It's Elementary!

         an online forum for information from the Director of Elementary Education, Kelly K. Cartwright, Ed.D.

October 28, 2011

What is Deliberate Practice?

Deliberate practice is the process by which

teachers attain incremental gains in teacher expertise

under the supervision and direction of their administrators

and through the support of their peers

in order to produce gains in student achievement from year to year.

Deliberate practice →Teacher Behaviors → Student Learning Gains

Dr. Robert J. Marzano

Learning Sciences International

October 4, 2011

Marzano’s Nine

In April, we were introduced to Dr. Robert Marzano’s framework and The Art & Science of Teaching. Through many years of research, Marzano has identified three components of an effective school: well articulated curriculum, safe and orderly environment, and – the most influential component – individual teachers. In addition, Marzano identified three characteristics of effective teaching: effective curriculum design, use of effective instructional strategies, and use of effective classroom management strategies, all of which he addresses in his Instructional Design Questions.

Marzano also identifies nine categories of high probability instructional strategies which have been proven, when used deliberately, to improve student achievement. The strategies are only part of a comprehensive view of teaching: Teachers must rely on knowledge of their students, their subject matter, and their situations to identify the most appropriate instructional strategies. The nine categories of high probability instructional strategies are listed below. Each category contains a number of specific strategies to utilize to meet certain objectives.

  • Identifying Similarities and Differences
  • Summarizing and Note Taking
  • Reinforcing Effort and Providing Recognition
  • Homework and Practice
  • Representing Knowledge
  • Learning Groups
  • Setting Objectives and Providing Feedback
  • Generating and Testing Hypotheses
  • Cues, Questions, and Advance Organizers.

Like Anne Beninghof in her Engage ALL Students through Practical Differentiated Strategies sessions last summer, Marzano places great import on generating high levels of student attention and engagement as a result of deliberate planning and execution of specific strategies.

We have intentionally chosen to utilize Marzano’s strategies in order to continue our emphasis on the use of best practices and a common instructional language across the district. Throughout the 2011-2012 school year, we will focus on Design Question 2: What will I do to help students effectively interact with new knowledge?, Design Question 3: What will I do to help students practice and deepen their understanding of new knowledge?, and Design Question 4: What will I do to help students generate and test hypotheses about new knowledge?. These three design questions align directly with and support the concepts of Acquire, Make Meaning, and Transfer, respectively, from our previous Understanding by Design training.

As we return to the high probability instructional strategies after almost six months since our introduction and prepare for our first Professional Education day devoted to exploring the categories and strategies more deeply, I’d like to thank Mr. Matt Trout, Mr. Randy McCarty, and the elementary leaders group for helping us advance our goals with their involvement and investment of time and energy. Much planning has occurred to make Monday, October 10 valuable and meaningful for all staff members.

The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives.

Robert Maynard Hutchins (1899 – 1977)

August 18, 2011

Common Core Transition

Filed under: K-12 — Kelly Cartwright @ 8:48 am
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As I mentioned last September and October, the Pennsylvania Board of Education adopted the national Common Core Standards for English Language Arts (ELA) and Math in July 2010. The Common Core Standards were adopted with a three-year transition plan beginning in the 2010-2011 school year and full implementation by July 1, 2013. As of today, forty-four states have adopted the Common Core. Learn more about the Common Core Standards initiative by clicking here. The main goal of the Common Core was to create standards that are research and evidence-based, aligned with college and work expectations, include rigorous content and skills, and are internationally benchmarked.

On August 25, all elementary professional staff members will be introduced to the Common Core Standards with both a general overview and a grade level specific session. The Common Core Standards focus on Mathematics and English Language Arts and will replace Pennsylvania’s existing Academic Standards. Our challenge lies in the two-year transition period between now and July 1, 2013: We must shift our focus toward the Common Core Standards while  preparing students for the PSSA based on the PA Academic Standards through the 2013 administration.

We are blessed with two highly competent supervisors, Lisa Mumma and Michelle Trasborg, who plan to guide us through this transition every step of the way. Together, we will make the shift successfully. One benefit I recognize is that the Common Core underscores the importance of teaching reading and writing across the curriculum. Teachers in all disciplines will be expected to help foster literacy development, as research indicates that discipline-based instruction in reading and writing increases student achievement in all subjects. Anne Beninghof highlighted that concept for us this summer in her Differentiated Instruction sessions when she provided a number of strategies to help us make vocabulary instruction more effective by using vocabulary in a variety of contexts to improve students’ retention and comprehension.

At the elementary level, this interdisciplinary planning and instruction occurs frequently and fairly naturally, making this aspect of the shift a little easier for us. District initiatives such as the implementation of Marzano’s instructional strategies, common assessments, and Professional Learning Communities will remind us to use a variety of texts and writing assignments, provide scaffolding to students who need it, provide multiple forms of feedback, and reflect upon our practice in order to maintain our focus on student learning.

To change instructional practice in ways that yield real gains in student achievement, professional development needs to: extend across 50 hours, connect to a school initiative, foster collaboration among teachers, and focus on the teaching and learning of specific academic content. National Council of Teachers of English, March 2011

March 15, 2011

Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)

Filed under: Elementary,K-12 — Kelly Cartwright @ 4:23 pm
Tags: ,

I read Rick DuFour’s article, Work Together But Only if You Want To, in the February edition of Phi Delta Kappan recently. Rick and his wife, Rebecca, are well known for their work with Professional Learning Communities.

In his article, Mr. DuFour tells us that we must embed professional collaboration in the routine practices of our schools. We must expect and require this professional collaboration or it simply will not happen universally. Some teachers will choose to continue to work in isolation, even though “time spent in collaboration with colleagues is considered essential to success in most professions” in order to reach common purposes and goals interdependently.

This collaboration among other professionals – attorneys, doctors, architects, engineers – is expected and required. When teachers collaborate, all students benefit from the collective expertise of the entire grade level, department, or building. When teachers collaborate, we engage in a coordinated and systematic effort to support our students. In addition, a core strategy for improving student achievement is building the capacity of teachers to work as members of a collaborative professional learning community. DuFour cites a wealth of research linking high levels of student achievement to educators working in a collaborative culture of a professional learning community.

Professional collaboration includes:

  • developing a guaranteed and viable curriculum that ensures that all students have access to the same essential knowledge and skills regardless of who their teacher is
  • establishing clear benchmarks
  • implementing agreed upon measures to monitor progress
  • instituting a comprehensive, balanced assessment process that includes common formative assessments
  • gathering and jointly examining ongoing data regarding student learning
  • making informed decisions based on evidence of the most promising strategies for meeting the needs of students
  • creating a systematic, multi-tiered process that ensures that struggling students receive necessary time and supports
  • identifying the right work and creating processes to support teams so they can focus on improving student learning
  • enhancing our practice, individually and collectively

DuFour quotes the president of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF): “Quality teaching is not an individual accomplishment, it is the result of a collaborative culture that empowers teachers to team up to improve student learning beyond what any of them can achieve alone”.

At the elementary level, we are moving forward with a change to a four day cycle schedule for the 2011-2012 school year. We are striving toward creating the structure and culture and providing opportunities to ensure that professional collaboration and interdependence, with the purpose of improving our professional practice and improving student learning, become the norm.

To learn more about PLCs, visit and/or Google Rick Dufour.

The way organizations are now is a product of how we think and interact. We cannot change in any fundamental way unless we change our basic patterns of thinking and interacting so that learning can be a way of life. Peter Senge

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