Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What does your Bio say about you?

I recently had to compose a Bio to post as a presenter for an upcoming National Webinar event. As I sat to reduce my career experiences to one paragraph relative to the upcoming presentation, I went for less is more:

Sheila LeBoeuf-Guidry is currently the Project Administrator of the Louisiana School Turnaround Specialist Program for the Louisiana Department of Education. Ms. Guidry is responsible for the facilitation of the first two cohorts of candidates through the University of Virginia program and the development and implementation of a Regional Provider Program to build capacity within the state. Ms. Guidry has previously served as a public school teacher, master teacher, principal, district grant coordinator, and state department project administrator. She received her B.S. and M.Ed. from Nicholls State University and is a Louisiana certified K-12 Principal, Supervisor, and Superintendent.

How would your bio read?

Monday, May 24, 2010

PLN Online Course

I have just completed an online course, Developing and Growing Professional Learning Networks (PLNs) for School Leaders through ETLO for SETDA. My PLN has grown as a result of participation in this course due to exposure to other professionals across the country and to uses of Web 2.0 tools for professional networking. I am looking forward to incorporating additional networking opportunities for the administrators in the program I administer as a result of participating in this course. I see how PLNs can simplify the communication process, but know that there is some groundwork to do with the administrators I service to get them up to speed.

My goal is to get a LSTS PLN going with my Cohort III group.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

In Tough Times, Don't Forget the PD and Rethink the Use of Web 2.0 Tools

Everywhere I look it's the doom and gloom of Reduction in Force, or RIF. School districts are scaling back and eliminating things that are non-essential. A word of caution when it comes to professional development (hereafter called PD), make sure whatever PD remains in your budget is focused on effectiveness, efficiency, or teacher need.

In tight times, tempers flare and patience is often in short supply. The last thing you want to do is hold professional development that does not have meaning to the people involved. Districts will still receive funds to provide PD. Make sure the offered PD serves as a resource for either evaluation identified teacher needs or school improvement plan identified school needs. Now would be a great time to consider Web 2.0 PD, and a reevaluation of district policies governing the use of Web 2.0 tools. Phasing in Web 2.0 tools could be part of district cost cutting measures.

For example, some districts and school purchase lesson plan software to allow for monitoring by school administrators and collaboration across grade level or content teams. Instead of paying licensing fees for this type of software, consider using Google Docs a a free vehicle to accomplish the same goal. Recruit someone proficient in Google Docs to conduct some hands on workshop sessions where a file structure and sharing is set up during the session, and it's ready to use when the participants leave. Also make sure administrators receive training to allow them to quickly begin monitoring plans and providing feedback. This is an example of cost effective PD that increases employee productivity and collaboration.

Just remember, PD can be a morale booster and employee benefit in economically challenged times.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Test Prep the whole year through...

Now is the time in Louisiana when teachers begin to focus on LEAP Test Prep or LEAP review. Some schools do LEAP Blitz and shut down instruction for two weeks before the test to focus on comprehensive review lessons.

Focusing on LEAP for just two weeks before the test is like going on a crash diet to go to an event. You crash diet for 3 - 6 months. Drop drastic weight to go to the event and within 3-6 months after the event, have gained the weight back and maybe even increased it. It does not make you healthier. All research shows you should make healthy diet choices and get a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise at least 5 days a week in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle and appropriate body weight. Intensive LEAP reviews stresses kids and teachers out and gets kids focused for two weeks on things that are not connected to real world learning. The process does not create lifelong learners or teach kids how to think. So what should teachers do to insure "healthy" learning?

Teachers should design their instruction from day one to incorporate the types of activities and assessments necessary to guarantee student success on standardized testing. If students are exposed the the types of assessment questions they will experience on the LEAP in their daily instruction, they will be comfortable and confident when LEAP test time comes. Bell Ringer sample LEAP items or a weekly LEAP enrichment are appropriate. The biggest payoff is by getting students in habit of reading a content related passage and answering questions that require an analysis or extrapolation of what was read (i.e. teaching them to think).

The Constructed Response, Short Answer, and Task sessions are the most challenging for students on the test. Writing Across the Curriculum is a key school improvement activity that can improve student performance in these areas. Writing is a learned skill, and it is a different process in different content areas. Teachers should provide weekly or bi-weekly writing activities in the content areas that simulate the types of writing sessions the students will experience on the LEAP. These activities should be part of the teachers assessments. The teacher must provide feedback and model correct responses. Initially, this will take a lot of time, but by mid-year the students will be in the swing of things. They'll be pros by testing time.

If teachers begin with the end in mind and incorporate the necessary assessment strategies into real time instruction, not only will students perform at higher levels on standardized tests, but they will learn a skill that will serve them well throughout their life.