U.S. Teachers Face Global Challenges

By now, you’re probably well aware that schools in the U.S. have been shown to perform at lower levels than their global counterparts. With the passing years, our ranking on the world’s educational ladder, has not fallen, but plummeted. Speculation as to the cause of our country’s educational demise has led to several far-reaching national strategies, but it seems nothing has worked to stabilize or raise the standards.

A recent survey released in the latter weeks of June by the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) found surprising results concerning our nation’s teachers. Although test scores have dropped in accordance with other countries throughout the world, teachers have been working longer hours under more difficult conditions than their counterparts in other countries. With the majority of teachers (66% or more) working in schools where greater than 30% of the students are economically disadvantaged, teachers are finding it difficult to meet the basic student needs of enough food, sleep, and a feeling of security. When student needs are not met, students either are unable to learn successfully, or their ability to focus is greatly diminished. Likewise, teachers are acting as liaisons between the school system and families of these disadvantaged students, and a great portion of their time is dedicated to assisting entire families to ensure students attend school fully prepared to learn. To compound this situation, two-thirds of teachers in the United States believe their profession is undervalued and have stated they were not receiving beneficial professional development or proper feedback from fellow teachers or administrators.

The study gave suggestions to ensure a solution to this grim situation. One of the most pressing results shown through this study is that U.S. schools need a system overhaul to allow teachers more time for collaboration. Schools across the world have more collaborative environments, and subsequently more classroom success.

eSchool Solutions offers comprehensive teacher management software to give your teachers the training they need. Do you believe collaboration with your peers and administrators will improve student success? What other factors could lead to the United States’ reclamation of their previous standing? Let us know by visiting our Facebook page and leaving a comment.

Mixing Disciplines is Key for Implementation

What happens when you mix a little bit of science with a pinch of art and a dash of engineering? The magic of learning! Robin Paul, a science teacher at Lindero Canyon Middle School in Agoura Hills, California, was selected to receive the Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence for her lesson plans incorporating diverse disciplines along with the science curriculum she teaches to her students. Along with the prestigious award, Paul was presented with a check for $5,000. Ms. Paul stated she wished to provide students with the opportunity to “think, create, and discover as they acquire new knowledge and skills.”

Three of the lessons Ms. Paul teaches were highlighted during the program, and ranged from building a car using a mouse trap by using ideas based in physics to move the car forward, to drawing a comic strip explaining a scientific theory or idea. By incorporating different disciplines into her lesson plans, Ms. Paul is able to reach more students who may not readily participate or understand scientific concepts. Likewise, with most of the lessons labeled as “hands-on,” students are able to retain the information more readily and explain difficult ideas with confidence. Many of Ms. Paul’s lesson plans have been developed into “ready-to-share” lessons for other science teachers to utilize in their own classrooms. These lessons earned her an Impact II award from the Ventura County Office of Education. Impact II is a national curriculum-sharing and recognition program for K-12 teachers that grants up to $500 for individual lesson plan proposals or $750 for collaborative work.

Do you think lessons such as those created by Robin Paul would work in your classroom or school district? Why or why not? What methods do you find most helpful to enhance student learning? We would love to read your comments–start the discussion or chime in with your ideas. Find the most integrated teacher development program available from eSchool Solutions today.

Graduate School Offers Free Master’s Program to Help Raise Literacy Levels

In an effort to enhance the teaching potential of its educators, the Norwalk Public School district in Connecticut recently launched a program specific to literacy instruction. Ten teachers, in grades kindergarten through third grade, were given the opportunity to earn a master’s degree in teaching and foundations with a concentration in literacy. The program was funded by Fairfield University’s Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions and the Anne E. Fowler Foundation. The funding granted ten educators the ability to earn an advanced degree with living expenses and health insurance provided as the educators concentrated fully on their three-semester master’s degree. In return, the districts in which the teachers are employed will grant their educators a one-year leave of absence as a period of professional development for teachers. Once the teachers return, the school district will benefit by having additional teachers on staff with the skills to improve student reading levels, which will act to bridge the divide between students in low socioeconomic situations and their peers.

