Virtual School Meanderings

July 3, 2014

Effective Writing for Elementary Students, Common Core Implementation, & Literacy Improvement

Another item from yesterday’s inbox…

July 2014 | Email to a Friend | Subscribe  WestEd on FacebookWestEd on TwitterWestEd on Google+WestEd LinkedIn

WestEd E-Bulletin


Teaching Elementary School Students to Be Effective Writers

When students build strong writing skills at an early age, they gain an invaluable and lifelong tool for learning, communication, and self-expression.

This free Doing What Works digital portfolio contains everything needed for a professional development experience focused on how to effectively teach writing to elementary school students.

Order your copy today!

Teacher and young student reading


Common Core State Standards Implementation

View our archive of professional development webinars designed to help schools, districts, and states prepare for Common Core State Standards. Topics range from technology and assessment to mathematics and English language arts.

Urban youth male student


Quality Teaching for English Learners: Register for Summer Institutes!

Help develop English learners’ capacity to engage in deeper learning. Five-day institutes are offered for teachers and education leaders. July 21-25 & July 28-August 1, San Francisco, CA.

English Learner WestEd Webinar

Merging Cognitive Science and Curriculum to Strengthen Middle School Math

WestEd’s National Center on Cognition and Mathematics Instruction is translating cognitive science research into classroom practice. Read this article to learn how the Math Center is applying research-based design principles to revise a middle school math curriculum.

WestEd R&D Alert Cover

Schools Focused on Equity Propel All Students to High Levels

What makes a Title I school high achieving? Professional learning and leadership that supports personalized instruction, say authors Sonia Caus Gleason and WestEd’s Nancy Gerzon. Read their research findings in this article and in their new book, Growing Into Equity: Professional Learning and Personalization in High-Achieving Schools.

Product Spotlight
The State Role in School Turnaround

Best Practices in Adolescent Literacy Instruction, Second Edition: 20% Discount!

In this updated teacher resource, WestEd’s Cynthia Greenleaf and Cindy Litman describe how teachers can help profoundly inexperienced and academically unprepared students make considerable progress as readers and learners.

Featured Initiative

RAISE: Supporting Large-Scale Dissemination of Reading Apprenticeship Professional Development

RAISE (Reading Apprenticeship Improving Secondary Education) is a five-year, federally funded initiative that supports dissemination of Reading Apprenticeship disciplinary literacy professional development.

RAISE builds on the success of three previous randomized controlled studies of Reading Apprenticeship and is poised to reach more than 2,800 high school content teachers and over 400,000 students in five states (California, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Utah).

To learn more, visit the RAISE project page.

July 2014 | Email to a Friend | Subscribe WestEd FacebookWestEd TwitterWestEd Google +WestEd LinkedIn

Copyright © 2014 WestEd, All rights reserved.
Our mailing address is:


730 Harrison Street

San Francisco, CA 94107

Add us to your address book

June 25, 2014

A Summer of Opportunity — McREL e-News June 2014

Yet another item from Tuesday…


Having trouble viewing this email? View it online here.

June 2014

Research Roundup

Report: Teacher Absenteeism Can Hurt Student Achievement 

U.S. News and World Report

Results from a National Council on Teacher Quality report show that a significant percentage of urban-area teachers were “chronically absent” in 2012-2013, missing 18 or more days out of a 186-day school year. The data, taken from 40 large school districts across the country, showed that the average number of days missed is 11. Previous research from the National Bureau of Economic Research, the article notes, has shown that when teachers are absent for 10 days, there is a significant decrease in student outcomes. Read the article here.

Report: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education: Assessing the Relationship between Education and the Workforce

Government Accountability Office

On May 8, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report detailing the relationship between science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees and the number of STEM jobs available to the workforce. Due to fluctuations in workforce needs, the GAO had difficulty discerning whether the current STEM workforce aligns with current demand, but it did find a 55% increase in the number of STEM degrees awarded between 2002-2012 and a 16% increase in the number of STEM jobs available from 2004-2012.

