Smartphones are Powerful Personal Pocket Computers – Should Schools Ban Them?

When the UK took its first steps out of national lockdown in April and schools reopened, education secretary Gavin Williamson announced the implementation of the behaviour hubs programme. And as part of this push to develop a school culture “where good behaviour is the norm”, he pushed for banning smartphones in schools.

Williamson claims that phones distract from healthy exercise and, as he put it, good old-fashioned play. And he says they act as a breeding ground for cyberbullying. Getting rid of them will, to his mind, create calm and orderly environments that facilitate learning. “While it is for every school to make its own policy,” he wrote, “I firmly believe that mobile phones should not be used or seen during the school day, and will be backing headteachers who implement such policies.”

The difficulty that teachers face is that there are often conflicting assessments of the risks and benefits of the constant influx of new devices in schools. As we found in our recent study, guidance for educators on how to navigate all this is limited. And there is no robust evaluation of the effect of school policies that restrict school-time smartphone use and there is limited evidence on how these policies are implemented in schools. So how can teachers approach this controversial subject?

We believe the best way to start is to reframe the smartphone itself. Rather than just a phone, it is more accurately described as a powerful pocket computer. It contains, among other things, a writing tool, a calculator and a huge encyclopaedia.

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Suggesting that children use smartphones in ways that help them learn, therefore, seems hardly radical. The perennial debate about banning phones needs to shift to thinking about how best to help schools better design school phone policies and practices that can enrich their pupils’ learning, health and wellbeing. And for that, we can start by looking at the evidence on phone use by young people.

We know that most adolescents own a smartphone. When used appropriately and in moderation, they can provide multiple benefits in terms of learning, behaviour and connection with peers. There is also evidence that technology use in classrooms can support learning and attainment.

The operative word here, though, is “moderation”. Excessive use of smartphones (and other digital devices) can lead to heightened anxiety and depression, neglecting other activities, conflict with peers, poor sleep habits and an increased exposure to cyberbullying.

Then there’s everything we don’t yet fully understand about the impact – good or bad – that smartphone use may have on children. No one does. This has been reflected in recent research briefings and reports published by the UK government: they recognise the risks and benefits of phone use, and report that it is essential that schools are better supported to make decisions about their use in school with evidence-based guidance.

Playing catch-up

To investigate existing school positions on phone and media use, we interviewed and did workshops with more than 100 teenagers across years nine to 13, along with teachers, community workers and international specialists in school policies and health interventions.

We found that teachers tend to be scared of phones. Most of them said this was because they didn’t know how pupils are using their phones during school hours. Amid pressures regarding assessment, safeguarding and attendance, phones are simply not a priority. Issuing a blanket ban is often just the easiest option.

Teachers too recognise the benefits, as well as the risks, of smartphone use. But, crucially, they don’t have the necessary guidance, skills and tools to parse seemingly contradictory information. As one teacher put it: “Do we allow it, do we embrace it, do we engage students with it, or do we completely ignore it?”

Different approaches

This is, of course, a worldwide challenge. Looking at how different institutions in different cultural settings are tackling it is instructive. Often, similar motivations give rise to very different approaches.

The mould-breaking Agora school in Roermond, in the Netherlands, for example, allows ubiquitous phone use. Their position is that teenagers won’t learn how to use their phones in a beneficial way if they have to leave them in their lockers.

By contrast, governments in Australia, France and Canada are urging schools to restrict phone use during the day in a bid to improve academic outcomes and decrease bullying.

Teachers need a new type of training that helps them to critically evaluate – with confidence – both academic evidence and breaking news. Working with their students in deciding how and when phones can be used could prove fruitful too.

Accessing information

Academic research takes time to publish, data is often incomprehensible to non-experts and papers reporting on findings are often subject to expensive journal subscription prices. Professional development providers, trusts and organisations therefore must do more to make it easier for teachers to access the information they need to make decisions.

New data alone, though, isn’t enough. Researchers need be prepared to translate their evidence in ways that educators can actually use to design better school policies and practices.

The children’s author and former children’s laureate Michael Rosen recently made the point that “we are living in an incredible time: whole libraries, vast banks of knowledge and multimedia resources are available to us via an object that fits in our pockets”.

That doesn’t sound like something educators should ignore. Findings from our study add to the current debate by suggesting that new evidence and new types of teacher training are urgently needed to help schools make informed decisions about phone use in schools.

Authors:

Senior Lecturer in Pedagogy in Sport, Physical Activity and Health, University of Birmingham

Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), University of Birmingham

Reader in Public Health & Epidemiology, University of Birmingham

Source: Smartphones are powerful personal pocket computers – should schools ban them?

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Critics:

The use of mobile phones in schools by students has become a controversial topic debated by students, parents, teachers and authorities. People who support the use of cell phones believe that these phones are essential for safety by allowing children to communicate with their parents and guardians, could simplify many school matters, and it is important in today’s world that children learn how to deal with new media properly as early as possible.

To prevent distractions caused by mobile phones, some schools have implemented policies that restrict students from using their phones during school hours. Some administrators have attempted cell phone jamming, but this practice is illegal in certain jurisdictions. The software can be used in order to monitor and restrict phone usage to reduce distractions and prevent unproductive use. However, these methods of regulation raise concerns about privacy violation and abuse of power.

Phone use in schools is not just an issue for students and teachers but also for other employees of educational institutions. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, while no state bans all mobile phone use for all drivers, twenty states and the District of Columbia prohibit school bus drivers from using mobile phones.[38] School bus drivers have been fired or suspended for using their phones or text-messaging while driving.

Cellphone applications have been created to support the use of phones in school environments. As of February 2018, about 80,000 applications are available for teacher use. A variety of messaging apps provide communication for student-to-student relationships as well as teacher-to-student communication. Some popular apps for both students, teachers, and parents are Remind and ClassDojo. About 72% of top-selling education apps on iOS are for preschoolers and elementary school students. These apps offer many different services such as language translation, scheduled reminders and messages to parents.

See also

Everything You Need to Know Before Applying for Your First TEFL Job

The TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) market is quickly evolving and expanding. Recent TEFL graduates have a lot to look forward to in their future careers or first TEFL job due to the worldwide demand for English teachers creating fantastic and diverse opportunities.

