Rethinking Summer School – Equity & Promoting Student Learning

Summer school – I know that it conjures up bad thoughts in most of our minds. Having to go to summer school usually means you failed a course or a grade and you have to make it up.  But – do only the ‘failures’ or the ‘bad kids’ need to go to summer school? Is that what summer school is for? This is what most of us think of when we consider summer school, when in reality, summer school should be a place where all students could go to keep on track, get ahead, or learn some new things. Research shows that the 3-month summer break is often a huge learning set-back for many students, particularly minority students and students living in poverty, causing a widening of the achievement gap, in part because these students are often denied opportunities for summer ‘enrichment’ courses or camps. Summer school options are usually focused on remediation and failures, and not very enticing for students to attend voluntarily, and so we have most students taking a 3 month break from any learning. But what if we approached summer school differently? What if it weren’t a punishment, but rather a place where students were motivated by other students or college student mentors and were engaged in new and interesting topics that kept them learning?

I found this really motivating TedTalk by Karim Abouelnaga, who from his own experiences with school, decided to try to change the way we rethink summer school. It’s not too late, even for this year, for those of you educators out there getting ready for this years summer school to consider making some changes that would make summer school a learning opportunity for all students.

NCTM Regionals -What’s the Point?

NCTM Regionals in Phoenix, AZ and Philadelphia, PA are going on this week and next (Phoenix, AZ is October 26-28, Philadelphia, PA is October 31 – November 2). The regional conferences are significantly smaller than the National conferences, and draw much more of a local group of math teachers versus the more wide-spread attendance, both national and international, at the NCTM Annual Conference (this year in San Antonio, TX, April 5-8, 2017). There use to be 3 regional conferences, and this year we are down to two, so the question arises, what’s the point? Are these Regional Conferences worth the time and effort? Well – as a math teacher who faithfully attended regional conferences for years and years, my answer is yes.

Here’s my short list of why there is in fact, a very definite “point’ to the NCTM Regionals:

  1. They are in the fall, after teachers have had a chance to get their classes going, image20understand their students, and get in the swing of things. It’s about the time when the dust has settled and teachers are looking for some new ideas, engaging activities, technology apps and devices – anything to help support student learning. The Regionals’ provide a chance to spark some creativity for teachers who are finally having some breathing room after the chaos of the start of a new school year.
  2. These are much more local conferences, so there’s a lot of teachers from the same area as both presenters and attendees – it builds some camaraderie, with many local schools and districts providing a day or two of professional learning time for their teachers to attend. It supports local math initiatives and provides teachers with new ideas and strategies that they then take back and share with other teachers and their students.
  3. The Regional conferences are less expensive, allowing for more teachers who want to attend to actually do so. Often times schools/districts will pay for teachers to go to the Regionals since they are a more affordable and they can send more teachers as well (more bang for their buck).
  4. keycurriculum_nctm2012-0442They occur early in a school year, so that math leaders and those who make ‘funding’ decisions can check out new curriculum, textbooks, technology, professional development, and math resources at the Exhibit Hall and at sessions. This allows for them to arrange for samples or pilots or meetings to plan for things like textbook adoptions or technology purchases or professional development support. Teachers often go to these Regional events and bring ideas back to their school leaders of what might be good for their schools/students. There is time to research, try-out, and get a feel for what resources might be best before any funding/purchases need to be made (usually the Spring).
  5. It provides a place to learn more about mathematics standards, Education Policy (like ESSA), standardized testing, and other math-related issues that impact teaching and student achievement
  6. It’s an opportunity for math educators to get together to collaborate, learn, share and get informed and rejuvenated about mathematics education. That’s the most important thing – educators learning together to find new and different ways to engage their students in mathematics learning. Nothing more powerful than that.

So – yes. There is a point. Hopefully there are many of you out there who are able toimage12 take
advantage of the NCTM Regionals this year. If not, the same can be said of your local and state math conferences, so don’t pass up the chance to attend those if you can.

Casio is in attendance at both Phoenix and Philadelphia NCTM Regionals, so be sure to stop by the booth and gets some hands-on play time with our technology and math resources. Not to mention entering the raffle for a free graphing calculator. We also have workshops happening at both conferences, so be sure to check those out as well.

