Virtual School Meanderings

September 9, 2014

Common Core and Next Generation Standards: Successful Planning and Implementation

Also from today’s inbox…

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WestEd E-Bulletin
The New Content Standards

New Era of Standards: Tap Into WestEd’s Collection of Resources

Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards promote a vision in which all students are highly prepared for both college and career. Plan and implement the new standards in your school, district, and/or state with resources from WestEd, including:

  • Free webinars
  • Free reports
  • Books and publications
WestEd & Partners Webinars

A Close Encounter, Through the Writers’ Eyes, of the New ELA/ELD Framework

Deepen your understanding of California’s new English language arts/English language development (ELD) framework. You will also discover strategies for teaching the Common Core and ELD standards.

The Ones That Got Away

Why Completing a College Degree Is Not the Only Way to Succeed

Research shows many students participating in workforce training programs at California community colleges secure high earnings whether or not they complete a degree or certificate. This brief explores new ways of measuring community college student success.

Speak Out, Listen Up!

Speak Out, Listen Up! Tools for Using Student Perspectives and Local Data for School Improvement

Listening closely to what students say about their school experiences can help educators better understand and address local challenges and rethink policies and practices. Learn how to use tools to elicit and listen to student voices to inform school improvement efforts.

Screenshot of the Doing What Works Library Site

Doing What Works Online Library

The Doing What Works (DWW) Library contains the full range of DWW materials to help educators improve student academic performance. This new online resource includes interviews with researchers and educators, multimedia examples and sample materials from schools and classrooms, and tools that can help educators take action.

Making Sense of Student Work

Making Sense of Student Work Protocol and Companion Materials

The Making Sense of Student Work protocol and companion materials help K-12 teachers promote effective student assessment and teacher collaboration around analyzing and interpreting student work.

Product Spotlight
PD2Go Logo and Website Screenshot

PD2GO: Early Childhood Professional Development

PD2GO (Professional Development To Go) is a new strategically organized collection of professional development experiences (or “packs”) designed for early childhood center directors and family child care home providers to use with staff. Get started by choosing a pack today.

Featured Initiative

Center on Standards & Assessment Implementation

The Center on Standards and Assessment Implementation (CSAI) is a collaboration between WestEd and CRESST, two national leaders in the standards and assessment field. CSAI helps states and the districts they serve implement high-quality standards and assessments throughout the United States.

CSAI is part of a federal network of technical assistance centers sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education.


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San Francisco, CA 94107

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August 21, 2014

Supporting Success — McREL e-News August 2014

A final item from Tuesday’s inbox…


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August 2014

Research Roundup

Missing the Mark: Students Gain Little from Mandating Extra Math and Science Courses  


Using data from the ACT, National Student Clearinghouse, and the Illinois State Board of Education, a new ACT policy brief shows that taking extra math and science courses did not have a significant effect on student college- and career-readiness for Illinois high school students. Read the brief here.

4th Graders Struggle With Icons, Directions on Computer-Based Tests

Education Week


This article outlines the results of a recent study by the National Center for Education Statistics, which found that 4th graders had difficulty using basic functions on a computer-based writing assessment. The students were able to use computers to type, organize, and compose, but had trouble with drop-down menus, editing icons, the highlighter tool, and text-to-speech functions.

A Double Dose of Math Has Diminishing Returns, Study Finds

Education Week
In a study released by Stanford University’s Center for Education Policy Analysis, 6th-grade students in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools who took one standard and one remedial math class scored significantly higher on the end-of-year state math test than students who took only one math class. However, the gains achieved after doubling up on math diminished completely by high school. Read the article about the study results here.

In the Field

McREL blog: A “fresh eyes” perspective on school climate change


Shelby Maier, systems transformation researcher at McREL, presents one idea you can easily implement in your school climate change plan. “The appearance of your school sends implicit and explicit messages to your parents, students, staff, and visitors about the quality of the learning environment and care to be found inside,” she writes. Read her blog post here.

