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Best Practices in Education: What do School Counselors Need to Know


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Title: Best Practices in Education: What do School Counselors Need to Know

Best Practices in Education What do School
Counselors Need to Know?
  • Carey Dimmitt, Ph.D., Associate Director
  • Karen Harrington, M.Ed., Research Coordinator
  • Center for School Counseling Outcome Research
  • University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • ASCA Conference
  • 2009

Whos in the room?
  • Level?
  • Elementary- in a school doing Responsive
  • Middle- in a school doing Turning Points?
  • High- in a school doing High Schools That Work?
  • In a school doing Professional Learning
  • In a school doing Advisories? Career Academies?
    Understanding by Design? Teaching for
  • Years of experience?
  • Love chocolate?

Goals for the Session
  • To gain a working knowledge of some current
    models of effective education
  • Responsive Classroom (Elementary)
  • Turning Points (MS)
  • HS That Work (HS)
  • Understanding by Design (all)
  • Professional Learning Communities (all)
  • Career Academies (HS)
  • Teaching for Understanding (all)
  • To have resources to find out more about each
  • To have an idea about the role of SC in
    supporting these models in your schools

Responsive Classroom (RC)
  • Created in 1981 by Northeast Foundation for
  • An integrated approach to elementary education
    that emphasizes social, emotional, and academic
    growth in a strong and safe school community
  • Goal is to enable optimal student learning
  • Based on the premise that children learn best
    when they have both academic and social-emotional

RC Principles
  • The social curriculum is as important as the
    academic curriculum. 
  • How children learn is as important as what they
    learn Process and content go hand in hand. 
  • The greatest cognitive growth occurs through
    social interaction. 
  • To be successful academically and socially,
    children need a set of social skills
    cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy,
    and self-control.

RC Principles
  • Knowing the children we teach-individually,
    culturally, and developmentally-is as important
    as knowing the content we teach. 
  • Knowing the families of the children we teach and
    working with them as partners is essential to
    children's education. 
  • How the adults at school work together is as
    important as their individual competence Lasting
    change begins with the adult community.

RC Classroom Practices
  • Morning Meeting - gathering as a whole class each
    morning to greet one another, share news, and
    warm up for the day ahead
  • Rule Creation - helping students create classroom
    rules to ensure an environment that allows all
    class members to meet their learning goals
  • Interactive Modeling - teaching children to
    notice and internalize expected behaviors through
    an interactive modeling technique

RC Classroom Practices
  • Positive Teacher Language - using words and tone
    as a tool to promote children's active learning,
    sense of community, and self-discipline
  • Logical Consequences - responding to misbehavior
    in a way that allows children to fix and learn
    from their mistakes while preserving their
  • Guided Discovery - introducing classroom
    materials using a format that encourages
    independence, creativity, and responsibility
  • Academic Choice - increasing student learning by
    allowing students teacher-structured choices in
    their work

RC Classroom Practices
  • Classroom Organization - setting up the physical
    room in ways that encourage students'
    independence, cooperation, and productivity
  • Working with Families - creating avenues for
    hearing parents' insights and helping them
    understand the school's teaching approaches
  • Collaborative Problem Solving - using
    conferencing, role playing, and other strategies
    to resolve problems with students

RC School-Wide Practices
  • Aligning policies and procedures with Responsive
    Classroom philosophy - making sure everything
    from the lunch routine to the discipline policy
    enhances the self-management skills that children
    are learning through the Responsive Classroom
  • Allocating resources to support Responsive
    Classroom implementation - using time, money,
    space, and personnel to support staff in learning
    and using the Responsive Classroom approach

RC School-Wide Practices
  • Planning all-school activities to build a sense
    of community - giving all of the school's
    children and staff opportunities to learn about
    and from each other through activities such as
    all-school meetings, cross-age recess or lunch,
    buddy classrooms, and cross-age book clubs

