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This year I am teaching 3rd- 5th grade only.  My remaining time is spent helping teachers to integrate technology in their classrooms effectively and supporting our new Promethean boards.  I see my students once a week for 35 minutes.  Any of you that teach a specials class know that at least 5 minutes...

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#FutureReady starts with Metanoia: doing life together in the journey to change one’s mind

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Apply, Character Education, Classroom Management, collaboration, Create, education reform, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources | Posted on 20-11-2014

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Metanoia: What it really means to be #futureready

Every morning Anastasis Academy students start with a mile walk. Together. We don’t walk by class, or by age. We walk together in community. Sometimes (when the weather is nicer) whole families join us, dogs included. It is a great way to start off the day. Directly following the walk, our students come together for a morning meeting. We call it “Metanoia” which is an ancient Greek word meaning: the journey to change one’s mind. Again, we do this as a community, not separated by age, grade, or class. They all sit together. Sometimes we bring in guest speakers, sometimes we watch a video together, and sometimes different staff members lead Metanoia. We share stories and take time to do life together. We do a lot of awesome things at Anastasis, but the Metanoia time together in the morning is among the most awesome.

The Metanoia tends to be tied up with the current inquiry block. This block, our students have been intentional about being thankful. Having an attitude of gratitude every day as part of our How We Express Ourselves inquiry block. Early in the week, we had @thewesroberts as our guest speaker. He gave each student a quarter and challenged them to multiply it and then give it away. Wes talked to the kids about the power they have to make an impact on each other’s lives and on our community. Incidentally as Wes was talking to our students, one of my friends lost their house and dogs in a fire. Devastating. I mentioned this to some of the Anastasis staff and before I knew it, our students had determined that they were going to multiply the quarters they were given to help my friend. Wow.

Today during Metanoia, @lancefinkbeiner called up students to the front one at a time and then asked the other students to say something that they appreciated about the student at the front. As a community, our kids told each other why they matter. This was a neat exercise, but what made it extra special was the way that kids of all ages gave input. They know each other. It matters not if they are the same age, or if they are in the same class. They know each other well enough that they can speak to what they appreciate about in each other. The love and grace that they offered each other through their comments was outstanding. “I like the way that you are friends with everyone.” “You are so creative!” “You include people.” “You have a great heart.” “You are really funny.” It was seriously so much awesome. Every student got to hear what others appreciated about them. Happiness.

So much of the time when we talk about education we focus on policy, politics, technology integration, curriculum. I’m learning that the most important thing is often the one that no one talks about. Community. Doing life together. Our kids are really good at thinking deeply, they are creative and innovative, they are incredibly articulate, they are confident, they are smart. I’m convinced that none of this would look the way that it does if we hadn’t been so intentional about building up our community. When kids feel supported by others; when they know that kids who are older and younger than they are care about them; when they can be vulnerable together, this is what leads to all of the rest being possible.

Many of my friends have been having discussions about #FutureReady. I think #FutureReady starts with Metanoia, doing life together in the journey to change one’s mind.

 

Want to see first hand what makes Anastasis such an awesome place to learn? Join us for 5 Sigma in February!

StackUp: Get professional development credit for Twitter edchats

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Classroom Management, education reform, Grade Level, Knowledge (remember), Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Reform Symposium Conference, Secondary Elementary, Software, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), web tools, Websites | Posted on 13-11-2014

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StackUp: Get credit for everything you read and learn online

What it is: StackUp is a really neat new web app that automatically scores online reading and learning. As you work online, StackUp captures data through the free web app and plugin which can be used on Mac and Windows (iOS and Android coming soon). When active, StackUp captures and attributes a score time that is spent anywhere online. It then categorizes it into 60 different subject areas including: news, finance, engineering, fashion, technology, sports, and online classes. StackUp is a metric that can offer insight into the commitment and study of a certain field.

How to integrate StackUp into the classroom: In the increasing digital landscape of the world (and classrooms) it is important to offer the opportunity for students to research and direct their own learning. StackUp offers students a way to share the commitment of learning with teachers and other stake holders. So often, we think about time spent online as “wasted” because, let’s face it, there can be lots of moments of wasted time online. But, the Internet is also a rich landscape for learning and continued learning in areas of passion. StackUp is a way for students to offer proof of this time spent learning so that teachers can appreciate and offer credit for that learning. Often classrooms have certain parameters and reading expectations for students. What if instead, we offered kids the ability to spend time researching, reading, and exploring things that they are passionate about…and then offer credit for it! StackUp could be the catalyst for more independent learning opportunities and studies within areas of passion. One of the things that I find holds teachers back from allowing this type of reading, is the inability to measure whether a student has really spent time on task.

