Voices

September 12, 2018

Change Comes to a Small School District

Guest Blogger: Kirsten Parr, Director of Educational Services, Mason City, IL

My life changed in 2013 when I moved my family back to my husband’s childhood home town in a small, rural Illinois community called Mason City. I had been a teacher for 13 years when we relocated, and even though I was a seasoned educator, I was thrust into a situation I wasn’t prepared for. I was a first grade teacher in a tiny district where 45 percent of the students are low income and all receive free and reduced lunch.

Our school faced difficulties due to a lack of resources and low capacity coupled with high teacher turnover and the challenges our students endured at home. What’s more, Illinois had recently adopted the Common Core State Standards but the resources and instructional materials to meet those standards had not yet reached our district.

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Voices

September 6, 2018

3 Questions Parents Can Ask About Instructional Materials

Guest Blogger: Jenni Aberli, High School Language Arts Specialist, Louisville KY 

In my current role as a High School English Language Arts Specialist in Louisville, KY, I work with high schools to support teachers with curriculum and instruction. Beyond this career that I love, I’m also a parent. This has changed me in many ways and even shapes how I approach my work. When I go into any classroom or look at instructional materials, my first thought is always: is this good enough for my child? And if it’s not good enough for my child, then it’s not good enough for any of our students.

Most parents have careers outside of the field of curriculum and instruction. It can be tough to know if the instructional materials our kids are bringing home are supporting their learning and helping them grow, especially since there’s no one correct way to teach and no single book that has all the answers. However, there are three simple questions parents can ask to know more about the quality of their children’s materials:

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Voices

September 4, 2018

10 Tips for Effective Leadership and Advocacy

by Melody Arabo, EdReports Outreach Specialist

I still get goosebumps remembering the day the 2014 Michigan Teacher of the Year winner was announced. I was sitting in the Keith Elementary gym, a school where I had been teaching third grade for 13 years, and I had no idea how much my life was about to change.

 A Melody Arabo Blog

What I could not have predicted as I walked to the podium after my name was called was that such a wonderful day would be followed by months of insecurity, discomfort, and sometimes even panic. Not only did I doubt that I should have won in the first place, but I also felt paralyzed about how to harness the privilege and expectations of the role.

As a teacher of 16 years, I know how difficult it can be for us to seize leadership opportunities and showcase the expertise we have. But I also know that when teachers are able to harness their full potential, districts, schools, and students all benefit from their voice and advocacy. So I thought I’d share 10 tips to effective leadership that I have learned along the way.

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Voices

August 13, 2018

Resources to Reach All Students

by Tricia Parker, EdReports ELA Content Specialist

During my eight years as an elementary school teacher, I vividly remember one of the first times I conducted initial conferences with each student.  One of my students looked down at her desk and said, “I’m not very smart. I really can’t read good, and I know that I’m not going to be your favorite student.” I felt heartsick for this student who was not only attempting to set my expectations for her, but was clearly defining her beliefs about herself.

If you’ve ever been in the classroom, this is not a shocking story. Kids internalize their challenges in school as if failure is their fault without understanding that the system isn’t always set up for them to succeed. We all know a number of factors can cause a student to fall behind whether it’s challenges in her living circumstances, a lack of differentiation for her learning style, or poor instructional materials in her classroom.

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Voices

July 25, 2018

Selecting Great Materials is Not Enough

by Lauren Weisskirk, EdReports.org Chief Strategy Officer

There’s a critical time in the curriculum adoption process after the materials have been chosen and before curriculum implementation begins. It’s easy to assume that the tough part is over once a new program has been selected; however, the two to three month rollout period has the potential to make or break the hard work that a district has done to improve the instructional materials available for its students.

Over the past few years, I have had the privilege to work and learn alongside many districts as they navigate the materials adoption process. The similarities and differences between approaches is fascinating, and we have learned a lot about both what works and what doesn’t.

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July 17, 2018

Keeping the Promise of Science Education

by Sam Shaw, EdReports Director of Science Review

I’ll never forget the day a student attempted to bring a baby rattlesnake into my seventh grade life science class. He’d caught the snake on his farm and wanted to share it with me and his classmates. While I knew we couldn’t have a rattler, no matter how tiny, in school, I didn’t want to squash the student’s initial curiosity and interest.

So I told him he could bring in a bullsnake instead. With the bullsnake as an example, I worked with the student to do research on how different species behave in captivity and why. The student began to see the animals on his farm in new ways and with greater understanding for the roles they play in the larger ecosystem.

That’s the true promise of science education: it allows kids to engage in the natural world and to figure out why things exist and how they work, while showing us that such exploration and discovery is a universal human act.

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