Monday, March 14, 2016

Dual Credit Expansion at A-Town

Abingdon-Avon students graduating with the class of 2018 will have the opportunity to earn an Associate Degree from Carl Sandburg College while they are in high school. Over the last three years, dual credit at Abingdon-Avon High School has expanded from 12 credit hours in 2013-2014, to 24 credit hours in 2014-2015, to 30 credit hours in 2015-2016. Course offerings for 2016-2017 are essentially unlimited based on student interest.

The desire to expand dual credit opportunities for students are as follows:
  • Challenge students at their level
    • Many students are ready for college level work.
    • Students who have been participating in our current dual credit program have a very solid track record of success.
  • Ease transition to college for students
    • The transition to college can be difficult if students have never been exposed to a college environment. This helps students learn time management and the demands of college level work. 
  • Cost savings for students and parents
    • The costs associated with attending a four year university have increased 500% over the last 30 years. 
    • If students participate in the full program, the average anticipated cost per credit hour is   $120. 
  • Better use of financial aid for students
    • Students will enter undergraduate programs with freshman financial aid status.
    • Federal PELL money is available for six years after high school graduation. Students can use this money for advanced degree which cost more than junior college courses. 
  • Early exposure/success leads to a degree
    • Research shows that students who take and complete dual credit courses are more likely to earn a bachelor degree. Numerous studies confirm this.
  • Expand curriculum opportunities for students
    • With the current economic climate in Illinois, curricular opportunities are shrinking for many students across the state.  This is a way to expand opportunities for students. 
How will this be accomplished?
  • Student choice
    • The full course of study would allow students to earn an Associate of Arts.
    • Students can participate in as much or as little of the dual credit program as they choose.
    • Students can take courses that will apply to their chosen field of study.
  • Trimester schedule
    • Allows students to take three courses (9 credit hours) each term.
    • Two courses will occur with a CSC instructor at AAHS.
    • The third course will be online with designated time during the school day.
  • CSC tuition = $150 per credit hour
  • Dual credit students are offered half price tuition up to 12 credit hours per year.
  • 9 credit hours per term = 
    • Fall = $1050 ($75 x 4= $300 + $150 x 5= $750)
    • Winter = $1050 ($75 x 4= $300 + $150 x 5= $750)
    • Spring = $1050 ($75 x 4= $300 + $150 x 5= $750)
    • Summer = $1050 ($150 x 7)
  • Overall cost of the full program = $7350 (61 total hours/$7350= $120/hour)
  • Same 61 hours @ (This just represents tuition costs. Fees, room and board are extra)
    • WIU = $23,400.82 (61 x $383.62)
    • Bradley University = $59,303 (61 x $972)
    • Monmouth College = $69,540 (61 x $1140)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

What Does Education Mean for Students Who Find it Meaningless?

I actually started writing this blog in December 2014.  I have thought about the subject often, but have not been able to put "pen to paper" because I don't have the answers necessary to correct the problem and that is something that makes me unsure of myself, which is an uncomfortable feeling.  So, in an effort to gain insight and new opinions on the issue, I will switch my initial intent and let out a cry for help.

Last week I had two difficult conversations with students who do not like school.  Each student had different reasons for not liking school, but both are having similar issues (failing courses, poor attendance) because they do not like taking the core classes that are required by AAHS and the State of Illinois for graduation.
Student A does not like sitting in class.  I believe that math and English are difficult for them and they would rather be doing something else.  Student A has a schedule in place that attempts to accommodate their desire to not sit in a classroom, however there are still times in the day in which sitting in a classroom is a necessity due to requirements.
Student B has other circumstances.  They do not mind being in class because of the social aspect, but they have no intention of completing, "that teacher's work."  As long as this perspective endures, is there really any hope of completing requirements?  This attitude is not confined to just one class.  This student is required by probation to be in school, but that is where it stops.  They find no meaning in the traditional/contemporary school setting.