Beginning a career in an ever-growing, the fast-developing market is definitely appealing, especially when you’re fed up with the routine of your current job and are looking to launch yourself into something new. TEFL is one of the few careers allowing you to travel the world right away.

The current climate makes it difficult to attend courses however, with TEFL you can cover everything you need online. There are many benefits of completing a course online beyond the ability to qualify without leaving your home.

You can take your time with the course, factoring in your studies when it suits you. The likelihood is that you’ve decided to take a TEFL course alongside your current job or studies, so knowing that there’s no pressure to complete the course within a set period of time is very reassuring.

Below are a few important points to help you navigate entering the world of teaching English as a foreign language. Having an awareness of these before both purchasing a course and beginning applications will be invaluable. As always, it’s important that you’re well researched before you commit to any course or job. 

TEFL Certification – What to Prioritize 

The quality of your TEFL certification will impact your job search. The endless pages of results following a quick Google search for ‘TEFL’ are evidence enough of its growing popularity and relevance.

This increase in demand for English teachers has not gone unnoticed by ambitious business opportunists catching on to the current learning trends. As a result, there are many course providers offering a range of courses but this also means there are plenty on the market that simply won’t be enough for employers. 

Prioritizing a highly-accredited TEFL provider couldn’t be more important. The accreditation of your provider is everything when it comes to getting TEFL certified. Why? Because it verifies that you’ve completed a high-quality course upholding academic integrity and respect in the world of teaching English.

There is no overarching regulating body for these courses, so at least with accreditation, you can be confident that your provider has been approved by authorities that count.

Some TEFL providers will stretch the term ‘accredited’, so it’s seriously important that you know what to look out for and prioritize when searching for the right provider.

You should be able to do a quick investigation on their site as to where they’ve received their accreditation. Ideally, they are from the government or established education bodies. If this information is difficult to find, you’re perhaps best shopping elsewhere. 

Surprisingly low-cost TEFL courses should also raise some red flags. The cost of a quality course should be reflected in the price, and if it’s very low how can you expect it to cover everything you need to know?

120-hour TEFL courses are standard procedure for most employers and consequently should be the minimum amount of time you commit to your studies. Any less doesn’t uphold much credit with employers and will severely impact your job search.

English Teacher - Career Paths of English Teaching

TEFL Career Options Are Available to Anyone Proficient in English

Newly qualified TEFL teachers aren’t necessarily individuals with extensive experience in the education sector. While experience is a bonus, anyone proficient in English can get TEFL certified.

You could be right out of university, middle-aged and looking to take your career in a new direction, or just looking to find part-time work alongside your current job or studies. There are multiple ways to TEFL, each bringing their own advantages and flexibilities to the table.

You could also use your time living abroad to learn another language. Making the effort in your free time to pick up some of the languages will be greatly appreciated and help boost your confidence. It’ll significantly help you settle in and meet new people, too. Plus, another language always looks great on your CV. 

There are plenty of ways you can make language learning fun and part of your daily routine.  Studying a language will make you a better teacher as you’ll be able to relate to the learning process. Check out this article for some tips on learning a language while you travel.

What Kind of TEFL Teaching Suits You?                            

Beginning your TEFL course with a clear objective of how and where you want to teach will help motivate you along the way, but there is no definitive way to TEFL so if you’re unsure what the best option for you is, you can take your time making a decision. After you qualify to teach English a lot of paths will be an option for you, dependent of course on certain visa and employer requirements. 

1. Teach in a School or Language Centre

Teaching abroad isn’t limited to teaching a certain curriculum to school students. You could also teach in a language center, outside of the typical working day to suit students of all ages looking to expand their learning before or after school or work. 

2. Business English

There’s also a demand for Business English teachers as a decent grasp of English increasingly becomes a standard requirement to navigate international markets. Those best suited to this style of teaching either have a background in business or previous experience teaching adult learners.

Although it’s not a realistic first-time teaching job, with a bit of experience you can work towards it and potentially have a higher income as a result. You’ll find many free educational resources online to help you to plan and conduct the most effective business English lessons.

3. Teach Online and Travel as a Digital Nomad

Most people associate teaching English as a foreign language with relocating to pursue a career teaching abroad, which is also one of the most popular options but not the only one.

Online teaching is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to teach English and it can all be done without even having to leave your home. Many benefits are associated with home working making it easy to understand why.

Including fewer expenses (no more commuting is one example!), choosing when and how often you work, and being your own boss which comes with its own perks, too.

That being said, you don’t have to stay home to teach English online. Those eager to use their TEFL certification as a worldwide travel ticket is in a great position to pursue the digital nomad lifestyle.

As a digital nomad, you can use your earnings from your online career to fund your travels as you go from one location to the next. You just need an internet connection, a quiet workspace, and a laptop! 

Visa and Work Requirements: What Might They Include?

An awareness of the varying visa requirements across different countries is essential. You want to be sure that you’re eligible to teach in your desired destination before you start planning the logistics of moving there. 

Employers will often have specific requirements too. It’s important that you can evidence that you meet all the correct criteria.

1. A Degree in Any Discipline

Some countries will require you to have a degree in any discipline to meet their working visa requirements. While some employers may also require you to have a Master’s degree, although this is less common. You’d be more likely to see this requirement for jobs at universities or in the Middle East.

Asia is where you will be most limited without a degree, with the exception of Cambodia. However, it’s not a requirement across South America and Europe – so there are still plenty of opportunities. Read more about TEFL opportunities open to you without a degree.

2. Previous Teaching Experience

Some employers will list previous teaching experience as a requirement. For example, to teach in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which offers some of the highest-paid TEFL positions, you’ll need at least two years of teaching experience before you can apply. Regardless of where you apply, teaching experience will benefit your application.

However, don’t worry if you don’t have previous experience as that’s very common for newly qualified EFL teachers. There are still plenty of options out there– everyone has to start somewhere!

Once you’ve gained some teaching experience with your TEFL qualification you’ll find that many more options will open up to you. Don’t be discouraged if you miss out on your first choice as you may well be in a better position to get it further down the line.

3. Non-Native English Speakers May Experience Bias but Don’t Let That Stop Your Job Search!

If you’re a non-native English speaker, you unfortunately may experience some bias when applying for jobs. However, don’t let this stop you following your aspirations as there are still many countries and employers who do not prioritize this. Again, it’s all about the research you put in before applying as this will spare you from wasted time and disappointment. 

