Sunday, March 11, 2018

6 Innovative Options for Students Who Don't Like Regular School

Editor's note: This is part of a series entitled "Innovative Approaches to Support At-Risk Youth."

Let’s face it. A traditional school approach doesn’t work for every student... and that’s okay. Fortunately, there are options in place for students interested in pursuing alternative pathways.  Here are alternative options parents and students can consider.
1) High School Equivalency:
Students who are at least 17 (or 16 with a waiver) are eligible to pursue a high school equivalency diploma better known as the GED and currently renamed the TASC. In most districts students are not on their own. For students pursuing an equivalency there is often help for students prepare to advance to college and pursue career opportunities. Ask if your district has college and career coaches to help students plan for their futures. Some districts may have a workforce development program offering professional training and paid internships. More and more districts are also offering these students opportunities to walk for graduation and attend prom as well. If they don’t have a conversation and see what can be arranged.

While some parents and students consider an equivalency diploma to have a stigma associated with it, others see it as an innovative and efficient ticket allowing students to pursue academic or work passions. It’s also important to remember, that in the modern job market few people place their high school graduation on their LinkedIn resume.
2) Virtual School:
Many states now have virtual learning options available for students such as Nevada Connections Academy. Benefits of such options include that they are available at no cost, they provide a flexible pace and schedule, they can be taking from anywhere in the world. This is a safe option for students who have had issues with face-to-face connections, bullying, or social anxiety. If you don’t have a virtual school in your state, schools such as Florida Virtual accept out-of-state students.
3) Homeschool/Unschool:  
Homeschooling is legal in every state. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about homeschooling. If you scratch below the surface you’ll learn some important facts about homeschooling. For instance, there is a high college acceptance rate for homeschoolers. You can receive a high diploma as a homeschooler. You don’t have to have parents or tutors teach you. There are lots of innovative options to learn such as jobs, internships, apprenticeships, job shadowing, and more. Those completely new to this idea can enroll in a program like Pacific Sands Academy which will walk parents and students through all the requirements for a high school diploma as well as provide support in developing a personal learning plan.
4) Career & Technical Education School:
Career and technical education (CTE) schools fell out of favor in the age of No Child Left Behind and College for All, but to the relief of many students, teachers, and parents, they are making a comeback. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that not everyone needs to pursue a career requiring college and that there are many honorable, high-salaried careers that don’t require a degree. The best place to pursue such options in New York City which has the largest portfolio of options that train about 60,000 students a year. If you visit a quality CTE school like Co-op Tech as you walk the school halls you will see students and work in fully operational beauty and barber shops, students constructing real buildings, an eyeglass repair store, car repair, and students fixing cars.  Students are set up with paid internships and a real shot at a viable career upon completion of the program. 
Classrooms at Co-op Tech
5) Drop In Options for Drop Outs:
Many districts have options for students 21 or younger who have dropped out or fallen behind on credits. This varies from state to state and city to city. In places like New York City options include:
A)  Young Adult BoroughCenters: These are evening academic programs designed to meet the needs of high school students who might be considering dropping out because they are behind or because they have adult responsibilities that make attending school in the daytime difficult. Students attend part time and in the evening to earn a high school diploma. Students between the ages of 17.5 and 21, who are in their fifth year of high school and have earned at least 17 credits, are eligible.
B)  Transfer Schools: These are small, full-time high schools designed to re-engage students. These schools look at the credits a student has and provides a personalized plan for them to complete school providing extra support to help students meet academic and personal goals. Support includes access to workshops, tutoring, Regents prep, and extracurricular activities. Schools support students in developing college and career plans for life after high school. Many Transfer Schools have the added component of Learning to Work, which offer students paid internships, job and career development, and more. Hear more from a student perspective in the following video.
6) Alternative School Models
There are both public (Big Picture, Schoolwide Enrichment) and non-public (Agile, Montessori, Democratic) models that provide passion-based learning options that may be better suited for students. These models generally do away with traditional approaches that include teachers, tests, and textbooks and instead invite students to discover and pursue their passions. This post provides more details and additional information n each model.  
Your Turn
What do you think? Are any of these options ones you think could work with students you know? Have you seen any of them in practice? Which ones resonate with you for the type of students you encounter?

Sunday, March 4, 2018

5 Parent Resources to Support Children in Being Safe & Responsible Digital Citizens

Kids today!  If you believed the headlines, you'd think that technology has created a generation of kids who are impatient, bored, and entitled. While that could be true, don't blame the kids or the tech. It is up to the adults in their worlds to ensure we raise kids who know how to be safe and responsible digital citizens.  

Educators do this by following the curriculum from providers like Common Sense Education, Google’s “Be Internet Awesome,” and EverFi’s “Ignition.”

I asked a group of Common Sense Educators which sites they recommend for parents. 
Below are the resources they suggested schools can share to support parents in keeping their children safe online.