I’ve often lamented about how I wish that the time spent in online education chats and reading educational blogs, articles, and whitepapers counted as professional development and credit hours. Seriously, I rack up the hours and it is always time well spent. As an administrator, I would happily accept a StackUp record of the time that my teachers engage in online material and offer credit and professional development hours for that time. I’ve gotten more out of the connections, chats, and learning that I’ve done with all of you online, than most of the required professional development. This could be transformational for helping tell the story of the learning that we do independently.

Imagine “Stacking” up the learning from a young age in areas of passion, and continue throughout their lifetime giving students another way to distinguish themselves. Tools like StackUp could start to change the landscape of learning and how we decide who the “experts” are. Hint: it isn’t always the person with the most letters behind their name.

Tips: Worried that one of your students might be able to cheat the system and simply open a webpage and walk away? No need to worry! StackUp is built on a patent-pending software system that can detect the difference between a student who just opens a webpage versus the student who is actually engaged.

StackUp doesn’t always have to run in the background and record every single move you or your students make online, it allows users to turn it on or off at any time and delete time spent on a website or in any category…you know, for those of us who spend an embarrassing amount of time on Pinterest. :)

 

Want to really amp up your professional development with the best education conference you’ve ever been to? Join us for the 5 Sigma Edu Conference!

5 Sigma Edu Con- a truly innovative education conference!

Professional development to be excited about

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, education reform, inspiration, professional development | Posted on 12-11-2014

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If you’ve ever read a post on iLearn Technology and thought, “man! That is way cool, I wonder how they do that at Anastasis?” Now is your opportunity to find out! We are hosting our first education conference in February. 5 Sigma Edu Conference

I. Can. Not. Wait!!

We have early bird pricing happening through November, don’t miss out on that opportunity to save yourself (or if your lucky, your school) a little money! This is going to be a truly awesome event, the sessions coming together are fabulous and THE Christian Long is going to be here (can you hear the squeals of excitement that are happening?).

If you still aren’t sure if you should make the time to come, use this handy little decision map:

should I go to 5 Sigma:?

 

Welp, that settles it! Can’t wait to meet you all face to face and geek out over education together!

Everything I Know About Education, I Learned from Big Hero 6

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, education reform, Grade Level, inspiration, professional development, Teacher Resources, video | Posted on 11-11-2014

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Yesterday, Anastasis teachers took some of our students (we auctioned ourselves off to the highest bidder) to see Big Hero 6.

It. Was. Brilliant.

We give it two thumbs up and five stars.

I loved the inventiveness, the curiosity, and sheer ingenuity of the characters. I loved the development of each of the different personalities. I loved that the main character’s catch phrase becomes “just look at it from a new angle.”

During the movie, one of our students looked at me and excitedly whispered, “Mrs. Tenkely, this movie is SO perfect for us! That is exactly what we do at Anastasis! Aren’t you glad we get to see THIS movie?!”

She could not be more right, this is what we do at Anastasis. We look at problems from lots of different angles and recognize that learning is ongoing and there is often more than one way to solve a problem. I’m so excited that our students can verbalize this!

Disney is a fantastic story teller, Big Hero 6 is no exception. As I reflected on the movie, I kept making connections between the movie and the way that we teach. Like everything else I encounter, I watched with an educator world view. As such, I thought I would follow in the footsteps of my friend @thenerdyteacher and write an “Everything I know about education, I learned from a movie” post.

**Fair warning and spoiler alert, if you haven’t seen this movie yet, you might want to wait on this post.** :)

Without further ado, here is Everything I Know About Education, I Learned from Big Hero 6:

  • The main character, Hero, thinks that he knows his own path in life (illegal robotics fighting) until his brother, Tadashi, shows him a new way. Tadashi doesn’t try to convince Hero with words, instead he quietly leads and exposes him to a new way of seeing his options.
    • Lesson: Some kids need to be shown/exposed to new ideas and perspectives. A lot of kids aren’t motivated by tests and grades, so they choose apathy (in whatever form that takes). As an educator, it is up to me to help kids see their options. It is my job to help them realize that they are more than a test or grade score. We can’t take for granted that kids will see that on their own.
  • Tadashi takes Hero to the “Nerd School” lab where he works and introduces Hero to his friends. It is Hero’s curiosity and desire to tinker with new ideas that leads him to the decision to use his talents.
    • Lesson: We need to capitalize on the natural curiosity that kids have. We need to give them lots of opportunities to tinker with new ideas. We need to support them and help them to see what their talents are.
  • Big Hero 6 has two lead characters that are strong, smart females. They are brilliant! One is a little edgy and the other is a totally girly fashonista. Both are brilliant inventors.
    • Lesson: Duh, girls are scientists and inventors, too! Never underestimate what any of your students can do. Every single one of them is unique and has gifts that should be cultivated!
  • Nerd School is cool. Like, really cool.
    • Lesson: Own your geek and help your students own their geek. Help your kids see the beauty in whatever they are passionate about. Help them own it. Teach them not to apologize or feel bad for the gifts they have (regardless of what others may say). Nerd school is way cool.
  • When the friends of Tadashi come together to support Hero, they all become heroes.
    • Lesson: Together our ideas are better. Help kids understand that we can appreciate ideas that are different from ours and that each new insight adds to a bigger whole.
  • Hero needs friends after Tadashi dies.
    • Lesson: We need each other for moral support. We don’t always know what is happening in our student’s lives. Those that push us away the most, may also be the very kids who need us the most. Help students connect, help them see each other’s genius. At Anastasis Academy, one of our teachers does an activity (throughout the year) called “speed friending.” Each student is connected with another student where they have an intentional 2 minute conversation where they have to go deeper than surface level. I have never seen whole classes of students gel and support each other the way that @lancefinkbeiner‘s kids do. And these are Jr. High students. There is something to connection.
  • Human connection trumps technology (I’ll avoid the spoiler here, but you will know it when you see it).
    • Lesson: Technology is cool and can be the catalyst for amazing learning, but it is not the main thing. The main thing is human connection. As teachers, we deal in humanity. Make sure that is always the focus in your classroom.
  • “There is someone in there, I have to go in.” Twice in the movie a character makes a decision to face danger on behalf of another.
    • Lesson: No child left behind. Really! We have to have this attitude in our classrooms (failed political strategies aside). It is up to us not to leave kids behind. Our job is to do the dangerous thing and go in after them. They all matter.
  • Baymax is the greatest robot ever. The connection he makes with other characters (even with the limitations of his programming) is really fabulous.
    • Lesson: Technology can be used as a connector. I’ve seen this over and over again. See: Blogger Alliance, and even today I got an email from the production company that created the How We Got To Now series. They read my blog post and sent it on to Steven Johnson (the author and host of How We Got to Now). Excitement and joy ensued. Technology connects your students to the wider world and can enhance human connection.
  • In the movie, every character has an attitude of possible. Of, “we can figure it out.”
    • Lesson: We can foster grit. We can help students develop an attitude of possible. They can figure it out. They can find solutions, they are genius.

Big Hero 6 might be top 10 Disney movies. It really is pretty brilliant. It encourages creativity, science, math, invention, and innovation. All things that I want to foster at Anastasis.

 

If you are an administrator, Big Hero 6 might be the perfect movie to take your staff to as a professional development outing. Just saying.

We are hosing an education conference in February! Join us for a weekend of inspiration, conversation, and implementation. Early Bird Registration through the end of November!

Anastasis Academy hosting the education conference you don’t want to miss!

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Blooms Taxonomy, collaboration, education reform, Grade Level, inspiration, professional development, Subject, Teacher Resources, Websites | Posted on 20-10-2014

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5 Sigma Edu Con- a truly innovative education conference!

At Anastasis Academy, we are continually considering the assumptions made in education. We regularly seek to step away from those assumptions about how education must look, and dream together. Many of you have seen this dreaming (we do it pretty publicly), and have asked LOTS of questions about how we do what we do.

As a staff, we’ve asked questions about how assessment must look. We’ve asked questions about what a report card looks like and about what their purpose is. We’ve asked questions about how learning space must look. We’ve reconsidered the timing of the school day. We’ve questioned standards and testing. We’ve questioned the purpose of school. We’ve looked at the part that community plays in a school setting. Most of what we do at Anastasis every day looks very different from what most schools look like, and yet, what we do is not so revolutionary that it can’t be implemented in classrooms everywhere. In fact, our larger goal is to help educators everywhere do what we do.

Dreaming is nice, but in order to really transform education (and classrooms) we must go beyond dreaming . We have to learn, iterate and find a way to launch. It is only when all three of these happen that we can truly transform education and learning.

This February, Anastasis Academy is hosting a 3-day conference to facilitate this transformation in education. We chose 5-Sigma Edu Con as the name for our conference. Why 5-Sigma? 5-Sigma is a declaration of discovery. In science, it is used as a measure of confidence in a result. At Anastasis Academy, we are in a continual process of discovery. We call our conference the 5-Sigma Edu Con because that is what we hope for, declarations of discovery. Our goal is to transform education to be the very best that it can be for kids everywhere. We want to offer a conference experience where educators can come together to learn with world-changing thinkers and innovators. This conference will go beyond the typical how-to sessions; we will be hosting conversations where educators can come together to learn, iterate, and launch. There is something for everyone! This conference is for educators (of any level), administrators, and anyone involved in education.

