Monday, December 13, 2010

Teachers Textbooks Technology

At Monday's Board meeting we presented to the Board an update on three of the district's processes: assuring quality hiring practices, providing texts and materials, getting technology in every classroom. These three components are part of West Clermont's Strategic Plan, approved in 2010. Click here to see the PowerPoint slides that accompanied our presentation.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

How lovely are your branches!

"Necessitie, the inventour of all goodnesse."
Toxophilus, 1545

"Neccesity is the Mother of Invention."
Richard Franck, 1658

Not much time.

Not many materials.

And we're responsible for decorating a huge evergreen for the 1st Annual Union Township Civic Center's Tree Lighting! Yikes!

Actually, there's no need for alarm. With the West Clermont Art Department, these kinds of situations are everyday fare. When the clock is rapidly ticking and supplies are in short supply, our talented art teachers take the reins.

In record time, West Clermont K-12 art students created festive, colorful, large-scale weatherproof ornaments. Hundreds of kids. Hundreds of decorations. We did it up on a grand scale!

And the 1st annual tree lighting was a success. Hot chocolate, cookies and carols added to the cold, clear night. But the tree took center stage, and her branches were indeed, very lovely.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Quality PD on A Shoestring

Thanks to the Board members and school administrators who joined us for a demonstration and conversation about low-cost, no-cost web applications to help create quality professional learning. As promised, here is your "paperless" handout:

Voicethread: Share images & text, collaborate & comment 
Ning: Share within a members-only network
Skype: Free audio or video conferencing
Google Docs: Share documents, spreadsheets, calendar
Animoto: Easily create dynamic slide shows
Blogging: Share text, images, & links
Screencasting: Teach & talk about what’s on screen
Twitter: Learn & share with fellow educators
Wallwisher: Easily collect & post comments

Bonus: See also Jing for easy screen capture capability

Click here for November 9 PPT slides.
Click here for November 9 handout

Presented to the Ohio School Boards Association Capital Conference, November 9, 2010

West Clermont Local Schools Department of Teaching & Learning
4350 Aicholtz Road Cincinnati OH 45245 | 513.943.5017
M.E. Steele-Pierce PhD Assistant Superintendent skype: steelepierce1
Cheryl Turner MEd Instructional Supervisor skype: cturnerr
Tanny McGregor MEd Instructional Supervisor skype: tanny744

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween 2.0

Grand Avenue

Source: 10-30-2010

Saturday, October 9, 2010

edcamp Cincy

W-T Elementary School was the host site of Greater Cincinnati's first edcamp, Saturday, October 9.

Learn about edcamps here.

Learn about edcamp Cincy here.

Follow the updated edcamp Cincy wiki here.

More photos and interviews here.

Sixty educators from around the Greater Cincinnati region gathered to create their own personal learning agendas and networking conversations. West Clermont participants included Julie Schneider, Tammy Marcotte, Cheryl Koehler, Kathy Stemmer, Joan Stear, Jeff Riel, Kendra Herdtner, LeAnna Webber, Joe Stahl, Alicia Walls, Scott Morgan, Matt White, Cheryl Turner and M.E. Steele-Pierce. Ask them about the day!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A (Brief) History of Learning: How Do You Learn?

At last Friday's kick off of Powerful Learning Practice, Will Richardson asked the 75 educators in the room, "How do you learn?" He challenged us that no conversation about educational reform can begin unless the focus is on LEARNING. He challenged us to consider our own learning systems and styles.

This morning I ran across this Prezi with commentary by Dallas McPheeters, entitled, "A 5000 Year Timeline of Learning Theories" (don't worry, it's 5000 years in 13 minutes). It begins and ends with the question, "How do you learn?"

5000 Year Timeline of Learning Theories from Dallas McPheeters on Vimeo.

One other thing, you'll find this Prezi and many, many other resources, videos, topics, and conversations on The Educator's PLN. It's a wonderful site for those of you building your own personal learning network. If you haven't toured it yet, please do. I invite you to join the conversation, or just lurk and learn for a while.


PS And thank you to Tom Whitby, a member of my PLN, for posting the tweet that led me to the video.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tech Tapas

We'll be serving up some tech tapas to Ohio's English language arts supervisors during Thursday's fall meeting at the Ohio Resource Center. Tapas are appetizers, designed to encourage conversation. Legend has it that originally tapas were salty, to provoke thirst. We're hoping that some of the tech tapas served will make our colleagues thirsty to learn more.

On the menu board (all FREE or very low cost)
Delicious: share you bookmarks, browse others by friend or topic
Voicethread: interactive way to teach with images and audio
Wallwisher: collect feedback
Jing: capture whatever's on your screen
Skype: use free audio and video conferencing
Twitter:  microblog (keepin' it concise) to learn, share, network
Ning: network securely and share resources
Google Docs: collaborate on all kinds of documents shorten those long URLs
Blogspot: blog from an easy-to-us template
Animoto: create video from your images

Buen Provecho!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

21C Skills for the Arts: Customizing to Our Circumstances

"If you're doing a thing that you're passionate about, time takes a different turn entirely," said Sir Ken Robinson in his 2010 TED Talk. We'll begin our K-8 Fine Arts professional learning day with Robinson's talk, "Bring on the Learning Revolution!"

Robinson urges us to examine what we take for granted and to consider what we need to leave behind to teach and learn in a new century. He invites us to change our metaphor of education from an industrial model (one size for all) to an agricultural one (organic and adapting). He goes on to talk about customizing to our circumstances, quoting Lincoln: "Let us not rise to the occasion. Rather, let us rise with the occasion."

Rising with the occasion, our K-5 Fine Arts teachers began their 21C Skills conversation* on our September 1 professional learning day. We used the Skills Map for the Arts created by P21, Partnership for 21st Century Skills. We'll be joined September 24 by our middle school arts teachers as we continue our exploration.

