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Bill Daggett’s 13 Recommendations for VT’s Transition to the Common Core

Schools have to get more efficient to free up time for work on literacy, application, personalization and guiding principles

On July 31 about 250 administrators attended the first official day of the VT Principal’s Association Leadership Academy to hear Bill Daggett speak on the coming of the Common Core.  Bill used information garnered from his study on the most rapidly improving elementary, middle and high schools and a review of Vermont’s standards and assessment data to make specific recommendations for the state. (These are my notes of Bill’s presentation.)

Daggett’s Overview
  • Standards – “Relevance Makes Rigor Possible”
    • Vermont standards are already very high – among the highest – but way too many standards to effectively deal with “VT never met a standard it didn’t like”
    • New standards will be different – much more focused on application across content areas and on application in unpredictable contexts
    • Application Model
      • Knowledge in one discipline
      • Application within one discipline
      • Application across multiple disciplines
      • Application to real-world predictable situations
      • Application to real-world unpredictable situations
    • Progress will be measured on relative student growth. Vermont scores are already pretty good but going from good to better given these changes will be a real challenge
    • “VT students don’t know what to do when they don’t know what to do”
    • Daggett predicts VT’s scores on the new test will be lower because of the focus on application in the new assessments
  • Funding
    • Daggett expects there will be less money for public education and that there may be considerable threats to public education from business and technology
    • Therefore there will be considerable pressure to get more efficient and effective
  • Research on the Brain and Learning
    • Daggett emphasized the growth and importance of this area a number of times as it applies to learning, technology, organization, professional development, etc.
    • Noted that kids brought up in digital age learn differently than we do – they start with application and then move to storage – they use different parts of the brain than we do as we tend to learn in the exact opposite manner
  • Change
    • Daggett talked a lot about the three kinds of change and gave examples of the levels in a variety of areas. Obviously, his point was that we need to aim for innovative and transformative change and not just try to be better at what we always did
      • Incremental
      • Innovative
      • Transformational
  • Factors of that have the Greatest Impact on Change
    • “Focus on learning not on schools”
    • Daggett was very high on John Hattie’s work – Visible Learning – a meta- analysis of the most effective practices
    • Key Factors for greatest impact:
      • Rigor – Culture of High Expectations – VT in pretty good shape here
      • Relevance –VT needs lots of work here – application & personalization
      • Relationships – Strong Teacher Relationships – generally a good area for VT
    • When students find their studies relevant, teachers can increase the rigor to meet the needs of students.
    • Relationships between all stakeholders in a school system (i.e. students, teachers, administrators, parents, etc.) make a school system stronger and provide the opportunity to turn schools around.
    • What is relevant to one child is not relevant to the next child, which is why the third R — Relationships — is so important.
    • Class size and summer school are not strong factors in the research on effectiveness/impact
  • Learning Criteria
    • Think of student learning across these four areas that should also be used for teacher coaching and evaluation
      • Foundation Learning – Achievement in the core subjects of English/ language arts, math and science, and others identified by the school
      • Stretch Learning – Demonstration of rigorous and relevant learning beyond the minimum requirements
      • Learner Engagement -The extent to which students are motivated and committed to learning; have a sense of belonging and accomplishment; and have relationships with adults, peers, and parents that support learning
      • Personal Skill Development – Measures of personal, social, service, and leadership skills and demonstrations of positive behaviors and attitudes
13 Recommendations for Vermont

1. Emphasize Literacy and Math Across Content Areas

  • Reading is critical and new standards focus on real world application across the board
  • Every school should have a 3 year goal to have all content teachers teaching non-fiction reading & writing
  • “Highest Priority is middle and high school literacy instruction across all content areas”

2.  Combine Work on Academics with “Guiding Principles” – Blended Model

  • ”Personal traits are just as important as academic skills”
  • The list Daggett shared was: responsibility, courage, optimism, adaptability, perseverance, respect, compassion, honesty, loyalty, trustworthiness (this list did not contain any of the interactive traits that  other 21st Century skill lists have like team work, cooperation and collaboration – but other lists on his site do)

3.  Need Much More Application Time – More Flipped Classrooms

  • Students can learn basic skills outside of class leaving more time for application in class
    • Incremental – Project-based learning
    • Innovative – Flipped classroom
    • Transformational – Online game-based learning

4.  Emphasize Student/Teacher Relationships – More Looping

  • Teachers following their classes for multiple years is one way to strengthen relationships; especially 8th and 9th grades (really!)
  • There are dramatic gains in the second year for many students.
  • Avoids the summer slump and slow starts.