What does education mean for students who find it meaningless and why do all students have to learn the same thing/standard/content?  Essentially, that is what is required for graduation, both through the Illinois State Board of Education and Abingdon-Avon High School.  There are a few categories in which we can "group" students.  Those who are bound for college success right out of high school.  Those who jump through enough hoops to make it through high school.  Then there are those who will not jump through the hoops.  I cringe at meetings for a struggling student when another staff member says, "this is just a hoop you have to jump through."  Why?!?!  I suppose that is more of a rhetorical why.  Hopefully though, it is more of a reflective, why.  We make many attempts to work with at risk students, but the current financial and educational environment in Illinois does not help.  There are many avenues to point blame or make excuses, but that doesn't make any progress toward finding a solution.

Student motivation is an issue in every school in the world.  How are others addressing it?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Iowa 1:1 Institute

Last week a team from Abingdon-Avon attended the 6th Annual Iowa 1:1 Institute in Des Moines, Iowa. Around 1200 educators from around the Midwest gathered for the worlds largest 1:1 technology conference. I am always impressed by the level of innovation and collegiality in Iowa schools.  Many school districts in Iowa have been practicing 1:1 programs for several years so they have a wealth of information and experience that they are always willing to share.  

The conference began with a Leadership Day on the afternoon before the conference.  Buddy Berry, Superintendent at Eminence Independent Schools in Eminence Kentucky, was the speaker.  He showcased some of the innovative, students centered approaches that Eminence Schools are practicing.  He described traditional school through a process in which gaps are created at the end of each grade level.  One in which even if students do not master necessary skills and concepts they are passed along to the next grade.  Mr. Berry has changed his school district from the Ford model of instruction (assembly line) to a competency based model in which students demonstrate skills to progress through school.  For example to be able to move on from Kindergarten, students must be able to create digital audio books.  Eminence creates D.N.A (Digital Narrative Album) that follows the student through their schooling so all who interact with students know how they learn, their strengths and areas of growth.  Eminence ISD also employs a very innovative schedule in which the majority of academic classes are held on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, while Tuesday and Thursday are dedicated to I.C.E. (Intervention, Connections, and Enrichment)  Students use this time to take advantage of dual credit opportunities as well as hone skills necessary for success.  Through all of this Eminence Schools graduate more than 90% of their students either college or career ready. Abingdon-Avon has begun the process to become more student centered. Teachers are working weekly to make school work better for students.

The conference featured many different concurrent sessions.  I was able to take advantage of two sessions with Shawn McCusker along with a sessions by Dr. Clayton Edwards and Mr. Jimmy Casas.  Shawn McCusker is an amazing educator from Libertyville, Illinois.  His classroom is has made the shift to become student centered.  He allows students to create more than they consume.  Students are allowed to work in the medium that suits them best.  Students research and fact check each other because they have been conditioned to do so. 

Mr. Jimmy Casas, Principal at Bettendorf High School, spoke on, What Connected Educators Do Differently. As a colleague and I were discussing, sometimes you just need a dose of Jimmy.  Mr. Casas is a master at building a positive culture. His people centered (and I use the work people intentionally) approach leads to a very positive culture and atmosphere.  One in which people (students, staff, community) want to be a part of.  Mr. Casas is always good for a dose of motivation and you always leave wanting to be better.

