Field Experts Help Capstone Students toward Deeper Learning
By Cassandra Pasion
The state’s graduation guidelines have been in development since 2007. The goal of the graduation guidelines is to ensure that students don’t get left behind in Colorado’s changing economy. The guidelines mean significant changes for students. The Class of 2022 will be the first class to demonstrate their readiness in Reading, Writing and Communicating (English) and Mathematics through the graduation guidelines menu. The Jeffco Graduation Capstone started four years ago in the district for implementation at the building level.
Already, Colorado employers cannot find enough workers to fill jobs in some manufacturing, health, technology, and science-based industries. They say that students are not prepared to be successful in thousands of available jobs in our state. So, to prepare students for the next step after high school, Capstone projects provide students the opportunity to apply the skills such as research, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking.
Capstone is a district-defined option from the menu of options to meet CDE’s graduation readiness requirements or the graduation guidelines. Jeffco provides a Capstone option for all students that is available in our 17 high schools and a few of our choice schools. The Jeffco Graduation Capstone is designed to provide students with the opportunity to showcase their academic achievement, enduring knowledge, and unique talents. Students may complete the Graduation Capstone during any year during high school to demonstrate college and career readiness in Reading, Writing, and Communicating (English) and/or Mathematics.
The Jeffco Graduation Capstone may be a stand-alone course or embedded in a content course such as English 11, English 12, Statistics, or Geometry. Some high schools use Advisement as a way to schedule Graduation Capstone for students to complete as it is a multifaceted project that incorporates content mastery in Reading, Writing and Communicating (RWC) and Mathematics. Students will also need to demonstrate essential and employability skills. There are considerations to meet the needs of students with disabilities and English as a second language if they complete the Graduation Capstone as an option to meet the graduation readiness requirements.
An important component of project work is providing opportunities for students to learn from field experts (Helm & Katz, 2016). As students complete their capstone projects, questions often come up that aren’t directly related to a lesson plan and this becomes an opportunity for students to delve into their Capstones deeper through interviewing a field expert. This provides students a better understanding of the world that we live in as they apply skills required in college and/or career.
Any field expert or mentorship enhances a student’s capstone experience, exposing them to industry and other experts in the field. The field expert or mentor provides an authentic, real-world experience for the student. The Jeffco Graduation Capstone is different from most other forms of research because it directs students away from books and out into the world to learn from hands-on experience. Students are required to conduct one informational interview with a field expert/mentor connected to their Capstone topic in person, by phone, or virtually. An informational interview is a meeting to learn about the real-life experience of someone working in a field, organization, or company that interests the student or relevant to a field of study. It's not a job interview, so it's important for students to keep focused on getting information, not a job offer.
To prepare for the informational interviews, students learn how to identify and define “network” and “networking." As students learn the skill of networking, they seek out community members, organizations or businesses that have a direct connection to their Capstone topic to conduct an informational interview by using their networks. This process provides students the opportunity to make connections and build or expand their networks to enhance their knowledge. As students build a professional network, they learn how to communicate in a professional manner and exchange information related to their Capstone projects with industry or subject-matter experts. Through this work, students can then explain, defend, and apply their Graduation Capstone work to demonstrate Reading, Writing and Communicating (English) and/or Mathematics readiness.
Cassandra Pasion and Suzanne Sundbye support teachers and/or schools with professional development, co-teaching or modeling of lessons regarding the Capstone Essentials for Graduation Readiness. As a team, we want to assist schools and/or teachers to grow essential and employability skills for students through the Graduation Capstones, so schools can grow their capstone programs successfully.
Struggling Readers in High Schools
By Robyn Kehoe Ramsey and Megan Motley
The Colorado Reading to Ensure Academic Development Act (READ Act) has been around long enough that first students arrived as freshmen in our high schools last year. Since we were all in crisis mode, no one was equipped to consider how to address these students’ needs. This year, freshmen and sophomores on READ plans are forcing school leaders to consider interventions -- as well as the obvious reality that not all high school readers who struggle have a flag in Campus. We all know that if a student is struggling with reading in ELA class, the student is struggling with reading in social studies, science, and across the school day. We also know that achievement gaps only get larger when we do nothing.
But how do we help? Literacy resources are aimed at a much younger crowd, and diagnostics for this age group are scarce. Schools are faced with constraints of scheduling and staffing, and many teachers throw up our hands and exclaim “I don’t know! I’m not a reading teacher!” when asked for reading goals and progress monitoring. K-3 teachers were required to complete 45 hours of reading coursework, but secondary teachers would benefit from at least a basic understanding of the science of reading.
