Archive for the ‘*SY 2012-2013’ Category

In This Issue (8)

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Broadband is Key

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Author:  Matt Holloway, Education Specialist, Special Education

Broadband has become as essential to our schools as water or electricity.

– Culatta, Richard, acting director of the U.S.  Department of Educational Technology.  Emerging Technology Panel.  SXSWedu.  Austin, TX, 5 March, 2013.

 

As more and more is asked of teachers in terms of instructional accountability, rigor and differentiation, leaders ask themselves what can be done to support these expectations. Technology, while not a panacea, can be a tremendous boost to student performance when implemented responsibly and with a goal towards personalization.

Educators may be confused by the current definition of the term “personalized learning” in edTech circles: a highly responsive computer program that adjusts academic tasks to a student’s performance, attention span, interest level and learning profile.  The personalization concept here refers to the individually-tailored learning tasks that students complete rather than the student-teacher relationship.

The teacher does not become less important in this system.  Skilled teachers may be better able to attend more fully to the higher conceptual tasks inherent in the curriculum when they identify and use effective computer software apps to reinforce foundational academic skills (e.g., spelling, math facts).  A computer will never be able to replicate the learning experience of thoughtful, engaging dialogue and lesson content as delivered by a human being.

This shared academic load – with computer programs providing the rote learning and teachers the creation of nuanced, higher-level learning experiences – is currently being called “blended learning.” This concept closely reflects the engagement of the general population in electronic devices.  A key tenet of the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium (2012) calls for “future-ready students engaged and challenged in a digitally rich learning environment that results in students who are prepared for the life and work competencies essential to thriving in our global society.”

What are the key challenges to such a vision?  How do we ensure access to a “digitally rich learning environment”? In short: broadband capacity. As more learning software becomes available online, schools will need to have sufficient connectivity to keep up with the demand, and the capacity to evaluate the educational value and effectiveness of new software.

The United States Department of Education is preparing for a major investment in schools’ connectivity. According to Richard Culatta, acting director of the U.S. Department of Educational Technology, information collected from school districts will be used in Senate testimony to advocate for funds and support to school districts whose Internet capacity is not up to speed. All campuses, but especially those in rural areas, are strongly encouraged to visit www.schoolspeedtest.org and share campus/district connectivity data.

Under the guiding hand of professional educators, technology can be leveraged to improve learning outcomes for students while allowing for more meaningful classroom instruction. Act now to support equality of access to the 21st Century Learning Environment for all students.

 

Source

Texas High Performance Schools Consortium. Update on the Progress of the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium. Texas Education Agency, December 2012.

Best Practices for Teaching Beginner English Language Learners (ELLs) at the Secondary Level

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Author:   Oryan Landa, ESL Instructional Coach

 

 A LOOK AT OUR INTERVENTIONS

Walk into just about any secondary campus today and you are bound to find a teacher wondering what to do with a student who doesn’t speak English. And for a teacher who might have a class of 30 students, knowing how to meet the needs of that one non-English speaker can be a seemingly impossible challenge. What often transpires is a climate of avoidance or the idea that someone else on campus is (or should be) serving that student’s needs. But the reality on many campuses is that there isn’t that “someone else.” The education of these students falls onto the shoulders of all of their teachers – often through the form of Sheltered Instruction.

Sheltered Instruction is a program model designed to help ELLs access grade-level subject matter. Many of the strategies are geared towards students with an Intermediate proficiency level or above; however there are a lot of strategies that content area teachers can use to assist beginners as well. Those are the strategies addressed in this article.

In an ideal world, Beginner ELLs would also have direct, targeted instruction in English, in the same manner that our students here study French or Spanish; something that some schools offer through local elective courses. Simply being here in this country isn’t enough to “pick up” the language, especially if they are Spanish speakers and can easily go most of the day speaking their native language. We also place a lot of focus on developing academic language, but knowing academic language isn’t enough to pass a test if they can’t read all that English in between the academic words. The reality, however, is that most schools are not offering direct English instruction, while at the same time wondering why these students are not passing their classes and statewide assessments.

