Friday, August 31, 2012

The BEST of the BEST Teachers!

Great video of our Train the Trainer session held this past summer. These are truly the best of the best in teaching. They will take the LTF training program out to the world. We will double the number of locations next year - and with this incredibly talented group the teacher who attend that training WILL transform their classrooms! THANK YOU NEW TRAINERS!!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Military Children Given Chance for STEM Excellence

We need engineers, mathematicians and scientists to keep our weapons systems operational,” said Lt. Gen. Bruce Litchfield, commander of the Air Force Sustainment Center, at a ceremony Aug. 23 to recognize two Oklahoma high schools."
Great story from Tinker Air Force Base on the National Math + Science Oklahoma event. It is great work:


Can there be anything more thrilling before a Labor Day break than Granular Identifiers and Metadata for the Common Core State Standards - the GIM-CCSS? The article is important for anyone using technology to identify topics by standard but it may just hold the world record for acronym usage.

So here it goes - it is hosted by the SETDA working with CCSSO, PARCC, SBAC and NGA to create the GIM-CCSS

“Granular Identifiers and Metadata for the Common Core State Standards or GIM-CCSS) will facilitate the long-term technical implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in a digital format that meets the diversity of stakeholder needs in the field, while preserving the conceptual and structural integrity of the standards.

While CCSSO and the National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices have developed a foundational digital identifier structure for the Common Core, a more fine-grained digital mapping is needed to fulfill the goals and objectives of the multi-state assessment consortia, as well as for other purposes including the digital alignment of instructional materials and professional development resources."

SETDA - State Educational Technology Directors
CCSSO - Council of Chief State School Offices
PARCC - Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers
SBAC - Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium
NGA - National Governors Association

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Educator Leader Cadre

Great article from Steven Sawchuk at Edweek on the Educator Leader Cadre!
"Common core is causing serious angst in your states, your districts, and your schools," David Saba, the chief executive officer of Laying the Foundation, a teacher-training wing of the National Math and Science Initiative and a partner on the educator-leader cadres for PARCC, told the 300 cadre members. "You're here to relieve the pain."

Transforming College Access

Great article on our program in Indiana and how well it is going in the first year of an I3 grant from US DOE on EdWeek's College Bound blog.  Love the great press on the program and what it is doing for students. Our results will be released next month and they are pretty incredible.

"Currently, about 12 percent of Indiana students who take AP exams receive a score of at least 3 (considered the minimum to pass on a scale of 1-5). The goal is to boost that figure to 25 percents, says Morris.

This summer, the initiative started with a week-long professional development session for AP teachers to deepen their content knowledge in math, science, or English. They will also receive additional training for two days in the fall and again in the spring.
Teachers in the program are required to provide four hours a week outside of class time for structured tutoring. There are also Saturday study sessions.
Then, there is the hard cash. Teachers receive a small stipend ($500) for their extra time, but they have an added perk if their students pass the AP exam — namely $100 for each successful pupil. Students also get $100 if they get a score of 3 or higher."

Monday, August 27, 2012

Common Core Starts Now - Assessments later

Great story that really hits home on the Common Core by Liz Bowie in the Baltimore Sun "School Year Starts with New Curriculum" (the title is actually a little misleading as common core is not a curriculum but we will let it slide). Maryland is on of our great PARCC Educator Leader Cadre states. 

The money quotes - 
"We are pushing rigor ... earlier than we ever have before," said Maryland Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery.

And I love this part on how a teacher is changing her practice - not recreating an entirely new curriculum but really going implementing close reading using some of her existing texts!