Reading is not “natural.” While we are born wired to understand visual or auditory stimuli, we’re not born wired to read. Reading is a complex set of learned cognitive processes happening all at the same time. Scarborough’s Reading Rope is a way to show the many components working together to produce skilled reading.
A deficit in one of these skills can weaken the strength of the whole. Effective Tier 1 strategies in the classroom, as well as using a basic Informal Reading Inventory, can help us identify and address the specific skills a reader may need.
Teachers -- not just ELA teachers -- can help teens improve their reading skills. It’s not too late! Here are several ways teachers can help students improve their reading skills.
Supporting struggling readers in high school is as complex as reading itself. Any action we take to help our students improve their skills is well worth it!
Colorado Department of Education. 2019. Colorado READ Act. https://www.cde.state.co.us/communications/readact-overviewfactsheet
Scarborough, H. 2001. Connecting early language and literacy to later reading (dis)abilities: Evidence, theory and practice. Pp. 97-110 in S. B. Neuman & D. K. Dickinson (Eds.) Handbook of Early Literacy. NY: Guildford Press.
Small Shifts in Science: Using Phenomenon
By Megan Hurley and Cathy Goodheart
As we shift our science instruction to include the three dimensions, an easy way to shift is simply changing the order in which we plan and implement our instruction.
Moving the explanation to after the exploration of ideas, builds on student sense making. To do just that, teachers can ask students to explore using a variety of teaching strategies; however, starting with a natural phenomenon is a perfect fit.
A phenomenon is simply an observable event. In the science classroom a carefully chosen phenomenon can drive student inquiry. Phenomena add relevance to the science classroom showing students science in their own world. A good phenomenon is observable, interesting, complex, and aligned to the appropriate standard. Watch Paul Anderson discuss Scientific Phenomena and Sensemaking
Want more info and resources? Master List from Wonder of Science
Native American Heritage Month
By Sarah Hurd
I have been a part of Jeffco Schools since my family moved here in the mid 1980s from eastern Kansas. Third grade brought local history to me, which was so new to me as I had only been living in Colorado for a couple of years. We had Day in Denver and I remember taking photos and using the prints to make a scrapbook for my project of architecture in Denver. And we also had Day on the Prairie. We were divided into Native American tribes and spent the day at a nearby park. At the time it seemed fun. We got to make necklaces made out of wood rings, built teepees, and tried bison burgers. I remember learning the different names of tribes. All in all, it was a fun field trip. We were outside, I was with friends, and my mom got to come along. Fast forward 20 plus years and in my current role I found a meeting placed on my calendar with Jeffco’s Indian Education Liaison. A whole new world was waiting for me. In the last seven years I have learned so much about not only Colorado’s First Peoples, but where our Native Nations are positioned in our past, present and future. It has become a highlight to share about native peoples and to thread their stories throughout the K-12 curriculum. I am now able to reflect upon my experience from Day on the Prairie and realize that while no harm was intended, approaching learning about a culture, its peoples, and traditions in that way is disrespectful and is harmful. As we approach November, I wanted to take a few minutes and elevate my personal growth and understanding to include native perspectives and heritage. I hope this coming month provides a space for you to reflect and learn as well.
In 1990, President George H.W. Bush declared November as National American Indian Heritage Month. Today, it is often referred to as Native American Heritage Month. Throughout the Jeffco curriculum, the Social Studies Team, in partnership with our Jeffco Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion team, has worked to incorporate a wide variety of resources that highlight the history and accomplishments of Native Americans within the United States, as well as internationally. We are working to include native voices and perspectives, influential Native historical figures, current prominent Native leaders, and cultural influences throughout the Jeffco social studies curriculum.
Here are some resource links that we love for this month:
Native American Heritage Month website - contains links for multiple resources including the Library of Congress materials, the National Archives, and the Smithsonian with lesson materials such as primary sources and teaching suggestions.
The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Native Knowledge 360° Essential Understandings about American Indians. It is a framework that offers new possibilities for creating student learning experiences. This site also provides guidance about teaching about Thanksgiving in an inclusive and accurate way.
Vocabulary: Not just for ELA class
By Robyn Kehoe Ramsey and Megan Motley
No matter the content area, explicit vocabulary instruction is essential for student success. While it is by no means a panacea, strong connections between vocabulary acquisition and literacy, equity, and positive outcomes for students are clear. We must consider that when we test students’ reading comprehension, we may actually be testing their vocabulary and background knowledge and unintentionally preventing them from showing what they really know and can do (Willingham, 2017). Since vocabulary knowledge is directly linked to student success in school, it is well worth considering why and how every teacher should be teaching vocab.
