Monday, May 14, 2018

How Do We Define “Ready” for College, Careers, and Life? A Portrait of a Graduate

Public education is one of America’s greatest masterpieces. Getting students to graduation is not enough. Educators and communities are committed to ensuring students are “ready” for future learning, work, and civic engagement after high school. But what does “ready” mean?  

Unfortunately, standardized test scores have been predominantly used as the way to determine if someone is “ready” to graduate, and those alone do not provide an accurate or comprehensive picture of our students’ potential. Students (or educators) should never be defined by a single test score.

Our students are more than a score!

Dr. David Schuler - Superintendent of Township High School District 214, past AASA President, and current National Superintendent of the Year - led an effort to identify multiple measures based on research to more appropriately assess that students are college-ready, career-ready, and life-ready. This work has become AASA’s national initiative called Redefining Ready! Using these indicators, we can paint a more realistic portrait of a graduate so that students and families can see what it looks like to be “ready” for future success.  

College Ready Indicators
Students are College Ready if they meet either the academic indicators or standardized testing benchmarks listed below.

GPA 2.8 out of 4.0 and one or more of the following academic indicators:
·              Advanced Placement Exam (3+)
·              Advanced Placement Course (A, B or C)
·              Dual Credit College English and/or Math (A, B or C)
·              College Developmental/Remedial English and/or Math (A, B or C)
·              Algebra II (A, B or C)
·              International Baccalaureate Exam (4+)
·              Standardized Testing Benchmarks (minimum score)
SAT Exam: Math (530) | Reading and Writing (480)
ACT Exam: English (18) | Reading (22) | Science (23) | Math (22)
College Readiness Placement Assessment
Additional Factors that Contribute to College Success
Earning As, Bs, Cs; FAFSA completion; enrollment in career pathway course sequence; college academic advising; participation in college bound bridge programs; senior year math class; completion of a math class after Algebra II.

Career Ready Indicators
Students are Career Ready if they have identified a career interest and meet two of the behavioral and experiential benchmarks listed below. In addition, students entering the military upon graduation must meet the passing scores on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) for each branch
of the military.

Career Cluster Identified and two or more of the following benchmarks:
·              90% Attendance
·              25 hours of Community Service
·              Workplace Learning Experience
·              Industry Credential
·              Dual Credit Career Pathway Course
·              Two or more organized Co-Curricular Activities

Life Ready
Being Life Ready means students leave high school with the grit and perseverance to tackle and achieve their goals. Students who are Life Ready possess the growth mindset that empowers them to approach their future with confidence, to dream big and to achieve big. Our nation’s schools provide social and emotional support and experiences to equip students with the life skills they will need for success in their future.

While little research exists in the Life Ready realm, AASA and the Redefining Ready! campaign are currently studying how to best measure these life ready skills.  

Meanwhile, some school districts have worked with their staff and community to identify Life Ready indicators that represent their local values and aspirations for students. For example, the Orting School District’s Life Ready menu includes 25 hours of community service, character education focusing on servant leadership, and digital citizenship and technology literacy.

Once the Orting School District defined what “ready” for college, careers, and life meant for students, the system was poised to support it in intentional ways. This was not yet another initiative; it became the anchor that connected the district’s work. It brought system focus and coherence. Course planning and catalogs were connected to college, career, and life readiness. Every school’s annual improvement plan goals were explicitly connected to it, and resources were aligned to support it. For example, they redefined multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) to remove barriers to being college-ready (academics), career-ready (attendance), and life-ready (behavior). Having set this clear direction for the system, the School Board could more accurately and comprehensively monitor progress around readiness using data. Board meeting time focused on the core mission of all students “ready.” Meeting agenda items and reports were coded to it, and academic and operational plans were anchored to it. “When I see Orting graduates walking across the stage with their College, Careers, and Life honor cord,” said Superintendent Shepard, “I know they have the skills, dispositions, and tangible plans to dream and achieve big.”   

