July 6, 2017
By Tom Shepley, VP of Schools
A few weeks ago, the Louisiana Department of Education held their fifth annual Teacher Leader Summit. This event, which is free for teachers and school leaders across the state, was a great reminder of how our Department of Education is supporting schools during the transition to more rigorous standards.
I have worked in multiple states in my education career as a teacher, a principal, a researcher, and in education non-profits. In my 25 years as an educator, I have not seen a Department of Education so focused on a truly comprehensive and wholly aligned series of supports as I have in the past few years right here in Louisiana.
In my role as NSNO’s Vice President of Schools, I have had the opportunity to work with teachers and leaders from nearly every public school in the city. I regularly see teachers that desperately want to teach to the depth of our new more rigorous Louisiana Standards. The curriculum offerings and assessment supports presented at the summit are excellent resources that teachers can use to reach the rising expectations.
I attended two of several sessions on the new online resources that make up Louisiana’s English and Language Arts (ELA) curriculum called the Guidebooks 2.0. The “2.0” part of the title points to the constant process for improvement that the Department of Education has been going through in order to offer a full, rich, and teacher friendly reading and writing curriculum for grades 3-8.
After discovering there were few outstanding aligned ELA curricula, the Department launched an initiative to provide teachers with a great curriculum. Though the initial version aligned to the standards, the Department received feedback from teachers across the state that it needed to be more user friendly. LDOE quickly made adjustments and provided the updated materials (save the novels themselves) free on LearnZillion.
The multiple Guidebook 2.0 sessions were focused on helping teachers and leaders fully understand and implement the curriculum, tackle big picture issues like how the standards are addressed in the lessons to the nitty gritty of teaching—like which assignments and tests a teacher could use as grades for their gradebook.
The presentations on LEAP 360, the states aligned benchmark assessments for grades K-10, were even more impressive. These high-quality interim assessments were built to look and feel like the LEAP test that students take at the end of the year and are strongly aligned to our state standards.
What is so cool about this tool though, is that it is built in such a flexible way, that it can be seamlessly aligned to whatever curriculum a school is using. For example, if you are using the Guidebooks 2.0, the assessments match up perfectly to the content you have taught. If you are teaching using another standards aligned series of texts, you have choices about what type of interim to give. In this way, teachers are not doing “test-prep” as much as they are assessing what students are actually learning in their classrooms.
These assessments will be invaluable to teachers and school leaders. Teachers will have better information on where students are starting, how they are progressing, and ultimately whether they are on track to reaching mastery. School leaders will be able to see where additional support may be needed.
Kudos to the LDOE
Multiple times while at the conference, I heard presenters say things like “the first of its kind in the country.” Our state Department of Education has been out front in the push to help prepare teachers and leaders to educate our kids with new, more rigorous standards. Once again they have stepped “ahead of the pack” of other states when it comes to giving schools the tools they need to make this shift.
This is the kind of work our kids deserve and the kind of support our teachers and leaders need. Kudos to the LDOE! I am already looking forward to next year’s Summit.