RC School-Wide Practices
  • Welcoming families and the community as partners
    - involving family and community members in the
    children's education by maintaining two-way
    communication, inviting parents and others to
    visit and volunteer, and offering family
  • Organizing the physical environment to set a tone
    of learning - making sure, for example, that
    school wide rules are posted prominently,
    displays emphasize student work, and all school
    spaces are welcoming, clean, and orderly

Outcome Research
  • Design quasi- experimental, 3 urban schools
    using RC compared to 3 matched schools not using
    RC, for 3 years
  • RC schools showed increases in Math and Reading
  • Reading more than Math
  • 3 years stronger than 2 years
  • Teachers felt more effective and more positive
    about teaching
  • Children had better social skills
  • Teachers offered more high quality instruction
  • Children felt more positive about school
  • Teachers collaborated with each other more

Challenges of RC
  • A lot of time is spent processing student
    behaviors and interactions- less time on direct
  • Takes a highly skilled teacher to facilitate the
    kinds of learning RC emphasizes- flexible,
    self-aware, conscious, open to learning from
    students, able to understand how each child is
    unique as a learner
  • Some students struggle with the self-motivation
    to learn need more structure and direction from

Your Experiences?
Turning Points
  • Whole school reform model focused exclusively on
    the middle grades
  • In 1989, the Carnegie Corporation of New York
    issued Turning Points Preparing American Youth
    for the 21st Century
  • This landmark report recommended strengthening
    the academic core of middle schools while
    establishing caring, supportive environments
    which value adolescents

  • The Turning Points Report critiqued the rigid
    structure of traditional middle schools
  • Identified middle school years as a distinctive
    developmental period that must be treated
  • Advocated reforms to make middle school education
    more personalized, supportive, and active
  • Emphasized academic excellence and the provision
    of developmentally appropriate, equitable

  • Carnegie Council Turning Points Report
  • The middle level school years are the last best
    chance for early adolescents to avoid a
    diminished future.

  • Teach a curriculum grounded in standards
  • Use instructional methods designed to prepare all
  • Prepare teachers for middle grades
  • Organize relationships for learning
  • Govern democratically by all staff members
  • Provide a safe and healthy school environment
  • Involve parents and communities in supporting

6 Key Practices
  • Improving learning, teaching, and assessment for
    all students (core principle)
  • Building leadership capacity and a collaborative
  • Creating a school culture to support high
  • Data-based inquiry and decision making
  • Networking with like-minded schools
  • Developing district capacity

Principles and Practices in Action
  • Create small learning communities
  • Provide students with a smaller core group of
    peers and caring adults to attend to their
    academic and social needs
  • Teams of interdisciplinary teachers
  • Common planning time
  • Advisories
  • Teach a core academic program
  • Focus on integrated content and critical thinking
  • Flexible grouping for successful learning
  • Authentic assessments

Principles and Practices in Action
  • Hire staff who value working with middle school
    students and are specifically trained to do so
  • Improve training and professional development for
  • Empower educational professionals
  • Provide opportunities for teachers and
    educational professionals in the school to make
    decisions about instruction and school wide
    policy issues
  • Allow teams to make instruction decisions that
    are best for their particular group of students

Principles and Practices in Action
  • Emphasis on health and safety for learners
  • Health education on preventing risky behaviors
  • Mental health services
  • Healthy school environment
  • Engage families and strengthen the connection
    between schools and communities
  • Communicate with parents and community members
    about the goals of the Turning Points Model
  • Schedule events that connect school, family and

Outcome Research
  • Several studies have shown achievement gains in
    math, reading, language arts, science, and social
    studies in Turning Points middle schools
  • More complete implementation stronger outcomes
  • More years of implementation stronger outcomes
  • More positive perceptions of school climate
  • Students express greater satisfaction with school
  • Students report feeling less stress, less boredom
    and less fear and worry

