Amy Griffin's Blog

Differentiation: What Is It?

 
I hope everyone had a relaxing weekend after a great first week of school. Saturday, I canoed down the James River from Columbia to Cartersville. I have to say that we live and work in a beautiful place. In the midst of daily activities and routines, I sometimes forget that I have so much to be thankful for -- and living and working in Cumberland are truly things that I appreciate. I am also thankful for all the work and preparation from the entire CuCPS faculty and staff that made our opening so smooth and positive. It was wonderful to see all the smiling faces and children eager to learn as they began the new school year. 
 
 
As we work toward designing lessons that meet the diverse needs of our students, differentiation is expected. This summer the differentiation graphic above came through my Twitter feed several times.  I find it to be very informative on what differentiation is and is not.  I have also copied and pasted a list from the blog post, www.edudemic.com/what-differentiation-is-and-is-not .
 
Differentiation IS…
  • An idea as old as effective teaching
  • Lessons designed around patterns of student need
  • Use of whole group, small group, and individual tasks based on content and student needs
  • Necessary for success with standards for a broad range of learners
  • Valuing and planning for diversity in heterogenous settings
  • Purposeful use of flexible learning
  • At the core of quality teaching
  • Teaching up
  • A student focused way of thinking about teaching and learning
  • Designed to address learning and affective needs that all students have

Differentiation IS NOT…

  • Tracking or grouping students into classes by ‘ability’
  • Incompatible with standards
  • Ability grouping within a classroom
  • Dumbing down your teaching for some students
  • Something extra on top of good teaching
  • A set of instructional strategies
  • Mostly for students identified as gifted
  • Mostly for students identified as having learning challenges
  • IEPs for all
  • Individualized instruction
  • A synonym for group work
 
 
CuCPS Highlights:
 

Events for the Week:

  • Monday
    • 9:00-3:00 Head Start Open House at CCES
    • Insurance Open Enrollment Meetings
      • 8:30 Transportation Dept
      • 3:30  All other CuCPS Faculty and Staff
  • Tuesday
    • Head Start Begins
    • 10:00  Administrative Council Meeting
    • 5:30  CHS Informational Meeting on Puerto Rico Trip
  • Thursday
    • Longwood Partnership Orientation
  • Friday
    • Longwood Partnership Orientation

Welcome to the 2014-2015 School Year!

 
 
The first week of school is always an exciting time of year.  It is a time for new beginnings, renewing friendships, and learning new things. It was very evident at Open House how eager the students (and their parents) were to get back to school.  As we begin the new school year as staff and students, let's commit to the following:
  • Treat each other with respect and kindness;
  • Have high expectations for yourself and others;
  • Set learning goals;
  • Have a strong work ethic; and
  • Produce quality work.

We had great pre-service days with teachers and staff and have started the school year well prepared.  I know it is going to be an outstanding and successful school year!

 
CuCPS Highlights:
  • We had an exceptional turn-out for Open House.  I have to give a special thanks to CCES staff, division custodians, central office staff, Colonial Webb, and county maintenance that worked to open CCES. It was a tight timeline, but everyone pulled together and got the job done!  It is amazing what can be accomplished when there is focus, teamwork, determination, and hard work!  
  • A special thanks goes to the Cumberland Ruritans for the annual lunch and door prizes. It is nice to know that we have support from leaders in the community.

Events for the Week:

  • Monday
    • First Day of School for Students
    • August School Board Meeting
  • Tuesday
    • Board of Supervisors Meeting
  • Friday
    • Longwood Lab School Meeting
    • Volleyball and Football Scrimmages

2014-2015 Convocation: Down on the Farm!

 

 

I enjoyed seeing everyone today at Lunch and Convocation, especially while you participated in the Barnyard Sounds activity, Family Feud, and the Chicken Dance! Again a special thanks goes to Mr. Brandt and our food service workers, the custodial staff, and Central Office staff for providing such a good time.  My comments from today are below:

 

Five things come to mind as we move forward as a school division.  Each one of us must...

 

  • Believe in and work towards a common mission: At Cumberland County Public Schools, this means ensuring that each and every student becomes a successful 21st Century learner, worker, and citizen;
  • Support the mission with passion, persistence, and dedication;
  • Face the brutal truth, even if it hurts;
  • Celebrate accomplishments; and
  • Celebrate the struggles and challenges, because struggles and challenges become opportunities for growth and learning.  Some of the best and most meaningful experiences come through this.