You might be asked to have a passport or degree from an English-speaking country. Or you might have to provide evidence of your fluency with the likes of the IELTS certificate. China, for example, will employ non-native EFL teachers but will also require you to have received your degree from a university in an English-speaking country.

Wherever you’re aiming to go, look into individual countries and employer-specific criteria to get a better idea of your options.

4. Legalized Documents

Making sure you have the documentation to evidence any of the above criteria, plus a criminal background check will likely be required for your visa and/or employer. For example, as mentioned, certification showing your English proficiency could be one of these. 

Collating all the necessary documents is one thing, but you might have to have them legalized so that employers can trust their validity. This will be an extra cost but could potentially be covered for you.

Be Aware of the Job Market in Different Countries

Securing a TEFL position in some countries can be more difficult than others. This can be down to a number of reasons beyond specific visa requirements. The level of demand for teachers, investment in English language education from governments, and employee package benefits are all factors that can influence the competition for positions.

However, don’t let competition put you off finding the perfect job! Your TEFL qualification is designed to prepare you for whatever TEFL role you take on. Be reassured that you have a marketable skill set and have confidence in your ability to communicate this to employers.

A Teacher Infront of a Classroom

Where You Should Look to Find Positions

Once your CV is ready to go, you’ll be keen to start applying for jobs. If you’re aiming to secure a job before you go, your best option is to search and apply online. There are lots of reputable platforms for regularly advertising positions. 

In some countries, it can be easier to find work once you arrive, rather than before you go. It mostly depends on whether it’s possible to secure a working visa while in the country, rather than beforehand. 

Watch Out for Online Scams 

While most of the teaching positions you’ll come across online will be genuine, it’s important that you know how to recognize those that aren’t. 

Do thorough research about employers, search them on the web, check out their reviews, contact details, and general online presence. Ask to be put in contact with a current employee. Compare what is being advertised to other posts for the same company. If it looks too good to be true, that’s most likely because it is.

Plan Your Finances Carefully

You’ll be grateful to yourself for calculating your initial expenses and planning your finances before you arrive. This will definitely help ease the stress of settling in. 

Dependent on your destination and your employer, some of your expenses may be covered or reimbursed. Whether you’re offered any financial support/incentives or not, you’ll still need to make sure you have enough money to tide you over until your first paycheque. 

Costs to consider year-round include accommodation, bills, food, transport, leisure, and health insurance if not already covered by your employer. If you decide to find work once-in country, planning expenses for at least a month is strongly recommended should the search take longer than anticipated.

Your working visa and other legal documents are usually dealt with before you make the move abroad and it’s important to know that it can be costly – potentially more so if done away from home. You then have to think about flights, which are naturally more expensive when flying further afield. Some employers will reimburse your flights but this won’t be done until later on, or at the end of your contract. 

Be Persistent

Finding your first TEFL job will require time and effort on your part. Be prepared to apply for multiple positions and also be prepared to be unsuccessful. It can be a challenge getting started, especially if your country of choice is a competitive TEFL destination. But don’t be disheartened, the demand for English language teachers worldwide is high and the right job for you is out there.

Be willing to adapt and be flexible. You may not find your first TEFL job in your first-choice location, but this doesn’t mean you have to settle. Once you have more experience teaching, you’ll stand a better chance of being recruited for more competitive positions.

Picking up your life to move abroad and start a new job is an overwhelming idea for most. There’s a lot to consider before you start planning your first TEFL job. Hopefully, this article helps to clarify some of your queries. And remember, the more planning and preparation you do, the easier the application process will be – and the sooner you can get started teaching!

By: Naomi

Naomi works as a Digital Marketing Assistant for The TEFL Org. She is also in her final year of studies at the University of Glasgow. She previously taught English in France as an English Language Assistant and loves to travel at any given opportunity.

Reclaiming a Sense of Joy – Quick Strategies for Easing the Stress of Teaching by Shane Safir

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It’s the end of the school year and I’m sitting with a young principal I coach who has deep expertise, heart, and know-how. Suddenly, she breaks down sobbing. “I’m miserable in this job,” she says. “I want to stay the course, but I don’t know how to get my head above water. I just don’t feel any joy in this work.”

When we live in constant stress, our brains start to downshift. According to scholars Geoffrey Caine and Renate Nummela Caine, downshifting is a psychophysiological response to threat that results in a sense of helplessness or fatigue. A downshifted person has a nagging sense of fear or anxiety and begins to lose the ability to feel excitement or pleasure.

The good news is that we can upshift our brains by actively infusing joy into our work life. Joyful experiences—even brief ones—flood the brain with chemicals like dopamine and serotonin that overwhelm our primitive stress responses. So how can we find more joy?

8 Ways to Reclaim Joy

Since my conversation with the principal, I’ve been practicing and modeling the reclamation of joy. Here are eight ways you can join me.

1. Get outside during the school day. Hold a collaboration meeting, coaching session, or class outdoors to shift the group energy. So many of us spend our days locked inside the school building—stepping outside for a five-minute walk or simply to feel the breeze or sun on our face can change our perception and our brain chemistry. Even a small dose of movement can release endorphins and provide a much-needed brain break.

Recently, I met an Oakland principal and her leadership team at a nearby lake to open their back-to-school meeting. The principal led three rounds of a community circle: “Share your favorite summer moment,” “share something we don’t know about you,” and “share an artifact that tells a story about your journey as a leader.” Afterward she randomly assigned partners for a lakeside walk and talk, inviting everyone to reflect on the legacy they want to leave behind. It was simple, mobile, and powerful.

2. Bring music. If your classroom or staff room feels solemn, enliven it with your favorite music. Better yet, invite students or colleagues to share their favorite song or artist on a rotating basis. Music releases positive neurotransmitters, calms the brain’s high-alert settings, and can build cultural proficiency as community members share their musical interests.

3. Model micro-affirmations. Researcher Mary Rowe defines micro‐affirmations as “tiny acts of opening doors to opportunity, gestures of inclusion and caring, and graceful acts of listening.” Micro‐affirmations can take many forms, such as offering a hug to someone experiencing a setback, giving a colleague some positive feedback, or facilitating an appreciations ritual that invites people to publicly celebrate one another.

