Sunday, September 23, 2012

Your Awesomeness + Support = You Rocking it OUT!

Yup. You. Awesome.

First, let me say thank you.

This week I've started my conferencing schedule with all of you.  Continually I am inspired and impressed with your commitment and level of work.  You are an incredibly dedicated and talented staff, and sometimes I get so super excited about pushing you to the next step, that I forget to celebrate how far you've come.  Let's pause for a minute to look back.  Over the last 8 school days, all of you have successfully 
  • Scheduled and launched conferences, giving our girls the important individual attention they need.
  • Provided girls with the full picture of responsibilities through the unit contracts.
  • Empowered our girls with the agency to set goals around those unit expectations
  • Transformed your classroom spaces into a tool for their learning
  • Begun the hard work of developing your classroom communities
When you're feeling like the weeds are gonna consume you, it's hard to feel like you're doing good work until you make yourself stop and look back.  So, please take that moment right now and reflect on how far you've already come in your teaching, your work with the girls, and your approach as an educator.  All of this has happened in just 8 school days!

If you happen to be reading this over your Sunday morning coffee (because that's the kind of workaholic you are), take a minute to read this Op Ed from the Times.  It talks about developing grit in our students.  The same grit that you guys show me every single day!

Professional Development

In the upcoming weeks, I will be working with Tom & Ian in their Group Q Geometry class.  This form of PD is what's known as a residency in the Learning Cultures world.  Through my work with Tom & Ian, I will not only provide them support and guidance as they continue their good work, but also I will have a better understanding of the challenges you guys face every day as you work in this.   

Tom & Ian will be the first of my residencies and I hope to do one of these each month.  I encourage you guys to come in to see our work with Group Q as we conduct conferences, build out resources for Work Time, and run Unison Reading groups.

Emily and Tara, our Learning Cultures coaches, will be pushing into classrooms as well as providing extended coaching sessions.  In the high school, Emily is working with Noam and Darby to help them develop anchor classrooms that we can use as models for our own professional development.  Tara is working with Hassan, Marianna, and Damon to launch LC in their classes.  I am working with everyone else.  Together, we encourage you all to reach out to us whenever you need support, and come visit the classrooms we're in with teachers to see various formats in action.  Soon, we'll be sharing a PD calendar to help you know where to and what you can see!  Keep an eye out.

There are many more PD opportunities coming up.  My next round of visits will be focusing on your Unison Reading Groups.  To prepare for those visits (which will start next week), please take a moment to review the following

Once we get the schedule and offerings settled with Tara, Emily, and Kelly, I'll post up the PD support opportunities for you here on the blog.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Benchmark Visits

Benchmark Classroom Visits

I just wanted to say thank you for my most recent round of visits!  Considering the condition which all of our classrooms were in a mere two weeks ago, I can honestly say that I am floored with the transformation our learning communities have taken due to your hard work and dedication.  You should be proud of yourselves!  I certainly am!

Here are some highlighted rubric points from the visits

  • September Environment Benchmark (SEB), Teacher 1a: Teacher’s interaction with students are aimed to help them to establish independent activity goals.  
    In Jessica's Chemistry Class
    , Sky explained to me how much she loved her learning videos.  "It's like she's still teaching me, but I get to pause, rewind, or replay her whenever I want.  "Look at my notes!" she says as she proudly thrusts her notebook to me, "I always wrote down things before, but now I'm actually using them to do my work!"  
  • SEB Student 2b:  Students are free to express themselves and may move freely about the room during independent worktime, demonstrating responsibility for adhering to ground rules for collaboration (i.e., they are on task and non- disruptive). Assigned seating is highly discouraged (students need to learn to collaborate responsibly and cannot do so when choices are restricted).  
    In Elena's Spanish Class
    , Olufemi walked back to the resource wall to figure out which worksheet to begin working on.  I asked her how she was making her choice.  At first, she just said "I don't know."  Then, I just kept looking at her, so in true Femi fashion, she sighed, trudged to her desk, and returned with her learning contract which listed the learning targets.  I watched her reread the targets, look at the wall of worksheets, and pick one of them.  I asked her why she picked that particular one.  She said "I got to choose which targets I wanted to do.  So, I chose these two (pointing to the worksheet).  This worksheet here (one about geography) matches my this target (about learning about the Spanish speaking world.)"