Report: Learner at the Center of a Networked World

Aspen Institute

This report offers six recommendations to support student-centered, technology-rich, personalized learning in various school and other learning environments, aimed at reducing the gaps that result from increasing technology needs among learners with income disparity, and helping teachers adjust to the new technology.

Report: Teacher Prep Review 2014 Report, June 2014

National Council on Teacher Quality

This report examines the results of an assessment of 2,400 U.S. teacher preparation programs and finds evidence of positive changes, especially in the area of classroom management training in teacher preparation programs. In order to meet the needs of the contemporary classroom, however, the report suggests that gaps remain in two crucial aspects of creating classroom-ready teachers: improving methods of scientifically based reading instruction, and math preparation that produces skilled STEM instructors. 

Grant & Research Opportunities

U.S. Department of Education grant opportunities

The U.S. Department of Education has released three grant opportunities for K-12 educators, with applications or letters of intent due in late June to mid-July. Contact Kimberly Cowley or Tara Donahue for more information about how McREL can provide external evaluation services for any of these grant programs.

The Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) Grant Program aims to improve the quality of new teachers through enhanced preparation and improved professional development; the deadline for the notice of intent to apply is June 27 and applications are due July 14. The Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) Partnership and State Grants fund services that help low-income students earn a high school diploma and prepare for postsecondary education; applications are due July 7. The Investing in Innovation (i3) program funds local education agencies (LEAs) and nonprofits to develop and expand practices that accelerate student achievement; applications are due June 24.

McREL seeks partners for Astro Algebra grant

McREL is seeking middle school partners to apply for an Institute of Education Sciences (IES) grant to implement and evaluate Astro Algebra, a summer learning program designed to prepare incoming 9th grade students for algebra success in high school. Astro Algebra is a 20-module (two hours each) program that uses the real-world context of NASA’s planetary missions to motivate and build students’ skills and confidence in algebra. Contact Sheila Arens or click here for more information.

Research opportunity: REL Pacific partners with HPERC on data competition

Hawai’i Partnership for Educational Research Consortium (HPERC), in partnership with REL Pacific, is holding a competition for Hawaiian education researchers who are interested in conducting research using publicly available data sources. In this competition, five winning entries will be selected to receive technical assistance from REL Pacific to support their research process, and will be invited to present at the annual HPERC conference in December. Learn more about this competition here.

In the Field

Read our blog post: What does “You 2.0″ look like in the classroom?

The point of any teaching framework, writes Bryan Goodwin, McREL’s chief operating officer, “should not be to label teachers simply as good, mediocre, or bad,” but rather, “to provide teachers with insights and pathways for working cooperatively to improve daily.” Bryan advocates for taking a daily approach to teaching improvement that supports a long-term goal of teaching excellence. Read the blog here.

Empowering the classroom with cutting edge nanoscience and technology

McREL’s NanoTeach blends professional development in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curriculum with cutting-edge nanoscience and technology (NS&T), shifting the concept of a teacher’s role from “expert” in front of the classroom, to “guide” alongside their students to remain astride with cutting-edge NS&T and Next Generation Science Standards. Read our success story here.

New from McREL

New coaching software, Power Walkthrough Coach, coming July 1

For seven years, McREL’s Power Walkthrough® has been   helping school leaders get a clearer picture of the instruction   going on in classrooms and how to improve it. Now, Power Walkthrough Coach takes brief, informal observations a step further by providing tools and protocols that help coach individual teachers to deeper levels of professional growth and continuous improvement.

Built on our successful walkthrough model and the research-based strategies of Classroom Instruction That Works (2nd ed.), Power Walkthrough Coach offers an additional coach template designed to enhance professional dialogue between teachers and administrators, instructional coaches, and/or peers. Features include time-stamp observation tools, reflection checklists, and a survey tool for self-reflection and feedback.

