14 Slices
Medium 9781934009239

Big Idea Five: Learn and Adjust Based on Data

Lisa Carter Solution Tree Press ePub

My job causes me to spend a lot of time on airplanes. Thankfully, over the years most of my flights have been fairly routine and uneventful. However, there is one particular flight that I will never forget. I was flying from Atlanta to Albuquerque. It was a relatively smooth flight, and everything had gone along pretty much as usual. Toward the end of the flight, the pilot announced that we had been cleared for landing and should be on the ground in just a few minutes. He asked the flight attendants to prepare the cabin for landing. As we approached the ground, I looked out the window and noticed the sky was getting unusually dark. I also noticed what appeared to be a wall of rain in the distance quickly moving in the direction of our plane. The landing gear had already dropped and we were almost touching the ground when, without warning, the pilot suddenly pulled up the nose of the plane, causing it to shoot straight back up into the air, the force of gravity throwing all the passengers back in our seats.

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Medium 9781934009017

Chapter 6: Leadership and Change

Lisa Carter Solution Tree Press ePub

Educators who have been around for a while know that change is constant in education. While some of these changes have been positive, many of them have been practically meaningless. As a result, some teachers have come to view new educational initiatives with caution and skepticism. Often, initiatives are seen as just “this year’s new thing.” As a result, educators often suffer from what I refer to as TTSP (“This too shall pass”) syndrome. Instead of becoming engaged in the initiative, these educators choose to step back and wait out the change. To be successful, Total Instructional Alignment cannot become another flavor of the month. It is a meaningful change with proven success that will truly make a difference and positively impact student learning.

As school leaders know, positive, lasting change does not happen by chance. Someone has to provide the vision, the direction, and the energy to keep the boat from slipping back to the same old course. Leadership is the key to successful implementation of the Total Instructional Alignment process.

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Medium 9781934009239

Big Idea Four: Redesign and Align Time for Learning

Lisa Carter Solution Tree Press ePub

Several years ago, I enrolled in a technology course because I was interested in learning how to use Microsoft Office PowerPoint presentation software. A colleague and friend of mine decided to participate in the course with me. At the time we enrolled, my friend had far more background knowledge about the computer than I, and he told me that he had already experimented a little with PowerPoint. Not surprisingly, he quickly became skillful using the software. Although I learned as well, it took me more time, more practice, and a very patient instructor. Eventually, however, I also mastered the basic PowerPoint software and learned to use the program effectively. Thank goodness the instructor recognized that my colleague and I had different learning needs for both time and instruction.

If I had tried to keep up with the pace of my friend, I would probably not have been very successful. Had the instructor moved the course along at my friend’s pace, not allowing me the time I needed to master the more basic skills, I would not have been able to keep up. Chances are that I would have fallen behind, eventually becoming frustrated and just giving up, thinking it was too difficult for me to learn. On the other hand, I suspect that my friend would have become frustrated and bored if he had to wait for me to catch up while the instructor worked only on the more basic computer skills that I needed. It would not have been fair to my friend to make him sit and waste his valuable time waiting for me to learn.

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Medium 9781934009017

Chapter 2: Aligning the System

Lisa Carter Solution Tree Press ePub

Most educators first learned about the birth of our nation’s system of public schools in their Foundations in American Education 101 class in college. Among other things, we learned that Horace Mann was credited with founding the first public schools in America. These schools were created on the fundamental belief that everyone was entitled to a free and appropriate education. The idea of educating everyone was an awesome task.

When the first public schools were created in this country, roughly half of the population made a living through agriculture (Economic Research Service, 2000). Children were often expected to work alongside adults on the family farm. Therefore, the school system would have to be designed to cause as little interference as possible with the farming schedule. The schedule that seemed to cause the least disruption to this way of life had students beginning the school year in the fall, after the final harvest. School would remain in session until early spring, when the children would again be needed on the farm for the planting season. Thus, the school calendar included 8 or 9 months of schooling with 3 or 4 months off during the summer.

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Chapter 3: Aligning Standards, Curriculum, and Assessment

Lisa Carter Solution Tree Press ePub

The dog lesson from the introduction is a not-so-subtle reminder of the problems we may encounter when curriculum and assessment are not properly aligned. I really like teaching the dog lesson during my training sessions, and participants seem to enjoy it. They commend me for being prepared, engaging everyone, using visuals, inserting humor into the lesson, teaching to different learning styles, and using effective teaching strategies. This great lesson, however, does not usually bring about great results on the dog test.

What if I added some new teaching innovations to the dog lesson? I could use state-of-the-art technology to teach the lesson, create a brain-compatible environment, use dynamic instructional grouping based on detailed running records—the list goes on and on. But would this impact scores on the dog test? No, because these cutting-edge instructional methods, as important as they are in our classrooms, cannot correct my content errors.

The dog lesson does not yield successful results for one simple reason: I have not aligned what I am teaching and what I am assessing. No matter how well I teach, the best the participants—all college-educated teachers and administrators—typically can do on the dog test is an average score of 50%. New innovations will not increase scores; they can only be effective if I am teaching what I am testing. And this alignment is even more critical than ever before considering the importance of assessment in the lives of today’s students.

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