Dr. Schuler said, “If students can’t see it, they can’t dream it.”

Now that our students, families, staff, and community can have a clear picture of what “ready” for college, careers, and life looks like, we can help make dreams come true!

For more information, visit

Dr. Marci Shepard
Orting School District

Friday, April 13, 2018

How does educational technology allow us to create a culture of innovation?


The role of educator has changed significantly since the integration of technology. Teachers are not the esteemed holders of knowledge as they once were because students’ have a wealth of information at their fingertips.  There has been talk for years about how the skills of the workforce have changed and how educators are preparing learners for jobs that do not even exist. Friedman’s article, “How to Get a Job at Google,” highlights five attributes of hirable candidates.  These include cognitive ability, leadership, humility, ownership and expertise (Couros, 157). Education is about so much more than reading, writing and arithmetic.  Educators must now prepare learners to be creative, critical thinkers who flexibly solve real-world problems across multiple content areas and then communicate solutions to a wide audience. According to Forbes, 40% of U.S. jobs will be automated by 2030, “Today’s kindergartners are the graduating class of 2030, so while the challenge might seem far off, it is actually quite urgent.” Luckily, brilliant educators across the globe have felt that sense of urgency and are accepting this transformational challenge and making significant changes for learners. 

Equity, a key focus of educators, administrators, superintendents and school boards, isn’t about all kids – it is about each and every kid. Districts are investing time and resources to prepare students for college, career and life readiness. As part of that preparation, educational technology has significantly impacted our classrooms.  For instance, the 1:1 initiative ensures every learner has his/her own device during the school day.  In educational technology circles, personalized learning is the new buzz. The International Association for K-12 Online Learning, iNACOL, defines personalized learning as, “Tailoring learning for each student’s strengths, needs and interests–including enabling student voice and choice in what, how, when and where they learn–to provide flexibility and supports to ensure mastery of the highest standards possible” (Abel, 2015).  Both 1:1 and personalized learning are excellent shifts in the direction toward equity and innovation. Technology is a tool and alone, technology will not make the necessary change. “Learners are the drivers; technology is the accelerator” (Couros, 2015).  The right educational approach is learner focused; these learners include both educators and students.

In the book, The Passion-Driven Classroom: A Framework for Teaching and Learning, the authors discuss the achievement gap in education as a reflection of a gap of passion rather than achievement. They state:

           Students are not falling through the cracks because our standards are low, or because our classrooms are ill equipped with the latest technology, or because we failed to use the right book or strategy. They are falling because we have not yet found a way to sustain the energy, excitement, and love for learning they came with when they first entered our classrooms (Maiers and Sandvold 4)

Educational technologies can support our work in reaching each and every learner and these tools can be transformational.

Couros references Porter’s three levels of integration: literate, adaptive and transformative (157).  At a literate level, you become familiar with the tool. Adaptation occurs when the tool helps you do something with the tool that you used to do without it. Transformation only happens when the tool allows you to do something new that was not possible without the tool. In order for learners to get to the transformative stage, it’s important to remember that less is more (Couros 157). With thousands of apps and technology tools out there, educators must choose carefully.  Simplicity and focus will help you achieve a true level of transformation because transformation requires time and creativity. “Creativity is where we start to think differently, and innovation is where creativity comes to life” (Couros 158). Being innovative and using technology tools in transformative ways, we begin to push learners beyond their own limitations to achieve their fullest potential.

Educational technologies have changed the face of education and rewritten the age old role of educators. These technologies are a tool, and yes, some can be transformative; however, technology doesn’t innovate, humans do. Innovation isn’t something that happens in a vacuum and it’s not a process to be rushed. Innovation occurs by fostering a culture of creativity, allowing time for teachers and learners to move from literate to adaptive to transformative levels of integration. Make the opportunity to innovate accessible to all. It is about simplicity, passion and equity. You have what it takes so take that first step. 

