Thursday, October 15, 2015

PSBA Conference Day 2

Today was a shorter day at the conference but I still got a lot out of it.

The first session I attended was presented by several folks from Southern York County School District titled "Transforming Factory Schools into 21st Century Teaching and Learning Centers." They went through their process of implementing their one to one program starting with the question: What is the goal of education today? One common phrase that we hear a lot in education is that every student should make a year of growth every year. Central to SYC's mentality is that every student and every teacher should make a year of growth every year. Placing an emphasis on both students and teachers is important when you want to transform your school and they appear to be doing a great job at Southern York.

They showed us the first few minutes of a TedX talk by L. Todd Rose on the Myth of Average. The short version of the video (which is worth watching in its entirety) is that when we design for the average we aren't designing for anyone. This leads to customized learning when applied to schools and education. Before diving into a one to one program they ran two pilot groups with students. The 16 students first spent four weeks with iPads and then another four weeks with Chromebooks. After the evaluation the students chose the Chromebooks due to several factors, including the keyboard, ease of use and sharing and collaboration features. I asked about this after the talk because the collaboration can be done on iPads but the students felt that it just worked better on the Chromebooks. Students continued to have input into the program including on issues of policy which I feel is a great idea. The students also proposed setting up a student run tech support center which was implemented with the help of the Librarian and their IT staff. Along with these efforts that are student based Southern York is also making efforts to customize their faculty learning processes in order to help them make yearly progress, too. Overall I was very impressed with the presentation and took a lot away from it.

The next presentation was "Evaluating and Assessing your Digital Learning Initiatives" presented by
Randy Ziegenfuss and Lynn Fuini-Hetten from Salisbury Township School District. This was also a very well put together presentation on Salisbury's efforts on digital learning and it is obvious that this district has put a lot of time and energy into their initiatives. They were sharing with us how to run through the entire process of creating and evaluating an initiative from concept to implementation to data collection and evaluating that data. One of the most wonderful things they have done is made all of their work available online at They did not focus on the particular technologies used in their district but instead talked about methodology and process, which was great.

The third talk of the day was "Examining the PA School Performance Profile" by Dr. Ed Fuller from Penn State. Dr. Fuller runs the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy Analysis and shared his research on school performance profiles and systems like PVAAS. He has found that the best correlation between schools and SPP scores is rooted in poverty rates and little else. The implications of this are that poor schools receive poor SPP scores and their funding is affected adversely because of this. The result is that their funding gets reduced, which lowers their scores and begins a downward spiral or poorer and poorer results. His research was interesting but unfortunately his message isn't being heard very well by those making decisions in Harrisburg.
The only session tomorrow is the closing remarks which are being given by Robert Fulghum. I'm looking forward to hearing him speak and I'm also already thinking about next year's conference and getting more involved with PSBA. There is so much to learn as a school board member and I don't think we should be left out of the equation of making a year of progress every year, either.

No comments: