Transatlantic Translations for Teachers

A.B.2.5.H

Do you know what that means? Me neither. Often times, that’s what it feels like when looking at educational content labeled online.

giphy (16)
What does that even mean?

What if I gave you this code: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.6.2?

What does that mean? Well, if you teach 6th grade reading in Ohio, you would probably be able to tell me that…

  • CCSS stands for Common Core State Standards (the educational standards adopted in your state)
  • ELA-Literacy signifies that this is an English Language Arts (Literacy) expectation
  • RI stands for Reading Informational
  • 6 signifies that it’s an expectation for a 6th grade student (~12 years old)
  • 2 represents this specific objective:
    Determine a central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.

But, if you were from a teaching context that didn’t use the Common Core State Standards, those codes wouldn’t be helpful. Which is why the way resources are presented to teachers makes a huge difference. If I search a library of resources and all of the content is tagged or labeled with codes and contexts that are irrelevant to me, I’m much more likely to miss or overlook something that could have worked well in my classroom. Which gets to the big question here, how do we allow teachers to create and share content in their local context and educational standards, but present it in a way that makes it relevant to a global network of educators?

We need the information to translate. So, much like translating a language, we are going to translate the educational standards in partnership with Camara Ireland and teachers across Ireland. In our Curriculum Mapping Project, we plan to decode the American Common Core State Standards for our Irish teachers. Once the curriculum is mapped, Edcite, can present the 10,000+ pieces of teacher created content, in our library, with the relevant Irish Curriculum tags.

This Curriculum Mapping Project will be a Creative Commons document. It will be open to any educator or organization wishing to increase access to the educational resources that are coming out of both America and Ireland. You can access directions on how you can help with the mapping efforts at our Google Site or reach out to me with any questions or feedback you may have (Julia@edcite.com). We are also hosting an in person Curriculum Mapping Hackathon on July 14th, at Camara Ireland–click here to view the event details.

Cheers to global collaboration, let this be the first of many open source projects that helps us work to make sharing globally easier and more effective!

Getting Over the Tech Hump with your Students

Monthly Mondays with Meghan: Getting Over the Tech Hump with your Students

‘Twas the night before Edcite, when all through the house,
not a teacher was stirring, not even a mouse!  
The assignment was designed and created with care,
in hopes that the students would answer the questions there.  

When the next day began there arose such chatter,
I sprang from my desk to see what was the matter.  
“How do I scroll?”
“Do I click on one word or the sentence as a whole?”  

I ran to my board, to my students gave a whistle,
and taught them the basics before the end-of-day dismissal.  
As I packed up my things, they heard me proclaim,
“Before rolling out Edcite, there are skills to explain!”

All this to say – the first time I used Edcite in my classroom, I excitedly told my students to open their chromebooks, login to Edcite, click on the assignment and eagerly exclaimed, “You may begin!”  Note to self: Make sure computers are on and functioning before doing anything, because within the first 5 minutes there were far more hands in the air and confused faces than I had bargained for!  They were loving the new experience and Edcite layout; however, they had a lot of questions regarding technology and computers in general.  After hearing a few of their questions, I paused the entire class, taught the lessons I am about to share with you and then had them continue on with the assignment.

One important detail to note:  Given the need for the following lessons – the first time you use Edcite in your classroom, plan for an additional 10-15 minutes to teach some of these essential skills!

Now, onto the 4 lessons I wish I had planned for–in hopes that your start with Edcite can be smooth sailing!

Lesson 1: Sending the assignment

Am I Going To Get Fined for This? A Look At Mississippi’s Education Policies In The Legislature

I woke up today and told myself to be positive. That is no easy task when you are constantly being bullied by those with the “power”. I am not being bullied by the big kid that sits in the back of the classroom or the football jock who is too cool for school, but instead by the people we elected to lead our state. Yes, I am being bullied by the Mississippi Legislature and their leadership. I am not the only victim of their bullying and politicking. Every educator, student, parent, and concerned citizen is as well. What really gets my goat is that its by members of my own party! I have been a lifelong Republican and follower of conservative principles, but now I am being picked on by folks from my own team who have lost sight of our true conservative teachings.