Outcome Research
  • Students report more positive self concepts and
    self esteem
  • Higher commitment to class work and more positive
    reactions to teachers
  • More bonded with their teachers and also with
    their schools
  • Teachers also report having a more positive
    professional image, feel less stressed, and feel
    less isolated
  • Teachers reported increased contact with parents
    and families

Turning Points 2000
  • Update of 1989 report Turning Points
  • Strengths of initial TP model
  • Good outline of the changes that needed to happen
  • Highly catalytic in raising consciousness about
    the unique requirements of young adolescents
  • Identified the need for reform in middle schools
  • Weaknesses
  • Overemphasis on structural and organizational
  • Lack of emphasis on changes in teaching practice
  • Not enough about creating and implementing more
    powerful forms of assessment, instruction, and

  • Transition through adolescence is not purely an
    emotional one its as much, even more, an
    intellectual journey.Youngsters really need to
    have the kind of stimulating education that will
    allow them to develop their minds, which in turn
    will have a tremendous effect on their capacity
    to negotiate the emotional and interpersonal
    aspects of their development. Emphasis on the
    developmental needs of adolescents is not
    misplaced, but it has perhaps been
    overemphasized. Now we need to bring our efforts
    back into balance with a corresponding focus on
    intellectual development.
  • Anthony Jackson, Turning Points 2000

Challenges of Turning Points
  • Principal needs to be able to share power and
  • Transition to traditional HS can be harder for
    students from TP schools (different kind of
    learning demands and context)
  • Highly integrated team-based curriculum approach
    takes a lot of outside planning time
  • Lots of time spent in meetings!

Your Experiences?
High Schools That Work (HSTW)
  • Comprehensive school-reform initiative that has
    shown evidence of successful outcomes for
  • Initiated by the Southern Regional Education
    Board (SREB) in 1987
  • There are now over 1200 high schools and 300
    middle schools in the HSTW network
  • Stands out as one of the few school-improvement
    efforts to emphasis data collection and analysis
    in their programs

HSTWs Philosophy
  • All students are able to learn high-level
    academic and technical concepts
  • Create an educational environment that encourages
    students to make the effort to succeed
  • Faculty, parents, students, and community members
    agree to share a vision of high achievement for
    all students
  • Integrates college-prep courses with quality
    career/tech studies to improve students
    preparation for work and further education

Program of Study
  • Courses are all college prep
  • 4 years of English
  • 3 years of social studies
  • computer tech coursework
  • 3 years of math
  • 3 years of science
  • four credits in a concentration
  • Students major in either a broad technical
    field or in further academic studies
  • Choice among at least four career/tech
    concentrations and two academic majors such as
    math/science or humanities

Key Practices
  • High Expectations of all students
  • Career/Technical studies provide intellectually
    challenging career/tech studies that emphasize
    high-level math, science, language arts and
    problem-solving skills needed in the modern
    workplace and for further education
  • Academic studies encourage students to use
    academic content and skills to address real-world
    projects and problems

Key Practices
  • Work-based learning integrating school- and
    work-based learning, planned by educators,
    employers, parents, students
  • Teachers working together organized structure
    that allows academic and vocational teachers to
    deliver integrated instruction aimed at teaching
    high-level academic and technical content
  • Students actively engaged teaching in ways that
    enable students to see the usefulness of what
    they have been asked to learn

Key Practices
  • Guidance involving each student and his/her
    parents in a guidance and advising system that
    ensures the completion of an accelerated program
    of study. Each student has an adult mentor
    throughout high school to assist with setting
    goals, selecting courses, and reviewing the
    students progress.

