No ACT/SAT Correlation

What an amazing story from Hampshire College. Liberating to be dropped from USNews rankings, they say. And, the things they are looking for on a high school transcript ... do our kids have those things? 

 

 

Linda Darling Hammond on Equity and Deeper Learning

This video (the first 17 minutes) is fantastic. More people need to watch it to understand the links between deeper learning models and equity. In short, we have to make sure all kids have access to a thinking, deeper learning curriculum ... not just the wealthy kids. She does a great job of positioning this debate historically. Superb stuff. 

PBL & Graduating Immigrants

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Superb story from Donna Neary, a UK student, Next Gen Alum, and teacher in Jefferson County Public Schools. Donna is using the power of deeper learning, project-based instruction, and performance assessment to transform the lives of immigrant children that move to Louisville. 

Donna tells her own story well, so I will not elaborate: 

Like Muan and Innocent, most of the students in the program have experienced interruptions in their formal education. Some may have missed several consecutive years of formal education, all due to circumstances beyond their control. With this program, we seek to put students back in control of their learning by providing a differentiated, rigorous program to prepare them for graduation.

This first year of A2G has shown that it is possible for students who may never have envisioned themselves as high school graduates to move quickly toward that goal.

Full story: https://www.edsurge.com/news/2018-05-07-inside-the-project-based-program-that-s-turning-refugees-into-high-school-grads 

 

Kentucky's high school transcripts are terrible, lets do better

I love documents like transcripts. They tell a story of what is really important in a learning system. To us in Kentucky, it is GPA and ACT and that's pretty much it. That's the story we are telling about a kid at the end as their ticket to the next step. 

It doesn't need to be this way. Transcripts can tell a richer story. In this 8 minute video, I tell you how. 

A quick look at how Kentucky could make high school transcripts more robust.

 

 

money and learning

Money ... matters.

Do ... let my friend Bruce Baker tell you more about the research.  

Don't ... let political leaders argue that money does not matter. 

The research that led to the myth that money (or schools in general) don't matter that much for learning has been debunked. Schools do matter and the quality of the school does matter. 

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thoughts on linking deeper learning and equity

I've been leading deeper learning work here in Kentucky now going on a decade. One thing that troubles me is that we as a community struggle to link the concepts of deeper learning and equity together. A recent interview with Carmen Colemen and John Marshall of Jefferson County on this was good, but not as great as it could have been had we been able to articulate with specificity how these ideas go together.

At STEAM I've seen first hand how our school models, instructional strategies, and supports can change lives and I know deep in my bones these concepts work together. But, I'm a professor, we need more than just feel and a few good stories. Even if we don't have years of solid, peer-reviewed research we at least minimally need to be transparent and articulate our best case for how deeper learning models make schools more equitable places. And then, yes, we need some peer-reviewed research testing those hypotheses. So, here goes: 