5. Students Need to Write a Lot More

  • Teachers can’t keep up with grading the numbers of pieces that kids should be writing, so how to make this happen:
    • Incremental – Train all teachers to grade essays
    • Innovative – Invest in emerging computer programs that score essays
    • Transformational – Products that will score essays plus, give feedback and practice as student is writing

5.  More Interdisciplinary Learning Opportunities, Instruction and Application

  • Much more work must be interdisciplinary including art, PE, music, etc.
  • In some of the most rapidly improving schools students choose a career pathway early and use that area as the place to apply basic skills as they learn them
  • “Eliminate current departments and department chairs” – go to interdisciplinary departments and chairs

6.  Choose Electives in 9th Grade

  • “We are wasting senior year with meaningless electives”
  • Have students choose electives early to engage them in things they show interest in.
  • Teach application of math and literacy across these interest areas.
  • What you teach doesn’t change but how you teach should be focused on the interest and skills of each individual student.

7.  Incorporate More Learning Technology into Classrooms

  • “Information is everywhere, sense-making and the ability to evaluate the credibility of information are paramount.”
  • “Technology needs to do to education what it has done to countless other industries: disrupt It”
    • Traditional school model – $10,000 cost per student
    • Hybrid-learning model – $8,900
    • Fully online model – $6,400
  • Examples of levels of change in technology:
    • Incremental – Wolfram Alpha – emerging new search engine that gives you the actual information rather than just links to possible sites to find it.  Will display answers on charts and graphs, even write papers
    • Innovative – Learning Games – games are becoming powerful learning tools – “Sushi Monster” math game; “iread”,up to 1 year’s progress in a month
    • Transformational – On-Line Game-Based Instruction
      • On-line learning: cheap, effective, flexible – learning anytime, anyplace
      • Game characteristics: continuous improvement, repetition, volume, immediate feedback,addictive, fun, personalized
    • (How will we give assessments with digital devices coming out looking like watches, glasses (Google Glasses), jewelry, etc.?)

8.  Spend Less Money on Technology

  • Let kids bring their own – like pencils in the past – save tech money for kids that don’t have access

9.  Get Teachers up to Speed in Using Technology

  • Some schools having IEPs for teachers on using technology
  • Some have brightest kids mentoring teachers

10.  Make Change Voluntary

  • In the beginning, hook the 30% of the staff that want to change with lots of learning opportunities and support
  • Entice the 30% who are on the fence over the short term
  • Leave the 30% who refuse to change at first; hope they don’t mess things up before you have a critical mass.
  • Finally, you can act on those not changing

11. Provide Ongoing Focused and Sustained Professional Development

  • Need for ongoing professional growth using most effective strategies, focusing on application
  • Treat teachers in a manner that shows they are as important as they are but in return expect professional behavior that includes continuous improvement, dedication and staying current in their content and best practices.
  • Provide opportunities for focused professional collaboration and growth

12.  Align Organization and Leadership with Change

  • Vision – Clarity of goal
  • Creating a culture of change is critical but difficult when schools are doing OK – start with teachers then include community
  • Leadership Teams – “Top-down support for bottom-up success”
  • Train and empower teacher leaders and leadership teams
  • Align organization structures and systems to vision
  • Align selection, support and evaluation of teachers and administrators to vision

13. Data Systems“Data systems should enable us to personalize learning but it has caused us to standardize it.”

Bill Daggett is the head of the International Center for Education Leadership (ICEL) where former VT Commissioner, Ray McNulty has been working.  ICEL works with groups like the Chief State School Officers, National Governors’ Association and the National Business Round Table. They have done a lot of work on the Common Core and new assessments, on comparing state standards to the Common Core and analyzing assessments and data across states.


Dennis has been the Director of the the VT-HEC since it was founded in 2000. He spent 16 years at the VT-DOE as Director of teams with various names that included: special education, Title I, health and wellness and other family and education support services. Prior to that Dennis worked at the Barre Town School (VT) starting as a special educator and serving many years as the Director of Student Support Services. He also spent 6 years as a classroom teacher grades 5-8 in NJ.

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