Vocabulary acquisition is directly linked to equity. By first grade, higher socioeconomic groups are likely to know twice as many words as lower socioeconomic groups (Neumann & Wright, 2014), and we all know now that most children are never able to close that gap, negatively impacting their outcomes all the way through high school. “It is now well accepted that the chief cause of the achievement gap between socioeconomic groups is a language gap” (Hirsch, 2003). Therefore, it is incumbent upon us all -- not just upon ELA teachers -- to be intentional about vocabulary instruction.
How NOT to teach vocab:
How to teach vocab:
Which words to teach?
Consider that vocabulary words in any discipline can be divided into three Tiers (not to be confused with the Tiers of MTSS!). Tier 1 words are basic words in common use (“chair,” “phone,” “lion”). Tier 2 words are academic words that students encounter across contents (“analyze,” “evidence,” “theme”). Tier 3 words are content-specific (“metaphor,” “perpendicular,” “renaissance”). Tier 2 and Tier 3 words need to be explicitly taught as they influence students’ ability to understand and learn new content and concepts. Proficiency Scales are an excellent place for teachers to find specific vocabulary on which students should focus and build their knowledge.
“Teaching vocabulary will not guarantee success in reading … However, lacking either adequate word identification skills or adequate vocabulary will ensure failure” (Biemiller, 2005). Because vocabulary knowledge is so clearly linked to reading comprehension, as well as issues of equity for all students, teachers -- ALL teachers -- should consider how they are explicitly teaching the words students need to build a strong foundation for success in every content area.
Want to explore more ways to teach vocab? Check out this resource!
Biemiller, A. (2005). Size and sequence in vocabulary development: Implications for choosing words for primary grade vocabulary instruction. Teaching and learning vocabulary: Bringing research to practice.
Hattie, J. (2018) 252 Influences and Effect Sizes Related to Student achAchievement. Visible Learning. https://visible-learning.org/hattie-ranking-influences-effect-sizes-learning-achievement/
Hirsch, E.D. (2003) Reading Comprehension Requires Knowledge of Words and the World. American Educator. https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/periodicals/Hirsch.pdf
Moore, D. (n.d.) Why Vocabulary Instruction Matters. Best Practices in Secondary Education. https://ngl.cengage.com/assets/downloads/edge_pro0000000030/am_moore_why_vocab_instr_mtrs.pdf
Neumann, S. and Wright (2014). Teaching Vocabulary in the Early Childhood Classroom. American Educator. https://www.aft.org/periodical/american-educator/summer-2014/magic-words
Willingham, Daniel (2017). The Reading Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Understanding How the Mind Reads.
Social-Emotional Learning: Part 2: Music
By Amy Woodley
As we move through October, Music and Performing Arts programs are really starting to hit their stride! Our auditoriums are open once again, our students are performing for live audiences, and our community is coming together in ways we have not been able to for the past year and a half. It feels REALLY good to be making music together again!
Part 1 of this series (September 30, 2021) discussed the natural partnership between The Arts and Social Emotional Learning (SEL). Just like any classroom, instruction in Visual Arts, Music, and Theatre is enhanced when there are great SEL structures in place. It is important to be able to recognize those structures, make them a strategic part of the lesson planning process, and name them when necessary during instruction. Helping students see those connections between their content learning and the skills of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision making, and relationship building is just as important as creating an environment that values their intellectual and emotional growth.
The image below is a link to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s Interactive CASEL Wheel. Click the image, and you will be able to use their interactive wheel to investigate how the SEL competencies and Arts competencies work together to enhance student achievement. The black dots represent Music (M), Visual Arts (VA), Theatre Arts (TA), and Dance (D) and each dot is a link to more information about what SEL might look like within that content.
After you’ve had a chance to explore the Arts/SEL wheel, consider finding time to connect with a colleague. Are there aspects of SEL learning that are enhanced in your classroom through one or more of these art forms? Are there parts of the artistic creative process that would enhance the social emotional environment in your classroom? If you are a Music, Theatre, or Visual Arts teacher, how do you express the value of and create space for social emotional learning? Capture your thinking, and challenge yourself to make those connections explicit in your lesson planning. I’d love to hear how this looks in your classroom!
This is the second of a three part series focusing on the relationship between SEL and the Arts. Be sure to check out the last installment!
(Re)Investing in PBL Instructional Practices
By Adrienne Rossi-Genova
Across the years, we have picked up and discarded many instructional practices as teachers, for a variety of reasons: growth as an educator, school or level changes, the needs of the students in front of us, schoolwide requirements. Like me, I’m sure there are a multitude of reasons swimming in your mind.