I can boldly tell you this is like NO education conference you have ever been to. Some special features you can look forward to:

  • Tour Anastasis Academy- if you’ve wanted to see Anastasis Academy in action, this is your opportunity! Get a first hand view of the innovative learning that takes place at Anastasis Academy. Our students will offer an inside look at learning, free from assumptions. Tour our space, ask questions, meet our team, and see education re-imagined.
  • Learning Excursions- At Anastasis Academy, we seek to help our students understand that learning happens everywhere, not just within the four walls of our school building. We have reserved February 22 for adult learning excursions. These are opportunities to experience Colorado, think outside the box, and consider different ways of approaching learning. We cannot WAIT to let you experience learning the way that our students do.
  • No last names or titles rule- We all have an inherently unique perspective about the world, teaching, and learning. Yet, when we interact in our society (or education circles) these can get lost as we operate from the perspective that some people’s ideas are more important. We tend to give more weight to people on a stage, those who have been published, and people who hold titles of authority. The truth is, we all have something that only we can contribute to the discussion. We want to create a level playing field where ideas can be shared freely and everyone is comfortable to network. The labels shouldn’t own us. Before our final keynote, there will be a “grand reveal” where we will share our last names and titles.
  • AWESOME keynotes, sessions, and panel discussions: Christian Long will be the opening Keynote and will kick us off for a fantastic weekend of learning, panel discussions will include Team Anastasis and Anastasis alumni, and sessions are being led by incredible educators and thinkers from around the country.

Registration for 5 Sigma Edu Con is now open. Also open, calls for session proposals. You have something to contribute, please consider presenting! Registration and proposal for a session can be found on the 5 Sigma Edu Con website.

To learn more about the 5-Sigma Edu Conference, visit http://5sigmaeducon.com!

 

5 Sigma Edu Con- a truly innovative education conference!

 

Go Naked for Education

Posted by admin | Posted in education reform, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources | Posted on 16-07-2014

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I take on a lot. Depending on who you ask, probably too much. But when I’m passionate about something, it doesn’t feel like one more thing because it feeds my soul in some way. Last night I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about the Anastasis alumni girls…really young women now. And I worried about them. I thought about what it was like to be that age and the true awkwardness that I felt. I thought about how often I felt ugly and like I just wasn’t enough. I wrote a post for them in my mind (which I WILL write), but this is not that post. It is just a reminder to me about why I am passionate about this one more thing that I added to my plate.

Rodan +Fields reminds me of what beauty is, and it has the added benefit of giving me great skin that makes me feel confident. That is why I took on one more thing. But then, this one more thing got even better, because my passions are colliding!

Rodan + Fields is hosting a #RFGoNaked Day next Friday, July 25, 2014. This is particularly exciting because just by participating (which is totally FREE) Rodan + Fields will make a $1 donation to empower and educate students in need. Passions colliding! The goal is to raise $30,000 to build a school. Of course, I am beyond excited to support that cause!

It gets better, next Thursday July 24, 2014 I am hosting a kick off Virtual Party. YOU ARE INVITED! :)

This is going to be fun, like girl talk (men, you can come too) and a spa day rolled into one. Rodan and Fields has transformed my skin. I mean seriously, my Bobbi Brown concealer and foundation have dust on them. DUST. I don’t use them at all since I started using Rodan and Fields skin care. I love that I can go makeup free (Note: I am wearing eye makeup in the photo below) and feel confident that my skin is going to look and feel great (this is the idea behind the #RFGoNaked Day). Everyone should love their skin, it goes with you everywhere! Next Thursday, July 24, I’m hosing a virtual party where you can learn more about how to keep your skin looking and feeling amazing. In addition to learning more about how you can love your skin, I’ll have a give away of my very favorite R+F product and we will get ready to “Go Naked” for education!RF Virtual PartyWhen: Thursday, July 24, 2014

Time: 10:00 am MST

Where: From the comfort of your home!

RSVPYou MUST RSVP to be included in this virtual party. It is really easy, just click here and tell me where to send your invitation link.   You do NOT want to miss this!

Then on Friday, July 25, 2014 you can join us in celebrating #RFGoNaked Day and show off your skin for a great cause. Every time a no-makeup selfie is posted on 7.25.2014 using the hashtag #RFGoNaked, Rodan + Fields will make a $1 donation to empower and educate students in need. HOW AWESOME IS THAT?!