4. Start class or professional development with a guided visualization. If people seem stuck in a downshifted state, help them access joy by leading a guided visualization. Ask participants to close their eyes or focus on a soft gazing point—not letting their eyes wander—and settle comfortably in their chairs. Then lead them to slow their breathing down and imagine a moment or place that brought them joy. Invite them to explore the colors, thoughts, and feelings that come up when they think of this place. Afterward, ask people to share how the experience felt and how they can bring those feelings into the school day.

5. Cancel a staff meeting. This might be my favorite joy hack, and it was my first piece of advice to that sobbing principal. Everyone’s feeling burned out? Don’t let your task list trump the reclamation of joy. Cancel a staff meeting and give the time back to teachers.

You might plan an alternative, just-for-fun activity like a hike or happy hour, but make it optional for folks who really just need a break.

6. Write a card to someone who’s had your back. It feels great to appreciate others. Think about a colleague in any capacity at your school who holds you up in ways big or small. This could be another teacher, the custodian who cleans your room, or the person who ensures that you’re paid each month. Write that person a card and tell them what you appreciate about them.

7. Practice three to five minutes of mindfulness. Consider starting your day with a few minutes of mindfulness. Just close your eyes, slow down your breathing, and notice the rise and fall of your chest, the sounds that typically act as background noise, the sensation of your heartbeat, your meandering thoughts.

8. Keep a joy journal. I often ask my own children, who are 9 and 12, “What brought you joy today?” Ask yourself that question at the end of each day, taking time to jot down your reflections in a journal. Writing is a form of story editing, as explained in the wonderful book Redirect by psychologist Timothy Wilson. When we take time to write or rewrite the stories we carry about our work life, we can change negative narratives into hopeful ones, and reconnect with our sources of joy and energy.

As you prepare to go back to school, remember that learning should be a joyful enterprise. Look for opportunities to laugh, breathe, and smile as an educator, and you’ll find your energy is contagious.

 

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Trauma Can Make it Hard for Kids To Learn, Here’s How Teachers Learn To Deal With That – Adeshina Emmanuel

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There’s no debating that childhood trauma seriously impacts how students learn. Researchers have tied stressful events such as divorces, deportations, neglect, sexual abuse and gun violence to behavioral problems, lower math and reading scores, and poor health. The latest research, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, finds that children who endure severe stress are more likely to suffer heart attacks and mental health disorders.

So, we know trauma affects kids, but how do we teach educators to confront it? That’s where Dr. Colleen Cicchetti comes in.

A child psychologist at Lurie Children’s Hospital and an assistant professor at Northwestern University’s medical school, she helps lead the hospital’s efforts to improve how local schools handle trauma. The goal: to train teachers to spot and respond to warning signs in kids. Last Tuesday and Wednesday, about 150 aspiring teachers with Golden Apple’s scholars program attended day-long training sessions.

It’s not the job of a teacher to become a mental health provider, said Cicchetti, who earlier this year was named Public Educator of the Year by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “It’s really their job to try to understand what barriers are making it hard for them to do their job.”

Chalkbeat Chicago interviewed Cicchetti about training teachers, the cost of childhood trauma in Chicago communities, how it takes a toll on classrooms, and what teachers can do to promote healing in schools.

What are some examples of the different types of trauma Chicago children might be dealing with?

Seeing someone shot, seeing someone stabbed. It could be sexual abuse, it could be physical abuse. It could be parents incarcerated, divorced, separation, death. It can be someone that you know being killed, someone you know in a car accident.

What are some ways that trauma finds its way into the classroom?

Flashbacks, difficult sleeping, difficulty eating, choosing not to — or being unable to — enjoy the things you used to enjoy. Being hyperalert where you are scanning the space because you don’t feel safe, which impacts your learning. There’s that hopelessness and sense that the world is dangerous. They might be getting in fights. Another thing we sometimes see is frequent absences.

We see some kids who are spending a lot of time in the nurse’s offices, complaining of stomachaches and headaches — their biology is triggered.

We often see it manifest in difficulty negotiating relationships with other people. Some days they can be really engaged with the teacher, the next day they’re really angry and throwing temper tantrums.

How do you teach teachers to recognize trauma?

We do these trainings called Trauma 101. We show them pictures of brains and which areas of the brain are impacted by that flight-or-fight response being triggered all the time. We talk about the ACES studies. (Many studies on Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACES, have linked childhood trauma with the development of diseases like diabetes and heart disease, behavioral problems, substance-abuse disorders in adults, and self-harm. But chronic trauma also can disrupt brain development, impair learning, and make it hard to cope with emotions.)

child trauma pyramid

We look at the symptoms you would see [of PTSD] and what that would look like in a classroom. For example, a kid having flashbacks: You might see a kid who is distracted or looking out the window, or they’re having nightmares so they’re coming into class and putting their head on their desks and they’re sleeping during class because the classroom feels safe and they can’t sleep at night. We sort of try to walk between the clinical symptoms and the manifestations you may see in the classroom.

How do you teach teachers what to do once they see signs of trauma? What are they supposed to do?

The first level is to be aware of kids you think are likely to be experiencing trauma in your classroom. What do you do to create a sense of safety, and do that self-regulation and peer building in your classroom? But if you have kids who are sort of experiencing more challenges and those things aren’t working, in Chicago Public Schools we have something called a request for assistance. Teachers can fill out a form and submit it to their social worker or their behavioral health team. Somebody in the school will do a more in-depth assessment or screening. Those kids are then linked to services, either provided by the school or, in some cases, there’s community providers.

There are few — if any — jobs harder than teaching. What are the limits to what teachers can really do?

In a lot of schools, it’s not very safe for a teacher to say ‘I’m struggling with this student.’ But when teachers feel very isolated, and then feel bad and get angry at themselves and at the student, that’s where burnout comes in. What we’re trying to create is a culture within a school, not just the teachers, but from the administration to all the adults in the buildings, that says it’s our job to take care of the whole child here. If a child is struggling, it’s not a bad teacher, it’s a situation we need to modify.