Current Power Walkthrough users will have automatic access to the new features on July 1. If you would like to learn more about Power Walkthrough Coach or schedule a demo, please contact Lisa Maxfield at or 303.632.5561. Read our blog post about Power Walkthrough Coach here

Overview of Formative Assessment now available on Udemy

Our self-paced, online, professional development course introduces participants to formative assessment as a process and engages them in its key components and attributes. A variety of articles and processing activities deepen participants’ understanding of formative assessment within their own contexts. You will gain background knowledge about our formative assessment process for your K-12 classroom and learn:

  • The important aspects of formative assessment and set the groundwork for onging work.
  • The purpose of Teacher Learning Communties (TLCs).
  • How formative assessment moves students’ learning forward.
  • How fomative assessment fits in an assessment system.
  • The characteristics of a collaborative classroom culture.

Register for this class at

McREL in the News

McREL’s teacher evaluation system recognized in Chaska, Minnesota 

Officials from School District 112 in Chaska, Minnesota, recently reported to their school board that they have successfully completed their first year of using McREL’s teacher evaluation system. In this article from the June 11 Chanhassen Villager, district officials said they had received positive feedback about the McREL model including that “the shared time between instructional coaches, teachers and administrators was positively viewed by a majority of staff.” Read the article here.

N.J. high school blog post highlights McREL’s teacher evaluation tool

In this post on the Tech & Learning website, New Milford High School Principal Eric Sheninger attributes the school’s success to initiatives that led to positive change, including McREL’s teacher evaluation system, which the school implemented in 2013. He writes, “This required a huge shift from how we have observed and evaluated teachers for a very long time.” Read the blog here.

Richwood High School celebrates success 

In 2010, Richwood High School in West Virginia was designated a low-performing school for not making adequate yearly progress. Fortunately, they received a three-year School Improvement Grant (SIG) and chose McREL’s Success in Sight® to help turn their school around. Three years later, they had reason to celebrate when the school was recognized by U.S. News and World Report as a Bronze Medal School. View their student-created “School Improvement” video here, and the school’s success story here.

In This Issue

Featured Content

What is engagement today?
Our latest issue of Changing Schools delves into student engagement, with articles on the importance of curiosity, using an MTSS to engage all learners, a cutting-edge nanoscience and technology program for high school students, and more. Read the entire issue here.

Events & Opportunities

Free webinar: Impacting Teacher Quality through Human Resource Alignment, June 25

Learn how your human resource practices can promote teacher effectiveness in this webinar from REL Pacific on Wednesday, June 25 from 2:00-3:00 p.m. (MDT). Dr. Herb Heneman, Dickson-Bascom Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, explains how strategic human resource management (HRM) can help state and local education agencies recruit the right teachers and impact their professional competencies, such as classroom management, instructional planning, and instructional delivery. Register here.

Tweet chat: McREL hosting tweet chat, June 26 

McREL’s Center for Systems Transformation invites you to participate in a tweet chat on Thursday, June 26 at 4:00 p.m. (MDT). The discussion will center around what summer is for educators: a period of reflection on past efforts; a look forward to future planning; and an opportunity to catch up on summer reading. To participate in the conversation, log into your Twitter account at the time of the tweet chat, and post tweets using the chat hashtag, #McRELchat.

Summer professional development at McREL 

It’s not too late to register for our summer professional development workshops! Our research-based professional development will give you strategies and practices that are linked to student achievement and can be implemented quickly and easily. McREL is offering several workshops and facilitator training sessions, as well as Balanced Leadership® Institutes, at our offices in Denver. For a complete lineup of offerings, click here.

Conference presentations

ASCD Conference on Teaching Excellence, June 27-29, Dallas, TX

McREL will present several sessions at the ASCD conference in June. We hope to see you there! Here’s a peek at what we’re offering:

Integrating STEM and Project-based Learning presented by Matt Kuhn

Technology and the English Language Arts Common Core Standards presented by Howard Pitler

Nonlinguistic Representation: The Often Missing Strategy presented by Howard Pitler

Classroom Instruction That Works with English Language Learners presented by Jane Hill

NCCEP/GEAR UP Annual Conference, July 20-23, Washington, D.C.