Details for how to participate are in the flier below:

#RFGoNaked for education

We choose the moon: assessment without labels

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Blooms Taxonomy, Classroom Management, education reform, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources | Posted on 10-07-2014

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“With willing hearts and skillful hands, the difficult we do at once; the impossible takes a bit longer.”- unknown

Yesterday, @Kevreadenn shared the quote above with me on Twitter. It had me thinking about assessment and John F. Kennedy’s, “we choose the moon” (embedded above – you should watch it again). The declaration that we WOULD send a man to the moon, that we would do the impossible, seemed like an unworkable task given the technology of 1969. It is astounding to me that the technology I hold in my pocket is significantly more capable than the technology that sent a man to the moon. Kennedy inspired a nation to dream together, to achieve the impossible using the resources that were available. How can we inspire kids in this way as they quest for learning? How can we help those students who look at the goal of reaching the moon and think, “this is impossible, I only have 1969 technology,” to be inspired, to look at their resources in new ways and believe that they can do the impossible?

Everyone wants to know that they are “winning” and contributing to something meaningful. The declaration that a man would go to the moon was a lofty goal. It seemed incredibly  important, as a nation, that we achieve this goal together.

It strikes me as strange that the majority of assessment that we focus on in education only shows lag data. The lag data reveals to us where a student landed in a given moment, but doesn’t offer any opportunity for course correction. It also doesn’t take into account outside influences (not enough sleep, home struggles, lack of nutrition, friendship stresses, etc.). If our goals are lofty, and we want learning to be better, we will stop focusing on the lag data as the most important, and instead focus on the lead data. Lead data shows us what leads up to the learning, it gives us insight in the journey and process so that we can adjust as we go.

The majority of grading systems fail to compel action from students because they show historical data only. Students are left believing, “I’ve failed, and now I have to move on knowing I already fall short. Now I have to continue forward from a deficit.” Or they may be left believing, “I aced this, I already know it all, I don’t have anything more to learn.” Traditional grades tend to end learning. Traditional grades also measure students against everyone else with the goal being a perfect score. (Notice that I did NOT say that the goal was learning.) This comparison can be demoralizing for students who know they will fall short of the perfect score. They begin to label themselves as “stupid” and often arrive at the apathetic stance of, “it’s not even worth trying.” The other scenario is the student that believes the goal of the perfect score signals that they learned everything they need to know. For these students, apathy comes in already having hit the mark. “I know everything I need to about x.” This line of thinking closes down creativity and the drive to learn more. Apathy is the killer of learning. It matters not if you are a straight A student, or a D student, traditional grade systems breed apathy and don’t encourage kids to go for the lofty goals. There will be no choosing the moon.

Grading systems need to be upgraded so that they engage students in the process of reaching lofty goals. When students are able to help set their own goals and the assessment happens as a part of learning, students are continually pulled forward in their learning. Each small win adds learning momentum that begins to snowball into something bigger. For those who struggle, the small victories reveal that they can win and they are making forward progress. This gives the confidence that all learning is possible and worth engaging (even when the end goal feels impossible). The students who find that learning comes easily aren’t halted by artificial ceilings. They aren’t left believing that the learning has ended and are encouraged to keep moving forward.

In starting Anastasis Academy, we quickly found that no traditional grading system could adequately assess students as they were learning. We ditched formal A-F grading and instead used standards based grading. The idea was that if we assessed students based on standards (which we used as some of our learning goals), stakeholders would be able to better map progress as they went. We use standards differently, at Anastasis the standards aren’t organized by grade levels, they are simply a continuum of foundational skills. It didn’t take long before the standards based grading was also falling short. There is SO much more to learning than simply meeting the standard. We were interested in helping students understand how their attitudes toward learning impacted academic progress. We wanted to help them understand how character spills into everything else that they do. We wanted them to see that more important than a “Math” grade, was the ability to think like a mathematician. We wanted students to be able to “choose to go to the moon” and contribute to something meaningful. We needed something more holistic that helped students see the intricacies of how learning works. We wanted them to be able to make correlations between their attitudes toward learning and the outcomes that they could see.

Anastasis Report Card

This is the “report card” that I created. It is our attempt to help kids better understand what contributes to learning. It is a helpful way to show students that they aren’t “stupid in math,” but instead help them realize that they aren’t risk takers in math. The aversion to risk taking in math is what really holds them back.