As we gather again on Friday we will focus on two of Robinson's themes: sharing our talents and collaborating on lessons that customize to our circumstances.

We'll enjoy the morning with our teacher showcase—sharing our diversity of talent. On deck so far: Tim Kloth will debut his newly completed composition, Mark Messerly will play a piece from his Thursday night gig at Grammers, Jennifer Witsken will share her pattern designs for knitting, and Pam Hall will show her favorite jewelry creations.

Then we'll follow Robinson's second charge—to customize to our circumstances. We'll play, experiment, innovate, and adapt to redesign a current lesson plan or unit, customizing with two or more 21C Skills:
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Innovation
  • Information Literacy
  • Media Literacy
  • Information, Communications, and Technology Literacy
  • Flexibility and Adaptability
  • Initiative and Self-Direction
  • Social and Cross-Cultural Skills
  • Productivity and Accountability
  • Leadership and Responsibility
We'll end the day collaborating and sharing our unit makeovers. Stay tuned for a showcase of lessons!
*About 21C Skills and our September 1 Arts conversation, what's the word? See for yourself:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Not Your Granny's Open House

Amelia Middle School's 7th and 8th grade open house let parents meets their students' teachers and their classrooms' technology tools. Parents got a chance to sign in on interactive white boards and practice texting responses to teachers' questions. Classes across the district and across the country adapt to 21st Century teaching and learning. Take a look!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Class of 2014: No Wristwatches, No Email

Yearly since 1998 two profs at Beloit College, Wisconsin, have created a Mindset List to help faculty better understand the incoming class. For those of us talking 21st Century Skills, this list is a powerful reminder.

Meet the CLASS of 2014, for whom...

1.  Few in the class write in cursive.
2.  Email is just too slow, and they seldom (if ever) use snail mail.
3.  Buffy has always been a vampire slayer at Hemery High.
4.  “Venti half-caf vanilla latte” has always been lingo.
5.  Clint Eastwood is known as a director, not as Dirty Harry.
6.  DNA fingerprinting and human genome maps have always existed.
7.  Korean cars have always been a staple on American highways.
8.  Their first computer's an Apple II. It’s now in a museum.
9.  Czechoslovakia never existed.
10. Second-hand smoke has always been an official carcinogen.
11. Bud Selig has always been the Commissioner of MLB.
12. Russians & Americans have always lived together in space.
13. Food’s always been irradiated.
14. Fergie is a pop singer, not a princess.
15. Nirvana is on the classic oldies station.
16. Rock bands have always played at presidential inaugural parties.
17. Michelangelo was just a computer virus.
18. Beethoven has always been a dog.
19. With cell phones to tell time, there’s no need for a wrist watch.

Source: Beloit College 2014 Mindset List. See the complete list here.

Image by Simon Peckham Flickr Creative Commons

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Writing is on the Screen

"The writing is on the screen" author Bill Kist reminds us about the new media age as he invites teachers to use Web 2.0 and social media technologies to reach 21st Century kids. Kist, author of The Socially Networked Classroom: Teaching in the New Media Age (2009), will join West Clermont for two interactive workshops Tuesday, August 17.  Location: Union Township Civic Center, Cincinnati, OH.

For teachers 5-12: 8:30 to 11:30 am: Teaching in the socially networked classroom.

For administrators: 12:30 to 3:30 pm: The new literacies: 21st century skills in our classrooms.

To learn more about Kist's book, see this great glogster review by Kevin Hodgson.

For information about registration:

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Did You Know? 4.0

Many of us have seen the original Did You Know video by Karl Fisch and Scott McLeod. This is the most recent version, updated in September 2009. I'm looking forward to the 2010 data, but still find this a powerful reminder as we enter a new school year. As adults, we can choose whether or not to use technology. Our children will not have that option. So our district's and schools' improvement plans this year include 21st Century Skills, for students and for staff. In the next month before our students return what new skills and technologies can we explore, try out, or just play with, to move us towards a 21st Century teaching & learning experience?


PS For me, I'm learning Prezi this summer, reading Drive by Daniel Pink, and taking part in an online book study.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

On Track for Graduation

This guest blog post was written by Dennis Ashworth, who retired as Glen Este High School principal July 2010. It was inspired by the Cincinnati Enquirer's questions on preventing high school drop outs.

West Clermont School District has developed intervention programs aimed at increasing our student graduation rate, and deterring teens from dropping out of school. Research shows that the two most critical years for high school students are the 9th and 10th grades. If students have little success and fall behind in those early years, the drop out rate increases dramatically.

Amelia and Glen Este High Schools have programs in place designed to help 9th and 10th grade students stay on track for graduation. We also have programs for juniors and seniors who need extra support during their last years of school.

9th Grade Transition Teams:
Each high school creates incoming 9th grade students' schedules so they are with a team of teachers each day. Transition team teachers develop a common academic plan, and they meet once a week to discuss student progress. The school day is designed to allow each student a sense of structure: what their day will look like, goals, objectives, activities, and expectations. Students get a sense of what to expect each day to organize and prepare for their daily routine. Each 9th grade student is given a Reading Comprehension Assessment and a Learning Style Inventory. Beginning in the fall of 2010, each 9th grader will take the PLAN test from ACT©. Each of these assessments allows the team to generate lessons, activities and assessments that best fit each student. Teachers get to know their students and have an increased opportunity for communication with parents. During parent-teacher conferences the parent can meet with the entire team and get a better picture of how their student works though out the entire day.

10th Grade Level Teams:
These teams operate on the same principle as the 9th grade teams but are designed to help students begin to use the skills from their 9th grade year as a basis for independent work, self motivation, and increased expectations. The Ohio curriculum is standards-based and is developed to give each student the best opportunity to pass the OGT (Ohio Graduation Test) on their first attempt.

