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  • JP works with schools providing training on how to ameliorate teacher weaknesses brought to light through the process of teacher evaluation.

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Avoid These 4 Behaviors That Derail Conversations

When difficult conversations at work go wrong, they can rapidly devolve into unproductive arguments. Keep your discussion on track by minding the A-BCDs: Avoid Blame, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling.

  • Blame. Try not to make assumptions about what your colleague is thinking, and don’t make groundless accusations. Keep the conversation focused on facts.
  • Contempt. Acknowledge when you’ve lashed out in exasperation, and do your best to avoid making judgments.
  • Defensiveness. Take responsibility for your part in the conversation. Are you open to input, or do you interpret new ideas as criticism?
  • Stonewalling. Commit to listening and contributing with an open mind, instead of avoiding an unpleasant topic or refusing to participate fully in the conversation.

Any of these behaviors can derail a discussion, so make a commitment to yourself — and your teammates — to avoid them.

Adapted from “8 Ways to Get a Difficult Conversation Back on Track,” by Monique Valcour

6 Strategies for Taking High-Quality Notes

The below article targets college students, but the same concepts apply to adult learners, staff members. Some great strategies for how staff can walk away from professional development events with good information. 

Students take notes in class.

 

In my practice as a professor, I’ve noticed an anecdotal difference between the notes that my A and C students take during lectures. According to one study, students who take notes in an interactive fashion are more likely than those who record what they hear verbatim to be engaged in metacognition (thinking and evaluating one’s thought processes and understanding) and self-regulation (managing one’s behaviors for optimal results). And these two processes are more likely to lead to deeper processing.

The good news is that teachers can show their students how to take better notes. Even better, good note-taking activities are themselves learning processes that can help students think metacognitively about their own studying, and can improve their retention of course material. A virtuous cycle!

Six Powerful Note-Taking Strategies

1. Organize the blank page. 

2. Putting in time is important.

3. Pen beats computer.

4. Make use of the margins.

5. Rereading is essential. 

6. Use abbreviations for speed

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New Data Reveal 250 Preschoolers Are Suspended or Expelled Every Day

 Pre-K students play with educational toys at an education center, April 2, 2014, in San Antonio.

Twelve years ago, Yale University researchers uncovered a surprising fact: Preschoolers were more likely to be expelled than children in any other grade. In fact, preschoolers were being expelled at rates more than three times higher than school-aged children. Subsequent research found that the effect of this phenomenon was also racialized. A report by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights showed that African American children represented 18 percent of public preschool enrollment, but 48 percent of preschoolers receiving multiple out-of-school suspensions.

While these numbers are undeniably appalling, they only account for a small portion of the overall preschool population. Many 3- and 4-year-olds attend preschool in private programs, which are not required to report suspensions and expulsions.

The Center for American Progress analyzed new data from the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health, finding that an estimated 50,000 preschoolers were suspended at least once. Another 17,000 or so preschoolers are estimated to have been expelled.* This is the first nationally representative survey of preschool discipline that includes private preschools as well as public schools. Which means that, across all types of settings, the average school day sees roughly 250 instances of a preschooler being suspended or expelled.

Zero tolerance discipline has gone too far

These disciplinary rates are particularly shocking since suspending and expelling young children has not been shown to produce positive behavioral results. Quite the opposite, such practices can often intensify the challenges faced by these children and their parents, and have even been discussed as the first stage in a preschool-to-prison pipeline.

As with incarceration, consistent patterns of racial discrimination have emerged from each successive study of preschool suspension and expulsion. Yale University Professor Walter Gilliam first identified them in his team’s groundbreaking research more than 10 years ago. At that time, it was found that the three best predictors of preschool expulsion were the three B’s: “big, Black or boy.” That is, teachers are more likely to recommend preschool suspension or expulsion when the child is black, a boy, or is physically bigger than their peers. Obviously, this puts black boys in the greatest danger of being excluded from early learning opportunities.

