By Jill Kalb
“Should this Math 7th student be in Algebra 1? The body of evidence is strong!” “ Did this student opt out of Algebra 1 credit in MS? If so, what math do they take as a freshman?” These are questions and discussions that are happening at this time of the year. Knowing that accurate placement is imperative to a student’s future plans and academic pathway, we need to be extremely considerate of our process of placing students in math courses. When having these collaborative conversations in your buildings and with your teams, consider the following reflective questions:
Step 1: Establishing Communication
According to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics’ position on Access and Equity in Mathematics Education , “Achieving access and equity requires that all stakeholders:
MS Placement doc
HS Placement doc
5-12 Math Pathways
Jeffco Math Acceleration Process
Please reach out to the Secondary Math team (Jill Kalb, Lindsey Kjoller and Ali Tanner) with questions or if you would like a thought partner around math course placement and scheduling.
By Sheri Bryant
Did you hear the buzz about the fall semester Career Expo? Wondering how 1300 students, 120 industry professionals, 80 educators and 30 volunteers made that happen? These connections continue well after the event! Meet the Work-Based Learning Team, Jeffco Career Links! With one administrator and two specialists, we provide those services to a district of 80,000+ students, with a primary focus in the secondary levels.
But let’s take a closer look at who really does that career-connected learning in Jeffco Public Schools. This collaborative effort started with a vision for students to have authentic engagement with community and industry professionals. Our team seeks out those key partners by elevating the work of teachers, administrators and counselors. Whether that is making a cold call, sending an introductory email or attending a community event or chamber of commerce meeting, we know that when educators and school staff open their minds to what is possible, that is where the true magic can begin. Think about students in classrooms who no longer have to “imagine you are a…”, because industry experts from throughout our community are giving their knowledge and expertise so students can hear first-hand about those career cluster opportunities in business, agriculture, energy and natural resources, STEM and IT, hospitality, human services and education, health sciences, criminal justice and public safety, and skilled trades and technical sciences. Work-based learning experiences can occur in all grade levels, whether it's a Kindergarten class learning about careers, a middle school STEM class designing a city planning project, or a senior English class engaging in interviews with designated industry experts. Work-based learning is for all!
Students can engage in everything from an informational interview, job shadow, mentorship, internship, CareerWise apprenticeship, and paid work experience or on the job training. This work is vital to assisting a student in answering that age old question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” or “When will I ever use this?” Because of work-based learning (WBL) engagement, students have multiple pathways for career options that can lead them directly into the workforce, military, or any amount of college and beyond.
Recent school-based and district WBL programming include Golden Senior English Industry Interviews, McLain Job Fair and Industry Days, Standley Lake Industry Interviews, District Wide Mentorship Fair, Arvada West Informational Interviews, Arvada Capstone Pitches, Green Mountain Capstone Pitches, Dakota Ridge STEM Engineering Fair and Capstone Presentations, and Career Explore Trainings with students from Chatfield, Bear Creek, Dakota Ridge and Wheat Ridge. Next on the radar for the Career Links team are Spring Job Fairs, mentorship supports for English & Math Capstones, and programming for both students and industry on developing and growing their WBL skills.
Looking for ways to connect with our team? Check out our Jeffco Career Links website at: https://www.jeffcopublicschools.org/cms/One.aspx?portalId=627965&pageId=6121129
We look forward to collaborating with you on how to begin the career-connected conversation in your classroom and beyond!
Storytime! Reading Aloud to Secondary Students
By Robyn Kehoe Ramsey
Contrary to what you might think, secondary students are NOT too old to be read to. While there might be some teenage eye rolling or skeptical looks at first, students actually love this classroom activity. No matter the subject, teachers should definitely read aloud to their students.
Storytime isn’t just for ELA class. In science, math, social studies, the arts, and across the school building, teachers bring texts to students. Teachers can read aloud -- the speech, the scientific presentation, the mathematical proof, the interview, the explanation, even the directions! -- when they have a complex text of key importance.
Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) is sometimes used in middle and high schools as a way to encourage reading, and it’s not a bad idea. However, if students are struggling or unmotivated readers, this practice may not actually be producing any gains in reading skills. SSR may be a good place to go once you have built foundational skills in all your young readers. To build fluency, model what strong readers do, and ensure equity of access, reading aloud is a better place to begin.
Reading aloud to students offers every student -- regardless of learning challenges -- an entry point into the text. Hearing the text read by an expert helps build students’ sense of fluency and helps improve their vocabularies. Teachers can make reading a shared experience by reading to students themselves, rather than playing the audiobook or having students read aloud. Take breaks along the way to model thinking and show students how to interact with the text. Have a purpose for reading, and make that explicit to students. Require students to follow along with the reading; struggling readers may want to stare at something else and rely on their auditory processing, but this doesn’t give them the fluency practice they need.
Once teachers have read aloud, modeled their thinking, and shared the experience of reading together, they can begin to release students to read in pairs or small groups to each other. Wander the room and listen to readers. Remind them of the scaffolds and routines they have learned. This is a perfect time to unobtrusively gather informal assessment data about readers’ strengths and challenges. Teachers will very quickly get a sense of whether students are understanding the text independently or not.
When young readers have sufficient skills to tackle the texts they need, THEN it’s time for independent reading. If the results of independent reading aren’t great, teachers should reteach or review routines and skills modeled before.
Read aloud to students! Give them a positive experience with reading, a shared experience with their classroom community, and the tools they need to be successful in the content area and beyond.
Don’t believe me? Learn more for yourself!
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.
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.
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:
Secondary ELA- Proficiency Scales (prioritize, pace and plan)
By Micah Schutte
As you may know, the Secondary ELA YAAGs look quite different from how they have looked in past years (please see our blog post from March 31st for more information on how they are organized now).
This year, teachers can use the Proficiency Scales as a way to help prioritize content. There are twelve proficiency scales in each grade level from 6th -12th grade in ELA.
The documents below list the Units of Study by grade level and the corresponding Proficiency Scales to be assessed. A couple of reminders:
Curriculum Changes Overview PK-12
If you are looking for a quick overview of the curriculum changes to come in all content areas for the 2020-2021 school year consider checking out this video.
Curriculum & Instruction