There are few appropriate interventions for beginners because the students’ lexile score is typically not high enough to participate meaningfully in the program. Meanwhile, ESOL classes are geared towards mastery of the English Language Arts TEKS which is not the same as learning the English language. The two classes would have different curricula and different methodologies.

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE ENTIRE CAMPUS

Here at Education Service Center Region 13, our focus is on finding solutions. And regardless of whether schools are providing direct, targeted instruction in English, the education of these students is the responsibility of an entire campus; not just the ESL teacher.  With that in mind, there are many things content area teachers can do to assist the language acquisition and development for Beginner ELLs.

In order for content area teachers to appropriately meet the needs of their ELLs, teachers need to know their students’ proficiency levels. These scores can be found in the TELPAS results located in any student’s permanent record, where they will be marked as having Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, or Advanced High proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

KNOWING OUR TARGET

Before we can move towards a target, we have to be clear about what that target is. The first thing a teacher should do is have patience and know that learning a language doesn’t happen overnight. According to research, developing social language alone can take 2-3 years and academic language can take 5-7 years. Our goal with Beginner ELLs is to move them from “little or no ability in reading, writing, listening and speaking” to an Intermediate proficiency level defined broadly as the ability to understand, read, and write simple, high-frequency English used in routine settings. From a solid foundation, we can move them to more advanced proficiency. But without a solid foundation, the students’ language development will suffer.  For teachers, this means creating opportunities for students to feel successful, rather than situation like failures. We need to praise students’ achievements and encourage them, focusing on their progress rather than focusing on what they cannot do.

AREAS OF INFLUENCE: THE SOCIAL AND LINGUISTIC ENVIRONMENTS

As we move towards a specific target, there are things we have control over and things we don’t, and it’s important to know where we do have influence. For one, teachers have influence over a student’s motivation through encouragement and positive reinforcement. Controlling the affective environment – making these students feel welcomed and safe to take risks – is a major factor in their language development. This can be achieved through such things as greeting students with a smile, having a consistent classroom routine, seating them in the front or middle of the classroom, simplifying your speech (by speaking more slowly, using fewer words to explain concepts, avoiding idioms, paraphrasing ideas, and keeping directions short and simple), praising student attempts to use English, never ridiculing, pairing students up with a buddy who speaks their language and who is willing to befriend them and help them settle in , giving them a tour of the school, and putting their native culture on display. A teacher could also use a tool such as Google Translate to communicate with these students socially.

In group work, students can either partner up with a more advanced ELL, or have the Beginner ELL “tag-along” with another student, who pairs up with someone else – forming a trio. The key is to make them feel included.

Secondly, teachers have influence over these students’ access to language. This includes having appropriate materials available such as native-language/English dictionaries, translators, low-level/high-interest reading materials, and/or primary language resources. A teacher can also create a language rich environment with content-related posters, labels of the classroom, magazines and books with lots of visuals, and student-generated Word Walls. The idea is to fill your classroom with print and interesting things to talk, read and write about, so that students feel immersed in English just by being in your classroom.

Another way teachers can influence Beginner ELLs’ access to language is by making the instruction understandable. In ESL jargon we call this “comprehensible input.” This simply means making your messages easily understood. This is something that is most easily achieved through the use of visual communication or gesturing, and avoiding lecture-only instruction. Visuals should always be used to reinforce/explain what a teacher is trying to communicate. Once students achieve Intermediate proficiency, we can place more focus on developing academic language. But for a Beginner ELL, our focus should be on making things understood, so as to develop their receptive language skills. Developing students’ ability to understand English will positively influence their ability to produce English.

When interacting with Beginner ELLs, it’s also important to keep in mind that a lot of translating is going on in their heads. This means allowing them plenty of think time to both absorb information as well as formulate what they want to say. It also means that sometimes our messages need to be restated exactly the same way, because sometimes these students need to hear something several times to process its meaning. If a student still doesn’t understand, then we can rephrase our explanation, but what we want to avoid is explaining something five different ways, thereby giving them five different messages to process and translate. Less is always more.

