Virtual School Meanderings

September 29, 2020

Top instructional strategies for better student learning

An item from one of the regional education laboratories that may be of interest to some of the teachers that read this space.

Dear Michael,
Whether you’re teaching online or in person (or both), using high-quality, research-based strategies can help engage your students, spark their curiosity, and deepen their learning. McREL is here to support you with professional learning resources and services to support your instructional expertise—services we can deliver to you and your team online, on-site, or both.
Tools for Classroom Instruction That Works
Research shows that there are nine categories of instructional strategies that will have the biggest effects on your students’ learning. In our books, workshops, and PL coaching sessions, we’ll help you dig into what each strategy is, why it works, and when and how to use it in your classroom to help your students’ learning goals.
Professional Learning options:
  • Download some free teaching tools
  • Read the book
  • Design an online or on-site PL session for your team, contextualized to your goals. Contact us to learn more.
Student Learning That Sticks
Combining insights from neuroscience and learning sciences, our unique model for designing and sequencing lessons will help you deliver instruction in a way that sparks your students’ interest and helps them create memorable, applicable knowledge.
Professional Learning options:
Can we partner with you and your teaching team this school year? Contact us today to learn more about our online, on-site, and hybrid professional learning services.
Stay curious,
Beth Watson              Hilary Cooper
303.632.5536               303.632.5541
CONNECT WITH McREL
McREL International
P 800.858.6830 | F 303.337.3005
4601 DTC Blvd., Suite 500
Denver, CO 80237
Copyright © 2020, McREL International. All rights reserved.
McREL International | 4601 DTC Blvd., Suite 500Denver, CO 80237

September 24, 2020

Changing Schools | September newsletter

There are several items here that may be of interest to readers, particularly the first few.

September 2020
CEO’s Message: It’s Always Time To Support Educators
The world has been focused on how to support students and families through the recent shutdowns, reopenings, and re-shutdowns, and rightly so. But at the same time, we should recognize the emotional (and, often, physical) toll on teachers, support staff, school leaders, and other educators who are working hard every day to deliver great education for all students in this new paradigm.
Our Hawaii-based colleagues have published some self-care guidance for teachers that has found a wide audience in the Pacific region and beyond, and as you’ll read below, the head of our Learning Services team says that in a world full of things we can’t control, we at least can learn how to respond to change effectively.
Now more than ever, the best time to support our coworkers and ourselves is, well, now.
Bryan
Bryan Goodwin, CEO, McREL International
New From McREL
New Paper Explores a Better Way To Create Online Learning
Combining and building on ideas from change management, improvement science, and inside-out systems development, this new paper by Kris Rouleau from McREL’s Learning Services team offers seven guiding principles for district leaders who are looking for a better systemwide approach to online learning.
Three Characteristics of High-Quality Questions in the Classroom
Also from Dr. Rouleau: Questioning is the second-most-used teaching technique (after teacher talk) but not all questions are created equal. In this video, you’ll learn how to ask your students higher quality questions in the classroom that will prompt them to think more deeply about the concepts and content they’re learning.
Districts Try New Approaches to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
School districts nationwide are trying to do better at equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI). McREL staff recently contributed to a webinar series on the subject sponsored by Discovery Education and covered by District Administrator magazine, where they discuss key steps being taken by districts, including hiring EDI directors, reviewing policies, prioritizing student voice, recruiting more teachers of color, and ensuring curriculum and professional learning are more culturally responsive.
Curious Conversations Build Better Classroom Relationships
When someone politely expresses curiosity about us, we’re more likely to open up. And when a teacher expresses curiosity about their students—asking about their interests, their families, their out-of-school activities—the resulting air of mutual supportiveness can actually boost student achievement. That’s why McREL CEO Bryan Goodwin is an advocate of developing resources and strategies that help stimulate curiosity in teachers, students, and the rest of us. In this new blog post, Bryan looks at research on the surprising benefits that a simple conversation can bring, and how this understanding can turn entire schools into more curious and joyful places.
A Formula for Better Learning: Quiz More, Grade Less, and Give Your Students Second Chances
Learning is seldom a one-time event. If you’ve ever crammed for a big exam at the end of a semester, you may have had a sneaking suspicion that even if all that effort got you the grade you needed, the knowledge you gained would go in one metaphorical ear and out the other. It wouldn’t stick with you over the long term. If information can be retrieved and then forgotten that readily, does it even really count as knowledge?
We know from research and brain science that learning is an iterative process—which can point us to some different ways to think about assignments, tests, and grading to support deeper learning. In the September 2020 issue of Educational Leadership, Bryan Goodwin and Kris Rouleau explain how using frequent, ungraded quizzes can be more helpful than infrequent, make-or-break tests, because they help students identify knowledge gaps and exploit the brain’s urge to fill them in.
New Books and Online PD
In case you missed earlier announcements, here are a few of our newest professional learning resources for teachers and school leaders.
Books
Research Roundup
A selection of research news that ties into our work on leadership, instruction, school improvement, and professional learning here at McREL.
To Aid Learning, Take a Break. EdSurge interviewed John Sweller, the learning scientist best known for his cognitive load theory, on how to get around the limitations of the brain’s working memory. His advice fits neatly with Bryan Goodwin’s observations and McREL’s Six-Phase Model for Learning: that teachers can design more-effective lessons if they know what the brain can (and can’t) do with new knowledge at various points along the learning process. Read the interview.
“Error Monitoring” Can Boost Curiosity and Learning. Yes, we can learn from our errors—but a new University of Southern California study suggests the conditions need to be right. Researchers took brain-activity measurements on children at Montessori and traditional schools working on math problems. Both groups wound up with the same number of right answers, but the Montessori kids lingered over the ones they found difficult, whereas the traditional-school kids skipped them in favor of problems they found easier. Study co-lead Mary Helen Immordino-Yang said she’s concerned traditional teaching methods squelch curiosity, limiting students’ ability to learn. Read the study (free access from USC).
How Do Schools Influence Student Success? It’s commonly acknowledged that teachers have a huge influence on student achievement, but what about entire schools? The American Educational Research Journal considers whether researchers can measure the effects of schools (in this case, middle schools) on academic outcomes. They found that while teacher effects are easier to measure, school effects are also present, and future research perhaps ought to blend the two. For policymakers, this could have the benefit of identifying more and less effective school models. Read the article (subscription required).
Grant Opportunities
Every month we compile this list of current and upcoming grant opportunities that schools might use to fund a variety of improvement efforts. If you need cost-effective assistance with planning and writing an application proposal for any of these grants, contact us at info@mcrel.org. And if your grant project requires an external evaluation, we can be your partner.
Common Abbreviations: institutions of higher education (IHEs); local education agencies (LEAs); and state education agencies (SEAs).
Discovery Research PreK-12 (DRK-12)
Eligible applicants: SEAs, LEAs, IHEs, and other educational organizations.
This program supports enhanced learning and teaching of STEM by preK–12 students and teachers through three research and development strands (assessment, learning, and teaching) focused on STEM education innovations and approaches, particularly those addressing immediate challenges in preK–12 education. These grants can range from $450,000 to $5M. Applications are due Oct. 7. Learn more.
Education and Human Resources (EHR) Core Research
Eligible applicants: SEAs, LEAs, IHEs, and other educational organizations.
This program supports proposals for fundamental research that advances knowledge in one of the following tracks: (1) Research on STEM learning and learning environments, (2) research on broadening participation in STEM fields, and (3) research on STEM workforce development. These grants can range from $500,000 for three years to $2.5M for five years. Applications are due Oct. 7. Learn more.
Strengthening Community Colleges (SCC) Training Grants
Eligible applicants: IHEs (community colleges).
The SCC program seeks to increase the capacity and responsiveness of community colleges to address employers’ skill development needs; offer accelerated career pathways to dislocated and unemployed workers, incumbent workers, and new workforce entrants that will enable them to gain skills and transition from unemployment to (re)employment quickly; and address the new challenges associated with COVID-19 that necessitate social distancing and expanding online and technology-enabled learning. These grants can range from $2M for a single institution to $5M for a consortium for four years. Applications are due Oct. 8. Learn more.
Inclusion Across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES)
The INCLUDES program seeks collaborative efforts to enhance preparation of, increase participation in, and ensure contributions from historically underrepresented and underserved groups in STEM, which will lead to new STEM talent and leadership to secure our nation’s future and long-term economic competitiveness. These grants can range from $1M to $2M per year. Letters of intent are due Oct. 5 and applications are due Jan. 26, 2021. Learn more.
Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
The AISL program seeks to advance new approaches to and evidence-based understanding of the design and development of STEM learning opportunities in informal environments; provide multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences; advance innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments; and engage students of all ages in learning STEM in informal environments. The AISL program supports six types of projects: (1) Pilots and Feasibility Studies; (2) Research in Service to Practice; (3) Innovations in Development; (4) Broad Implementation; (5)Literature Reviews, Syntheses, or Meta-Analyses; and (6) Conferences. These grants can range from $250,000 to $3M for a up to five years depending on the project type. Applications are due Jan. 12, 2021. Learn more.
WE’RE HIRING!
As a growing organization, we’re expanding our team of educators, researchers, project managers, and communicators to provide supports and services to more schools, districts, and education agencies. Interested in joining our team? Check out these current openings on the McREL careers page:
  • Communications Specialist (Denver or Honolulu)
  • Managing Researcher (Honolulu)
  • Project Management Professional (Denver or Honolulu)
  • Research Director (Honolulu)
CONTACT US TODAY
Learn more about how our coaching, professional learning, and analysis services can help your school or system reach its goals.
McREL International
P 800.858.6830 | F 303.337.3005
Copyright © 2020, McREL International. All rights reserved.
McREL International | 4601 DTC Blvd., Suite 500Denver, CO 80237