We try to only go into schools and have these conversations when we’re invited in at the systems level, where the administrators are talking about understanding professional development and reflective learning practices for new teachers, and mentoring, so they can understand why this work is crossing over into their home lives, why they’re coming home grumpy, or overeating or drinking, and don’t want to go back to work. It’s hard, but we can teach you what you can do to set your classroom up to be successful, and also make sure you have the right kind of supports, so if you’re seeing a kid who’s struggling — and you’re struggling — that you can reach out to other adults in the building.

What does a safe classroom look like in practice for a kid who has experienced trauma, maybe multiple forms of trauma in their lives?

It’s predictable. [Students] know what expectations are, what they need to do to be successful. There’re different parts of the day where it may be getting hard for them to focus, but then they get breaks.

If you didn’t get your homework done it’s not super punitive. We want to hold people accountable and help them be successful, but let’s say maybe they took three buses to get to school and they were babysitting their siblings last night, so they don’t have enough time for an assignment. Are you going to get a zero or will you be coming in during your recess or lunch break to get this done?

It’s an environment that says, I believe you can be successful, and I’m going to stack the deck for your success. I’m going to provide both physical safety and emotional safety. We’re going to have rules around respecting differences and how we talk to one another. We’re going to have restorative conversations and practices around discipline, so we can not be so reactive. And we’re going to foster relationships both with kids and between each other.

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7 Personal Growth Questions Every Teacher Must Ask Themselves – Lee Watanabe-Crockett – Lee Watanabe Crockett

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Every teacher knows that consistently asking personal growth questions is part of the game in education. They exist in all shapes and sizes and are meant to challenge educators to meet and exceed professional goals. It’s for the good of themselves, their colleagues, and most of all their learners, that they devote themselves to this. You have enough to do already, so why make PD complicated?

Personal development goes hand in hand with professional development. It enhances it by ensuring we look deep within ourselves to discover the true motivations for why we do what we do, and what’s most important to us as teachers. Ultimately, these realizations drive us to excel for the benefit of our learners, and for the future of education.

By no means are we advocating that the 7 personal growth questions we’ve provided below are the be-all-end-all of what you can reflect on during your journey. What they will do is provide you with a baseline for developing your craft in your own way.

7 Personal Growth Questions for All Teachers

These personal growth questions are ones that are simple enough to ask yourself every day, while also complex enough to ponder deeply and critically whenever you have time. And no matter how busy you are, there is always time.

1. What is most important to me as a teacher?

This is the key to determining your professional development direction right here. What matters to you most about being a teacher? What kind of teacher do you want to be, and why? What are the biggest reasons you have for your choice?

Don’t fall into the trap of making this one about policy and educational doctrine. This is an introspective and emotional inquiry—perhaps even spiritual for many of you. Consider it carefully and, above all else, listen to your heart.

2. What takes me out of my comfort zone?

Progress happens in the face of overcoming challenges. But how do we constructively challenge ourselves if we can’t step away from feeling safe in our vocations? Do something that you’ve never done before—in your practice, in a relationship with a colleague, or what have you.

Think “what if …” and then act on it. If it makes you uncomfortable to consider or even scares you a little, you might be on to something.

3. How can I make sure I am learning every day?

Modeling lifelong learning is something every teacher must do for their learners. It comes through curiosity and a willingness to explore the unknown. Our learners benefit from our passion as educators when we display the same love for learning we want them to have when they leave us. How can you best do this every day?

4. What is the most amazing thing about me and how can I use it in my teaching?

Stop being modest—you’re awesome and you know it. So it’s time to let your learners know it too. Think about what you can do that no one else can. Recall a time when someone pointed out something remarkable about you that you’ve always taken for granted. “Wow, you really know how to _______.”

Are you good with humour? Are you highly creative with design and visuals? Are you able to use wisdom and compassion to turn any negative experience into a positive one? Are you an entertaining storyteller? What’s your special talent? And for crying out loud, why aren’t you making it part of your teaching?

5. What is the most important thing my learners need from me?

There is a simple and highly effective way to figure this one out: ask them. It also happens to be the only way. You don’t have to let yourself be afraid of the answers you get either, especially when you come from a place of heartfelt concern for your kids. So ask them what the need; they’ll surprise you and delight you, and they might even make you cry. Isn’t meaningful connection amazing?

6. How can I connect and communicate better with parents and colleagues?

Nothing changes you like perspective. As young and experienced teachers, we often do many things wrong. As parents, we also do things wrong. These moments present prime opportunities for teachers and parents to support each other and consistently bridge the communication gap.

In the end, nothing beats how parents and teachers can unite to solve problems and tackle issues together. The same is true for teachers who come together in the same way. What are the most proactive ways you can improve rapport with parents and colleagues to sustain a culture of support?

7. What am I going to start doing today to become a better teacher than I was yesterday?

You’ll find there is never a bad time to ponder this question. This doesn’t mean you’re not a fantastic teacher already; quite the opposite, in fact. It’s the idea that you are constantly looking for ways to improve that make you as incredible as you are. Everyone that’s a part of your life experience benefits from this.

Ask it as a personal reflection at the end of your day. Ask it at the beginning of your morning as a mediation. Ask it as you write in your daily journal. Ask it multiple times a day, even. Just make sure you ask it.

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How to Become and Remain a Transformational Teacher – David Cutler

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However talented, no one is a natural-born teacher. Honing the craft takes significant care and effort, not just by the individual, but also by the school at large. Though experience does matter, it matters only to the extent that a teacher — regardless of how long he or she has been in the classroom — commits to continued professional development to refresh his or her status as a transformational teacher.

Along those lines, even after a decade in the classroom, I don’t claim to be beyond criticism — not in the least. Still, I wish to offer some advice on constantly striving toward perfection, however elusive that goal will always remain.

Constantly Share Best Practices

As a first step, work toward recognizing that, no matter how long you’ve been in the classroom, there will always be someone else who’s more effective at a certain facet of teaching. When I was a first-year teacher, a veteran colleague inquired how I’d engaged such strong student interest in the American Revolution, something that he’d struggled with achieving.

I shared my lesson plan, which culminated in a formal debate about whether the colonists had acted justly in rebelling against British rule. Moving forward, I felt more confident and comfortable about asking that colleague for help with providing quality written feedback, which he excelled at doing.