"Third-grade teacher Lauren Booth has always taught her students a story by author Mark Teague about characters who have wild adventures after falling into a lost-and-found bin. The teacher at Baltimore County's Colgate Elementary School would ask them to describe the differences among the characters as part of their lesson.
This year, she will still be teaching "The Lost and Found" but she'll also ask students to read a second Teague book, "The Secret Shortcut," and to compare the characters in the two books. Then they will write their own stories, incorporating the traits of the characters in the two books.
They will not only be developing narrative writing skills, she said, they will also have to use what they learned about character traits. This approach will take more time, and it will mean that she will drop another story from her lessons. But she said she also will be able to go into greater depth."
That really embodies common core implementation - taking what works, modifying it to go deep and build the right skills. 
The article ends by highlighting the one big issue for all educators - they are all teaching to the new standards but kids will be tested to the old until the PARCC assessments are completed for the 2014-15 school year. 
But it looks like Maryland students are getting a jump on college readiness!! 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Military Families WIN

Today I will be hanging with Governor Fallin and Superintendent Baresi in Oklahoma celebrating some incredible results for students of military families through our program.  It is an honor. 

From the press release: 
National Mathand Science announced today that two Oklahoma City high schools that are participating in the Initiative for  Military Families - Carl Albert and Eisenhower High Schools -  have produced a combined 69 percent increase in qualifying scores on Advanced Placement* math, science and English scores in the first year of the program – 26 times the rest of the state’s average.

“These results are phenomenal.  They will open doors to college for these students, who have sacrificed while their parents have been serving our country,” said Gregg Fleisher, Senior Vice President of National Math and Science.  “We are so grateful to Northrop Grumman for providing the support to bring this program to Oklahoma.  This is giving students here the skills they will need to succeed in a more complicated world.”

Fleisher pointed out that the two IMF schools accounted for 35 percent of the state’s increase in qualifying AP math, science and English scores.  Eisenhower led the state in qualifying scores in AP math, science and English among African Americans and Hispanics.  And Carl Albert High School was one of the state’s top achievers, with a 254 percent increase in qualifying scores in AP math and science exams.

The IMF has significantly increased the number of students enrolling in AP math, science, and English courses at the Oklahoma City schools:
  • More students took an AP math, science, or English (MSE) course in the first year of the program (494 in 2011-2012) than were enrolled in an AP MSE course the previous year (343 in 2010-2011).
  • Enrollment for the upcoming 2012-13 school year indicates a 117 percent increase in enrollment (from 343 to 744 students ) from the year before the program began.
“We know how important science and math are to our nation’s future and the innovations and technologies of tomorrow. It’s a national imperative that we strengthen our knowledge base in these vital areas. Our children are the scientists and engineers who will imagine and design the future,” said Greg Schmidt, Vice President and General Manager for Northrop Grumman.

Although the IMF targets military dependents of Fort Sill personnel, the program is open to all EHS and Albert high school students who are eligible for Advanced Placement classes. The Northrop funding includes incentives for students, teachers and the high school based on performance by students on AP exams in those areas.  Requirements include additional class time outside of normal school hours and additional training for teachers. 

 “This program is a win-win because it does not cost the school district any money and produces unparalleled increases in the number of students passing AP math, science and exams,” said Dale Fleury, Regional AP Director for National Math and Science.

The overall goal of IMF is to support children in America’s military families by providing consistent, quality coursework through National Math and Science’s highly successful Advanced Placement Training and Incentive Program (APTIP).  Access to the college-level courses gives students the opportunity to earn college credit for advanced coursework and significantly increases their chances of succeeding in college.  Students who pass an AP exam are three times more likely to complete their college education.

The IMF was launched in 2010 in four school sites, two near Fort Campbell in Kentucky and two near Fort Hood in Texas, and was expanded in fall 2011 to a total of 29 high schools in 10 states that are serving high concentrations of students from military families. In fall 2012, the IMF program will be implemented in 52 high schools in 15 states. 

Almost two million young people in America have a parent serving in the military today.  More than 220,000 of those young people have at least one parent deployed overseas. The long separations, concerns about safety, and frequent transfers can be particularly hard on the children whose parents protect our country.  Many students in military families are transferred six to nine times during their school career – often two times in high school. Each move means a transition with a new school system and new standards. Because the AP curriculum is uniform across the country, the IMF provides excellence and continuity for students whenever and wherever their families are transferred.