The second goal of this far-sweeping program is to raise awareness of Connecticut’s literacy shortfall–they rank 50th overall when compared to other states. Once awareness has been established, the Foundation hopes to develop additional partnerships with organizations to permit a greater number of educators to enroll in advanced studies. With teachers who are better equipped to understand and overcome the obstacles noted in regards to students living in or below the poverty level, Connecticut is hoping to increase literacy rates overall and assist lower income students in catching up with their peers. Currently 80% of Connecticut’s students categorized as minority, poor, or otherwise disadvantaged are reading below grade level upon entering fourth grade.

Because this program is still in its infancy, no data is available to prove how effective it will be for Norwalk’s students. Has your school district enacted a policy similar to the one in the Norwalk Public School district? If so, how long has it been available? Have you partaken in this type of professional development for teachers? What do you think? Would you recommend this policy for other school districts? We would love to read your discussions on Facebook.

Technology Enters the Classroom for Student Success

In an effort to maintain their district’s push toward digitization, ten Baltimore County public schools in Maryland have been chosen to pilot a program known as Lighthouse Schools, part of the Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow (STAT) initiative. These schools are segueing into technology-friendly classrooms by distributing digital learning devices to each student and ensuring learning standards are enriched with the most up-to-date technology. Beginning with ten schools, the program plans on reaching every classroom by providing training through teacher development programs to utilize technology to improve how and what students learn. Technology is often considered an equalizer in that it reaches students who would not normally engage in a learning activity. Studies have proven that when students are engaged, doors open and learning floods in.

With one teacher from each grade level present at the conference, attendees will be able to share ideas and collaborate with peers in their same grade level, thereby building camaraderie and confidence before the new information is presented to students district-wide. The conference allowed educators to choose the session they wished to attend; in turn, when they were comfortable with the material, they were able to share it by blogging to their peers who were not present.

Many of the ideas showcased in the sessions were used to stimulate multiple learning modalities to maintain student engagement. A video program as well as the audio program Audacity, which edits and records voices and sounds, were presented to enhance student reading skills. Reading fluency with the aid of technology and media was another topic presented to teachers. Educators were enthusiastic with the focus of technology in the classroom. Whitney Plunkett, a first-grade teacher, stated, “I have learned a lot about the different resources I can use in my classroom to engage my students.”

Baltimore County administrators expect to expand this program to all its schools in the coming years, giving teachers the ability to teach their students in methods more appropriate for the digital future.

What is your opinion on technology in teacher development programs? Do you believe it will create a more successful teacher development program? Let us know; we look forward to sharing ideas with you.

Keeping Teachers Engaged in Professional Development

One of the easiest ways to learn is through emulation and practice. In the past, it seemed professional development for teachers (PD) did not take this simple fact into consideration as most PD programs were canned and far from stimulating, and teachers were present only to tack another round of training onto their growing list of mandatory hours. Finally the fallacy in the PD plan was noted and more flexible programs dedicated to the individual needs of each participant were created.

New PD programs may now present information in a context as a simulation to a classroom setting to prepare educators for how a new idea can be integrated as a daily exercise. If that model is not possible for a given situation, the information presented may be based on experience from another educator who can act as a mentor when nuances of reality interfere with the plan’s original intent.

The more a professional development plan instigates participation, the easier it is to segue the program into the classroom. When teachers and administrators collaborate locally or nationwide, information is shared and the camaraderie strengthens the basic understanding of the topic. A creative PD program involves activities where the participants can work together and solve problems in a situation that could very likely occur in a classroom. When these activities involve imaginative ideas that can be practiced safely, teachers are prone to become comfortable with the action and add their own flair. These ideas are easily shared in a PD environment, so all participants are able to build on the skill sets of others. Once practiced and perfected, the ideas are more readily presented to students for their use, benefiting the entire classroom. For those instructors not prepared to adapt the newest PD concepts after the session ends, allowing quick access to follow-up materials, feedback from others who have mastered the skill, and reinforcement for utilizing the design may stimulate the transition.

The Electronic Registrar Online (ERO) system from eSchool Solutions gives district administrators the ability to provide professional development for teachers. Our flexible programs are available for a district-wide PD session or a personal online class. Learn more about ERO by visitingwww.eschoolsolutions.com. Share this post and tell us how you stay engaged during your districts PD programs.

