I believe that the level of parent and community involvement is relative to the level of relevant learning for students. Connecting with parents and the community is how school connects to home, which not only extends learning but creates positive relationships.
I believe this because my parents worked long hours and were not available to be involved in my school. I was first to earn a degree on both sides of my family because they still placed value on my education to improve my circumstances from ours when I was a child, they were not aware of what I was learning and how to support me at home. I was expected to just figure out how to be a “good student” on my own and I know now I missed out on a lot of learning opportunities. In contrast, being fortunate enough to be very involved with my children’s school extends conversations, shares culture, solutions to struggles, consistency and supports from home to school which has enrich the learning and development in academics as well as social/emotional growth.
There are many aspects and opportunities for parent and community involvement. For example, site council, parent committees, assistance with office, preparation of instructional materials, event organization, fundraising, family/culture/career sharing, community outreach and service opportunities, parenting and family learning nights, and local environment and community learning.
I’d like to talk about family learning nights as an opportunity to connect school to home academic learning environments. This design provides equitable access for families to explore collaborative learning as a family and school culture. I taught at an elementary school with a population of highly impoverished demographic, as well as located among gang violence in an agricultural community. The academic coordinator planned family math, science, language and cultural nights which allowed the students to return to school with their parents after work hours to experiment in learning centered activities as well as distribute information about the curriculum and resources to support their children at home. These nights may not have had a huge turnout with 20% of our population of 700 students, but in a community with more than 50% with 4th-12th grade education level, this made a considerable impact on the learning of their students and the community around learning. These nights extended the celebration and value of education and established the elementary school as a recognized communal learning environment.
I. Curriculum and Instruction
I believe that curriculum and instructional strategies should be selected and implemented systematically, with fidelity after gathered input from all stakeholders regarding the effectiveness of meeting standards and builds skills for career and college readiness.
I believe this because I have experienced and witnesses strengths and deficits of the curriculum adoption processes. I participated in roles when curriculum was adopted that allowed me identified processes and considerations that have either a positive, negative or no impact on effective curriculum and instruction. As a parent of three who have been impacted by the shift to implement CCSS curriculum beginning in kindergarten, first and 5th grade to what still feels like the beginning and implementation as they are in 4th, 5th and 9th grade. I also have been a teacher acclimating to the shift in instructional strategies and the curriculum selected for me. And prior to CCSS I have selected curriculum and instructional strategies in a private sector as they aligned with our mission and beliefs.
There are many issues and aspects of curriculum and instruction from simply trying to meet CCSS and NGSS, instruction and assessment balance, implementing evidence-based instructional practices, project based learning, differentiation, the technological components, modifications and accommodations for accessibility, equitable resources, school-to-home support, stakeholder input and the ever-pressing professional development
The curriculum is only as good as the intrustruction. Professional development as it is instrumental in quality instruction. From the beginning of a teacher’s career in public education to experienced teacher’s professional development requires intentional and appropriate training and development to really deliver effective instruction to our students. In public education, time is precious as there is not enough in a contracted day to address all the components of planning, preparing and delivering quality instruction. The most common feedback from teachers is that relevant professional development is planned based on level/subject. For example, this year our district adopted new math curriculum after two years of using Engaged New York to meet CCSS. The training was minimal compared to the demand and cumbersome planning and material preparation required of this math curriculum. Devising a plan for continued support and professional development for instruction with this curriculum would better address the needs of teachers for implementation of a new curriculum and/or supplemental curriculum and instruction. When our teachers cried out for support and training with this curriculum, the task then fell on the site administrators to reorganize and sacrifice other areas of professional development to compensate. With collaboration to reorganization and protocols in place to plan for extended professional development to improve instruction and the implementation process, the district and its sites can be proactive in supporting teachers in successful implementation of curriculum and instruction.
I believe that technology and computer science are instrumental in the current state of our society and is gaining momentum in changes for the future for which we are preparing our students. As educators, we have a duty to match this momentum with innovative design of instruction to meet the demand of the unknown future.
I believe this because what we do know is many current jobs did not exist as little as five years ago and with the continued struggle to reduce unemployment rates, hundreds of thousands of jobs in technology are left unfilled because citizens are not qualified due to the delayed implementation of instructional technology and infrastructures in education. Computer coding and programming will become the new language required to meet the demands of future, and it is a positive challenge that public education has begun to take on by increasing the ratio of student-computing, making internet available in rural areas and implementing instructional technology at the primary level.
There are many aspects and issues with technology in education. Issues such as closing the digital divide, professional development in instructional technology, digital content/resources, assessments, accessibility, personalized and blending learning, virtual learning and the progress of technology infrastructure to support the current and future needs of education.
I’d like to highlight the role of technology in Special Education. Education Specialists are to learning how to utilize technology to meet the needs of students with disabilities. As I plan for my instruction, I utilize the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework to design instructional goals, assessments and materials to better meet the learning style of my student through a variety of methods of engagement, representation, action and expression. This is made possible by implementing technology and adaptive programs. Technology can not only supports them in meeting current individual educational goals, but also narrows the gap in career and college readiness for students with mild/moderate disabilities.
I believe that first the environment must be safe and supportive before learning can take place. Both teachers and students gain self-efficacy from a positive school environment. Discipline can be designed to support all students through a multi-tiered system. This all begins with collaboration in defining rules, expectations and norms, then making it a priority to teach and support positive behavior for all stakeholders.
I believe this because as an Education Specialist and member of Association of Positive Behavior Support, I extend beyond my instructional professional development to learning positive behavior support and how to design and implement Functional Behavioral Assessments and Behavior Support Plans for the “third tier of support” to “first-tier” school-wide support. I currently work at a school which does not implement Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS,) but I am able to design my classroom with preventative strategies and positive behavior support. My data is evidence that the positive behavior support approach creates success for all students.
In the past decade, discipline and school/climate culture has become a priority as traditional consequences, such as visits to the office and suspensions/expulsions are cause a severe loss in instructional time. Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) and the professional development to implement it, buy-in, collaboration and fidelity in practice, as well as the budget to support this shift is a debated issue once the California Department of Education joined other states in implementing a Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS) that aligns with CCSS and other systems for academic, behavior and social success.
I would like to discuss the impact that discipline and school culture/climate has on the Special Education Department and students access to the least restrictive environment. Schools not implementing PBS have an over representation of students with disabilities and behavioral referrals as well as a placement risk. Our district has yet to implement a MTSS to support behavior and social needs, so students are not receiving evidence-based strategies to identify their social/emotional needs. This can increase of time students spend in Special Education because their needs are not met in general education. At the middles school where I transferred my 5th graders, the number of students in a self-contained special education class (most restrictive environment) has increased 110% in ten years. Districts in other states who began implementing MTSS like PBIS, have seen a decline in the number of students with or without IEPs placed in a more restrictive placement (self-contained special ed class, juvenile hall, alternative or residential facility) and those with “third-tier” supports in appropriate placements based on their students’ needs.
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