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Accelerate Learning Through Independent Reading

Image result for student reading

In his address to the American Library Association in 2005, then-Senator Barack Obama noted that "literacy is the most basic currency of the knowledge economy." The knowledge economy relies on people who can communicate with others, engage in self-reflection and self-direction, and learn autonomously. In a world where information and technology are moving at ever-increasing rates of speed, our students need to know how to build their knowledge independently and not simply wait passively for someone else to present it to them. The path to building these skills, habits, and dispositions begins with independent reading. Whether in school or out, independent reading builds knowledge. And knowledge, in turn, amplifies reading skills.

Independent Reading Builds Knowledge

Research on the correlation between achievement on standardized tests and reading outside of school is clear—reading volume is associated with academic performance (Anderson, Wilson, and Fielding, 1988). To illustrate this point, consider three hypothetical 5th grade students. The first reads 40 minutes a day on average, meaning she is consuming more than 2.3 million words per year. Her test scores show it; she's in the 90th percentile on standardized assessments. The second—an average student—scores in the 50th percentile. The correlational data show that he reads on average for 12 minutes a day, resulting in about 601,000 words consumed per year, or 1.7 million fewer words than his high-achieving classmate. Of even more concern is the child who reads for only 90 seconds a day on average outside of school. This child is exposed to a deeply impoverished 51,000 words per year (about the same reading volume the first student reads in a week) and scores in the 10th percentile on standardized tests. He will enter high school nearly 7 million words behind his high-achieving classmate. This sobering data is correlational, not causal, but it points to the multiplicative effect of low reading volume across the school years.

Knowledge Builds Independent Reading Ability

Now let's look at the reciprocal: what does knowledge do for reading? Evidence comes from studies like this one done with 7th graders. Students were sorted into four groups across two criteria: current reading level and baseball knowledge. After reading an informational passage about baseball, they were assessed on their comprehension and recall of what they had read. To no one's surprise, those who were strong readers and possessed high knowledge of baseball scored at the most proficient. But to everyone's surprise, the students with lower reading skills but high levels of baseball knowledge performed at comparable levels. In fact, they outperformed those who had high reading skills but low levels of baseball knowledge (Recht and Leslie, 1988). In other words, prior knowledge had a mediating effect on reading performance. The takeaway from these two iconic studies? Knowledge is acquired through reading and in turn plays an influential role in what is understood when reading.

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Teacher Leadership Is Linked to Higher Student Test Scores in New Study

Teaching Now

Students who go to schools where their teachers have a leadership role in decision-making perform significantly better on state tests, a new study finds.

But some of the leadership elements that are most related to student achievement are the ones that are least often implemented in schools.

That's according to a new analysis of data from the New Teacher Center's Teaching, Empowering, Leading, and Learning survey, which asks questions about teaching, learning, and working conditions in schools. Richard Ingersoll, a professor of education and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education and the report's lead author, studied responses from 2011 to 2015, which included data from nearly 1 million teachers from more than 25,000 schools, in 16 states.

He looked at two aspects of leadership: Do school leaders have an instructional focus, in the sense that they place teaching and learning at the center of their decisionmaking? And are teachers included in that decisionmaking beyond the classroom? 

Schools with the highest levels of instructional and teacher leadership rank at least 10 percentile points higher in both math and English/language arts on state tests, compared to schools with the lowest levels—even after controlling for factors like school poverty, size, and location.

This is the first large-scale study that has linked teacher leadership to student test scores, Ingersoll said.

While the study shows a correlation, not a causation, it backs up what teacher-empowerment advocates have said for years: Teachers are closest to students, so they know what students need to improve.

"It's not a surprise in the viewpoint of professions," Ingersoll said. "The ideal, the theory behind professions—medicine, academia, dentistry—[is that] these are experts, you don't micromanage them, you give them a lot of voice in what they do, ... and then you hold them accountable. You do both."

Areas for Improvement 

But Ingersoll found an imbalance between what elements of leadership correlate to increased student achievement and what schools are actually doing.

Overall, school leaders are more likely to focus on high instructional standards, teacher accountability, evaluations, and performance than on giving teachers voice and input into decision-making. In less than half of the schools surveyed did teachers feel comfortable raising issues and concerns that are important to them.

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