  1. Decreased discipline. This is the easy one. At STEAM we have the lowest discipline rates amongst high schools in the city and some of the lowest in the state. We all know that over-discipline issues with minority populations continues to be a challenge for our schools but deeper learning models have shown an ability to reduce overall discipline substantially. I do not think it cures the inherent bias that might reside in the system against minority and poor kids, but a lot less discipline overall is a good start. 
  2. Skills: Lots of people like to talk of Graduate Profiles and that is useful for educators. For the kids, though, it is a simpler, more natural task to develop skills. One develops skills in the process of doing real things. Some of our projects call for managing a budget, for instance. That's a skill. Managing a project to completion. That's a skill. Calling out a team member not pulling their load. That's a skill. Cold calling to ask for an internship placement. That's a skill. It takes practice and, thus, some failure. From an equity standpoint achieving those profile skills are lovely, but the opportunity to do and fail and try again while doing real things ... that's the good part. 
  3. Mentoring. Any educator can tell you that relationships matter, a ton. Most school models, though, keep kids at arms length. A given teacher, particularly in middle and high school, may have a relationship with a child that only concerns the academic material. For many kids, though, they need more than that. Deeper learning models typically make time and build structures around these relationships. Whether it is the mentoring model of Summit, the Advisory Model (Science Leadership from Philly always impressed me), or another approach the understanding that children need deeper relationships and support are central. 
  4. Authentic Projects, with a Social Justice bent.  In my experience, when you give an English or Social Studies teacher a task of forming and working with students on a Project Based Learning unit, more often than not those turn into social justice focused projects of some sort. You can browse the High Tech High Project Cards and pretty quickly realize there are topics here that we would not normally open the door to in school. Now, trying to do social justice and talking about deeper questions relative to society does not necessarily equate to higher test scores, but if motivation and efficacy are huge underlying challenges, I've found it is a lot easier to motivate kids on authentic social justice projects and in doing that work they build more self-efficacy. 
  5. Student Choice/Agency: In addition to teacher-created authentic projects, deeper learning models embed more student choice into the curriculum through passion projects, 20% time, and even choice within broader teacher directed projects. Kids will naturally choose to their curiosities, removing one of the more troublesome structural issues within schools which is that many suburban middle class white teachers are making choices for Black, Latino/a, Appalachian or other children who had different formative experiences. We have learned this so many times over at STEAM and been surprised/impressed with how much our children can achieve when they get to choose to learn from what matters to them. Dr. Marcia Carmichael passes along this useful link to an EAQ article which highlight how to get better at student voice within high school reform (and as they point out in a useful graphic, letting students get to youth leadership skills is used infrequently but the most impactful for kids). 
  6. Learning Outside of School: If you add up 2-5 above and then let the kids leave school ... crazy powerful things start to happen. When kids get to select their own internships, engage in authentic challenges, develop community mentors ... it leads to a proliferation of new skills, confidence, opportunities, etc. Big Picture Schools is most known for advancing this model, but any school can do it with a bit of courage. Here is a kid written story on what we do at STEAM. But, here's the catch, you have to let all kids go (this is the part that most schools mess up). There will be some degree of failure and kids trying to get by with some things, but the learning is so overwhelmingly massive that managing the small amount of trouble is worth it. From an equity standpoint, kids from impoverished families get access to organizations and institutions to which they might not otherwise get access. If you hang out in a hospital every afternoon for a semester, it is not too hard to start seeing yourself working there, develop a few vital mentors, and enroll at the nursing program at the community college.  
  7. "Special" Education: Having been involved in crafting a deeper learning school, my thoughts here probably warrant their own post (or book). Suffice for this purpose to say that how we do special education in much of schooling is far away from something we could label as "equity" or even the original intent of the law. I actually bubble a bit with anger thinking about it. Anyway, deeper learning models are more accessible to nearly all children, including most of those that have an IEP. In fact, I'm convinced presently (but open to alternative arguments) that many kids are given an IEP not because they have a disability but rather that the classroom structures they are in are dysfunctional.  Deeper learning models permit a wider variety of kids with skills to interact and get a benefit from the time spent in classes. They also let the teachers get off the sage on the stage mentality and provide some extra 1-1 support when needed. On the whole, at least at STEAM, we have found that the normal classroom experience works well for nearly all kids with small doses of extra support sprinkled on top for both IEP and non-IEP students when needed. 
  8. Stop Tracking: From my experience with deeper learning models, there are usually not "tracks" or AP classes or special classes. When we separate children based on perceived ability (based on test scores) we harm everyone in the process. That is not to say that Deeper Learning models do not allow children to separate in terms of the work they are doing at a given moment, just that a single English class or a single PBL should be capable of flexing to each student. Then, on the next project that calls for different skills, the abilities reshuffle and different kids are the high performers. Overall, that is a more equitable approach.  
  9. Transparency. Accompanying many deeper learning transitions is a lot more transparency into the black box of the classroom. This happens in multiple ways. First, digital transparency. Whether it is Summit, Canvas, Classroom or some other LMS usually these transitions come with a 1:1 program and digital sharing of resources, grading, and communication. It is not perfect everywhere, but this transparency helps on the equity front by making clear what's happening in the classroom and how, should they need it, students might fix and even solve learning deficiencies noted by teachers. Second, exhibitions: One critical element of inquiry and project based models is that students show their work at exhibitions. These exhibitions make transparent the learning that is happening both within and between students. It can make "gaps" more noticeable for everyone and this transparency helps to keep everyone, including the kids themselves, focused on helping to equate expectations. 
  10. Buying Time: Let's just be honest, one of the biggest equity challenges out there is that kids from poor families just have to start their adult lives a lot sooner for a variety of reasons. While deeper learning schools embrace the task of practicing adulthood, they are still schools where children are protected as children. Deeper learning model schools keep kids in school longer buying them more time to practice adulthood in a protected environment before being subjected to the rigors and punishments of adulthood outside school. This might seem counter-intuitive or even a small thing, but it isn't at all. Research has shown deeper learning models graduate more kids and enroll more kids in college. Lots of wealthy kids don't develop into adults until their junior year of college, but that's fine since they are still in school, mom might still be washing clothes, etc. Kids of poverty don't really get that option. Every day that passes where we can close that time gap is a small victory. Adolescents gets more time to be young adults rather than heads of households. 

