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The Vermont Higher Education Collaborative (VT-HEC) is continuing its work with renowned educator, author, and speaker Paul Gorski to present a series on reducing inequity in our schools. After Paul’s dynamic introduction to the Equity Literacy Framework this past November we have scheduled three days this spring each focused on a specific theme: gender, race, racism and refugees and, poverty. Supported by VT-HEC’s Mission Investment Fund, these offerings will be available to all at significantly reduced pricing.
Equity means more than hosting multicultural arts-and-crafts fairs or diversity assemblies. It begins with a willingness to see what we might be conditioned not to see and the humility to consider our and our colleagues’ culpability. It involves real conversations about racism, economic inequality, sexism, homophobia and ableism.
While each of the three days this spring will focus on a particular theme they all will utilize the concepts of the Equity Literacy Framework to help participants become more aware and effective in dealing with inequity regardless of it form or source.
Confronting Gender-Based Inequity in Classrooms and Schools – March 19 Ellen Tuzzolo & Leigh Thompson – How can we expand our understanding of gender to create equitable environments for students, families and colleagues? In this fast-paced workshop, participants will examine how gender-based inequities interfere with creating authentic relationships between educators and students, and how that interference affects us, our students and our work. Using the Equity Literacy Framework, participants will consider their role in counteracting gender-based inequities, and practice recognizing and responding in a classroom context.
Whose Country Is This? Race, Racism, and Refugee Status in America – April 12 –Taharee Jackson, Ph.D.- This interactive workshop will focus on how educators and practitioners can move from actors to allies to accomplices for those who are different. Participants will leave with a full understanding of how to become powerful advocates for their students and how to practically address threats to equity in schools and society.
Reaching & Teaching Students in Poverty – Strategies for Erasing the Opportunity Gap – May 15 – Paul Gorski, Ph.D.- How would our equity efforts change if we worked toward a deeper understanding of the barriers and inequities with which our students and their families experiencing poverty contend? In this workshop we will examine these barriers and inequities, how they operate in and out of schools, and how we might perpetuate them unintentionally in our spheres of influence. We then will be prepared to discuss strategies for rooting out class bias and inequity from school policy and practice.
The VT-HEC is one of Vermont’s largest statewide providers of professional development focused on the education, health and well-being of children and youth. The VT-HEC is working with a number of Vermont organizations, especially the VT Principals’ Association, to coordinate an array of presentations and work days focused on equity. The VT-HEC equity series is underwritten by the VT-HEC Mission Investment Fund. For more information: vthec.org
For the third consecutive year, the VT-HEC is partnering with the VPA to offer coordinated leadership supports to help administrators and their leadership teams utilize what we know about the brain and learning to work through the ever-expanding list of requirements and initiatives to establish a clear direction tailored to their school and community. The supports include:
We are very excited to be working with the VPA to continue this component of our program. It is clear that many school leaders struggle to maintain a clear focus given all of the challenges and demands they face. It has been our experience that school leaders that can establish a clear direction based on common principles and develop a coordinated plan for the coming year have the best chance of hitting the ground running and making significant progress during the year. We believe that these learning and planning opportunities will help leaders accomplish these goals.
This opportunities is also available to the schools that are working with our TASS, Teaching All Secondary Students, program that supports middle and secondary school improvement. Recently, three Vermont schools were awarded grants working through the League of Innovative Schools and the Great Schools Partnerships – all three of those schools have worked with TASS. They were the only Vermont schools to win this very competitive grant.
One can’t do much better than having experts such as Val and Bill on hand to assist leaders in applying these basic principles of learning and behavior to the work of their schools and staff. Together Bill and Val make a powerful team that works to practice what they preach by designing learning opportunities that give participants the content, coaching and feedback they need to apply the new learning to their own situations.
TASS (Teaching All Secondary Students) has been supporting middle and high schools in their efforts to improve outcomes for all students since 2005 by offering embedded professional learning opportunities, coaching and leadership support. Now TASS is building on that foundation to offer schools and individual educators more ways to focus on the nature and needs of adolescent learners in the current world of proficiencies, graduation expectations and new testing.
Beginning in the fall of 2014 TASS will begin offering courses required for middle grades licensing endorsement. The first course will be Nature and Needs of the Adolescent Learner. These courses are designed to teach well researched skills, strategies, and tools, that will enable teachers to provide safe learning environments that will nurture students’ intellectual capacities, develop their leadership skills and voice, and differentiate instruction to meet the needs of diverse learners. The current course sequence is:
This year TASS will be offering a series of three workshops to provide leaders and educators more examples of how they can respond to the special needs of the adolescent learner given the current environment of standards-based learning, Common Core, etc.
A series of four WORKshops that can be taken individually, as a series or as a course that focus on the practical application of the principles of education neuroscience to standards-based learning in middle and high schools. These WORKshops have been designed by Bill Rich and will be supported by other TASS consultants with plenty of time allocated for participants to apply the new learning to their own setting.
TASS is a VT-HEC Program focused on supporting middle and high school in their efforts to improve outcomes for all students. TASS delivers a comprehensive, coordinated and coherent array of supports and learning opportunities designed to apply the principles of Education Neuroscience in a standards-based learning context for the 21st Century. TASS provides a long-term, integrated system of embedded professional development, coaching and leadership support within a system of collaborative implementation that is tailored to the long-term goals and short-term needs of each school. TASS consultants include Bill Rich, Val Gardner, Wendy Cohen, Susie Girardin and Otho Thompson; all long-time educators working in Vermont schools.