  • SEB Environment 4A:  Expectations for students’ independent work responsibilities are posted throughout the room with 
  • evidence they have been taught and revisited (e.g., charts indicate how to use space, time, and 
  • materials).  

  • In Colleen's Global Humanities Classroom,
     expectations for work time activities are clearly posted, and through the mini-lesson students are reminded how to access resources for support prior to entering their writing work time period.  Additionally, classroom resources are clearly labeled (e.g. Mentor Texts, Graphic Organizers, etc) and referenced during the lesson as possible tools to assist in their writing process.

Things to think about
  • Work Time Rubric #2D:  Students are aware of and can articulate expectations for productivity and behavior. Students can articulate short- and long-term goals for independent work and are able to specify how current work relates to long-term goals. (students should use Activity Arc (or Calendar) as a tool to self-monitor independent progress).
    There was some inconsistency among classrooms about how well students could explain their work time plan.  Some had calendars and checklists that helped them plan the whole marking period.  Some had only the worksheet that was expected to be completed for the day.  Students need to learn how to manage their time around both long and short term goals.  In the immediate sense, without a clear agenda and CLEAR timers (e.g. iPad timers projected on a screen letting them know how much time they have remaining in a particular section of the period), students are dependent on the teacher to tell them how much time is remaining.  This dependence takes away from their own sense of urgency in the period, which in turn leads to off-task behavior or feelings of confusion and frustration.  Going into Independent Work time, students should have

    (1) A plan for what they are going to do (task) and how they are going to do it (resources)
    (2) Understand how that immediate work connects to the broader assignments and/or learning targets
    (3) Know how much time they have to work on their projects

    If you are finding that students lack this direction, you need to plan for mini-lessons (if you see a large majority of the class struggling in this way) and/or conferences (for individual cases) that will instill with them the expectation and capacity to achieve these three core pieces prior to entering into Work Time.  Additionally, focusing your development of quality UR groups will build student capacity to independently problem solve and plan for their tasks (more on this in my next post).
  • Work Time Rubric #2C:   Students have on their possession materials needed to succeed in meeting goals for independent work. AND Environment Rubric #4a:  General resources available on every table include Standards Indicators, dictionary, and sharpened pencils, pens, paper, etc. Resources & materials for independent activities are clearly identified,accessible and ready for student use.

    Additionally, the resources available to students varied widely from class to class.  Some students had a very clear understanding of where to look to get help to complete assigned tasks.  Others expressed frustration as they worked on worksheets, uncertain where to turn to get help on problems they didn't understand, maps that were confusing, or concepts that didn't make sense to them.  For every task that you ask students to complete, please make sure that the necessary resources are available.  For example

    (1) Videos and links to explain new or review concepts
    (2) Mentor Texts to model types of writing or problem solutions
    (3) General Materials (e.g. dictionaries, rulers, calculators, whiteboards, pens, paper, etc.)

I'll be conferencing with each one of you to discuss your individual strengths, needs and goals regarding the Benchmark Visits (see calendar below).  If you want see how the whole school did, here are the complete results

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Classroom Environment

Benchmarking and Goal Setting

Last week and this week, you guys have been working hard to analyze initial assessment data to help students set goals in each of your classes.  This week, I'll be doing the same in your classrooms with your classroom environment.  I'll be using a hybrid rubric from the LC Classroom Environment and Independent Work Time rubrics to get this snapshot.  Originally, I was going to come in on Friday, but given the rhythm of my days this week, I'm afraid that I won't get to everyone on Friday.  So, I'm going to split you guys over two days (Thursday & Friday).

Remember - this is a benchmarking visit! It's ok if you don't feel proficient at all of the areas.  That's totally normal!!  I've given you all of the expectations so that you can know where you need to go (kinda like when you guys give access to the state standards to the girls).  These visits will be followed by my conference schedule for the marking period.  So, we will definitely get a chance to talk about your strengths, needs, and goals!

There are 5 main areas that I'm going to look at.  For specifics, be sure to click that link above.  I am expecting you to have a working knowledge of this rubric, so please shoot me questions or concerns that you have.

