Virtual School Meanderings

July 29, 2014

A Season of Change — McREL e-News July 2014

Also from Thursday’s inbox…


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July 2014

Research Roundup

Study: Effective Teacher Retention Bonuses: Evidence from Tennessee 

Tennessee Consortium on Research, Evaluation and Development and Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College

Concerned about inequities in the distribution of high-performing teachers across all schools, this study evaluated the effectiveness of a $5,000 retention bonus program used in Tennessee’s priority schools, finding positive effects on turnover, leadership, and instruction. Read the study here.

U.S. Gets Low Scores for Innovation in Education

Education Week


This article details the results from a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which ranked nations from first to last based on education innovation. The report found that, across the globe, innovation most often begins in classroom practices rather than a school’s practices. Conversely, in U.S. schools, innovation is often not reaching the classroom level.

Report: The 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book

Annie E. Casey Foundation

The Annie E. Casey Foundation publishes an annual report on overall child well-being, ranking U.S. states from first to last in four domains: 1) economic well-being, 2) education, 3) health, and 4) family and community. The 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book identifies policies which contributed to positive gains in health and education, but also found declines in economic well-being. Read the report here.

In the Field

McREL blog: Use a personal learning network to keep up with instructional technology


“Given the pace and breadth of technology innovation these days,” writes Matt Kuhn, managing consultant for McREL’s Center for Educator Effectiveness, ” keeping up with the latest in instructional technology is difficult to do alone, especially if you’re not sure where to begin.” He suggests establishing a supportive personal learning network (PLN) to stay on the cutting edge of instructional technology. Read his blog here.

McREL teams with NASA on Scale of Discovery professional development (PD) program


Managing Consultant Whitney Cobb led the development and presentation of NASA’s synchronous “Scale of Discovery” PD program for K-12 and out-of-school-time educators at the fourth annual all-day, multi-site event on April 26. The introductory presentation and panel discussions, featuring mission scientists and engineers, were streamed live from Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Johnson Space Center, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, and the University of Montana on NASA’s Digital Learning Network. View the “Scale of Discovery” archive here.

LAWG Week: Amber Hill on Boosting Online Survey Participation


Research Specialist Amber Hill wrote a blog piece for “AEA 365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators,” which offers tips on boosting participation in online surveys. She recommends enlisting the help of IT professionals and varying the forms of communication about surveys to encourage participation, among other valuable tips. Read her blog here.

New from McREL

Designing Effective Science Instruction (DESI) adapted for Australian educators


DESI Australia book coverAustralia’s Hawker Brownlow Education recently published a revised Australian edition of Designing Effective Science Instruction: What Works in Science Classrooms. Written by director of STEM learning, Anne Tweed, the book was edited by Ken Harbottle, retired principal of Strathmore Secondary College (Melbourne), who aligned the content with the Australian National Standards for curriculum. Harbottle’s familiarity with DESI began four years ago, when he introduced the DESI framework in professional development for teachers in the Western Metropolitan Region in Victoria.

McREL in the News

McREL International CEO Tim Waters to retire, board selects Bryan Goodwin as successor 


McREL International’s longtime President and CEO Dr. Tim Waters will retire at the end of September, to be succeeded by current Chief Operating Officer Bryan Goodwin. “It’s been a privilege to work at McREL for so many years, but it is time now for a new generation of leadership to carry our mission forward and ensure that our organization remains responsive to the needs and challenges of today’s educators,” said Waters. “I look forward to seeing McREL’s continued growth under Bryan’s leadership.”


Goodwin has worked at McREL since 1998, beginning as a senior program associate working on Regional Educational Laboratory projects for five years before taking on subsequent leadership positions in communications, marketing, and business development. He has been McREL’s chief operating officer since 2012. Goodwin is author of Simply Better: Doing What Matters Most to Change the Odds for Student Success (2011, ASCD) and co-author of The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching: A Checklist for Staying Focused Every Day (2013, ASCD). He also writes a monthly column for ASCD’s Educational Leadership magazine on the research related to current and emerging issues in education. Read our press release here.

Discovery Education asks Bryan Goodwin for “one idea” for school improvement


Discovery Education recently interviewed Bryan Goodwin on the “Inside-Out” approach to school improvement efforts. “Any great movement always begins with, ‘Why?'”, Goodwin said. “When people have the ‘why,’ then they have the purpose part.” Advocating for the use of the reciprocal model of peer-coaching, he added, “If you look at the history of U.S. reform, we’ve been at this for 25 years–this standards-based, test-driven, accountability-based reform. And it’s done some good things. But you only get so far with this, and there comes a time where it’s time to make a pivot to say, let’s build on that foundation, now let’s think about really developing professionalism.” Watch the video here.

Education leader Robin Jarvis joins McREL 


Robin Jarvis, former program director at SEDL and former superintendent of the Recovery School District in New Orleans, has joined the staff of McREL International. Jarvis is the executive director of McREL’s Center for Systems Transformation, which provides schools, districts, and state departments of education in the U.S., Canada, and the Pacific region with school improvement planning and implementation support, system transformation guidance, technical assistance, and professional development services. “I am excited about the opportunity to join McREL and lead a team of professionals focused on solving problems of practice specific to school improvement and systems transformation,” said Jarvis. “Together, we will expand the knowledge base to provide research-proven solutions and tools to address challenging issues in education.” Read our press release here.

Simply Better cited as a resource for creating a positive classroom culture 


Blogger John Robinson at “The 21st Century Principal” shares ASCD’s list of resources for creating a positive classroom culture, including McREL’s Bryan Goodwin’s book, Simply Better: Doing What Matters Most to Change the Odds for Student Success. Such a culture is essential, says ASCD, to “supporting the whole child and ensuring that each student is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.” These resources help educators set the standard for comprehensive, long-lasting school improvement and student success. Read the blog here.

McREL’s Compendium of Standards “a great guide to keep students on track”


“Compelling Conversations” blogger, Eric Roth, cites McREL’s Compendium of Standards as a guide for foreign language classrooms and learners of any language, to evaluate student proficiency. Read his blog here. Browse our Compendium of Standards here.

In This Issue

Featured Content

Education Logic Model Application


If you’ll be applying for a grant, logic models are a powerful–and often required–way to illustrate solid planning behind a future program. Specifically, the Education Logic Model (ELM) application is a highly recommended tool that guides users through creating a logic model, one step at a time, allowing the user to determine how data fit within the larger design of a program, and how they relate to different program components. For more information on the Education Logic Model application, visit the REL Pacific website.

Events & Opportunities

Workshop on unified improvement plans for Colorado educators, August 6

This one-day workshop for Colorado-based principals, school leadership team members, and instructional coaches will give practice-proven strategies for translating Unified Improvement Plans from a vision on paper into purposeful, collaborative, school-wide action. Participants will learn structures and processes for successfully engaging school staff in the work, and will leave the workshop with activities, ideas, and tools for increasing collective efficacy. Register here.

Changing Schools magazine: Summer 2014

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.

Contact Us
McREL International
4601 DTC Blvd., Suite 500
Denver, CO 80237
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July 3, 2014

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

Another item from yesterday’s inbox…

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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.

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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.
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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…

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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.

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