Article By: Ashley K. Leneway
Curriculum & Technology Integration Specialist
Morgen Owings Elementary, Lake Chelan Public Schools
Twitter: @mrsleneway

Works Cited

Abel, Natalie. “What Is Personalized Learning?” iNACOL, 25 Feb. 2016,
Childress, Stacey. “3 Biggest Education Innovation Questions For 2018.” Forbes, Forbes
 Magazine, 9 Jan. 2018,
Couros, George. The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a
              Culture of Creativity. San Diego, Dave Burgess Consulting, 2015.
Herold, Benjamin. “The Future of Work Is Uncertain, Schools Should Worry Now.” Education
 Week, 1 Mar. 2018,
s.html. Accessed 3 Apr. 2018.
Maiers, Angela, and Amy Sandvold. The Passion-Driven Classroom: a Framework for 
Teaching and Learning. Routledge, 2018.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

How can your school’s library program boost student achievement?

School libraries have changed a lot over the last 15 years. They are still the number one place students have access to pleasure reading materials, but they also hold a big opportunity to shift school culture toward student achievement. Twenty-five national studies have proved that having library with an updated collection, staffed by a certified teacher librarian who is both an educational technology evangelist and a bibliophile can increase student achievement in a school.  In 2015, a study was conducted in Washington State that showed a 35.6% increase for the five-year graduation rate in high poverty schools, that staffed a certified teacher-librarian. A study out of Colorado saw an 16% increase in advanced reading scores for schools that kept their teacher-librarians, then in schools that lost librarians during the recession. South Carolina found that schools who had a full-time certified librarian and a part-time clerical assistant, had students that scored better on their state writing exam than schools that did not have a librarian with clerical help.

It’s not just simply staffing a certified librarian, it’s what they are doing in your school that will make academic impact.  There are national school library standards teacher-librarians must teach in all grade levels. However, these standards teach students processes for learning, not content. Teacher-librarians teach media literacy, inquiry process, and digital citizenship, but to truly effect student achievement their standards must be co-taught with content teachers. The instructional partnership of content teachers and teacher-librarians is what leads to deeper learning of both process and content.

If students visit the library once a week for a thirty minute “library time” and checkout is included in that time, librarians are only able to teach each class for 18 hours a year. These lessons are often very low level and cannot include the level of rigor reflected in the new national library standards. Therefore, a flexible schedule, not a coverage model is needed to increase time for students to dig into research. Students should be able to come every day for a week in different lengths of time with their teachers as needed to finish a project, using the library in an authentic manner. This helps teachers too! Research is in all our Common Core standards, but is usually taught by the teacher, not following any inquiry process and giving students a few websites and books to use as sources. If students don’t learn how to vet their sources, curate the best sources, or use the information they find ethically it can have long lasting consequences into their adult lives. In these rigorous lessons, they also learn how to use informational text authentically and for a purpose. The more continuous time students are using informational text the more skillful they will become at skimming, using text features, and finding evidence to back up their claims.

According to OSPI, Washington State has a 16% chronic absentee rate. It is even higher for students of color. If students need to be in school to achieve.  Many of chronic absent students don’t feel like school is a place they can be themselves. They don’t feel successful or a sense of belonging in school. The school library can be that third space for students. A place to create shared experiences that merges the student’s home life and school life.  The school library creates a conduit for student’s everyday life experiences and an echo chamber of their social, emotional, and physical needs.  Students who find a place in the library are given the opportunity to embed themselves in a supportive community can become leaders schoolwide. Even Bill Gates attributes some of his success to his teacher-librarian who helped him feel a sense of belonging. Teacher-librarians ask about students’ interests and gives students one-on-one attention they often have trouble finding in our large public school classrooms.  The library in many cases is the only place schoolwide that is directly a student space that reflects the student population and their interests.  Libraries are a sanctuary and a life line that can help get students to want to come to school.