  • Teacher - How are you promoting independence and engagement?
  • Student - How are students establishing their goals and accessing resources to achieve those goals?
  • Physical Environment -  How well and freely are students using the physical space and classroom resources to set and achieve independent work time goals?  
  • Materials and Records -  Have you organized (and are you using) binders to keep track of at minimum the conference records (and Unison Reading records for LC classes)?
A Word on Social Norms - This is definitely an area in development.  To give you an idea of where we're going - Here's what I'm looking at in my visits:
    • To what extent do all members of the learning community (teachers, students, admin) have input into the rules and expectations of the classroom?  To what extent do the members of the classroom community correct and redirect behaviors that are outside of the agreed upon norms?  (Right now, I expect to see a lot of teacher redirection, but ultimately, students should also feel the responsibility of holding the community responsible to the norms)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Happy First Full Week

Reflections & Shout Outs

What a wonderful start to our first full week of school! 

I was thrilled to get into almost everyone's classrooms today.  Today I saw so many of our teachers pushing themselves way beyond their comfort zones and into the full throws of Learning Cultures.  For most of you, it was new and it was scary.  However, I saw some impressive first days and moves, and you should all feel proud of the efforts you put forth and the risks you pushed yourselves to take!   Here is smal sampling of what I got to see and hear today
  • In Natasha's class, I watched Natasha and Ian in conferences while the rest of the group worked independently.  During this independent work time, I watched Diamond Blackman use the textbook to find the evidence she needed to prove to her doubtful table mates that the Arctic Ocean was, in fact, the elusive 4th ocean for which they were looking.
  • In Darby's class, I watched students flip through binders of mentor texts to get ideas for their own writing tasks while Darby conferenced with Kerrie Bell about her individual strengths, needs, and goals in writing.
  • In Tom's class, I saw him push students to breach as they read in Unison and to ask questions when they got stuck.
There were so many more wonderful instances, which I'll definitely share with you each individually.  As the blog goes on, I will make sure to continue this shout out section in celebration of all of your pedagogical prowess!

In addition this awesomeness, I also wanted to draw attention to some common hiccups that can hinder the capability of students' independence.  These are two easy-fix items that I noticed in many of the classrooms.  
  • Be sure that all students can clearly understand and see how much time remains in each portion of the lesson (Agenda with times, for example).  It's hard for students to learn how to manage their time when they are uncertain of how much time they have.
  • Remember to make sure students have time to struggle.  Be mindful of the message you send and the tone you set when you rove to tend to student questions.  I spoke with several of you today regarding this idea.  The common thread among all the conversations was about how hard it was to resist the reflex to immediately respond to the raised hand.  However, it is also the very thing that makes our students over-dependent on us.  Their first instinct is to seek out the teacher rather than exhaust their own resources.  We need to flip that order, and part of the work in doing so, is being mindful of our own actions in the classroom.
Remember, you may feel overwhelmed and uncertain, but you are making the moves that our girls need and deserve.  Perhaps the best thing you can do is see and believe in the best of them so that you can readily remind them of that when (or if) they choose to forget.  

September Expectations and Outcomes

If you haven't already done so, you should become very familiar with the Work Time, Environment, & Conferencing Rubrics.  These three rubrics will be used in your teacher evaluation.  In September, I'll be focusing largely on the establishment of routines and formats (in LC classrooms).  At the end of this week, I'm going to give you your initial evaluations based on this Sept Environment rubric (which is a combo of the work time and environment).  The expectation is that the majority of these items on the rubric are at least satisfactory by the end of the week.  

There is a lot of support for you to achieve this goal!  Tomorrow during PD, you will have the time to focus on your classroom environment with the support of myself, Kelly, Emily, or Tara.  Emily and Tara have put together some logistical documents for you to review when organizing your environment.  
Except for all Elena, Raquel, Denise and Hassan, (who, for scheduling necessity, are teaching from 2:00-2:53) all teachers should report to the library at 2:10 to join the middle school for the afternoon session of PD.  Here's the agenda
  • Brief Overview & Staff Meeting (10 min) - Intro with Allan, and Review of Expectations
  • Independent Work Time
    • Workshop Options ->
      • Resource Development & Classroom Organization in Math
      • Resource Development & Classroom Organization in Science
      • Resource Development & Classroom Organization in Humanities\
  • Language Team - we'll meet at 3:00PM to check-in in the Library
  • Hassan - I'll make sure to find time for you & Tara to meet earlier in the day tomorrow.

