Category Archives: K-12

ELPS in The New Digital Learning Environment

This is rich with great ideas that are practical and easy to implement.

Vision in Practice

As educators in Texas plan instruction, one impactful set of data to consider is included on the Confidential Student Report of the Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System (TELPAS) Proficiency Ratings per Language Domain.  As English Language Learners (ELLs) are assessed annually in Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing, educators are afforded information related to the ELLs’ proficiency rating (Beginning, Intermediate, Advanced, Advanced High) to show progress attained in learning English year to year.

The data from the TELPAS report should serve as one data point in a multi-faceted classroom and campus assessment system.  Other data is gathered to continue to paint a picture of each learner’s progress along the language continuum.  The English Language Proficiency Standards (ELPS) articulate the school district responsibilities and cross-curricular second language acquisition essential knowledge and skills for English Language Learners.  Listed below are example strategies to monitor progress related to language acquisition within the…

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The Role of the Community in Education

In today’s economically and culturally diverse society it is vitally important that educators and community leaders find clarity on each other’s role in supporting our students’ academic achievement (Anderson-Butcher et. al., 2010).  This need is only intensified when we consider the context of the required school reform actions brought on by No Child Left behind (NCLB) and Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) accountability measures.  However, the formation of effective school and community partnerships is usually defaulted to the responsibility of the schools and often are not established due to communication and expectation barriers (Hands, 2010).  With increasing reports of economic disparities between parents and communities of high performing schools and those of school in need of academic achievement improvements, various factors have served as barriers to strong school and community partnerships.
    A common factor impeding the formation of strong schools and communities partnerships is the lack of contextual understanding of the dynamic nature of the interactions between schools and their surrounding environment (Hands, 2010).  Hands (2010) states, “While schools and communities are distinct entities, the borders between them are permeable” (p.191).  This is demonstrated very clearly in larger school districts with diverse economic and cultural communities.  Each community has diverging expectations of support from the schools which influence the schools efforts and expectations of the community (Goldring & Berends, 2009).  The cycle of influence can change as the school leadership or community resources change.
A key factor in revealing some of the school and community expectations can be observed through the collection and measurement of data regarding parent and community opinions and views on being involved in the decision-making process.  Proper collection and use of the data from tools such as climate surveys can be useful in informing an array of school reform and school improvement efforts.  According to Thapa et. al (2013), “In the United States and around the world, there is a growing interest in school climate reform and an appreciation that this is a viable, data-driven school improvement strategy that promotes safer, more supportive, and more civil K–12 schools” (p.357).  Public opinion surveys could also be employed to identify community priorities, attitudes, and opinions.  In my district, several of our schools and programs, such as our Career and Technical Education (CTE) program have established advisory  committees to welcome community involvement in many educational decision-making efforts.      As a result we have been able to not only gather a deeper understanding of the communities perceptions of the district, but we have also shared the responsibility of contributing to the success of our students and academic programs.
     Encouraging parental and community involvement in the decision-making process of a instructional improvement committee can definitely be both beneficial, but it would require a higher level of accountability.  Often we can become so engulfed in the state accountability measure that we lose sight on how we are accountable to our first level customers, students and parents.  In my district, we are required to have parent and community involvement on our Campus Improvement Committees (CICs), but it is interesting to me, how that involvement actually plays out.  I am fascinated by how differently we, educators and educational leaders, define parental involvement.  This is also because every community has different means and constraints that impact their ability to be “involved” in the schools.  In my experiences, these differences in community coupled with our differences in defining involvement often lead to a disconnect in expectations and communications.
     As an urban educator, I have witnessed many expectation discrepancies between school and community that end up negatively affecting students.  For example, many teachers and administrators, due to a lack of expected parental involvement, have found it necessary to provide various supports for students and parents that go beyond the traditional K-12 setting.  In my humble opinion, this action, in the larger sense, has done more damage than good. Now I am not saying that when a school gets involved in grass roots efforts within the community that all students and parent are harmed, but I do believe those types of efforts have adjusted the communities expectations of the schools responsibilities.  This could lead to a different kinds of scrutiny when schools are not able to effectively take on these additional burdens, and it cause some communities to feel absolved of some of the need to be an active participants in the education of our students.
     On one hand it is evident that developing partnerships between schools and the community have significant impact, but on the other hand the process of establishing partnerships is a challenge due to the differences in expectations, resources, and other contextual influences (Hand, 2010).  To this end, both schools and the community need to work together to share the responsibility of working through theses differences to find common ground and ultimately improve student achievement in every community and intended by NCLB.