Virtual School:
West Clermont has developed a Virtual School Program open to juniors and seniors who have credit deficiencies and are in danger of not graduating, or not graduating with their class. This on-campus program allows students to complete course work using an online high school program approved by the Ohio Department of Education. Students can access their courses both at school and at home which allows them to complete their needed credit requirements. This helps students catch up without overloading them with additional classes in their schedule. It gives them immediate feedback about their progress and allows them the opportunity to work at their own pace. Admittance policies for the Virtual School are stringent and students must maintain specific academic goals to remain in the program. An additional student benefit: the program operates through the summer allowing students to continue the path towards graduation.

Credit Recovery Program:
Credit Recovery operates in the same way as the Virtual Program but is designed for students who need only a few credits. Students maintain their regular daily schedules but have the opportunity to be placed in online courses that they have previously failed. Each student reports to the credit recovery site on campus one hour a day to work, plus they can access the class from home. Both semester work and yearlong work can be recovered this way.

OGT Intervention:
All 11th and 12th graders who have not passed the OGT are placed in OGT Intervention sessions. Students are given specific help in the content area that they must pass on the OGT, with practice tests and online access for additional support. West Clermont also offers Summer OGT Intervention for upperclass students who want to retake the test in July.

All Students:
All high school students have access to several intervention/support programs. West Clermont has developed an active study table program that operates after school three days a week. This 90-minute help session is opened to all students and has teacher support in all core areas. We also offer after school tutoring for any core subject area.

Our goal is to make sure that each student progresses in a way that allows them the opportunity to graduate with their class. Waiting until the senior year does not help the student, the parents, the community, or the district.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Teaching in the New Media Age

Mark your calendar! William Kist, author of The Socially Networked Classroom: Teaching in the New Media Age and The New Literacies, will join West Clermont for two workshops for teachers and administrators. Join us August 17 at the Union Township Civic Center, Cincinnati.

For teachers 5-12: 8:30 to 11:30 am: Teaching in the socially networked classroom.
For administrators: 12:30 to 3:30 pm: The new literacies: 21st century skills in our classrooms.

For information:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Leadership is Teaching

This is a repost from my first article on Ken Royal's Educators Royal Treatment at Scholastic. Feedback and comments welcome! M.E.

Leadership is Teaching

I love my work.

Last week, Jeff Goldstein (@doctorjeff) posted this provocative tweet: “Shouldn't it be joyful employment? Shouldn't that be THE goal?” As I recall, he was talking about the goal of schooling.

But I was stunned by the juxtaposition of those two words: joyful employment.

And it got me to thinking about why on earth I love working as a district administrator. After all, change is messy. You can’t please everyone. Bureaucracy abounds. There are no summers off. Nonetheless.

I get to teach. Every single day.

I remember when I first read James McGregor Burns definitive work Leadership. “Leaders shape and alter and elevate the motives and values and goals of followers through the vital teaching role of leadership,” he claimed. I leaned forward in my chair. Yes! I thought. This is exactly what I love about my work.

A decade ago I had the opportunity to work with coaches from the Change Leadership Group (CLG) at Harvard. Our district was a beta site for the CLG’s early work in building capacity in school leadership teams to move from school re-formation to school trans-formation.

I was fascinated to watch our CLG leaders at work. Their leadership reminded me of how I thought good teaching looked. Whenever I practiced what I they preached, it always felt like doing my best teaching. Eventually, this led me to formal research—and lots of informal observations—of good teaching and good leading. Really, they’re much the same, aren’t they?

So as long as I get to teach (almost) every single day, that’s joyful employment.

Like good teachers, good leaders:
Build trust
Form community
Clarify expectations
Break tasks into manageable chunks
Promote dialogue
Ask provocative questions

Good teachers and leaders use processes that help others to consider, connect, and reshape their thinking. They’re change agents. Simply put, they help us change our minds.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

R & R

It is summer break. This is my hammock. I plan to nap in my hammock on lazy, warm days. My Blackberry will be inside of my house, recharging. I will be outside in my hammock, doing the very same thing.

Relax and recharge: now that's the kind of R & R I'm looking for. And you need it, too. But don't take it from me...

Ingrid Bergman: "The best way to keep going is to keep going at whatever it is that keeps you going. With me, that's work, and a lot of it. And when a job is finished, relax and have fun!"

Ovid: "Take rest. A field that has rested gives a bountiful crop. What is without periods of rest will not endure."

Ernest Hemingway: "I still need more rest in order to work at my best. My health is the main capital I have and I want to administer it dilligently."

Karen Brademeyer: "Who among us hasn't envied a cat's ability to ignore the cares of daily life and to relax completely?"

Leonardo DaVinci : "Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen."


Monday, May 31, 2010

In Remembrance: Memorial Day 2010

One of West Clermont's longest running traditions is Willowville Elementary's Memorial Day Parade. Below are Principal Kennedy's remarks to students, veterans, and guests at their 33rd parade.

Again, I would like to welcome the Willowville community to the 33rd Annual Memorial Day Parade as we celebrate and honor all men and women who have fought for and defended our great nation. This day of celebration is for you!

Since the first official observance 1868, when it was called Decoration Day, it has been a day of remembrance; a time to honor, respect, and thank those who fought to protect our freedom.

The American flag is a symbol of freedom that we celebrate and hold sacred. Let it also remind each of us of the sacrifices made by men and women throughout our nation. Too often we fail to remember those who gave their life or those whose life today bears scars as a lasting memory of that sacrifice and commitment. There are many who remember vividly as the lives affected were sons, daughters, parents, aunts, uncles, friends, coworkers, and neighbors.

As educators, we have a responsibility to educate these young minds about the sacrifice others have made so that they may live in this outstanding country. So to all of those who fought, we owe them the honor of our respect for delivering to us liberty upon nothing less than the commitment of their life and the willingness to lose it for our freedom. Friends ~ Freedom is not free ~ let us never forget!

For 33 years Willowville families have gathered and paused to reflect on just what has been given and sacrificed so that freedom could ring across this great land. To all the veterans sitting here today and those who have given the ultimate sacrifice ~ this celebration and day of remembrance is for you!