Logistical Announcements

This is the High School Bell Schedule

  • Group and Bell schedules were posted this AM!  This is the accurate bell schedule.  Please make any necessary adjustments to any errors you may see on the posted flyers.  To see the full master schedule, click here - just remember to download the document and open in Excel if you want all the pretty formatting and tabs to show up.
  • Group lists are resolving and should be closer to final by the middle of the week.  Thanks for your patience!
  • All teachers should be welcoming seniors joining sections today as they enter classes they need for graduation.
  • Assemblies for the rest of the week will follow the normal schedules as follows
    • 9th Grade - Fridays in B53 (I don't think they'll fit in the library)
    • 10th Grade - Thursday in Library)
    • 11th Grade - Wednesday (It originally said Friday on your teacher programs, so please note this change) in Library
    • 12th Grade - Mondays in Library
  • With Rosh Hashanah on Monday & Tuesday, we have a four day break from school this weekend.  Please be sure to remind the girls of the schedule.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

First Days Logistics

Like I mentioned earlier, this has been a full week.  So as to limit your feeling of overwhelmingness (is that a real word?), this post be purely functional information to smooth your work over the next couple of days.

Likely FAQs

  • Metrocards will be distributed by the end of the day on Thursday by Carol and Nancy
  • Lockers Assignments & Contracts will be given to advisors on Monday AM.  Grade teams can decide when and how to distribute lockers to advisees.
  • Open Lunch will be open for all students for Thursday & Friday, but they must return the Open Lunch permission slip on Monday if they want to get a lunch pass.  Please ask for forms and return them to Ms. Doris or Ms. Nicia
  • Special Schedules for Seniors - seniors will have special schedules that they will receive on FRIDAY.  They will be tailored to their individual needs AND they will be full programs for the fall.  All of this will be covered in the assembly, too.
  • School Supply list is posted on our website.
  • Student Schedules will be distributed prior to dismissal on Friday afternoon.
  • Advisories will meet in their regular Advisory rooms except for assembly.  They should come directly to the library for assembly - yes we'll fit


9th Grade

9th Grade Custom Orientation Program

  • Advisory  8:30- 8:55 
    Welcome students and guide them to seat in the front of the class. Review 9th grade expectations and review common expectations handout. Students will practice lining up and entering the classroom if time. Review blue cards, lunch forms and discipline codes.

    Here are the materials you'll need (People in parenthese are who you can see to get more).
    ·      Blue cards (Nancy)
    ·      Noam’s Contract (Noam)
    ·      Lunch Forms (Nancy)
    ·      9th Grade Procedures (Colleen & Darby)
    ·      Extra Wagon Wheel Slips (Chris M.)
    ·      Discipline Code Folder (Jen C)


    Diagnostic Exams 9:00-10:13 and 12:00-1:13
    -See Nicia in room 508 for DRP books and answer documents
    -See Noam for Math Exam (Noam are you also getting calculators - do they need them?)
    -Send Group M girls with IEPs to Martine in Room 140 and Group N girls to Elena in B35


10th Grade

  • Custom Orientation- Natasha put together a schedule for your team (a la the 9th grade program). 
  • Writing and Math Diagnostic - Please see Natasha/Mariana (writing) and Tom (math) for their diagnostic exams.  Tom - see Nicia for calculators if you need them.
  • Advisory -  I know Jess sent out the 10th grade behavior consequence form out to the team.  In addition to this, you should certainly follow the same punch list as the 9th grade team listed above (Minus wagon road).


11th Grade and 12th Grade

12th Grade
   11th Grade         
  • Advisory - Thursday AM Assembly in Library - meet your advisories there (Kiri will run the orientation and you can do the above punch list and grade expectations with your advisory tomorrow.  Only 11th grade advisors and their advisories (12th grade advisors will be in their regular rooms).
  • Diagnostics - Brodie will get you the writing diagnostic prompts.  Mike will get you the Math diagnostics test.
  • Senior Pep Rally - There will be a senior pep rally in the courtyard, weather permitting on Friday at 1:30PM.  Seniors will be dismissed on both Thursday and Friday at 1:30PM

Information for the Classroom Environment

There's a lot of things to think about when launching the year, your classroom environment being one of the most important.

