As we enter the 2018-2019 school year, we begin the second year of our school-wide advisory program. With a growth mindset as the focus of our work last year, we used that mindset to reflect on the successes and failures of our 2017-2018 advisory program. To do so, we engaged our Building Culture Committee (BCC) throughout the year and incorporated students as valuable members of the committee. In fact, our April session was designed through a collaboration between Adelphi University, our students, and the teachers who comprise the BCC (see "The Power of Words" below).
We also engaged our student body in the cafeteria, during all lunch periods, to provide us with feedback as it related to the sessions. This feedback (see "Student Advisory Feedback" below) was organized by grade, coded, and then used for curriculum writing this summer. What we learned was that our students valued the dialogue more than the scripted lesson. They want to talk about topics that are "real" to them. They also helped us to recognize that like in any good lesson, we needed to differentiate the content and delivery based on the grade levels as well as the individual group needs/wants. This year's program will include a menu of choices and suggested materials that will help our advisors to craft their sessions, with their advisees.
This unique program, tailored to the specific needs of our students, will develop over time and require regular input. Year one had lots of successes!
My learning began with Professor Richard Kimbell of Goldsmiths University of London whose work is around capturing really good learning experiences from the classroom in portfolios and then enabling those portfolios to be assessed with a high degree of reliability. The highly valid and interesting work that goes on in classrooms is difficult to assess reliably. He uses digital portfolios, assessed by groups of teachers using the simple question, "Which one is better?" He cites Dylan Wiliam (1998) who asserted that "...most summative assessments were interpreted not with respect to criteria (which are ambiguous) ...but rather by reference to a shared construct of quality that exists in well defined communities of practice." This concept was called "connoisseurship" by Michael Polanyi in 1958. Kimbell concluded that:
Another highlight was meeting Dr. Lonnie Johnson. Dr. Johnson is a former Air Force and NASA engineer who invented the massively popular Super Soaker water gun. He reminded the audience to believe and have confidence in our students. Technology will bring solutions he said, and made sure that although ultimately successful, the super soaker took eight years and a lot of false starts along the way. He has since been developing the Johnson Thermoelectric Energy Converter (JTEC), an engine that converts heat directly into electricity.
Dr. Johnson truly embodies a growth mindset and his message was unbelievably inspiring.
It was a pleasure to represent the Mineola School District along with Nicole Culella (PK-12 Instructional Leader) at this internationally attended event where we learned along side of passionate educators and had the opportunity to share our work as we presented a session entitled "Threading and Embedding Engineering Design Thinking PK-12." Our session was well attended and received by a packed room of educators representing schools from Maryland, Georgia, Utah, New York, North Carolina, Illinois and China.
As our presentation concluded, we networked with other educators and took away several key points.
There are fews things that educational leaders do that are more important than hiring the right teachers. That is why we need to constantly revisit the construct that we use and determine whether, in the short amount of time that we have with each person, are we yielding the best results. Our superintendent reminds us that the process of hiring and developing a new teacher is like a "marraige;" we want to make sure that we are "with" the right person, and will continue with them for the long term. So... how do we do that?
Our traditional process was already collaborative as teachers and administrators work together to cull through the resumes that we receive and choose the candidates for interviews whose resumes and cover letters stand out. We look at certification, well-written and articulate cover letters (without spelling or grammatical errors), experience (student teaching or professional), and skills that match our needs. For me, the number of pages of the resume does not matter, but rather the content within it.
When we bring the candidates in, we ask questions, require a writing sample (in math we have them solve a difficult problem) and then move some on for demonstration lessons. Finally, our superintendent meets with our short list of candidates and recommends the successful candidate to our Board of Education for hiring.
While there are many great questions to ask prospective teachers, the lists can be extensive (below are some that we use). Furthermore, candidates' answers are often filled with educational jargon and without careful follow-up, can lead interviewers to believe that a concept is known, when in fact only the term is. In otherwords, the answers lack depth of knowledge.
What's New? Changing the paradigm.... A Quadrilateral Approach.
