Gordon Parks Elementary: A Film Premiere

School success stories are some of our favorite features here at ShiftED (need we say: DUH!). Next month a once-imperiled charter school will be featured in a film premier of its own name: Gordon Parks Elementary.

If you reside in the Kansas City area, we encourage you to RSVP immediately for this wonderful glimpse into the Gordon Parks Elementary School’s journey, and into the lives of the school’s myriad stakeholders.

Click here to RSVP for the event.

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Succeeding in Standards while Cultivating Creativity

In a heartening article on Edutopia.com last week, Dr. Marilyn Price-Mitchell explores ways in which classroom instructors can help students achieve success in a world of standardized expectations while still actively engaging them in creative development as well. price-mitchell-8-ways-imapce-student-success-01

Price-Mitchell reminds us: “creativity is not confined to people of extraordinary intellect or talent — or to big inventions. Everyone has creative capacities that evoke originality….”

Read more about the new neuroscience of creativity and learn six new ways to boost student creativity in the classroom.

Gardening 101: Getting to the Root of the Problem

Dandelions: the perennial lawn maintenance nuisance. It doesn’t take a very savvy gardener to know that getting rid of a dandelion takes more than just popping the yellow top off. It requires attention to the root – digging the whole darned thing out from the ground – to remedy the problem.

taraxacum_officinale_aggregata_species_dandelion_flower_side_view_12-04-10_1There’s a reason that in talking about problems and solutions the term “root” is thrown around even when the topic isn’t gardening or dentistry. Throwing “solutions” at the top of a complex problem will never solve the problem. At best it will mask it or defer the problem for a time, but ultimately the concern will either manifest itself somewhere new or re-emerge again over time.

We know this in gardening, in business, in healthcare, in government. So why are we so slow to “know” it and, more importantly, to act on it when it comes to education? All the data tells us that access to early childhood education dramatically, positively impacts a child’s trajectory of success for K-12, post-secondary education and far into their professional lives. More successful professionals means stronger national and global economies and a more secure future for us all.

Let’s make 2016 the year that we acknowledge the achievement gap in the united States and demand our next president make early childhood education a priority. Save the Children Action Network (SCAN) is doing just that. Read more on their campaign to make early childhood education funding a top priority in the campaigns for all presidential hopefuls in the coming elections.

A World Where Everyone Wins

This is not a post about a Gen-Y world where every participant gets a trophy.

We’re talking about about the truest form of win-win thinking. This week Getting Smart shared a story about a struggling school that was successfully transformed by mentorship and investment from local business partners. This program, facilitated by the Council for Educational Change,  is one many in the state of Florida.

According to the article: School And Education Flat Design Icons Seamless Background

“Under these partnerships, a CEO assesses the challenges affecting a school and, together with the principal, develops a strategic plan to address those challenges. The CEO mentors the principal throughout the implementation of that strategy and becomes an advisor to the educator, helping develop a leadership team with a shared vision: to help the students succeed.”

Read the full story here. Then leave us a comment telling us what you think.

Are you looking to recreate this success for your own school or business? Contact us for more information on ShiftED’s Lumen8 Assessment and Educator Experience.

5 Ways Educators Can Use Ferguson as a Teachable Moment

Earlier this summer I shared a piece called “Critical Thinking & Civil Argument” on the Lumen Touch blog (you can read it here). In that post I discussed the importance of personal reflection in the face of trying social times and challenged educators to consider how they would be discussing difficult social, ethical and political issues with their students as school resumed. However, I kept things pretty general that time. For one thing, it was the middle of summer; I figured my readers had plenty of time to brainstorm their own executions on my suggestions. Plus, my reflections were sparked by controversy over a celebrity. Today is different. Everything about today feels more urgent.

Although the relentless optimist in me hoped that the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson would not bring about renewed violence, the realist in me knew it was likely a forlorn hope; and this week has proved it to be so. Yet, in the face of fresh tragedy (for stolen life – no matter race or reason is indeed a tragedy), there is much opportunity for educators to use these events in extremely meaningful ways. Allow me to suggest a few:

Credit: Angela Hutti - fox2now.com

  • Discussion of the First Amendment: Freedom of speech; freedom of the press; freedom to assemble peaceably. Are these rights being upheld for demonstrators in Ferguson? A what point do their actions exceed these freedoms and become criminal acts? Is there such a boundary? What does the law say? What do students’ individual gut morals say?
  • Discussion of the Second Amendment: How much does this right protect justice or impede it in the current circumstance? How much does this right protect civilians or limit their protection? What does the law really intend for this amendment to accomplish? Is it being executed properly today?
  • The role of social media and other technology in (this and other) conflicts: In what ways do these influences help or hurt the cause of the protestors? Should bystanders be allowed to video happenings and post them? Why or why not? How does this discussion relate to freedom of speech? What dangers can the magic of video editing cause in presenting facts and shaping viewer bias?
  • Research and analysis of previous civil rights struggles: U.S. history is packed with comparative examples. Which ones are considered positive or successful in improving race relations? Which ones can be considered hindrances? What factors cause students to label them as one or the other? How do these examples compare and contract with factors of today’s racial struggles? What can be learned by these comparisons?
  • Statistics, analysis and FACT CHECKING: There are endless numbers to analyze and discuss when it comes to crises like the one in Ferguson. Think: factors that affect violent crime rates or gun-related crimes. Think: How those rates have risen or decreased in different geographic locations, age, race or gender demographics. Think: How poverty rates and levels of education influence those crime-related numbers. And importantly: where are those numbers and studies coming from? Have students look into the organizations funding the research. Are they special interest groups? What impact might those interests have on the information they present?

Bear a number of things in mind if you intend to conduct any or all of these conversations.

First, if you have not already done so (and be HONEST with yourself about this!), spend time in your own personal reflection. There will be questions and statements from students that will require guided, thoughtful responses from you so you must be mentally prepared. That is not to say that you are the final arbiter of the conversation or of student opinions; rather, you are to be the model for critical reflection.

Negotiate ground rules for civil discussion. When is a student allowed to speak? (When they raise their hand? When they’re holding the talking stick?) They must be able to share a reason to back the opinions they share. Articulate the reasons for and importance of these difficult discussions. Discuss conversational deal breakers (shouting, inappropriate language or racial slurs, disrespectful responses to peers’ contributions).

Find a way to end on a positive note. Have students share ways that their findings can be used for good – whether on a personal level, a classroom or school level, or beyond.

Finally, don’t be afraid to tackle these tough topics with your kiddos. You and I both know educations is not for the faint of heart. You’ve got this!

Good to the last…word

Here at ShiftED we’re unofficially competing to set the record for how many times an organization can use the word transform on its social media channels in a week/month/year. Today is another push towards that record.

Recently, forbes.com published a Q&A with Andreas Schleicher of the OECD in Paris. The Q&A, “The Critical Role of Teachers in Transforming Education Systems,” paints an eloquent picture of the influence teachers can (and do) have in bringing students’ education up to 21st century speed. Schleicher’s responses also give insight into the global forces educators must take into account as they adjust their pedagogical approaches: 2015-07-27_13-33-54

“…it’s about building relationships with people who may think differently from you—who may look at the world in a very different way, who come from a different disciplinary specialization. Economic success today is very much about you being able to collaborate, compete and connect with people.”