OTHER BEST PRACTICES TO LINGUISTICALLY ACCOMMODATE INSTRUCTION TO PROMOTE ENGLISH DEVELOPMENT

  • Pre-teach and re-teach material – ideally in a small group, using visuals – or provide informational text in the student’s native language (which may mean translating articles or other texts, using Google Translate or a similar website).
  • Avoid passing over information only once. Beginner ELLs need multiple exposures to the material.
  • Modify assessments by underlining or bolding key words, paraphrasing or simplifying directions/questions, or allowing dictionaries/translators.
  • Provide alternative assessments such as true/false or multiple-choice tests instead of short answer formats or exams that require lots of writing. Other options include oral administration, or allowing for non-linguistic representation. The idea in the beginning is to assess for content knowledge – and not language ability.
  • Provide students with academic glossaries that provide explanations in the student’s native language.
  • Have students write in their native language, and then use Google Translate (or other resource) to translate their writing to English. Then have them copy the English version by hand.
  • Provide plenty of resources and opportunities for reading, which will help develop their grammar and vocabulary, as well as their listening, speaking, and writing ability.
  • Provide opportunities to practice speaking and writing in English, to cement the learning of both the content and the language.
  • Use the “I DO, WE DO, YOU DO” model of instruction to provide Beginner ELLs with plenty of modeling, guided practice, and peer support.
  • When students are working independently, support Beginner ELLs with one-on-one support.
  • Allow for single word or yes/no responses, grammatical and spelling errors, listing and labeling, peer support and cooperative learning, and use of drawing.
  • Provide language scaffolds such as sentence stems, paragraph frames, and graphic organizers.

Having a Beginner ELL in class can be intimidating for any teacher. It’s even more intimidating for the student. There’s a lot we don’t have control over, such as a student’s home environment, their prior schooling, or their personality. The key is knowing what needs to be in place for successful learning to occur. We do have influence over the environment we create, the relationship we establish with them, and the language we give them access to.

Ring Out the Old, and Ring in the New

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Author: Fredric Noriega, Secondary Mathematics Specialist

On April 20, 2012 the State Board of Education approved revisions to the Mathematics TEKS; in other words, Math is getting new TEKS! The new Math TEKS apply to grades K-8, and most high school math courses. A complete list of the new TEKS can be found at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index2.aspx?id=2147499971. New TEKS for grades K-8 are scheduled to be implemented in the 2014-2015 school year, while new TEKS for high school are scheduled to be implemented in the following academic school year of 2015-2016. How will this affect the STAAR testing? According to TEA, during the year of implementation they plan to assess students on the “overlapping” student expectations for each grade level. For example, consider the current 7th grade STAAR bank of test questions; during implementation year they will only include those questions that assess a current student expectation and simultaneously a student expectation from the new TEKS. Students can still expect to see field test questions on the STAAR assessments.

 

Preparation for the new TEKS should begin during the 2013-2014 school year, one year prior to the implementation year for K-8. Teachers and campus leaders should conduct a side-by-side analysis comparing the content and cognitive changes between the current and new TEKS. In addition, teachers need to determine if the new TEKS will cause any gaps in student knowledge and, if so, begin discussing what can be done to ensure those gaps are filled. This will need to be a collaborative effort amongst multiple grade level instructors. For example,  a 6th grade teacher will need to work with both the 7th and 5th grade teachers to ensure that students do not miss any content when moving to the next grade. The final step will be for instructors to make sure they are prepared to teach any content that is new to them. If the Student Expectation came from a different grade level, it would be a good idea to find which grade it came from and seek out that teacher to share both content knowledge and effective instructional strategies for the new content.

 

In an effort to support the implementation of the new TEKS, TEA will offer online professional development modules beginning in the Spring of 2013. These courses will be offered via Project Share. Below are the descriptors for each course offering.