We have been developing the Four Cs (creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication) as a pillar of our instruction at the high school. While this notion is not new, if "modern" (we are 18 years into the 21st century) education is ever going to make a difference in the lives of students, teachers must be able to do this work in classrooms every day. How do we see this before we hire?
Enter the group interview. The construct of this new paradigm starts with bringing teacher candidates into our interview process in groups. For the first hour of the interview, we have them work on a task (a multiday lesson plan) in groups.
For our English interviews, we provided all candidates with a copy of "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin and asked them to read it in advance of the interview date. When they arrived, they arrived as a group and we handed them the task to complete. We place them in groups... and let them go.
Task: You have an 11th grade integrated class including students with IEPs as well as English Language Learners. Using "The Story of an Hour," construct a two day lesson plan that includes the following:
We (the committee of teachers and administrators) observe them working and take notes using a list of "look-fors." We then have them share out their lessons along with the rationale. During the next hour, we have them complete their writing sample while we meet with each one individually beginning with a new question, "What did you think of the process?" Their answers are telling in many ways. Sometimes, they coincide with how they worked with their group. Sometimes they don't. For example, several candidates told us that they would have participated more but did not want to dominate the conversation or "step on anyone's toes." Almost all of them told us that they enjoyed the process of working with others and knew that it would be a big part of their job if they were the successful candidate. They could see right away that we value collaboration and teamwork.
Including the group dynamic has been a game changer for us. It has uncovered the Four Cs and allowed us to push our thinking beyond the Q & A. This quadrilateral approach allows us to examine four aspects: interview, writing sample, group activity, and demonstration lesson. By doing so, we can see that all quadrilaterals have four sides, but each side can be different and create a very different shape. And, not all shapes match our school and district needs.
Sample Interview Questions:
Reflecting on my time at the Redesigning for Student Success Conference, a conference focused solely on sharing the practices of over 20 of the most transformational schools in the country, I think of the major things that resonated with me.
Thank you @tonydonen for sharing this great panoramic photo
The students were really proud of their school as well and shared everything with us. As we say often in Mineola, the students are always the best ambassadors, and give you the most "real" information. Some interesting takeaways were the 5 week internship that all juniors do, their advisory program, and the biannual project exhibitions.
!. Waypoints - What do we need to see?
2. Resources - What resources do we need?
3. Activities - What will we do?
4. Implementation - What did we do?
5. Adaptation - What did we learn?
The next session I attended led me to Dr. Tony Donon, Principal of the STEM School Chattanooga (@STEMcha) and Michael Stone, Director of the Public Education Foundation of Chattanooga. These two gentlemen were a dynamic duo; great presenters with vision on how to design PBL as well as experience in digital fabrication, opening FabLabs and scaling their impact across multiple schools. In the spirit of professional collaboration, our conversations extended into the evening. Our mutual interests in innovation led us to a rich exchange of ideas.
The STEM School website (http://www.stemschoolchattanooga.net/) is rich with resources and curriculum units for everyone to see and use. "By consistently exploring and implementing innovative practices, the STEM School builds a strong foundation for thinking critically, innovating, and leading. This foundation equips students to address current issues and problems and provides them with the tools they need to continue to learn and grow. The STEM School requires a unique approach to both teaching and learning – which impacts three main areas: its curriculum, its classroom structure, and its grading practices.
Michael's work with the Public Education Foundation (PEF) helps, among other things, scale the work of the STEM school, which he calls a "beacon" in the area. He is responsible, along with his colleagues for opening VWeLabs around the Hamilton County Schools in Tennessee.
Several other useful resources for those interested in digital fabrication that were shared include:
The Volkswagen eLabs website - https://www.vwelab.org/
The Fab Foundation Website - http://fabfoundation.org/
Meeting Roger Andre and Stephanie Lolich from VANTAGE , taught us about a unique half day program that is part of the Minnetonka Public Schools where students work with a project team to solve real-world problems and learn about the challenges of project-driven work. Under the direction of a teacher and in partnership with industry professionals, these project teams strive to make a contribution to a partner-defined project while gaining invaluable experience in today's marketplace. Some ideas that resonated for me during this session from these amazing educators were:
Our Planning Template
Some takeaways from our talk was that it was unique. The programs we heard about included students completing projects with businesses, visiting them, and having guest lecturers, but there were no internships. There were also no college partnerships; credits offered were through tests, such as AP and IB. We also learned that each school has a unique set of challenges and solutions to address their needs and that no two programs are alike. Some districts have STEM schools, and some schools create half day programs with multiple "strands" or offerings.