Dr. Clayton Edwards is a middle school math teacher from Grundy Center, Iowa. The structure of his math class allows students to progress at their pace which meets each student's needs.  He utilizes technology and manipulative assignments to engage students.  Dr. Edwards' data speaks for itself: 
7th Grade
100% of Students Proficient                                      27/43 Students Were Classified "Advanced"

40/43 Students Showed Growth                                
37/43 Students Grew By One Grade Level or More

In closing, the Iowa 1:1 Institute is so much more than schools talking about what device they employ.  My biggest take aways were strategies to pass on to my staff to become more student centered. Technology resources make this easier to achieve, but implementing strategies that make students the most important people in the building is why I am in education.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Looking Back at PARCC

Abingdon-Avon High School recently completed the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) exam for English II and Geometry courses.  This post will hopefully shed some light for parents and community members who are curious about the process. For the PBA (Performance Based Assessment) portion there were three English sections and two Geometry sections.  For the EOY (End of Year) assessement, there were two sections of Endglish and two sections of Geometry.  In total, 80 students participated in the English assessment, while 69 students participated in the Geometry assessment.  Of these students, 36 participated in both the English and Geometry assessments.
The deciding factor in which students were tested is different from years past.  For many years it was common practice to have all students in one grade take the same assessment.  For example, all Freshmen used to take the Explore exam, all Sophomores used to take the Plan exam, and all Juniors took the ACT exam.  PARCC is different at the high school level in that students are tested based on which classes they are enrolled in.  So, as previously mentioned, all students enrolled in English II took that exam.  All students enrolled in Geometry took the Geometry exam.  Hence the 36 students enrolled in both English II and Geometry took all five sections (3 English & 2 Geometry) of the PBA and four sections (2 English & 2 Geometry) of the EOY.  
Abingdon-Avon is blessed with an incredible technology infrastructure and resources so utilizing the computer based test mode worked very well.  Since all students have their own Chromebook they were able to have easy access to the test during each session.  Gaining access to the testing portal was incredibly easy. After hearing some horror stories during the field tests we were nervous how the system would operate. Those involved in developing the TestNav program and interface did a nice job, because it was simple and user friendly.
Feedback from students was generally positive overall.  The vast majority of students I interacted with after testing were not overwhelmed by the exam and stated that the practice tests were more difficult than the actual test.
The one concern I have with the process is how much the testing schedule has interrupted learning for an entire week with the PBA assessment.  Two factors led to the interruption.  First, since there were five sections of the test that allowed 75 - 90 each to complete we had to devote the entire morning for four days to testing.  This not only took three teachers out of their classrooms, but pulled students away from their scheduled classes all week, which is the second factor.  On the surface one would think that only those three teachers had their schedules interrupted.  This is not the case because at different times anywhere from 35 - 40 students were pulled from class to take the exams.  As previously mentioned students tested if they were enrolled in Geometry or ELA II.  We have students freshmen through senior standing taking Geometry, so ALL classes for the entire week were disrupted.  For the PBA, we could have crammed more tests into a lesser number of days, but I would assume if a student took all five sections in one day that would change the validity of the test because of test fatigue.  After listening to concerns, the Illinois State Board of Education has promised that the examination will be shorter next year.
Overall, the administration of the PARCC exam was not negative.  There has been a lot of bad press, protests from students, and parents attempting to opt their students out.  After experiencing the testing process, seeing the work students were asked to complete, and gaining feedback from the students themselves; the bad press, protests, and opts outs all seem pretty silly.  Standardized testing has been around a long time and will continue to be around.  In the end, the PARCC exam did a nice job of asking students to demonstrate necessary skills unlike some tests such as the ACT which are norm referenced and basically designed for section of the population to fail.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

What Does Reading, Writing, and Literacy Mean In a Digital Age?