Michelle Kennedy

Monday, May 24, 2010

Undercover Readers: RTRW 2010

In the Teaching & Learning Community, we celebrate reading 365 days a year. It's so nice, though, to have an official week of festivities that gives reading the honor it deserves. After all, reading gives us knowledge, pleasure and escape anytime, anywhere. And compared to the cost of other entertainment, it costs next to nothing!

The twelve schools in our district observed Right to Read Week in a wide variety of ways, with varying themes. Activities included everything from reading parades to crazy contests to book fairs. Students and teachers read together each day, responding to the reading in book clubs, nings and at evening events.

Our schools have celebrated Right to Read Week for decades, but this year our district office decided to join in on the fun. We work together each day, know a lot about each others families and interests. But we don't necessarily know each other as readers. We captured images of our favorite books, tucked away our photographs underneath, and created an interactive hallway display entitled, "Undercover Readers". Here's the district office custodian, Edith. She loves Gone With The Wind, but we didn't know it until now!

Next year promises to be bigger and better. Our community of readers will have read millions more words, turned thousands more pages, and scanned as many screens of text.  We're all thankful for the right to read!


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Improvement Planning for 2010-11

Ohio requires that each of its 611 districts participate in the OIP, the Ohio Improvement Process. The OIP is a decision-making process established by the state—its products are the district's and schools' improvement plans.

Below are the district goal and five strategies for West Clermont's improvement plan and each school's improvement plan for 2010-11.

GOAL: By 2012, a minimum of 85% of West Clermont students will achieve proficient or above in Ohio Academic Content Standards, as measured by DIBELS, OAA/OGT and 22 composite on the ACT, with a 33% decrease in the achievement gap for all subgroups.

Strategy 1. All Instruction for core curricula aligns with Ohio Academic Content Standards grade level indicators.

Strategy 2. All assessments are aligned with Ohio Academic Content Standards grade level indicators.

Strategy 3. All teachers and administrators integrate 21st Century Skills (collaboration, critical thinking, communication, creativity) across the curriculum, supported by technology.

Strategy 4. All teachers implement “high-yield” instructional strategies across the curriculum, supported by technology:
· Summarizing and note taking
· Non-linguistic representation
· Setting objectives and providing feedback

Strategy 5. All schools implement and monitor the Response To Intervention process (RTI) to ensure positive behavior support within a safe learning environment and ensure adequate student progress in academic content areas.

Thanks to our District Leadership Team for excellent work on the district's improvement plan and the Ohio Decision Framework: Cheryl Turner, facilitator, Gary Brooks, Al Delgado, Toni Meyer, Tanny McGregor, Michelle Kennedy, Nancy Parks, Stephanie Walker, Kevin Thacker, Debbie Hobbs, Ross Hudson, Tim McGonagil, Chuck Boothby, Amy Storer, Sarah Vakharia, Mary Jane Wolf, Tracy Yarchi, and Matt Spangler. Thank you!
Jargon Buster:

ACT - The ACT® is a curriculum-based (not aptitude) test that assesses high school students' ability to complete college-level work in English, math, reading, and science. It is universally accepted for college admission. The highest score possible is 36. The national composite score for 2008 was 21.1.

Decision Framework - An electronic representation of our student achievement data. It’s a one-stop data source and a decision-making tool. Each building has its own Building Decision Framework available online. Teachers, have you seen your school's Decision Framework?

DIBELS - Dynamic Indicators of Basic Literacy Skills is a diagnostic measure of children’s basic reading skills (for example, fluency) that predict student success in reading comprehension. DIBELS is a screening assessment of skills. It is not a reading program.

OAA - The Ohio Achievement Assessment is the state’s accountability measure for grades 3 through 8. Ohio is in process of revising standards for all tested subject areas, which will in turn affect the OAA* within the next few years. Because of budget cuts, Ohio has suspended testing in writing (grades 4 and 7) and social studies (grades 5 and 8) for the next two years.

OGT - The Ohio Graduation Test is the state’s accountability measure for high schools. Governor Strickland has called for the OGT to be replaced by the ACT (or another college readiness measure), though details and timelines have not been determined.

RTI - Response to Intervention is a multi-level prevention program that integrates assessment and instruction to maximize student achievement and reduce behavior problems.

To see more of our "Jargon Buster" glossary, click here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Teaching Role of Leadership

James McGregor Burns (1978) writes of the "vital teaching role of leadership." As state and federal requirements for public schools become more complex, leadership at every level is more and more necessary. Teachers bring practical, grounded experience and wisdom to the table as schools and districts face new challenges of accountability and education reform.

To this end, the Ohio Department of Education recently moved to four levels of teacher licensure:
Resident Educator
Professional Educator
Senior Professional Educator
Lead Professional Educator

One way to be eligible for advanced licensure is to receive the new Master Teacher designation. To achieve this designation teachers must demonstrate mastery in the seven Ohio teaching standards:
1. Teachers understand student learning and development, and respect the diversity of the students they teach.
2. Teachers know and understand the content area for which they have instructional responsibility.
3. Teachers understand and use varied assessments to inform instruction, evaluate, and ensure student learning.
4. Teachers plan and deliver effective instruction that advances the learning of each individual student.
5. Teachers create learning environments that promote high levels of learning and achievement for all students.
6. Teachers collaborate and communicate with students, parents, other educators, administrators, and the community to support student learning.
7. Teachers assume responsibility for professional growth, performance and involvement as an individual and as a member of a learning community.