The most important way schools can help teacher-librarians make an impact on achievement is to let them do their jobs. So often administrators don’t understand what teacher-librarians do, so they invent jobs for them or overload their schedules. Teacher-librarians teach, manage a space and materials, budget, and design engaging programs for students. More and more are also running makerspaces, coding clubs, and training students and staff on the latest technology. Respect their role in the educational ecosystem and your students (and their achievement scores) will thank you!

Article By: Suzanna L. Panter
Program Manager, School Libraries
Tacoma Public Schools
Twitter: @slpanter

Washington State ASCD thanks YOU for your membership!  For recent news visit
Works Cited

Coker, E. Certified Teacher-Librarians, Library Quality and Student Achievement in Washington State Public Schools. Edmonds: WA: Washington Library Media Association, 2015.

Gates, Bill. “A Teacher Who Changed My Life.”, 16 Aug. 2016,

Lance, K., and L. Hofschire. Change in School Librarian Staffing Linked with Change in CSAP Reading Performance, 2005 to 2011. Denver, CO: Colorado State Library, Library Research Service, 2012.

Lance, K., B. Schwarz, and M. J. Rodney. How Libraries Transform Schools by Contributing to Student Success: Evidence Linking South Carolina School Libraries and PASS & HSAP Results. Columbia: SC: South Carolina Association of School Libraries, 2014.

“National School Library Standards.” National School Library Standards, American Library Association, Nov. 2017,

Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. “Data.” Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, 14 July 2017,

“School Libraries Work! A Compendium of Research Supporting the Effectiveness of School Libraries.” School Libraries Work!, Scholastic,

Sun, Carolyn. “Washington Study Further Ties Quality Library Programs to Student Success.” School Library Journal, Media Source, 27 May 2015,

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

What is Whole Child Education and Why Support it?

You may hear the term “whole child” batted around at your school or in the educational setting where you work. It sounds good; something easy to support just by nature of the words involved.  However, you may find yourself asking: “What does ‘whole child’ actually mean?” Ask any group of teachers or administrators this question and you will receive a variety of answers. You may hear references to social and emotional learning, physical activity, nutrition, or alternative learning environments. All of these elements are part of whole child education, but there is much more. So, if your colleagues say that they are supportive of Whole Child Education, what are they really saying?

The ASCD defines Whole Child as an approach “to transition from a focus on narrowly defined academic achievement to one that promotes the long-term development and success of all children.” Additionally, ASCD’s Whole Child framework focuses on five primary tenets, envisioning that each student attending school will be:

Supported - Students have access to personalized learning and are supported by qualified, caring adults.

Challenged - Students are challenged academically and prepared for success in post-secondary learning, future employment, and participation in a global environment.

Healthy - Students enter school healthy, and learn about and practice healthy lifestyles.

Safe - Students learn in a physically and emotionally safe environment.

Engaged - Students are actively engaged in learning and are connected to the school and broader community.

Through this approach, ASCD supports educators, families, community members, and policymakers as they move from a vision about educating the whole child to sustainable, collaborative actions. Schools supported by their community with coordinated policies and practices that prioritize any or all of the five tenets see greater academic performance and engagement among all of their students. This coordinated approach includes partnerships and strategies that support student learning throughout the educational system. Ultimately, these strategies meet each student where they are in learning and life.  Students who enter school doors each day knowing that the adults in those learning environments care about them, see them for all that they are, and work to meet them academically and personally to ensure their success in and out of the classroom are able to experience the five tenets of the Whole Child. They feel that their teachers care deeply about their learning, not because of assessment outcomes, but instead because learning means they are better equipped to achieve their individualized goals and a more fulfilling life.

