PBIS: Not Just for Students

HappyClassImagine a school where respect ran rampant, kindness was out of control, and responsible behavior was around every corner. Is that even possible? How would a school go about working toward this? Would the students automatically know what this looks like? If not, could they be taught?

This is exactly the premise behind PBIS. Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports is a framework for teaching and supporting positive behavior in students that is being implemented in many schools across New York State, as well as the nation. Continue reading

A Little Reminder… “Tell Me Again Why I Do This Job…”

I can’t tell you how many times I uttered this statement. I also can’t tell you how many times I heard one of my colleagues echo the same sentiments. In this climate where educators are under the microscope and new proposals are frequently being made to “fix” the system, it’s hard to be mindful of why we do the work we do. But for myself and most of my colleagues there is always that reason, or two, and for me her name is Octavia.

After graduation, armed with Continue reading

Teaching Social Studies (Now) ≠ The Way We Were

It’s March and Spring is at least a possibility rather than just an abstract concept. I know there is more snow in our weather future, but I sure do like seeing the current piles shrink!

I have read several books and articles over the past couple of weeks that strongly confirmed my thinking about the NYS K-12 Social Studies Framework: this is not business as usual, nor just a rehash of how it was done before. The scholarship and research behind the Framework and its supporting documents, such as the C3 Framework, speak volumes about how we need to reevaluate everything about social studies what we teach, how we teach it and how we find out if they learned it. This reevaluation doesn’t mean we throw everything away, or that teachers have been doing things “wrong”. It means that thoughtful reflection is in order to decide what our students need to know and be able to do, confidently and independently, when they walk out of the classroom Continue reading

STOP! The APPR Insanity

The previous APPR system was indefensible. And, as we are learning, the present APPR system is indefensible, too. To create another system that is a revision of the present system and expect different results is where the insanity enters. Yet, the proposals that are on the budget table will only serve to perpetuate a flawed system while re-elevating the level of drama. Indeed, the din between the warring parties is exacerbating the insanity.

Although the changes he wants are all the wrong changes, at least Continue reading

When Heroin is the Problem . . . Could We all be Part of the Solution?

Recently the epidemic of heroin use and overdose has been on my mind. I mean this in a personal and professional way.   All of this started several years ago when I first heard that several students who attended high school with my daughter had died from heroin overdoses. I must say that I was initially surprised to hear this. I was not surprised that local kids were using drugs; we’d heard stories of all kinds of classmates using on the weekends and even of occasional students being high at school. In those days there was a group in our community whose mission was to create and maintain a drug and alcohol-free environment for youth.  For several years this group held Continue reading

“Shifting” to the new English Regents Exam

Over the last couple of months, my colleague and I have offered a couple of workshops around the new English Regents Exam. We would be remiss if we didn’t take a step back and make the Common Core ELA Shifts, Balancing Informational and Literary Text, Knowledge in the Disciplines, Staircase of Complexity, Text-based Answers, Writing from Sources, and Academic Vocabulary a part of the conversation. In facilitating various dives into the test, it seems that the shifts most evident in this new assessment, at least for the Part 2 (Writing Argument) and Part 3 (Writing Analysis) pieces require the movement towards utilizing text-based answers and employing evidence from sources to inform or make an argument (Shifts 4 and 5). High school teachers in a recent workshop captured the essence of those shifts on these posters:

Students need to be reminded that when writing evidence-based claims, the support for those claims should always be lifted from the text. Closely reading and annotating becomes the default when approaching informational text.

Post-ItsOnce educators have clarity around the shifts in instruction required when approaching the writing required for the English regents exam, I find it helpful get immersed into student writing samples. The group of teachers with whom I worked recently did just that, sifting through student writing samples to make a determination around what students need to know and be able to do as they approach writing for this particular assessment, be it analysis or argument. This collection of “noticings” seen here on the sticky notes in the image to the right, reflect the shifts in instruction highlighted on the ELA Common Core State Standards. We noticed that students who approached the tasks with an eye on backing up everything they claim with vetted facts from the text succeed in this type of writing. Being able to make meaning from text and communicate this meaning is an essential skill for all students. Teachers need to take every opportunity to understand the ELA shifts as they support students in writing for college, career, and beyond.

Downs_Randi_WEB_1409Randi Downs
Teacher Trainer, PBL

Expectations: Ours and Theirs

We are preparing to work with teachers to unpack expectations for Social Studies within New York State and map curriculum. Which has me thinking about expectations in general.   We have all heard and read arguments supporting and refuting the Common Core Standards (and now the Social Studies Framework) and sometimes the question “are we expecting too much of students” enters into the conversation. Our colleagues in special education and working with students from poverty also have at times voiced this question and wondered just what are expectations for all students. However, others in the education community look at the future and thresholds for success and propose Continue reading