A year ago, high school teachers across Guam attended a McREL training on how to make STEM come alive for students through underwater robotics; on April 21, that work resulted in a successful first-of-its-kind competition. Teams of students from six high schools used remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) they designed and built to collect and transfer items from a pool, simulating reef cleanup and recovery. “This builds the confidence of our kids as far as STEM careers go,” said STEM Project Director Leah Beth Naholowaa. “There’s a lot of jobs on the island that cannot be filled because we don’t have the workforce, so this program helps create awareness.” A member of the winning team from Tiyan High School will now be able to attend the 2017 MATE International ROV competition in Long Beach, California.
Last year, teachers across Guam participated in a McREL STEM education training on underwater robotics—and now their students are taking the plunge. Eleventh graders in Dymphnia San Nicolas-Diaz’s math class at Tiyan High School in Barrigada have been working together to design and build their own remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), which they recently got to test out in an inflatable pool. Said student Franklin Babauta, “We all designed something from scratch and trying to find the right design was hard, but luckily we all came together as a team. We learned a lot of real-life stuff in that class, and this is probably one of my favorite things that we’ve done.”
To spark student interest in STEM, the Guam Department of Education and McREL are working together to train teachers on astronomy and planetary science, including how to build rovers that can travel to different worlds throughout the universe. The CosmoQuest Project, which is supported by NASA, offers teachers first-hand experiences in order to get them engaged in STEM and “take that energy and excitement back into the classroom and be truly inspiring to their students,” said McREL consultant Whitney Cobb.
An article in the Abaconian highlighted McREL’s Balanced Leadership work with school leaders throughout the Bahamas, including the Abaco Islands. The article focuses on how Balanced Leadership supports the Abaco district’s theme for the current school year, “Educate Students to Create Long Time Learners,” by providing training sessions that will help school leaders adjust to the shifting, more demanding expectations placed on them. According to Superintendent Dr. Lenora Black, principals cannot meet all of these expectations alone, and the district’s goal is effective leadership at all levels, from teachers and teacher leaders to district administrators and national education leaders.
A study published in the June issue of Educational Administration Quarterly looks at the causal impact of McREL’s Balanced Leadership® (BL) professional development program on principals’ learning, beliefs, and behaviors. Researcher Roger Goddard and his colleagues compared a treatment group of 100 principals in rural Michigan who participated in two years of BL training with a group who did not receive training. Results showed that participating principals reported substantively significant growth on the majority of outcomes targeted by BL, with the largest impacts on sense of efficacy for instructional improvement, reported ability to bring about change, and strength of norms for teachers’ instructional practice. Interestingly, principals were more likely to report growth on broad, school-level outcomes than in areas that involve them working directly with teachers.
In the May/June issue of NAESP’s Principal magazine, McREL Senior Director Matt Seebaum and Superintendent Jay Harnack from Sublette County District #1 in Wyoming write about the importance of an integrated, shared approach to leadership, including the Balanced Leadership Framework and leadership training for all school leaders and teachers. “As we have proved in Sublette County,” the authors write. “If you invest in a research-based framework that aligns with classroom practices, take the time to train all of your staff, and work with them to ensure fidelity of implementation, you will see improvement—not just in one or two schools, but across the board.”
The Guam Daily Post recently highlighted a STEM professional development program organized by McREL that gave teachers the opportunity to learn firsthand about marine robotics. During the three-day training, teacher teams constructed underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and used them in a competition to retrieve objects from the water, similar to a competition that their high school students participate in. The training was provided by Anne Tweed, a STEM consultant at McREL, and Jim McDonnel, a retired engineer who coaches school teams to compete in regional and international marine advanced technology education (MATE) ROV competitions.
Chippewa Valley Schools in Clinton Township, Michigan, has been working to improve its curriculum and instruction practices with the goal of better preparing its students for post-secondary success. Part of its strategy has been to train every teacher in the district in Classroom Instruction That Works. In this article in a local newspaper, Director of Curriculum Pam Jones said, “Every teacher . . . has been trained in highly effective classroom instruction practices. It’s really about developing collaborative skills in student, and those 21st century skills of creativity, working together, and working cooperatively.”
In the May 2016 newsletter of the Alabama state chapter of ASCD, Executive Director Jane Cobia reflects on the balancing act required of educators, highlighting the insights she’s gained from McREL’s Balanced Leadership for Powerful Learning: Tools for Achieving Success in Your School. The book, Dr. Cobia says, provides “clear research-based data to help us navigate and hopefully increase teacher and student learning” by reminding us that “balance is the key to everything.”
A recent article from the Omaha World-Herald (on Omaha.com) highlighted the work of the Nebraska Department of Education in updating the state’s science standards, including partnering with McREL to compare existing standards with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). McREL’s analysis showed content was similar but that the NGSS goes “deeper,” indicating the opportunity for NDE to raise the rigor and complexity of its standards statewide.