So, there you go. If pressed on the link, I'd answer something like that. Feedback welcome.

Now, there are other great voices on this, none respected more than Pedro Noguera, perhaps. In fact, he gave a great lecture at University of Illinois a few years back on this exact topic (video embedded). This lecture corresponded to a paper he released with Linda Darling-Hammond and Diane Friedlaender. Also, these authors teamed up to write one of the three equity chapters in this great book, Rethinking Readiness, published a couple years back. The other two chapters looked at equity issues with dual language students and unique learners. 

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Competency Works also just released a new look at how Competency models and equity link together which is really robust. You'll notice that some of our ideas overlap. Also, trusted sources on educational equity, such as the Annenberg Institute, have devoted significant effort to understanding and promoting deeper learning ideas. Further, some of the more high profile events, such as the Deeper Learning conference at High Tech High, are focusing on this topic explicitly (see video, which features a Kentucky teacher at the 1:38 mark). So, keep reading, go do some research yourself, and definitely help to shape these ideas for us in Kentucky. In fact, I welcome feedback on great thinkers, sources, or experiences that you have had that link these together. Comment, tweet, or email me. 

In closing ... this conversation has to deepen. We can't speculate that deeper learning and equity are the same thing, we need to provide details on how learning models that promote progressive, inquiry, action oriented learning ... lead to equity of opportunity and students emerging from our schools equally ready to take their own brave next steps which contribute to our diverse, socially just society.  

Kentucky has a school culture problem ...

because far too many kids are being removed from school in the name of "discipline." 

 Source: Kentucky Safe Schools Annual Statistical Report 

Source: Kentucky Safe Schools Annual Statistical Report 

Now, I want to make sure you understand that the 287,981 suspension or expulsion events are across 655,475 students total P-12 in the system. So, a ratio of 43 events per 100 kids. And, second, there are lots of repeat offenders. In fact, 86,930 kids are responsible for those 286,981 events. So, that total ratio is 13 kids per 100 kids can expect to be suspended or expelled. 

But, for many reasons that too does not accurately capture the challenges either. The vast majority of school discipline happens in grades 6-12 (middle and high) so the ratios are skewed by using the full population. Your chance of suspension/expulsion in grades K-5 is small, only 14 events per 100 kids. But, in 6-12 the game changes to 70 events per 100 kids. In 9th grade in particular, there are 107 events per 100 kids (more suspension/expulsion events than there are kids). At those very formative moments transitioning into adulthood, 1 in 4 kids (26%) are currently being suspended or expelled. What result do we expect for that 26% of kids who are suspended in their first year of high school? Will they discover the error in their ways while sitting in the in-school suspension room and reform themselves? Or will they give up on the system? Will they determine the culture to be one to which they are ill suited. Will they count the days until they can drop out?  

The bottom line is that this is a picture of a something that is broken. Our middle and high schools have a culture where many children are suspended and some many times over. Kids misbehave for a variety of reasons and some of that behavior does require removal from the learning environment. But, much of the misbehavior of kids is a direct response to the lack of engagement/motivation/hope by schools. Not every lesson is going to be captivating and compelling, but a child should have a reasonable expectation that each day they walk into the school something throughout the day will be captivating and compelling. Sadly, this is not our current culture. Perhaps it is time we consider a change. 

Data Sources: 
1. Kentucky Safe Schools Annual Statistical Report 2016-17
2. Kentucky School Report Card, Statewide Data 2016-17

College Affordability = Dual Credit

Today I spent time at a great Prichard Committee event here in Kentucky focused on College Affordability. There were a variety of speakers sharing a variety of data points. It was very good stuff. Really professional. The best part, even, was that the Student Voice Team released their new report (which you should read ... proud does not begin to capture it). Great day. 