 

Introduction to the Revised TEKS:

Focal Points and TEKS Comparisons, K-2

Introduction to the Revised TEKS:

New Content, New Opportunities to Learn, K-2

Introduction to the Revised TEKS:

Building on Fluency to Build Proficiency, K-2

Introduction to the Revised TEKS:

Mathematical Process Standards and Project Share Gateway Resources,

K-2

Focal Points and TEKS Comparisons

Gap Analysis

Fluency and Proficiency

Mathematical Process Standards

Examine the focal points within the newly revised mathematics TEKS and compare the new TEKS to the current TEKS to improve overall mathematics instruction. Explore models of vertical alignment that strengthen participants’ knowledge of mathematics concepts and processes, leading to student success on statewide assessments and post-secondary readiness. Find out what standards are new to each grade level. Explore a gap analysis for the transition from the current TEKS to implementation and assessment of the new mathematics TEKS so you can be prepared for success in 2014-2015. Examine the learning progressions within the newly revised mathematics TEKS that develop fluency and proficiency. Engage in activities designed to support and enhance fluency, leading to student success on statewide assessments and post-secondary readiness.Study the mathematical process standards in the newly revised mathematics TEKS. Explore online activities that support student learning through integration of the mathematical process standards and grade-level content.

 

Introduction to the Revised TEKS:

Focal Points and TEKS Comparisons, 3-5

Introduction to the Revised TEKS:

New Content, New Opportunities to Learn, 3-5

Introduction to the Revised TEKS:

Building on Fluency to Build Proficiency, 3-5

Introduction to the Revised TEKS:

Mathematical Process Standards and Project Share Gateway Resources,

3-5

Focal Points and TEKS Comparisons

Gap Analysis

Fluency and Proficiency

Mathematical Process Standards

Examine the focal points within the newly revised mathematics TEKS and compare the new TEKS to the current TEKS to improve overall mathematics instruction. Explore models of vertical alignment that strengthen participants’ knowledge of mathematics concepts and processes, leading to student success on statewide assessments and post-secondary readiness. Find out what standards are new to each grade level. Explore a gap analysis for the transition from the current TEKS to implementation and assessment of the new mathematics TEKS so you can be prepared for success in 2014-2015. Examine the learning progressions within the newly revised mathematics TEKS that develop fluency and proficiency. Engage in activities designed to support and enhance fluency, leading to student success on statewide assessments and post-secondary readiness. Study the mathematical process standards in the newly revised mathematics TEKS. Explore online activities that support student learning through integration of the mathematical process standards and grade-level content.

 

Introduction to the Revised TEKS:

Focal Points and TEKS Comparisons, 6-8

Introduction to the Revised TEKS:

New Content, New Opportunities to Learn, 6-8

Introduction to the Revised TEKS:

Building on Fluency to Build Proficiency, 6-8

Introduction to the Revised TEKS:

Mathematical Process Standards and Project Share Gateway Resources,

6-8

Focal Points and TEKS Comparisons

Gap Analysis

Fluency and Proficiency

Mathematical Process Standards

Examine the focal points within the newly revised mathematics TEKS and compare the new TEKS to the current TEKS to improve overall mathematics instruction. Explore models of vertical alignment that strengthen participants’ knowledge of mathematics concepts and processes, leading to student success on statewide assessments and post-secondary readiness. Find out what standards are new to each grade level. Explore a gap analysis for the transition from the current TEKS to implementation and assessment of the new mathematics TEKS so you can be prepared for success in 2014-2015. Examine the learning progressions within the newly revised mathematics TEKS that develop fluency and proficiency. Engage in activities designed to support and enhance fluency, leading to student success on statewide assessments and post-secondary readiness. Study the mathematical process standards in the newly revised mathematics TEKS. Explore online activities that support student learning through integration of the mathematical process standards and grade-level content.

 

We at Region 13 are also offering and planning multiple opportunities to act as support during this time of transition to the new TEKS. We look forward to making sure all instructional staff have a deep understanding of the new standards and that all students have the opportunity to be successful.

