Tuesday, December 9, 2008

High School Summit - Part 3

Other tidbits from the High School Summit:

I attended the instruction session for Authentic Intellectual Work (AIW) with Dr. Dana Carmichael with the hopes of learning a) what it was, and b) how it was different than performance-based learning built on the works of Grant Wiggins, Jay McTighe, and pushed locally by Nancy Lockett. After getting the literature and hearing the presentation, the verdict is... it isn't different. Just new terminology built on the same principles, which happens to be a DE initiative.

Now, don't get me wrong, I strongly advocate using authentic work, and AIW has a sound research base put out by UW-Madison and the U of Minnesota. But, given the work that Nancy Lockett and AEA 267 has done with performance-based learning and all the ready made materials that are available, I think we've reinvented the wheel here. I see this as an example where we haven't collaborated very well as a state.

Margaret Heritage of UCLA gave an overview of her research on the formative assessment cycle. Her work draws heavily on the work of Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development as well as Stiggins' Assessment for Learning. I didn't think there was anything here that was new information for me.

However, in talking with teachers and administrators from various schools, this apparently is new information for many. As one of the 5 key components (see below), some statewide support and scaffolding for teacher professional development is a top priority.

In addition to formative assessment, there were sessions on the other DE-identified components of quality instruction, those being teaching for understanding, student-centered classrooms (think differentiated instruction, inquiry learning, and performance-based learning), the rigor/relevance quadrant, and teaching for learner differences.

With the similarities in each of these components, it would be beneficial for the state to identify the list of core attributes. Such as: Effective 21st century learning is 1) collaborative, 2) performance-based, 3) inquiry-based, 4) rigorous, etc.

At one breakout session, representatives gave an overview of IDM, Every Student Counts, Every Child Reads, Every Learner Inquires, and Learner Supports. Nothing new here.

The best thing I heard the entire two days was a question posed by an audience member at this session. He said "We heard in the opening speech by Judy Jeffrey and Kameron Dodge (the student representative on the state board of education)" about the importance of technology. Then there hasn't been anything about technology in any of these sessions. Is there anything that we are doing statewide to support teachers with technology"?

There was some equivocating, but the answer is, no. There is nothing.

There was nothing at these two days other than the overview session on 21st century skills. There is no Every Kid Computes initiative.

That's not to say nothing is being done. School Administrators of Iowa is putting together sessions on administrative leadership in technology, AEAs do local professional development on web 2.0 tools and digital citizenship, LEAs do some of their own initiatives.

But there is nothing cohesively done statewide.

Let me be the first to say I think the days of the High School Summit are numbered, which is too bad. Its initial draw--the state's infatuation with Willard Daggett--brought in a lot of schools and created a lot of buzz about change. The Daggett summits were good.

This, however, was the second straight year marred by weather, and there was a scant 20 people in my last session on Iowa Core leadership (which would have been good for every teacher in the state to attend). Even with the mandate of the Iowa Core, there is no draw for schools. I didn't attend any sessions that featured schools sharing their successes this year... and I'm regretting it. The sessions I did attend were, by and large, abstract and uninformative for an administrator/teacher looking to make immediate change in their school.

There is huge need for high school leadership teams to meet and share ideas, as Judy Jeffrey's trajectory charts indicated. But, unfortunately, there was no participant evaluation form to assess the effectiveness of the sessions. That would be very useful data to make this conference useful again.

I thought it interesting the grousing of one educator at the conference, "You know, for people who obsessed with data-driven decision-making, someone is not practicing what they preach."

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