The Latin root of Assessment is assidere, which means “to sit beside.” At Anastasis, we believe that assessment is more than just a measurement, it is an opportunity for apprenticeship, a time for us “to sit beside” and guide. We’ve used various tools for assessment in our short history, our search was for the assessment tool that would offer a more holistic picture of learning. We’ve used Mastery Connect and Jump Rope, but they fell short in giving us that holistic picture because they were tied to Common Core Standards alone (and limited by grade levels). What our students do at Anastasis every day is SO much bigger and deeper than these standards, and yet we didn’t have a good way to demonstrate that. Beginning in January, we rolled out our own grading system. We call it UpGrade because that is what it felt like, an upgrade!

Our goal for feedback on the UpGrade report is twofold:

1. To give students feedback that causes them to think, engage, and reflect on their own learning process as they learn.

2. To give families a detailed account of the student’s learning journey and forward progress.

The UpGrade reports are designed to explain what students know and are able to do, rather than determining grades based on point averages. This kind of grading allows teachers to more effectively tailor instruction to students based on what they actually know and can do, no floors and no ceilings.

The UpGrade report contains the proficiency marks 1-5 (explained below). These numbers are intended to demonstrate the process of learning, students move through the levels of proficiency as learning progresses. A “1” indicates that a child is new to the learning or requires a lot of guidance. A “5” indicates that the student is able to apply the learning to new situations and make connections to other learning.

1- Novice Concept and/or skill is brand new, student is just getting started in the learning. Student requires much teacher guidance and prompting.
2- Apprentice Some prompting or guidance is needed for the new concept and/or skill.
3- Practitioner Concept and/or skill can be done consistently and independently. Student may require occasional prompting or guidance.
4- Scholar Student can apply concept and/or skill to new and/or different situations with little guidance. Student is ready to build on the learning (next level of standard). 
5- Change Maker Concept and/or skill come second nature and can be used to make connections with other learning. Students understand concept/skill and can apply, evaluate, analyze, and create using the skill/concept. Student can use skill/concept for in-depth inferences and applications.

Of course when you create a report card that looks like this, you also have to craft a grading system to populate the report card. Dang it.

This is where I had to get creative and use my limited resources to make something (that seems impossible) work. I used Apple’s Numbers as the method for creating the grading system. It is tedious work, the user interface is messy, but it allows lofty goals and the impossible.

On the back end, teachers can fill in rubrics, or learning evidence pages. These compile and end up as the final 1-5 on the image that you see above. Why did I use Numbers? It is the only spreadsheet program robust enough to incorporate the graphic above. The evidences of learning (assignments) and scores are the easy part. Getting the rubrics to work the way I wanted them to, not so much! I sent out a call for help the other night on Twitter and had some AMAZING spreadsheet ninjas step in to help me find solutions. I promised to share what I figured out…for those not interested in the technical bits, feel free to skip ahead. :)

Anastasis self-grading Writing Rubric in Numbers

This is the rubric that I was working on. I wanted it to “self grade” and then for the score to transfer as a learning evidence. It seemed like it should be simple, but this honestly stumped me for days. Thankfully my PLN stepped in to point me in the right direction!

I started out by creating a highlighting rule. This is simple in Numbers, just click on the cell(s) that you want the rule on and in the “cell formatting” pane, choose “Conditional Highlighting.” In each cell where teachers could leave a score, I wanted the cell to highlight when the score was added. I chose to add the rule “Text contains” and then the number that corresponded to the row of the rubric. Then I chose a color to highlight.

Next came the tricky part. In the cells full of text, I wanted the last cell to recognize when a teacher had typed in a number, and to add up all the numbers of the row so that we could get a total that would populate on the Learning Evidence sheet. I could find all kinds of ways to accomplish this in a Google Spreadsheet or in Excel, but none of the solutions seemed to work in Numbers. I kept getting a syntax error. I finally solved it by using the following format: =COUNTIF(B2:H2,”=*1″) In each row, I changed the number to reflect the score that it would count. This got me most of the way to what I needed, but it was only giving me a count of how many of the number were in the row, not giving me the sum (=SUMIF didn’t work). SO, I added another column to find the product of the “Countif” with the row number. Success! I’ll hide these two columns for the final grade system and just have the total at the bottom show up. This total is easy to then transfer to the Learning Evidence sheet.

THANK YOU @mathlioness @katieregan88 @mrmatera @alicekeeler @royanlee @jasonschmidt123 @benlouey @malynmawby @thomascmurray, you all are truly wonderful for spending time to help me solve this. I am seriously elated that there was a solution! Anastasis teachers will be thrilled as well! :) YOU ARE NINJAS!!

