Efforts to reduce student assessments in Colorado are underway

No matter what side of the aisle you are on in Colorado, almost everyone can agree that our students are over-assessed.  Parents, students, teachers, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents all generally agree that we have too many assessments of students, too many overlaps across assessments, too much time spent preparing, and too much time lost teaching.

Jeffco Public Schools pulled together this document which shows the assessment landscape for a student.  All in all, some students may take over 30 different assessment tests from K through 12.  30!!!  That doesn’t include optional AP tests for students in those classrooms.

Fortunately, the state legislature is trying to fix this.  Our state senate just passed a bill aimed at reducing testing.  While there are differing opinions about the right approach to achieve reductions, it is refreshing to see some actual movement in that direction.

I hope, as do many, that our state government can work out an agreed upon plan, get it passed, and then course correct if needed.  I don’t know the best answer, but I do think that any step in this direction is progress.

My first exposure to wine, or, “why I think about it the way I do”

I write this not to share an opinion or fact about wine, but to explain my first exposure to wine and my impressions of it at that point.  Essentially, this post sets the basis for what I write in the future.

When I was a young boy of 9, my family moved to Italy.  In Italy, everyone drinks wine from a very young age.  There is no social stigma about it, in fact, going back as adults with our own child, we found there’s a stigma if you don’t give your kid wine.  There’s a story there for a future blog post…

Back to me, though.  When I was 9 & 10, I lived in Italy – Rome & Tuscany.  Wine central!  The norm was that when the adults had a glass of wine, so did the child, albeit, a much smaller one.  Since we were there, my parents figured, “when in Rome…” and with many meals, I had a very small glass of wine – just like the big people!

From that point onward in my life, I guess I looked at wine as part of an event or a social occasion, even as simple as the family dinner.  It certainly was never forbidden fruit as it is here in the United States, and I never looked at it that way.  It was never a means to a buzz.  Quite the opposite.

Even as a small child, I suppose I could see that it was part of the social norms.  People always brought out a bottle for others.  In Italy, it was more important to bring out a local bottle than a good wine and there was much pride in the action of sharing your local wine with others.  It was a part of every gathering.  It was a part of every conversation.  It was a part of every dinner and many lunches.  It was almost omnipresent, but rarely ever abused.

I think that’s why today, I still look at wine as a key part of social situations.  It is what you have a conversation over.  It is what you tell stories about (I found this bottle when I was…).  It is something of which you savor, discuss, and debate the qualities.  It’s very interwoven into the fabric of life and has been for 7500 years (researched) of mankind’s history, perhaps even longer.

This is how I look at wine and that’s what will form the basis for opinions and thoughts I share going forward.

Thanks for reading.

Chianti or Chianti Classico – What’s the Difference?

A good article on Chianti distinctions. By the way, if you ever have a chance to go to this area, do so. It, and the people who live, there are beautiful.

Charles Rose Wines

Ever wondered why some Chianti’s are called Chianti Classico and some aren’t? We sum up the distinctions for you, starting with Chianti.

Where it is made

A Chianti wine must be produced within the Chianti region. So far so good.

The first mention of a wine area called Chianti dates back to the 13th Century. At that time, the area included the villages of Castellina in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti and Radda in Chianti. These three villages in the hills between Florence and Sienna formed the League of Chianti to promote their wine – interestingly, at this time it was a white wine!

It was none other than Cosimo III de’ Medici, the penultimate Grand Duke of Tuscany, who in 1716 added the village of Greve and a further area to the north of Greve to the League and declared that these were the only recognised producers of Chianti.

This…

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What is physical literacy and what is its place in the curriculum?

I came across this article and thought it was a very different way of thinking about Physical Education than how we traditionally think about it in the United States.

In Brief

21 April 2015

Article by Michael Dauncey, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

This picture shows boys playing rugby Image from Pixabay. Licensed under the Creative Commons.

The Welsh Government has a Programme for Government commitment (pdf53.2kb) to ensure that ‘physical literacy is as important a development skill as reading and writing’. But what is meant by physical literacy? And, in the context of Professor Graham Donaldson’s review of curriculum and assessment (pdf1.7MB), what is its place in the school curriculum?

Physical literacy does not simply mean the same as ‘sport’, ‘physical activity’ or even ‘physical education’. (For an actual definition of each of these, see Appendix B of the Schools and Physical Activity Task and Finish Group’s report (pdf500KB).)

Physical literacy is best understood as the outcome of learning about physical activity or of physical education (PE). In 2014, the International Physical Literacy Association defined physical literacy as:

‘the motivation, confidence, physical…

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What is wine? (Inaugural wine related blog post!)

When I started this blog, I focused solely on education.  Now that I have the hang of it, I wanted to start blogging on wine as well.

So, “what is wine?”

Wine is defined as, “An alcoholic beverage made from fermented grapes or other fruits.”