Let me paint a picture for you concerning education in the state of Mississippi. I can sum it up into one number (made up of two digits, but that apparently is not important to teach): 50. We are dead last compared to all other states when it comes to academic achievement in K-12 education. For years we functioned under the Mississippi Frameworks which were a set of objectives that lacked rigor and often even cohesiveness. Seeing a need to improve, Mississippi along with 47 other states and the District of Columbia signed onto a set of national standards in the areas of English and Mathematics.

In 2010 (over 4 years ago), Mississippi’s elected officials voted in favor of accepting the Common Core State Standards for College and Career Readiness that came out the year prior. Common Core came from an idea brought forth by the National Governor’s Association collaboratively with the Council of Chief State School Officers in 2007. This idea was not the brainchild of President Obama nor Secretary Arne Duncan, but from the states and their executive leaders. I tell you all this to say…Common Core is not an Obama plan. It is not a mandate passed down by the federal government. Instead it was the brainchild of a group states who used state’s rights (a conservative principle) to develop a set of standards jointly for students across the nation.

Fast-forward to late 2014 and the beginning of this year. The Republican-controlled legislature in Jackson has rallied against Common Core and demeaned it to be an evil atrocity forced down the throats of the states (see above for rebuttal). This hellfire spreads to every tea party supporter and GOP faithful in the state. Suddenly teaching children to think critically and learn math in a conceptual and concrete way is communist or socialist.

Granted it is an election year here in Mississippi (primaries this summer and the general in November), but some of the happenings in Jackson are down right dirty. The Legislature forced the state to drop out of the PARCC assessment consortium because they felt that any company should have a chance to bid on being the provider instead of PARCC being a sole-source provider. Alright, seems like a fiscal conservative move. Now there is a piece of legislation in the chambers that calls for the provider chosen to have been in existence for over 50 years. Well, that eliminates two of the three current producers of Common Core-aligned assessments and leaves only ACT. I personally do not care who writes our tests, but this move is deceitful.

Of course, our Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House are attempting to abolish Common Core and write “Mississippi standards”. We have already had Mississippi standards and we finished last every year. The Senate Education Committee would not even allow our Superintendent of Education, Dr. Cary Wright, to speak on behalf of the standards before they voted to send the bill to the full Senate chamber. Only one member voted to not send the bill to the full Senate and it happened to be the one person who wanted the Superintendent to speak.

In our state seven years ago, we passed the Mississippi Adequate Education Program which was to set a figure that would ensure Mississippi education was 100% funded annually. Well, in 7 years it has only been fully funded twice and both of those were election years (once under Governor Haley Barbour,a Republican). An organization called “Better Schools, Better Jobs” successfully got Initiative 42 added to the ballot this November that requires the state to constitutionally fully-fund Mississippi education. What did the legislature do? Got their own initiative, Alternative Initiative 42A, added to that ballot with very similar language, in large part, to confuse the voting public come November to hopefully defeat Initiative 42.

Dare I even mention the bill to make a teacher contacting a member of the legislature while at work punishable by a $10,000 fine? Thankfully in the writing process this bill was defeated in committee. I will give one point to the legislature on that front.

Mississippi is an amazing place with truly amazing people. I am a former Yankee who is so glad to call this land home, but we are doing our children a disservice by using our children as pawns in a political game. The Lt. Governor and the legislature may want to back away from Common Core because it is too rigorous and they believe Mississippi children cannot do it, but I along with Mississippi’s education professionals believe that Mississippi children can.


Cody Shumaker

Cody S. Shumaker was born and raised in northwest Illinois and after college joined Teach For America in the Mississippi Delta. After three years of teaching high school history, he received two post-graduate degrees at Delta State and Ole Miss. He has been an elementary administrator for three years in Bolivar County, Mississippi.


Thank you, Cody, for this great guest blog post. We value hearing from educators about issues they feel are important.