September 21, 2020

Latest COVID-19 Response Resources from the REL Program

I received this late last week, but with the volume of items this is the first opportunity I’ve had to post it.

 Institute of Education Sciences

Latest COVID-19 Response Resources from the REL Program

In response to COVID-19, the 10 Regional Educational Laboratories (RELs) have collaborated to produce a series of evidence-based resources and information about teaching and learning in a remote environment, as well as other considerations brought by the pandemic. See below for a roundup of featured resources on this topic. A full list of resources is available on the REL COVID-19 webpage.

When Teachers and Students Are Separated: Strategies from Research on Social Presence for Teaching at a Distance
Infographic | REL Southeast
Audience: teachers, school leaders

Interactive Readalouds: Learning from Books Together
Video | REL West
Audience: teachers, families, caregivers

Culturally Affirming Care for Rural Students During the Pandemic: A Karuk Perspective
Blog | REL West
Audience: social workers, support providers, teachers

How “Classrooms on Wheels” Continue to Reach Rural Preschoolers During the Pandemic
Blog | REL West
Audience: early childhood providers, district leaders

School Social Work in the Time of COVID-19: When Human-Centered Work Moved Online
Blog | REL West
Audience: social workers, support providers, teachers

*****

The Regional Educational Laboratories (RELs) build the capacity of educators to use data and research to improve student outcomes. Each REL responds to needs identified in its region and makes learning opportunities and other resources available to educators throughout the United States. The REL program is a part of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) in the U.S. Department of Education. To receive regular updates on REL work, including events and reports, follow IES on Facebook and Twitter. To provide feedback on this or other REL work, email Contact.IES@ed.gov.

The Institute of Education Sciences, a part of the U.S. Department of Education, is the nation’s leading source for rigorous, independent education research, evaluation and statistics.
IES Research on Facebook IES Research on Twitter
By visiting Newsflash you may also sign up to receive information from IES and its four Centers NCESNCERNCEE, & NCSER to stay abreast of all activities within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES).