This summer, the administrative team has reflected and wrestled with issues such as:

 

  • Fixed v. growth mindsets: Do we truly believe that each staff member and every student can grow?
  • Instilling a strong work ethic and quality work in students, staff, and each other;
  • Providing an education for ALL students; and
  • Our own shortcomings in ensuring quality.

We discussed how to support staff so that we have prepared students.  We heard from teachers that they needed more time for collaborative planning, so 1/2-1 day a month have been provided in this year's calendar.  We heard that teachers wanted more support in reading and math instruction, so we have outstanding consultants in reading and math to assist teachers K-8 for the entire school year.  We also heard that more instructional time was needed in K-8 reading and math; therefore, schedules have been adjusted.

 

We have many accomplishments to celebrate as we open the school year:

 

  • CHS is Fully Accredited having significant growth in math and graduation rates.  They have shown that significant growth is possible through focus, teamwork, and hard work.
  • CCES had an overall increase in reading levels.
  • The Little Duke Leaders presented on service learning at VSBA and has been highlighted several times in the Farmville Herald.
  • Ms. Whittaker will be recognized at the White House next week for winning the Presidential Environment Education Award.
  • We have a new Agriculture program at CMS and CHS.
  • For the first time in many years, we were able to add needed positions this year.
  • Student enrollment has increased over the past year.
  • And of course there is much more that has been highlighted throughout the year in School Board meetings, Facebook, our webpages, local papers, and my weekly Blog.

With our accomplishments, we have some brutal facts and challenges to face this school year:

 

  • K-8 reading and math 
  • At all levels, ensuring all students are achieving.  There can be no excuses for not doing so.

I am confident that we will overcome these challenges because we have you--a staff that will face these challenges with passion, confidence, commitment, and courage. You have already begun meeting the challenges by attending summer professional development, developing new ELA Pacing Guides, and working on curriculum alignment.  To move forward, we must have have high expectations for our students as well as for ourselves.  

 

Another brutal fact is that we will always have to work hard; education will never be easy.  But just know that the product of that hard work is the education of a child which provides him/her opportunities and a foundation that he/she would never have without us.  It is well worth it!

 

I look forward to working with and supporting each of you as we ensure that CuCPS is all ABOUT students, preparing them to be successful for life-- academically, socially, and physically.

 

As Ron Edmonds said, 

 

We can, whenever and wherever we choose, successfully teach all children whose schooling is of interest to us. We already know more than we need to do that. Whether or not we do it must finally depend on how we feel about the fact that we haven't so far.

 

 

Events for the Week:

 

Monday:

8:00-3:30  K-8 Math PD
8:00-10:00  Transportation PD
11:00-1:00  CuCPS Faculty and Staff Lunch/Convocation
 
Tuesday:
8:00-3:30  K-8 PD
 
Wednesday:
12:00 noon  CEA Lunch
 
Thursday:
12:00 noon  Ruritan Lunch
3:00-7:00 grades 5-12 Open House
5:00-7:00 grades Prek4-4 Open House  (This is a change)
 
Friday:
12:00  CuCPS teachers may leave, schools will remain open
 
Monday, August 11, 2014:  First Day of School for Students
 
 

 

Celebrate the Accomplishments and the Struggles

 
Celebrate the accomplishments and the struggles. As teachers officially report for the 2014-2015 school year this week, we have lots of accomplishments to celebrate. We also have some challenges ahead.  Dan Mulligan says that we must see struggles and challenges as opportunities. Lasting and authentic learning comes through struggling and overcoming challenges. This summer, our teachers and administrators have been growing professionally and learning best practices so that ALL students learn and achieve in Cumberland County Public Schools.  We have spent the summer learning how to analyze data for learning, develop pacing guides, align assessments, and implement researched-based strategies. I look forward to working with and supporting our staff and students for the upcoming school year. I know together we will make a school division that is FOR and ABOUT students!
 
