All posts by cschmidt

McREL to help expand online educational programs for NASA’s CosmoQuest

March 9, 2016

DENVER – McREL International is among ten collaborating institutions that will work over the next five years to expand and enhance public education and outreach efforts for NASA’s CosmoQuest Virtual Research Facility.

Launched in 2012, CosmoQuest.org is designed to provide students, teachers, and the public with an experience online that is similar to experiences available at traditional brick-and-mortar research centers. The “citizen science” site includes science projects like MoonMappers, which invites the public to help map craters and other features of the moon, plus online classes, seminars, and teacher materials.

Funded by an $11.5 million award from NASA, the new collaboration will bring together scientists, educators, and software developers to create new educational and outreach programs, online professional learning communities for teachers, and additional citizen science project opportunities.

“With this funding, CosmoQuest will be able to grow from a seedling full of potential into a mighty tree that supports science and learning opportunities,” said the project’s principal investigator, Dr. Pamela Gay of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE). “We are bringing in new partners with added expertise, and we couldn’t be prouder of this team.”

In addition to SIUE, partners include teams from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, InsightSTEM, Interface Guru, Lawrence Hall of Science, Johnson Space Center, McREL International, the Planetary Science Institute, McDonald Observatory, and Youngstown State University.

SIUE will develop educational activities and CosmoQuest’s software, including that which enables the public to help NASA make new discoveries. To date, CosmoQuest programs have helped NASA’s New Horizons team find Kuiper Belt objects and have helped researchers map features of the Moon, Mars, Mercury, and Vesta. Future programs, which will expand beyond planetary science, include a partnership with the University of Texas to explore dark energy, and with Johnson Space Center to help earth scientists more effectively use astronaut images to study our changing planet.

McREL’s consultants will work with educators to integrate CosmoQuest activities into the classroom and help deepen their practice through a CosmoQuest professional learning community highlighting space and earth sciences. In addition, McREL’s research and evaluation team will conduct rigorous internal evaluation of CosmoQuest initiatives to ensure the project is reaching its goal of making impactful innovations.

“We’re working with a network of amazing educational professionals who can support teachers bringing authentic science into their classrooms,” said SIUE researcher Georgia Bracey. “We’re working to build a lasting community for teachers, including an online home where they can get help and share their own lessons learned.”

To learn more, please visit CosmoQuest.org.

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Blog post: How to help ELLs with limited formal education

In a recent post on ASCD’s Inservice blog, McREL’s Jane Hill focuses on newly arrived ELL students at the middle and high school levels who have limited or interrupted formal education and suggests strategies that can help teachers meet these students’ unique needs. A focus on functional literacy, for example, and speaking basics is a good place to start, Hill writes, so that students can “do the authentic reading and writing they need to function” as soon as possible. She also suggests an approach developed by Stanford researcher Jeff Zwiers referred to as PIE, which reminds teachers that speaking and listening activities should be purposeful, include intentional language or fill in an information gap, and be used for explicit language development.

Read the blog post.

Research Says column examines the reasons behind the ELL achievement gap

In the latest Research Says column in Educational Leadership, McREL’s Bryan Goodwin and Heather Hein look at why, after years of various approaches to reduce the achievement gap between English-language learners (ELLs) and non-ELLs, the gap refuses to budge.

Despite dramatically rising numbers of ELLs in our nation’s schools, language acquisition is still largely misunderstood, the authors write, due in large part to a lack of professional development. This misunderstanding can lead to unrealistic expectations and a “deficit-thinking” mindset that puts ELLs at fault for their low performance. Goodwin and Hein suggest an “asset-based” approach to teacher education could help—one that focuses on language and diversity not as problems to solve but as opportunities to prepare all students for a globally connected world.

Read the entire column.

Article: Do’s and don’ts for engaging beginning-level ELLs

In the February issue of Educational Leadership, McREL’s Jane Hill focuses on six key actions teachers should and shouldn’t take when trying to engage and challenge beginning-level English-language learners. For example, teachers need to understand each ELL’s stage of language acquisition and not group them into too-broad categories, like “high level” and “low level.” Also, it’s important that all students—even the lowest-level ELLs—are engage in the same level of thinking. In other words, don’t water down the curriculum, regardless of an ELL’s level of English language acquisition.

Read the entire article.

McREL and partners to develop digital game to motivate students

An online news report on the University of Southern California’s (USC) website highlights the partnership between Professor of Psychology Daphna Oyserman, McREL International, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Filament Games, in developing and testing a digital game designed to motivate students.

The project, “Identity-Based Motivation Journey to Academic Success,” is funded by a five-year, $2.7 million Investing in Innovation (i3) grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The South Central Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services (SCBOCES), which serves minority and low-income students, will also participate.