Find a Trusted Mentor

No matter how much experience you have, it’s crucial to find and rely on a trusted confidant. As a new teacher, I spent countless hours chatting with colleagues about best practices and where I feared that I might have fallen short. Not once did they pass judgment on me, or suggest that whatever I had done (or failed to do, in certain cases) was beyond repair.

Instead, they offered thoughtful advice on how I might do things differently. No matter the subject, I value hearing fresh perspectives from new and veteran teachers about becoming even better at my job. Nobody has a monopoly on good ideas.

Commit to Classroom Observations

I do my best to observe other teachers in action. This year, I benefited from watching a colleague inject humor into his English classroom to cultivate a more relaxed but effective learning environment. In turn, I tried to strike a similar balance in my history classroom, which helped students feel less afraid of sharing ideas and learning from mistakes.

I’m equally grateful for observing a colleague teach French to students whom I also instruct. She possesses a gentle firmness that learners respond to, but more importantly, students know that she cares about them — and they don’t want to let their teacher or themselves down.

Change Things Up

I also observe other teachers to see how they change things up, especially when I get too comfortable in a routine. It’s certainly easier to teach the same books and content each year, but it’s also incredibly boring, which can lead to burnout. This summer, I’m working to revamp some of my American history curriculum to fall more in step with what students are learning and doing in their American literature class.

For example, when juniors are studying the Cold War in my class, they’ll be reading Alan Moore’s Watchmen in their English class — an award-winning graphic novel highlighting many Cold War-era fears and tensions. For both classes, students will complete a yet-to-be-determined project to showcase their understanding.

Model the Usefulness of What You Teach

In line with changing things up, I’m always looking for new ways to model the usefulness of what I teach. More than ever, I find that students want to know how they can apply what they learn in the classroom to the real world. In American history, I continue to de-emphasize rote memorization in favor of activities requiring clear, analytical thinking — an essential tool for whatever students end up pursuing in college or as a career.

On most assessments, I allow students to bring a notecard. It seems less important in the age of Google to assess how much students know. Instead, I’m significantly more concerned with how much sense they can make of all this information so readily available to them. In all of my classes, I also make it clear that knowing how to write well will play a significant role in their future success.

Caring Beyond What You Teach

To motivate my students toward success, I strive to show that I care about them beyond the classroom. I do my best to chaperone trips, watch sporting events, and attend plays and other student-run productions. I advise the Model United Nations Club, which allows me to share my passion for diplomacy and fostering change.

I also coach cross-country to help students see that I value maintaining a healthy body just as much as developing an inquisitive mind. The most transformational teachers that I know have a deep understanding of how their role transcends far beyond any subject that they’re teaching. Such teachers have the most lasting impact on their students long after graduation.

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7 Ways to Differentiate Instruction Through Assessment – Vicki Davis

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We need to differentiate instruction. Derived from the word “different,” differentiation points to the fact that different ways of teaching can help you reach more children with the knowledge they need to master something. You’ve heard good teachers say it this way when a child is struggling: “Well, let’s try this a different way.”

But with technology, I think we’re forgetting that sometimes assessment can be a form of instruction that is delivered differently. We have ways to teach through assessment, whether or not we take a grade.

Differentiating instruction doesn’t always depend on the face-to-face instructor. We can also merge it with assessment tools in powerful ways that help kids learn on the spot. Remember that you don’t have to take a grade on every assessment. You can assess students as they learn by using formative assessment, which is often a valuable addition to summative assessment that takes place at the conclusion of a unit.

1. Harnessing Artificial Intelligence on Writing

We all know what it’s like to get back that paper we struggled to write and find it covered with comments written in red ink. The red-ink method of assessment has two flaws.

First, when you mark a mistake, marks don’t explain to the writer why it is incorrect. As a teacher, I won’t grade a written document if it hasn’t been spell checked. Many people are notoriously inconsistent about checking grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Additionally, when teachers just mark an error, students may not understand how to correct it and will continue making the same mistake. They need to know why a particular sentence needs a comma in a particular place.

Tools like GrammarlyPro Writing Aid, and the Hemingway App are veritable Swiss army knives to improve written language. In addition to suggested changes, writers can see with a click of a button why something is incorrect and learn from mistakes. As a blogger, I can attest that these tools have improved grammar mistakes that my high school English teacher honestly tried to remove. I guess I never really understood why they were mistakes.

The problem with artificial intelligence is that it only works for humans who acknowledge they need help. For example, my dyslexic son or spelling-challenged husband know that they need the help, and they write better for it. While these AI tools should be easily accessible to improve our own work, we should also be using them as a new way to stop mistakes at the source by teaching students about grammar, punctuation and spelling. In the future, perhaps videos and other tools will partner with AI writing tools to further improve differentiating instruction for writers.

2. Verbal Feedback on Written Work

The second problem with those red-ink corrections is that struggling writers are often struggling readers. These writers are further disadvantaged because the written word has none of the face-and-voice body language that is an essential part of communication. Teacher feedback on content or writing is best delivered verbally in-person or via digital voice/video. Tools like the Read/Write Toolbar from Texthelp or Kaizena let teachers quickly leave voice comments on documents so that students hear feedback as they work. Voice feedback has additional benefits: It’s often much faster for the teacher than handwritten comments, and it can be instantly delivered if you’re using a tool that links with Google Docs. This means that while a teacher might be assessing a paper, he or she can also be differentiating instruction.

3. Providing Opportunities for Rework

However, this mode of adding instruction to assessment only works if students are engaged with the assessment-embedded instruction. This is why I require my students to rework papers and documents where I’ve given verbal instructions.

4. Instant Feedback on Answers

If a teacher has to use fill-in-the-blank or multiple-choice assessments, there is no reason to make students wait to find out if their answers are correct. Fast, accurate feedback is a hallmark of great teaching. Again, we can use an AI tool to speed up grading and feedback with apps like GradeCam and QuickKey, which scan assessments and show students corrections immediately. Instant feedback helps kids learn and remember while content is fresh in their minds. They are being reminded and instructed in a different, immediate way that will help them remember in the future.