 
CuCPS Highlights:
  • CuCPS was well represented and recognized at the VSBA Conference on Education!  The Little Duke Leaders presented on service learning and student leadership; Mrs. Jamerson and Dr. Jones participated in the Partnership Fair; and CuCPS was awarded the VSBA Food for Thought Award for Wellness and Physical Activity. The conference was attended by Mr. Reid, Mr. Dowdy, Dr. Jones, Mrs. Jamerson, Mrs. Gills, the Little Duke Leaders, and myself. We were joined by Farmville Herald reporter, Ilsa Loeser.
  • CuCPS commends 10th grader, Delante Street, for advancing to the 2nd round of the television show, "American Idol". Delante and his mother will be traveling to Kansas City on August 11th for the competition. If successful, he will be heading to Hollywood!
  • CuCPS is proud to announce that Ms. Angela Whittaker will be recognized at the White House on August 12, 2014, by the EPA Office of Environmental Education and the White House for being a Presidential Environmental Education Award winner! We are so proud of her!
  • Dedicated teachers attended Phase 2 of Assessment Alignment last Monday and Tuesday.
  • Mrs. Gills, Dr. Jones, and myself attended a Data Workshop in Roanoke last Thursday.
  • Dr. Ross, Dr. Jones, Mrs. Tillett, and myself attended the What Works Conference at Hampden-Sydney College on Friday.

Cumberland Middle School Football practice has begun!
 
 
Events for the Week:
  • Monday
    • Administrative Council Meeting
  • Tuesday
    • 8:00-3:30:  New Teacher Institute
  • Wednesday
    • 8:00-3:30:  New Teacher Institute
    • 10:00:  Mentor Training
    • 12:00:  Mentor/New Teacher Luncheon
  • Thursday
    • 8:00:  All CuCPS Teachers report to Schools
    • 1:00:  Division Special Education Teacher Meeting
  • Friday
    • 8:00-3:30:  K-8 English/Language Arts Professional Development
    • 8:00-3:30:  Food Service Staff In-Service

Busy Times!

 
Last week was full of exciting opportunities for our students and staff.  We began the week attending the Moton Museum's Brown Bag Lunch series. Betty Scales and Kern Gilliam spoke about the desegregation of Cumberland County Public Schools which began almost 50 years ago. The dialog from these trailblazers and discussion that followed were both informative and eye-opening.
 
 
Students completed summer school, the Longwood TAG Summer Program, a Dual Enrollment Economics and Personal Finance course at Longwood University, and the Junior Cadet Leadership Challenge. CuCPS staff participated in numerous professional development including the SREB conference and a Hummingbird Robotics Workshop with ITTIP. The first Agriculture Advisory Committee was held to assist with launching our new Agriculture program at CMS and CHS.
 
 
CuCPS Highlights:
  • Summer School concluded with representatives from the Cartersville Volunteer Rescue Squad, the Volunteer Fire Department, the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office, Fish and Game, and the National Guard. Students learned about the function of community organizations and equipment required to perform the community service. Students climbed the rock wall with the help of the National Guard SFC Jay White.
  • Mrs. Page and Mrs. Barr attended a workshop working with hummingbird robotics with ITTIP. The mission of ITTIP is to transform teaching and learning in K-12 classrooms through the use of technology by providing high-quality professional development for educators, in order to maximize the learning experiences and opportunities of K-12 students for a globally competitive workforce.
  • The Piedmont Community Supporters awarded five $500 scholarships to graduating high school seniors of 2014. Pictured (L-R) are Leah Whitehead (Randolph-Henry High School), attending Southside Virginia Community College; Shaterra Walker (Prince Edward County High School), attending Radford University; Kailyn Harris-Gilliam (Cumberland County High School), attending James Madison University; Sam Back (Randolph-Henry High School), attending Southside Virginia Community College; and Malcoln Tillerson Jr. (Prince Edward County High School), attending Bridgewater College.

 
Events for the Week:  CMS Football practice starts today at 5 p.m. Activity buses will be leaving Country Corner Store in Cartersville and JR's in Farmville at 4:30 p.m., practice will end at 8 p.m. 
 
Teacher Flex Workdays begin this week.
  • Monday
    • Region 8 Aligning Assessment PD: Phase 2 (Elementary)
  • Tuesday
    • VSBA Conference on Education
    • Region 8 Aligning Assessment PD: Phase 2 (Secondary)
  • Wednesday
    • Data PD in Roanoke
    • 14-15 Bus Routes Published
  • Friday
    • What Works Conference at Hampden-Sydney College

Junior ROTC cadets attended JCLC (which stands for Junior Cadet Leadership Challenge) Eagle at State Military Reservation Pendleton, Virginia Beach, VA.  The four cadets are, from left to right: Taylor Wright, Reese Summerall, Chris Giles and Caleb (William) Kinney.