Edcite provides a platform for teachers to create rigorous and contemporary assignments easily, so their students are better prepared for opportunities after K-12. Edcite’s mission is also global. As such, our technology can adapt to support any standards adopted in different states and different countries. 

Today, we meet most of the requirements for the Common Core (in the US) and will adapt to any future standards adopted by any state. 

January Teacher of the Month: Shelley Cline

shelleycline

It’s that time of the month again! This month, we chose to recognize Shelley Cline, a middle school teacher from Newcomerstown, Ohio. Though she only signed up in October of 2014, Shelley has quickly become an active, dedicated Edcite user. We hope you learn some great tips from Shelley!

Tell us about yourself!

My name is Shelley Cline, and this is my twelfth year as an employee of the Newcomerstown Exempted Village School District in Newcomerstown, Ohio. This is my fifth year teaching sixth grade English Language Arts. My husband’s name is Dennis, and we have a fifteen year old dog named Connie. We do not have any children unless you count my 73 sixth graders!

Why did you become a teacher?Shelley Cline (1)

After my high school graduation, I earned my undergraduate degree in Business Administration from Otterbein College. I worked in the banking industry for several years before moving back to my hometown to open a gymnastics business. It was through gymnastics that I learned how much I enjoyed working with children. A parent of two of my team members was a school principal, and she suggested that I become a substitute teacher for the local school district. I fell in love with teaching, so I went back to college to obtain my teaching license. I enjoy watching my students grow and mature both as students and as individuals throughout the course of the school year.

Why did you start using Edcite?

This year is the first year that students in Ohio will be taking the PARCC tests. Because of that, I spent a lot of time searching for the best resources to use with my students. In the fall, our district took part in a countywide in-service, and it was there that I learned about Edcite. Thank heavens!

How have you used Edcite in your classroom?

I have been using Edcite ever since to create my own tests and quizzes that are aligned to the Common Core Standards. I want my students to have as much experience with online testing as possible. They need to be proficient with keyboarding and understand how to manipulate the data for the new types of questions they will encounter (i.e., technology-enhanced constructed response questions, two-part questions, and multiple choice questions that require them to choose more than one answer). Practice makes perfect, and thanks to Edcite, I can make this type of practice possible for my students.

Any parting words of wisdom?

I urge other teachers to give this site a try because I truly feel that it will make a difference for their students.

 

Celebrating Cultural Differences With the Common Core

shutterstock_137806400As a former educator, I’ve read the continuous back-and-forth debates about Common Core’s effect on students across the country. Yet as a Latina and a former teacher of predominantly Black, Latino, and Asian students, it’s disappointing to find that many of these discussions seem to leave out a critical question: how can we use these national standards to create culturally responsive curriculum for students of color?

A recent article in The Atlantic reported that by the start of this upcoming school year, Black, Latino, Asian, and Native American students will make up more than 50% of students in our public education system, making white students no longer the majority. The National Center for Education Statistics also predicted that in just three years “Latino students alone will make up nearly 28 percent of the nation’s student population.”

And these number do not only derive from states like Texas and California — states known for their diversity for years. Formerly homogenous states have also gained more diverse student bodies. For example, in Idaho last year, of the nearly 300,000 K-12 students, more than 22% were Latino and eight Idaho school districts are already majority “minority”. A 2010 Penn State Policy brief noted that though two-thirds of cities, suburbs, and small towns across the U.S. had white populations of 90% or more in the eighties, today only one third of cities and towns still have that demographic.

We will achieve little in discussions about national standards and Common Core testing if we do not acknowledge these numbers and what they mean: our students come from very different racial and cultural backgrounds than they ever have before and these differences will largely influence how they learn in a standard American classroom. As we significantly alter curriculum through the Common Core this year, it is crucial that administrators, reformers, and teachers think about how curriculum choices will engage students of these backgrounds, and motivate them to succeed in a system that was historically built with a different demographic in mind.

