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Can You Measure Rigor?

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EXEMPLARY SCHOOLS is a great forum on Linkedin.
The other day, a discussion started on engagement in learning featuring a great infographic.

Kevin, my husband, I wrote a comment as follows:
“The concept of ‘engagement’ is like ‘fun’ – everyone claims their program is fun – except they are never asked to prove it. Same with ‘engagement’ – except not as used as often and certainly never required to be demonstrated but it is critical to learning. A 2007 PISA (OECD) study, showed levels of ‘engagement’ was the single factor that differentiated the nations with the highest and lowest levels of student achievement….!!

The reason he did this is because I was working in an inner city school putting engaged learning into practice!
So here’s the story!

Jazzles ELA excels in engaged learning! Seriously you could stake the proverbial house on Jazzles versus any other program to engage today’s diversified classes.
It’s one of my hobby horses because it is so important yet no one seems to care!

So we were both somewhat overwhelmed by the followng response from Professor John Sizemore, M.Ed., who teaches in the highly respected Annsley Frazier Thornton School of Education. He’s a bit of an expert in this area. His resume notes: “John brings a practitioner’s perspective to the students entering the field of education or honing their skills to be principals. He has served in many administrative roles in public education, most recently as assistant superintendent in the 100,000 student Jefferson County Public Schools. John has served as consultant to a variety of urban and rural districts across the country, focusing on restructuring schools. Additionally, John has published articles on teacher advisory programs and principal leadership in restructuring the middle school. John received his B.A. in Social Studies, his MA in Guidance and Counseling, and his Rank I in Supervision and Instruction from Eastern Kentucky University.”

If you are a member of LinkedIn, you can reference the article by clicking this link: 27 Ways To Increase Student Engagement In Learning

Here’s what Professor Sizemore had to say:
“Maria, I totally concur with Kevin. School leaders and teachers speak of rigor, but it is really just talk. Until you measure rigor, it is all conjecture. With research I have been doing on rigor and engagement, in over 40 schools engagement follows rigor. As goes rigor so goes engagement. Early on l speculated active learning was the trigger to engagement, meaning that if you pedagogically tended to active learning that rigor would result. After more than 20,000 observations, it is clear rigor (thinking level) is at the top of the food chain. In every school’s data, when rigor increases so does engagement. You can have high engagement, but it is resting on the good nature of compliant students. This was determined by schools results that had high engagement, but very, very low rigor. In this case, it was a rural school district with students that did what the teacher asked.

Kevin is so right on with his analysis. School and teacher leaders talk of rigor and engagement, but until you measure these areas, you do to know. Thankfully, I have developed a quick assessment tool to get empirical results. The schools with whom we work know the difficulty of trying to change rigor and engagement. The difficulty in improving schools is In knowing how to change systems which then change school results.

We have found school leaders are challenged with knowing what to do too change results. It is not more PD, but the right PD which focuses on how to increase rigor,
By John Sizemore”

At long last we have found someone who knows how to measure rigor – we hope to use his assessment tool either directly or as the basis for a thesis. If you know anyone interested in this, please have them contact me.

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Can you integrate rigor with joy to create peak level engaged, active learning?

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Education to Save the World is one of my favorite blogs. Today, they carry an articles “Your Turn: How do you create a joyful classroom?”
I read it with interest because it is missing or understating the concept of rigor.

Rigor sounds the opposite of joy and often is.
So what is rigor and how can you integrate rigor with joy to create engaged, active learning?

Richard W. Strong (2001) defined rigor as “the goal of helping students develop the capacity to understand content that is complex, ambiguous, provocative, and personally or emotionally challenging”. In her (2008) book ‘Rigor is NOT a Four-Letter Word’, Barbara Blackburn’ wrote that “Rigor is creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels, each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels, and each student demonstrates learning at high levels.”

In a 2012 whitepaper entitled “How do you identify rigor in the classroom?” Rick Jenkins, Jeff Goldhorn, and Mike Webb wrote: “To teach with rigor is to teach accurately and completely. In order to teach accurately, a teacher must have knowledge of both content and pedagogy. Teachers must teach their content without error and have content knowledge that is deeper than that which they teach. Teaching accurately also implies a use of pedagogy that ensures students learn content for understanding. Content knowledge without pedagogy leads to superficial and short-term learning. Pedagogy without content knowledge can result in student misconceptions and misunderstandings.”

So there’s the challenge! Joy does indeed create engagement. But high engagement may come with very low rigor.
What’s the answer?

You have to create a pedagogy/methodology incorporating the rigor integrated with resources and activities that bring the joy!

With JazzlesELA, I have extensive song–themed resources combining animated, subtitled songs, karaoke and interactive song books enhanced with interactive games and printable activity pages. Scalable lesson plans provide the fun/joy with the rigor.

