Thank you to Advanced Learning Partnerships for this news post!
The first cohort of the Lead Innovation Teams of the Virginia is for Learners Innovation Network will share in December the work they have engaged in since March 2019 to develop local support for implementing the Profile of a Virginia Graduate. Teams have been working on a continuum of local initiatives designed to increase deeper learning experiences, equity, and active engagement of learners across the Commonwealth. Some examples include creating interdisciplinary curriculum, implementing Project-based Learning, developing community-based career experiences, or engaging high school students in senior capstone projects to demonstrate competencies.
Applications for the second cohort of Virginia divisions are now being accepted at the VaLIN website. You can access both a program overview, frequently asked questions, and the application form to submit online at the site.
As we prepare to circle up with colleagues from the #VALIN we reflect on the powerful work you are facilitating in support of learners across our state. We are thankful that you are on this journey together and look forward to learning with you as the story continues to unfold. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends and we will see you in Chesterfield on December 13th.
Snapshots from the Field Where the Work Continues
Norton City Public Schools
Poquoson, Middlesex, West Point Cohort
Buchanan County Public Schools
Suffolk City Schools
Newport News Public Schools
Powhatan County Public Schools
Continue to review the #VAis4Learners newsletter for virtual engagement opportunities. We heard your requests and are working to design webinar experiences to meet your evolving needs.
Do you still need copies of What Schools Could Be?
Becky Ellis has free copies of the paperback edition of Ted Dintersmith’s latest book, What Schools Could Be available for network teams. Please contact Becky to arrange to obtain copies. Want some help with getting the word out about innovation in your schools? Try using this study guide from Ted.
Educators often find professional development (PD) experiences to not meet their needs often because they have little choice about participating, the session is pitched through a one-size-fits-all lesson design, or active engagement that is intentional just isn’t a focus of the session. On the other hand, educators will say that when they have a choice in attending sessions seen as connected to their work, that differentiated learning, and actively engages them in experiences that are transferable back into their classrooms, the value of the PD is clear to them. The Virginia School Consortium for Learning staff and planning committee of steering team practitioners see the 2019-20 professional development workshops and conferences as offering a continuum of choices, definitely differentiated, and grounded in active engagement.Here are highlights of upcoming workshops that are being run by practitioners for practitioners. To learn more about the full range of opportunities and to register, click here
These three examples represent the work done by the PD Planning Committee this year to develop VaSCL focus areas including development of assessment literacy, lesson designs for mathematical competencies, and infusing Social Emotional Learning throughout the school day. You can register for these by clicking on the link.
This session will familiarize participants with the fundamentals of performance assessment development by exploring how to unpack standards to craft high-quality learning goals, develop tasks that measure deep understanding and transfer of learning, create instructions that reflect learning goals and communicate clear expectations for student performance, and develop scoring rubrics that provide informative instructional feedback and align with the standards delineated by the VDOE Quality Criteria Tool.
All children follow natural developmental progressions in learning. Curriculum research has revealed sequences of activities that are effective in guiding learners through these levels of thinking. These developmental paths are the basis for math learning trajectories. The three workshops will address the following questions: How do students learn a topic?; What do equitable teaching practices look like?; How can we teach with visual tools within a learning progression?; What does math modeling look like at my grade level?; and, How can we systematically use evidence from formative assessment to monitor progress and guide instruction? The goal of these workshops is to help educators teach the way in which students learn, which will ensure that their programs offer equitable mathematics instructional practices.
This workshop is designed to support school-based teams of K-6 educators through a process for implementation of social and emotional learning (SEL) throughout their entire elementary school. Schoolwide SEL is a systemic approach to infusing social and emotional learning into every part of students’ educational experience — across all classrooms, during all parts of the school day, and in partnership with families and communities. When SEL is developed as an integrated model across curriculum and all aspects of the school community, research shows that SEL becomes a bridge to academic development, resulting in achievement that is at least 11% higher than in schools that do not incorporate SEL.
We hope you can join us for one of more of the workshops offered for members and others with an interest in the topics for PD.
