Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Strategies To Combat Summer Learning Loss

Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have necessitated a change in the way students are being taught and how classrooms are structured. It has been reported that 20-30 hours of instructional time is lost due to mandated testing nationwide. As a result, schools need to be able to utilize their calendars after testing to not only introduce students to upcoming content for the next year, but also reinforce the skills that students are expected to have mastered for the current year.

It is now becoming imperative that students advance to the next grade level with all the necessary prerequisite skills for the current grade’s instruction as  there is no longer time to review material from the previous year. With many schools ending testing by the first week of April, there is often 8-10 weeks of the school year left to accomplish these goals. As if the demanding curriculum was not enough, it is said that about 1 to 3 months of learning loss occurs over the summer break. Schools need to find ways to not only prepare their students for the course work material to come, but also help them retain the information that they have learned throughout the school year.  

Though it may be difficult finding summer programs/camps that enrich students' minds, there are a ways in which these goals can be achieved:
  • During the 8-10 weeks after testing, introduce basic concepts students will be seeing in the next school year that specifically build on the current year’s skills
  • Differentiate instruction by reinforcing the current year’s concepts that need further instructional time for some students so they will be prepared for the next year
  • Suggest summer practice resources that students can review during the school break that will help them retain the concepts
  • Get parents involved in student learning over the summer
  • Assign practice material that students can complete over the break
Teachers and parents can work together in order to ensure that students are prepared for the year to come and are able to retain the information they have just learned. With hundreds of websites and educational supplements dedicated to academic excellence, and several geared towards the understanding of the CCSS, there are many avenues to help keep your students on the right track.

A  reorganization of our educational system and a concerted effort from parents and teachers can help students achieve academic excellence.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Trends in Data Driven Instruction

Data driven instruction, the ability to analyze student’s knowledge and respond accordingly, has been popularized since 2002 with the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act. Recent studies have shown that this instructional model helps assess student learning needs and improve instruction which helps drive school accountability. 

Let us look more closely at some of the trends in data driven instruction.

Increases learning gains.  
      Educators trained in a data-driven instructional model are now leading some of the highest-improved/achieving schools in cities across the country. More and more, school districts, administrators, and teachers recognize the integral role of data collection and analysis in improving education.
      Fosters school-wide improvement. 
      School leaders map out yearly data calendars to inform the school community when the steps in the data cycle occur. The plans organize assessment, analysis, and action so teachers can maximize instruction.

      Focuses on quality assessments. 
      Assessments are purchased and created to reflect the rigor and format of the state tests to help guide instruction and push beyond basic standards for mastery.

            Shifts role of teachers and principals. 
      Teachers identify specific challenges of individual students/groups of students and design instruction accordingly. Principals monitor and support staff through tools, resources, time, and training.

      Activates student learning. 
      Students see their accomplishments and better understand the role of assessments, standards, re-teaching, etc. for academic success as progress is tracked using graphs/charts.

Data driven instruction is more than a new trend as it helps prioritize information and create worthwhile curriculum changes. It brings educators together while making the experience engaging and beneficial to all stakeholders.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

IMPROVE LITERACY! or Fail to Improve Mathematics Scores by Sabrina Morgan of J&J Educational Bootcamp

Double penalty? Are students being penalized for one subject because of a weakness in another? With the performance standards written as they are, all students are required to be literate in language in order to be proficient in mathematics.
As data continues to reveal, readers scoring below the basic achievement level have been shown to perform at a basic level on the mathematics section of the state assessment.  However, struggling readers fail to ever demonstrate proficiency or advanced proficiency due to this weakness.

The 2015, NEAP reports reveal that only 67 percent of fourth-grade students were basic or above in reading while 82 percent of the same population of fourth-grade students were basic or above in math.   For more than 15 years, the difference between basic level reading and math scores has been on average 14 percentage points. Yet, the same report reveals that only 36 percent of readers are proficient, while 40 percent are proficient in mathematics.  When dissecting the reading test scores for individual students, it becomes obvious that more than 95% of the readers at proficient levels are also among the proficient in mathematics. 

Standardized tests require elementary students to think strategically through the use of logic and reasoning to address real-world problems as an assessment for proficiency.  Studies show that most elementary-aged learners have not yet developed the cognitive skills to comprehend certain abstract concepts embedded in the real-world context of a problem.  Generally, students begin to develop true abstract thinking abilities between ages 11 and 14.  Yet again, the underlined literacy skills are a requirement for proficient on the state assessments at ages 9 through 11. 