Thinking Outside of the Venn Diagram

 
 
 
I enjoyed working with math teachers and principals last week during the Region 8 Math professional development with Dr. Dan Mulligan.  We learned to Celebrate the Struggle with deepening student understanding of math standards.  Dr. Mulligan provided us with many resources, strategies, techniques, and tips for working with students.  I have added the presentation and resources from the workshop to the Teacher Drive.  I have named it, Dan Mulligan Math Workshop.
 
I am unable to mention all the wonderful brain-based strategies and recommendations provided during the workshop; however, I will mention a few that I took note of, none of which appeared difficult to implement:
 
  • We need to give students "rehearsal" time instead of "think" time when asking questions. Rehearsal time consists of giving a student time to talk about the answer with a partner before anyone answers in whole group. This significantly increases participation and engagement with all students.
  • For students who are struggling or from poverty, vocabulary is the key to the kingdom.
  • When imagery is used with vocabulary, student achievement has risen 37%.
  • Interactive Notebooks, especially with the use of a glossary, are good for math vocabulary development.
  • Kindergarten is the new 1st grade
  • Math teachers need to incorporate reading strategies for vocabulary in math questions.
  • For justification and higher level thinking, Math and Number Talk are important (referenced Marilyn Burns).
  • To increase rigor, ask a second question.
  • Relationships are key.
  • Student self-assessment and correction are necessary for the deep understanding of math concepts.
  • School divisions need a common Prek-12 vertically articulated problem solving process.
  • Create is the verb used most in the essential knowledge and skills of the math standards.
  • Writing should happen in all content areas, including math.
  • Always give students a purpose for completing any activity.  This includes reading a math problem.
  • When using a Venn diagram, always give examples that do not fit into the diagram (leaving items outside of the Venn diagram).
  • When planning instruction and developing assessments, look at the weight of strands.
  • Students need to use yellow highlighters for highlighting important vocabulary, etc.
We participated in many hands-on, higher level activities for math that can be found on the Teacher Drive.  Teachers that attended the workshop will be provided time to share what they learned with other math teachers when we return to school so we can see these great strategies in our classrooms. 
 
A quote shared by Dr. Mulligan.
We can, whenever and wherever we choose, successfully teach all children whose schooling is of interest to us. We already know more than we need to do that. Whether or not we do it must finally depend on how we feel about the fact that we haven't so far.  -Ron Edmonds
 
 

Events for the Week:

  • Monday
    • 1:00 Administrative Council Meeting
    • 4:00 Little Duke Leaders Presentation to Administrative Council
    • 7:00  July School Board Meeting (Closed Session at 6:00)
  • Tuesday
    • 10:00  Agriculture Advisory Committee Meeting (LPJ)
  • Wednesday
    • Last Day of Summer School

To CuCPS Faculty and Staff:

It is with pleasure that I welcome our new and returning staff to the 2014-2015 school year.  I hope you have spent some of your summer exploring, relaxing, and learning new things. This summer, I have spent my free time canoeing and fishing. I find peace and reflection on the lake, although I do have to admit that one needs to practice great patience and good communication skills when going down river rapids. For my 27th anniversary, my husband scheduled a trip down the James River in the mountains.  Believe me, we used communications skills we didn’t even know we possessed while we tackled class 2 rapids by ourselves for the first time (ha-ha)!

A special thanks goes to all faculty and staff that have spent the summer teaching summer school, attending professional development, and developing aligned curriculum, instructional plans, and assessments.  Prekindergarten teachers have finished 10 unit Tables of Specifications (TOS), a group of K-8 teachers have been working on new K-8 English/Language Arts (ELA) Pacing Guides, while other groups have been attending train-the-trainer workshops for aligning assessments.

Please closely review the professional development calendars provided by mail, email, and on our website.  Changes have been made to the pre-service week professional development plans (originally scheduled in April/May) for teachers in response to end of year data, advice from consultants hired to assist K-8 ELA and math teachers as well as reflection from the summer aligning assessments workshops.  Principals will verify TOS, aligned assessments, and unit/lesson plan expectations at the school level.  CHS teachers and CMS history and science teachers will proceed with original timelines.  A school team will assist these specific teachers with assessment alignment using a TOS during the pre-service week.  The date and time will be provided by your principal (this is not optional as originally planned).

K-8 ELA and math teachers will attend professional development as indicated on the enclosed calendar.  Consultants Dr. Lisa Meyers (K-8 ELA), Dr. Lois Williams (CMS Math), and Dr. Ruth Harbin-Miles (K-4 Math) will assist these specific teachers through curriculum alignment and development.  Expectations for alignment of assessments and unit/lesson plans will be provided by your principal at the school level.