McREL Policy Brief: Continuous improvement in schools and districts


Discussions about improving public education often focus on outcomes without considering how schools and districts can accomplish those outcomes. Research shows that using a continuous improvement process has proven successful in healthcare, manufacturing, and technology, and may hold potential for use in education as well. This brief defines and describes the continuous improvement process, and looks at the policy considerations for using such a process in education to help schools, districts, and systems achieve higher levels of reliable performance. Read our latest policy brief here.

Success Story: Helping Florida districts better implement and evaluate professional development (PD)


McREL’s work with the Florida Department of Education helped improve schools’ and districts’ capacity to implement and evaluate their individual PD needs, as identified through the reviews conducted by the state in each school district. Read more about our Florida work here.

Events & Opportunities

U.S. Department of Education announces $250 million in preschool grants nationwide


On August 14, the U.S. Department of Education announced a partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to offer $250 million in federal money to support early childhood education. The Preschool Development Grants program will accept applications for funding through October 14, 2014. Read more here.

McREL in the News

pitlerHoward Pitler discusses classroom observations and coaching on Wisconsin public radio 


In July, Dr. Steve Brown of Wisconsin’s WGTD public radio interviewed McREL’s Chief Program Officer Howard Pitler about the importance of trust in building a purposeful school community, conducting instructional observations, and peer-to-peer coaching. They also talked about technology in the classroom and Cosmic Chemistry, McREL’s out-of-school time program for high school science students. Listen to the interview here.

N.J. district reports benefits from McREL’s teacher evaluation system


Administrators from the Passaic Valley High School (PVHS) district in Little Falls, N.J., reported to trustees on the district’s adoption of McREL’s Teacher Evaluation system at a board meeting on July 22. Principal Ray Rotella noted, “We feel the process for the evaluation system is very beneficial for us because of the teacher input, and there’s been a general agreement on the administrative part and teachers’ part that this system started constructive conversations on instruction and how we can continue to improve and take suggestions.” Read the entire article at here.

In This Issue

Featured Content

Free Webinar: Using the POMT application: A simple dashboard for program outcomes, measures, and targets — August 21


This free webinar, offered by REL Pacific, will focus on the relationships between the various components of a program monitoring plan; the role of leadership in the planning and assessment of a program; and how REL Pacific’s Program Outcomes, Measures, and Targets (POMT) module can help you create an ongoing plan for monitoring, measuring, and tracking outcomes over time to evaluate program effectiveness. This webinar will help teachers, administrators, policy makers, and evaluators understand how program monitoring can be an important method for ensuring that programs run smoothly. The webinar is scheduled for Thursday, August 21 from 4:00-5:30 p.m. (MDT). Learn more and register for the webinar here.
For more information on the POMT application, visit the REL Pacific website.

Connect with Us on Social Media


For the latest in professional development opportunities, education news, research, and McREL employment opportunities, follow us on our social media channels.


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McREL International | 1.800.858.6830 | Fax 303.337.3005
4601 DTC Blvd., Suite 500
Denver, CO 80237
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August 11, 2014

Digital Learning For Credit Recovery In Idaho And Beyond

This came across my radar screen last week…

Digital Learning for Credit Recovery in Idaho and Beyond

A REL Northwest Webinar | Wednesday, August 20, 2014 | 9:30–10:45 am PDT, 10:30–11:45 am MDT Online programs and courses have been hailed as a viable learning solution to many issues facing schools, including credit recovery. This free webinar will discuss key strategies in building a successful online program and curriculum to meet the needs of at-risk students and those who need credit recovery for graduation. Topics include:

  • National trends for online program design, course functionality, course structure, and teacher support
  • How one program, the Idaho Digital Learning Academy, meets the specific learning needs of students through
    modifications to online programs, trainings for local mentors and online teachers, adjustments to course design,
    and working with districts to implement blended programs


Janet Twyman, Ph.D., is the Director of Innovation and Technology at the National Center on Innovations in Learning. Twyman’s work includes identifying emerging promising practices in education technology and developing web-based systems and tools.

