Here is where I'm going to share with you my search on what might help students, teaching, and education.  Tweet

Helping Turnaround Schools with Algebra

posted Apr 25, 2012, 5:47 PM by Rick Colo   [ updated Apr 26, 2012, 5:48 PM ]

On 4/25/2012, there was a great presentation from Kathi Cook and Deborah Brower on helping students in secondary math in turnaround schools. The specific program is Intensified Algebra (Algebra is the most failed subject in schools) and is available at www.agilemind.com, but there are many general take-aways I got from the presentation. The IntensifiedAlgebra.pdf below is my summary of the presentation.

Motherload for Turnaround Schools Information!

posted Apr 13, 2012, 6:39 AM by Rick Colo   [ updated Apr 13, 2012, 6:40 AM ]

I think I found the motherload for turnaround schools! I just joined the http://www.schoolturnaroundsupport.org learning community and there seems to be a great deal of information that I can really use to help turnaround schools. For example, I was reading their Humberman et. al. document, "Turnaround Schools in California: Who Are They and What Strategies Do They Use?" and there is a wealth of information from interviews of 9 successful California turnaround schools.  The key strategies that the principals felt were contributing factors in turning around the school were:
  1. Instructional strategies focused on student subgroups.
  2. An emphasis on teacher collaboration.
  3. Strong instructional leadership.
  4. Regular use of assessments and analysis of data.
  5. Increased parent involvement.
  6. Guidance and support provided by the district.
  7. Use of student engagement strategies.
  8. Use of extended learning time.
Not only does the report mention the 7 strategies, but goes into detail on each one. Some of my aha's were:
  • Students perception is that when you raise your hand and are wrong this is worse than being called on and being wrong.
  • District support (training, coaching, mentoring, focus on district-wide data) can be very helpful.
  • PLC's helped - focused on instructional strategies, data analysis.
  • Data analysis - benchmarks every 6-7 weeks; weekly student data meetings, data reports from teachers - expectations on week's material, students that did not meet this level, reflection on why students not successful, and plan what teacher will do different next week.
  • A school wide period where the entire school was focused on the same vocabulary words in all subjects helped teachers communicate and collaborate.
  • Training parents how to read with children (Everyone's A Reader suggested).
  • RtI and EDI - Explicit Direct Instruction strategies - flexible grouping, increased student engagement time, continuous assessment.
  • GRR - Gradual Release of Responsibility - I do, you watch; I do, you help; You do, I help; You do, I watch.
  • Extended time/year either school wide or if not progressing - highest gain came to school with 7:45-2:45(K), 4:00(1-5); 5:00(6-8). This seems to confirm the data I've heard with other schools, including our own about the need to extend the school day.
One of the key things that the paper mentioned is that there are many definitions of turnaround schools and by their definition only 1-2% of the schools hit this mark.

Takeaways from “Greenhouse Schools” by TNTP

posted Mar 31, 2012, 4:02 PM by Rick Colo   [ updated Mar 31, 2012, 4:11 PM ]

Principals need to diagnose areas for improvement in instructional culture, and create, implement, and monitor a plan in order to retain top teachers and improve student learning according to a TNTP survey of 4,800 teachers in 250 schools. The plan should include a common vision, clear expectations, and commitment to improving everyone’s effective teaching practices. Suggestions for getting to this exceptional instructional culture include: a rigorous hiring process, teachers set measurable student achievement goals with the principal, significantly more observations and useful feedback by the principal than average, peer observation and planning time, and advancement of successful teachers and removing low-performing teachers. 

Create Student Personas

posted Mar 17, 2012, 12:15 PM by Rick Colo   [ updated Mar 17, 2012, 12:16 PM ]

Brett Johnson’s article Know your audience talks about creating personas that represent marketing segments. This may be a helpful professional development technique in an introductory staff meeting. Then during the year we could discuss what are we doing for each of the personas. Certainly, I see potential personas for all kinds of students:  college bound, ADHD, 504, GT, abused, highly mobile, GLBT, depressed, perfectionist, and others.

Administrative Listening

posted Mar 17, 2012, 10:10 AM by Rick Colo

If you want to see a great article on executive listening, go to, Bernard Ferrari’s “The executive’s guide to better listening” in McKinsey Quarterly.

 As some of you know, I’m trying to figure out how to help turnaround schools. This is the bottom 10% of schools. The article, supported the belief that I have that the key is not so much the expert, principal, director, or superintendent knowing everything on what to do to help a turn around a school, but to listen to the stakeholders (students, parents, teachers, and administrators) in those schools. The key points in the article that I think will help are:

•     Listen to the conversation partners to draw out critical information.

•     Ask something similar “Is there anything left that you haven’t told me . . . because I don’t want you to leave this room and go down the hall to your buddy’s office and tell him that I just didn’t get it.” Or when noticing skeptical non-verbal cues, “You don’t quite agree with me on this one, do you? Why is that?”

