News from Asst. Supt. Michael Sullivan


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                           development, licensure and educator evaluation at Longmeadow Public Schools.
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Why We Need to Teach Critical Thinking

posted Feb 26, 2013, 6:50 AM by Michael Sullivan

2. The Death of Logic in a College Classroom

            In this troubling Chronicle of Higher Education article, Brooke Hildebrand Clubbs, a professor at Southern Missouri State University, describes a recent change in her classroom. For the last twelve years, her public-speaking course has provided a delightful (if exhausting) forum for ideas, provocative exchanges, clarification, and redirection. But in a discussion this semester about demagoguery and the ethical obligations of public speaking (telling the truth and taking responsibility for what you say) a young woman raised her hand and said that Barack Obama was a perfect example of a demagogue because he wanted to “take all our guns away because of Sandy Hook – which may or may not be a hoax – and he had little kids sit on his lap, and that was just like what Hitler did to get people’s support.” When challenged on her facts, the student just looked defiantly at the professor.

In a different class, a young man argued that Obama was trying to “take away” guns when a semiautomatic weapon wasn’t even used at Sandy Hook. Clubbs countered with a detailed list of the three weapons that were used by the killer, and the student said the police had found the rifle in Lanza’s car. Clubbs corrected him: a shotgun was found in his car. The student shook his head dismissively. Another student suggested that Sandy Hook might be a hoax because “there was a little girl who was supposed to be dead, and she showed up alive.”

            Clubbs was stunned: “I realized in that moment that class discussion as I knew it may have come to an end. I would still hold discussions, of course, but I knew that I would never be able to go into them with the same attitude I had previously – I would always fear this descent into a non-evidence-based reality. Previously, although we may have disagreed, we had what I told my classes was ‘civil discourse.’ But we had to agree on the facts. We could all have different opinions, but we couldn’t be basing our opinions on different facts. Now I realized that in the age of Facebook memes and YouTube conspiracy videos, my students had somehow got the idea that facts were subjective and supporting material unnecessary. They seem to be following ‘opinion leaders’ who model how to respond when they are challenged: vilify and name-call.”

            Clubbs considers herself an optimist – why else would she be teaching? “But despite my optimism,” she concludes, “even I had to admit that 16 weeks wasn’t long enough to provide the lessons some students would need to repair their critical thinking.”

 

“No, You Can’t Say Whatever You Want” by Brooke Hildebrand Clubbs in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Feb. 22, 2013 (Vol. LIX, #24, p. B20), e-link for subscribers only

Untitled Post

posted Nov 9, 2012, 4:32 AM by Michael Sullivan

Teachers: How to Access your GRADE and GMADE files

Our Elementary Literacy Initiative

posted Sep 6, 2012, 3:45 PM by Michael Sullivan

September 4, 2012

 Dear Parents and Guardians,

      On behalf of  Longmeadow's teachers and administrators  I would like to take a minute to tell you about our work in elementary literacy.  After studying the research and best practices in this field, the school district contracted with Lesley University last fall to begin training our teachers in a literacy collaborative model of English Language Arts instruction.  This model can be summarized as having three main components: Reading Workshop, Writing Workshop, and Word Study.   

      Reading Workshop focuses on having students read a variety of self-selected and teacher-selected texts for extended periods.  Teachers model and lead students in a number of strategies that get them to actively engage in discussing, writing about, and thinking about what they read.  Students learn effective comprehension strategies they apply to fiction and nonfiction texts.

     During Writing Workshop, students develop writing strategies and skills, learn about the writer’s craft, and use writing as a tool for learning and communication.  Writing for sustained periods, students explore different genres and formats for a range of purposes and for a variety of audiences. 

     Word Study involves students exploring the intricacies of language across multiple genres including literature, informational texts, and poetry.  They investigate the meaning and structure of words, and the conventions and forms of written language. 