Key Practices
  • Extra help providing a structured system of
    extra help to enable students who lack adequate
    preparation to compete an accelerated program
  • Using data using student assessment and program
    evaluation data to continuously improve the
    school climate and to advance student learning

HSTW Assessment
  • Every two years, HSTW schools administer an
  • Seniors take hour-long achievement tests in math,
    science, and reading
  • School leaders and staff use the assessment info
    to revise instruction, curricula, and guidance

Outcome Research
  • Prior educational research has shown that the
    quality and intensity of the high school
    curriculum is the most important predictor of
    success in college
  • HSTW studies found that meeting curricular goals
    was related to meeting achievement goals taking
    the HSTW curriculum was associated with gains in
    test scores

Practices that also led to increases in student
  • Using academic skills for career/tech assignments
  • Good working relationships between academic and
    career/tech teachers
  • Better communication among students and guidance
  • Receiving help from the school in developing a
    4-year educational plan
  • Taking a math course in senior year helps to
    close the achievement gap in that subject

SREB identified major factors that influence
student achievement
  • Challenging curriculum
  • Engaging instruction
  • Personalized learning environments
  • Strong guidance and advisement programs
  • These factors provide direction and meaning to
    comprehensive school improvement

Challenges of HSTW
  • May require longer school day to accommodate both
    academic content and tech/career content
  • Sites must have the faculty, parents, students
    and community members agree to share in a vision
    of high achievement for all students
  • Changing the content and instructional delivery
    practices of teachers can be difficult
  • The district, school board and other leaders must
    be committed to replacing the general education
    track with a more demanding academic core

Your Experiences?
  • What do you notice about whats consistent across
    the models?

Whats Consistent Across Models?
  • Focus on student learning outcomes
  • High expectations and standards for all students
  • Challenging curriculum
  • Effective instruction and assessment of learning
  • Systemic, school-wide implementation
  • Family and community involvement
  • Developmental appropriateness of instruction
  • Impact all learners equitable access to
  • Teachers working together, empowered to impact
    learning environment

Whats Consistent Across Models?
  • Focus on social/emotional and relational
    components of learning
  • Safe and supportive learning environments
  • Attention to the individual student
  • Lots of good professional development

In Brief Understanding by Design
  • Curriculum Development model (Backwards Design)
  • Start with the desired results of the unit
  • What do you want students to know and be able to
  • How will you know that students have achieved
  • What is acceptable evidence of learning?
  • Summative and formative learning assessments
  • Once you know your outcomes, then you create
    learning experiences and instruction
  • What needs to be taught and how
  • How to make learning engaging and effective,
    given the goals and needed evidence
  • Focus is on student learning

In Brief Professional Learning Communities
  • Core Principles
  • 1. Ensure that students learn
  • What do we want students to learn?
  • How will we know when theyve learned it?
  • How will we respond when there are difficulties?
  • Timely- i.e. weekly/monthly progress reports
  • Based on intervention rather than remediation
  • Support services are required
  • 2. Culture of collaboration
  • Teachers work in teams to improve practice and
  • 3. Focus on results
  • Effectiveness based on student learning outcomes
  • Hard work and commitment

In Brief Advisories
  • Benefits include creating a relationship with a
    caring adult, interactions with a smaller group
    of peers, foster safe and caring school
    environment, provide academic support
  • However, without a curriculum, advisories are
    often not successful
  • Navigation 101 exemplar of curriculum-delivered
  • Lesson plans, postsecondary planning, goal
    setting, training of staff, curriculum based on
    ASCA model and 3 domains

In Brief Teaching for Understanding
  • Effective Teachers
  • Create ambitious and meaningful learning tasks
  • Engage students in active learning
  • Draw connections to students prior knowledge
  • Scaffold the learning process
  • Assess student learning continuously
  • Prove clear standards and ongoing feedback
  • Encourage strategic and metacognitive thinking so
    that students can learn to manage and direct
    their own learning

In Brief Teaching for Understanding
  • Active, in-depth learning
  • Authentic, formative assessment
  • Opportunities for collaboration
  • Attention to prior knowledge, experience, and
  • Knowledge organized around core concepts and
  • Development of metacognitive skills

  • Thank you!
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