At the May 10, 2010, meeting of the West Clermont Board of Education, Board members and district administration recognized 19 teachers who fulfilled requirements to become Master Teachers. Our spring 2010 cadre of Master Teachers includes Katrina Smith, Gary Bertsch and Ceil Kuzma (AHS); Kathy Baughman and Tracy Yarchi (GEHS); Rena Ford and Jennifer Mirlisena (AMS); Mary Jane Wolff and Joe Schuh (GEMS); Judy Bruns (WT); Mary Taylor and Beth Flanigan (WV); Bonnie Frey (SS); Holly Brown and Renee Renken (MER); Margo Johnson (HH); Beth Testa (CP); Ann Marie Thornton (BE); Julie Schneider (AE).

For the highest licensure level, Lead Professional Educator, criteria includes completing a university program of endorsement in Teacher Leadership and being designated as a Master Teacher or attaining National Board Certification. Also at the May 10 Board meeting, West Clermont recognized seven teachers who achieved the Teacher Leader endorsement. These professionals completed ten graduate level semester hours from the University of Cincinnati's new Teacher Leader program, one of only two in the state. Our first Teacher Leader corps includes Robin Blamer (CP); Angela Preece and Gina McNeil (HH); Joe Stahl (WT); Liz Hanke (WV); Tracy Yarchi and Andrea Taktak (GEHS).

With congratulations and gratitude,

For information on either of these programs for 2010-11, contact Ms. Angie Ferguson at the West Clermont Board office.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Home Grown Professional Development

   I used to think Professional Development was "for sale." That is, I used to think it was strictly something you pursued out of district in order to learn from an "expert" about how to improve student learning.

   However, I now realize the most effective Professional Development is "home grown." It is not a commercial product or service, but an opportunity for colleagues to learn from each other, discuss, analyze, etc. within a local learning network. In Results Now, Mike Schmoker states that "effective team-based learning communities - not workshops- are the very best kind of professional development (p. 109)." These professional learning communities begin to build a new culture of teaching, as teachers realize that knowledge of improvement can and should be generated from within.

   This year, the majority of Professional Development in West Clermont has been modeled after such learning communities. As a member of several Professional Learning Networks (PLNs), I have worked with colleagues to examine student data, design instruction aligned with data, learn about technology applications, create common assessments, etc.  We discovered, just like Schmoker said, that the experts are among us!

   Such PLNs can bring about systemic results as teachers collaborate and examine student data, discuss best practices, and share new learning in meaningful ways that impact student learning and instructional practices. As a result, professional development looks differently and feels differently. This is something that cannot be purchased or commercialized.

   Here are a few pictures from our WC "experts" participating in "home-grown" Professional Development.



Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Pink Link: A 21st Century Book Club

Q:     What do you get when you mix 8th and 9th grade students with laptop computers, a social media platform, and an engaging work of nonfiction?

Thanks to a grant from the High Aims Consortium, nearly 300 of West Clermont's 8th and 9th grade English students participated in our first-ever NING-based book study. Grant money was used to purchase a copies of A Whole New Mind by best-selling author Daniel Pink. Document cameras were also purchased to enable teachers to maximize the effectiveness of the book's portfolio exercises during the school day.

Here's how it worked for us. With the help of student Taylor Olmstead, Amelia High School IB English teacher Angie Ferguson created a NING as a place where our students could trade ideas about their reading. English teachers Michelle Dohrmann (Glen Este High School) and Rena Ford (Amelia Middle School) joined Angie, and the three teachers began the online book-study, across grade-levels and campuses. Kids kept pace with each other, reading and discussing each chapter with accompanying portfolio exercises. Laptops were used in class and at home. High-level discussions were the rule  of the day! And with nearly 100% student participation, teachers learned that using the NING platform to spark motivation and engagement is the way to go!

Visit us. Sign on to our NING and post a comment. The students would love to hear from you.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Why Blog?

At the end of last school year, we began TLC: Teaching. Learning. Community. It is our first attempt at blogging. We've learned lots and have lots still to learn—about using digital tools, about communicating, and about 21st Century leadership.

Back in May we wrote: How do we communicate news and views about teaching and learning in westcler with more of you (teachers) and fewer of us (T&L staff)? And how do we make this news a give and take? Jodi D took a bold step this year and starting blogging with her fourth graders. It's easy. They love it. And we hope you will, too. Check out Sachi and Lee LeFever 's "Blogs in Plain English" on TeacherTube.

So far, we've averaged two posts a week. And though we only starting tracking visitors in January 2010, since then we've had over 9,900 visits—awaiting our 10,000th visitor.

But the best part is that teachers around the district are now using their own blogs to communicate with their families and community. Recently teachers Joe Stahl and Lori Van Eman taught fellow kindergarten teachers how to set up their own blogs to stay in touch with their families. Lori said, "I loved having the chance to work one on one with teachers to help personalize their blog. I think that teachers were excited, encouraged and empowered to try this 21st century communication tool. Everyone said the same thing when they created a blog, 'That's it?!' I don't think that people believe us when we say it is really that easy."

Lori Huntington, Cindy Srouf, Caroline Demoss, Barb Clark, Julia Smith, & Mona Wells. 

West Clermont's TLC was featured in a March Community Press and article:

By Kellie Geist • March 19, 2010

When the West Clermont Local School District teaching and learning staff was cut almost in half last spring, the remaining employees had to find a way to serve the district.

"We went from five people to three people, which is pretty extraordinary for a district with 9,000 students," said Mary-Ellen Steele-Pierce, assistant superintendent who works with the teaching and learning department. "We had to figure out how, with just three people, we could maximize our time and resources."

At the same time, Steele-Pierce and a number of staff members were learning about Web 2.0, which is the idea that you don't just use the Web for finding information, but for communicating through tools such as blogs and social networks.

Steele-Pierce decided a free blog was the perfect way to stay in touch with and serve the needs of teachers and administrators in all 12 school buildings.

"It was just a nice confluence of learning something at just the right time," she said.

So the teaching and learning staff put together a blog containing posts about teachers in the district, ideas for lessons and just straight inspiration.

Originally, staff put up about one post a week, but during their March Madness challenge, they created posts for every day in March.