The conference was eye opening for me on many levels, but mostly because it caused me to reflect on its title, "Redesigning for School Success." It always seems like we are "redesigning" and in the past I thought that was because we were doing it wrong; because we have not been successful. That is entirely untrue. Public schools were founded in this country to make sure its future generations of citizens have the skills to be productive members of society. They started with reading, writing, and mathematics and the list of subjects began to grow from there.
So... it is not because we are doing it wrong that we need redesign, it is because our world is changing, the skills needed are changing, and we must be nimble in our thinking in order to keep preparing our students to be productive members of society. I have never been more #MineolaProud of our district and it's ability to stay at the forefront... always seeking to provide our students with the skills to "...inspire each student to be a life-long learner, pursue excellence, exhibit strength of character and contribute positively to a global society."
I had the honor of speaking to our new Business and Entrepreneurship class this past week. I brought with me a presentation, two videos, and hula hoops to help me to illustrate my points. We all need tools in order to help inspire students to do great things and contribute positively to a global society as our district mission includes.
This course is not just an elective, but another example of the innovative nature of the programming we are providing our students at Mineola High School. It is the first of what we hope to evolve into a business and advanced manufacturing "strand." A direction, or pathway that students can travel in their quest to be "college and career ready."
Next, I wanted them to know they were were brought together to help create something that has never been done before in the high school. That is... a school business that sells products designed and created by the students themselves. We created a Business Club as well; and opened our Fabrication Lab (FabLab) and staffed it after-school for students to produce. I also wanted students to know that it is in classes like this, where world changers are born... classes where the learning is messy and students have the ability to think outside the box.
This sounds like a great opportunity for creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking.... right? Well, of course it is; but as it turns out, these are difficult concepts for adolescents who are very used to traditional schooling. Perfect! This class has already empowered students to own their own learning.
Fast forward to this morning... Today was "pitch day." Six groups of entrepreneurs came to the iHub to pitch their ideas to our FabLab team. The ideas included T-Shirts, Stickers, Pop Sockets, Mugs, Frames, and Signs. The ideas were vast and the student presentations were comprehensive. The FabLab team answered questions that related to materials, production time, and feasibility. They also gave the students some questions to go back to their groups and think about related to design and cost. It was a great meeting that raised the excitement of the reality of this tremendous opportunity.
Having a lot of questions is both frustrating and rewarding at the same time. While it is difficult to begin with the end in mind, I know the journey to entrepreneurship will be a rewarding one... one that prepares students for careers, college, and citizenship.
At Mineola High School, College and Career Readiness has taken on a whole new meaning. While we offer a host of options for our students including multiple "elective" classes, we now offer a specific direction for students, a "strand" that leads to both a high school diploma and a college certificate.
After looking at our community college persistence data and number of students requiring remedial coursework upon entering college, we knew we needed a better plan, one that could prepare them for their future in an ever-changing market. In a market where the jobs we prepare them for either do not exist, or are in fields that our current system is not familiar with. Jon Oringer, founder and CEO of Shutterstock reminds us, “There is a lack of talent in technology, and we need to be encouraging kids in school to learn how to code. We need to encourage computer science as a major. We need to encourage entrepreneurism.”
We also need an increased focus on student interests. So... where do you start? We wanted to identify a field of study that provided students with an excellent experience that would either ignite a passion for further study in college or prepare them to enter the workforce. We also wanted an area that would allow students, once interested, to choose from a wide range of opportunities in the chosen field of study (figure 1). We began with computer science where students are interested, and the job outlook is bright.