Read the article.

Blog post: Balanced Leadership key to developing leaders at all levels in Tennessee district

In a recent post for Education Week‘s Leadership 360 blog, B.J. Worthington, director of schools for the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System (CMCSS) in Clarksville, Tenn., writes about the importance of leadership development at all levels, including, for his district, a comprehensive program for current and aspiring leaders based on McREL’s Balanced Leadership® Framework.

A consistent approach to leadership development, Dr. Worthington says, allows for “a common vocabulary and fidelity in the learning for all participants.” In addition, to ensure they consistently apply what they’ve learned now and into the future, the district has embraced the principles of high reliability organizations.

Read the blog post.

A review: Research sets Balanced Leadership book apart

In a review of McREL’s Balanced Leadership for Powerful Learning: Tools for Achieving Success in Your School on SmartBlog on Education, Fred Ende of the Putnam Northern Westchester (New York) BOCES says what the book does, that many others don’t, is “rely more on research and meta-analyses than anecdotes and experiences” to explain how to become an effective school leader.

He also describes his three most valuable take-aways from the book, including:

  • You can never ask “why” too many times.
  • Just because we’re focused on the right change for our schools and buildings doesn’t mean we’re employing the right behaviors to make that change.
  • When we lead, we can’t just worry about the relationships we have with others. We have to cultivate the relationship development between others too.

Read the full review.

ASCD podcast: Every teacher is a leader

McREL President and CEO Bryan Goodwin is one of three education leaders discussing the importance of teacher leadership on ASCD’s latest Whole Child Podcast.

Goodwin and fellow panelists Fred Ende, assistant director of curriculum and instructional services for Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES (New York), and Maddie Fennell, an elementary school teacher in Omaha Public Schools and former teaching ambassador fellow at the U.S. Department of Education, talk about the benefits for both administrators and teachers of empowering teacher leaders, how to create a structure for teacher leadership that works, and how such a structure benefits the whole child.

Learn more and listen to the podcast.

New white paper from McREL challenges educators to approach reform from the “inside out”

January 4, 2016

DENVER — A new white paper from McREL International urges education leaders and policy makers to rethink the current, top-down approach to reform and consider what might happen if we improved our schools from the inside out.

In The Road Less Traveled: Changing Schools from the Inside Out, McREL President and CEO Bryan Goodwin shows how the past three decades of education reform—in which teachers and school leaders nationwide have shouldered the burden of large-scale initiatives such as the standards-based movement, No Child Left Behind, and the Common Core State Standards—have done little to change student outcomes. Despite the good intentions of these efforts to improve learning for all students, today’s achievement levels remain stagnant, gaps persist, and the U.S. continues to lag behind on international assessments.

The reason for this, Goodwin writes, is not the initiatives themselves but the way we carry them out—with a heavy-handed, top-down approach to reform that has not only not improved achievement but has led to increased stress among educators and has many fleeing the profession altogether.

An inside-out approach, he explains, instead “puts student engagement, motivation, and true problem-solving abilities at the heart of everything we do”—creating a different, more powerful outcome for all students that sets them up for lifelong success: curiosity.

Curiosity, Goodwin says, is linked with many other desirable student characteristics—motivation, passion, engagement, growth-mindedness, inquiry—but what may be most powerful about it is that it’s not difficult to develop in students, and most teachers and school leaders are already familiar with the practices that allow it to flourish.

The paper outlines a few key, consistent actions schools systems can take to approach reform from the inside out:

  • Develop shared understanding about the moral purpose of schooling
  • Put student curiosity, engagement, and motivation at the center of learning rather than focusing on teacher performance
  • Build on bright spots in current practice and teacher strengths
  • Develop leaders as change agents and questioners
  • Fail forward with rapid-cycle improvement
  • Re-discover peer coaching
  • Reframe the goal, balancing standardized achievement tests with performance assessments

Goodwin acknowledges possible barriers to this approach but also highlights examples of schools and districts that have already successfully used it. In the end, he says, “We loathe the constraints of our current reform paradigm, yet underestimate our power to walk away from it”—and experience what could be the freedom of a new, more engaging system of schooling.

The free paper can be downloaded from the McREL website.

McREL International is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving education for all students through applied research, product development, and professional service to teachers and education leaders. For more information, contact Roger Fiedler, director of communications, at 800.858.6830 or rfiedler@mcrel.org.

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White Paper | The Road Less Traveled: Changing Schools from the Inside Out (2015)

In this white paper, McREL’s Bryan Goodwin urges education leaders and policymakers to rethink the way we’ve been approaching reform for the past three decades and consider what might happen if we improved schools not from the top down but instead from the inside out—putting curiosity at the center of learning and unleashing a powerful, more engaging system of schooling.

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