Tuesday, October 22, 2013

PARCC Upate #2- PARCC Pilot and Essential Dates

Been awhile between my first and second installments of my PARCC updates.

With that said here is some quick and essential information you should know.

First, we have been chosen to pilot PARCC at AV this year.

Three Grade 9 ELA classes and Four Grade 11 Math classes will pilot ONLINE PARCC testing.

You can see a helpful chart of how these tests will be broken in terms of timelines at my site:

Check the PARCC Tab.

Also, the Two questions I get regarding PARCC are these:

1)When will PARCC start/really count? 

2)Will PARCC really replace MCAS?

Here are the answers to those questions with the most updated information from DESE and PARCC:

1) Students who are currently in 8th grade right now will be the first class who will take PARCC and have it count as a new graduation requirement.

2) PARCC will replace ELA and Math MCAS Tests. The Biology exam will remain in the current MCAS form

Below is the actual verbiage directly from Commissioner Mitchell Chester's PPT presentation this summer on these two questions and PARCC transition from MCAS:
ØAt least through Class of 2017:  Grade 10 MCAS tests/retests in ELA, Mathematics, & Science/Technology/Engineering
üSpring 2015 Grade 10 students will take MCAS (not PARCC) for CD
ØSTE tests will continue during PARCC implementation

ØThis fall:  ESE will provide updates for classes of 2018 & beyond

Monday, April 22, 2013

PARCC Is coming... A series of Updated summaries #1

Ironic that we are in the midst of MCAS season and talking about something that will be replacing it but, more and more people are curious about the new PARCC assessment and what it is all about.

This is the first in a series of Blogs that I will post to break down the long reads on PARCC into quick and basic (and hopefully clear) reads for staff.

What is PARCC?

PARCC stands for the Partnership for Assessment of College and Career Readiness. Massachusetts is a part of the 22 PARCC states that are working together to make a new assessment based on the Common Core Standards for grades 3 through 11. Yes, grades 9, 10, and 11 will be assessed using this new test. PARCC will replace the ELA and Math sessions of the MCAS as we know it. The Science portion of the MCAS will stay as is at this point.

PARCC Timeline:

2012-13 School Year: First year pilot/field testing and related research and data collection
2013-14 School Year: Second year pilot/field testing and related research and data collection
2014-15 School Year: Full operational administration of PARCC assessments

Basic Testing Structure:
Grades tested 9, 10, and 11

2 types of Assessments: 
Performance-Based Assessments in ELA/Literacy and Math given after 75% of the school year completed 

End of the Year Assessments in ELA/Literacy and Math given after 90% of the school year completed 

Number of testing sessions: 9 Total 
ELA/Literacy: 3 Performance based assessments and 2 end of year assessments
Math: 2 Performance based assessments and 2 end of year assessments 

Estimated time for students to complete both the assessments:
Projected to be around 10 hours each for students in grades 9, 10, and 11 

Currently, the hours we give students to complete the ELA and Math MCAS exams is similar in time

This will take students 5-9 days to test and school districts will have a window of 20 days for each assessment to complete 

The big difference: parts of PARCC will be done online which is great for timely feedback but, a challenge for schools technology wise.

For now the Science portion of the MCAS will remain the same as PARCC has not made any plans for science as of yet. 

For additional reading on PARCC see PARCC Online  and this article from EdWeek

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Are iPads and other Gadgets Really Helping Kids Learn? Our Response

Educational Researcher and Reporter Peg Tyre recently penned a thoughtful article asking the question: Are iPads and Other Classroom Gadgets Really Helping Kids Learn? See here: http://goo.gl/4omqI

The article makes some valid points concerning costs particularly  when schools go full 1:1 with all staff and students. However, we here at Assabet Valley have implemented a pilot program which is summed  up best in this blog post by Principal Cale Birk entitled "We Can't Afford 1:1 See here: http://goo.gl/if0lH

While we have never truly considered or  looked at the overall costs of a full 1:1 model our philosophy is to bring in the technology in a smaller sample and see what works and doesn't work first. This is part of our progressive, innovative, yet responsible model towards technology.

We are sharing iPads among teachers, classrooms, and students and  it has been nothing but positive and given our curriculum and collaboration a nice jolt of excitement. With this model we have purchased iPads in a cost-effective and responsible way which allows  us to compile data on the technology in regards to student learning without going "all in" just yet. This has also been a time effective decision. We have given our students and staff a taste of the technology without making it the only approach we offer.
To counter the article's theory that iPads or the like can create seismic costs we have found that allowing teachers to share the iPads with one another and their classes has created 8 new mobile computer labs for us. At a time when time and space are critical to the curriculum the iPads we use throughout the science department have allowed us to get students on the internet researching the material as soon as they walk in the classroom door. Without them a teacher would have to fight for time and space in one 
of the computer labs with other teachers and lose a minimum of 20 minutes each time they do so walking back and forth and getting students logged into desktops.