•     Shoot for 80% listening time and 20% speaking time – and most of the speaking time is asking questions.

•     Relax your assumptions.

•     Make sure everyone speaks and don’t accept silence or complacency from anyone.

•     The goal is common action, not common thinking, expect the people on your team to stand up to you whenever they disagree with your ideas.


I really like the example of changing to the realm of the hypothetical where people can challenge underling assumptions: “We’re assuming a 10 percent attrition rate in our customer base. What if that rate was 20 percent? How would our strategy change?” I can certainly see the same line of questioning applied to school turnaround plans. We could ask, “What if the reading proficiency only went up 5% instead of 25%? What would we do at that point? What if we went up 50%?”

Helping Children Change their Brains

posted Mar 7, 2012, 4:30 PM by Rick Colo   [ updated Mar 7, 2012, 4:40 PM ]

I just reviewed Dr. Kirtley Thornton PowerPoint presentation on his Web site (http://www.chp-neurotherapy.com/lecture.html) for children with ADHD, traumatic brain injury, reading problems and many other issues. The thrust of the work is that you can identify brain waves of successful students and change the brain waves of unsuccessful students to match through quantitative EEG feedback.

Here is my very simple summary of the PowerPoint. Please go to the actual Web site for more information and let me know what you think. The file below shows the pictures with each of the summary items below:  

  1. The results seem amazing and the effect size is much stronger than other interventions I’m familiar with such as charter schools, class size, tutoring, Sylvan Learning, Lindamood Bell, direct instruction, teaching reading comprehension, and mnenomic strategies for learning. In fact the effect size is almost twice the next nearest intervention.
  2. They put electrodes on standard parts of the brain. The red dots are where they put the probes
  3. They evaluate brain waves of at each of the electrode locations of normal students.
  4. They measure the brain waves of a student who is not performing well.
  5. They have the student go through 20-60 sessions of watching a video game (where their brain is rewarded when it gradually changes to the match the brain waves of the successful students.
  6. They have documented improvement in memory (improving reading and math) as well as showing decreases in impulsivity, aggression, inattention, and oppositional behavior.

Bloom's Taxonomy

posted Mar 3, 2012, 7:35 AM by Rick Colo

I think Bloom's Taxonomy is a great way to think about the steps required that it really takes to learn something from memorization through evaluation. There is a good Web site that summarizes Bloom (actually there are a lot of Web sites that do that). The site I happened on talks about the change in Bloom by one of his students to have the ultimate level of creating rather than evaluation. The site also talks about showing the progressive levels of attitude and skills. I like all three pyramids as an organizing principal. See  http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/bloom.html

Top Web Sites For Turnaround Schools

posted Feb 27, 2012, 6:45 AM by Rick Colo

I have embarked on a journey to discover what works in helping schools that are in the bottom 10% of student achievement move to proficiency. I'm using my Web site, LinkedIn, and other resources to build my knowledge. Please add a comment on what you think is the best Web site and why I should review this site to learn about what works for improving school achievement for the lowest performing schools. I will compile the list and then have a vote to order the sites.

Time for School

posted Feb 18, 2012, 9:01 AM by Rick Colo

The purpose of this portion of the blog is to discuss idea time and scheduling for school. What is the right amount of mix between time "on" and time "off" as far as teaching vs. weekends, holidays, breaks, and "summer" vacation? Is vacation a cultural construct or how much is really needed for learning? 

The above link is from ScienceDaily -- an article about the importance of practice in memory. I know when I forget a student's name, I will say it 10 times. I've begun to tell the student what I'm doing so they know the trick too. 

The Direct Instruction method I learned has a lot of repetition built into a lesson. Have the students repeat the fact or item you want the students to know at least 3 times. Quiz one of the students on the item. If that person gets it wrong, repeat it again 3 times and then quiz again. The way you repeat is not always the same. You say, "2+2=4." Please repeat together. 2+2=4. Repeat again. One more time? Juan, "what did I just say." He repeats, "2+2=4." You add, "Yes, that is right, 2+2=4." The children have repeated this three times and have heard this six times. Then you ask someone else. "Violet. What is 2+2?" She says, 4. "Yes, 2+2=4." I've heard that the difference between children and how many times that you have to repeat can be as few as 2 and as many as 100 for the same fact. The number of repetition is a function of IQ and attention. Only after all children get the fact, move on to the next one. Then periodically review.

What Makes a Good School

posted Feb 17, 2012, 5:26 AM by Rick Colo

The graphic below summarizes many ideas in education, including what makes a good school: Relationships, positive role models, solid curriculum that meets individual needs, and high expectations.

The American Public School System in a Global Context
Via: OnlineCollege.org

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