The two main rubrics for you around the environment are the Independent Work Time and Environment Rubrics.  There are a lot of things to think about on this rubric, so to give you some focus, here are the priorities for launching your classrooms in September.

The Classroom Environment:

#1 - Students are free to move & express themselves within the boundaries of rules & norms.  
#2 - The environment is organized to be a resource for learning.  Previous lesson content is charted for continued reference.
For example they have access to print resources, the standards, manipulatives, graphic organizers - whatever they need to access to get support in completing tasks and mastering standards.

Monday, September 3, 2012

High School Goals and Expectations

This is a big post and is meant for you to revisit throughout the course of the year.  If you like the cliff notes version of things, here it is

  • Our High School data is not strong.  We need to figure out how to get 80% of our students to master learning targets and pass classes, including 80% of the lowest third.  Additionally, we need to make sure our Regents scores are college ready.  That means getting >80 on the Algebra and >75 on the ELA (and passing US History, Global, and at least one science).
  • In order to meet these goals, you're expected to conference with each student at least 1 time per marking period, and double that if she is a member of our lowest third cohort.  Here's an example of how you might calendarize those conferences.  It also has the marking period dates and orientation schedule.
  • In learning cultures classrooms, this same ratio extends to Unison Reading and Shares (the ratio is 1:2  e.g. for every Unison Reading group, there are twice that number for students in the lowest 1/3). 
  • All grade and subject teams will have the freedom to set frequency and agendas of meetings.  
    • Subject teams will be charged with monitoring schoolwide data (DRPs, Acuity Benchmarks, Regents Exams, Scholarship Reports, etc) and regulating scope and sequence coverage (Lesson Inventories and Standards Checklists).  
    • Grade teams will manage conference calendars, format tallies, and student led conferences.
  • You will also have the flexibility to use your PD and co-planning periods for what you need most to accomplish the goals.  Everyone is scheduled to meet with me at least once a month (those who are <3 years teaching experience and/or are new to Learning Cultures will have more conferences).  These conferences will be structured just like student conferences with these 


Now, if you'd like to read the detailed version....

Mission and Vision

Since the start of this blog, I've spoken a lot abou the mission and vision of the school.  So, let me briefly reprise by saying the following.

Our mission and main has always been to graduate our young women from high school with the necessary skills, knowledge, and opportunities to successfully complete college.  With the right combination of rigorous academic courses, a bevy of experiences and seminars aimed at building the soft skills, and exposure to the opportunities in the world around them, our first graduating class stands at the very precipice of greatness.

It's an exciting year, but we have a lot of work to do before we start the party!  So, let's get to it..

Credit Accumulation

Our girls are lagging in comparison to our city and peer group in their accumulation of credits.  In their 1st year nearly 1 out 3 students fail to accumulate 10 credits.  Of those students in the lowest third, ONLY about 1 of 3 students earned credit.  Here's how the high school stood at the beginning of last year.

In response, I've set the following minimum goals for this year:
  • The expectation is that a minimum of 80% of students pass your course (in each section).  So, in a class of 25 students, if more than 5 of students are failing at the marking period, we will need to work together to analyze and strategize how to get students to access needed resources and support to improve their achievement.
  • A further expectation is that a minimum of 80% of students in the lowest third pass your course (in each section).  In this case, if you have 25 students, 8 of those girls are in the lowest third.  If more than 2 of those students are failing, then we will work together to review the intervention strategies and support resources to evaluate what needs to change.

Regents Pass Rates

For those courses with Regents exam, the additional minimums are in play
  • English Regent
    • 80% of all students score > 65
    • 80% of all students in the lowest 1/3 score > 65
    • 67% of all passing students score > 75
  • Math Regent
    • Algebra
      • 80% of all students score > 65
      • 80% of all students in the lowest 1/3 score > 65
      • 67% of all passing students score > 80
    • Geometry
      • 80% of students in the highest 1/3 score > 65
      • Minimum of 80% of students sit for the Regent
    • Algebra II
      • Minimum of 80% of all students sit for the Regent
      • 80% of that cohort score > 65
  • Global History, US History
    • 80% of all students score > 65
    • 80% of students in the lowest 1/3 score > 65
  • Science Regents
    • Living Environment
      • 80% of all students score > 65 on Living Environment Regents
      • 80% of students in the lowest 1/3 score > 65
    • Chemistry 
      • 80% of students in the highest 1/3 score > 65
      • Minimum of 80% of students sit for the Regent
    • Physics
      • Minimum of 50% of all students sit for the Regent
      • 80% of that cohort score > 65
To achieve these goals, the following classroom expectations are in play