When people ask about Anastasis, they are usually curious to know how we’ve broken past the barrier of labels. We have students who are dyslexic, twice exceptional, have struggled in school, are gifted, know how to play the game of school, etc. Everyone of these kids chooses the moon. They choose to do the impossible and keep moving forward. They aren’t stifled by the learning labels. They know they are more than an “A” or “F.” They start to understand that learning is not the same as a grade. They begin to understand where their hangups actually are and can work on adjusting those instead of believing they are failures.  It is amazing what happens when you take away the labels and help kids understand that no matter where they start from, there is something to be learned, forward progress to be made. They choose lofty goals. They do the impossible.

Summer Learning: reading, creativity apps, serving with kids

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Character Education, education reform, inspiration, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Websites | Posted on 27-06-2014

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If you are an educator, you are aware of the dreaded “summer slide.” Summer break is a much-needed change of pace for educators, but unfortunately it can mean two months without any reading, learning, exploring, etc. For some kids, summer means hours spent in front of the TV, outside play (which is happy!), or hours spent trying to beat the next level of Flappy Bird. Many parents feel ill-equipped, or at a loss for how to keep their kids learning over the summer.

I created the following publication, “a thing or two,” for Anastasis families. I thought that you all might enjoy it as well! Please feel free to pass this on to your own students and families. In this issue there are ideas for summer reading, a review of my favorite 3 creativity apps, and service learning ideas for the summer.

 

Happy Learning!

Sorting Through the Common Core (more to the story than Facebook)

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, education reform, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, video | Posted on 26-06-2014

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In the past few months, “Common Core” has become a hot button issue for parents, educators, news media, and celebrities alike. Facebook feeds have been flooded with absurd worksheets, kids homework, and disparaging remarks about how the “Common Core” will ruin us all. The problem is, the “Common Core” really refers to two things. One is the standards and the other is curriculum. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, but are being used interchangeably as if they are one and the same.

In recent months, I’ve had parents ask for clarification about what the Common Core is. They want to be reassured that their kids aren’t anywhere near the absurdity that they are seeing online, in the news, or in the new Common Core documentary. Because there has been so much confusion, I created the video above to help explain what the “Common Core” is. I tried to keep it short so that it was manageable to watch without getting lost in the details and losing interest. I recognize that there is a LOT more to this topic than what I laid out. My goal with the video above was to help others understand what the “Common Core” is and what it isn’t.

Common Core Standards are different from Common Core Curriculum. As I said before, the two are not the same. The problem is that news media outlets, Facebook feeds, and celebrities use “Common Core” to describe both the standards and the curriculum. Sometimes they even mistakenly refer to the curriculum as Common Core Standards.

The standards are the United States attempt at bringing more continuity to learning foundations for kindergarten through twelfth grade students throughout the states. They are intended to ensure that all students receive the same base skills to build on in English Language Arts and Math. Most of the United States has adopted these standards and is making adjustments to accommodate the new standards. In the past, individual states each had state created standards. This led to a lot of disparity between the states about what was learned and at what stage it was learned. The result was a chasm between what students in one state learned that a neighboring state had not.

The standards were developed in partnership by a group made up of governors, chief state school officers, education groups, and corporations and foundations. The funding for the development of the standards came from the federal government (part of Race to the Top money) and the corporations/foundations involved. In the video, I show a Common Core Standards “family tree” that breaks this down a bit more. While I don’t love the idea of corporations funding the standards, I recognize that the money to make them happen had to come from somewhere. I wish that the “somewhere” wasn’t tied so closely with the publishing companies who make curriculum. I also noticed that the educational groups were labeled as “advisory.” It seems to me that the government agencies and the corporations/foundations should have been “advisory” and the educational group should have been the chief designers. Because I wasn’t right in the middle of the creation, I can only speculate how this went and hope that it was a true partnership where educators had a large hand in the outcome. Included in the creation were: Achieve (which includes Alcoa, Exxon Mobile, Microsoft), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the National Govenors Association, Council of Chief School Officers, David Coleman, Sue Pimentel, and Jason Zimba (who sold an educational startup to McGraw Hill), the National Education Foundation, America Federation of Teachers, National Council of English Teachers, and National Council of Math Teachers.

Standards are not a bad thing. They give a baseline and frame of reference to work within. As an educator, I see the importance of having a baseline of foundational skills that we can count on. The standards are written very generally. They are just over 60 pages long (k-12) and when you read through them you will see, they are pretty underwhelming. I like the generality of the standards, they leave schools and teachers open to using a wide variety of methodologies and resources to ensure that students get those foundational skills. They aren’t prescriptive of HOW to teach, they are just a guideline of what should be taught. Do I agree on the every single standard being totally necessary for every single child? No. But I do recognize the value in a society having a common set of baseline skills, the standards are a good beginning for that. One of the biggest problems I do have with the standards is the language used. If these goals are intended for students, shouldn’t they be written in student-friendly language that is easy to understand? Instead they are full of eduspeak and jargon. That should change!

