The 5th-grade class gathered by the creek that ran between their school and neighborhood, reminiscing about years past when it was safe to play in and around this water. The creek was now stagnant, cloudy, thick with algae, and foul-smelling. Thus began their yearlong GreenSTEM project that used STEM concepts and processes to investigate the problem with the creek, and inspired students to design and carry out a solution.
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Recently, I’ve had some enlightening discussions with colleagues about the concept of an inside out approach to school improvement. Many of the meaningful exchanges in these conversations have centered on opportunities to learn from bright spots within our schools and districts. Often in school improvement planning, we limit ourselves to discussing challenges, ignoring the bright spots. By doing this, we’re missing a great opportunity to expand and replicate the greatest aspects of our schools, our existing strengths.
Teachers looking together at student work seems like a surefire way to improve teaching and learning, as teachers look at real artifacts and reflect on expectations, practices, and results. However, as with most things in education, success depends not on what teachers do but how they do it, write Bryan Goodwin and Heather Hein in this month’s Research Says column in Educational Leadership.
At a recent training in Virginia, some teachers and I were discussing classroom tone and the importance of maintaining a positive classroom environment. One teacher shared a wonderful philosophy from her years of teaching: To keep your class and yourself in a positive frame of mind, it’s important to water the flowers more than the weeds.
High school graduation rates have reached an all-time high in recent years (82%)—that’s the good news. But there appears to be a not-so-silver lining: Once they get to college, those same graduates seem to have a harder time, with only about 59% completing their four-year degrees within five years.
One of the perks of my job is working with dedicated teachers in schools across the nation. Lately, I’ve been asking questions and collecting data from teachers at all levels on their instructional needs and concerns. An overwhelming number of educators have shared with me both their good thinking about, and their challenges with, keeping students more engaged in their learning. Specifically, I’ve heard teachers say, “I need ways to help motivate students who have lost faith in themselves,” and, “How can I help students want to come to school and stay engaged in what is going on in class?”
Despite years of trying various approaches to reduce the achievement gap between English language learners (ELLs) and their non-ELL peers, the gap has remained virtually unchanged since the late 1990s. Why? Bryan Goodwin and Heather Hein examine this question—and what can be done about it—in the February Research Says column for Educational Leadership magazine.