     Last year's training introduced teachers to the components of reading workshop and this will be where we continue our focus this year.  You might think teaching reading is not very challenging but as an outside observer from the world of secondary education I can tell you it surely is, at least when one tries to do it well in a classroom setting.  Let me explain with an example.  An underlying premise of readers workshop is that students should be reading texts tailored to their current ability level.  In order to do this teachers must first assess all the components of a student's reading skills, from independent and instructional reading levels, to fluency levels, to comprehension, and accuracy.  The system teachers are learning to use to take these measurements is called the Benchmark Assessment System (BAS) and teachers will be administering it to all students for the first time this year in the next couple of weeks.  The data gleaned from the BAS will then be used to match students with "leveled texts" which are simply books categorized from levels A to Z. 

     BAS results will also be used by teachers to arrange students in small groups based upon their reading profile.  Teachers will monitor and provide instruction targeted to the needs of each group.   Small group work will only be one facet of literacy instruction and will not replace whole group teacher-centered practice.

     Although this quick summary does not do justice to describing all the work involved, I hope you can appreciate the significant change in practice we are asking of teachers who, in the past, may have had all students read the same text at the same time.  But more importantly, we want to communicate our enthusiasm as we usher in a new approach to elementary English Language Arts, one that will provide the foundation to support struggling learners, challenge those who advance rapidly, and more fully engage all students.

     Periodically this year we will provide you with more information about our literacy collaborative initiative.  You can learn more about the literacy collaborative at this site: http://lesley.edu/crr/lc_intro.html.  If you have any questions or feedback please feel free to contact your child's teacher, principal, or me.  Best wishes for a terrific school year.

 Sincerely,

 Michael Sullivan

Assistant Superintendent for Learning

A short article that gets to the heart of things

posted Jul 25, 2012, 5:40 PM by Michael Sullivan

Defining a 21st Century Education: At a glance

The last few years have brought much talk of “21st century skills” but little certainty about why and how skill demands are actually changing. Will students really need better or different skills to succeed in life and work in the 21st century? If so what trends are behind such changes? And what specific kinds of knowledge and skills will be most important?

Broadly speaking, five major lessons emerge from the expert research and opinion on what kinds of knowledge and skills will most benefit students in the future: 

  1. Students who obtain more education will be at a great advantage; increasingly, some postsecondary education or technical training is essential for an opportunity to support a family or secure a middle-class lifestyle.
  2. The need for traditional knowledge and skills in school subjects like math, language arts, and science is not being “displaced” by a new set of skills; in fact, students who take more advanced math courses and master higher math skills, for example, will have a distinct advantage over their peers.
  3. At the same time, for success both on the job and in their personal lives, students must also better learn how to apply what they learn in those subjects to deal with real world challenges, rather than simply “reproduce” the information on tests.
  4. Students who develop an even broader set of in-demand competencies—the ability to think critically about information, solve novel problems, communicate and collaborate, create new products and processes, and adapt to change—will be at an even greater advantage in work and life.
  5. Applied skills and competencies can best be taught in the context of the academic curriculum, not as a replacement for it or “add on” to it; in fact, cognitive research suggests that some competencies like critical thinking and problem solving are highly dependent on deep content knowledge and cannot be taught in isolation.

A number of major forces are reshaping skill demands. Those forces include:

Automation.  Because computers are good at following rules and recognizing simple patterns, they are increasingly being used to substitute for human labor in “routine” jobs. Therefore, any job that mostly entails following directions is vulnerable to automation, including so-called “white collar” jobs like accounting. As a result, there are fewer jobs that call for routine thinking work and routine manual work; between 1969 and 1999, the share of Americans in blue collar and administrative support jobs plummeted from 56 to 39 percent. At the same time, there is increasing demand for skills that computers cannot mimic, such as the ability to solve unpredictable problems and the ability to engage in “complex communications” with other humans, along with foundational skills in math, reading, and writing.