Although keeping the blog fresh does take time, Steele-Pierce said they're not hurting for blogging ideas. Between brainstorming, conferences and professional development days, the creative juices just keep flowing. And their efforts are not without rewards. The blog received 9,130 visits from people around the world between Jan. 2 and March 18.

"Our target audience is the West Clermont community, but we're hoping people will see this as a place to get information, learn about us and talk. We love when people make comments," Steele-Pierce said.

Amelia Middle School Assistant Principal Tim McGonagil said the site is an excellent resource for the teachers and administrators both in his school and throughout the district because it gets people talking about teaching and learning.

For example, the site recently featured articles about two middle school teachers who are doing interesting things in their classrooms. Those ideas, including using the "Teen Tribune" online newspaper written for and by teenagers, have spread throughout the school.

"The teaching and learning site gets the creative wheels turning and it keeps the teaching talking about what's going on in the classroom. It creates that buzz," McGonagil said. "It's good positive reinforcement and a great resource."

Steele-Pierce said she plans to continue updating the blog and incorporate it into the daily workings of the teaching and learning department.

"This is something we would like to keep up. We're still learning and finding out ways to make it better and more user-friendly for our teachers," she said. "I think it has helped us think in new ways about our work and the way we communicate, but I also think it's inspired our teachers and principals to learn more about technology. It's helped people think in new and different ways."

Friday, April 23, 2010

West Clermont Art Show 2010

Update!  Thanks to our 804 visitors, 18 art teachers, and countless young artists.  A special thank you to AMS teacher Joan Mountel for sketching caricatures, student artist Tony Reed for drawing on site for five hours, student string musicians Nick Sunday and Audrey Algers for providing live music, Kim Ziebold for serving as coordinator liaison, and Tanny McGregor for overseeing the annual show. 
Please join us!
Saturday, April 24
Sunday, April 25
Noon to 5:00 pm
Union Township Civic Center
12 Schools
Hundreds of student artists!

Click to see a preview: West Clermont Art Show 2010

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

We Love Our Secretaries

Support (verb): sustain, maintain, hold up, bear, carry, shore up, brace, encourage, help, assist, aid, defend, champion, provide, fend for, confirm, and uphold.

Everyone knows that the daily work in our schools is supported by our wonderful secretaries. We don't remember to tell them offer enough, so it's good that there's an "Administrative Professionals Day" each April to cause us to pause, remember, and THANK our district secretaries.

Thank you all for all you do!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

April is National Poetry Month!

In April 2003, my then six year old daughter Brynne wrote her first poem. I've been carrying it around ever since, charmed by the invented spelling, rhythm and emotion it holds. Here it is, accessible to the world for the very first time. Unedited.

"Sping! Sping!
I love Sping!
its My favrit
thing You no.
There are
Los of
flowrs to
and los
of Thnigs
to Do.
Spring! Spring!
I Love you."

In 1996, the Academy of American Poets instituted the month of April as National Poetry Month. Each year, educators recognize the uniqueness that is poetry, and celebrate the place it holds in our culture. No matter what the age of your students, no matter what subject you teach, there's always a way to share a poem. Take a look at these online resources.

Poem in Your Pocket Day

Poem Flow for iPhones

Request a FREE Poetry Month Poster!

Instructional ideas from Scholastic
Lesson plans from ReadWriteThink

Listen to a poem-a-day from NCTE

Deep down, you're a poet. And you know it.

Happy "Sping"!


Friday, April 2, 2010

Adolescent Literacy: In Perspective

"One of the biggest frustrations that many teachers wrestle with in the classroom is a lack of motivation among students. As teachers, we worry about how to motivate students who appear unmotivated and apathetic. We worry because as decades of research have revealed, motivation is integrally connected to achievement," writes literacy coordinator Kevin Perks in the March/April 2010 issue of Adolescent Literacy: In Perspective from the Ohio Resource Center.

Click here for the March/April issue. Table of Contents:

Crafting Effective Choices to Motivate Students by Kevin Perks

Choice at Finland Middle School by Paul Smathers, Debbie Camp, David Hampson, Barry Alcock, Julie Ison, and Lynnette Stephens

Providing Choice—A Risk Worth Taking for Teachers and Students by Amy Bradley and Michael Alcock

When You Give Me a Choice,You Give Me a Chance by Joleata Tidwell-Howell

A LOOK AT THE OGT: Teaching to the Test and Beyond by Carol Brown Dodson

FOR YOUR BOOKSHELF: Books by Gallagher, Bigelow and Voukon, Harvey and Daniels,and Quate and McDermott by Sheila Cantlebary

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

March Madness: Tone of Voice

As I think I've mentioned in previous blog posts, I'm the mother of 2 middle school daughters. (Mix that sentence with the title of this post and I'm sure you can guess where I'm going with this!)

As you can imagine, sometimes emotions run high when it comes to which movies are appropriate, the right time for curfew, and what it means to "clean your room". Many times we end our family discussions, lively as they might be, by saying "it's not what you said, it's how you said it."

Around this time of year, that comment applies to our professional community. We get stressed out because of testing. The behavior of our students is often more difficult to manage when the weather gets nice. The year is quickly coming to a close and we still have so much to do! All of these things can be cause for short-tempers and sarcasm.

I have this quotation hanging on the bulletin board above my desk.

"Ninety percent of the friction of daily life is caused by the wrong tone of voice." Anonymous

It helps me to remember this. Just thought I'd share.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

March Madness: Hungry Minds

Brantner student feeds body and mind during Family Literacy Night.

     Hungry for a good book? Pizza, books and theatre were on the menu for Brantner Elementary students during Family Literacy Night.

     Students and  families were treated to a book of their choice, a magazine, pizza and a performance of Hansel and Gretel by The Children's Theatre of Cincinnati. 

     Title 1 teachers Courtney Wallace and Martha Jackson organized the event with the help of Brantner staff. The goal of the program is to develop family literacies and encourage home-school connections.
     Check out this 5-star event!