Join us for Mountain Vistas: Taking in the View of Long-Term Service Implementation in West Virginia, presented by McREL’s Georgia Hughes-Webb from our Charleston office, who heads West Virginia’s GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) grant team, and Dr. Adam Green and Michelle Johnson from the West Virginia Higher Education Policy. The team will share findings from the program participation data they have been collecting since 2008, which show how the program operated, how it changed over time, and how it differed across the multiple implementation sites.

Contact Us
McREL International
4601 DTC Blvd., Suite 500
Denver, CO 80237
Connect on Social Media

Like us on Facebook   Follow us on Twitter   View our profile on LinkedIn   View our videos on YouTube

4601 DTC Blvd., Suite 500
Denver, CO 80237
McREL International | 4601 DTC Blvd., Suite 500 | Denver | CO | 80237

June 7, 2014

Summer PD Workshops On Instruction And Leadership

A final item from Thursday’s inbox…

Non-profit education research, evaluation, consulting, and professional development
Join us this summer in Denver to deepen your knowledge and enhance your skills in areas that matter most to educators. Our research-based professional development focuses on strategies and actions that are linked to student achievement and practical to implement. Check out a few of our courses below, or see the full list on our website.
Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works
June 11-13
How do you make sure you’re using the right tools, apps, and programs to maximize your students’ learning? This three-day workshop will show you how to combine research-based instructional strategies with 21st century tools. You’ll get guided hands-on practice combining instructional strategies with a variety of technology, and you’ll leave with technology infused lesson ideas ready to use in and out of the classroom, for flipped and blended learning.
science kidsDesigning Effective Science Lessons Aligned to NGSS
June 30-July 1
The increased emphasis on science and engineering practices in the Next Generation Science Standards is causing teachers to reexamine their current instructional strategies and think about lesson planning and implementation in a new way. This two-day workshop will highlight the shifts in the NGSS and provide teachers with the knowledge and skills needed to design lessons that align with NGSS practices and expectations.
studying_girl.jpgText Complexity and Close Reading for Common Core ELA
June 30-July 1
Increase your understanding of the central role of text complexity in the CCSS, specifically the English language arts (ELA) standards, and how close reading of complex texts can foster student gains in reading proficiency. This workshop will give you the essential tools, templates, and information to measure text complexity and teach strategies for close reading of complex texts.


Balanced Leadership® School-level Institute
July 7-12
This six-day, in-depth institute gives current and aspiring principals the research-based knowledge and skills to initiate and manage change at their schools, develop a purposeful school community, and select the right initiatives for school improvement and student achievement. Register for individual or multiple days.
District Leadership Institute
July 21-23 and October 27-29
Take your district leadership to the next level and make a greater impact on the success of your students and staff. Our leadership institute includes the latest research and most effective strategies for successfully initiating and managing short-term and long-term improvement and innovation in your system. Register for individual or multiple sessions.
Like us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter View our profile on LinkedIn View our videos on YouTube
McREL International
4601 DTC Blvd., Suite 500
Denver, Colorado 80237
McREL | 4601 DTC Blvd., Suite 500 | Denver | CO | 80237

June 4, 2014

Resources on Common Core, STEM Learning, English Language Learners, and More

Also from yesterday’s inbox…

June 2014 | Email to a Friend | Subscribe  WestEd on FacebookWestEd on TwitterWestEd on Google+WestEd Linkedin

WestEd's Top Ten Bestsellers

Common Core, Science Learning, English Language Learners, and More: Top Resources!

Teacher and young student reading


Preparing for and Implementing the Common Core State Standards

These resources address a range of Common Core topics—from how the new standards will affect math learning to critical equity issues.

Urban youth male student


What Works to Prevent and Reduce Urban Youth Gun Violence?

Download this new report reviewing the effectiveness of strategies to address urban youth gun violence. A companion report is also available.

English Learner WestEd Webinar


Changes in the Expertise of ESL Professionals in the Era of New Standards

Join us for a live discussion on how the expertise of K–12 teachers of English learners must evolve to meet 21st century requirements and new standards.

The webinar is based on a new paper (PDF) cowritten by Aida Walqui of WestEd’s Quality Teaching for English Learners.