Teacher Appraisal Pilot Update

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Author:  Lauralee Pankonien, Senior Coordinator for Certification Administration

Pilot Background

In April 2012 the Texas Education Agency (TEA) asked eligible campuses to indicate their interest in a pilot project for teacher appraisal.  Working in partnership with TEA, Education Service Center Region 13 requested proposals from vendors able to provide a rigorous, validated appraisal model for the purposes of the pilot.  Ultimately two appraisal models were chosen to be piloted:  the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) Appraisal Rubric and the Framework for Teaching developed by Charlotte Danielson and supported by the Teachscape organization.  Each organization committed to implement and support a teacher evaluation model in approximately 50 campuses during the 2012-2013 school year, and to provide campus-based training to users of the system.

Current Status

Teachscape and NIET have trained all pilot campus teachers and appraisers and are currently supporting the appraisers in completing certification requirements and initiating the implementation of the full appraisal process.  Representatives from the 20 Regional Education Service Centers have received training in both the NIET model and the Framework for Teaching.

Currently, 83 campuses across Texas are participating in the pilot, including many School Improvement Grant, or Texas Title One Priority (TTIPS), schools which are achieving compliance with their grant requirements by implementing an alternative evaluation system to the Professional Development Appraisal System.  The Gibson Consulting Group is collecting data for project evaluation, and plans are in the works to continue a second year of the pilot in 2013-2014.

All current pilot campuses have been encouraged to continue in year two, and additional schools may be added.  Priority will be given to volunteer schools from currently participating districts.  Both appraisal systems will continue to be used in the second year of the pilot and any new hires to returning schools will be trained by NIET and Teachscape staff.  Returning schools will be provided additional professional development.  Pilot participation is at no cost to pilot schools.

Next Steps

Following analysis of project evaluation data, TEA will determine dates for a Revision of the Commissioner’s Rules on Educator Appraisal and, eventually, a statewide rollout of a new or revised teacher appraisal system.  If you have questions regarding the pilot or are interested in volunteering your campus to become part of the pilot in 2013-2014, please contact Lauralee Pankonien at lauralee.pankonien@esc13.txed.net .

OnTRACK Social Studies Lessons Now Available!

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Author: Rachel Hernandez, Social Studies Education Specialist

OnTRACK courses for World Geography, World History and high school U.S. History have been made available through TEA’s Project Share initiative.  These lessons are intended to supplement classroom instruction and provide teachers and students with a resource for intervention.  Teachers in K-12 public and charter schools currently have access to Project Share, an online learning community developed by TEA.  The lessons available in OnTRACK vary by course and are TEKS driven.  U.S. History, for example, has lessons available on the Progressive Era, Social Welfare Reforms, The Spanish-American War, U.S. Expansionism, Great Depression, Japanese
Internment, Korean War and Civil Rights.  The entire course has 6 units with a total of 45 lessons that incorporate engaging content through interactive experiences.  A lesson example from the module on Social Welfare Reform includes an introduction on Upton Sinclair and a short reading excerpt from Sinclair’s book, The Jungle.  Students can try an interactive exercise matching vocabulary and watch brief video segments on the impact of Upton Sinclair as a reform leader.  Mini-assessments are included in the modules for you to assess student learning.  The best aspect of these courses is the ability for you to modify, add or remove content to make the course customized to your liking.

 

A few items are worth noting:

1. OnTRACK lessons do not address all of the Social Studies standards for each respective course.

2. OnTRACK Social Studies courses should not be used by districts to provide course credit to students. (Why not?  See point #1).

3. You can use OnTRACK lessons to support individualized intervention or use all or part of a lesson with a class or group of students.

4. You need to spend “sandbox time” exploring the course lessons and consider ways to blend these resources into lessons that you already have for extended learning and review.

 

The bottom line is that these lessons are a great resource for you and your students; how you use them is entirely up to you.

Please note:  TEA has plans to add Grade 8 Social Studies and Bible Literacy courses to the OnTRACK offering list in the spring of 2013.  Additional lessons will also be added to the existing courses sometime in the near future.