WHY someone supports the Whole Child is an individual call to action. We can pull from Simon Sinek’s highly regarded TEDTalk on “How great leaders inspire action.” ( His message appeals to leaders, including classroom teachers throughout the state, to focus on answering the question: “What is your WHY?”  Your WHAT may be to provide instruction in Algebra, assess and mentor new teachers, or even coach swimming.  It is when you know the WHY of your work that you are able to find meaning and inspire purpose in those around you – including your students.  My WHY is to ensure that students are provided with optimal learning environments that are supported, challenged, healthy, safe, and engaged. I encourage you to watch the video and take a few minutes to reflect about your WHY – and then we should address our HOW.
Ensuring access to and support for WHOLE CHILD EDUCATION is WHY I go to work every day. If your WHY includes aspects of health, security, engagement, challenge, and support for students – you may be a WHOLE CHILD educator. I hope we can work together to determine HOW to implement it in a student-centered, inclusive, and equitable way. Here’s a start:

The Washington State ASCD brings this same vision to our state through professional development, leadership, and recognition of model schools and educators through the Whole Child Awards.
If you know a great educator or school who exemplifies what it means to support Whole Child Education, nominate them for Washington ASCD’s Whole Child Award at  Nominees will be expected to submit a formal application. Applications will be accepted starting on February 2 through April 13, 2018.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Holiday Stress: Why do Students Fall Apart Right Before the Holidays?

We know that our students navigate challenges throughout the year. However, behavior and experience show us that holiday breaks seem to be a more intense time.

Holiday breaks can amplify situational protective and risk factors present in our student’s lives. Risk factors are characteristics associated with a higher likelihood of negative outcomes. Protective factors provide buffering. Protective factors are associated with a reduced likelihood of negative outcomes or lower a risk factor’s impact. Risk and protective factors come from public health.
The supports and consistency of school pause, and daily life sets in during a time of heightened, festive attention. For our students, holiday beaks may mean:
  • More exposure to family dynamics (both positive and negative) 
  • Family dynamics may increase in intensity
  • Parenting or visitation plans may be adjusted or changed
  • Travel, hosting, or visiting bring different places and faces
  • Schedule shifts that increase time with others or reduce time with others
  • Concerns or adjustments related to finances and food

       Balancing expectations and reality, and navigating the comparisons among peers and friends
The time before holiday breaks is a time of preoccupation. Who can know if joy or worry, or both, fuel student anticipation? For some families, this is an exciting time that promises celebration. A time that some of our students don’t want to end. However, for other students this is a time of uncertainty and unmet expectations, a time where anticipation turns from excitement into anxiety, and for a few anxiety shifts to despair. Even adults may find themselves fluctuating between feeling excited, stressed, and anxious. 

The vast difference between the adult and student experience, however, is that adults are the decision-makers of the changes. Students are along for the ride with little-to-no control in the frenzy of break. It is understandable that our students who feel the least amount of control during the days leading to break might begin to seek a sense of control through a variety of behaviors.

As educators and trusted adults, we can use the time leading up to holiday break as protective and reassuring. We can dedicate ourselves to inclusion, working to keep our students with us, with the class, and within the school. Keeping students close may help them feel secure in a time of magnified expectation and anticipation.

Coping with anticipation and managing stress are lifelong skills. As is the development of coping through anxiety and painful experiences. To be resilient, to develop trust, and weather tough times happens with practice. Holiday break is an opportunity for us to support students in developing and coping with uncertainty and excitement, and all the feelings in-between.

This article was contributed by:
Mandy Paradise, M.Ed.
Project AWARE Program Supervisor
Secondary Education & K12 Supports
Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI)
Ph: 360-725-6248 | Cell: 360-402-3580

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

How do we Support the Whole Educator?

Each morning, my own kids enter the gates of their Tacoma Hilltop elementary school and they are greeted with three prominent phrases painted on a cement wall outside the building: “Care for Yourself, Care for Each Other and Care for This Place.” While at first glance you cannot help, but want to embrace these words, you wonder if these words were part of a student art project that started and ended just as quickly as they were painted or if these words have life and a true context beyond that static wall. When you dig a little deeper you realize that “Care for Yourself, Care for Each Other and Care for This Place is the school’s mantra. Kids own these words and the staff have embraced the culture surrounding them. Even my kindergarten son has told his younger brother that, “we need to care for each other and care for this place.”