Phoenix:

  1. Thursday, October 27
    • Exploring the Connection Between Recursive Sequences and Composition of Functions  Room 102 C, Grades 10-12, 9:30 – 10:30 am
    • You’ve Got To Move it! Transforming Mathematics – Room 227 AB, Grade Levels 8-10, 1:30 Pm – 2:45 pmimg_4198
  2. Friday October 28
    • Linear or Not Linear: That is the Question  Room 101AB, 8 – 9 am
    • The Probabilities of “Wheel of Fortune” – Room West 301A, 8 – 9 am

Philadelpha

  1. Tuesday, November 1
    • Problem Solving for Middle Grades Pre-Service Teachers   Room 105AB, Coaches/Leaders/Teacher Educators, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm
    • Polar, Parametric, Rectangular – Can You See the Connection?  Room Franklin 3/4, Grade Levels 10-12, 3:15-4:15 pm
  2. Wednesday, November 2
    • Hands-on Activities & Technology=Mathematical Understanding Through Authentic Modeling    Room Franklin 3/4, Grade 8-10, 9:45 – 11:00am
    • Exploring the Connection Between Recursive Sequences and Composition of Functions   Room 201B, Grades 8-10, 12:30 – 1:30 pm

 

Preparation and Making Educated Decisions on November 8

I watched the Presidential Debate this past Monday. My brain still hurts.

I obviously could talk about a lot of things I heard, but instead I want to bring up two things that stood out for me.

  1. Hillary Clinton’s reply to Donald Trump when he accused her of being “over prepared” for the debate. Her response: “I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. And, yes, I did. You know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president. And I think that’s a good thing,” 
  2. Education – not really mentioned in the ‘debate’ (yes, let’s use that term very loosely!), except in passing, and in all honesty, sort of missing in this whole election process.

As an educator, these two things struck me as sort of key components – we need a president that is prepared and we need to get this country focused on education, because, as is very evident in this political climate we are in right now, lack of education is clearly resulting in a lot of inaccuracies, belief in “hype” and poor decision making. Education is so crucial, and we need a President who is going to help address issues like equity, ESSA, funding, ELL….so many things.

Let’s talk about preparedness. Can you imagine, as a teacher, walking into a classroom of students unprepared? Unthinkable! Teachers study the content they are going to teach, anticipate student misconceptions, prepare for alternate ways of presenting information, prepare questions to guide and encourage student discourse and investigation. They know their stuff.  They have a strategy. Because of that preparation, they can make educated decisions and changes during a class, based on student questions, misunderstandings, tangent trains of thought, etc. The plan may change when execution begins – as any teacher knows, the lesson you planned can go in lots of directions – BUT – the preparation for that lesson leads you and the students in relevant directions focused on the original content. Preparedness matters when important decisions are at stake and, in the case of students, when learning needs to happen – so…being prepared matters every day?!!

I would like a prepared President who knows his/her ‘content’ (about our country, policy, government, treaties,  and world affairs, etc.). One who can use that preparation to make decisions, big and small, and be flexible for those times when tangent trains of thought or questions or disagreements arise.

This leads me to my second focus, education in this country. The next President will have a huge impact on shaping education policy – and its not mentioned much and we don’t really hear about the candidates take on education except for sound bites. ESSA is just coming into play, so that’s huge. The next Supreme Court Justice appointment could impact education policy -also huge. The next Presidents’ take on the Department of Education, on Pre-school Education, on higher-education, teacher pay, funding, technology, etc- all those really important things we educators think about on a regular basis, this matters a great deal to the future of education in this country. The next President should understand education policy – how the federal, state and local governments interact, what issues and policies are important and needed, how changes impact students access and equity in education. If we don’t educate ourselves on what all the Presidential Candidates believe about education, and instead make decisions based on personal feelings, ‘hype’, showmanship, he said/she said, then we are NOT PREPARED and our vote on November 8 is NOT an educated one, and could drastically hurt the state of education in our country.

So please – as educators interested in the future of education, prepare for this November 8 election. Read the actual policies on education that each candidate proposes. Find out what they know (or don’t know). Prepare, compare, and make an educated decision.

Here’s a nice quick visual summary of the four candidates positions (from BallotPedia):

2016-09-29_12-56-00

Here are some good resources for comparing the candidates views on education . I’ve also included some links that compare the candidates on many of their policy stands, not just education. But, as an educator, education is rather crucial to me, so it is the one I focus on.

  • This link has a nice summary and then a run-down of each candidates stance and things they have said about education.
  • This is an interactive comparison on different education related topics (just Clinton vs Trump)
  • A higher-ed comparison of the candidates (just Clinton vs Trump)
  • List of some key education ideas and how candidates compare
  • Strong Public Schools (NEA) comparison
  • In their own words comparisons of the 4 candidates (Ask yourself – who knows what they are talking about, who doesn’t?)
  • 20 Questions/Answers (on more than just education) from ScienceDebate.org. All 4 candidates. Eye opening – again, ask yourself, who is prepared, who isn’t?

Let’s do what we as educators do best – prepare, plan and make educated decisions. It matters.

 

Proud to be a Sponsor – ASSM, NCSM, BBA

CIMG3737I and the Casio Education team just got back from San Francisco where we were part of the Association of State Supervisors of Math (ASSM), National Council of Supervisors of Math (NCSM) and National Council of Teachers of Mathematics conferences. Each conference and experience was different, and gave us a broad perspective on what is happening in math education around the country and the hard work education leaders and teachers are doing to support the teaching and learning of mathematics. I am going to do a IMG_2635NCTM specific post later this week, and would like to devote this post to the three events where Casio had the privilege to support ASSM, NCSM and the Benjamin Banneker Association (BBA). Each event/sponsorship provided a unique opportunity to learn about the mathematics community and all these educators do to ensure students are getting a quality mathematics education.