The program does achieve exceptional results – broadly it halves the time to achieve Common Core Kindergarten ELA outcomes.
Here are a few of my strategies:
• The attention and memory power of music and songs.
• Coral singing to create a happy, unified optimum learning environment.
• Singing to activate a class-wide common, oral vocabulary base (song lyrics) – irrespective of the range vocabulary levels (including ESL) of children entering the class. (Diversity is the biggest challenge in public school classrooms.
• The power of ‘whole /part/ whole’ and contextual teaching for developing reading and writing skills and strategies.
• VAK engagement for optimal learning.
• Creative Visual and Performing Arts.
• Interactive technology.
• Visual Literacy.
• Multiple, fun practice strategies.
• Themed, curriculum extensions.
• Guided and independent learning.
• Pair and group interaction.
How to increase rigor and combine the joy is the real challenge!
With JazzlesELA, you have a best practice case – supported by research.

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Time for TED debate on Quality PreK! Let’s Get Real!

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If you are a teacher like me, who goes to school everyday with the aim of improving children’s lives through education, please read this article in today’s (06/14/2013) ‘Education Next’ – ‘How Poverty Is Like Global Warming (& Other Parting Thoughts)’.

It is the last of a series of blogs between Michael Petrilli’s and Deborah Meier, the highly respected ‘founder’ of the modern small schools movement.

In the blog, Mr. Petrilli’s comments that “High-quality preschool, for instance, has great potential, but we don’t really know how to scale up the kinds of programs that have gotten dramatic long-term results.”

Read that twice.
What Mr. Petrilli is saying, by default, is that the programs that have gotten results (like Appletree in DC) have uneconomic teacher-student ratios and require lots of intensive training.

I completely disagree with Mr. Petrilli’s sentiments and substance.
I’ve posted my response on the Education Next blog site.

But, just in case, moderators at Education Next decide not to publish the response (be interesting to see), I thought the issue is so important, I’d publish it this blog.
(Update: After 24 hours, my response not yet published!)

Mr. Petrilli might not know how to scale up high quality PreK but I do!
I have spent 10 years doing it – developing Jazzles ELA.
It is a highly scalable ‘Arts in Education’ early education/beginning literacy program that transforms children’s intellectual and emotional engagement.

It’s not theory; its at work in schools in the US and Australia.
Two independent theses proves it works for Kindergarten children.
Anecdotal reports show it works for PreK.

I cannot provide the long-term stats that Mr. Petrilli relies on because that is a chicken and the egg argument.
After all, the egg is now being laid!

What amazes me is that there are so many educators, like Mr. Petrilli, who make statements like this yet so few who invite educational innovators, particularly ordinary, ‘working at the rockface’, teachers like you and me, to present their 21st Century solutions.

Think about this way!
Despite nearly 50 years of national focus, the majority of children in the U.S. are still failing to read at a proficient level.
So academia and mega-publishers really can’t claim to have monopoly on solutions – their record is not that good!

  • Why do we place so much value on their formula solutions?
  • Why do we never ask them to prove their solutions to engage diverse children on standard teacher/student ratios?

Why? Because if you can’t engage, you cannot teach them? And here’s a fact you’ll never read! A 2007 PISA (OECD) study, showed levels of ‘engagement’ is the single factor that differentiated the nations with the highest and lowest levels of student achievement. And that goes for PreK too!

So Mike Petrilli, Sir Ken Robinson, Lord Puttenham, Geoffrey Canada, Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu, step up to the plate for a real debate on what constitutes a new model for high quality PreK that, unlike A+ schools, Appletree, (et.al.) highly scalable, highly cost effective (ok, let’s use the word cheap) and transforming for the disadvantaged.

I’m ready! Let’s do it on TED! BECAUSE it is a debate worth having!
And by the way, lets not focus always on poverty because there are so many abused and stressed kids we need to help too.
If you agree with this post, and your mad with the naysayers, use Twitter and Facebook to send it viral!
It’s worth it!

BIG NOTE:
Love it! New website ‘Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates‘ is publishing messages from teachers to the Microsoft founder

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Serving a new definition of educators! At last!

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For every one interested in the return of Arts to the mainstream curricula, I encourage you to click the link below and read this excellent article:
Reading Through the Arts – How theater and visual arts can engage students in reading.’

What amazed me was the article’s source – it is from ARTSEDGE, an education program of The Kennedy Center.

Maybe I’m showing a bit of naiveté, but I had never associated The Kennedy Center as a mainstream source for teaching and learning in the arts.
Now, thinking about Jacqueline Kennedy’s role in using the White House to “showcase” the arts and her role in establishing the National Cultural Center, now The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, it all makes a lot of sense!

One statistic stands out.
On it’s ‘Welcome to ARTSEDGE’ webpage, The Center says:

“The full impact of ARTSEDGE might be measured by considering that of the eleven million people who participate in Kennedy Center Education Department programming each year, four million do it through ARTSEDGE resources.”
That’s a lot of people!

