JP Makes a Difference!
- Published: Friday, 21 July 2017 10:41
Writing is used to assess student learning more often than it is used to facilitate learning. We talk about writing as a product for assessment, a subject where paragraphs and commas are taught, or a skill that one either has developed or lacks. Rarely do we hear people, even teachers, discuss writing as a process for learning.
Imagine if a teacher said, “Go write on it and see what you come up with,” after a student asked a question. “Writing organizes and clarifies our thoughts,” writes William Zinsser in Writing to Learn: How to Write–And Think–Clearly about Any Subject at All. “Writing is how we think our way into a subject and make it our own. Writing enables us to find out what we know—and what we don’t know—about whatever we’re trying to learn.”
Simply put, writing is our critical thinking made visible.
Through the process of writing, writers put nascent thoughts into comprehensible language for others to read. In their pursuit of self-expression, they often find themselves challenged to find new words or motivated to develop academic vocabulary.
Because it is a critical thinking process, writing isn’t merely an act of jotting down what you have in your head. Once the initial thoughts in your head start to flow, you naturally begin iterating on them.
In academic writing, this leads back to the text, where writers rethink, re-evaluate, and understand a detail or main idea more deeply. As Robert Frost points out, “All there is to writing is having ideas. To learn to write is to learn to have ideas.”
The latest annual report in a series tracking the U.S. high school graduation rate reveals that, while the national graduation rate is 83.2 percent, the nation could miss its goal of a 90 percent high school graduation rate by 2020 due to persistent equity gaps.
The 2017 Building a Grad Nation report, the eighth annual update on progress and challenges in boosting high school graduation rates, reveals that only half of U.S. states are on track to reach a 90 percent high school graduation rate by 2020.
A close look at the data shows disparities in graduation rates in five key areas.
Low-income students: Nearly half of the country’s 2015 graduating cohort–48.2 percent, a slight increase from 2014–came from low-income families. Nationally, the gap between low-income students and their middle- and upper-income peers now stands at 13.7 percentage points.
Black and Hispanic/Latino students: Graduation rates for black students have increased 7.6 percentage points and 6.8 percentage points for Hispanic/Latino students since 2011–some of the highest gains of any student subgroup. However, black and Hispanic/Latino students make up 54 percent of all students who did not graduate on time.
Students with disabilities: Thirty-three states reported high school graduation rates for special education students below 70 percent, and nearly half of those 33 states had graduation rates for students with disabilities below 60 percent. Four states–South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Nevada–graduated less than half of their special education students.
English Language Learners: The number of ELL students in America’s public schools is climbing. The 10 states with the highest proportion of ELL non-graduates accounted for 66 percent of all ELL non-graduates in the country, while more than one-third of English Language Learners who did not graduate on time are located in California alone.
Low-graduation-rate high schools: Since 2002, the number of large, low-graduation-rate high schools (enrolling 300 or more students) has been cut in half and there are now fewer than 900,000 students enrolled in them, down from 2.5 million. There were 2,249 low-graduation-rate high schools (enrolling 100 or more students) in 2015, making up just 12 percent of all public high schools enrolling 100 or more students. Two out of three students in low-graduation-rate high schools are black or Hispanic/Latino. Six in 10 students in low-graduation-rate high schools qualified as being low-income in 2015, meaning that there is little economic diversity in the nation’s most challenged high schools.
Involving parents in their children’s progress in the classroom has long been shown to significantly increase student outcomes. With parent engagement top of mind in many school districts–partly because the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires it–teachers can benefit from these best practices from peers for using education technology to get, and keep, parents engaged.
1. Tools within the LMS can Help Teachers with Outreach
One big advantage of a good learning management system is the potential time savings it offers to teachers in reaching out to parents. That’s because an LMS can include a number of built-in tools that make it easier for teachers to perform common daily activities on a single platform. Taking time to train teachers on efficient use of the LMS platform can pay off in better outreach.
For example, if students can enter their work into a secure personal folder or drop box in the LMS, access to that folder can also be shared with the parent. That’s a suggestion from Jeff Allison, the e-learning and blended learning coach at Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board in Hamilton, Ontario. Content sharing helps ease teachers’ daily workflow, Allison said, giving them an automated way to show parents a student’s work and collect feedback. That sort of time saving should be one result of a pilot “parent portal” that Hamilton-Wentworth is planning to launch this fall, built in the district’s learning management system, Brightspace from D2L.
Immerse yourself in these books to renew yourself for the coming school year.
Ever since I was a young child, the long days of summer have been for reading. Early in the morning and late into the night, sitting on a beach or lying on the living room floor, I devoured book after book. Novels took me on the journeys and adventures I yearned for; memoirs connected me with shared humanity. Books made me stronger: They put my sadness and loneliness into perspective, suggested routes around the obstacles in my life, and gave me clues as to how I could not only surmount challenges, but thrive in spite of them. By the end of summer, my literary immersion had renewed me for another school year.
This summer, let books be your teachers. Let them teach you how to become more resilient, how to bounce back after adversity, and how to thrive (not just survive). Resilience is like a muscle that you can strengthen with a variety of daily practices in order to cultivate a set of dispositions or mental attitudes. Optimism, for example, is a key disposition of a resilient person, as are acceptance, hope, humor, and mindfulness.
I selected the following reading recommendations because of their potential to cultivate the dispositions of a resilient educator. Some directly explore resilience, while others give us an opportunity to see the growth of another person. I offer these to you in the hopes that by the time the back-to-school sales begin, you’ll be inoculated against the predictable stressors of the fall. So dive in.