5. Embedding Learning, Feedback, and Assessment Into Instruction

Whether a teacher is using video or in-class instruction, the established method of teaching for 30 minutes and stopping for a quiz doesn’t fit with how this generation learns. Rather than wasting valuable instruction time with a handwritten quiz, tools like Edpuzzle will pause videos and ask questions inside the video. Multiple-choice can be graded instantly while still leaving time to ask discussion questions. (You can turn off fast forwarding to ensure that students are getting video content in their viewing time.) Tools like Nearpod and PearDeck allow teachers to embed questions in the instruction. Teachers can instantly bring up a question that requires students to draw a picture. For example, when I was teaching form-factors of computers, I had students draw an example so that we could discuss and reinforce their learning. Students benefit from opportunities to draw and type their answers.

6. Facilitating Inclusive Student Conversations

Using Flipgrid, students can carry on conversations via video, offering another option for student participation by allowing them to have interactions that teachers can easily monitor and responded to. Students are learning differently because they are hearing their classmates respond, and outside guests such as book authors or other resources can participate with a quick answer. Instead of having students pair up for in-class work (where the teacher can’t monitor whether they’re sharing correct information), Flipgrid can involve the whole class or a subset of the class as you discuss and learn things differently.

7. Merging the Real and Online Worlds in Powerful Learning

Using a tool like Metaverse, teachers and students can merge the real world and the virtual world. For example, a teacher can add a QR code (a digital barcode) to questions. When students are struggling, they can scan the barcode. A virtual “helper” will appear on the students’ device to ask questions, show relevant videos or websites, or guide students through other resources to help them understand the content. While this can seem like artificial intelligence, students or teachers must program or create the augmented reality characters. This past year, I had my eighth- and ninth-graders programming in Metaverse. I’ve also seen elementary kids use the tool.

However, some tools like the Merge Cube come with built-in apps that can help kids learn. For example, hold the Merge Cube in your hand and launch Galactic Explorer. You’ll now have a complete solar system to explore. There’s also AnatomyAR+, an app about the human body, and many others that students can manipulate in virtual reality or by looking through their phone screen in augmented reality.

As teachers, differentiating instruction with today’s technology is often a melding of instruction, assessment, and feedback. We can reach more students as we design instruction to more rapidly reach all of our learners and provide feedback in ways that help students learn.

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How To Transform Problem Solving – Cheryl Capozzoli

Technology has become vital to our day-to-day lives and critical in the K-12 classroom. In a tech-saturated market, parents of our students have raised questions about how artificial intelligence (AI) will impact their future careers.

Whether you believe AI has potential to meet or surpass human intelligence, it is imperative that we equip students with skills to match the nearing demands of the future workplace. Computational thinking (CT) is the latest skill set that addresses the demands of the future workplace.

CT enables us to analyze and process data algorithmically, and often visually. CT offers a process for problem-solving, where one develops a series of steps (an algorithm) to solve open-ended problems. Put simply, it’s a framework to approach problems like a computer would: by processing data in a well-defined series of steps.

Harrisburg School District implements a 5th “C”

By introducing our students and staff to CT as a thought process, we have been able to provide skills to more deeply engage in problem solving. Many standards identify the 4Cs of 21st-century skills—critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration—as the most vital skills needed for success today.

If educators and students begin using CT as a more systematic way of thinking about solving real-world problems, the better we can prepare our students for a future in computer science or STEM. At Harrisburg School District in Pennsylvania, we have taken initiative to teach the CT skill to our K-12 students. After all, computation is how the world around us operates.

Rallying staff, student, and parent support

With a clear, district wide goal in mind, we partnered with Discovery Education and Tata Consultancy Services to support our vision for equity in STEM. The Ignite My Future In School initiative is a five-year commitment to transform the way our students learn. We adapted the program’s curriculum, career vignettes, and teacher training in collaboration with staff, students, and parents. With an emphasis on equity, we designed an approach that demonstrates our dedication to all support systems that surround our students.

Before integrating CT into curriculum, we hosted a professional learning day with staff to introduce the nature of computational thinking and computer science. The day was dedicated to exploring methods to engage our students in deeper levels of thinking and learning across subjects. Following this, we invited parents to share our experiences in an open and friendly environment. We introduced parents to CT and shared resources and games to enforce concepts at home.

Exploring cross-curricular connections

The key to successfully integrating a CT program is to start simple. We’ve found that basic data sets are a great way to introduce CT concepts to students. Data.gov offers information collected by the U.S. government in nearly every topic imaginable. Find more free resources here.

Curriculum Connector activities assist our staff in creating engaging lessons and tasks in which students learn to use the seven key CT strategies. Students are required to collect, analyze, and decompose data so that they can better understand large amounts of information. This helps them to see the larger picture to create designs that solve complex problems.

Students are also encouraged to use models to design algorithmic computing methods to create a model or a simulation. For example, our eighth-grade students recently used CT to design a SMART tiny home to become comfortable with the “CT mindset.”

For educators looking to introduce CT concepts into curriculum, be prepared to make continuous changes to your lessons. Embrace the fact that CT is prone to change as technology changes. Leave room for adjustments in your curriculum from year to year.

Our 6th “C”: commitment

Computational thinking is a new way to process information within our school community, but we are excited to have embarked on this journey because we know that it is vital for our students to be successful thinkers, problem solvers, inventors, scientists, and divergent 21st-century leaders.

We want to empower students with the confidence that they are fully capable of approaching an unfamiliar problem independently and solving the challenges most important to them. Through our continued work and partnership, we will sustain our priority to provide a modern and equitable education to all students.

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7 Tips To Better Define Personalized Learning – Laura Ascione

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Personalized learning is a pretty well-known term, but educators have different definitions for personalized learning, making for a sometimes-confusing approach to its implementation.

Now, a new report seeks to apply a common definition to personalized learning and outline best practices for educators to advocate for the practice in their districts.

The report comes from Education Elements and the Foundation for Excellence in Education, and it defines personalized learning as “tailoring learning for each student’s strengths, needs, and interests—including enabling student voice and choice in what, how, when, and where they learn—to provide flexibility and supports to ensure mastery of the highest standards possible.”

According to the report, the four core elements of personalized learning include:

  • Flexible content and tools: Instructional materials allow for differentiated path, pace, and performance tasks
  • Targeted instruction: Instruction aligns to specific student needs and learning goals
  • Student reflection and ownership: Ongoing student reflection promotes ownership of learning
  • Data driven decisions: Frequent data collection informs instructional decisions and groupings

The authors outline a handful of tips to help communicate ideas around personalized learning.