Monday, March 29, 2010

Free Webinar with Sir Ken Robinson

For those of you who enjoyed the video clip by creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson on our February 26 professional learning day, or Tanny's blog post about it, great news:

Tune in for a FREE webinar with him Tuesday, March 30, at 8:00 pm EST.

The webinar room on Elluminate will open at 7:30 pm EST. Register at

For more information, visit Steve Hargadon's site.

See you, and Sir Ken Robinson, online Tuesday night!


March Madness: Why Skype?

Skype is an internet telephone service that allows people around the country and around the world to enjoy free video calls. For students, that means free access to resources and to fellow students worldwide. For teachers and administrators districtwide, that means video conferencing in real time without having to leave their schools.

"I was somewhat familar with Skype because we use it for my own children to call and see their grandparents in Florida," said Holly Hill teacher Heather Copley. "But I never thought about using it in the classroom until the Ohio eTech Skype session. Now I'm brainstorming how to use it!"

Copley shared about her recent Ohio eTech conference workshop on Skyping:

"The focus of this session was using webcams to connect to classrooms. By having a webcam and downloading the free Skype software, you can call anyone else on Skype, for free, throughout the world! Many ideas were presented on how to use Skype. Classrooms can connect to each other to do book talks, read to each other, or form online e-pals. The presenter had some of her students connect to a preschool room and read books to the younger children. Two classrooms connected students from Japan (one who was also fluent in English) to help with the language barrier for the student who only knew Japanese. The school also used it to connect the middle school band to the upper elementary school students to do an online field trip."

Kindergarten teachers Lori Van Eman and Joe Stahl use Skype to connect their classes to share and learn with one another. During the Winter Olympics they Skyped with classes in Kansas, California, and Canada.

Interested in connecting with other Skyping classes? Learn about Around the World with 80 Schools to open the walls of your classroom...for free!

Amelia's Kinder-Skypers were featured in the Cincinnati Enquirer in February:

By Cindy Kranz • February 26, 2010

AMELIA - When Lori Van Eman’s kindergartners first learned that Olympic snowboarder and gold medalist Shaun White is nicknamed “The Flying Tomato,” they giggled and laughed.

The Amelia Elementary kindergartners are still giggling about the reference to White’s red hair.

It’s the favorite fun fact they’ve learned about the 2010 Olympic Winter Games – and they learned it while Skyping with other kindergartners in White’s home state of California.

Since the Vancouver Olympics began nearly three weeks ago, the Amelia kindergartners have been Skyping – seeing and hearing each other over the Internet – with The Village School in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and Haultain Community School in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.

They also Skype daily with Joe Stahl’s kindergarten class at Withamsville-Tobasco Elementary and have Skyped several times with Mary Lou Van Eman’s third-grade class at Mercer Elementary in Anderson Township. She’s Van Eman’s mother.

“We want to see the learning at home connect to the learning at school,” Van Eman said. “It’s letting them know they can go home and Skype anybody you want. It’s forming that friendship and that eagerness to learn what others are doing, what others are seeing.”

The kindergartners have been Skyping once a week with the California and Canadian schools since the Olympics began two weeks ago. Sessions last around 8 minutes, which is about their maximum attention span, Van Eman said. During that time, they exchange information about athletes and events, plus track medals won by the United States.

On Thursday, Van Eman’s students Skyped with their California friends. The first time Van Eman’s students Skyped with the California school, they couldn’t understand why they were wearing shorts.

“The kids could not get over that the climate was different there,” she said.

To give their new friends a taste of snow, Van Eman’s class made a video outside and threw snowballs at the camera.

The students also keep Olympic journals and graphs of the number of gold, silver and bronze medals won by the United States, which allows Van Eman to test their language and math skills.

Van Eman writes a classroom blog, which is now populated with photos and information about the students’ Olympics lessons.

After the Olympics, she and her students have an appointment to Skype with Kelli Stack of Brooklyn Heights, Ohio, a member of the silver medal-winning women’s ice hockey team.

Although the Olympics end Sunday, Van Eman’s class will continue Skyping with their new California friends. Plans are to become reading buddies with the children.

A year ago, Van Eman didn’t have any of the resources that she does now.

“I can honestly say that it has changed my students’ learning 100 percent,” Van Eman said. “There is little need for redirection when we are working with the SMART board technology or Skyping because the students know that if anything is going to happen it is going to be happening on our board.”

“Their eyes are always glued to see what is coming next.”
This is post 21 out of 23 in our March Madness series.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Ohio's Science Standards for Review

The second draft of the revised PreK-12 Science Education Standards for Ohio has been posted for public review. The documents include the PreK-8 grade-by-grade descriptions and the high school syllabi. The high school syllabi were developed based on the requirements of the Ohio core but do not represent all the possible courses for the advanced science requirements. All of the materials, which illustrate what science content is recommended for each grade, may be viewed by clicking here.

The second draft materials will be available for public comment from now until April 19, 2010. You may use the feedback questionnaire, located at the same site, to provide input from your review of this latest version of the science standards. Feedback from this round of public review and comment will be part of the ongoing revision process. The final version of the PreK-12 Science Education Standards for Ohio will be submitted to the State Board of Education in May for adoption during the June 2010 State Board meeting.

Public response on the first draft of the revised science standards was received from 103 focus/discussion groups (1184 individual participants) and 456 individual survey responses, for a total of 1640 individuals. As a result of the public feedback and the National Expert reviews, ODE staff reviewed and incorporated suggested changes when appropriate. The Science Standards Working Group, made up of teachers and science content and science education faculty from institutions of higher education also reviewed the feedback and contributed to the current draft.

Examples of changes include a reworking of content statements on energy at the elementary-level in the physical science standards to address energy in a less abstract, more observable manner; illustrating more explicitly the relationship of scientific inquiry to the revised science standards, and providing more clarity in the high school syllabi for physical science and biology. Additional research was conducted at both the national and international level to ensure that the latest revisions reflect the accepted learning progressions for the main themes within the science disciplines.