Generous inaugural funding to launch the IMF in 2010 was provided by Lockheed Martin Corporation. Major funding to add high schools is being provided by the Army Education Outreach Program, BAE Systems, The Boeing Company, the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), the Exxon Mobil Corporation, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation,  and the Office of Naval Research as well as Northrop Grumman.

With additional funding, it is anticipated the IMF can be expanded to 150 public high schools, ensuring that a very high percentage of military families will be served.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Resources for Common Core / PARCC

Common Core resources listed from cohort I PARCC ELC meeting so that Cohort II members can find it:

Stanford Understanding Language closely working with PARCC on ELL focus:

Co-Teaching Resources from the panel discussion:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

PARCC Educator Leaders Cohort II

Great start to the Cohort II meeting of the Educator Leader Cadre for the PARCC states.  This time with educators from Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.  Great energy to start.

Sphere of influence - after each training, ELC members will determine how they will use what they learn and how will they share what they learn.

What is college and career ready? Prepared for credit bearing coursework upon entrance into a post-secondary institution. Career? Zone 3 job - which means living wage, eligible for benefits and advancement. The basis for Common Core and the PARCC assessments. (note I had zone 4 before but it is actually zone 3).

PARCC - assessing the full range of Common Core State Standards - not just the standards that are easy to measure

  • Full range of mathematical practice will be assessed which most said would be too hard to do
  • ELA/Literacy - research standards will be addressed through simulations where students will synthesize multiple sources to answer the research question
  • Most assessment measure the middle really well - get really good information on those students but PARCC will get a lot more information about the tails.
Machine scored does not mean only multiple choice. 

From the Q&A: 
  • First thing that educators were happy with on PARCC briefing? Formative assessments to help instruction plus final assessments given at the end of the year - not in the middle of the year. 
  • 35% of teachers time is spent on assessments - PARCC creates increased literacy on assessments for teachers. 
  • How is PARCC working with groups on linking this to Educator Preparation? PARCC has been reaching out to all higher ed associations to keep them involved
  • What does "optional" mean for assessments at the beginning of the year - states decide optional and district can decide - if not, than the school decides. 
  • Who decides about time for tests? All of the big assessment issues are decided by the PARCC states  - they are driving development and implementation
  • Whatever assessment you are using will be replaced by the PARCC assessments for math and literacy. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

PARCC Assessment Prototypes Released

PARCC has released item tasks and prototypes  - based upon our first Educator Leader Cadre meeting this is exactly what teachers want to see -

A good note from PARCC about the key limitations of the prototypes:
  • Each prototype includes an interactive model of the item for online use, along with a downloadable supporting PDF document that includes annotations for the item or task describing how the item or task is aligned to the CCSS and highlighting key advances in assessment quality.
  • While some embedded supports are demonstrated within the prototype items, a full range of possible supports is not yet included.
  • Prototypes are not yet intended to address the range of computer-based display styles and embedded supports that will be made available for students with disabilities during the administration of the actual assessment.
  • While online and technology-enhanced interactivity is demonstrated in the prototypes, these illustrative items and tasks do not reflect the final technical specifications, hardware and software requirements, input and output device allowances, online security guidelines, or computer-based display options of the actual PARCC assessment. The computer and connectivity requirements necessary to access and interact with the prototype site should not be assumed to be the requirements for the final PARCC assessment.
A quick look at the third grade end of year prototype we see that students still need to understand how to find "one main idea" but then have to site their supporting evidence for saying that!!

For 10th grade students must read Ovid's "Daedalus and Icarus" and select an important theme of the work and site three pieces of evidence for selecting that theme.  This is a 10th grade test - not an AP test!

The math prototypes are exceptionally cool - with a sliding graph in the grade 7 math item using the latest in technology to have students create a graph that is the negative of the existing function.  This is not about memorizing - this is about knowing math. 

Pretty cool start - more to come. 