Thank you to the Advanced Learning Partnerships coaching team for sharing the experiences and project work of the Virginia is for Learners Innovation Network!
Summertime is Not Down Time for the Innovation Network
At this time of year, many of us want to think of relaxing with friends and family, but many of the Innovation Network members are keeping busy this summer. Some divisions ended the year with a call to team members to consider innovative initiatives for the Fall. Others celebrated good work already completed. And still others are planning or participating in professional learning to start the 2019-20 school year off right. We hope these stories from the Network inspire you and keep you motivated throughout the summer, and we look forward to sharing your story in an upcoming issue.
Congratulations to all of the recent graduates of every grade and good luck to the Class of ’19!
I Belong Here…
Educators from five #VALIN districts got to hear from Lily first hand about how authentic learning impacted her high school experience. A follow up conversation revealed even more of the backstory and you can read it here.
Moving From Pockets to Culture of Deeper Learning
Manassas Park City Schools embraces innovation and strategic risk taking. Read about how they have accepted the challenge to implement the Profile of a Virginia Graduate in an authentic, shared and transparent way.
A Visible Path Forward
These cards, in the hands of Suffolk City Public Schools leaders during a #VaLIN cohort meeting, lead to a design session that resulted in a description of the current state of the innovation team’s work. Learn more about the broad reach of this work.
Follow us on Twitter #VaLIN #VAis4Learners
Hopewell Innovation Coaches Exploring the Power of Video to Drive Change
Suffolk City Innovation Team Turning Insights Into Action
Learning About What a Medical Academy Could Look Like at SVHEC
What Schools Could Be
Ted Dintersmith is graciously donating copies of his latest book, What School Could Be, to participating members of the Virginia is for Learners Innovation Network. Initial team members received hard cover copies at the March Institute. Paperback copies are now available. If you would like paperback copies of What School Could Be for additional staff, students, or parents, please contact Becky Eliis at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will arrange to get them to you at Martinsville at our next meeting. To have your copies available by July 25, please contact Becky by July 11.
How do you PBL?
Don’t be shy! Share your story on how you implement PBL in your school or division, just like Jennifer Miller, Supervisor of Community Connections from Loudoun County. Jennifer shares a response to the question “Who creates PBL Topics?” from teachers in her division, sharing how teachers and students collaborate on topics and closing with a great example of working with community partners on implementing PBL units together! Check out her fantastic response and share your stories on the PBL FLIPGRID for the Network. Feel free to share with some PBL experts in your school or division so they can provide their stories, too. Thanks!
Powhatan County emPOWer Conference
Our #VAis4Learners teammates in Powhatan invite members of the cohort to join their upcoming educational conference, emPOWer. The conference will be held on August 8, 2019, at Powhatan Middle School from 9am – 3pm. The theme for this year’s conference is “Learning from Each Other” Click here to register on or before May 30, 2019.
Save the Date! July 25 #VaLIN Meeting
Thursday, July 25th, 8am-4pm
191 Fayette Street
Our next meeting of the Virginia is for Learners Innovation Network will be on Thursday, July 25, beginning with breakfast at 8 am, prior to our scheduled time together from 8:30 am – 4 pm. We will meet in Martinsville at theNew College Institute. By the week of July 8, you will be sent an email with more specific information about the schedule for the next VaLIN Institute on July 25, 2019.
On March 11-12, Lead Innovation Teams from across Virginia will convene to begin a year-long professional learning journey together. They will engage in strategic work essential to local implementation of the Profile of a Virginia Graduate and engage together to show all the potential of what schools could be.
An intended purpose of the Virginia is for Learners Innovation Network is to create as many professional learning connections of innovative educators across the Commonwealth as possible. To support this active network, cohort teams will contribute to both a virtual platform as well as to face to face opportunities for team members and fellow educators to share resources, solutions, and strategies that support increased engagement of our students in deeper learning. They will build local experiences that lead to strong communication, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and citizenship competencies– all essential to adult success in homes, communities, the workplace, and education after high school. Lead Innovation Teams will take on the grand challenge of removing equity barriers and opening accessibility windows so that all of the Commonwealth’s learners can be advantaged by our public education system, no matter their life circumstances.