But, let me summarize.

  • State support for higher education is flat to negative. Indefinitely.
  • College tuition and, particularly, housing costs are going up. Indefinitely. 
  • Pell grants help poor families a lot. Kentucky state support helps too, but less. 
  • Lots of kids don't think college is for them & don't go. Cost is an increasing concern. 
  • Lots of kids who do start, don't finish.
  • Rather few kids finish community college. 
  • Some, especially those that don't finish, default on loans and ruin their credit.
  • High schools are not doing enough to advise, especially because of the lack of guidance counselors. 
  • And, inequity is still rampant throughout. 

Let me also summarize the number of serious plans articulated to address this in structural ways ... nada. 

That's not an indictment of anyone. Everyone honestly is well meaning in this space and I enjoyed all the conversations today. But, we seem locked into a pattern here and nothing I heard today (outside of seriously listening to students more which policy folks seem to applaud but not really grasp) seemed to have a real chance at changing the pattern. Some folks I spoke with today, including critical folks with state agencies, even seemed resigned to this unchanging reality including the indefinite inequity.  

Enter dual credit (or dual enrollment, or early college, middle college, etc.). It came up a couple times today but mostly just in passing. That missed the mark, unfortunately. 

In my work innovating in education the past 10 years, few things seem to have the screaming potential that dual credit does ... and few things are harder to actually implement, let alone change. I spent 3 years trying to build a dual credit program at STEAM and it is still not that great. But, it is the key. I'm convinced of that now more than ever before. We need to get serious about implementing large scale models across Kentucky and resetting our expectations around the space between high school and college (i.e. there should very little). 

Jobs for the Future has a summary of the research

The What Works Clearinghouse also recently took a look and concluded ... it works (image at left). 

REL Appalachia even did a serious study of Kentucky dual credit last year. Some of their findings: 

  1. Dual credit programs are an important feature of college readiness efforts.
  2. Program implementation and costs vary wildly. 
  3. Key challenges include
    1. limited availability of high school teachers with appropriate credentials,
    2. limited access to courses and instructors in isolated rural districts,
    3. limited student readiness for college coursework,
    4. financial burden for students and families,
    5. inconsistent standards for ensuring course quality, and
    6. lack of dedicated staff to manage dual credit programs.

This should have been discussed today in more detail. We need serious attention here, especially with the Kentucky Secretary of Education announcing last week that he wants all students to do a dual credit experience while in high school. Kudos to Hal for having a broad vision here. That's the kind of vision we will need to reset the status quo ... followed up with a great deal of leadership to make the vision a reality. 

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Ultimately, if we are serious about resetting the status quo we could just make the Associates Degree the end point for high school (rather than, or in addition to, the high school diploma). At first blush it sounds crazy, but it is less crazy than you think. Both the money and the time required for this are largely already within the P-12 model. If we made it a P-13 model, we could get a majority of kids to the Associates. A lot would have to change to make it happen, but mostly it is changing norms rather than markets, laws, or architectures. In short, if we wanted to do that for Kentucky kids, we could reasonably achieve it within a moderately short period of time. Certainly, the kindergartners of today could be in a P-13 system that gets them an Associates if we wanted to do that. Even if we missed the full target here, we would still get lots more kids to College and more would finish. I do not see the downside to trying.  

If we just keep having the same discussion we had today simply acknowledging the patterns, however, those kindergarteners tomorrow will face the same (or worse) situation than our college entrants today. Thus, if we are discussing making college seriously affordable and changing the current patterns, we necessarily must be discussing dual credit programs.

reminding myself that all lives matter

I am at UCEA in Detroit ... and I'm getting a wonderful reminder that: 

#BlackLivesMatter
#NativeLivesMatter
#LGBTQLivesMatter
#MuslimLivesMatter
#DifferentlyAbledLivesMatter
#UndocumentedLivesMatter

Kudos to the thoughts of outgoing UCEA president Mónica Byrne-Jiménez. Her analogy of the lotus which blooms beautifully but is only possible because of the mud was compelling. Our work will not always be clean, but it is the hard work in the mud amongst leaders that makes the beautiful possible for kids.