CIMG3731We started our time in San Francisco hosting the opening reception for ASSM. After the Keynote speaker, Gail Burrill, I was honored to be able to say a few words regarding the state of technology in mathematics classrooms. This was my first time meeting and getting to know some of the current and former state supervisors of mathematics from all over the United States. It was clear, from their great questions during the Keynote and engaging conversation and sharing of information at the reception, that they are focused on ensuring their schools districts, educational leaders and teachers are getting the support they need. One thing I learned was how incredibly busy these ASSM members are, and, in fact, many of these were retired supervisors still working with their states and teachers – now that’s dedication! While I am still finding out more about ASSM, I know that they are a CIMG3743group of math leaders dedicated to ensuring that mathematics education is getting needed funding, math teachers are getting the support and training, and schools are getting a clear understanding of both state and federal expectations for students to learn math effectively.  It’s a big job, a very political job, but clearly a very dedicated and focused group of educators willing to do the job.

IMG_2633Our next adventure was in Oakland, CA for the NCSM conference. I have to say it was pretty cool walking around and seeing all the volunteers wearing Casio t-shirts and everyone carrying a Casio bag, both part of Casio’s sponsorship.  (If you were there and got a bag, don’t you just love the water bottle holder!!!??!) This was the first year NCSM was not in the same location as NCTM (which was across the bay in San Francisco), which was a little concerning, knowing there might be fewer attendees as a IMG_1987result. However, there quite a few participants at the conference, and I know as I popped into several sessions, the rooms were full with math educators ready to learn. As part of our sponsorship, we hosted a Sponsorship Showcase the first morning, presented by one of our fabulous mathematics teachers, Mike Reiners. It was a fascinating workshop, based on the game show, Wheel of Fortune, which Mike was an actual contestant on. It was fascinating to learn and calculate the probabilities of landing on certain values and the probability of things like losing your turn or hitting the million dollar wedge. I, like many others in the room, thought that the probabilities remained constant, since each spin of the wheel is independent from the others, but apparently, not the case!  It was also great to actual see real video footage of Mike’s actual appearance on IMG_1989the show and make predictions about what he (and the other contestants) should have done, and then see the real results.  It was also hilarious to see the teachers in our workshop trying to guess the word/phrase themselves – there were some pretty quick responses! Mike used both the fx-991 Scientific Calculator, with it’s natural display and spreadsheet capabilities as well as the Prizm graphing calculator, to show the statistics and probabilities. All the participants had hands-on with the calculators as well, so they could do some of the calculations themselves. That’s always fun to see everyone’s reaction to these calculators and how excited they get about their functionality (yes – we are math teachers!). All the attendees walked away with a free Prizm, which was exciting….some new Casio users!!

After a busy few days in Oakland, we ended back in San Francisco, ending our week with the NCTM conference at the San Francisco Conference Center. This wasCIMG3868 so much fun with so many math educators over the course of three days.  In fact, it was such a great time I am going to devote an entire post to just NCTM later this week.  What I would like to focus on from NCTM here is the Benjamin Banneker Reception Casio had the privilege of sponsoring on Thursday evening. It was BBA’s 30th year celebration and we were so excited to be able CIMG3880to be a part of this great group of leaders who dedicate so much time, resources, and support to ensure equitable educational opportunities for African American students. At the reception there were several outstanding local area educators honored for their outstanding efforts on behalf of their students. Hearing their stories, where they work diligently, tirelessly, and at all hours of the day giving of themselves to ensure their students succeed in school and have support was inspirational. There were also three students honored, two of whom relieved a $250 Book Award from BBA to support them as they went on to college, and one student received a $1,000 scholarship from Casio towards their college endeavors. It brought tears to my eyes as I listened to these three students talk about their struggles and perseverance, encouraged to “make a plan and see it through” along with the the support they received from their principal and their parents. To top it off, there was a great musical group that had everyone clapping along. It was a lovely to meet, support and get a sense of the powerful work the BBA is doing to support equitable education opportunities and resources for students. Casio is certainly excited to be a part of their work in the continuing years.CIMG3861

All in all, sponsoring such great organizations is something Casio is excited we have the opportunity to do. ASSM, NCSM, and BBA are dedicated groups of educators who are striving to improve mathematics education and education in general. Being able to meet and support these groups was a rewarding experience in itself and for me personally, inspired me and made me more aware of the hard work these groups of educators are out there doing every day to make a difference in students’ lives. Hopefully this gave you a small glimpse.  Next post I will talk about the fun we had at NCTM – lots of pictures to come!