Common Core + Reading Wars

Another fine summary from our research analyst at Laying the Foundation / National Math + Science (Sarah Jensen) on the big shift in reading that Common Core State Standards will create for the benefit of our students: 

Common Core opens a second front in the Reading Wars

·          CCSS specify the “sophistication of what students read is as important as the skills they master from grade to grade.”
o   “This seemingly innocuous directive—to read appropriately complex texts and to use scaffolding to help struggling students understand what they’ve read—is perhaps the most revolutionary element of the CCSS.”
·          It means picking sides – scaffolded texts or scaffolded instruction
o   One side: “reading comprehension will improve if teachers assess students’ individual reading levels and give them a bevy of “just right” books that will challenge them just enough to nudge them to read slightly more challenging texts.”
o   Other side: “reading comprehension improves as domain-specific content knowledge deepens and students are exposed to increasingly complex literature and nonfiction texts.”
§  Here the role of the teacher is more pronounced, and instruction more explicit. The instruction, not the text, is scaffolded to meet the students where they are.
·          “If you are to take the Common Core at its word—that the sophistication of the text is equally as important as the skills that students master—then it will be increasingly difficult for publishers of curricula that focus on matching books to readers, rather than scaffolding instruction to meet their needs, to claim that their materials are truly aligned with the new standards.
·          “Some believe that, by wading into this debate, the CCSS has violated the principles of the “grand compromise” of standards-driven reform, others believe that this guidance gives these standards more clarity and purpose than teachers have had for years.”

Note - we know we are on the right track especially taken in the context of this study on Core Knowledge in New York City:
“For three years, a pilot program tracked the reading ability of approximately 1,000 students at 20 New York City schools, following them from kindergarten through second grade. Half of the schools adopted a curriculum designed by the education theorist E. D. Hirsch Jr.’s Core Knowledge Foundation. The other 10 used a variety of methods, but most fell under the definition of “balanced literacy,” an approach that was spread citywide by former Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, beginning in 2003.
“The study found that second graders who were taught to read using the Core Knowledge program scored significantly higher on reading comprehension tests than did those in the comparison schools.”
web page on the Core Knowledge website links to the the NYC Department of Ed’s data, background on the program, a presentation on the research underpinnings andhow the curriculum works with Common Core State Standards.

Friday, August 17, 2012

PARCC Educator Leader Cadre - the video!

Great video on the new PARCC Educator Leader Cadre meeting in Chicago last month. This is just the beginning of some amazing work to bring Common Core State Standards to life in America's classrooms. It only happens with great teaching and that is what the ELC is all about.

Teachers + NASA

Great day for some of our great LTF staff science teachers at NASA. We are working on creating highly engaging science lessons that incorporate the NASA data.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Common Core Assessment Preview

Ed Week's Catherine Gewertz offers a brief glimpse at the common core assessment items from Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC) in a recent article - Consortia Provide Preview of Common Assessments.

The good news -
“What we are starting to see here are tests that really get at a deeper understanding on the part of students, not just superficial knowledge,” said Robert L. Linn, an assessment expert and professor emeritus of education at the University of Colorado at Boulder who reviewed a sampling of the consortia’s materials. “But unless students are really prepared for them, it’s going to be a huge challenge.”

The bad news - writing up thousands of items that can accomplish the goals is extremely difficult in the allotted time.

It seems that SBAC has released more items so far this summer but PARCC will be releasing some by the end of August!  Teachers want to see the items so they can have a better feel for the changes they need to make in the classroom. With the teachers we trained this summer and our PARCC Educator Leader Cadre members we have met, they are all ready to change, they just need to know more about the expectations for students.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Let's Solve This - Common Core Version!

ExxonMobil gets it. Common Core helps American regain our competitive edge in the global marketplace. Love their ads because they support National Math + Science and now Common Core State standards!!

Common Core = Business?

Interesting article over at EdWeek's Marketplace K-12 blog called "Business Opportunities Seen in New Tests, Low Scores". The premise being that some states do have education funding and have rather large gaps between their current state tests and NAEP. Since the new Common Core State Standard tests will have similar scores to NAEP the logic is that those states will look the worse on the new tests.

Business will follow the money and flow to the biggest opportunity. Therefore, you should see a line outside Kevin Huffman's door in Tennessee to help them prepare for their implementation of PARCC tests.