I love UCEA in particular and working with my academic colleagues in general because I get to be reminded and get to recommit to our communities ... everyone in our communities. While working at STEAM and at UK, I get to work closely with schools daily to recode learning systems to privilege all learners. But, fighting for social justice is not the same as understanding the lives, hopes, fears, and passions of my neighbors who are not white midwesterners like myself. It is a superb reminder that while I love the fight and want to take action everyday to improve learning systems ... there is massive value in just listening and learning. Perhaps now more than ever. The expensive education and entry credentials that has put me in a position to recode systems is not an opportunity available to many of my fellow Americans ... but their lives matter, and their ideas matter, just as much or more than mine. 

So, it is a good reminder to all of us, perhaps, to be intentional about listening. To actively seek out situations that make us a bit uncomfortable, whatever your background, in connecting with the lives that matter. We can't let our own fear keep us from the conversations that really matter. 

A good place to start ... is in the tweets emerging from the conference on the hashtag #UCEA16 ... and connect with these folks. Start a dialog. These are all passionate people about making lives better for all of us and they really want to connect with you also. 

More segregated today ...

Whenever I tell students or, really, anyone that our schools are more segregated today than during the Civil Rights era, they are always shocked. But, that is our reality. We need to own that and, more importantly, we need to overcome the fear that underlies this challenge.

Now, I'm exceedingly proud to say that STEAM Academy is a core part of the solution for Fayette County Public Schools and Lexington, Kentucky. Students of all races are doing pretty well at STEAM but most importantly we embrace a culture that values, instead of fearing, diversity. Kids understand that peers that are different than them (on many aspects) actually make their own lives better and richer too. That kids from all backgrounds are talented and skilled and have something to offer our CommonWealth. We are not perfect, nor are we particularly close to it. But, we are trying to honestly work for the betterment of all kids on the assumption that when everyone has chances at success we are ultimately all more successful together. Also, for those in Kentucky, you should take some pride in the fact Jefferson County Public Schools has done their best to keep the school desegregated as the video shows and this article praises.

Moving forward, we need to be more honest with ourselves as a city, a state, and a nation ... and that starts with being honest with ourselves as parents. We make lots of choices for our kiddos in what we believe to be their best interest. But, those choices are structured within our own world-views. Thus, if we view the world outside our bubble as something to be feared, then our kids' lives will driven by fear ... and that same fear will set in within them, in various forms. But, most alarmingly, we are structurally limiting our children's understanding of the world as a whole. That lack of understanding of the bigger picture is a massive roadblock to their future success in a global, connected world. Thus, at the core, all we as parents really need to do is shift our mental model from fearing things outside our bubble to exploring and embracing them. That subtle shift is the remedy. A parent doesn't need to embrace every single aspect of our society, but start with exploration instead of fear and then decide.

Second, we have to understand, embrace, and come to terms with the fact that our school systems are designed to perpetuate the status quo. Deep in the design of the technology of schooling (largely designed around 100 years ago) are assumptions and mechanisms that separate and ultimately reinforce our fears. Few in these systems have ill intentions, but we all in these systems contribute to the continuance of systemic segregation. In Kentucky, the gaps between learners at kindergarten actually widen at graduation (proud to be part of the Prichard Committee work to highlight this). In a majority poverty state like Kentucky, chances are if you start from poverty you will be stuck in poverty. School is less a solution than a reinforcer. Thus, schooling presently is generally not the great leveler that equalizes as we hope, but rather the systemic hardening of the mold cast when a child is born. The promise embedded in a child on the first day of school is frequently all but eliminated on their last. 

As educators, we must combat the notion that helping one child is holding back another. That we must "track" kids based on their compliance. That a school willing to tackle learning deficiencies is a "bad" school. That a child acting out is behaviorally disordered and must be pushed aside. And, a thousand other notions and choices that live and are perpetuated within the code of schooling. I love spending time (and getting paid) changing that code, but it is something that will take many of us working on together over years to recode. STEAM is a start, as are many other models, but to go further will take even more courage and collaboration. 

While this might feel daunting, keep in mind that two generations ago, our grandparents as a people (willing or not) took real and legitimate steps to make us a less segregated society. They reset our norms, passed new laws, and built new structures. We can do the same. That was a hard time filled with hard conversations, lots of public outrage, and, critically, bold leadership. I think we can get back being a bold people moving toward justice, but it starts with being more honest with ourselves and being more honest about our systems. We have to stop pretending that we are better than our ancestors and, like them, just get to work making this a better world.