I contend that students read and write more today than they have ever.  Therefore, I believe that students are more literate than ever before.  One look around any school will lead you to believe me.  Before the digital age I can only remember one student I had that would walk down the hall reading a book.  Amazingly enough, he never ran into a wall.  Today I see dozens of students reading and even writing on their devices between every class period.  I see almost every student in every class connected and engaged in their chromebook during class reading content.  Are they reading Dickens, Vonnegut, or Chaucer?  Probably not, but they are reading and writing.  Reading and literacy takes on a new meaning as we have moved away from an analog style to a digital style.  Reading used to be a lonely game.  Reading used to be curling up with an actual book.  Today, reading is interactive and collaborative. Students are reading status's, writing in 140 characters or less, liking, sharing, re-tweeting, texting (yes, I used that as a verb), #discovering, and other cool things that I probably know nothing about.  I would say that all of this is okay and not as scary as some would lead you to believe.  I am sure that any English teacher will back me up on this, it is an absolute struggle to get a large portion of students to read and write, but now they are doing it voluntarily.  What about grammar and spelling? Text message lingo is not appropriate for formal settings, but Facebook,Twitter, and a students text message reel are not formal settings.  This is where students need to be taught the difference.
Literacy in a digital age is a major change and it requires education to change to attempt to keep up.  I am by no means saying that books and content should go away.  Some students and staff still prefer having an actual book to read and that is okay (for now). However, as we progress I would forecast that content will be at least 95% digital within five years.  This is a major mind shift for many in education and can be scary. In my opinion, the access that students have is great because, as I began students read and write more today than they have ever.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

A-Town Is Rolling

A-Town schools are in full swing as we head into September.  1:1 Real Time Learning is going well.  The vast majority of students and teachers at the high school have made very positive comments regarding the shift to a 1:1 environment.  Our internal infrastructure is meeting the demands of having close to 500 devices online daily between the high school and middle school.  

On opening day we were thrilled to have three all-stars in education with us to provide training to our staff. Jimmy Casas, Principal at Bettendorf High School, Shaelynne Farnsworth, a literacy and technology specialist from Iowa, and Devin Schoening, a technology integration specialist from Council Bluffs Iowa, joined us and provided a wealth of information to our staff. 

Fall sports are also up and running.  Cross country had their first meet of the year last Tuesday at Farmington.  It was hot, but every athlete gave their best effort.  The Volleyball team played their first matches of the year last Tuesday at United.  The young Lady Tornadoes fell to a more veteran Red Storm team.  The football team was also on the road at United last night.  They jumped out to a 44-8 lead at halftime and the game finished 50-22.  

It has been exciting for me to share each day with the excellent staff and super students at Abingdon-Avon High School.  Learning is evident in every classroom I enter each day.  (both students and staff)  We are lucky to get to spend each day with each other.

Be sure to like us on Facebook (Abingdon-Avon High School) for news and updates throughout the school day and follow me on Twitter @sgordonaahs.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ed Tech Summit

Today was day two of the Ed Tech Summit in Chicago presented by Ed Tech Teacher.  I have been amazed at the representation of schools from across North America.  It is always interesting to network and see how educators from other states (and countries) are meeting the needs of their students.
Will Richardson provided an excellent keynote to begin the conference on Tuesday.  He said, "I'm not a very happy public school parent right now."  He went on to say that many public schools still don't reflect the world around us and that most schools are stuck in the industrial age.  He shared several stories of students with amazing accomplishments outside of school.  The most impressive involved a 15 year old who invented a $.03 cancer screening using Google.  Mr. Richardson's message was right on that there are teenagers in every school in America with capabilities that aren't being realized at school because of a compliance model. Through technology and changing pedagogy we are attempting to make education at A-Town more reflective of the world students will enter when they leave us.  I have blogged about several programs and initiatives we currently have underway at AAHS.  (farming, home renovations, technology help center, science lab renovation)
One of the hottest topics at the Ed Tech Summit has been the Maker Movement.  There are thousands of possibilities within the Maker Movement for students to find a passion and relevancy in their education.  A Maker Space will be incorporated into the Technology Help Center at AAHS.  I am currently in the process of gathering resources for students to create some really cool projects out of some unlikely items.  Here is an example of one of the possibilities.
Overall, the staff of Ed Tech Teacher has done a nice job putting together a very innovative and interesting conference.  During a discussion with Patrick Larkin, from Burlington Public Schools in Burlington, MA., I was able to learn more about the work ETT is doing across the country.  This company appears to be very dedicated to advancing technology capabilities within school districts.