September 9, 2020

Updates From The Regional Educational Laboratory Mid-Atlantic

Several useful remote learning items in this REL newsletter.

This message contains graphics. If you do not see the graphics, click here to view.

REL Mid-Atlantic: Newsletter
From the Director | Reopening Schools | Coronavirus Impact | Promising Practices | Governing Board  |  Predicting Academic Risks  |  New and Improved

Latest News from the Director

The last school year ended with school buildings closed across the region and around the country. The new one has begun with widely varying approaches in different schools and communities as well as enormous uncertainty about how long some school buildings will remain closed and how long others can remain open as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. With infection rates fluctuating and scientific knowledge evolving rapidly, REL staff spent much of the summer trying to provide evidence-based support to educators and policymakers. As you’ll see in the items below, we’ve identified promising practices for remote learning, offered a tool to help educators learn what works in their own schools, addressed the implications of trauma from the pandemic, and produced the nation’s first quantitative comparison of the likely relative effectiveness of different reopening approaches for mitigating the spread of COVID-19. We hope this work is helpful to you in planning for what is sure to be a very unusual and challenging 2020–2021 school year.

Brian Gill, Director
REL Mid-Atlantic

Reopening Schools While Mitigating COVID-19’s Spread: How Many Days Should Students Attend?

Like other state education agencies, the Pennsylvania Department of Education needed to determine an approach to reopening schools in the fall that mitigates the spread of COVID-19 infections. REL Mid-Atlantic provided research support to the department based on emerging evidence on COVID-19 in children, research on remote-learning strategies, and a computational model that predicted the potential spread of COVID-19 under in-person, remote, and hybrid models of instruction. In this blog post, REL Director Brian Gill offers policymakers and educators advice on addressing the challenge. A webinar recording, tailored for school district and state-level educators and community partners, shares the lessons we learned from this rapid-turnaround project. Presenters explain the project’s findings and the ways that Pennsylvania used the findings to inform its guidance to schools.
Presenters include the following:

Brian Gill, REL Mid-Atlantic
Ravi Goyal, REL Mid-Atlantic
Jacob Hartog, REL Mid-Atlantic
Danielle DeLisle, REL Mid-Atlantic
Adam Schott, special assistant to the secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Education

Check out the infographic showing that dividing students into smaller groups, with part-time in-person attendance and precautions for those attending, is likely to slow infection spread the most. And read frequently asked questions about reopening schools.

Trauma-Informed Strategies Can Address the Unprecedented Impact of Coronavirus on School Communities

With the 2019–2020 school year in the rearview mirror, school leaders and staff are shifting their attention from crisis response to crisis recovery. For the most vulnerable students, such as those experiencing chronic homelessness and food insecurity, the pandemic might have taken a considerable social and emotional toll. Read this blog and fact sheet for ideas on supporting students and staff who return to school in the fall bearing the weight of trauma, which can adversely affect teaching and learning.

Promising Practices to Enhance Remote Learning

When schools are forced to shutter their doors, educators need effective remote learning strategies. Check out these newly released infographics and fact sheets to understand promising practices in remote learning—and identify what is or isn’t working in your own schools.

Be sure to take a look at the REL COVID-19 website to find webinars and other resources from all 10 RELs to support distance learning.

Photo of parent helping child with writingTips for Supporting Elementary Writing Skills at Home

This practical guide offers families and caregivers three main suggestions, as well as supporting exercises, to help young children build their writing skills at home. It is based on recommendations from the U.S. Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse.

Going the Distance: Online Strategies for Students with Disabilities

One-fifth of our nation’s school-age learners are children with disabilities. The shift to remote learning has caused educators to search for new ways to support these students. Read this new blog post for tips on how to choose the tools that will work for this group of students.

Kevin Dehmer Joins the Governing Board

Photo of Kevin DehmerWe are proud to announce that Kevin Dehmer, interim commissioner for the New Jersey Department of Education, has joined the REL Governing Board. Dehmer also serves as the chief financial officer and assistant commissioner for the Division of Finance at the New Jersey Department of Education.