That seems so impersonal.  Really, it’s the last thing which comes to mind when I’m thinking of, or drinking, wine.

To me, it’s all of the following: A social experience, a way to enhance food, an opportunity for discovery, a chance to learn, a way to measure value, a way to share, excitement, anticipation, fun, joy, and probably a few other things I haven’t well articulated.

How many other beverages have brought out such passion, enthusiasm, and appreciation throughout history in people of so many cultures?

In this area of my blog, I hope to share some thoughts, much lighter hearted than those in the education section, about the beverage I love to explore: wine.

How to save a lot of money on your bachelor’s degree (consider community college first) – Part 3 of a 4 part series

Continuing my short series on the role of community college in education, I wanted to address an area that many may not consider: That community colleges in Colorado can give you the same first two years of education you would get at a four year college, but at a much lower cost – 1/3 or less.

The Colorado Department of Higher Education has aligned the first two years of many classes across all public higher ed institutions in the state.  What does this mean for a student?  It means that if a student takes (example) “English 101” at any higher ed institution, it is the same class and if it’s a part of the Guaranteed Transfer Pathways, it will be accepted by any public higher ed institution as a transfer credit.

What this means for the student is that there is a very cost effective way to get their first two years of education through community college, even if their intention is to get a bachelor’s degree from a four year college.  In fact, about 15% of the students currently in community colleges in Colorado are on a path to complete a Bachelor’s degree from a four year college.

How does this work?  It’s too complex to fully explain in one blog post, but I will provide links to additional resources below.  At a high level, there are multiple approaches to guaranteed transfer credits.

  • Degrees with Designation.  There are ~30 areas of study in which the CDHE and all public higher ed institutions in Colorado have agreed that the credits will transfer (assuming acceptable grades and acceptance to the four year college).  A student may study in these areas, graduate from community college after 60 credit hours with an Associate’s degree, and then transfer to a four year college.  The four year college will accept the 60 credit hours, and after successful completion of 60 more, the student can graduate in a total of four years with a Bachelor’s degree from the four year college.  It is the exact same degree as if they had started there (there is no asterisk by it), but with much less cost invested in the first two years.
  • Transfer Agreements: Each four year college may also have additional transfer agreements and guidelines.  These will be in addition to the Degrees with Designation.  They specify additional credit transfer opportunities, usually based on the area of study.  This is particularly prevalent for engineering degrees.

Here are two links to good resources from the CDHE which go into much more depth than the above:

  • Overview of transfer pathways on the CDHE website.  Short of speaking with an Academic Adviser at a school, this is the place to start for all the detail on how transfers work.
  • One page overview guide to transfer pathways.  This is a brief overview of the transfer pathways.

The cost of community college can be 1/3 or less than that of a traditional four year college.  The Georgia Institute of Technology recently published a blog post on “how to pay for college“.  Their fourth item was attending community college first.

Given the ability to have guaranteed transfers of credits, why wouldn’t someone consider community college as a viable option for the first two years?  It’s not for everyone, but it certainly fits a key role for many who may otherwise not be able to afford a four year college straight out of high school.  In the end, this allows many more Colorado students access to a four year degree.

Jeffco Vision 2020 Project Almost Complete

Yesterday, we completed the community input part of the Jeffco Vision 2020 project I’ve blogged about before here, here, and here.  Here is what we accomplished, current status, and next steps.

Accomplishments

The vision documentation is almost complete.  We looked at a draft final version yesterday and provided our last alterations to that version.  It is extremely close to final.  In the end, we want to see our students all have the following competencies when they graduate in 2020 and beyond:

  • Content Mastery (Math, Science, English, Arts, etc.)
  • Critical Thinking & Creativity
  • Civic and Global Engagement
  • Communications
  • Self Direction & Personal Responsibility

These names are subject to slight alteration in the final version based on our input yesterday.  Each of these high level competencies has many sub-competencies we want to see in any graduate.  Again, these are subject to slight alteration based on yesterday’s work, but last posted draft is available on the project website if you want to look at it.  Download the .pdf file at this link.  It won’t change materially from this version, but it will be cleaned up, slight changes in wording, and overlapping concepts removed.

Current Status

The work is essentially done on the vision.  There is a need to incorporate the final feedback of the team from yesterday into the documentation, but it will be very similar to the link above, just in a much more marketable and understandable view.

Next Steps

  • The final vision documentation will be distributed to the team in the next week or so.
  • We have also been working on graphics to represent the vision.  We have been asked not to share drafts of those yet, but when finalized, they will be available as well.
  • The vision will be presented to the Jeffco Board of Education on May 7 to gain approval.  Anyone attending that meeting will be able to see the final product, pending board approval.
  • 5 of us from the team of 60 are carrying over to a 25 person strategic planning team.  I gave an overview of that effort here.  We are the ones charged with ensuring the upcoming strategy work is aligned with the vision.  I am one of those people, and will be providing updates about that effort as well.

If you have any questions, post a reply.