Do Not Disturb: Thoughts on the ISTEP mess in Indiana #edchat #INeLearn

@MrBrettClark 3 Comments

Well, this has been a fun week. This was suppose to be the week our students in Indiana took the ISTEP exam. The exam that is suppose to measure how much our students have learned over the course of the year and how well our teachers have taught them. As a former classroom teacher, I've gone through the speech with my students time and time again.

"Go to bed early. Eat a good breakfast. Take your time. Read each problem carefully. Do your best!" 

I've sat through all the speeches from administrators and test coordinators. 

"Don't leave the test unsupervised. Make sure students work on every problem and take their time. Make sure all test material are returned and locked away at the end of day."

The multiple choice portion of the test was online this year. The state spent at least three years preparing for this day. Then a funny thing didn't work!

For the past 2 days students have watched globes spin on their screens while the test remains in limbo. I'm on an email list with other technology directors and watching the emails come in has been both frustrating and slightly entertaining. 

Here are some stories that have come out the last couple of days on this disastrous event. 

I could go on and share 100+ articles on the issue but I won't. However, I do want to share a couple of my thoughts on this issue.

Is this year's ISTEP test a valid test?
I have a hard time believing any ISTEP test, past or present, is valid. It is impossible to get a clear picture of what students actually know and/or what teachers have taught on a test that only takes up a "few days" out of 180 days of school. I put few days in quotes because all teachers know that high stakes test take up more than just the days we administer them. 

Actually, I would actually say that high stakes test steal days away from our students. Days that our students could be spending exploring their interest, creating something, working on a service project with their classmates, or finding their voice in a space by themselves. 

Now I bring into question the validity of this test because of all the interruptions. How many test questions were discussed among students or with parents? Maybe even googled when they got home. What kind of testing environment did this epic fail create for our students and teachers?  Do you think people are more stressed or less stressed? Do you think students care more or care less about the test now?

Point being, schools have spent all of this time prepping kids for this test, that counts for a school's "grade" and a teacher's evaluation/pay, and now it's pretty easy to question the validity of this test.

Which brings me to my next and final question?

Should we, as educators and/or parents, capitalize on this blunder and push for the removal of standardized test?  
Is this the right time to stand up and say, "look what has happened here and how it's harmed our schools and robbed us of days we could be spending following our passions?" Should we take advantage of this platform and point parents/guardians to Opt Out Indiana? Maybe it's time we buy copies and of "One Size Does Not Fit All" by Nikhil Goyal and pass them out at the next PTA meeting. 

This could be the right time, while the media in Indiana is looking our way, to show the world that there is a better way to do this. One thing for sure, we can't give CTB/McGraw-Hill a free pass on this one and we can't let the IDOE just have us return to "business as usual". 

This "high stakes" test has become a "high stinks" test and it's time to throw it out. 


Dreaming About Joy in Learning #12DOD #StuVoice #Choose2Matter

@MrBrettClark 1 Comments

Editor's Note: I am so excited to bring you our first post in our Student Edition of The 12 Days of Dreaming. As I talked about in my last post, this has not come together as I had hoped. I am completely okay with this for a couple of reasons. One, I love learning and I can find a great deal of learning when I struggle. Two, I still have some amazing post to share with you! I plan on spreading these out over time.
I hope you enjoy!

Our Dream for Education is Joy in learning.
What does joyful learning looks like to us? Having fun while learning. We think that crafts would be a great way for kids to have joy while learning because we get to really connect with learning through creative expression.  Making paintings would be a good way for kids to show what they’re learning through art.  Another good way to have fun while learning is sewing, not for just girls, but boys too.  We believe that art would be a good way for kids to connect to learning.
Another way to have joy in learning could be to have more fieldtrips.  Fieldtrips would be a good way for kids to interact with what they’re learning about. It would be better for kids to go to an art museum than for a teacher to make them write an essay about Picasso.  One good field trip destination could be a camp like Camp Tecumseh.  Camp Tecumseh is a summer camp, Girl Scout camp, and a history camp.  They teach you about the past while letting you interact and pretend that you are a pioneer. They let you bake Johnny Cakes, build log cabins, go fishing, visit a fur trappers cabin, and even spend the night in a cabin. We think you should experience what you’re learning firsthand.
We believe that games are a good way for students to learn because it triggers our minds to learn and we have better focus.  One way to do that would be to have a math game day.  It would help students by making the want to learn more about math so they could excel in the math games.  At our school, we have math at the end of the day, and we are tired.  Since we are tired, we have a short attention span, which does not enable us to learn as well.  Therefore, we should have a math game day, so we will want to pay attention even if we are tired.
Literature games are also a good idea.  They will help kids who have trouble understanding literature.  They will also have fun.  They will make kids want to learn more about literature.  It will also make kids want to read and write more.  A fun game option that will also trigger the mind is to design a game based on a book that you like.  It is a fun stretch of the brain and other people can play it.  Kids will be excited to work on this fun project.  It will help develop creativity.  And, best of all, kids will find joy in doing it.
One last fun suggestion is to have an educational/strategy game day.  It will stretch kid’s minds into thinking hard.  It will also give them the joy of picking their own game.  They can have freedom in their choices.  They will be able to have fun while they learn which our main goal in education is.
We think students should have free education time to do what they want, as long as it is educational.  One option is reading for fun.  We believe that reading for fun is an awesome way to expand vocabulary.  Another fun choice is free-write.  We like to write letters, books, or stories.  It helps the imagination grow and develop.  One last fantastic idea is to free-draw.  You could also draw up posters to raise awareness of events or important tests.
Our dream for education is to have joy in learning and interactive experiences.  We hope that you enjoyed our post.  Where do you find joy in learning?
This post was written by Sophie and Claire. Two students from Sara Hunter's class. Thank you Sophie and Claire for sharing your dreams with us! 


