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Florence HS
April 25, 2014
Florence High is a Florence City School.Starting time: 8:30 Ending time: 2:30Demographics: 940 students 10-12 47% Poverty 32% African American 61% Cau...
Arcadia EL
April 29, 2014
Arcadia Elementary is a Tuscaloosa City School.Starting time: 8:30 Ending time: 2:30 Demographics: We are located near the University of Alabama campu...

Learning is everyone's job!

The Alabama Best Practices Center (ABPC) is a place where educators can turn for assistance, inspiration and information about teaching and student achievement.

Our purpose is to help teachers and administrators develop the competence, commitment, and courage to do whatever it takes to improve student learning.

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A Principal's Struggle to Learn, Grow and Measure
April 10, 2014
We're pleased to share this article from the March issue of Learning Forward's bimonthly action brief Transform Professional Learning. Nathan Pitner, principal for Brookwood Forest Elementary (Mountain Brook), "explains his team’s efforts to evaluate the learning part of professional learning instead of traditional outputs. He finds the best success when teachers are guiding their own problems of practice."

by Nathan Pitner
In the past, when we evaluated our professional learning, we evaluated attitudes, the popularity of the professional learning, what it looked like, was it helpful, etc. Ultimately, though, I’m not sure we were really evaluating the effectiveness of the learning. That is the process we are carrying forward now – evaluating the learning and not the popularity. This is not easy to do, but we found the best success when teachers guide their own problems of practice.
Problems of practice target the misconception that teaching and learning are the same thing. This year we’ve taken a considerable step forward by having grade levels begin looking at problems of practice. Teams work backward from the evidence they hope to see in student learning to consider ways teachers need to alter their practice or teaching. We accept the correlation between our practice and student growth.
The format we’ve used attempts to streamline three questions: How will my students show evidence of their learning? How will my instruction or content change to help students produce this evidence? What skills or learning do I need to develop to implement this change?

We’ve loved the way problems of practice help us see students, content, and teachers in the same context of the learning process. Most importantly for our teachers, it separates what they need to do from what they need to know to do it. The first step of measuring professional learning is developing an idea of what learning we actually want to measure.Read More
Good read: Learners need "toddler" freedom to find mastery
April 1, 2014
by Cathy Gassenheimer
On a warm summer evening, watching the crowd at a street festival, I was fascinated by a toddler who was learning to walk. He was moving enthusiastically and enjoying his progress. His method was quite comical, more arms than legs, propelling himself along as if he were rowing a boat. His parents watched with delight, realizing that form and grace didn't matter, but mastery did. They were beaming with pride. No one said, 'Bad Baby, you're not doing it right!"
No one tells a baby how to walk. No one moves his legs for him. We encourage him to stand, applaud his first step, and tell him it's OK when he falls.
So starts the "members-only" article about "Student-Owned Homework," by Cathy Vatterott, in the March 2014 issue of Educational Leadership (theme: Using Assessments Thoughtfully). It has the tagline: "By using homework for practice in self-assessment and complex thinking skills, we can put students in charge of the learning process."
After elaborating a little more in a few paragraphs ("We fully understand the freedom that is necessary for children to take ownership of their accomplishments"), Vatterott segues to a contrast with schooling:
"Yet when it comes to academic learning, we seem to discount the importance of that freedom for learners to design their own methods, that forgiveness of form and grace, and that acceptance of failure. We often forget to appreciate the inborn desire for mastery or to trust a child's self-knowledge of how to get there. And so we prescribe one method of learning, assign one task as homework, and simply require students to comply."Read More
Tarrant High Students Learn the Value of Scientific Research by Teaming Up with NASA and UAB
March 28, 2014
by John Norton
ABPC communications consultant
If the Sunday forecast for Cape Canaveral was better, nine Tarrant High School students would personally watch as their biological science project lifts off for the International Space Station, inside a Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket.
Even though the weather prompted NASA to delay the resupply mission (which will deliver a 5000-lb payload of scientific experiments and supplies), the THS 11th graders are still making the trip to Florida. It's not the first time the scheduled Falcon 9 launch has had to be postponed, and NASA and Tarrant Superintendent Shelly Mize didn't want to disappoint the students again.
"NASA has planned awesome activities for our kids," Mize says, "including special tours, passes, dinners, visits with astronauts, and more." The students, accompanied by Mize and faculty advisors, will leave later today after months of hard work preparing their crystallized protein experiment – research that can contribute to the development of treatments for life-threatening diseases.
Keep up with the students' NASA adventures by following the Twitter hashtag #NASAths through March 31.
Learning about science in the real world
Although the THS students will be the only young scientists from Alabama making the Cape Canaveral trip, Tarrant High is one of 10 Birmingham area schools participating in a project partnership supported by NASA and UA-Birmingham.  Read More
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