Pockets of Success Roundtable #2: MA Notes - Tim Callahan

Idea here is, if you run out of questions, I'll talk about assessment but we'll talk about your questions first. (Tim)
How does your work align with the state's efforts and conversely, how do they support you?
- grant runs through summer; 9 districts initially involved and another 5 that were added. Ultimately, there will be a warehouse of on line courses that anyone can access. Determining how to sustain good development and implementation once the grant funding is run out. How can still pay teachers to develop content and mentors to work with students. Didn't have to be moodle as a platform but ended up being moodle. We wanted to make it non-proprietary so developed unit expectations aligned with state standards. So, we could use it for alternative school curriculum, students who have a lot of absences, tiered intervention, etc. We built it to be used flexibly. We meet with other grantees to discuss sustainability.
- build in after school learning labs and students complete a significant portion of the work with an after school coach/mentor and the rest is done at home. At parent/student orientation, parents who come are often the ones who don't attend the parent nights or open house. Those are also the ones who are most successful; kids who enroll without participating in the orientation with parents are not as successful.
- Woonsocket, RI has a significant after school credit recovery program. LAst year, over 130 students graduated who otherwise wouldn't have due to credit recovery. Works in a similar way as the North Adams program; parents have to participate in orientation and students with instructors.
- What about the Common Core?
It is a concern; we've been looking at the common core because things were headed that way. our courses are Humanities heavy due to the fact that the staff were more involved, and the MA Humanities is well aligned to the common core. Same topics, but fundamentally different in terms of how it will look in the classroom. In ELA, what makes it different is that common core emphasizes how language works - philosophy of ELA is different - more the way writers look at literature. For English modules, we will have to tweak them to emphasize those things more clearly. HAve to make sure we build that in this summer before the grant money runs out.
What will you do when the grant money runs out? Are you developing courses that you will keep?
Having teachers develop their own courses and develop their own content for moodle, helped the to better align the courses with the assessments. THe learning curve that is steep in Moodle is using the learning tools that are interactive. Creating a module takes time - the first took 50-60 hours to make; by module 4, it was taking 6-8 hours. We wanted teachers to try new things but didn't want students to be having different experiences. We implemented a quality assurance system to advocate for best practices around the use of moodle and have modules that are of the same quality.
Are you regularly revising the courses to improve them?
There is a system in place to streamline the modules. There is not necessarily a plan to revise the courses, but mentors will be responsible for making tweaks and updating content (e.g. expired links and you tube videos).
How do you use it as a competency based model?
- Assessments are directly linked to standards and because this is credit recovery, we are making the "bulls eye" more narrow and defined so they can master the basics. Also, not really credit recovery but grade recovery. If kid completes competency and passes module, they can get a D rather than an F, but need to pass the other modules. Students cannot access virtual courses the first time, as of now. In theory it could be used that way but as of now, it is recovery.
- How many courses will you have when it is all said and done?
Biggest area of need is algebra, geometry and other math courses. We have 33 courses and hopefully, will be able to use the courses from the other MA schools that are developing courses.

Report out - Big ideas
  • MA project in process - grant funded