Many of us remember a time when learning math included a series of problems that we practiced repeatedly, with the word problems as extra credit towards the end of the assignment.  During this time, you were truly assessed on mathematical abilities; you followed a series of memorized steps. As a result, you either got the correct or incorrect answer.  In today’s world, this is now classified as a basic level of achievement.  According to item specifications, students must now be able to convert a word problem into a mathematical equation, solve, analyze, and provide proof to support their logic.  In order to meet the educational goals of such specifications, frustrated and overwhelmed teachers must master-mind methods to accelerate cognitive development in the learners of their classrooms.

J & J Educational Bootcamp has formulated a solution to this problem that involves game play and journaling strategies. The solution is Math Bootcamp Intervention (MBC). It provides products to help students interpret the language of mathematics. MBC combines the foundational development of mathematics (basic concepts, skills, and key words) with MBC Journaling Strategies and practice activities to ensure that our struggling readers are afforded the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of mathematics and score at proficient levels.

The four MBC Journaling Strategies are crafted to help learners use pictorial, numerical, and/or symbolic representations to express numerical operations and work best when coupled with daily journaling practice.

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Day in the Life of a Teacher

Written by Sheri Spivey of J & J Educational Bootcamp 

A teacher rises early to get a start on his or her day like so many other people.  Their contracted hours are 8:00am - 3:30p.m, however, if that was the only time they put in to preparing for their classes, they would be woefully unsuccessful.  Many teachers arrive at work 30 minutes to 1 hour before they are required to be there and stay 1-2 hours later than their contracted time. They know they are not getting paid for these extra hours they spend at school, but they work for free just the same.

The job expectations and stakes to show progress are higher for a teacher than ever before.

Teachers are expected to wade through reams of standards and teach students to the “full intent” of these standards, while meeting the needs of the individual student.  An elementary teacher is required to teach 5 or more subjects, being an expert in all of them. Teachers are expected to “differentiate instruction”, which means they make sure that every student is being instructed in a way that each student can be successful.  If students have an Individualized Educational Plan or are on a Response to Intervention plan (or BOTH), the teacher must also keep documentation of the steps/lessons that have been taught and how successful the student has been.  If the student is a candidate for other services, there is documentation for that as well. Teachers are expected to communicate with parents, check homework, write authentic feedback on assignments, create assessments, provide meaningful center time activities, and write in-depth lesson plans that document how the teacher meets the needs of the English Language Learners, some who may not even speak English, and the special education student. The teacher must maintain classroom management, counsel students, teach manners and social nuances, and be a watchdog over their students for signs of neglect.

Teachers are basically in SURVIVAL MODE most of the time.

Many teachers begin their career $20,000-50,000 or more in debt due to student loans, but make a salary that does not lend to them even being able to maintain a household on their own salary.  Many teachers will tutor after school, or even work jobs like waiting tables, being a cashier at a grocery store, or have a lawn maintenance business on the side, just to get by.  I know a teacher who is a single mom that has been working at Red Lobster for over 10 years and works every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday waiting tables and bar tending..

Teachers do all of this because they love teaching. They will spend their summers off going to classes that they pay for in order to become better at what they do. They will spend their own money to buy supplies for students who have none, and copy paper and ink cartridges because school budgets do not provide for the printing it takes to create individualized lessons or run reports for their data folders they must keep for each student. Some will spend their summer break writing lesson plans so they can get ahead during the next school year, only to be told at the beginning of the year the county had changed the way they want lessons planned or instructed, so all that time they spent over the summer has been for nothing. 

In a nutshell, teachers NEED OUR BOOTCAMP PRODUCTS.  We understand what they are going through, what they need, and have created a product that solves many of their problems. Our job is to communicate this to the powers that be in these schools so that they will see the value of what we can do for them.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

What Makes a Great Teacher?