Globalization.  Advances in digital technology and telecommunications now enable companies to carve up work and send tasks to be done wherever they can be completed best and cheapest. At the same time, political and economic changes in places like Russia, Eastern Europe, China, and India have freed up many more workers who can potentially perform such jobs. As a result, many more Americans are competing for jobs with a huge number of foreigners in an increasingly global labor market and—just as significantly—collaborating with workers in other countries when they do land a job. So far the impact of globalization has resembled that of automation, reducing demand for less-skilled labor. However, some economists predict that highly skilled workers in other countries will increasingly compete for more intellectually demanding and higher paying jobs, which will force Americans to offer not only strong traditional skills but also high levels of creativity and innovation in order to stay competitive.

In a global knowledge economy, economic growth depends on human capital. One team of economists recently predicted that if the United States improved its students’ performance on international tests to the level of top performing nations, its gross domestic product would be an additional five percent in higher 32 years from now—enough to entirely pay for K-12 education—and an astonishing 36 percent higher in 75 years. Unfortunately, high school students in the United States perform worse on a number of international assessments than many of our economic competitors, and our historic advantage in attainment of secondary and postsecondary degrees is rapidly eroding as other countries improve and expand educational opportunities.

Corporate change. Because of technology, globalization, and other competitive forces, companies have radically restructured how work gets done.   Many companies are now “flatter” organizations with less hierarchy and much lighter supervision where workers experience greater autonomy and personal responsibility for the work they do. Work also has become much more collaborative, with self-managing work teams increasingly responsible for tackling major projects. Increasingly, such work teams are global in nature, which much of the interaction taking place electronically. Jobs have become less predictable and stable. From project to project and from year to year, employees must adapt to new challenges and demands.

Demographics.  The U.S. population is rapidly becoming both older and more diverse. The 65 and older population is expected to more than double between 2008 and 2050 (while the 85 and older population is expected to more than triple), and so-called “minorities” will constitute the majority of schoolchildren by 2023, of working-age Americans by 2039, and of all Americans by 2042.  That creates a two-fold challenge for schools: First, they will need to be able to teach a more diverse group of students. Second, they will need to prepare those students to collaborate in diverse job settings and function in a diverse society.

Risk and responsibility.  Individuals increasingly shoulder a greater burden of risk and responsibility for their personal well-being. Three intersecting spheres that illustrate the trend are job security, health care, and financial planning:

  • Job security. Several decades ago, most companies still valued and rewarded loyalty, but with increasing reliance on human capital that has changed. The vast majority of major companies now make continued employment contingent on performance, while only a small minority reward seniority or loyalty.
  • Companies used to provide pensions that guaranteed retirees a defined level of income based on longevity and salary, but those plans have largely been replaced by “defined contribution” plans where employees are at least partly responsible for making decisions about how to invest money for retirement. The success of those investments determines whether and how comfortably they can retire.
  • Individuals are being asked to understand complex health-related information to make more decisions about their own medical care; at the same time, they are shouldering a greater share of medical costs.

Students will need to be able to use what they learn in school to understand critical information—including numerical health and financial information—in order to make sound decisions that ensure their well-being.

As a result of these forces, three kinds of learning are becoming increasingly important if not essential for students to succeed in work and life:

1)    Traditional academic knowledge and skills. The belief that students will no longer need to learn the academic content traditionally taught in the school curriculum is false. Students will need strong math and English skills to succeed in work and life, for example. A strong academic foundation also is essential for success in postsecondary education and training, which itself is increasingly necessary for anyone who wants to earn a middle class wage.

2)    Real world application, or “applied literacies." Students will need not just knowledge but also “literacy”—the ability to apply their learning to meet real-world challenges. That applies to all subjects, including English, math, science, and social studies.

3)    Broader competencies. Students who develop an even broader set of competencies will be at an increasing advantage in work and life. Based on employer surveys and other evidence, the most important seem to be:

    1. The ability solve new problems and think critically;
    2. Strong interpersonal skills necessary for communication and collaboration;
    3. Creativity and intellectual flexibility; and
    4. Self sufficiency, including the ability to learn new things when necessary.

How should school districts prepare students to meet these challenges?