Massachusetts Teachers Applaud New Professional Development Systems

The 2014 Massachusetts Teaching, Learning, and Leading (TELL) Survey results were recently announced. While every category–including time, facilities, and resources, community support and involvement, managing student conduct, teacher leadership, school leadership, professional development, and instructional practices and support–showed moderate gains, professional development scored lowest categorically. A few of the questions concerning the differentiation of professional development (PD) programs and the communication of results of a teacher development program, scored well below the 50% mark.

Fortunately, not all results were negative. While the PD question categories scored below the remainder of the questionnaire’s responses in many cases, it was evident perceptions are changing; in the two years between the most recent survey and its predecessor, responses climbed a few percentage points for the majority of answers.

One city in Massachusetts–Sudbury–noted distinct changes and great improvement in many areas. In fact, responses for the amount of time allocated to PD activities escalated sharply from 64% in 2012 to 84% this year. Their district administrators have emphasized the role of teacher development programs in education and have exerted much effort in ensuring teachers have more and better access to PD programs. To this end, Sudbury has hired lunchroom monitors to allow teachers more time to collaborate on student progress–only one change of many geared to generate more time for PD.

Technology was an altogether different picture, however. Many respondents in the Sudbury district stated their access to technology diminished when compared to the past survey. These numbers may have been caused by Internet failure rather than a lack of suitable PD programs. District administrators recognized the fallacy in the technology and are striving to increase the breadth and strength of their online programs.

If your school district is experiencing a lack of dependable and advanced technology, turn to eSchool Solutions. Our innovative teacher development program ranks as one of the most comprehensive available. Feel free to request a demo at www.eschoolsolutions.com. We look forward to assisting your district in your PD needs.

Share this post and comment on your school’s available PD programs. Based on the TELL Survey, do you think anything will be done in your district?

Achieve Alignment, Focus, and Clarity With eSchool’s ERO

The focus of your district’s professional development (PD) program should be to provide for the needs of your educators. However, many plans fall apart because the varied tools required to carry out the program do not easily coordinate. By utilizing one system that neatly ties online systems together for ease of use and resources, eSchool Solution’s Electronic Registrar Online (ERO) captures the capabilities of well-known and proven learning platforms and places the contents at your fingertips.

Teaching requirements are unique for each school district, and our ERO meets those individual needs by adding resources to assist your district administrators in building the most up-to-the-minute PD program for your busy educators. Recent data suggest that many new educators believe they were under-prepared as new teachers. With ERO, your district can build a comprehensive new-hire program to allow a fluid segue for first-time teachers, or to transfer from one school or district to another. Likewise, the beginning of every school year brings new positions to many educators as they change from one grade level to another, or pursue a new career path as a middle school science teacher after ten years of teaching math. Meet the needs of these professionals with the support of eSchool Solutions’ ERO, where our resources will bolster their successful careers from the first day of school to their last day in the classroom.

When teachers are given straightforward ideas of the goals for their classrooms, schools, and districts, they are more thoroughly prepared to meet those goals. ERO can align our burgeoning collection of resources to allow district administrators to precisely choose material and create a focused PD program. You can also generate individual PD programs for every educator in your district with ERO. With the power of BlackBoard and the resources of multiple online learning platforms, crafting a one-hour tutorial or a one-week seminar is easy, and the PD hours are managed via ERO as well. In fact, with our array of resources, you truly can focus on your main objective: educating your educators.

Learn more about eSchool Solutions’ Electronic Registrar Online by visiting our website at www.eschoolsolutions.com. Share this post and give us your opinion of your district’s professional development program. Let us know the areas of improvement you’ve identified and we’ll let you know how to address them.

What’s New With eSchool’s ERO?

At eSchool Solutions, we take pride in offering our educators the very latest in online technology. To that end, we have recently unveiled several advanced, user-friendly upgrades to our Electronic Registrar Online (ERO) system to improve its functionality. Version 5.5 is our newest update; it is better equipped to deliver the latest professional development (PD) systems that offer resources for you to build the ultimate personal PD program for the educators in your district or school.