In the past, as a country, we have significantly lacked culturally inclusive curriculum, and often even failed at acknowledging the existence and history of diverse racial populations in the subjects we teach. According to a grading system by the Southern Poverty Law Center, fourteen states earned failing grades for their civil rights curriculum and requirements. Five states- Alaska, Iowa, Maine, Oregon and Wyoming- do not require or support teaching about the civil rights movement at all.

Even those districts and schools that have attempted culturally inclusive education often execute it poorly. Curriculum often only focuses on the negative history of people of color (slavery, unfair labor policies for farm laborers and railroad workers, etc.) instead of also emphasizing the positive contributions people of color have made towards American society (art and literary movements like the Harlem Renaissance, contributions to the American military, etc). If not, schools often limit their celebration of diversity to “multi-cultural days” or once-a-year history month celebrations of cultural heroes instead of consistently integrating multicultural perspectives in every aspect of their educational model.

shutterstock_176263055Exploring course options in AP curriculums or universities around the country also reinforce this lack in multicultural curriculum. The Advanced Placement program includes classes on European, American, and World history, and yet no courses on the history of Africa, Latin America or Asia. A recent blog post by Kendra James on a prominent race issues blog argued that in many college literature or film studies programs (mine included), students aren’t required to take classes that focus on non-white or European writers and narratives and often have to go outside the department (as I did) to find these courses in the first place.

Fortunately, once educators acknowledge the critical need for culturally inclusive curriculum, they can easily use Common Core to work towards these goals. Several aspects of the Common Core standards allow teachers to easily integrate multicultural education, if they chose to. First, according to the Common Core website, the standards “intentionally do not include a required reading list” and “appropriately defer the majority of decisions about what and how to teach to states, districts, schools, and teachers.” This gives teachers the power to stray away from conventionally Eurocentric (not to mention: male-centric, Christian-centric, and heterosexual-centric) reading lists, and instead branch off into texts from authors of a wide range of backgrounds.

Secondly, the Common Core stresses that students support arguments with direct textual evidence, which makes it easier for students to approach questions equally. Before, English standards often placed too much emphasis on “making connections” and defending arguments with previous knowledge, experiences, or opinions, not realizing that students of disadvantaged backgrounds often have limited experiences that can connect with the kinds of texts presented. Under Common Core, even students with the financial or cultural privileges of having relevant outside experience can no longer use that knowledge to gain an advantage or an upper hand on testing. Instead, students will all approach a text on an equal playing field, having only the text to use to support their points.

The Common Core ELA’s emphasis on nonfiction and informational texts also creates the potential for including more social justice content that can appeal to students from diverse backgrounds. The Common Core believes that by elementary school, students should be reading a mix of 50 percent literature and 50 percent informational texts, and by high school, students’ reading will shift to be 30 percent literary and 70 percent informational.” No longer limited to classic literature- which historically has often portrayed a limited perspective- teachers can now use speeches, newspaper articles and essays to connect themes to local or global social issues. Through these texts, teachers can also focus on important issues of perspective and objectivity, asking students to critically think about who wrote the texts used, and whose voice is being heard, and whose isn’t.

It’s ineffective to discuss how Common Core Standards will change public education without also addressing how these standards will relate to the cultural backgrounds of public school students. Regardless of all the positive change Common Core has the potential to create, national standards won’t work if not also paired with a culturally relevant curriculum. The Common Core’s structure allows for this kind of curriculum to exist, if teachers are willing to take advantage of it. In no other point in America’s history has it been more necessary to try.

OTHER RESOURCES:

http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/resources/ct_characteristics.html

http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/how-choose-best-multicultural-books

http://www.tolerance.org/classroom-resources


amandamachadoAmanda Machado (@amandaemachado0) is an education writer and consultant based out of the Bay Area. Amanda earned her undergraduate degree in Creative Writing from Brown University. After university, Amanda joined Teach for America and taught 9th grade English at a KIPP high school. Now Amanda is a contributing writer for The Atlantic and is involved with global education initiatives like the South African EdTech Summit and the Global Glimpse program. Amanda has also shared some of her rigorous English content on the Edcite online platform.