Pushing Forward #12DOD

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This past December I ran a very fun series called The 12 Days of Dreaming. It featured some great guest bloggers talking about their dreams for education. It was so much fun that I thought it'd be great to do it again but I wanted it to be more. I wanted our students to have a voice. 

So I talked to some of Zak Malamed of #StuVoice and Angela Maiers of #Choose2Matter and launched the idea of doing The 12 Days of Dreaming: Student Edition. Initially, it was a big hit and people were excited. 

The idea was the same as before but with students. Get 12 students to write post about their dreams for education. I even through out some other ideas on how we can tap into student dreams on two different post you can read here and here. However, for whatever reason, the idea never really took off. 

I didn't have people submitting ideas. I had people who told me they loved the idea but then no submissions came. I'll be honest, it was discouraging at first but it has also pushed me to reflect on this process. Here are some of my thoughts on why this has struggled.

1) I just didn't push it hard enough and in the right way. For whatever reason, it just didn't connect enough with people and they didn't push it out to their students.
2) My job change and relocation didn't help. I moved two hours east and I didn't have that group of people I could reach out to have them share this with their students yet. We have some amazing teachers and students in my new district. I just didn't have the relationships in place that I needed to help make the successful.
3) Not being in the classroom anymore. I love what I do now but I do miss my classroom full of students. I would have loved to have done this while still in the classroom.
4) People are busy and the school year can quickly get away from you. Especially the second semester.
5) Maybe it just wasn't a good idea. I'm not saying I agree with that but not every idea I come up with is a good one. 

Part of me wanted to just burry this idea, remove these post, take down the banner, and pretend this never happend. However, that would do all of us a disservice. 

Especially since, even though this hasn't come together liked I hoped, I do have some post to share with you. It won't be 12 days worth but we will get some post to you from students on how they'd like to see education. 

I am excited to share these ideas with you. I hope you will find them engaging, comment on them, and share them with others. Our students have a voice and it deserves to be heard. 

Look for the post to begin next Tuesday! 


Come one! Come all! #GCCC13

@MrBrettClark 0 Comments

Everyone! Listen up! I have a very important announcement!

This week, 4/1 - 4/5, we will be opening up registration for The Greater Clark Connected Conference!

I know what you're thinking. Why should I attend #GCCC13?? 

I'm glad you asked.

First of all, dynamic speakers!

As I stated in my last post about the conference, we will have the amazing #EduBros, @thenerdyteacher and @tgwynn, as our keynote speakers. Plus they will be around all day presenting sessions, making people laugh, and autographing babies. Ok, I might have made that last part up...

Also, Tom Whitby will be around all day talking about what it means to be a connected educator. Learning about being a connected educator from Tom is like learning how to make movies from JJ Abrams.

Other speakers are yet to be announced. We have a couple more folks who we will announcing throughout the month of April. Trust me, you won't want to miss who else we have joining us for this great day of learning.

Speaking of learning, that's what this day is all about and it's another reason you should join us.

Learning, Learning, and More Learning

We're trying to take advantage of the entire day without overwhelming anyone.

Rocking Keynote: We'll kick off our day with the keynote message from Nick and Tim.

Learning blocks: We will have two 2-hour learning blocks. Here is how they work.

Option 1: Attend a 2-hour workshop on a variety of topics. More on this in a later post!

Option 2: Attend two 45-minute concurrent session with a 30-minute collaboration break in the middle. The 30 minute collaboration break is yours to talk with your colleagues, new friends, visit our vendors, or hang out in a collaboration room with one of our speakers. Stay tuned for more on this in a later post!

Lunch: Lunch is provided and we have something special planned for our lunch period. Lunch will take place between our two learning blocks.

Panel Discussion: We will end our day back in the auditorium with a great panel discussion with some of the best connected educators around. Plus we will have some prize giveaways! 

Bang for your buck!

The cost for our non-Greater Clark employees is only $25 per person. You can pay by check, PO, or credit card! However, there are only 100 seats available at this time! We may open up more seats later but there's no guarantee!

 What should you do?
It's simple, follow @GCCC2013 on twitter, check out our website, and pay attention over the next couple days so you don't miss the announcement for when we open up registration!

Also, it's not to late for you apply to be a presenter at the conference! We still have some spots open and are looking for a few more amazing presenters! Just fill out this form!

I really do hope you'll consider connecting with us on July 25 for a great day of learning! It will only be a great conference if you show up!