Webinar Date & Time: Wednesday, June 18,10:30am-Noon (Pacific Time)

WestEd R&D Alert Cover


Read the Latest R&D Alert on Key Education Topics

Math improvement through cognitive science and the achievement gap of students in foster care are just a couple of the highlights in this issue of WestEd’s award-winning newsletter.

Young student and teacher in front of computer

Study Finds that Playing Online Games Improves Early Math Skills

A WestEd study found that engaging low-income parents and their preschool children with online games boosts math learning and helps prepare children for kindergarten.

Learn more about this success story in a free report (PDF) and in WestEd’s Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics Program info sheet (PDF).

The State Role in School Turnaround

The State Role in School Turnaround—Emerging Best Practices: 20% Discount!

Learn about the critical leadership role of state education agencies in driving and supporting school turnaround efforts, including the latest research and best practices.

Sim Scientists

SimScientists: Enriching Science Learning and Assessment Through Simulations

WestEd’s SimScientists project is investigating design principles to guide the creation of effective simulations as learning and assessment tools.

SimScientists researchers are also studying how science simulations can be used at different levels of the education system.

To learn more, visit the SimScientists website.

June 2014 | Email to a Friend | Subscribe WestEd FacebookWestEd TwitterWestEd Google +WestEd Linkedin

Copyright © 2014 WestEd, All rights reserved.
Our mailing address is:


730 Harrison Street

San Francisco, CA 94107

Add us to your address book

May 26, 2014

McREL e-News May 2014

Also from Friday’s inbox…

May 2014

Research Roundup

5 ways inequality contributes to high school drop-out rates 

Education Dive

This article highlights a report from the nonprofit Communities in Schools (CIS) that details areas of persistent inequality in education. The report, Changing the Picture of Education in America, challenges the results of another recent report, 2014 Building a GradNation, from Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center, America’s Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education, which showed U.S. high school graduation rates are at the highest level ever achieved, 80%. The CIS report shows that a disproportionate percentage of minority students compose the 20% of non-graduating students and describes barriers to graduation, including lack of decent medical care and simple aids such as eyeglasses; inadequate food, clothing, and shelter; and lack of adult support.

Rural Schools: “The Effects of Rurality on College Access and Choice”

Education Week

This article points to results from a Texas Tech University study, The Effects of Rurality on College Access and Choice, which found that rural high school students are less likely to attend college than their urban counterparts. In rural communities, 64% of students attended a post-secondary learning institution, as compared to 70% of students in urban areas. Of the total students who enrolled in college, 47% of rural students chose a two-year program over a four-year or highly-selective program, compared to just 38% of urban students.

US teachers nowhere as diverse as their students

Associated Press

This article highlights research conducted by the Center for American Progress and the National Education Association, that found that 18% of public school teachers are nonwhite, while 48% of public school students are nonwhite, indicating a lack of diversity in the teacher corps.

Studies Offer Insights on Implementing Common Core

Education Week

This article illustrates the difficulty educators and policymakers are having in getting research to help them make evidence-based decisions about implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). However, CCSS was the topic of more than 100 papers and sessions presented at the American Educational Research Association’s annual meeting, which indicated implementation challenges with outreach, resources for teachers, principals’ differing leadership styles, and transitions to new exams and textbooks.

In the Field

Continuous improvement process helps New York district redefine itself

High staff turnover, decreased resources, and increasing poverty are some of the urgent challenges facing the Mount Vernon (New York) City School District (MVCSD). In 2012, with inconsistent leadership and instruction and most of its schools underperforming as a result, the district was ready for a new approach to school improvement. Buoyed by a state turnaround grant, MVCSD partnered with McREL to help get it back on track. In the year and a half since, the district has implemented a continuous improvement process that has allowed staff to see and make connections between instruction, curriculum, assessment, leadership, and evaluation that is transforming teaching and leading across its 16 schools. Read more in the winter 2013 issue of Changing Schools, found here.