Sherawn Reberry, Ed.D., is the Director of Education Programs at the Idaho Digital Learning Academy (IDLA), a statewide virtual school established by the Idaho legislature in 2002. IDLA provides e-learning expertise, virtual services, and leadership in collaboration with Idaho school teachers and administrators to ensure all of Idaho students’ needs are being met.

Who should attend

This 75-minute webinar is designed for:

• School administrators, counselors, and educators, particularly in rural and/or alternative schools
• State education agency staff interested in online programs for at-risk students
• Parents whose students might benefit from online instructional programs

To register

Register at

For more information Contact Claire Gates at

This event is sponsored by Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northwest,
funded by the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences.

August 2, 2014

Teacher Collaboration, School Turnaround, School Climate, and More

A final item from Wednesday for you all…

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WestEd E-Bulletin
Making Sense of Student Work

Making Sense of Student Work: A Protocol for Teacher Collaboration

This new resource provides groups of K–12 teachers with steps and guidelines designed to promote productive discussions of student work, leading to improved teaching and student learning.

“[Making Sense of Student Work] supports teachers who want to understand what their students know and how they reason so that they can leverage learning in productive ways.”

— Linda Darling-Hammond, Professor of Education, Stanford University

students listening

Community Engagement in School Turnaround: Reaching and Engaging Rural Stakeholders

Learn and discuss the issues rural schools and districts face when engaging families and communities in the school improvement process. This webinar will also help you identify strategies for meaningfully engaging key stakeholders. Thursday, August 7, 11am-12:15pm (Pacific Time)

students engaging with each other

Community College Students Are Attaining Significant Wage Gains—Without a Degree

Community colleges are creating more varied programs and pathways to help students advance their careers and enhance their lives.

Alternative ways of measuring how well community colleges serve career technical education students will be explored in an August 28 webinar, hosted by the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development. In addition, view two related videos created with the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.

Learn more about WestEd’s work in this area by visiting our project page and downloading a resource on wage gains for short-term course-takers.

young students discussing with teacher

California Schools That Beat the Odds

A new WestEd report uses the most recent school academic performance data to update a list of California elementary, middle, and high schools that beat the odds by performing better than would have been predicted based on their students’ socioeconomic characteristics for at least four consecutive years.

The report also confirms previous findings that positive school climate is a factor strongly associated with beating the academic achievement odds among middle and high school students. This underscores the importance of making school climate improvement a priority in Local Control and Accountability Plans.

teacher instructing children

Cradle to College & Career Pathway Institute for Special Education Administrators

Are you a special education administrator who is interested in improving your ability to align districtwide initiatives and priorities to benefit students’ postsecondary outcomes?

Join us for this free institute, designed to help you train staff to successfully implement the Multi-Tiered System of Supports framework. Thursday, August 7, 8:30am-3pm, Sacramento, CA


How Arizona’s Dropout Crisis Affects Communities, Creates Economic Losses for the State of Arizona

Failing to prepare young people for adulthood creates both social and financial losses for federal, state, and local governments. This new report details how high school dropouts and disconnected youth have affected—and continue to affect—the state of Arizona.

Beverly Young

Beverly Young, CA State University Chancellor, Elected Chair of WestEd’s Board of Directors

“Beverly Young has served on WestEd’s Board of Directors in numerous leadership positions for over six years, and it is a testament to her dedication to our agency’s mission and her skill as a director that her colleagues elected her to serve as Board Chair in 2014-15.”

Glen Harvey, WestEd CEO

Product Spotlight
Examining Mathematics Practice through Classroom Artifacts

Examining Mathematics Practice through Classroom Artifacts:
20% Discount!

How can elementary and middle school teachers know if their math students are really learning? This resource describes how to use classroom artifacts to assess students’ thinking and understanding of mathematical content.


Featured Initiative
REL West and WestEd

Regional Educational Laboratory West Meeting Education Needs in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah

The Regional Educational Laboratory West (REL West) provides research and resources designed to increase the use of quality data and evidence in education decision-making.

Most REL West work is carried out in partnership with educators—from state and local decision-makers to district and school support providers and practitioners—through eight regional research alliances.

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Our mailing address is:


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San Francisco, CA 94107

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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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Denver, CO 80237
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