CNNMoney describes the best jobs in America in their May 2017 story. Their list of the top 100 careers with big growth, great pay and satisfying work includes mobile app developer, systems engineer, database analyst, and others in the IT field (see figure 2).
We knew we needed a partner in higher education and we looked 8.4 miles to the west of our school to Queensborough Community College. Our initial discussions began in the summer of 2014 and involved developing a partnership where students left with more than just a few college courses under their belt like a traditional dual enrollment program. Through our work with the Connect to College Program, Vice President for Pre-College, Continuing Education, and Workforce Development and the Chairperson of the Engineering Technology Program, we developed a pathway for our high school juniors and seniors to graduate with a high school diploma as well as a New Media Technology Certificate from the college. This is the first program of its kind in our region and an extremely exciting opportunity for our students.
Planning and Preparation
We planned to launch this program in the 2016-2017 school year with "Cohort A" and needed to prepare. We spent a great deal of the 2015-2016 school year working out the college articulation agreement and planning to serve the students in a Cohort type program. We needed to backwards plan, beginning with the end in mind while involving our stakeholders in the entire process in order to establish buy in (figure 3). What courses could we teach at the high school? What courses need to be taught at the college? Did we have the right teacher or did we need to hire someone? How would the students get to and from the college? How would we identify students? We knew we had the support of our Board of Education, in fact three of their goals were:
Recruitment of both the right teacher as well as the right students was essential. We conducted an extensive search and hired a dynamic teacher with an extensive computer science background. We also had multiple outreaches within our district in order to explain the program and opportunity it would provide for our students to our community.
What does the program look like?
The program is designed for students to complete as a cohort, in their junior and senior year. We also begin by exposing all students to an Exploring Computer Science course in the ninth grade as well as opportunities in robotics in order to keep an eye on interest and identify potential candidates early on in their high school career.
In their senior year, students follow the same structure but are taken by bus to the Queensborough Community College Campus during the afternoon time slot (10:30-2:20) where they take Network Fundamentals I, Introduction to C++, Personal Computer Technology, Architecture, and Troubleshooting (A+ Certification) as well as Economics.
The final piece to truly solidify a college and career readiness experience was to create a meaningful internship experience for our students. We looked to our friends at Core Business Technology Solutions for their expertise. They too were "All-In" from the moment we mentioned it. We conducted multiple focus group meetings that once again included our Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, Guidance Director, Principal, and Core Team to hash out our vision and logistics. Core was able to provide three experiences that the students would rotate through (figure 4) over the course of the school year.
This year long internship experience takes place on the days that students do not have class on the college campus (periods 5 through 9). In the tech services cycle, students work with our district technicians, learning about network operations, hardware, software, and the tech ticket system with hands-on experience. In the marketing cycle, our students meet virtually using Cisco TelePresence in our school with the marketing team at Core to develop strategies to use with the company's programs. Finally, on the sales/business side of the operation, students are taken to Core's office to work with the business team on site. All of the students are treated like real employees of the company and wear uniform shirts and ID badges.
We’d like to think we are preparing our students for their future through this unique program and giving a whole new meaning to College and Career Readiness.
Hear our program featured on "Spotlight on Long Island Schools."
As each new year begins, students transition from grade to grade and in some cases from school to school. We are keenly aware that the transition from middle school to high school could be a slightly stressful experience. The purpose of this post is to let you know that making this transition smooth is extremely important to us.
The first two days for 8th graders will be different... with a focus on getting comfortable with the building as well as the procedures, expectations, and technology here at the high school. There will also be plenty of time to visit the lockers and practice learning a new lock combination. This work will continue throughout the year as we work in our advisory groups and help our students develop a growth mindset.
On day one, the periods are shortened (Figure 1) and students will spend the first block of time touring the building.
Then, they will hear about the "Road to Graduation" and complete an activity in which they browse the high school course catalog in order to see the big picture! Mr. Azzara, our 8th grade counselor will be pushing into all classes and discussing the following:
Finally, Actively Learn is a reading and writing platform that helps our students read for depth. It provides an environment where teachers can embed questions into reading assignments and monitor the progress of the students. When students attain deep understanding of text, they are able to establish meaning, analyze the text, and apply their knowledge in meaningful ways (e.g. writing an essay or completing a project).
