Octorara’s Playbook for Academic Success

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Before we get into the meat of Monday’s Education Committee Meeting, let me first welcome students and parents back. Yesterday was the first day of school for the Octorara Area School District. I hope everyone survived.😉

Education Committee Meetings tend to be very informative and interesting to attend but, when written about, typically will create essays and posts that can cause people to glaze over. Therefore, I want to present an example of how Learning Focused Schools and the iPad program combine, and try to avoid things like explaining “intentionality,” which is more a philosophical concept than a get‘er done way of doing. I want to stay away from abstract concepts, and focus on meat and potatoes.

Below is a youtube video created by Mr. Anthony (RAnthonyOctorara) that provides a small example of what can be done. It is an example of a “flipped classroom.”

The way many of us were taught, the teacher would lecture during class, and then send work home. Some teachers would review homework, and some wouldn’t, but  either way that next day’s lecture had to be done.

The “flipped classroom” allows the lecture to become homework, and traditional homework to become classwork, with the teacher more involved. It also allows the student to watch the lecture as many times as they need until they feel they have grasped the lesson.

Did you catch the portion of the video about the essential questions? This is part of the Learning Focused Schools program. For those of us who have taken Continuing Education classes, this should be familiar, even if you are not familiar with the phrase “essential question.” It is the idea that at the end of a course, seminar, lecture, lesson, or chapter that the student should be able to answer this… essential question… a question that embodies everything being learned.

Now, add to this interactive text books. At the Education Committee Meeting, we got to see the Go Math e-textbooks. These learning tools not only contain the text of a traditional textbook, but are also a workbook that will continually evaluate the student’s progress and proficiency, adjusting accordingly… slower learners won’t get completely left behind, and more advanced students will continued to be challenged and are less likely to become bored. If the student needs help understanding a concept, in one click there is video instruction for more help.

When I hear some of the descriptions of Learning Focused Schools, it does often sound like a bunch of New Age mumbo-jumbo. One would not be faulted for thinking, “Here we go again with the next fad to come out of academia.” However, when I see it applied, at least in this way, it becomes impressive, and I am willing to be open minded that LFS will bring with it big dividends.

Will LFS be the program that pushes Octorara out of its low academic standing among the schools in Chester County? I can’t tell you that. However, from what I have seen and read about the program, it should provide steady, sustainable improvement.

The combination of Learning Focused Schools, a commitment to effectively using technology in the classroom, data driven instruction, a new focus on 3rd Grade Reading Proficiency, and we are starting to see a winning playbook, limited only by the effectiveness and enthusiasm of team players and coaches (ie teachers and administrators).

Knowing if we have a winning team and strategy will take until the final numbers come in on the 2017-2018 school year. However, improvements to academic performance should be seen almost immediately, even if LFS’s full potential is not realized for several more years. We will not need to wait until 2018 to see if this plan works.

The Board, on behalf of the voters and taxpayers, must have the will to create accountability if this new playbook does not provide tangible results.

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