Employers consistently rank collaboration very high on their list of “must have” competencies, which is not surprising given changes in the workplace. This broad competency is best understood as a cluster of related “interpersonal skills” that give one the power to interact effectively with others, including the ability to communicate effectively both orally and in writing, to relate well to others and cooperate with them, to negotiate and manage conflicts, and to lead through persuasion. When asked about these separate interpersonal skills, employers rate graduates worst in oral and written communications. But classroom teachers should bear the only responsibility: Research shows that athletics and other student activities (yearbook, student government, etc.) can help students develop skills related to leadership and teamwork and have a positive impact on later earnings.

Experts predict that creativity and innovation will become more important given economic trends, both for individual corporations and for the U.S. as a whole. While there is a large body of research and advice about encouraging creativity in students, school districts should first carefully consider how they are defining this competency since it can mean many different things to different people. For example, a recent study found significant differences in how district superintendents define creativity compared with what employers need. While superintendents ranked the ability to solve problems as the most important indicator of a creative person, employers said it is most important to be able to identify problems. Employers also thought it much more important that students be comfortable facing a problem with “no right answer,” which suggests that schools must find more ways to give students more complex and unstructured problems and fewer multiple choice questions.

What are the implications for planning?

First, it is clear that districts should aim to prepare all students for postsecondary education or advanced training. Beyond that, districts must do a better job attending the application of knowledge and skills, going beyond simply teaching students to “reproduce” what they are taught within familiar contexts, as well as encouraging students to develop broader competencies related to critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity.

It is important to avoid simplistic “either or” thinking about 21st century skills. Factual knowledge, the ability to follow directions, knowing how to find a right answer when there is one—all of these things will still be important in the 21st century. The key is to develop a curriculum that teaches students those things as well as how to apply what they learn to solve real world problems and helps them to develop the broader competencies increasingly important for success in an ever more complex and demanding world.

To that end, applied literacies and broader competencies are best taught within traditional disciplines instead of as separate subjects. Even so, some might ask how it will be possible to do so while still covering all of the content in the official curriculum. For ideas on how to make room in the curriculum, districts can take a cue from countries that perform well on international assessments: focus the curriculum by emphasizing a slimmer set of knowledge and concepts that can then be taught in much greater depth.

Download the Defining a 21st Century Education-Full Report (PDF)


 < previous                                  (view the pdf)                                      next >


Craig D. Jerald is President of Break the Curve Consulting, specializing in education policy, communications, research, and practice. Previously, Craig was a Principal Partner at the Education Trust where he worked on issues related to teacher quality, accountability, federal education policy, and the practices of high-performing schools and districts. Craig was also a Senior Editor at Education Week where he founded and managed the organization’s research division and helped create Ed Week’s special annual reports series, Quality Counts and Technology Counts. 

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Memo about summer PD and curriculum work

posted May 24, 2012, 12:19 PM by Michael Sullivan

To:      District Faculty

From:  Michael Sullivan

Re:      District Summer Professional Development and Curriculum Work -- REVISED

Date:   May 23, 2012

 

Professional Development Offerings

 

1.  “Building Computational Fluency”  A summer institute from Math Investigations.

 July 9-13.  8:00am-3:00pm -- Cancelled

 

2.  ELL Category 1 "Introduction to Second Language Learning and Teaching" and 

     ELL Category 2 "Enriching English Language Learning in Secondary Classrooms"

 

June 25-29.  8:30am - 3:30pm.  At LHS.  Taught by Janine Preston.  There will be no cost to district teachers.  Participants will earn 35 hours of salary advancement credit and 35 PDPs.  Additionally, a total of 4 graduate credits will be available through Cambridge College for $200. (Category 1 - 1 credit for $50 and Category 2 - Three credits for $150).

 

These trainings were designed by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and The Education Alliance at Brown University.  They will provide general education teachers with the key factors affecting second language acquisition and the implications of these factors on classroom organization and instruction.   These trainings will provide an increased awareness to theories and sheltered strategies for instructing English Language Learners in their mainstream content  and grade level subject classrooms. Those who have not received this training by the end of June will soon be required to take even more comprehensive training in the next few years.  