The foundation has been laid for this work already. Academies are blossoming everywhere, creating options for students to pursue career pathways from Health Sciences to Engineering to World Languages and Global Studies, Skilled Trades, Computer Science… and so much more. Nowhere is that model making any greater difference than the Academies of Hampton, small learning communities available to high school students in the form of 16 different themed academies with 44 career pathways.
Project-based learning also offers deeper learning experiences to learners of all ages in schools across the Commonwealth and it’s not unusual to see the outcomes of projects as impacting students’ local communities. For example, the iEARN Project that linked Winchester students with students from all over the world in two local school projects. In a Richmond City School, middle school students joined a national viral movement to celebrate Black History Month. And, elementary children in Charlottesville City Schools took their project on strategies for safe neighborhoods to their City Council.
The Virginia is for Learners Innovation Network will serve as both an educational incubator and an accelerator to build upon the strengths of current innovative work already occurring in school communities. The locally-controlled work generated by Lead Innovation Teams will link together divisions, higher education, community partners, the Virginia Department of Education, and educational associations into one professional learning network designed to advance our common goals for Virginia’s learners.
High quality learning that prepares young people to thrive in this century should be accessible to every student, regardless of whether a child lives in Halifax, Fairfax, Virginia Beach, or Galax City. Such learning is also a matter of equity, not just available but expected so that every learner in Virginia’s schools can both be inspired by what is possible in their century and aspire to achieving their own hopes and dreams, regardless.
No one project can solve all the educational challenges faced by today’s schools in America or Virginia. However, as our Lead Innovation Teams work to solve local challenges in concert with each other, we will be better together.
The Virginia School Consortium for Learning is privileged to partner with the Virginia Department of Education, James Madison University, Jobs for the Future, and Ted Dintersmith in support of this three-year initiative to support innovation in public schools across the Commonwealth.
Four years ago, we began our journey into the world of performance assessments when the Virginia Assembly passed legislation removing the state SOL test from several courses and replacing them with “Local Authentic Assessments.” At that time, no one really understood or agreed what a local, authentic assessment was or how to create them. So we created a “rogue” group, now known as the VaSCL Task Bank, that agreed to band together and support one another as we explored the unchartered world of performance assessments.
That first year we begged previous test bank writers to join our group. We knew we needed to develop assessments for grade 3 Science and Social Studies, 5th-grade Writing and middle grades US History I and US History II, but at the time we could not even agree on what exactly a performance assessment should look like and how we would evaluate student work. Should we follow the Stanford SCALE model? Are we using GRASP or RAFT? It seemed at the time that there were more questions than answers, but at least we had a team to support one another. The VDOE guidelines were still in the process of being articulated, so we were “flying the airplane as we were building it” for sure!
Looking back now on some of those earlier tasks we wrote, we recognize these were not great examples. Our students (aka early “guinea pigs!”) and division leaders were supportive of our work, and we were lucky to partner very early on with many partner organizations such the Virginia Science Education Leadership Association, the Virginia Social Studies Leaders Consortium, and later our “heroes” Jay McTighe and Chris Gareis. While most of the early tasks and rubrics have long been “retired,” we wouldn’t trade that experience for anything because it helped us work out a lot of important issues and concerns we had about SOLs vs student growth. In addition, we gained valuable information on how students can develop skills through frequent formative assessments/tasks vs. showing proficiency as it applied to previous summative assessments.
Through these meetings, we developed a common language and through our work with VaSCL were able to help influence how performance assessments were defined across the state. VaSCL provided an opportunity for our partner divisions to have a voice at the table as VDOE was redefining assessments across the state. Perhaps the most important part of this process has been the transformation we have seen in improvements to Tier 1 instruction. We quickly learned that before we can see our students succeed on a performance assessment, instruction must change and teachers have to focus on teaching skills instead of emphasizing the memorization of a finite set of facts.