Using the power of proven online platforms, ERO has integrated technologies with three additional learning systems: Schoology, Moodle, and Desire2Learn (D2L). These recognized repositories increase the depth and breadth of online learning tools, giving teaching professionals more high-quality choices for their PD course materials. Along with a plethora of resources, this newest integration also allows automatic management of all your professional development needs, including tracking and awarding credit, registration to myriad PD courses, delivery of course material, and approval from your local school system. Because the learning platforms are all accessed through eSchool Solution’s ERO system, only one username and password are needed to open a world of learning opportunities. With a fully integrated system, the hours dedicated to a course in Schoology will transfer to ERO’s system along with the hours from a D2L class–no cumbersome tracking by the end user.

For the PD district development teams, the easy accessibility of eSchool’s ERO presents coordinators with the ability to choose a multitude of courses and create an overall PD program that meets the individual needs of districts, schools, and teachers. District administrators are also able to award PD points to educators who participate in online courses via ERO.

Visit our upgraded Electronic Registrar Online system today at www.eschoolsolutions.com to learn how eSchool Solutions can bring the latest in learning and professional development to you. Share this post and join the conversation regarding the importance of PD programs in the education sector.

Turnaround Arts Program Promotes Arts Education

The human brain is a compact series of billions of neurons that fire impulses to tell your body what to do. The connections between the neurons can be strengthened by two methods: the first is practice and the second is creating similar pathways that run parallel to the original path until they intersect. This is where arts suddenly enhance learning. By learning choreography, rhythm enhances math skills. Singing is a fantastic language in itself, and the art increases knowledge in both written and spoken language.

The Turnaround Arts Program, which is part of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, recognizes the strong ties between arts and education. Two years ago, nine below-average schools joined the program in an effort to provide enriching arts programs to their students. Michelle Obama touted The Turnaround Arts Program recently at the inaugural White House talent show, which featured many students from the “turnaround” schools. The show, much like the program, was a roaring success. With public and private funding of $5 million generated by national celebrities, the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment of the Arts, and the Department of Education, The Turnaround Arts Program will expand from its initial eight schools to 35 schools nationwide.

“The Turnaround Arts Program has exceeded not just our expectations, but our wildest hopes and dreams,” effused the First Lady. Across the board, standardized reading test scores improved, attendance rates climbed, and disciplinary actions decreased. Proficiency scores in math and reading also increased, reinforcing a strong correlation between the arts and a positive learning environment in the eight schools selected for the program. “The arts have a pretty dramatic and immediate impact,” reports Rachel Goslins, Executive Director of the Committee of Arts and Humanities, an advisory committee on cultural policy. With greater school participation, our nation’s struggling schools may be able to succeed, thanks to ideas such as The Turnaround Arts Program.

eSchool Solutions understands the necessity of an integrated learning system for both teachers and students. Share this post to show your support of programs like The Turnaround Arts Program. Let us know what you think of this program and others like it!

Personalized Learning for Teachers?

For decades teachers have worked closely with administrators, parents, and other professionals to create individualized learning plans (IEPs) for many of their students. While students with disabilities are traditionally those with IEPs, impressive educators also ensure every lesson plan meets the needs of all their students. This personalized learning assures the majority of students–if not all–can more readily comprehend the information presented.  Results of these personalized lesson plans prove that teaching to the learning styles and abilities of the students within a classroom raises overall test scores and creates a more fluid learning path.

Recently, many experts have realized a personalized learning plan for teachers may bring forth similar results for our educators. Rather than canned, one-size-fits-all professional development for teachers presented to a roomful of adults, regardless of learning styles or teaching styles, a personalized learning plan will address an educator’s strengths and work through any obstacles that may block a teacher from presenting new information to his or her students. Also, personalized programs will focus on district- or even school-specific training. Studies have proven that principals who collaborate with teachers to design the ultimate personalized professional development plans head the best performing schools.

Professional development programs have begun to incorporate technology into training, showing educators the most direct route to receive updates and even “attend” seminars online.  Many professional development programs boast the ability to construct programs specific to the end user, keeping the local district and school in mind as the PD program is crafted. Technology has also transferred the focus of training from a brick-and-mortar building to a more streamlined, personalized program that reaches those teachers in rural areas who would otherwise not be able to attend an in-person class.

Find the most innovative professional development for teachers at www.eschoolsolutions.com with eSchool Solutions’ development system. Your district will be able to customize our PD programs to suit the needs of you and your staff. Share this post and leave us comments discussing your thoughts on PD programs.