 

3.  Work Board: Making it Work 

Facilitator: Carolyn Boyce, Assistant Principal, Blueberry Hill School

Schedule/Location:  August 6-9, 9am-12 pm in the BHS Library -- REVISED

Participants: Open to preK-2  classroom teachers

Limit: 15 Participants

Credits:  12 hours towards salary advancement credit and 12 PDPs.

Course Description:  This work is designed for PreK-2 teachers to expand their knowledge of implementing Work Board, an essential component of the PreK-2 Reader’s Workshop model being implemented in Longmeadow.  The course will include discussion and research about how to effectively implement Work Board as a tool to organize and manage independent work for students while small groups engage in Guided Reading or other small group instruction with the classroom teacher.  The sessions will be divided into two parts.  One part will focus on reading s and research about Work Board/ Literacy Centers as well as strategies for implementation.   The other part will be focused on preparing and making materials to use in the classrooms starting this Fall.  Participants will be provided with a framework for successfully rolling out the Work Board in their classrooms.

 

Objectives:

1.      Participants will understand how to successfully launch and manage Work Board in their classroom come the Fall semester.

2.      Participants will have a sampling of prepared materials to take to their classrooms for use during Work Board.

3.      Participants will be able to share the knowledge they learned as well as center ideas with their grade-level colleagues.

Materials:

1.      Articles/readings about Work Board and Literacy Centers (provided by facilitator but will need copies)

2.      Materials for making Work Board activities (cost unknown at this time)

4.  Getting Started with Fountas & Pinnell Phonics Lessons

Facilitator: Rebecca Powell

Schedule:  June 25 (9-3), 26 (9-3), and 27 (10:30-3pm)--REVISED

Location:  Wolf Swamp Library.

Participants: Open to K-3 classroom teachers

Limit: 20 Participants

Credits:  1 salary advancement credit and 15 PDPs.

Course Description:  This work is designed for K-3 teachers to explore the Fountas & Pinnell Phonics Lessons and prepare to implement the program in the upcoming school year.  This workshop would be appropriate for teachers who are eager to get started with these new materials. Sessions will focus on the following topics:

 

·         Discuss how this resource fits into the new Language and Literacy Framework being implemented in Longmeadow.

·         Explore and discuss the philosophy and materials to become familiar with this curriculum.

·         Learn how to create an assessment plan that includes the systematic collection of data on what children know about letters, sounds and words. 

·         Use the Lesson Selection Map, Month-by-Month Planning Guide and Word Study Continuum to plan lessons for your students.

·         Develop a system for organizing materials.

·         Create an action plan for getting started in September. Time will be provided to prepare necessary materials.

 

Objectives:

4.      Participants will understand how to utilize the Fountas & Pinnell Phonics Lessons in their classroom.

5.      Participants will create an action plan for getting started in September.

6.      Participants will be able to share the knowledge they learned with their grade-level colleagues.

Materials:

3.      Fountas & Pinnell Phonics Lessons (complete kits including Sing a Song of Poetry).

4.      Materials to prepare for lessons (sentence strips, tag board, markers, chart paper, etc.)

 

Curriculum Work

We are looking for faculty to work on the following high priority projects this summer.  All curriculum work is paid at $25 hr. 

 

1.  Elementary Math Mini-Curriculum Committees: One teacher from each building at the following grade levels: K, 1, 2, 4, and 5.  Work 12 hours.  Develop district-wide curriculum maps (scope and sequence) informed by new math frameworks.  Each group will work separately unless they wish to collaborate. 

 

2.  Middle and High School Curriculum Development in ELA and Math.  Continue work on selected components of our PLC Roadmap:

·         Review new state frameworks and then adjust curriculum map unit scope and sequence

·         Revise unit objectives

·         Revise or further develop major unit content and/or skills

·         Revise or further develop common assessments of content and/or skills objectives

·         Develop performance rubrics and/or set specific performance goals for assessments

 

 

 

District Summer Professional Development Signup

posted May 11, 2012, 5:14 AM by Karla Zukowski   [ updated May 11, 2012, 5:17 AM ]

Please use the summerwork form attached below and submit to either Michael Sullivan or Karla Zukowski by May 25, 2012.