  • a minimum of 1 standards based conference per marking period for every student
  • a minimum of 2 standards-based conferences per marking period for every student in lowest 1/3
  • a minimum of 1 advisor conference based on student work and/or JumpRope data (grades, attendance, and/or disciplinary comments) per week (e.g. student uses data from work and/or JumpRope to set goals).
  • All conferences use the conference record and teacher file records in conference binder.
  • Students generate their own goals based on data from work (and in an academic conference, in alignment to the standards).  Teachers can help name struggles or strategies, but the students' intentions are what need to be central to the conference.  For academic conferences, students should be able to identify the relevant standards around which they are goal setting.
Independent Work Time
  • Lessons are structured to accommodate conference schedule
    • 8 min Mini Lesson
      • Short Work Habits & Processes Lesson (Learning Routines & Strategies) OR
      • Short mini-lesson on content (specific, targeted, teachable in short time frames)
    • 35 min Independent Work Time for Students 
      • 15 Min Unison Reading/Table Share/Learning Group
      • 20 Min Conferencing (2 conferences)
    • 10 min Share

  • Independent activities are driven by learning targets and students can articulate which NYS standards they are demonstrating vis a vis the task and targets.  Students and families should have access to the actual standards.  I recognize that this is an abrupt departure from our work with Power Standards last year. Now, subject teams will use the Power Standards to track scope and sequence and teachers will use NYS standards as they are in planning and in JumpRope.
  • Learning Targets align to scope and sequence and state standards (Standards Checklist)
  • Independent Work Time Tasks are varied in Genre (e.g. an Essay, a Poem, a Research Paper or A Proof, problem set, or written argument) and Length (e.g. a Short, Medium, and Long piece of work)

To support you in achieving this goal, the following structures are in place
  • Subject Teams - Support for Conferencing and Independent Work Time
    • Working together, subject teams will research and share resources, provide planning support, and review the NYS standards check in and monitor course coverage of established scope and sequence (Standards Checklist and Lesson Inventories)
    • Subject teams will review schoolwide data, classroom data, and cohort data to track progress towards school goals.
    • Subject teams will create their own meeting calendars to achieve common goals.
  • Grade Teams & Advisory Check-Ins
    • Grade Teams will work together to coordinate calendars and support one another in establishing common norms, grade-wide expectations, and track and tally student participation in required formats (e.g. conferences, and in LC classrooms Unison Reading, and SHares).
    • Advisory - All advisories are expected to be independent work time ONLY as you conference with students.  The mission of advisory is to build student capacity to look at and reflect on efforts, products, and choices (as evidenced by their work and what is in JumpRope).  The role of the advisor is advocate and cheerleader.  Your role is to support and help students create and follow through on goals they set for themselves that will further their academic achievement.  
  • Professional Development
    • Model Classrooms
      • As the most experienced LC teachers in the High School, Emily will be working directly with Darby and Noam to develop their classrooms into model LC classes where teachers can visit to see the formats in action.
    • Monthly Workshops
      • As we started in June, you guys will have an array of workshops from which to choose to structure your own PD.
    • Monthly Conferences with Kiri
      • At minimum, you'll meet with me and review your strengths, needs, and goals with respect to the objectives I've laid out for the year.
    • Intervisitation
      • With greater flexibility in your professional periods, you'll have the opportunity to visit each other.  Also, there is release time if you'd like to also visit teachers at other schools.
    • Instructional Coaching
      • This year Tara Silva as a Learning Cultures Instructional coach.  Her office is located with Emily next to the teacher's lounge.
This is going to be an amazing year!!  We have a complete school, solid structures, talented & committed staff, and over 250 beautiful & amazing young women who are the reason we're all together in the first place! There will most certainly be some bumps along the way, but with the players we have and the structures in place, there won't be anything we can't handle!

Let's rock it out UAI High!  Give it up for 2013!!!!!!!!