1. Focus on the future. The goal of personalized learning is to ensure that students will be adequately prepared with the knowledge and skills they need for college or career.

2. Highlight benefits to families, including the idea that personalized learning can give parents a deeper understanding of how their child is progressing and will improve opportunities for collaboration with teachers. It also can provide opportunities for increased interaction with teachers and peers, and can encourage higher levels of student engagement.

3. Highlight benefits to students. Students are encouraged to play a greater role—and be more invested—in their learning. Instruction will be tailored to a student’s strengths and interest to keep them more engaged in their learning. Students can learn at a flexible pace that’s right for them in order to ensure they have thoroughly learned the material.

4. Highlight benefits to teachers. Personalized learning will give teachers the flexibility and tools they need to meet the needs of each child.

5. For district leaders: Make sure the vision for personalizing learning is clear, that the “why” is commonly understood and that you develop messaging that makes sense for your entire community, not just those steeped in education jargon. Use words and phrases that work. Provide preferred messaging to your district staff and your principals so they don’t need to start from scratch. Communicate often with your teachers, families and community.

6. For school leaders: Talk about personalized learning whenever you can. Include examples in newsletters to highlight how it helps students, not the software you are using. Remember this is something most families want, so celebrate that you are doing it… or starting it. There is tremendous momentum behind this evolution in teaching and learning. Whenever possible, share those stories from your own school.

7. For teachers: Hang signs in your classrooms; talk about personalized learning on Back to School Nights and during parent conferences. Help your students understand why things are different. While you are among the best messengers, your students can be a huge asset because what they perceive and what they say really impacts what families think. Invite families into your classroom and show them how you are now better supporting their children

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Here’s How We Made Data Usable For Our Teachers – Martinrex Kedziora

In today’s digital classroom, teachers have access to more data than ever. With a few clicks, we can view detailed reports on student test scores, formative assessments, progress reports from self-paced software, attendance, and so much more. At times, the amount of data can feel overwhelming, especially when each data point only exists as an isolated channel, unrelated to the next.

I am not saying that multiple data measures are a bad thing; in fact, they can help us to differentiate instruction, personalize learning, and really meet each of our students where they are academically. As administrators, it is critical that we help our teachers collect the most meaningful data points by giving them the tools they need to quickly interpret figures to make informed decisions in their classroom.

In my district, Moreno Valley Unified School District (MVUSD) in California, our data showed that our students were really struggling in math. Our state test scores were low and, with the changing rigor of Common Core, parents were coming to me concerned that they were not able to help their child with assignments. I knew we had to do something outside the box—and quickly—to catch our struggling students and prevent them from falling further behind.

Step 1: Finding the right data
We knew that MVUSD’s math scores were low on the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP). For our students that were not meeting proficiency, the score alone did not show a clear picture of the specific skills they needed to master to catch back up to grade level. Our teachers needed a tool to pinpoint skill gaps for individual students so we could be more targeted in our interventions.

After much research, it was clear that we would benefit from administering benchmark assessments. Unlike traditional summative assessments like the CAASPP that simply determine content mastery, a good interim assessment allows educators to get a snapshot of what an individual student knows, is able to do, and is ready to learn next.

While there are many assessment options, we chose NWEA MAP Growth because it had the most research behind it. Our students take a computer-adaptive assessment a few times each year that adjusts to each student’s responses. Teachers get detailed reports that identify individual student needs and show projected proficiency through the school year and over multiple years. Administrators get higher-level reports that make it simple to do a temper-check several times throughout the year (instead of just at the end of the school year) and measure longitudinal growth.

Step 2: Connecting interventions to our data
Now that we were collecting the right data to isolate the instructional areas MVUSD students were ready to tackle, we needed to provide our teachers with additional resources to help them differentiate instruction. Teachers can use MAP data to identify common pain points to inform their lesson plans, but the granular data allows us to personalize learning even further. We know the specific topics students need to close skill gaps, but with an average class size of 24, it can be difficult to find the time for one-on-ones with each student.

As a district, we sought out the interventions that could take MAP growth data to the next level. I think the best example is the one-to-one online tutoring program we provide to students who scored a level 1 or level 2 on their math CAASPP.

We worked with FEV Tutor, who took individual students’ fall RIT scores (grade-level equivalences) to create personalized tutoring plans for each student. Depending on the school site, students worked one-on-one with their own professional tutor during the day or at an after-school program. All tutoring was online, and since it was one-to-one, students could work through the specific learning strands identified on their learning plan with the support of a live instructor.

Each online tutoring session concluded with an exit ticket. Teachers and administrators saw this data on a weekly basis, which allowed our teachers to see—in real time—how their students were progressing through their learning plans. If students were continuing to struggle, it was a warning that students would not likely reach their projected growth goals for the year and that we should explore additional interventions.

At the end of the tutoring program, the team at FEV Tutor did a full analysis to examine the impact. In academic year 2016-2017, MVUSD set a district-wide goal for 50 percent of all students to meet or exceed their fall to spring MAP Growth goals. We are pleased to share that 69 percent of FEV Tutor participants met or exceeded their fall to spring MAP Growth goals in math, compared to 17 percent of students who were identified for tutoring but did not participate.

Step 3: Connecting data points
MAP Growth is a great sign of students working their way toward proficiency; however, it is important to match this data into overall student performance. To try and get a clearer picture of the impact online tutoring had on student achievement, MVUSD’s department of accountability and assessment worked with FEV Tutor to examine the impact that online tutoring had on the CAASPP.

We saw that students who participated in FEV tutoring grew by an average of +26 scale score points from the spring 2016 CAASPP to the spring 2017 CAASPP, compared to +22 points for non-FEV Tutor participants. By taking a deeper dive into the data we found that, across the district, students who participated in 10 or more tutoring sessions had the highest rate of performance-level movement.

For students that took 10 or more sessions, the percentage who scored a level 3 (standard met) or level 4 (standard exceeded) grew by 15 percentage points from the spring 2016 to spring 2017 CAASPP. The percentage of students who scored a level 2 (standard nearly met) grew by 13 percentage points. This 13-percent increase is specifically significant at MVUSD because most students who participated in the FEV tutoring program scored a level 1 (standard not met) on the 2016 CAASPP.

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