Considerations on Global Citizenship

posted Dec 11, 2011, 12:07 PM by Michael Sullivan

What’s Needed to Be a Global Citizen in the 21st Century

            In this article in Perspectives, Massachusetts educator/author John D’Auria suggests four proficiencies that students will need to be “nimble learners responding to challenges and opportunities that none of us can foresee”:

            • Seeking out diverse perspectives – “Too often, we gravitate toward like-minded people,” says D’Auria, “a behavior that insulates us from expanding our perspective… Preparing for a global society requires that we become curious about how others think.” It also helps to learn another language.

            • Valuing emotional insights – “Recent research into emotional intelligence helps us to appreciate that emotions often contain important data,” says D’Auria, “information that our cognitive processes are slower to grasp… Emotional connectivity also links us to other human beings, even when we cannot speak their language.”

            • Embracing creativity – “The global economy thrives on inventive thinking,” he says. “We need to value creative skills and develop them in our students. This should not be the domain of a ‘talented’ few” – nor should it be buried in test preparation.

            • Developing a growth mindset – Students will need to be continuous learners, which requires perseverance and resilience in the face of unknowable challenges and setbacks, says D’Auria. He believes educators need to explicitly teach Carol Dweck’s key insights – that intelligence and talent develop through working hard using effective strategies. “We need to provide time and support for our students to value experimentation and strengthen their capacity to learn from mistakes,” he concludes. “Though errors, failure, and setbacks are not what we seek, we need not fear them, and we should learn to recycle them into new learning.”

 

“Preparing Our Students for Global Citizenship” by John D’Auria in Perspectives, Fall 2011 (p. 14-15); D’Auria can be reached at jdauria@teachers21.org

From this week's Marshall Memo

posted Oct 16, 2011, 8:48 AM by Michael Sullivan

3. “Pull” Versus “Push” Feedback to Adults

            In this Wharton Leadership Digest article, Wharton professor Katherine Klein says the commonly-held belief that feedback improves performance is largely untrue. “Typically, performance after feedback improves only modestly,” she says, “and over one-third of the time, it actually gets worse. People who receive positive feedback often see no need for change, and those who receive negative feedback often react with skepticism, discouragement, and anger, dismissing the evaluation as inaccurate, unhelpful, or unfair.”

            So what should managers do? Klein says the problem with feedback is that it usually involves “pushing” corrective suggestions to the employee, with the implication that they’re underperforming. “Pulling” is far more effective, she says – teaching, coaching, and developing people. The key elements of effective pulling are:

-    Clarify and specify the behaviors, skills, and expected accomplishments of the job;

-    Convey high expectations for improvement;

-    Create an organizational climate that makes it safe to ask questions, make mistakes, and learn new things;

-    Coach supervisors to give formative feedback that’s direct but provides an opportunity to learn; that keeps the focus on the task and behavior, not the person; and that sets goals for improvement;

-    Support improvement through mentors, coaching, and other learning opportunities;

-    Give frequent on-the-spot feedback, such as the U.S. Army’s “after-action reviews” that critique every mission, pinpoint needed improvements, and fix problems immediately.

 

“Pull, Don’t Push: Designing Effective Feedback Systems” by Katherine Klein in Wharton Leadership Digest: Nano Tools for Leaders, September/October 2011,

http://wlp.wharton.upenn.edu/LeadershipDigest/nano-tool-pull-dont-push.cfm

MCAS

posted Oct 2, 2011, 2:51 AM by Michael Sullivan   [ updated Oct 2, 2011, 2:52 AM ]

I have begun posting MCAS scores and analyses.  Let me know if you have any special requests.

Internet Teaching Resources

posted Sep 8, 2011, 7:19 PM by Michael Sullivan   [ updated Oct 16, 2011, 7:16 AM ]

Check out our link to Curriculum 21.  Click the Clearinghouse tab and explore the amazing array of Internet resources for every subject.

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