Data walls fortify school improvement process

Displaying student achievement data in your school may make some educators uncomfortable, being open about what’s really going on in classrooms is the only way to affect real change in achievement, says Dana Frazee, McREL consulting director of Systems Transformation, in our latest blog post. Data walls are a natural extension of the data-driven instruction process, she says, and the willingness to look at, share, and talk about data allows educators to take collective action toward their goals and build a unified focus on improvement across the school community. Read more here.

New from McREL

McREL International gets a new look

As McREL has grown into an international organization that serves educators across the U.S. and around the world through groundbreaking research and research-based products and services, we recognized that it was time to update our visual identity to reflect that growth. In May 2014, we unveiled our new logo:

McREL Logo 5-1-14

We see the five arcs of the new logo as representing McREL’s comprehensive, unified approach to improving schools and systems. It also reflects the five components of our What Matters Most® framework, which includes opportunity areas where improvements lead to dramatic gains in student achievement.

You can read more about the logo here.

New versions of ELM and POMT now available 

New versions of the REL Pacific’s Education Logic Model (ELM) Application and the Program Outcomes, Measurements, and Targets (POMT) Application are now available for download. If you have already downloaded either of these programs, please be sure to download the latest versions here. ELM is a computer-based, interactive module that guides the user through the process of creating a logic model in order to determine how data fit within your program and interact with program components. The POMT module helps users monitor, measure, and track the outcomes of programs by providing a method to assess progress, evaluate effectiveness, and identify and resolve issues. If you have any questions about the ELM or the POMT, please contact REL Pacific at

McREL In the News

Balanced Leadership participants talk about experiences on Remarkable Chatter 

Consultants Amy Wagoner and Marci Shearon of the Kansas-based educational service center ESSDACK recently discussed their participation in Balanced Leadership training in an interview on Remarkable Chatter, an online professional development service. Both consultants commented on the comprehensiveness of the Balanced Leadership framework, which includes 21 leadership responsibilities linked to better student achievement. The framework helps leaders determine what they’re good at and where they need extra support, said Shearon. “It’s not necessarily that a great leader [has to have] all 21 and be skilled at all 21. The important thing is to draw people in who support us…so that we have all 21 covered.”

Listen to the podcast here.

McREL co-hosts Pacific MATE Planning Meeting to promote STEAM education 

McREL and the Pacific MATE (Marine Advanced Technology Education) Center hosted a series of meetings at the end of March in Mangilao, Guam, to discuss a National Science Foundation-funded STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) project. Attendees included directors of education, educators, and other stakeholders from Guam, Palau, American Samoa, Saipan, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands, who focused on how to integrate marine technology and underwater robotics into mainstream science curriculum in the Pacific. Read more in this press release from the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) Department of Education.

In This Issue

Featured Content

Free STEM webinar
June 4
Join Dr. Matt Kuhn for a free, one-hour webinar, STEM Project-Based Learning with a Math Theme, on June 4 at 4:00 p.m. (MDT). This webinar introduces educators to project-based learning methods that integrate all STEM disciplines under a mathematics theme aligned with the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. Participants will leave with STEM resources, a unit planning template, and suggested professional development models.

Events & Opportunities

Summer professional development at McREL

Come to Denver this summer to learn how to make changes that will improve your teaching and leading when you return to school. McREL is offering several workshops and facilitator training sessions, as well as Balanced Leadership® Institutes, at our offices in Denver. Sessions are designed to help educators and leaders:

  • Activate research-based instructional strategies
  • Create balanced school and district leadership
  • Align curricula to CCSS and NGSS
  • Enhance instruction with technology
  • Conduct effective formative assessment

Contact Us
McREL International
4601 DTC Blvd., Suite 500
Denver, CO 80237
Connect on Social Media

Like us on Facebook   Follow us on Twitter   View our profile on LinkedIn   View our videos on YouTube

4601 DTC Blvd., Suite 500
Denver, CO 80237
McREL International | 4601 DTC Blvd., Suite 500 | Denver | CO | 80237
Next Page »

The Rubric Theme. Blog at


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,467 other followers