Other calendar-related items of special note are as follows:

  • Returning teachers are required to work any two weekdays, July 21-30, 2014. CCES teachers: if the elementary school is still under construction, teachers may plan to work in the CMS/CHS complex.  Please communicate with Mrs. Gills.
  • The New Teacher Institute will be held on July 29-30, 2014, for all teachers new to CuCPS.
  • All Teachers report for school-level meetings on July 31, 2014.
  • The Division Luncheon and Convocation for all division staff will be held on August 4, 2014, from 11:00 a.m. -1:00 p.m. 
  • Open House will be held on August 7, 2014, from 3:00-7:00 p.m.
  • Teachers may leave at 12:00 noon on August 8, 2014; however, school buildings will remain open until 4:15 p.m. for those who want to continue to work in classrooms.

I look forward to working with each of you as we continue to align the written, taught, and assessed curriculum with a focus on teaching the standards at a deeper level through a 21st Century learning lens.  Once we have this solid foundation, we will work toward cultivating students that are leaders of their own learning through celebrating student work, student-led conferences, and researching standards-based grading. 

CuCPS Highlights:

  • Caylor Scales spent two weeks at Alcorn State University as part of the USDA's Ag Discovery Program.  This was one of 17 programs across the country exposing children to agribusiness, animals, plants, and veterinary procedures.  Caylor was one of 19 students at ASU with several students coming from Maryland, Georgia, and Nevada.

Events for the Week:

  • Tuesday
    • 7:00 Board of Supervisors Meeting
  • Thursday
    • Region 8 Math Professional Development with Dan Mulligan

Dedicated Educators

 

I enjoyed working with teachers and administrators last week on curriculum development.  On Monday and Wednesday, a dedicated group of teachers worked on developing new English/Language (ELA) Pacing Guides for grades K-8 with Dr. Lisa Meyers.  Dr. Meyers constantly told me what wonderful teachers we have at CuCPS!  On Tuesday and Wednesday, principals and a group of teachers participated in Region 8 Aligning Assessments professional development with Dr. Leslie Grant and Dr. Chris Garies. Again, I experienced very passionate educators who are committed to children in Cumberland County! This makes me very proud to be part of such a strong team! 

CuCPS Highlights:
 
 
CCES students participated in QuickStart Tennis during summer school.
 
Events for the Week:
  • Monday:  Administrative Council Meeting (1:00)
  • Thursday-Friday: Schools and Offices Closed for July 4th Holiday

Myth: Summer Off

 
What do PK-12 public school educators do all summer? We teach, plan, and continue to learn through professional development! Last week, summer school began and meetings were held to plan and prepare for our returning agriculture program. This week, teachers and administrators will work on aligning the written, taught, and assessed curriculum at a K-8 ELA Pacing Guide workshop and the Region 8 Aligning Assessment workshops. It is truly a myth that educators have three months off during the summer.
 
 
Summer Learning Resources:
CuCPS Highlights:
 
Events for the Week:
  • Monday:
    • 8:30-3:30  K-8 ELA Pacing Guide Development with Dr. Lisa Meyers
  • Tuesday:
    • 8:30 a.m. Board of Supervisors Meeting
    • 9:00-3:00  Region 8 Aligning Assessment Workshop
  • Wednesday:
    • 9:00-3:00  Region 8 Aligning Assessment Workshop
 

A Challenge!

 

Rising 6th graders attend a Flying Squirrels game!

Okay, thanks to Justin Reid (Associate Director of the Moton Museum and alum of CHS), I have been Cold Water Challenged!  To be honest, I didn't even know what that meant until I spent some time on Facebook watching video after video of people accepting and making challenges. I managed to put the challenge off for several days with the excuse that I wanted the children in summer school to assist. However, the first day of summer school is upon us and I can't put this off any longer. It will happen at 11:00 a.m. today. I contacted Mr. Motter this morning to see if he could assist me in planning my challenge.  That may not have been the best idea on my part, what was I thinking?  Mr. Motter is one of the biggest jokers around!  What have I gotten myself into?
 


CuCPS Highlights:

  • We are proud to announce that Ms. Angela Whittaker has been selected as a Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators (PIAEE) winner for 2014 by the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  Congratulations for winning such a prestigious national award!

Several football players attended VT Football Camp.
 
Events for the Week:

Summer School:  June 16-July 16, 2014