Throughout the process, our focus has been on developing teams and creating resources to share with all partner divisions. We have found that examining student work and collecting a wide variety of work samples has been the most beneficial way to improve our tasks and rubrics. Now we are begining to assemble anchor sets of examples and non-examples to help teachers assess student work and move toward interrater reliability. Tasks and rubrics have been organized into an interactive Google Site and protocols have been developed for sharing locally developed performance assessments, piloting tasks and rubrics, and collecting student work samples.
Moving forward, we are hoping more divisions will be willing to send adventurous educators to join our expanding task bank team ( we now have task banks for Virginia Studies, Civics, 11th-grade writing, and World History!!). We need VaSCL divisions to encourage and support teachers to pilot tasks and provide feedback and we need samples of student work to help us refine our tasks and rubrics and create anchor sets. More importantly, we need school administrators and division leaders to continue to support our work and give teachers and students permission to try new ways of teaching and learning and assessing, even if it is messy in the beginning. This is all part of the process and on the other side of this we are seeing teachers and students being engaged, skills being taught and refined, and first instruction in the classroom improve.
We are nowhere near the end of this journey, and many of our VaSCL team members are just starting on their own journeys — luckily we have a few experienced “tour guides” to help them begin to find their way. Please join us on this journey; there is plenty of room for you join us!
Our students are busy – busy playing, learning, talking, thinking, discovering, experimenting, wondering. In each of these actions, our students reveal to us their thinking if we are ready to notice. When we notice, we can make our students’ naturally occurring goals explicit and we can coach them toward their goals.
In purposeful play, mathematics, and literacy, noticing is a powerful teacher action that can reveal students’ naturally occurring goal setting processes, build meaningful student-teacher and student-student relationships, and inform instructional decisions.
In purposeful play, noticing is observing student interests – their preferences for location and peers, their choice of materials, their conversations, their play themes and topics (Mraz, Porcelli, & Tyler, 2016).
In mathematics, professional noticing of students’ thinking includes three skills: attending to strategies, interpreting understandings, and deciding how to respond based on understandings (Jacobs, Lamb, & Philipp, 2010).
In reading, noticing is appreciating choice and monitoring independent decisions, including choice for texts, topics, strategies, responses, projects, and partners (Moses & Ogden, 2017).
In writing, noticing is the first step to developing students’ awareness and ability to name both what they already know and can do as writers and the patterns they discover in writing (Johnston, 2004).
In order to explicitly coach our students’ in-the-moment goals, we must first notice them. Follow these five steps during purposeful play, mathematics, reading, writing, and beyond to intentionally notice.
1. Choose a day and time when noticing will be your primary task. After your mini-lesson, after students are settled into their independent or partner work, this is prime time to notice. Spend 15-30 minutes noticing. By choosing a day and time in advance, you will protect your noticing time and make it a priority.
2. Have a clipboard, pen, and chart to record your noticings. An open observation chart is a table with each student’s name in a box and space to record your noticings. Recording will make your noticings visible, and therefore actionable. You will be able to reflect back on your noticings to find patterns, surprises, and questions. You can then use your noticings to plan instruction and coach students’ goal work. Here is a sample open observation chart:
conference and observation chart
3. Spend more time listening and watching than talking. This noticing time is not a teaching moment. It will lead to teaching moments, but right now, you are there to listen and watch. Noticing with these questions in mind may help you to be intentional and targeted while remaining open to students’ in-the-moment decisions, language, and actions:
What are students gravitating toward? What is a popular material/choice and why?
Who typically works/plays here? Do all students eventually work/play here?
Is there a balance of independent and collaborative work/play?
Are there enough choices or “meaty” enough tasks to sustain work/play for at least 30 minutes in one area or on one task?
Are content areas integrated when possible? Are there materials that can be combined?
Are students engaged in doing the “real work” of readers, writers, mathematicians, or some other role?
4. If you talk, ask open questions. When you are noticing, you can be quiet and just listen. If you need to speak, ask students open questions: What are you working on? What are you using? Why? How did you decide to create this? Why do you think that’s happening? Ask questions that communicate your genuine wonder and your desire to understand your students’ thinking. Taking the time to actively listen tells your students that you value them.
5. Stay. Rather than moving from student to student and space to space, stay in one area with one student or one group of students for 15-30 minutes. The depth and breadth of student thinking is often revealed over time as they engage more deeply in a task.