And the best is yet to come:

The Welcome page continues:
“In an education landscape that is evolving with new ideas of how, when and where we teach, learn and create, the ARTSEDGE team has revisited every part of what— and how—we offer resources. We are expanding our content to serve a new definition of educators, encompassing classroom and out-of-school teachers, with the single-minded goal to support arts-based student learning, whether in the classroom or an informal learning environment, like the home. We’re focused on ways to support innovative teaching with the arts, and meet changing trends in education and to accommodate the ever-evolving impact of technology in our lives. ”

I love it! I hope you do too!
Lesley Beth
(Note: I found the link through Twitter, which provides me with more insight and links to educational movers and shakers than any search engine has ever done.)

Note: From Wikipedia: The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is the busiest performing arts facility in the United States and annually hosts approximately 2,000 performances for audiences totaling nearly two million; Center-related touring productions, television, and radio broadcasts welcome 20 million more. Now in its 41st season, the Center presents the greatest examples of music, dance and theater; supports artists in the creation of new work; and serves the nation as a leader in arts education. With its artistic affiliate, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Center’s achievements as a commissioner, producer, and nurturer of developing artists have resulted in over 200 theatrical productions, dozens of new ballets, operas, and musical works.

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Helping the President’s Committee on the Arts And the Humanities!

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Recently, I came across two excellent reports focused on using the Arts to power engaged learning.

The most recent is UNESCO’s ‘Releasing the Power of the Arts – Exploring Arts Education in the Asia-Pacific’, a very detailed case as to why the Arts is moving to the center of education in countries recognized for having some of the best education in the world, like South Korea (ranked #2) Singapore (ranked #3) and Hong Kong (ranked #5).

The second is from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities focusing on using the Arts to help turn around low-performing schools. Developed in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Education and the White House Domestic Policy Council, the Turnaround Arts initiative is a public-private partnership designed to narrow the achievement gap and increase student engagement through the arts.

On the PCAH website is reference to its “landmark study ’Re-investing in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools’ which provides an in-depth study of arts education and its effect on student success.”

In the report’s recommendations, is coverage of three widely used approaches:

  1. Standards-based approach using certified arts specialists.  
  2. Arts integration relying more on classroom teachers.
  3. Teaching artists programs, typically involving working artists.

Each has its merits but generally the report recognizes the constraints of budgets as well as the pressure of ‘teaching for the test’ that has seen dramatic falls in the role of arts.

In an interesting footnote on Page 31 of the report, it says “Many state arts agencies have experienced dramatic budget reductions. The Florida state agency, for example, has less than $1 million for all state arts activities, including arts education, down from a high of $39 million. The Michigan state arts agency had a $29 million budget for grants in 2002 and now has $2 million for the entire state. (In Ohio)… over 80% of classroom teachers report receiving no professional development in the arts.  Arts-related field trips have declined and over one-third of schools have not had an arts related assembly in three years.”

None of this is really new.
That’s why, over 10 years ago, I started looking at ways to integrate the arts in ways that power a relationship with other classroom skills – and particularly literacy.

So it came as no surprise to read in the report that: “The documented benefits of arts integration have also been accumulating over the past decade, although only recently have researchers begun to understand why arts integration may hold unique potential as an educational reform model.
That is really worth reading a second time!

Additionally, I liked the following recommendation on page 50 of the report:

Recommendation 2. Develop the field of arts integration.
Many individuals cited the promise of the arts integration approach; we learned about model arts integration programs and efforts to train arts specialists and classroom teachers in arts integration methods. As arts integration has not received as much concerted attention as standards-based approaches, the field needs development and support to realize its full promise. We agree that the arts will have a more secure place in the curriculum when teachers experience firsthand the deepening of learning in their subjects that comes from incorporating arts teaching strategies, and working in collaboration with arts specialists and teaching artists.

No one agency or professional association “owns” arts integration, so the potential for development, including evaluation and codification of quality practices, is wide open. Further development of the field of arts integration will depend on initiatives undertaken by institutions of higher education (for both pre-service and in-service education), professional development providers (including state arts and education agencies, nonprofit arts organizations), and state agencies and private funders providing targeted support.”

End Thought
For Kindergarten, arts integration has actually received concerted attention from me in a standards-based approach. So naturally, I have offered Jazzles ELA as a best practice case study to PCAH. We have two theses to assist them

The lack of any publisher interest in Arts Integration, is why Jazzles ELA is the only scalable program of its type in the world.

Effectively, it comes as an ‘in-the-box’ package that can be rolled out today and made available to every school in the USA in time for August 2013.
Why and How?
Because all Jazzles ELA needs is an internet connection and a few web-hosted seminars to familiarize teachers with the methodology.
(Note: Music and drama teachers just get it straight away! It’s so intuitive!)

If you are looking for an Arts in Education/Integrated Arts Program for:

  • Kindergarten (and/or PreK) 
  • Virtual School
  • After Hours
  • Summer Camp
  • Mixed Ability/Diverse Classes

just contact me, Lesley Beth and I’ll deliver you a ‘PCAH-style’ package for you. It’s the only such program in the world!

Lesley Beth

 

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