Technological design and 21st-century skills are critical to the teaching and learning of science and help to ensure that students are ready for careers or college. These important components will be blended with scientific inquiry and applications in the Model Curriculum. This next phase of the science standards addresses “how” science should be taught. The Model Curriculum will also emphasize real-world applications and making science relevant to students. The combination of the “what” of the revised science standards and the “how” of the Model Curriculum will contribute to increased depth of student learning and provide the components essential for encouraging scientific literacy for all students.

The third phase of the science standards revision will include the development of the “Eye of Integration.” (The “Eye” is illustrated in the PDF introduction to the second draft of the science standards.) This tool will be designed to encourage teachers to think about how content can be integrated between different disciplines and provide examples of possible cross-curricular integration. This cross-curricular integration has the potential of increasing the depth of the content, adding relevancy and helping to develop real-world and global connections. The integration includes engineering, technology and universal skills that ensure students are learning what they need to succeed after high school.

No revised standards will be implemented until new assessments are in place (probably around 2013). Given the proposed timing on the national standards, there will be time to make any needed adjustments before teachers are confronted with revised science standards. The emphasis for teachers between now and about 2013 will be to teach the current standards, using scientific inquiry in conjunction with the 5Es, emphasizing content depth. Click here to see the Ohio Science Matrix, a good reference.

Source: ODE Science Initiatives Administrator, Constance K. Barsky PhD, with permission to share.

March Madness: The "T" Word

In Ohio, it's just about that time. TEST time. Like I need to remind you! Here are a few things on my mind this time of year.

Two of my instructional heroines, Stephanie Harvey &  Anne Goudvis, suggest teaching "test taking" just as you would any other genre. The ideal time for teaching it is 3 to 4 weeks prior to a high-stakes test. Teach pacing, format, key words, types of questions and general guidelines for navigating through a test. And don't forget stress management!

Remember: Your students need you to appear calm (even if you're nervous on the inside)...and to show confidence in their abilities. Believe in the strong instruction you've provided all year long.

David Pearson said it best. "Never send a test out to do a curriculum's job." (Pearson, 2005). The very best test preparation is, and always has been, building strong readers, writers & thinkers. Not just for the test, but for life.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

March Madness: Teach Every Child About Food

I'm all for handheld devices for our young learners. But there's one handheld I'm eager to see less of: fast food. Nachos, french fries, burgers, burritos, Little Debbies, and the like. Some of you know that I call myself an "aspiring locavore" and that I've committed myself to more "slow food." That means I'm working to eliminate, as much as I can, fast food from my diet. And especially I'm trying to stay away from processed foods and to cook from scratch, staying as close to the source as possible. I'd say I'm about 70% there.

And so, I'm looking forward to Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution starting on ABC this week. It's about teaching our children about real food and life skills.

Won't you join me in taking small steps to assuring that our children learn about real food, not just "handheld" food, about good taste, easy recipes, and healthy eating.

Bon appétit!

PS One quick and easy guide is Michael Pollan's Food Rules.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

March Madness: The Halls & Walls Talk

A thoughtfully designed, inviting classroom environment speaks to the students who spend time there each day. It tells them that their teacher cares enough to create a space where learning can thrive! Case in point: the classroom of Clough Pike Elementary 2nd grade teacher, Robin Blamer. The halls and walls in and around Robin's room are filled with authentic, student-driven writing, charts and drawings. There's never a doubt about what Robin's students have been learning. Just look around. It's all right there!


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Welcome to Reading Street

Thank you to the West Clermont Board of Education for adopting Reading Street for our young readers, grades one through five at the March 22 Board meeting. The Teaching & Learning Department shared teachers' and students' voices about the program via a VoiceThread. Hear what they had to say:

Credits: Cheryl Turner, producer
Lisa Canter
Natalie Crawford
Cathy Cumbow
Jody Davis
Krista Devine
Devon Glassburn
Jeanne Halladay
Jackie Hospelhorn
Mimi Ladenburger
Gail Matheny
Layna Stiles
Mary Taylor
Stephanie Walker
Monte Wilson
West Clermont third graders

March Madness: In Search of Spring Reading

Spring break is coming and for some people that means time—at last—for pleasure reading. I took my bibliophile curiosity to work today to see what our colleagues are reading and recommending. Hope you get some ideas here for your spring break beach reads (readers' names in parentheses):

The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl (Nancy Maher)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (Tim McGonagil)
Prey by Michael Crichton (Gary Bertsch)
Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier (Tanny McGregor)
Under the Dome by Stephen King (Gary Brooks)
Copper Sun by Sharon Draper (Jill Hartard)
Apollyon: The Destroyer is Unleashed by Tim LaHaye and JerryJenkins (Sarah Bose)
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski (Kendra Herdtner)
World Without End by Ken Follett (Katie Hauer and Courtney Gelter)
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriell Barbery (Kathy Stemmer)
South of Broad by Pat Conroy (Pat Crahan)
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien (Jake Riordan)
The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs (Cyndee Westermann)
The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult (Becky McCammon)
I Alex Cross by James Patterson (Tracey Collins)

Man of Constant Sorrow: My Life and Times by Ralph Stanley and Eddie Dean (Rudi Smith)
Linchpin by Seth Godin (Laura Nazzarine and Cheryl Turner)
Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath (Jeff Riel)
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse (Jim Beshalske)
The Explosive Child by (Kathy Ballitch)
New Found Land by Allan Wolf (Steve Brungs)
Death in Yellowstone by Lee Whittlesey (Jim Mason)
What the Dog Saw by Malcome Gladwell (James Shelton)

What are you currently reading? Comment, below, with your spring break recommendations.


PS For me it's a nonfiction work The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Photo credit: "Reading on Tangalle Beach" by via Flickr Creative Commons