The other startling graph is the one that seems to show spending on instruction and services go from $50B to $90B over the next 4 years.  If that is truly the size of the trough, their will be some seriously large hogs flocking to it - essentially eliminating the little piggies.

However, there is "the opportunity in education is for startup companies taking a teacher-centric approach, winning customers through product development, not sales forces. In that world, the bigger companies fear the startups, they don't necessarily buy them."

Oh yeah - FEAR THE LTF - no one is more teacher-centric product than ours. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Students Discover the Periodic Table

Why do we love our teachers who create the content for LTF Training? Because they come up with incredible lessons. Below you can see Randy and Dave building a lesson on the periodic table designed to help students see the patterns in the elements so that they can literally discover the periodic table as Mendeleev did back in 1864.

It is truly fascinating to watch these professionals work so hard to ensure that students not only see the material but gain a deep understanding by discovering the knowledge they need to become passionate and succeed in science. 

Every teacher needs to have these science and math resources and our hope is that next year, we will double the number of teachers we reach. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Remediation in College

Why do we focus on college readiness through teaching excellence and how common core state standards can help? Because remediation is so widespread.  Our own Sarah Jensen compiled the following facts:

The need for remediation is widespread
  • 51.7 percent of freshmen entering a two-year college enrolled in remedial courses. i
    19.9 percent of freshmen entering a four-year college enrolled in remedial courses. iii
  • African American, Hispanic, and low-income students place into remedial courses proportionally higher than their peers.iv
By 2018, 63 percent of all jobs in the U.S. economy will require postsecondary education.i All too often, however, students enter college unprepared for the rigor of freshman-level college courses. These students are tracked into prerequisite developmental education courses, which decrease their chances of graduating. In order to achieve a higher rate of students graduating from college, we need to reduce the need for students coming directly from high school to take remedial courses. 
At two-year colleges: v
o 67.7 percent African American 

o 58.3 percent Hispanic
o 64.7 percent low-income
o 46.8 percent white

At four-year colleges: vi
o 39.1 percent African American o 20.6 percent Hispanic
o 31.9 percent low-income
o 13.6 percent white

Students tracked into remediation typically have low college attainment rates
  •   86 percent of two-year college students who took remedial courses do not graduate within three years.vii
  •   Nearly half of two-year college remedial students never start a college-level course.viii
  •   Four in ten students at a four-year college who took remedial courses do not graduate
    within six years.ix
  •   The more remedial classes a student takes, the less likely they are to graduate.x 

    i Carnevale, A. P., Smith, N., Strohl, J. (June, 2010). Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements through 2018. Retrieved from
    ii Complete College America. (April, 2012). Remediation: Higher Education’s Bridge to Nowhere. Retrieved from
    iii Ibid
    iv Ibid
    v Ibid
    vi Ibid
    vii Ibid
    viii Ibid
    ix Ibid
    x Diploma to nowhere (2008). Strong American Schools: Washington. Retrieved from
    Attewell, P., Lavin, D., Domina, T., Levey, T. (2006). New Evidence on College Remediation.

    The Journal of Higher Education, 77 (5), 886-924. Retrieved from 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

PARCC / SBAC, Common Core and Legislators

Nice, albeit early, meeting at NSCL on Common Core State Standards. Here are my somewhat disjointed notes. Like the piece about the differences between PARCC and SBAC (Smarter Balance) assessments. Note that Utah just backed out of SBAC and is now going it alone.

