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Educational technology gets a new level of scrutiny

In an era when we all have access to copious information to help us make even the most trivial buying decisions, it’s odd that good data can be hard to find when the stakes are really high. When it comes to buying educational technology for classroom or administrative use, the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is aimed at changing this by insisting that companies provide evidence that their products or interventions are effective.

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McREL Statement on Opposing Racism and Supporting Change

June 8, 2020 | Denver, CO—The killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and so many others are horrific reminders of the extent to which racism exists in our country. The McREL community grieves for the victims and their families, and for all people who continue to be systemically mistreated, oppressed, and denied equal rights because of explicit and implicit racism, bigotry, and bias.

McREL was founded in the 1960s as part of the Great Society platform combatting poverty and inequality. Our charge was to discover effective teaching and leadership strategies and share them broadly with all schools so that all students would benefit. We have always believed that a quality education is a foundational civil right, from which all others flow. We’re proud of what we have accomplished, but clearly it hasn’t been enough. It is time to renew our commitment and be explicit about fighting systemic racism. We seek to support educators and ensure that all students have access to an equitable and transformative education.

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How the COVID-19 crisis could be a boon to curiosity

At an age when learning should be more engaging—high school students ought to be to exploring the deep mysteries of the universe, encountering great literature that reveals our shared humanity, and mastering the elegant language of mathematics that helps them solve complex problems—they’re bored out of their minds. Why should that be? Numerous studies point to the missing ingredient—something we observe in abundance in younger children, only to watch it slip away as they progress through school: curiosity. In this moment, teachers have the rare opportunity to engage students in some productive and semi-structured “unschooling.”

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Research Matters: Elegant simplicity in brain science

The May 2020 issue of ASCD’s Educational Leadership is all about learning and the brain, a topic that’s near and dear to McREL. Our Bryan Goodwin and Darienne Day contributed a Research Matters column that encourages educators to consider knowledge about how learning happens as they design lessons—knowledge that, they say, has been “hidden in plain view” for decades.

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A Teacher’s Reflective Impact Journal: McREL’s newest publication helps educators self-reflect on their professional practices

May 4, 2020 | Denver, CO—Self-reflection is one of the most powerful habits teachers can develop to hone their instructional skills and expertise. To help teachers access the benefits of this highly personal form of professional development, McREL is pleased to introduce A Teacher’s Reflective Impact Journal: Pursuing Greatness Every Day. It’s a guided 144-page journal that lets teachers chronicle which classroom practices are going great, which could stand some improvement, and how they’re growing and changing along the way.

“Educators want to continually grow as professionals, and research supports the notion that journaling speeds up and reinforces this process,” said co-author Pete Hall. “It helps us synthesize and clarify our thoughts, it fosters our creativity and curiosity, and it’s a truly personalized means of professional learning growth.”

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The power of journaling for professional growth

I’m Pete, and I’m a journaler. I actually started as a storyteller, back in the day, when I kept a dozen sketchbooks full of tales of teddy bears, game summaries of make-believe baseball teams, and lyrics to various rap songs (some jotted painstakingly from the radio, others I made up). I wrote while hunkered down under my bed, I wrote sitting on the deck, I wrote at the kitchen table. The point is, I’ve always enjoyed writing, and I keep doing it (witness this blog: yeah, I wrote it). And I feel there are tons of benefits to writing in a journal.

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Communities of practice in this social distancing moment

Whether a teacher team is called a Professional Learning Community (PLC) or a Community of Practice (CoP) or simply a grade-level team or subject-area department team, most educators are accustomed to maintaining a consistent team meeting schedule during the school year. Often, this team time is used to examine student work or assessment results, compare notes about lesson plans, share strategies about different instructional moves, or seek advice about engaging students in a tough unit of study. Depending on district and school resources and directives, educators may also find themselves discussing shared team leadership, collaboration, or identifying “people who need to be at the table.” Again, these meetings have been the routine “normal” for just about all of us for our entire teaching careers. But now that COVID-19 has closed schools and shifted us all to online teaching and learning, these routine meeting schedules have in many cases been temporarily suspended while educators try to normalize the virtual classroom environment.

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Lose the cape! Five tips for leading in uncertain times

For the past few weeks, as we’ve connected with school and district leaders from all over the nation (and world), we’ve been inspired by the thoughtful, earnest efforts of many school systems to address in real-time the immense challenge of supporting learning while students are at home. We also hear the heavy burden leaders are shouldering right now as they make dozens of critical decisions each day while attempting to sound a confident and reassuring tone for anxious teachers and families.

Yet we know that behind the brave face they put on for others, many leaders are privately wrestling with their own anxieties, feelings of inadequacy, and worries they’re not doing enough to help students, families, and teachers navigate this crisis.

If that sounds like you, rest assured you’re not alone. We know the stress you’re feeling. So, the last thing we want to do is add to your anxieties by serving up a new checklist to do (or feel inadequate about not doing). Instead, we’ve gleaned few tips from leaders like you, our own experiences, and research, and we offer them here simply as coping strategies (and words of encouragement) to help you manage your stress and navigate these uncertain waters.

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The power (and limits) of student-led discussions

Hollywood often presents teachers as swashbucklers, swooping in to right wrongs and save the day with powerful speeches delivered to the class. When it comes to actual classroom discussions, however, the truth is a little less dramatic and a lot more complicated, according to the latest research column by McREL’s Bryan Goodwin and Max Altman in ASCD’s Educational Leadership magazine. When it comes to effective student learning, some of the best discussion happens among students themselves. But leading students to have productive conversations with their peers is quite a bit different than playing the leading role in a fictitious classroom.

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Students can help improve schools . . . if we’ll listen

School leaders often overlook an obvious source of information on how they could serve students better: students. The “student voice” movement seeks to remedy this by showing administrators productive ways to solicit student input on such matters as school climate, graduation rates, and even teacher turnover. And researchers have identified methods that are particularly effective, McREL’s Bryan Goodwin and Samantha E. Holquist write in the March 2020 edition of ASCD’s Educational Leadership magazine.

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