Anderson-Butcher, D., Lawson, H. A., Iachini, A., Flaspohler, P., Bean, J., & Wade-Mdivanian, R. (2010). Emergent Evidence in Support of a Community Collaboration Model for School Improvement. Children & Schools, 32(3), 160-171. doi: 10.1093/cs/32.3.160
Goldring, E. & Berends, M. (2009). Leading with Data: Pathways to Improve Your School. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Hands, C. M. (2010). Why collaborate? The differing reasons for secondary school educators’ establishment of school-community partnerships. School effectiveness and school improvement, 21(2), 189-207.
Thapa, A., Cohen, J., Guffey, S., & Higgins-D’Alessandro, A. (2013). A Review of School Climate Research. Review of Educational Research, 83(3), 357-385. doi: 10.3102/0034654313483907


The College Readiness Programming Dilemma

Are there right and wrong advanced academic courses to take in high school to prepare for college?  More specifically, which college readiness program is more effective for a high school student, dual credit or Advanced Placement (AP).  In my district, not unlike many others across the state of Texas, we have been actively striving to expand our college readiness initiatives and programs.  Upon reflection, one aspect of these effort poses a dilemma, as defined by Cuban (2001), that many K-12 school systems may face – the need to expand dual credit program; the potential issue of diluting our successful Advanced Placement (AP) program; and a need for more effective academic advisement to properly inform students and parents about the benefits and limitations of both college readiness programs.  The positive impacts of AP programming have been well documented in the literature, while the limited research related to dual credit highlights both its benefits and limitations. Although I am aware of the evidence of both AP and dual credit programming fostering college readiness in students, I find myself facing overwhelming pressure from the district administration, parents, and other community stakeholders to place more emphasis on dual credit.  In today’s era of accountability and data-driven decision making, I find it extremely ironic that much of the debate among the aforementioned stakeholders regarding dual credit is not based on data.  More surprisingly, I am intrigued by the diversity in goals behind the expansion of the dual credit program.  In my opinion, there should never be a conflict between the pursuit of a rigorous and expansive AP program and the expansion of a high quality dual credit program because both have the potential to benefit students in preparation of college.

At the heart of the debate are two key factors, a limited perspective on college readiness courses and the need for proper academic advisement.  Many in the community view dual credit more from an asset “obtainment” perspective versus a “preparation” perspective. The obtainment perspective could be characterized by a desire to save money, accumulate credits, or gather an early start on a degree or credential.  On one hand this view is desirable and beneficial in today’s competitive academic and labor markets, but on the other hand when it is the sole viewpoint, decisions to pursue dual credit could at the expense of a student’s benefit.  In fact, it could lead to students taking courses that negatively impact their financial aid eligibility and admission status, and actually prolong their length of time spent in college.  The “preparation” view could be characterized by a willingness to take the most rigorous courses for the purpose of providing adequate readiness of college. When this view is the main focus a student could miss opportunities get a leg up on the academic competition.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, Texas House Bill 5 Counselor Implications  the second critical issue in this dual credit debate is the need for more comprehensive post secondary academic advisement.  Regardless of the desired advanced academic programming, students and parents need to have the advisement necessary to determine which options best match a student’s post secondary goals.

In light of the challenges my district faces in pursuing more dual credit opportunities, I focused on 3 key attributes of dilemmas as referenced from the works of Cuban (2001), to frame our situation as a dilemma in an effort to determine the best course of action.  First, the situation is packed with potential conflicts between the parents’ knowledge of the impact of dual credit, the political pressures on the superintendent, and my personal ethics.  The second attribute leading me to view this situation as a dilemma is that it appears to be insoluble and only manageable. There does not appear to be a “right answer” as we are charged to emphasize and expand dual credit programs for reasons other than what is in the best interest of students.   Lastly, our situation should be viewed as a dilemma because it involves a competition between the values of the community to save parents money while getting students a head start on college and the values of many educators to make decisions based on evidence, data, and proper academic advisement.

Cuban, L.  (2001).  How Can I Fix It?  New York, NY: Teachers College Press