The New SmartMusic Web

This year, we have been using the new web-based version of SmartMusic with our 10-12th grade students. We were awarded a grant for our 5 teachers and 116 teachers to have SmartMusic Teach subscriptions. Dr. Christopher Russell has a description of the different platforms, but here is a brief summary:

  • TEACH Free: Allows teachers to try out the new SmartMusic Web prior to purchasing. Library is limited to SmartMusic's free catalog (Free Selections 1 & Free Selections 2).
  • TEACH: 3 teachers can assign repertoire from the full library to 50 students for $399. Students can only access materials that are assigned to them. Each additional teacher is $40. A block of 5 additional students is also $40.
  • PLAY: Upgrade individual student accounts to access the full library. $20/account.

I should preface this post with the statement that the web-based version of SmartMusic is not yet a finished product. They are continuing to add and refine features, to take feature requests, and to provide quality support for the new product.

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Recording Assessments in Year 4

Our professional learning community has changed some things for this coming year:

It looks like Keith Ozsvath has beaten me to the punch with a post on using Screencastify, but I'll still detail what we are doing:

Our district is 1:1 with Chromebooks for students in 5th-12th grade. Each of our ensembles has its own Google Classroom. In it, we have created an assignment for our 12-Week Assessment.

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Collecting Data in Year 4

Our Vertical PLC is doing things a bit differently for this coming school year (16-17). I've written about what we did in Year 1 (13-14), Year 2 (14-15), and Year 3 (15-16) as well as a presentation at the 2016 Iowa Bandmasters Association Conference. Part of our decision to change in the coming year was out of a desire to better communicate student progress in Infinite Campus to students and parents. Our district has also set the following goal for high schools:

By September 2017, 100% of staff will have aligned their work with academic standards for the course as measured by standards/skills-referenced organization in course gradebooks.By September 2017, 100% of staff will have aligned their work with academic standards for the course as measured by standards/skills-referenced organization in course gradebooks.

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SmartMusic: Comparing Classic to New

Apologies for the long delay between posts. I am in the midst of my Master's Project for my program at the VanderCook College of Music. Couple that with the normal stress and business of three ensembles and a studio of 112 students, and you see why I haven't been writing.Earlier this week, SmartMusicreleased a publicity campaign touting their new web-based version coming this Fall. I have been both a private and public beta tester of the software, and I've remained pretty quiet as we've moved through the testing. I can tell you I am very excited for the implications of this as my district moves to 1:1 with Chromebooks for grades 5-12. Let's take a look at what the new version has to offer:

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2015 in Review

A look at all of the blog posts I made in 2015. Not as much as 2014, perhaps a resolution for 2016... Looking back at the posts, it looks like 2015 was a year frustrated by the conversation around educational funding. It was also a year of learning for myself and my PLC in our work to become better teachers for our students. Take a look: An Update on Iowa's New Start Date - February 14 The Iowa Department of Education and then Director, Brad Buck (now Superintendent of Cedar Rapids Schools), released new criteria for receiving a waiver under Iowa Law requiring a start date no earlier than the week where September 1st falls. This is my analysis of the document.

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Iowa's School Report Card

One of our Governor's four goals is the Best Schools in the Nation. As part of his progress towards "world-class schools," the Governor and the Republican-led House passed an education reform bill in 2013 which led to the creation of the Iowa School Report Card. The Department of Education's FAQ and Technical Guide have several details about the what, why, and how of the report cards. I'll briefly summarize:

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Reflecting on What We Do

This past week, we had several guests from Summit Middle School in Johnston and Lenox Community Schools to discuss our implementation of standards-based learning practices, our use of vertical teaching, and our beginning integration of Chromebooks into our curriculum. We pointed our visitors to our work-in-progress website that provides detailed information about all of the above pieces of our program, and then provided opportunities to observe it in action at our 8th and 9th grade building, as well as with our 6th & 7th grade counterparts across town. It was a great time for us to both celebrate and reflect on how we do what we do with our students, and I wanted to write a little bit about that process. My three biggest take-aways were:

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Collecting Data in 2015-2016

If you are a follower of this blog, you know that we teach in a vertical team across three buildings for 6-12th grade band. Over the past three years, that vertical team has put together a system of assessments that aligns to our power standards. We currently use Google Apps for Education to collect our data, but things have changed a bit for this year.