In terms of student learning we only have a small sample of data as we are only half way through year one. But, if you consider student enthusiasm and engagement in your measurement then there is no question that technology in the classroom is helping our students to  learn.Both students and teachers have stated that the excitement in the classroom when the iPads are being used individually or in small groups is a great addition and change to the textbook research.

How could a picture in a textbook with a textbook type description compare to thousands of videos, other pictures, and several points of view about the subject. How is a teacher saying "look on page 47 for the answer"  comparable to a student using a device to research and find the answer on their own via the internet? This is real learning.Using the EduCreations app to create presentations complete with  real pictures,videos,and voice overs most definitely shows a higher level of learning and skill then our traditional poster board versions.

As the blog post I have included points out we have also seen kids really excited on the days Ipads are used. However, they are not used everyday which is also another important piece to the discussion. For two decades now one of the biggest buzzwords around has been differentiation. The ability to reach students with  
 different styles of instruction is another critical piece to real learning.The technology we use in the classroom is a big part of differentiation. We have found that many students who did not always participate as much have found the new technology gives them a new means of expressing themselves.
 The connection of technology has really brought two different generations together for students and teachers. There is now a connection between students and teachers who are really learning  
 from each other.

At the end of the day devices and software programs will never replace great teachers. But, great teachers who use these devices and technologies well take learning to a whole new level.
 We have found that supplementing our curriculum with some great technology has increased student engagement and enthusiasm. With more engagement and enthusiasm naturally comes increased learning.

To learn more about our PD in terms of Ipads and our Science teachers thoughts see this article in the Telegram and Gazette: http://www.telegram.com/article/20120806/NEWS/108069959/1116&Template=printart

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Check out my Guest Blog at Richard Byrne's "Free Technology for Teachers:

New post: Finding great Google Apps information but, no time to research it? - Guest Post goo.gl/fb/lBPqq

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

First Big Guest Blog

No matter what area it is that you are trying to break into everybody needs to catch a "big break." I believe I have finally found mine and hopefully this will get me back into educational blogging,  When I was blogging more I was learning more. When I was learning more I was bringing more of the great educational technology ideas back to the teachers in the classrooms and shops at Assabet Valley. 

A Special thanks to Richard Byrne at www.freetech4teachers.com for giving me the opportunity to guest blog on his successful site. I never thought that less then a year into "going Google" with Google Apps for Education I would be blogging and using all of the amazing free tools that Google offers...

Tough Love for Seniors

As we continue to see more and more of our seniors here at Assabet Valley attending two and four year colleges we have certainly answered the call in providing them with more and more high level Honors and AP courses.

However, the way we teach these courses is most critical to the readiness and rigor they will see as college freshmen.

A couple of years ago I read an interesting piece in the Marshall Memo on a different approach to teaching seniors. The article details one school in Worcester's (my hometown) decision to take a "tough love" approach to teaching their seniors in order to get them truly ready for the challenges they will encounter the following year. They wanted to shock their top seniors and take them out of their comfort zone while they still can oversee them if things get too difficult.

Some examples of the new approaches were:

- Syllabi similar to those in college;
- More classes conducted with college-like lectures;
- Tough-love refusal to accept late papers unless an extension had been granted;
- Tough exams based on textbook reading;

This is certainly something to consider for our senior students.  Particularly the ones in our top courses.
Its an interesting discussion as we move forward  with the continued College and Career Readiness debate that is so prevalent in education today.

Teach and Retire Rich

Bringing back an older post which I find most important. I always try to remind all our 1st Year Teachers to get their 403b plans started immediately!

Teach and Retire Rich 

To most educators this title may sound like an oxymoron. However, there is a very real way of retiring from this rewarding profession and living very comfortably. I have noted a book to read below entitled "Teach and Retire Rich" which I thought had some great ideas on how to help you with this process.

I am sending out this information because I was surprised to find out that many of our staff do not know as much about our Tax sheltered 403b plans or how they work as I thought.

Most people who know me may laugh that I am even attempting to write about anything financial. However, I am just passing it on some great guidance I was given over a decade ago from a colleague who was near retiring.

No matter how small your contribution may be it could really pay off in the long run.

I would recommend looking into this forum to ask questions on 403b's and finding out what is best for you:


I have also read this book and it gave me some great ideas on how to go about this process (you can find it for next to nothing at amazon.com):


Good Luck!!