Although your children will be tired after the first two days, please be sure to talk to them each night when they get home. Make sure they know what each of the images above are and that you know too. Parent involvement is an important part of student success. Finally, keep the lines of communication open and make sure your children internalize the importance of their decisions and how everything that they do makes a difference.
This is going to be a great 5 years!
In September of 2016, Mineola High School began a Building Culture Committee (BCC). This group of professionals, across disciplines, were tasked with looking at a list generated in our #edcampmhs session entitled "What is a School Culture Committee?"
This dedicated group of educators was assembled to look at "School Culture," come up with a working definition, and then determine what should be done to build our own culture, based on our unique needs.
We engaged in a dialogue that focused on the work of Todd Whitaker and Steve Gruenert; School Culture Rewired. How to Define, Assess, and Transform it. We used the School Culture Typology Activity in Chapter 5 and turned it into a survey for our faculty to take. The results of each of the 12 categories were reviewed extensively. The results of our work gave us a good baseline for where our faculty thought we were currently in relation to each of the categories. It also helped us to either broaden or narrow our lens when we looked at the remaining pieces of data (Climate and Engagement Surveys as well as OECD test results).
Next, we looked at multiple years of data available to us from the school district:
So... What did all of this data tell us?
The K12 Insight Family and School Partnership survey was reviewed extensively, revealing strengths for us in many areas. These areas include home-school communication, scheduled meetings and events that are at convenient times, sharing of ideas, and opportunities to be involved in their children's educational experience.Parents also indicated that their involvement makes a difference in their child's academic success.
The survey also revealed that parents felt that there was room for improvement in the areas of information on child development, including physical, brain, and social development (Figure 1). This is directly related to perceptions on how much information is provided related to how parents can help improve student learning at home (Figure 2).
Our students were also surveyed using a K12 Insight survey entitled "Student Engagement Survey." Cognitive engagement as well as social and emotional engagement was surveyed. For the purpose of the BCC, the social and emotional engagement survey was looked at in depth. The categories included 8 areas: Involvement, persistence, self-management, future aspirations, acceptance, relationship management, relationship with peers, and relationship with adults. Scores in most areas fell within the average range with lower scores noted in the persistence category.
The OECD Test for Schools examines school data, national data, and international data in order to draw comparisons. The OECD's Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI) through the Innovative Learning Environments (ILE) project is analyzing how young people learn and under which conditions and dynamics they might learn better. The research was synthesized to create seven transversal “principles” to guide the design of learning environments for the 21st century. 1. Learners at the center 2. The social nature of learning 3. Emotions are integral to learning 4. Recognizing individual differences 5. Stretching all students 6. Assessment for learning 7. Building horizontal connections
Instrumental Motivation refers to how important students see a subject in their own lives as they move on to further studies and the labor market. Instrumental motivation has been found to be an important predictor for course selection, career choice, and job performance. The data in the figure below is a chart taken from the exam data that demonstrates a statistical difference in students' instrumental motivation in science at our school in comparison to the United States.
As a committee, we looked at the words "useful," "will help me," and "need this" as a means to examining instrumental motivation and how this can be achieved in our context.
The BCC spent a good part of the spring looking at our current programs and supports for our students to determine our next steps. We met with a student group as well to share our findings and get feedback from them as well. The students were candid with their feedback and reminded us that that consistency was important to them and they valued a consistent program that delivered the same message to all students. They also liked the idea of utilizing the experiences of the older students to help the younger ones.
Our brainstorming is reflected in the bulleted list below (taken from our BCC notes):
At this High School...
Our committee decided that an advisory program would work for us; a program that initially would meet monthly, and be focused on the "non-cognitive" skills that we felt as a committee, based on our data and collective experience, would help our students excel. Growth Mindset being at the center!