Noticing requires us to slow down, to pause with our agendas and to-do lists, and to listen and watch. Noticing is paying attention to students’ in-the-moment decisions, language, and actions. When we take the time to notice, we will discover our students’ naturally occurring goals.
Blog Authors Kateri Thunder and Alisha Demchak are teachers who also facilitate professional learning opportunities for the Virginia School Consortium for Learning. Their VaSCL workshops focus on strengthening connections between literacy and math, matching tasks to learners’ needs, and strategies for student-centered learning. For more on student goal setting and how workshop model can support student goal setting, register for the VaSCL workshop Differentiation in the Workshop Model: Matching Tasks to Students (Grades PreK-5) on March 19th at https://www.vascl.org/.
Jacobs, V.R., Lamb, L.L.C., & Philipp, R.A. (2010). Professional noticing of children’s mathematical thinking. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 41(2), 169-202.
Johnston, P. (2004). Choice words: How our language affects children’s learning. Portsmouth, NH: Stenhouse.
Moses, L. & Ogden, M. (2017). What are the rest of my kids doing? Fostering independence in the K-2 Reading Workshop. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Mraz, K., Porcelli, A., & Tyler, C. (2016). Purposeful play: A teacher’s guide to igniting deep and joyful learning across the day. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
When educators get together to accomplish project work and grow expertise, magic happens. I was fortunate recently to spend time with educators who were doing just that in my new role working to support member divisions in the Virginia School Consortium for Learning as its new Executive Director.
Over two days of workshops focused on assessments, (DAY I a small group preparing to join a larger group on Day II), I spent time listening to about 200 teachers designing, building, and assessing performance tasks using Virginia’s Quality Performance Review Tool as a rubric. When teachers engage together in a professional learning network they share resources, ask questions, discuss successes and failures in their work, and solve problems. And, as a result of their work in teams to apply, analyze, and create, they are more likely to go back to their schools and use what they learned especially, when they know they will reunite to work together throughout the year. They hone their own expertise, share what they’ve learned with peers in their schools, and see the results of their efforts in the progress that learners make in their classrooms. Magic does happen- especially when you have wonderful workshop facilitators who know the challenges of teaching and learning. For more info on the assessment work of VaSCL, you can start here.
On the last day of VaSCL workshops this past week, it was a delight to watch Principal Scott Habeeb of Salem High School (@scotthabeeb) work with teams of building level leaders to explore strategies that support principals to be difference makers in their schools. Scott is a storyteller who walks and talks his beliefs about the power of principals to shape school culture and support up all members of the school community. Everyone is always creating a story in life, Scott says. His question to the administrators that caught their attention? Do you want the story you create as a leader to be a great story or a waste of a story? The rest of the workshop day was spent engaging in discussions and strategy work focused on the leader’s role as a champion of the culture that every child deserves in school. Scott will be working this year with principals through a virtual coaching model to help participants reflect on their work in their schools – from “how to” questions to deeper focus on strategic initiative implementation. The work groups also will meet face to face again later this year.
Professional development staff know that transfer into practice is critical – and that doesn’t happen by chance. Attendance at one-shot events seldom result in transfer by participants. That’s why VaSCL is committed to embedding follow up development, coaching options, and an expectation that our face-to-face sessions actively engage participants in applying the work not just in “sit and get” sessions.
PBL coaching is live for member divisions!
If you have committed in your division to implementing Project Based Learning, you may want to utilize our virtual PBL coaching services by trained PBL coaching facilitators Annie Evans Evansa1@charlottesvilleschools.org and Kelley Aitken email@example.com. For more information about utilizing our coaches, you can also contact Administrative Coordinator, Liza Scallet firstname.lastname@example.org.
Upcoming VASCL-sponsored Development Opportunities
As our principals shared at the Principal as Difference Maker workshop, building relationships are foundational to leading for the culture we want for the learners we serve. VaSCL staff and members work to support a culture of learning for all – adults and young people alike. That always begins with our beliefs about what communities can be when we grow better together.