A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning. – Brad Henry, former Governor of Oklahoma

Great teachers leave a legacy. They captivate student interest and make the subject material come alive. Among their exemplary skills are the way teachers plan lessons, manage the classroom, motivate/encourage achievement, adapt, and are team players.    
      1. Plan Daily Lessons:  
  • They have well-constructed lesson plans that outline tangible learning goals. These goals are based on school, district, and state learning standards. 
  • A great teacher employs various resources to invigorate lessons, and in turn, engage all types of students with differing abilities and learning preferences. 
  • Learning is positive and fun. Lessons are carefully prepared to have a captivating introductions to grab student attention. There is direct teaching of the skill/concept and continual guidance throughout the instructional period so students can practice the targeted skill/concept.  
  • Students are encouraged to ask questions and share connections, thus seeing the relevance. Student learning is assessed throughout the instructional lesson, followed by closure to sum up what was learned.

      2. Manage the Classroom: 
  • A great teacher has a bag of management tools to guide behavior and responsibility of all students. Clear classroom rules are enforced fairly and consistently. 
  • The teacher is observant and chooses disciplinary techniques to encourage positive behavior. Facial expressions while circling the room and simple verbal reprimands help redirect student behavior. 
  • Preferential seating helps selected students to be more easily monitored. 
  • A face-to-face student conference can gain insights about the behavior and how, together, there can be improvement. An individual contract may be developed that lists the desired behavior and consequences to shape the behavior.

      3. Motivate and Encourage Achievement: 
  • A great teacher is the eternal cheerleader. They have a knack of knowing just how to motivate/encourage every student to do their best. 
  • These teachers capitalize on individual strengths/interests, while working to bring up weaker areas. They provide immediate feedback and give praise frequently. 
  • Student assignments are graded in a timely manner. Student work is shared and displayed. Students play an active role in goal-setting and self-assess some of their own work. They contribute to data walls to further gauge individual, class, and grade level learning progress. 

      4. Adapt to the Needs of the Students: 
  • A great teacher is flexible. For example, if something needs to be retaught or explored more in-depth to meet the needs of students, then that takes precedent over following a time schedule. 
  • They are patient, realizing that students learn in different ways.

      5. Be a Team Player: 
  • Quality collaboration with co-workers is important as a great teacher is open to share ideas to help other teachers in their classrooms. 
  • They care about their leadership, colleagues, and the entire body of students. They are not afraid to spend extra time and hard work to help out.

Great teachers leave a legacy. Their students achieve at the highest level possible, and excel at being well-rounded individuals who embrace life-long learning, and grow up to leave their own legacies.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Can playing games increase elementary science scores?

     The education system in the U.S. is becoming a hot topic of discussion between politicians, administrators, teachers, and parents alike.  There is a need to deliver educational material in a fun way that allows students to retain the information. There is one program that seems to be proving just how possible that is. The Science Bootcamp program is paving new roads in the implementation of fun, education, and retention in science.  

     According to teachers and administrators across the State of Florida, Science Bootcamp, a series of curriculum-based science games, are dramatically improving science scores in their elementary school classrooms and on state standardized tests. According to one science teacher at Coral Reef Montessori in Cutler, Fl, "...the thing we find most extraordinary about Science Bootcamp is the layering of instruction... the program reaches the student by utilizing every angle so that no matter what the students's level or learning style, they end up not only learning science, but having fun with it too.." 

     Essentially, students are playing games and learning science simultaneously. One of the Bootcamp games, "Speed Bag", uses simple illustrations of science concepts, like photosynthesis, which the students compete with one another to see who can draw the science concept in 30 seconds or less. Science Bootcamp developers call this part of the game "building the frame of reference". By combining the frame of reference, built through repeated quick drawing of the concept, along with content constructed multiple choice questions and a written explanation tool, the students learn the concepts and retain it longer because they had fun doing it. 

     The Science Bootcamp Games are fast becoming recognized as the most effective way to increase elementary science aptitude. Just ask schools like Phyliss R. Miller in Miami Shores, which nearly tripled science test scores from 17% to 43% in its first year of using the Bootcamp games. Other schools like Henry S. Reeves Elementary, Three Points Elementary (Orlando,FL), and Poicianna Park Elementary (Miami) are just a few of the schools that are witnessing phenomenal results in science aptitude as a result of utilizing the Science Bootcamp Games. 

     Given the latest news that U.S. students rank 23 in science proficiency, the growing consensus is that our conventional (traditional) teaching methods are simply not working, and that America's educational system needs to find new and innovative ways to improve our classroom approach. Science Bootcamp is proving to be a step in that direction.