Our @mineolahs Advisory Program (M.A.P.) will kick off in the Fall with an introduction to students, faculty and staff. Students will be divided by grade level in groups of 10-12 and assigned an advisor (member of faculty) for their high school career. The role of the advisor is to implement the program and establish a connection with their students. That simple! Year one has been outlined... with the exception of our last session that will be planned in conjunction with the entire faculty.
On October 10 we can't wait to be "All In" when our students see Gian Paul Gonzalez's Assembly Program.
Monthly small group advisory sessions will continue throughout the year!
Once you understand growth mindset, you can apply it across many situations:
As individuals, we took the mindset survey. One half of the room tried to answer with a fixed mindset, while the other half answered with a growth mindset. Some of the survey statements were:
You must constantly hear your fixed and growth mindset voice.
"If a child believes that failure is a result of not being smart enough or not having enough ability, they often avoid challenges or give up easily."
"If a child believes that failure is a reason to increase the amount of effort needed for success, they often embrace challenges and succeed."
To hear that voice, we heard "Sophia" and "Tristan" in Interviews with Lisa Blackwell. We heard Sophia talk about limits on her learning and not being "good" at something. She also talked about her perception of what a smart person looks like. Tristan was a sharp contrast. "Trying makes me smart." "I never put myself down."Participating and doing my best makes me feel smart." His growth mindset was clear!
Can we intentionally develop a growth mindset in students? Repeated studies of all ages of children across all socio-economic status and all levels of intelligence show that "praise for effort has dramatically different results for kids than does praise for intelligence."
Carol Dweck reminds us that "Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control, and they come to see themselves as in control of their success. Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child's control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to a failure."
The Effective Effort Rubric assesses the learning process and the effective effort that a learner applies. Learning to hear your fixed, mixed, and growth mindset voice is important when addressing the following seven needs of all learners.
Our work as a district will be ongoing. The parallel tracks we will follow will focus on professional development, classroom materials (videos), a year-long documentary, and teacher resources. We will continue to model life-long learning as we improve the experience of school for our students. We are also lucky to have Eduardo Briceno for our opening day Keynote in September! As a leader at Mindset Works, which helps people develop as motivated and effective learners through training and resources to foster growth mindset beliefs and behaviors, he will push our learning to the next level.
"Praise" taken from:
Mineola High School is a true community... not just a school! This week was foreign language week across the United States and our 10th annual Multicultural Night.
This night is like no other! For the past two years we brought the middle school and high school together for an evening of food and entertainment. The evening begins at 6:00pm and there is standing room only! Why? How about 3 reasons.
1. There is food! Food is always a great way to bring people together. Our local restaurants are extremely generous and supportive of the work our schools do. Over 60 of them donate to an event that they do not even attend. Additionally, our families bring dishes and desserts that celebrate their cultures. It is an opportunity to sit with people you may not have met before, in a non-academic setting and just simply enjoy each others' company. Families are able to sit together, amongst their friends, a lost art in the hectic lives that we all live.
2. There are students! People like to be around our students and our students like being in our schools. Whenever there are students in our buildings after school hours we know that we have created a place where they want to be. Students are the heart of everything we do and the reason we love working!
3. There is entertainment! Our community embraces the arts and our students love to perform. Each year the number of acts grows and the talent is amazing. To hear our students sing and watch our students dance brings joy to our hearts. The audience is filled with parents, students, teachers, administrators, our Board of Education, and community members. They all cheer for our students with loud heartfelt applause. Everyone roots for each others' success and this helps create a culture where diversity is celebrated. From solos in English, Spanish, and Italian, to traditional Indian, Irish, and German dancing, we have it all! We even have a Tae Kwon Do demonstration that ignites the crowd!
School is so much more than nine periods a day. There is so much more about growing up and being a "well-rounded" person than just coming to school and going to class. Aside from the hard work and dedication in classroom, our students are involved, dedicated and hard-working in all aspects of their lives.
This is what makes Mineola a great community!
Whittney Smith, Ed.D.
Dr. Smith is the Principal of Mineola High School in Garden City Park, NY. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Ruth Ammon School of Education at Adelphi University.