I’m sure you’ve seen these floating around (and more like it):

Common core math problem Common Core

 

This is Common Core Curriculum. The writers of the Common Core Standards do not endorse any curriculum. Anyone can label the curriculum “Common Core Aligned.” ANYONE. This curriculum is designed by publishers. The alignment to the Common Core Standards is a way for publishers to sell more. Publishers know that in the frenzy of states adopting Common Core Standards, there will be an urgency to get schools and students on the same page quickly (after all…testing). They also know that if they stamp “Common Core aligned” on their curricula, schools are more likely to purchase it so that their students are ready for the testing that is sure to follow. Here is the problem, publishers design curriculum to make money. I’ll go out on a limb and say that the money overshadows what is best for kids. The other problem: the same people who write the curriculum, write the tests. This forces a school’s hand to purchase the curriculum so that their kids can pass the tests (which is then incentivized by programs like RTTT). When they don’t pass the tests, the publishing companies conveniently come to the rescue with the latest and greatest new curriculum. The cycle repeats. This is not a new cycle within education, but it is one that is becoming more and more transparent. In 2012 Pearson, the largest publisher of curriculum, developed Common Core Standards tests.

The adoption of Common Core Standards does not require districts and states to collect more data. Unfortunately, the Race to the Top initiative incentivized the collection of more data. You see where this all starts to get really messy. Race to the Top also paid out $350 million to create computerized testing to more efficiently collect data on students. The downfall is that there are many, many schools across the United States who aren’t even well enough equipped with technology to give these tests.

Standards are not evil, but when coupled by unreasonable expectations of a one-size-fits-all system, they can be disastrous.

We use standards at Anastasis Academy, they are a framework that we can build on to ensure that our students are getting foundational skills that will carry them on in their learning. Instead of using boxed-curriculum, we approach the standards through the lens of inquiry, and build our own learning experiences based on the individual needs of every single student. Is it the most efficient it could be? No. But we are dealing with humanity, not widgets. This approach uses the standards in a way that truly does make them the floor and not the ceiling. They are a starting point, but they don’t restrict us. We choose not to use any of the “Common Core aligned” boxed curriculum. The one-size-fits-all isn’t what we want for our students. It doesn’t take into account the individuals that we teach. We choose not to give our students piles of worksheets, but instead give them learning opportunities that engage them as learners and leaders. Our goal is to apprentice our students in the art of learning. This is a very different goal than simply trying to get them through the textbook each year!

I encourage you to read through the Common Core Standards for yourself. You will quickly get an idea of how general they really are. When you see the popup of the Common Core, ask yourself if it is one of those standards that is the problem, or if it is the curriculum that is being used. If you are a parent, I encourage you to get involved with your school. Ask what curriculum is being used and why. Don’t feel bound by the tests (they are a poor measure of who your child is anyway). Encourage your school to look at ways that they can meet standards without being bound to curriculum. When those Facebook posts popup, speak out about the problem with better specifics “this curriculum is ridiculous, where is the real learning experience?!”

If you are a teacher, I get it-sometimes you don’t get to make the choice. If you have wiggle room and aren’t using a completely scripted curriculum, take advantage of it! Connect with other educators who are doing things differently. Look for ways that you can build foundational skills that aren’t tied endless worksheets and practice drills for the next test. Help your kids fall in love with learning. Be transparent, show them why you are passionate about learning.

Library for All Six Degrees of Education

Posted by admin | Posted in education reform, Grade Level, inspiration, Language Arts, Teacher Resources | Posted on 24-06-2014

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I greatly appreciate people who recognize a problem and work in new, innovative ways to solve it. Today I learned about Library for All, who has just launched a truly innovative campaign to eradicate illiteracy in the developing world. The campaign is called Six Degrees of Education. Library for All is building on the theory of “six degrees of separation” to reach some key donors and influencers, such as George Lucas and Queen Rania. People who can help achieve the mission of providing access to books for millions of children in developing countries through the Library for all digital library.

Check out the Six Degrees of Education Library For All page and let’s see how our six degrees of separation can help spread literacy virally! Share on social media sites, when you are chatting with friends, or networking at a conference. According to the the six degrees of separation, if everyone who read this blog participated, we could help Library for All reach this goal in no time!

I relish the summer time because it provides me the opportunity to read, learn, and read some more. Everyone should know that gift! We can help, join me in spreading the word about Library for All’s Six Degrees of Education Campaign!