Using Data from Schools and Child Welfare Agencies to Predict Near-Term Academic Risks

REL Mid-Atlantic partnered with Pittsburgh Public SchoolsPropel Schools (a charter school network), and the Allegheny County Department of Human Services to explore whether using data from child welfare agencies and schools could help educators and administrators better predict which students are at risk of not achieving educational milestones in the near-term (i.e., next term or school year, depending on the outcome) more than using school data alone. In this new reportblog, and fact sheet, the study team highlights key findings, including the following:

  • School data are the strongest predictors of near-term academic problems across all outcomes.
  • Predictive performance remains strong when models rely exclusively on school data.
  • Some out-of-school events, such as child welfare involvement and emergency homeless services, strongly correlate with near-term academic problems.
  • While information on out-of-school events does not add much power to predictive models, it may help educators understand some of the underlying challenges faced by students in their home lives.

New and Improved

We’re pleased to share new and improved navigation for the Our Work section of the website—check it out and let us know your thoughts!

We’ve also worked with our colleagues at the nine other RELs across the country to gather resources on recruiting and retaining teachers: check out the teacher recruitment resources here and the teacher retention resources here. To make it easy to find relevant resources, we’ve organized the information for states, districts, and teacher preparation programs.

Please reach out to us at RELmidatlantic@mathematica-mpr.com anytime to share your ideas about important research and analytic issues we can help you address.

Please reach out anytime at RELmidatlantic@mathematica-mpr.com to share your ideas about important issues the REL Mid-Atlantic could address, request free technical assistance, or ask questions about how we can help you in your work.
Twitter Follow Us on Twitter for Latest Updates
This work was funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) under contract ED-IES-17-C-0006, with REL Mid-Atlantic, administered by Mathematica.  The content of the newsletter does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. government.

September 5, 2020

Latest COVID-19 Response Resources From The REL Program

These resources from the regional education laboratories may be of use or interest to some folks.

 Institute of Education Sciences

Latest COVID-19 Response Resources from the REL Program

In response to COVID-19, the 10 Regional Educational Laboratories (RELs) have collaborated to produce a series of evidence-based resources and information about teaching and learning in a remote environment, as well as other considerations brought by the pandemic. See below for a roundup of featured resources on this topic. A full list of resources is available on the REL COVID-19 webpage.

Best Practices for Creating Take-Home Packets to Support Distance Learning
Infographic | REL Pacific
Audience: teachers, school leaders, district leaders

Going the Distance: Online Strategies for Helping Students with Disabilities
Blog | REL Mid-Atlantic
Audience: teachers, school leaders, district leaders

Meaningful Online Education for Our Youngest Learners: Tips to Reconcile the Need for E-Learning with How Young Children Learn Best
Blog | REL Midwest
Audience: teachers

Supporting Children’s Reading at Home: Family Resources for Kindergarten through 3rd Grade
Webinar recording | REL Southeast
Audience: families, caregivers

Three Steps for Using Culturally Responsive Practices to Support Equity During Remote Learning
Blog | REL Mid-Atlantic
Audience: teachers, school leaders, district leaders

*****

The Regional Educational Laboratories (RELs) build the capacity of educators to use data and research to improve student outcomes. Each REL responds to needs identified in its region and makes learning opportunities and other resources available to educators throughout the United States. The REL program is a part of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) in the U.S. Department of Education. To receive regular updates on REL work, including events and reports, follow IES on Facebook and Twitter. To provide feedback on this or other REL work, email Contact.IES@ed.gov.

The Institute of Education Sciences, a part of the U.S. Department of Education, is the nation’s leading source for rigorous, independent education research, evaluation and statistics.
IES Research on Facebook IES Research on Twitter
By visiting Newsflash you may also sign up to receive information from IES and its four Centers NCESNCERNCEE, & NCSER to stay abreast of all activities within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES).
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