Some of those practices we kept for an equal number of reasons: they fit our belief systems, they met student needs, they continued to be a priority at our school.
Today, I’d like to make a case for an investment or reinvestment in one particular instructional strategy-- Project or Problem-Based Learning (PBL). You may know it by other names, but names aside, they all boil down to these essential components:
PBLWorks (https://www.pblworks.org/why-project-based-learning ) offers reasoning for using PBL in classrooms and schools, ”. . .we need young people who are ready, willing, and able to tackle the challenges of their lives and the world they will inherit. . .” The New Tech Network (https://32dkl02ezpk0qcqvqmlx19lk-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/New-Tech-Network-Overview-2.pdf ) agrees, citing, “”By making learning relevant [through PBL pedagogy], students see a purpose for mastering state-required skills and concepts” (2). Both offer insight into the depth and richness of the student learning experience. These ideals directly correlate with The Jeffco Deeper Learning Model, whose focus lies in the authentic and relevant learning teachers in Jeffco provide students (Jeffco).
You and your school may never have learned about PBL. Or you did some initial learning, but didn’t implement. Or you and your school were on a roll but hit the speed bump named COVID. Whatever the case, perhaps it’s time to take another look at the benefits of PBL at your school. I can help with both the investigation and the journey.
If you are interested in learning more, restarting your work with PBL, or want to consider what virtual PBL looks like, you can find me at: email@example.com, 2-7537, Ed Center, 2nd Floor, Curriculum & Instruction. Let’s get some good PBLs started together!
Buck Institute for Education. (n.d.). Why PBL? PBLWorks. https://www.pblworks.org/why-project-based-learning
Jeffco Public Schools. (2021). Jeffco deeper learning model. https://teamjeffco.jeffcopublicschools.org/academic_support/jeffco_learning_model
New Tech Network. (2020). The hierarchy of change: Design your way to school change. New Tech Network: Transforming teaching and learning New Tech Network. https://32dkl02ezpk0qcqvqmlx19lk-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/New-Tech-Network-Overview-2.pdf
Social-Emotional Learning and the Arts: Part 1: Theatre
By Drew Keat
Returning to in-person learning has been a significant transition for all members of the Jeffco Community. We are facing a variety of new challenges that require careful consideration and strategic intervention. In light of some of these challenges, the benefits of intentional focus on Social Emotional Learning have drawn our attention. Social Emotional Learning (SEL) provides a foundation for safe and positive learning, and enhances students' abilities to succeed in school, careers, and life. In addition, school-wide benefits of SEL include improved attitudes and behaviors throughout the school. The Jeffco Importance of SEL webpage outlines further benefits. However, these benefits are not simply elicited from isolated SEL instruction. To maximize the intended benefits, these lessons and skills need to be revisited and reinforced throughout a student’s day.
This is where the arts provide synergistic support for enhancing SEL. Arts education lends natural answers to the question “How do we reinforce the explicit instruction of SEL skills with authentic experiences and practice?” In January of 2020, the Journal of the National Association of State Boards of Education published a theory of action recognizing the implicit social-emotional learning involved in the daily experiences of arts education. While SEL competencies are not necessarily the primary instructional focus for arts courses, most arts educators do spend additional time and energy focusing on social-emotional development because these skills naturally supplement the outcome of their own content standards.
For instance, in Theatre, the recurrent experiences of auditioning for a production, rehearsing for performances, building ensemble, and engaging in the rigorous analyses necessary for creative self-expression provide fertile ground for the developmental experiences that are essential for high-quality SEL outcomes. Alternatively, by overtly building self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making, theatre students are able to give stronger performances, participate more effectively in ensembles, and execute more meaningful artistic analyses. Arts teachers tend to recognize that the development of SEL skills provide the answers for students when they ask “Why are we learning this?” This inherent relationship between SEL and Arts education indicates that some of our most valuable resources for SEL integration are arts teachers and their programs.
This synergy between content and SEL does not need to be confined to arts classrooms. Natural connections and interdependencies between SEL competencies can and should be made within all contents. With this in mind, we should remember that opportunities to draw on the experience and best practices of arts educators can be leveraged to enhance SEL instruction throughout our educational communities. As we approach the goals of SEL integration, one place to start could be the use of pedagogical strategies that are essential for Arts education.
This is the first of a three part series focusing on the relationship between SEL and the Arts. Be sure to check out our upcoming installments!
Theatre Activities for Reinforcing SEL
High School Credit in Middle School
By Jill Kalb, Lindsey Kjoller, and Alison Tanner
In October 2020, the Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education approved a policy change regarding students receiving high school credit for certain World Languages and Mathematics courses they complete while in middle school.