Exploring Integration in Elementary Curriculum, Part 4

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Author:  Lori Reemts, Education Specialist: Elementary Generalist

 

As this series on exploring integration winds down, it is a great time to recap three major areas as well as add a few closing remarks addressing the question “So now what?”  Thinking back to the first installment , we began by creating a common working definition of integration and what that can and cannot mean in terms of classroom instruction. We all want it; we all feel we need it if for no other reason than to address time constraints, but we aren’t all in agreement of what “it” even is.  When considering the three areas of curriculum (written, taught and assessed) the greatest opportunity for true integration can be found within the taught curriculum. What happens in the classroom is key.  Even with the most beautifully written curriculum, connections and true integration simply cannot take place until what is written comes to life through purposeful instruction.  Instructional integration provides the points of intersection, the rich discussion and the multiple opportunities to use knowledge and skill throughout the entire learning day.

 

The second installment then shifted our focus to defining some of the opportunities found within the standards.  Direct (explicit) Support and taking advantage of Purposeful Awareness during instruction provides students more than one discrete opportunity to experience something and often provides multiple contexts in which to do so.  Examples of direct support, such as concepts found within the Social Studies Geography strands and the Science Earth Science strands, can be found throughout all of our standards.  Keeping vocabulary and concepts alive through various contexts is a major benefit of using Purposeful Awareness.  This can be seen, for example, with the term “consumer.” Though the foundational concept is the same, the application within a science lesson on organisms and environments is slightly different than that of a social studies economics lesson.  Knowing and referring to the standards as the starting point of any lesson design is the best way to take full advantage of these two techniques.

 

The third installment highlighted transferrable skills.  Our standards are full of skills that we hope each of our students develop and utilize to be successful in whatever path they take. In essence, these “transferrable skills” comprise the core of we are told to highlight on our professional resumes and the like.  However, it seems they can become lost in all of the standards and even more so when the learning day is segmented.  By identifying these skills across content areas we can better teach them, practice them and help students become aware that they are indeed using them.  The skills themselves are important as they are where that added layer of rigor and application come from, but they also serve as vehicles to obtain the very content knowledge we need students to comprehend within each discipline.

 

Finally, the question “So now what?” comes to mind.  We are now set to take the first steps in the journey to transform and integrate our instruction through these points of intersection but…just what do we do when armed with this information now?  Over time this type of thinking and approach can become quite second nature, but it takes quite a bit of purpose at first. If we do not plan for the connection, the question, the link, the use of vocabulary in another context and the relationship between the standards, they simple do not occur. The frantic pace of the day, the fire drill, the lack of sleep or the unexpected question or result can derail the best of intentions.  Once a point, or multiple points of intersection, has occurred there are decisions that must be made.  Is this the best place to start at this time? Do I have a resource to do this? What do I need to gather?  Is there someone, such as our librarian, who can assist me?  Take the thinking and begin linking it to the tangibles that exist and can exist within a classroom lesson, discussion, and experience.  Be purposeful. Start realistically for yourself.  Manageable pieces lead to a much more satisfying and organic end result.  Begin with just two content areas or one or two skill areas.  Perhaps even begin with one content area finding points of intersection WITHIN that given content. How does this unit connect to the unit we did 6 weeks ago?  Engage in this thinking with your students and don’t be afraid to think out loud or let them do so before it is time to “answer.”  Knowing that there is more time spent up front, it is important to keep the end in mind and realize that the time will be made up two or three times over in the long run, not to mention it is what is best for learning.

 

Interested in a more detailed discussion or information?  Contact Lori Reemts, Elementary Generalist.

Designing a Campus Task Force to Increase Parental Involvement Among Latino Families

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Author:  Trish Flores, Bilingual/ESL Specialist

 

It is evident that our schools are becoming increasingly diverse with students from different nationalities and language backgrounds represented.  Of these groups, Latinos account for the highest growth rate in the last 40 years.  Latinos are the second largest minority group in the United States and it is projected that in the next 40 years the U.S. Latino population will reach 102.6 million. (Tomas Rivera Policy Institute, 2004) There are an estimated 9.8 million Spanish bilingual students ages 5 to 17 residing in Arizona, California, Florida, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Texas.  This data indicates that much thought and consideration needs to be given to the instruction and language development of Latino students who are second language learners.  Authors David Campos, Rocio Delgado and Mary Esther Soto Huerta have researched and explored this subject in their book, Reaching Out to Latino Families of English Language Learners. (2011)  In this book they outline a comprehensive plan on how to best meet the needs of this population of students through the increased involvement of Latino parents.