Val Gardner and Bill Rich have designed a series of WORKshops for leaders interested in and committed to applying principles of brain-based learning design to create cultures of ongoing learning. This learning opportunity has been offered at the VPA Leadership Academy and will be offered as a series of WORKshops this year for education leaders. This year the first WORKshops will be held on October 3, 2014, Who Are Our Learners? Applying Brain Research to How We Lead our Adult Learners. This will be followed by three more support sessions for those who have attended one of the introductory sessions at the VPA or are from a TASS school.
TASS Middle School Progam will be coordinated by Susie Girardin. Susie is a middle grades specialist who has worked in middle schools and with middle school teachers for 40 years. She is a leadership and teacher coach for TASS and is also part of the design team for the TASS teacher leader Certificate of Learning Design program. Susie has taught all of the courses in the middle school sequence and will be working to design the workshop series.
It would be hard to find someone more committed to middle level students and to addressing their unique characteristics. Susie is a dynamic presenter, coach and instructor who makes her passion about student-centered learning contagious. She has been working in a number of schools around Vermont and is always in demand. Susie is available for consultation and coaching in schools through the TASS program.
Research on professional development producing actual change in schools and classrooms has not always been great. To better ensure the practical application of the knowledge and skills presented in our offerings to the work settings of the participants, the VT-HEC is designing a special series of professional learning opportunities that will focus on application of the content topic in the classroom or school. These sessions will be designated as WORKshops.
In Part II of this series Nancy Cornell, long-time Assistant Superintendent and Curriculum Coordinator shares her perspective about working toward improving their schools in partnership with TASS – Teaching All Secondary Students. TASS is the VT-HEC program that supports middle and high schools with a tailored and coordinated array of coaching and learning opportunities over an extended period of time. Nancy confirmed the TASS belief in the Michael Fullan statement about school reform:
“The main problem with educational systems and corresponding innovation and policy making is that they are, intrinsically, endemically, inevitably, overloaded and fragmented. Therefore, the main solutions have to be ones that contribute to coherence making and connectedness.” Michael Fullan
Nancy told about how Mt. Abraham middle & high school always had pockets of excellence and a history of starting many separate initiatives, some even garnering national recognition. There was not, however, a coherence of purpose and action that saw the whole school working and moving forward together. Nancy recounted that in her 20+ years she had hired many talented consultants who often did great work, but they rarely coordinated that work with other consultants or other parts of the school. In contrast, the TASS consultants were clearly reading from the same page and coordinating their efforts which greatly increased their impact. Nancy joked that when she hired TASS she knew that when even when the TASS consultants were not actually working in her building they were out there somewhere coordinating and planning what they were doing at Mt. Abe because she could see the difference they were making and knew she was getting the most from her investment.
Another point Nancy highlighted was the focus TASS has on making change through collaborative implementation. TASS has the capacity, she said, to train facilitators to help make the school’s collaborative teams and Critical Friends groups work more effectively. That in turn had a positive impact on making progress in multiple areas, even beyond those that TASS was working on. Nancy noted here that TASS consistently acted on the belief that collaborative work was key to making lasting whole-school change. As examples, Nancy told of TASS consultant, Wendy Cohen, providing instruction and coaching to teachers on their work as facilitators and the whole TASS team meeting regularly with the leadership team to plan together.
Nancy also recounted that TASS consultants, Wendy, Bill Rich and Susie Girardin, designed many different kinds of learning opportunities to meet the specific needs of the moment for the teachers they were working with including designing inservice days, planning staff and department meetings, providing in-class coaching and offering graduate courses during the year and over the summer. Nancy told us that some of these courses were offered with Mt. Abe staff partnering with TASS staff to instruct the course as an example of TASS developing and utilizing the expertise found within the staff.
Lastly, Nancy talked about the work that TASS consultants, such as Val Gardner, had done with the leadership to plan for the year including outlining what they wanted to prioritize and developing a calendar that outlined their work, meetings, deadlines, etc. The leadership team also worked with Val to define what they expected from the teachers and to identify what support the teachers would need. Nancy noted that it wasn’t just the building administrators that TASS supported but also the Supervisory Union administrators and leaders of the elementary schools to facilitate district-wide planning.
Nancy ended by saying that she could not speak highly enough about how the comprehensive and coordinated work of TASS had helped Mt. Abe.
For more information about the TASS program, the services it can provide and the findings of its eight years of experience in Vermont schools, go to our web site at vthec.org or contact Seth Marineau at [email protected]
“It used to be that we were always alone, in a silo, and it was uncommon for me to really examine student performance, to find the time to actually analyze an assignment, determine which kids have evidence of understanding…now we are able to support one another Our conversations have been really productive and exciting”
Today I was reviewing Tier III questions with my students I thought it was so affirming of our work together when a student said ‘Hey, we talked about Tier III questions in such-and-such’s class today!’ I responded, ‘Freaky, I know. We actually talk to each other!’ It was great evidence of the collaborative nature and common learning that TASS has supported.”
On a snowy afternoon in February school administrators shared compelling stories relating their experiences in working toward improving their schools in partnership with TASS, Teaching All Secondary Students. TASS is the VT-HEC program that supports middle and high schools with a tailored array of coaching and learning opportunities. Each administrator in their own way confirmed the TASS belief in the Michael Fullan statement about school improvement: (more…)
It is remarkably easy to waste time and money on professional development that produces no real change. The opportunities to attend interesting and exciting events are everywhere. The edu-tainment industry is big business and can send everyone home well-fed, significantly dazzled and at least temporarily motivated. Yet the data on transfer of new knowledge from training to the learning environment remains poor and, as resources diminish, cost-effectiveness becomes increasingly more critical.
Mailing Address: PO Box 285, Montpelier, VT 05601
Phone: (802) 498-3350
Email: [email protected]