Saturday, August 10, 2013

Duval County Teacher Academy-Day 5

One of the nicest things about large county-wide professional development is the chance to see and reconnect with good friends that you once taught with (see left)... or in my case, reconnect with former students who are now your teacher colleagues!  I was delighted to run into a former pre-k student who is now a teacher in the county! What a thrill!  Love you Melissa! I am also thrilled that this is the last day of the Teacher Academy.  It's been a l-o-n-g week. 
Gradual Release
Out with the old.  In with the new!  Except I think in this case, it is out with the old and in with the older!  The Gradual Release of Responsibility is a research-based instructional model developed by Pearson and Gallagher, I think in the early 80's.  Fisher and Frey have written about it extensively, as have many researchers and practitioners over the years.  Those of you who are familiar with Anita Archer's work in Duval County may also remember her referring to this model.  Of course, being older, does not mean there is anything wrong with it.  The fact that this model is still around, as popular as ever, means that it probably falls into that "tried and true" category.
Although the graphic above is not the exact one used in the Duval presentations, I think it accurately represents the principles.  The idea is simply that the teacher begins with the "I do" of explicit instruction, which is similar to Lucy Calkin's mini-lesson model that begins with the Connection, connecting to prior learning and the Teach, which is the instructional focus for the day's lesson (reference to Lucy is mine and was not expressed by any of the Duval presenters, but it is necessary for me to put this new requirement into a framework that aligns with my current practice).  The "we do" is guided practice and then the "you do" is the collaboration, much like Lucy's Active Involvement. Finally the "you do it alone" is the Independent Practice that Lucy would say is the  Link, which gives a purpose for the Work Period, which is the time that student read and practice the strategies that they have learned, the application stage or Independent Practice. 
How does this effect us?
Although I have heard of this model being used extensively with improving literacy achievement and comprehension, I don't remember so much about its application to Math and Science (although that may very well exist!)  While I think the model matches well with what we already do in most Readers' and Writers' Workshops, I will be very interested in the conversation of my Math and Science colleagues who have been successful with a discovery, Japanese influenced type model.  It's easy to adopt something new when what you are doing is not working.  It is more difficult to adopt something new if what you are doing is extremely successful.
We now have the YAG (Year-at-a-Glance) that opens each CG (Curriculum Guide).  Each CG includes CLG (Curriculum Lesson Guides) and will be assessed with the CGA (Curriculum Guide Assessments).  Oh my! or maybe I should say OMG!  The Curriculum Guides were written with intensive stakeholder input.  The guides are meant to be a framework of suggestions.   Teachers have the autonomy to veer from the Curriculum Guides, with Principal approval, of course,  but will be held accountable for the CGAs.   The Curriculum Guides are all available at
Time configurations have also changed. 
  • Math now includes 60 minutes of instruction and 30 minutes "extra".  The 30 minute "extra" might include ideas such as iReady (computer), Reflex (computer), Gizmos (computer), small teacher led groups, Rti (did I mention this is now MSTT- Multi-tied Support System) Tier 2 interventions, Envisions, and previous Math Investigation games.  It would not be a time to do Calendar Math.
  • Reading includes 150 minutes, which is same amount of time we have always had for ELA: 90 minutes of Reading which includes Skills, 30 minutes of Writing, and 30 additional minutes.  In this case, the additional minutes can include "rotations" - think of them as Centers and will also be your RtI time.
  • Notice that 30 minute blocks have been built into each schedule to make time for RtI Tier 2 interventions which are to be done in the classroom.
How does this effect us?
In Kindergarten we have always had our own Pacing Guide where we tried to put the entire nine weeks in all subjects on a single page of paper.  We did this because we really wanted to have "echoes across the day" and wanted  our entire kinder day to be connected.  We will still try to do that, but frankly, my mind is muddled with so many changes to comprehend.   I am still thinking through this and will wait until each of our Council groups (Reading, Math and Science) each meet next week to discuss the changes and implementation before finalizing a Kindergarten Pacing Guide with my Kindergarten colleagues.  Right now, I am leaning toward trying to follow much of the County's CGs.  These are my present thoughts, without having the luxury of discussing it with my colleagues.  In fact, I am SURE these comments will elicit much of that discussion!
  • In Science, for instance, we have had such little accountability in the past in K. I am sure there are probably teachers who just skipped parts of the Science curriculum while others not only taught the curriculum but spent hours adding to it.  Really there is no way of knowing, which is the point. At least if we followed the Kinder Science CG, we would have some accountability in how we are doing because we are required to give the CGAs. 
  • Reading is probably okay too, except the county has not, in my opinion, figured out an alternative to our oral language (Sulzby, Calkins) component that we have successfully used for years as a way to move children through the reading levels (DRA), so I'm thinking we need to keep those pieces (Sulzby and DRAs) in place, but the lay out of the sequence of skills and reading strategies is probably fine.
  • Writing is probably where we will have the most difficulty in making the type of change that is being suggested by the county.  We have been married to the Lucy Calkins units for a long time because they have been so extremely successful for us.  I don't see an alternative that would sway  me from that commitment.  I also know that the county's Reading and Writing curriculums were written independent of each other and there was no effort to marry the two.  Believing so strongly that one is absolutely dependent on the other and that reading and writing should be a dance intertwining together,  this may be the place to veer from the curriculum and rewrite the Writing pacing to better meet our experiences, using the new Calkins' units as the backbone.  Since there is no CGA in writing, this may be the easiest area to use our autonomy and stay true to what we believe.
  • The Math CG may also be okay.  While I think we may teach in a more discovery type model than is being suggested, the content could remain the same in Kindergarten as suggested.  The CGAs would actually give us an accountability piece that we would welcome as a way to see how we are doing.  While we have written our own end-of-the-unit assessments and have regularly compared them during common planning, a process where the county would take on more of the data collection  would be a welcome relief from all the hand scoring and comparing that we have tried to do in the past.  The county doing the collection and synthesizing would give us more time to do the analyzing
Final thoughts:  This has been a grueling week.  The accommodations have not always been welcoming.  I sometimes felt a little like a child must feel who goes into a classroom where the teacher really doesn't want another child.  We often seemed to be an unwelcome guest at the high school.  However, I have to commend the many teachers and administrators who have worked through their entire summer to make this academy possible.  I have complained about differentiation and I hope that will become a part of our on-going county PD, but the presenters did their best to help teachers to calm down and try to see the value in so many changes.  However, the sheer amount of new information was overwhelming. I do fear that the county does not have the infrastructure to accommodate the huge reliance on computer-based interventions and testing and that this massive need will undermine much of the promising results.
Also, please know that the thoughts in these blogs are mine alone and that I take full responsibility for their content.  They are simply my first thoughts and how I think we can marry the best of the new with the best of the old.  I am sure my opinions will change as the year goes on and I have the opportunity for input from my colleagues, who challenge my opinions on a regular basis and allow me to grow.  I simply wanted my colleagues who did not have a chance to go to the Academy to have a little heads up and front loading. 
We are on the cusp of a new year.  You can smell it in the air and I am thrilled to be returning to a school with a leader of vision and colleagues who, above all else, are passion-driven to make a difference in the lives of the children they teach.  Here's to the BEST year ever! Let the WILD ride begin!

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