I suspect that the school’s mantra and its culture was spurred through Tacoma Public Schools’ Whole Child Initiative, which has redefined how our schools addressed the social emotional needs of students. Prior to the inception of the Whole Child Initiative in 2013 our students were struggling and we had a difficult time responding to their social emotional needs.

It has been five years since Tacoma Public Schools (TPS) launched the Whole Child Initiative. We have been nationally recognized for this work and our kids are better supported. They are safer, healthier, better challenged and more engaged. Today however, in the path of a national teacher shortage and a polarized society we are now asking, what about are educators?, Do they feel supported?, Are they safe?,  Are they healthy?, Are they engaged?  

In the last month alone, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) shared survey results of 5,000 educators. 61% reported that work is “always” or “often stressful” (Toppo, 2017). The article went on to read that, “More than half of the educators point out their mental health is an issue: 58% said their mental health was “not good” for seven or more of the previous 30 days. A similar survey in 2015 found just 34% of respondents felt the same.”

In addition to this trend of educator stress, our teachers are leaving the profession at an alarming rate. According to an article published by the Washington Post, (Strauss, 2015) and research from Richard Ingersoll a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, 40-50% of teachers leave the profession by the end of their fifth year.

It has become more apparent than ever that we need educators at the top of their game. The research alone suggests that our employees need more support. Furthermore, healthier employees equal better results. Dr. Anastasia Snelling from American University in DC and a leading expert on teacher health and wellness said, “A healthier teacher workforce translates into less absenteeism, higher retention rates, and improved productivity,” (Snelling & Stevenson, 2013).  

Because of this need, TPS district level leadership began to ask questions. What does adult support look like in TPS? How can we develop a system and a culture that responds to employee needs? One critical question though emerged to the top and ironically, it was the same question we were asking about our students five years go.

How do we support the Whole Educator? We began to rally. In our first attempt at answering this question, we launched the Whole Educator Initiative and essentially replicated the Whole Child tenants by focusing our supports on employee health, safety, and engagement. 

TPS started this work by developing a one stop internal web site that allows TPS employees to access several resources to support them. These resources include, health and wellness options, a variety of professional development opportunities, and community partner information to name a few. Over the last three months, the Whole Educator Initiative has also been a staple at employee events across TPS. A Whole Educator Academy was held in mid-August of this year drawing in more than 500 teachers to attend this two-day conference. Teachers could choose to attend a variety of sessions that supported their work in the classroom and beyond. Our second phase to this initiative included developing the metrics to measure employee safety, health and engagement as well as encouraging employees to get active every day.

Most recently in our schools, some principals have taken on the Whole Educator Initiative and made it their own. Employees in these schools have reported being more energized and motived to attend work each day. One specific example, is a newly established spin class at one of our comprehensive high schools. Spin class participants gather after school in the gym and spin for at least 20 minutes each day. Other schools have created time in the main office to socialize and engage in collegial celebrations prior to the first bell.

While we have much more work to do around the Whole Educator Initiative to fully address the needs of all our employees, it is a start and we have begun to answer our original critical question, How do we support the Whole Educator? It is our belief that once each employee feels safe, healthy and engage they will truly thrive. In turn, so will the students we serve.

Forrest Griek, Ed.D.
Director of Labor Relations & Whole Educator Support
Tacoma Public Schools

Snelling, A. & Stevenson, M. (2017, March 10). Helping Teachers Get Healthier. Retrieved November 08, 2017, from
Strauss, V. (2015, June 12). Why so many teachers leave –and how to get them to stay.  Retrieved November 08, 2017, from
Toppo, G. (2017, October 30). Survey: Teacher’ mental health declining amid job stress.  Retrieved November 08, 2017, from