To Track or Not to Track? Outcomes of Serving All Students in the Same Classroom

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Today is the first post in a short series about some of my favorite current and past colleagues reflecting on this past year’s teaching experiences. This first entry comes from Dr. Taylor Cross who shares insights gained from his recent research.

By Dr. Taylor Cross

“When I was in high school growing up in the northeast Georgia mountains, I was in ‘honors’ or “accelerated” classes. I didn’t put myself there; it just happened…. Who I mostly did not have classes with were the students whose parents were the hourly blue collar workers, most of which had not gone to college, and some who had no real concept of what a college education would look like.”

When I was in high school growing up in the northeast Georgia mountains, I was in “honors” or “accelerated” classes. I didn’t put myself there; it just happened. I don’t think at the time I really processed what that meant or why I was in those classes, but I knew generally that I was “smart” and that the other kids in my classes were also “smart”. In these classes the other kids were, for the most part, other kids whose parents went to college, like mine did. Their parents were the lawyers, business-owners, realtors, medical professionals, educators, etc., that kept our little town churning along. Most of these kids’ families weren’t originally from this small town, but had found their way to it by virtue of job placements.

Who I mostly did not have classes with were the students whose parents were the hourly blue collar workers, most of which had not gone to college, and some who had no real concept of what a college education would look like. The majority of these students’ families had lived in this area for generations, and the culture of many of them was native Appalachian. I was “sheltered” from these students because as a student who had shown academic promise, I was lumped with others like me. As a matter of fact, when I look back in my high school yearbook, I don’t recognize about half of the students I see because I never had classes with them, even though my school was very small.

This was my high school education experience. I was put in classes with other kids “like” me because it was perceived that putting us together would benefit us, and having the kids who were “unlike” us together would be right for them. This is also what the majority of schools across America do today with their core subjects to a large degree. They track their gifted and talented students together, and they group their average and struggling students together. Is this good? Is it a problem? Do these situations truly benefit the students who are separated from one another? These are complicated questions for which the answers can vary from context to context. Continue reading

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Student Voices: On Learning the Art of Teaching

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Today’s post is a quick reflection of a student’s time in my Teaching as a Profession class this year. The student is a sophomore and is considering becoming a school counselor one day. I appreciate her taking the time to share a few quick thoughts on what she is taking away from her time in the class. COMING SOON: An update on Mrs. C’s oceanography project! Continue reading

Studio Reunion #PBL Chat Video

The conversation was over an hour long, and while a live broadcast would have been cool, I brought my regular ol’ camera to capture the conversation just in case. We all laughed at the situation as one of our on-going mantras of The Studio class was, “Always have a backup!” I hope you enjoy the discussion as much as we enjoyed having it. There are some profound nuggets about experiential learning, authenticity in education, and the impact of relationships in a classroom–all of which play a role in well-developed project-based learning. I want to think Tiffany, Maddie, Kevin, and Abby again for their time yesterday. They are all busy college students, and I so deeply appreciate their time. Enjoy and please share!

UPDATE (No Live Stream): Studio #PBL Reunion @ 4PM Today!


UPDATE: Due to tech difficulties, I cannot live stream after all! I’ll have a video up this evening though, so stay tuned for that. Thanks for the patience.
Join us today! A few of my former students will be sharing stories from their high school project-based learning experience, and its potential impact on their current college careers.

Teacher Mentoring: What We Can Learn from Each Other

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Glenn and I giving the ol’ selfie side-eye.

Meet Glenn. Glenn is my wonderfully enthusiastic, bearded protege and mentee. While I certainly try to mentor as many teachers who are willing to listen to my wild ideas and peculiar practices, Glenn is official. This year marks the first year that my school is positioning veteran teachers (in this case teachers who have been at the school for over a year) alongside newcomers (teachers new to the school, not necessarily new to teaching). I worked closely with a colleague over the summer to build our buddy program. We developed the program to be a support for our newcomers, but also to be a boon for our school. Research, that I should be citing, I know, continues to show supporting the professional growth of teachers continuously and with intention helps with teacher retention and student success rates. Still, beyond both the support this program might provide for new teachers to our school and the quality of instruction in our building, this program gives each of these teachers a voice. Like Glenn. I fully expect Glenn to speak just as loudly into my practice and life as an educator as I hope to speak into his. To get to what I mean, let me first tell you a little bit about Glenn. Continue reading