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Volume 1

 

December 10, 2010

Greetings from the Director
One of the great features of school is every year there is a beginning and an end.  Students, teachers, and administrators begin the new school year with excitement and anticipation with goals of success in mind for teaching and learning.  I believe that all students want to learn, that all teachers want their students to be successful, and administrators are committed to supporting and encouraging the school community and engaging in continuous improvement of their school and district.  Now that the first semester is ending and everyone is ready for a vacation, the enthusiasm is not as evident and reality of the responsibility and challenges of teaching children have arrived.  The second semester will begin soon, and then before you know it the year will be over. Time is the most difficult to manage for schools.

Times passes quickly and before you know it you will be like me--celebrating my forty-fifth year in education. I have had other job assignments in education, but I am most proud of being a teacher.  In the past forty-five years, I have seen a shift in emphasis from teaching the individual student to an emphasis on groups.  Students are grouped and compared by gender, ethnicity, socio-economic, family background, where they live (urban, suburban, and rural), small schools versus large schools, and special programs.  When I began teaching we only grouped by grade and age.

Over emphasis on reporting achievement, behavior, and every other measurement by groups has resulted in less emphasis on the individual student. A small number of schools have labeled groups of students as “bubble students” and others have declared that there is no hope for these groups in passing the test therefore no need to spend additional time teaching them. It seems we look for solutions for teaching groups rather than the individual student. There is potential in all students to achieve and learn. There will always be students with varying talents and skills who learn in different ways and at a different pace. 

As you plan for the second semester, explore classroom instruction that shifts its emphasis from traditionally assigned lessons in which whole group instruction asks students  to memorize or paraphrase and recite their lesson passively to classroom instruction where all students are participating, thinking and problem solving, and moving forward as individuals.  It is a great idea to provide professional support to teachers as they work to shift the emphasis in classroom instruction from classified groups and group-mediocrity to individual student learning activities guided by the teacher.  We have the knowledge, skills, and research on how students learn, we have smaller class sizes, technology, and a variety of support materials to actively engage students during all of the time allocated for classroom instruction.  

Remember how time passes?  If you lose five minutes at the beginning and five minutes at the end of the class period, the time lost adds up to:  50 minutes a week and 1800 minutes per school year or 30 hours.  If the class period is 50 minutes daily those numbers translate into 20 percent of the instructional time of the year is lost. How does the use of instructional time and the active engagement in learning activities of every student during the entire classroom impact learning at your school? How would addressing the individual needs of students and teachers impact the performance of students and teachers? Take time to ponder these questions, and then ask yourself, "What now?" If you're ready to seek the answers to these questions and take your school or district to the next level of student success, call our office. Finally, happy holiday and enjoy the second half of the school year.
 
Sincerely,
 
Sandra Sherman
AdvancED Texas Director 

Quick Links
Changes for the QAR On-line Report
The new AdvancED Self-Assessment (SA) and Executive Institutional Summary (EIS) are replacing the Standards Assessment Report (SAR) that schools have been submitting in preparation for their Quality Assurance Review (QAR).  The SA includes a drop-down rubric and lists of evidence that is checked. There also is a conceptual narrative consisting of two questions.  The EIS provides the school an opportunity to give additional data on the community and school. The EIS also asks the school to reflect on what are its greatest challenges and what is the school most proud of and why.  Schools hosting a QAR visit this year will be completing this new document.
Professional Development: A Book Review
H. Lynn Erickson’s book, Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction for the Thinking Classroom, provides teachers with information on how to actively engage all students in thinking and learning strategies.  Beginning on page 34, Lynn describes a paradigm shift for educators.  On page 35, she describes a concept-based paradigm shift in Texas.   Topics covered in this book include: The Thinking Classroom; Meeting Academic Standards with Integrity; Designing Concept-Based Units and Lessons; and Concept-Based Instruction. The book is available from Corwin Press.
AdvancED Research Project
AdvancED is engaging in a significant study for practitioners and policy-makers by focusing on this essential question: What professional practices differentiate high and low performing schools? This question, along with the key assumption that instructional quality is what matters most for school improvement and student performance, will be researched among AdvancED’s wide network of schools. What are some successful practices at your school?  Feel free to share them with other schools in Texas by e-mailing them to the AdvancED Texas Office at ssherman@advanc-ed.org.
AdvancED Launches New Web Site
AdvancED has launched a new Web site – www.advanc-ed.org  - with a fresh look and refined navigation!  The Web site is both user-friendly and more up-to-date.  We’ve included new sections on School Improvement and Issues in Education, and added more news items.  Check out AdvancED’s new Web site and find out how we are fostering new ideas and solutions, putting schools and districts first, advancing excellence, and transforming education.
Time to Update Demograhics Update
It is once again that time of year to login to the AdvancED Web site and update the demographic information for your school or district. To update your demographics, please go to www.advanc-ed.org. Login with your e-mail address and password.  After logging in, place your mouse over the Accreditation tab, and click on Demographics Update.  If you have not logged into the Web site before or if you need assistance, please contact our office.

 
AdvancED, the home of NCA CASI and SACS CASI, is dedicated to
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