NCSL on Common Core for Legislators 
  • 36 states passed 43 bills that focus on implementing Common Core - mainly further implementing the new assessments, developing curriculum, higher education alignment of admissions to student achievement to CCSS in 2017, setting up task forces to look at cost and focus on oversight of implementation
  • Legislators worried about 3 big things: how much will it cost, will teachers be prepared to implement the standards and the new assessments
  • Putting a price tag on the common core - from Fordham- is it way too costly or can it be covered with existing funding 
    • Main cost drivers - instructional materials, professional development and assessments - there are ways to be cost effective in implementation
    • CCSS presents an opportunity to rethink the way you do everything reducing overall costs
    • New economies of scale and - vendors not limited to state/district boundaries 
    • Thinking differently about implementation
      • Cross state platforms
      • Open source textbooks
      • Targeted PD and support
      • Teacher driven/authored PD
      • Open lessons
  • NCEO - presentation
    • PARCC 25M students, SBAC 22M students
    • Differences in PARCC and SBAC
      • PARCC - fixed test forms for each student
        • Including K-2 tasks, college readiness tools for grade 12
      • SBAC - adaptive testing technology
        • retake option for summative assessment, customizable interim assessment system, exemplar instructional modules
    • Things that are the same for PARCC / SBAC
      • Summative
      • Final weeks of school year
      • online delivery
      • mix of item types
      • some items graded by teacher
      • results expected in 2 weeks
      • $20 per students
      • prof dev modules and tools online
      • support for tech infrastructure planning

Monday, August 6, 2012

Common Core Classroom Changes

The 4 C's - Common Core Classroom Changes are shown in a Harvard Education letter entitle Nine Ways the Common Core will Change Classroom Practice by Robert Rothman.  It is essentially a repeat of the BIG SHIFTs from Common Core outlined in many areas

But heck - change can only come with repetition.

In mathematics:

  1. Great Focus - it is what is left out that allows for greater focus and movement to more advanced topics. 
  2. Coherence - coherent standards are not built one grade a time like it is currently done so the standards are "designed to build on students' understanding by introducing new topics from grade to grade"
  3. Skills, Understanding and Application - no drill and kill here folks but students do have to know their content and how to actually apply it
  4. Emphasis on Practices - The 8 practices include "making sense of problems and persevering to solve them, reasoning abstractly and quantitatively, using appropriate tools strategically, and constructing viable arguments and critiquing the reasoning of others."
In English Language Arts
  1. More Non-Fiction - at list 50% from informational texts! 
  2. Focus on Evidence - close reading so that students can produce evidence based claims from their reading
  3. Staircase of Text Complexity - an end to dumbing down texts!
  4. Speaking and Listening - what a world we would live in if everyone actually listened
  5. Literacy in Content Areas - Science, social science, mathematics all must work on literacy
If course, these things don't happen without preparation such as LTF Training and the Educator Leader Cadres

Friday, August 3, 2012

Common Core Resources from CCSSO

Had a great introductory call with the Council of Chief State School Officers and their team focused on helping states implement Common Core State Standards. They are very excited about our work with the PARCC Educator Leader Cadre and we learned a great deal about the resources that they have to offer! Just for your weekend enjoyment! (PS: big news coming soon about our PARCC ELC resources for all)

Council of Chief State School Officers’ CCSS resources.-
·         Information about the Standards for Parents, Teachers, Principals, and Higher Education
·         Resources for State and District Leaders
·         Mathematics Common Core State Standards Resources
·         ELA Common Core State Standards Resources
·         Implementation Resources Created by States
·         Assessment consortia Information

Additional articles from CSSO on Common Core are attached.

·         Parent guides in English and Spanish for every grade level K-8 as well as high school ELA and high school math
·         Guides include:
o   Key items that children should be learning in English language arts and mathematics in each grade, once the standards are fully implemented.
o   Activities that parents can do at home to support their child's learning.
o   Methods for helping parents build stronger relationships with their child's teacher. 
o   Tips for planning for college and career (high school only).

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

School Leader Guide to Implementing Common Core

Mel Riddle was one of the panelists at the first PARCC Educator Leader Cadre meeting held in July. He is from NASSP and really knows Common Core. My favorite quote from his time as a school leader:

“you have to hold student achievement as the constant and time as the variable if you truly want to succeed with every student”

The ten key elements are vision, focus, easy, mindsets, implementation, collaboration, leadership, time, inclusive and collective. Makes no sense unless you read it. 

In summary, the CCSS represent a daunting challenge for school leaders. This work is too important to leave to chance. Just as we must build the capacity of our teachers to deliver these new standards, so too, must we invest in building the capacity of our school leaders to implement them."