. The sad truth about charters is that they have no local allegiance, only a desire to make a profit.

There were positive moments when Ravitch shared the reason why this moment in public education will pass – because it’s wrong. She said we all must take action to ensure this happens. Speak up, tell politicians that high stakes tests are wrong, that basing teacher evaluations on tests are wrong, and that we won’t stand for charter schools, vouchers, and cyber schools taking our public school monies.

After an emotional hour, she responded to a question by a member of the audience. The crowd roared as she ended her talk with this sentiment – I have a dream….that all Long Island will opt out of high stakes tests.

For more information on Diane Ravitch – http://dianeravitch.com/

ALEC exposed – http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed

Making the Grades, Todd Farley  – http://www.amazon.com/Making-Grades-Misadventures-Standardized-Industry/dp/098170915X

Network for Public Education website – http://www.networkforpubliceducation.org/

United Opt Out National website – http://unitedoptout.com/


Common Core Assessments & Teacher Evaluation Testing – Enough Already!

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For the past few weeks, I have spent many hours in meetings with administrators, teachers, and parents discussing the changes that have been integrated into our schools since the adoption of the common core standards. We’ve talked about the “rigors” of the core. We’ve talked about the new focus on language in all subjects. We’ve talked about the new programs that the district has purchased to address the core. One thing we haven’t discussed very much – the assessments and the schedule.

It wasn’t until the other night, that I came across a tweet that linked to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) website. What I read shocked me. The pdf discussed the testing schedule for the 2014/15 school year. To my surprise and disgust, it said that there will actually be TWO PARCC tests scheduled for our children. Beginning in 3rd grade, our children will take TWO high-stakes tests per year –

A performance-based assessment (PBA) component, administered after approximately 75% of the school year, and an end of year assessment (EOY) component, administered after approximately 90% of the school year.1

When did this happen?  Add in test prep, when are these kids learning? When are teachers not prepping, benchmarking, and testing? When is enough enough?

Please don’t take this as an affront against my school or district. I have so much respect and admiration for the professionals teaching and running our school system. They work their hardest to provide the best education for our children every day. Because of the delicate nature of this subject, I asked not my children’s teachers but teacher friends (elementary school) about how public education has changed since the integration of common core standards and APPR (the NY State teacher evaluation system) assessments. The answer was unanimous – Dreadfully.

More than one friend reported teachers crying after school hours, once the children had gone home. They cry for the children and they cry for themselves. These professionals entered the field with a love of children and education. They were given opportunities for creativity, relationship building, and even some fun. Now their time is spent addressing common core mandated assessing and APPR  mandated assessments as well. Their districts are scurrying for the best common core aligned programs. Professional development can’t keep up with the changes. Throw in the economic climate; funds are tight for materials, professional development, and other resources. APPR also requires assessments throughout the year. The assessments are meant to measure the efficiency and skill level of the teacher on the backs of our children. And the worst part I learned – the children are feeling it. They noted visible stress-related behaviors like students crying, having bathroom accidents, and children vocalizing feeling sick.

To paraphrase an analogy from an article written about high stakes testing in Texas:

You can keep weighing the cow, but it’s not going to gain weight until you feed it.

The timing of this post seems perfect. Yesterday two amazing things took place:

1 – The Texas House of Representatives voted 145-2 to reduce high-stakes testing. The legislation reduces end-of-course exams from 15 to 5 needed for graduation from high school. The win is largely attributed to parent activism.

{http://www.statesman.com/news/news/heated-debate-in-texas-house-over-testing-graduati/nW4qF/}

2- I was fortunate to watch a live Google Hangout discussion from Finland, discussing the success of the Finnish Educational System and what America can learn from their practices.  Finland, as well as South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore top the list of best global educations based on international test scores. One amazing difference between Finnish and American education is the absence of high stakes tests and test-based teacher evaluations.

For more information on Finland’s educational system  {https://www.facebook.com/PennFinn13?fref=ts}

http://www.parcconline.org/sites/parcc/files/PARCC%20Assessment%20Administration%20Guidance_FINAL_0.pdf 1


Twitter Chats – Why and How

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Image Credit: http://www.freestockphotos.biz

When the principal of my children’s school first recommended Twitter to parents, I honestly thought he was crazy. Twitter is for celebrities, students/kids, and people who like to foursquare check-in and Instagram, or so I thought. I remember the day I asked my co-President how she felt about creating a PTA Twitter account; she and I agreed to go for it. That began my Twitter education.

Once online, I quickly learned about Twitter chats. I was hesitant but intrigued by the concept. An online discussion led by moderators where participants from all over the world share ideas. I had to try it. After the first chat, I was hooked. #PTChat, a discussion between Parents, Teachers, Administrators, Student, and guest speakers, has become a weekly ritual I look forward to every Wednesday. Chats are great opportunities to see issues through a different lens. As a parent, this opportunity has been not only helpful but enlightening.

To begin, the easiest way to chat is with a third party app like Tweetchat or Tweetdeck. Both allow you to sign on through your Twitter account. By typing the hashtag (#) of your chat, you will be brought into the discussion.

When you first join a chat, it is a good idea to tweet that you are participating in a chat and that your comments will be pertaining to the questions and comments for the allotted time. Once there, you will be asked to introduce yourself. The moderator will then begin the chat with Q1 – question 1. The appropriate response should begin with A1 – answer 1. This way the discussion is more easily followed by participants. When you see the answers, you can choose to favorite, retweet (quote the post to your account), or respond to the post. Oftentimes conversations will linger throughout the discussion as more thoughts are shared in response to original answers to the questions. The more participants on the chat, the quicker the chat will move. This is one reason I enjoy reading the transcripts or Storify after the chat concludes.

If you feel overwhelmed or unsure of what to say, you can always log on and read the chat as an observer. There is no harm in seeing how things work before jumping in. That being said, I wholeheartedly believe that the more you participate, the more you gain.

Please share your advice and thoughts on Twitter chats here!


SheilaSpeaking

A space for thinking, reflecting and sharing about education -- and the odd other thing...

Ingvi Hrannar

Icelandic educator, iPad 1:1 classroom, speaker & entrepreneur.

Penn-Finn Learnings 2013

Sharing our inquiries - March 23-30

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