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Sunday, February 12, 2017

ESSA: Massachusetts Plans

I read the Massachusetts ESSA Plan: Executive Summary today. I was interested to see how our state interprets the new law. I respond to and highlight points that connect to my work below, and I suggest that you read the report to get a full understanding and better look from your own teaching/learning perspective.
  • The reports acknowledges the state's terrific education success and the "substantial gaps in outcomes persist in our state, and too often those gaps are correlated with students' racial/ethnic identification, family economic background, disability status, and English language proficiency."
  • The strategies used to meet the goals expressed in the document are listed in the image below:
  • It was interesting to read and think about indicators and obstacles to success. The following listed caught my attention:
    • Proficiency at grade 3 reading and grade 6 math has lingered. I think we should look at the students in our system for whom this is true and discuss how we can remedy this situation for students in our system.
    • Chronic absenteeism does not exist often in our system, but it does exist--perhaps we could discuss how we can work to remedy this factor earlier than later.
    • The focus on arts is terrific, and that's an area where I feel our school system is very strong.
    • The report mentions that the state will "encourage educator preparation programs and school districts to create structured partnerships." This is wonderful idea, and one that our system is well situated to take advantage of since we have many universities a close distance away. 
    • Continuation of the Massachusetts educator evaluation and development framework which I support, but would like to see more targeted and streamlined to gain greatest effect. 
    • Placing highly effective educators with all students--this is an important factor, one that we need to think about as we embed RTI into our programs and hire paraeducators to support the program. To date, most of our paraeducators are highly skilled.
    • The state is committed to principal development which is a great aim because, at times, principals are often overworked and under supported. 
    • A focus on early learning. Our system can enrich its efforts in this area by offering full day kindergarten and starting as many as possible METCO students at kindergarten in the system.
    • There will be an emphasis on early grade literacy and middle grades math. Since I teach fifth grade, I fall into the middle grades math emphases. One of the biggest problems we have in the middle grades is students who have been behind all along and are now discouraged and lacking foundation skills with regard to math education. How do we help those students to catch-up while also boosting their enthusiasm, mindset, and abilities to learn math. For starters we have to make sure that all of our most disadvantaged students have tech access. We also have to look at how we are going to teach these students well, and not continue to push them along without making sure they gain a strong foundation in developmentally appropriate, dignified, engaging ways.
    • Increasing student access to ambitious, engaging, well rounded curriculum is a tenet of this report. Of course I love this since I believe that we should be embedding the standards in rich interdisciplinary learning for all students. Also they noted that there might be funding available to grow this effort. 
    • Implementing more effective programs to serve the students farthest behind. This topic has been a focal point of several of our PLCs this year. One support we're working on is providing everyone with computers. Another we employ is RTI. A third we have just started talking about is the kind of programming efforts we are using to uplift and elevate these students' success and experience of school. 
    • Assessment such as MCAS and perhaps others are noted. I continue to support streamlined assessment efforts that work to improve our efforts and not used in ways that do not mirror the data fairly.
    • Embedding SEL throughout K-12 is emphasized. Our system has made a good start with this and will continue. I'm working with an SEL study/writing group that is delving into this topic with depth. 
    • Safe School Climate. I also feel that our school is doing some good work in this realm.
    • Promoting Family Engagement. We are good communicators with family members and consider families to be vital members of our team. Where I can improve is to work more to bring in families more distanced in geography, time, and attention to the teaching/learning program. This might be a good focus of a faculty meeting or PLC. I need to assess this with regard to my own work too. I sent out a chart to my colleagues inviting to share their great ideas and practice related to this topic as I know the colleagues I work with are highly skilled in this area. 
    • Equity and access to tech tools and use was highlighted. We need to continue to work on this in our district, but we are making gains. 
    • Tech capacity and infrastructure. Our system is doing well in this regard.
    • High quality professional development for educators to personalize learning and improve academic achievement through technology. It would be great if our system could offer a differentiated professional learning approach to this goal since educators are in many different areas in this regard. One of the best ways to build this strength, however, is to have teams of teachers integrate technology well into one deep unit of study. This shows educators how powerful tech integration can be with regard to student engagement, empowerment, and education. 
    • Updating Edwin Analytics. I like this reporting system and look forward to continued updates. I use it well to inform my teaching. Our system is getting a new student data system and I hope it integrates well with this system if possible. I believe that, as a system, we can use the Edwin Analytics even better by making this a focus of early year PLCs and looking at how the data helps us to collectively improve our programs and service to students/families. 
    • Early Warning Indicator System. As a system, I think we can use this EWIS system more to help us target and plan good instruction for our students who need extra supports with regard to the opportunity gaps they face. This year I used this data at the start of the year as one way to understand the students I teach. Next year I'd like to match indicators with actions prior to and throughout the school year. 
    • Graduation support: There are many ways to do this and there may be a program in place at our high school. 
    • Expanding Post Secondary Access: One idea is to have our students who might be reluctant to go to college, sign up and attend a college course w/teacher support as high school students. I know that potential exists. Also we could extend our offerings as a public high school by making students aware of the college courses available to them as high school students. I've read about this and again, know it exists.
    • I am interested in the state's decision to "create a more comprehensive picture of student opportunity and outcomes, and increase the value placed on improvement." There will be an overall school performance percentile and schools will be classified into performance levels. 
    • Because the state does not anticipate additional funding, they noted that "districts must find ways to get more out of the people, time, and fiscal resources they already have to help improve outcomes for students, including by reducing inequities in the allocation of resources to different types of students." Of course, I too believe this is very important and can think of many ideas for this. Our current shared model at fifth grade provides the potential for us to uplift what we can do in this regard. I'm excited to think more about this on my own and with colleagues. 
    • They highlighted their "Planning for Success model for district strategic planning" which involves three steps:
      • creating a plan
      • aligning systems to the plan
      • implementing the plan (including evaluating and monitoring progress)
I was inspired by this report because the many ideas and efforts relayed are ideas and efforts I believe in when it comes to teaching children well. I look forward to working with colleagues in and out of my district to develop our efforts inline with the information shared.