Change needs to occur at all levels of the culture and environment of our schools in order to positively impact Latino students to achieve high levels of academic success.  If schools fail to identify and support the crucial areas of need of these students they will be more likely to drop out of school, not enroll in rigorous academic courses, and not pursue a college education.   Implementing change requires that schools establish goals and desired outcomes to specifically target areas of needed improvement.  For many of today’s educational communities, this change begins with increased parental involvement.

The phrase “it takes a village” resounds especially true in the educational community of today.  Schools cannot reach all of their educational goals alone.  It has become increasingly apparent that schools need parental support to sustain the academic progress of their students.  When parents are actively involved, students are more likely to attend school and master challenging curricula and graduate from school.  This type of partnership requires systematic planning on the part of the district, especially at the campus level.  Campus leadership is charged with forming a plan to welcome parents and involve them to meet the goals of the campus and the needs of their students.  One way to accomplish this is through the creation of a campus task force.

Forming a Task Force

The first step in creating a campus task force is to identify key individuals who can organize and lead this initiative. These staff members should have high interest in promoting a partnership with Latino parents and establishing goals for increased student performance.  Once the task force has been established, there are several steps that need to be accomplished.  To start, the task force should assess the existing perceptions of Latino families at the campus level by conducting a survey or questionnaire of some type.  Some questions to consider include:

  • How is Latino parental involvement perceived by the school staff (inclusive of all staff members) and students?
  • Are there Latino parental involvement initiatives at the district level and, if so, how do they impact involvement at the campus level?
  • Should Latino parental involvement be improved?  Why or why not?
  • What are the desired goals for the campus?
  • What hinders parental involvement?

It will be crucial for the task force leader to hold scheduled meetings with the team to determine who will be collecting the data, who will be interviewed, and how the collected information will be analyzed.  The team leader is responsible for generating a plan for aligning the collected feedback with the predetermined goals and objectives set by the team. Careful consideration needs to be given to the different groups of people who will be interviewed and how the interviews will be conducted.  For example, teachers might answer the questions on written forms or on the computer whereas parents might need to be interviewed in person.   It would also be essential to have documents translated into Spanish so that the written language is not a hindrance to parental participation.

Collected data is read and categorized by the team.  Members of the task force will share their findings and look for common threads to be examined, assets, differences, and potential barriers to parental involvement.  Analyzed responses can be shared with the interviewed groups to confirm the accuracy of the interpretations.

Organizing the Campus

After the Latino parent data is assessed and analyzed, the next step is to assess the organization of your school.  This assessment will enable the task force to make decisions about how to structure a plan to increase parental involvement.  Under the guidance of the principal, the team reflects on the level of change needed for each initiative.  For example, if the goal is to increase parental involvement in the PTA, the team would follow a protocol to determine the key participants and their responsibilities.  A chart can be used to track the changes being implemented and their success.

Deciding on Campus Goals and Action Plans

Campus wide decisions about outcomes should guide the goal setting process.   Key questions to consider when making these goals might include the following:

Is it the goal to have Latino parents:

  • Learn the behaviors/values of the school?
  • Participate in seeking solutions to problems?
  • Become active in voicing their concerns for change?

The action plan needs to be implemented over time and be practical, manageable, and involve school staff at every level.  Additional considerations for the development of an action plan might include seeking grants to fund activities, documenting outreach efforts as a part of the campus improvement plan, using Title 1 funds to add key staff to the campus, ensuring that school practitioners can translate for parents, and hiring certified language support teachers who have the credentials to support students.

Latino students are an ever increasing population in our schools today.  If they are to be successful in their educational careers schools must strive to create partnerships with parents to ensure success.  School staff must perceive this relationship to be an asset and design structures within their campuses to promote positive change.  It is the act of valuing home-to-school relationships that will act as the catalyst for this change and make the difference for all students.