What was changed in board policy?
Why was there a change in policy?
Who does this impact? When does it begin?
Where is this policy in place? All secondary schools, including middle schools, high schools, and K-8 schools will follow this board policy.
Questions? Please refer to the following resources:
Hispanic Heritage Month
By Natalie Schaefer and Sarah Hurd
When I was a little girl, my grandmother made it her mission to find me any and every doll she could find who looked like me. She bought me every Barbie she could find with brown hair. I knew she was looking for dolls who had brown hair like me, but I did not come to realize that my brown hair and brown eyes signified anything more than the fact that everyone on my mom’s side of the family also had the same. My grandparents spoke both Spanish and English. Growing up, I knew they spoke Spanish because I knew when I could not understand what they were saying and typically, if they were speaking Spanish around me, it meant they had a secret -- a birthday present or information only the adults could know. In my family, Spanish names for certain things replaced their English words in such a way that I literally had no idea that there were different words for those things. As an adult, I was eating a salad with pine nuts on it and commented to my grandmother just how much like piñones these curious nuts tasted. My grandmother actually laughed at me when she had to explain that piñon is just the Spanish name for the same nut. I didn’t know, as a kid, that my family was any different from any other family in my neighborhood. I thought everyone’s grandfather carried a packet of chili pequin in their pocket and that mi hita was his nickname only for me. I didn’t identify myself as Hispanic until I had to fill out my first formal documents as a young adult -- you know the ones where they ask you to choose, “White - not Hispanic, or Hispanic” and at that moment I realized the complexity of the ideas we have come to know as identity especially when identity meets other terms like government, hierarchy, and discrimination.
This month, we honor Hispanic Heritage Month. The month actually lasts from September 15th to October 15th. The national holiday started as a week-long celebration in 1968 and was extended to the full month 20 years later, under the Reagan administration. The month begins on the 15th of September in recognition of the date of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Additionally, it aligns with Mexican Independence Day on September 16th and Chile’s Independence Day which takes place on September 18th. The month is meant to recognize the contributions and influence of Hispanic Americans and their role in the history, culture, and achievements of the United States. While the holiday is marked as Hispanic heritage, it is important to remember that the term Hispanic itself is complex and may not fully represent the spectrum of individuals and their personal identities and experiences. There is not, as Stef Bernal-Martinez explains, a single Hispanic identity.
According to the 2020 Census, the Hispanic population (including those who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico, Central America, and the Spanish speaking nations of the Caribbean) is one of the largest growing portions of the American population today. There are currently approximately 62.1 million people in the United States who fit that category. Colorado is one of 12 states in the country where Hispanic residents number over 1 million. The number is actually 1.25 million, and of that 1.25 million, 26,000 residents are under the age of 18 in Jefferson County.
This month, we take the time to honor Hispanic Heritage Month not only because it is deemed a national holiday, but also because we want all students in Jefferson County Public Schools to feel supported and seen in our schools. In partnership with our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion team, our curriculum team works to provide resources that highlight stories of people from a variety of backgrounds. We want students to feel represented in our curriculum and provide opportunities for students to learn about people of identities that do not reflect their own. We also strive to ensure that students do not only hear stories of people like them in hardship, but also in triumph.
Andone, Dakin. “Why Hispanic Heritage Month Starts in the Middle of September.” CNN, Cable News Network, 15 Sept. 2021, www.cnn.com/2021/09/15/us/hispanic-heritage-month-why-celebrate-2021/index.html.
Bernal-Martinez, Stef. “Unmaking ‘Hispanic’: Teaching the Creation of Hispanic Identity.” Learning for Justice, 1 Oct. 2018, www.learningforjustice.org/magazine/unmaking-hispanic-teaching-the-creation-of-hispanic-identity.
Colorado State Demography Office. “Race and Hispanic Origin.” Colorado Demography, 2021, demography.dola.colorado.gov/population/race-hispanic-origin/#race-and-hispanic-origin.
U.S. Census Bureau. “Hispanic Heritage Month 2020.” The United States Census Bureau, 22 Sept. 2020, www.census.gov/newsroom/facts-for-features/2020/hispanic-heritage-month.html.
U.S. Census Bureau. “Improved Race and Ethnicity Measures Reveal U.s. Population Is Much More Multiracial.” The United States Census Bureau, 8 Sept. 2021, www.census.gov/library/stories/2021/08/improved-race-ethnicity-measures-reveal-united-states-population-much-more-multiracial.html.
Resources for teachers:
Curriculum & Instruction