5 Digital Citizenship Resources for Parents 

1) Common Sense Widget for Families

Want live, updated information regarding digital citizenship on your website? You can give parents easy access to advice on parenting in the digital age by adding the Common Classroom blog for educators and the Making Sense blog for families to your school’s or district’s site.
Produced in partnership with Digital Awareness UK this video series is designed to help parents keep their children safe online. It consists of six short films for parents, six matching films for children as well as downloadable online safety fact sheets. The resources are designed to encourage and support open discussions in families about how to enjoy the online environment while staying safe.
Practical advice for parents from NetSmartz on some common sense ideas for keeping kids safe online.

4) Online Safety for Families

Wired Safety provides advice for keeping young people safe online at various ages from age 8 and under through the teenage years.

5) District Guidelines and Responsibilities

New York City schools created guidelines and outlined responsible internet use with students, staff and families which you can view at the links below.
  • Social Media Guidelines - NYC
    These are the student guidelines schools share with parents. There are also guides for parents, infographics, and an activity book that go along with the guidelines.
  • Digital Citizenship Responsibilities - NYC
    New York City Schools educators created plain language guidance to advice for supporting good digital citizenship with students and infographics to accompany this advice.

Your Turn

What do you think? What has your experience been with supporting parents in being safe online? Are these resources you feel would be helpful for the families of your students? Have you tried any of these resources? What did you think? Anything missing? 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

#NYCSchoolsTechChat: School Safety Tonight at 7 p.m.

During this month's #NYCSchoolsTechChat we will address ways to increase school safety. #NYCSchoolTech teacher Eileen Lennon moderates with me throwing in my two cents. 
You can prepare for the conversation by thinking about answers to these questions:

Q1 What approaches are you using to keep you and your students safe at school? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Q2 You have to Maslow before you Bloom. How are you ensuring your students feel a sense of love and belonging in your classroom? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Q3 What are schoolwide approaches used where you teach to help students who have experienced trauma or are suffering from PTSD? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Q4 How does class size and class load affect your ability to connect & build relationships with students? How is your school ensuring you have a manageable number of students? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Q5 How does your school and classroom help families and students feel welcomed and a sense of belonging in the school community? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Q6 What methods is your school using to combat bullying / cyberbullying? #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Chat details are below:
Date: Thursday, March 1
Time: 7:00 pm
Topic: School Safety
Your Host: @eileen_lennon (@NYCSchools)
Co-Host: @InnovativeEdu (@NYCSchools)

Remember to respond using the hashtag #NYCSchoolsTechChat and include the number of the question you are answering in your response i.e. A1 and your answer.

We hope you can view the chat live, but if you are unable, please visit our archive at You can also participate in the chat at that link or if you have an iPhone download the app at (coming to Android soon).

Monday, February 12, 2018

Address Learning Differences with These Micro-credentials from @DigitalPromise

Innovative educators know the importance of understanding how a student learns best and then designing an approach tailored that student’s needs. This comes in the form of learning that is student centered, differentiated, and takes into account the learner’s differences and preferences. It also means having a class load that makes this manageable and using  resources like Thrively or Personal Success Plans to tap into students individual passions, talents, interests, abilities, and learning styles.

However, while educators who have these skills will be more effective at supporting student learning, a teacher’s preservice program may not have fully addressed this. As a result, educators must learn on the job, by reading articles, attending workshops (if they are offered and able) and speaking to others face-to-face and online. While this is helpful, there is now a way to jump-start, document, and become recognized for developing this expertise.

Credentialing teachers in addressing learning differences

The Friday Institute for Educational Innovation is offering their learning differences course at no cost as part of a 10-part micro-credential stack from Digital Promise. These micro-credentials provide a competency-based, personalized, way to learn on demand the many aspects contributing to how students learn, from the way our brain processes information to the impact of emotional intelligence on learning.

Research-based approach

Educators who complete the stack are able to bring into practice a more personalized instructional approach, focusing on each student’s individual learning strengths and needs. Each micro-credential begins with an overview of a construct or idea in personalized learning that is supported by the latest research to help educators gain a deeper understanding of its importance in the learning process. Educators are then asked to identify a student’s strengths and challenges and create and implement a plan that supports the student in meeting their goals for learning.

Below are the topics about which some of the micro-credentials are focused.  
Visit the full micro-credential stack.
Educators who have earned the micro-credentials say they have found it extremely empowering to have the language and knowledge to not only define the specific needs of their students, but also determine ways to meet them best. Rather than providing whole class instruction or grouping their students into broad categories, they have the ability recognize their students as individual learners and the tools to ensure they are able to support learning based on their unique strengths, talents, interests, abilities, and learning styles.

Assessment and credit

Upon completion of each micro-credentials teachers submit their work to assessors who determine if the educator has successfully demonstrated competency. If they have, they earn a micro-credential in the form of a digital badge that they can display on their resume, LinkedIn profile, social media sites, and email signature to demonstrate their skill set and stand out from the rest. Because micro-credentials are competency-based, the learning is visible allowing an interested party to in essence, look under the hood, and see all the elements that lead to acquiring competency in this skill or area.

Many states such as New York, Texas, Montana, and Massachusetts provide formal PD credit for successful completion of micro-credentials. There is also an option to pay a nominal fee and receive graduate credit from accredited university partners such as University of San Diego and Portland State University.