Source

Campos, D., Delgado, R., & Soto Huerta, M. E. (2011).  Reaching Out to Latino Families of English Language Learners.  Alexandria, VA:  ASCD.

Reflections from an EOC Parent, Part 4

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Author: Collections compiled from team of Education Specialists

 

In previous In-Sight newsletters this academic year, we have featured reflections from “EOC Parents,” or parents of current high school sophomores. These students and families have entered the new assessment system, or STAAR, as full-force as those of us working in the education profession. Last year’s freshmen, the graduating class of 2015, sit in our classrooms, speak to us in the hallways, contemplate their futures, laugh with their friends and wonder what their place is in this new system. They may or may not discuss this with family members or even have family members to discuss it with. They may or may not even be aware of the changes, implications, or consequences a certain scale score may or may not make on their class schedules, cumulative scores, or graduation. They may or may not even care – or at least give that impression.   As we ourselves navigate our way through the sea of current information, changing information and missing or delayed information as the STAAR program fully develops, we sometimes forget that these students are still young people, still teenagers.  These students still need guidance, empathy and role models that have their best interest in mind.  In our rush to “create fully functioning adults” we may inadvertently skip a step or two along the way in terms of supporting our students.

 

Our final reflection offers yet another glimpse into a thought or two shared by an “EOC Parent” and hopefully continues to provide us a moment’s pause to think about the ultimate end-user in this system of ours so that we put ourselves in their shoes, attempt to think as they would, and support them through the conclusion of their K-12 education careers so that they are truly “college and career ready,”  remembering always to keep more focus on the student than any one assessment or program, regardless of how demanding it may seem.

 

As always, identifying information has been changed or deleted but the reflection piece itself remains as intended by its author.

 

I think the largest concern I have with the new assessment program comes down to a personal level. We have had changes in tests before. We have had new things come through our schools from the school itself, the district, and the state. This is something that I think most of us are used to.  I would not say we all agree with the changes all of the time but it may be easy to sit back and say “ah – a new test…oh well”.  From what I can tell the intention behind the change is good but putting it into practice and some of the decisions associated with it are not so much.  As a parent I tend to wait and see. In the end will it matter? The bottom line is there will be some sort of change and this change has affected my daughter.  I am not in the education business and while I certainly support educators, I do admit that I must rely heavily on their expertise and knowledge in this area because it is their professional area and not mine. 

 

But my area is my daughter. I would like to think that all parents think the same way. What I am concerned about is not even so much “how this affects my daughter” (I have no control over that) as it is about the way my daughter is treated and the quality of the education she receives.  In my mind good teaching, solid learning, and respect and humanity will lead to my daughter’s success.  This is a two way street and she must do her part as well but I have seen, sadly, a real decline in what they are doing in class, how they are doing it in class, and what can only be described as misdirected efforts on the part of the school.  As I have said, we have lived through changes before…what should always be constant is treating and speaking to students with respect, providing a good solid education built on classroom trust, thinking and application and realizing that the phrase “high school student” does not have a negative connotation to it unless you impose one.  We have had such a list of reactionary decisions that really do not have anything to do with improving the quality of what happens in the school building each day. They only seem to provide another distraction…shifting the focus from where it should and could be.  I fondly think back to my high school experience and I think today’s students should as well.  Why do we want a climate where “going to school” and “learning” are the bad things and shuffling students through like some sort of warehouse is a good thing?

 

It is understandable that schools and school leadership need to consider the changes, plan for the changes, emphasize the importance of the changes and everything else that goes with it. But come on – don’t lose sight of what is important. I mean even my taxes have increased to accommodate what feels like more “prepping” for tests rather than showing any real difference in the climate, spirit, or actual learning on campus.

 

  • What is this parent really telling us? What concerns can be heard?
  • Can you identify or empathize with the parent?
  • How well do we consider those parents with additional challenges, such as language or education level barriers?
  • Can we be more purposeful in helping our communities learn and grow with us in today’s educational environment?