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What We do Matters

I am currently working on a post that traces the history of funding public education in Iowa. I am curious just how the funding formula has changed since the 1950s. This is taking a lot of research and as a "break" (HA!), I thought I would respond to a post my friend and colleague, Pat Kearney, wrote last week entitled A Community of Educators. Pat wrote an outstanding post about his thinking around the challenges facing educators today. I can't encourage you enough to go and check out his writing.

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Best Practices for Using Rubrics

Spurred by part of a PLC discussion, I have been reading through our district’s document, Best Practices for Using Rubrics to Determine Grades. We currently formatively and summatively assess student performance using our Wind and Percussion Rubrics. Each criterion (tone quality, technique, etc.) has four different levels of performance (currently: exceeds standard, meets standard, making progress, not making progress). Our PLC discussion sprung from the completion of our 6-Week Assessment, transitioning into our 12-Week Assessment, and some professional development occurring at one of our middle schools. The big question for us is: does the rubric accurately portray what a student knows/is able to do?

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2014 in Review

I know that I am 3-4 days late, but the stomach flu will do that to you. 2014 was a big year for me. I began blogging about my teaching experiences in October of 2013. The spring of 2014 is where that began to pick up as our professional learning community looked into curriculum and assessment and I began my Masters of Music Education program at VanderCook College of Music. Here is a review of all I posted over this past year: Vertical Teaching - October 10, 2013 While I know this isn't part of 2014, it is the only post on this blog that occurred before 2014, and it is a pretty critical part of several of the posts that followed! I discussed the vertical nature of our professional learning community: 5 teachers that teach lessons and rehearse instrumental music groups in grades 6-12 across three secondary schools.

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Reflecting on Standards-Based Grading

For our final assignment in my VanderCook class, Teaching Music in a Common Core World, we were asked to look reflect on the work we did for our choice assignment earlier this week. I chose to look at standards-based learning, grading, and reporting. PromptComplete a comprehensive reflection paper. Include a recap of the concepts and strategies learned from the assignment that you created and completed over the last week. Please explain why this project was important to you and how it helped deepen your understanding on the topic you chose.

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Standards-Based Grading and the Common Core

For the final week of our class, we were given the opportunity to choose a topic of our choice to research based on the work we have done in this class. Below is the prompt we were given:

For this assignment, you have the "choice" of creating a project of your own from any of the educational initiatives that we have covered in this course or choose a new educational topic you would like to learn more about.

Now, it is your turn to create your own project based on your interests. The goal is to give you time to continue learning about a topic you feel that you want or need to learn about.

I chose to do my project on the implementation of standards-based grading in my classroom.

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Implementing the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics in my Classroom

This week marks the end of a three week unit of looking at how to implement the Common Core State Standardsinto our music classrooms. Last week, we focused on the implementation of the English Language Artsstandards. This week, we are focusing on the implementation of the Standards for Mathematical Practice.

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Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) and Measuring Student Growth Part 1

We are currently in the second week of a three week unit looking at measuring student growth in my VanderCook MECA class entitled Teaching Music in a Common Core World. Several of my most recent posts detail the work I have been doing in that class in regards to teacher evaluation, measuring student growth, and the new National Core Music Standards. This week and next we are developing two Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) according to the Illinois State Board of Education's (ISBE) template. To begin our learning around ISBE's expectations around SLOs, our instructor provided us with a PowerPoint presentation entitled Measuring Student Growth for the Illinois Music Educator's Association (ILMEA) by Dr. Diana Zaleski, an educational psychologist and statistician for ISBE, in July 2014. The presentation provided a background of vocabulary and understanding for what measuring student growth looks like as part of Illinois' educator evaluations. We were also provided with a wealth of resources to help with the development of our two SLOs. The vast majority of these resources come from the ISBE website, specifically the pages on Balanced Assessment and the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council. The Balanced Assessment page contains training modules to help with understanding Illinois' requirements for measuring student growth, sample SLOs, assessment inventories and supports, and many other resources. The PEAC page includes more resources for teachers, administrators, joint committees, and and school boards as Illinois moves to implement the 2010 Performance Evaluation Reform Act.

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Reflecting on Teacher Evaluation

Over the past five weeks in my VanderCook class, Teaching Music in a Common Core World, we have been working through the National Association for Music Educators (NAfME) Workbook, Building and Evaluating Effective Music Educators in the School Ensemble, as well as the new National Core Music Standards. The workbook and the process tie the NAfME expectations to the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching. As a conclusion to this part of the course, we were asked to reflect on the process with the following prompt:

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Domain 1: Planning and Preparation

For the second week of our class, we focused on Domain 1 from the Danielson Framework. Our discussion as a class revolved around music teachers being evaluated the same as classroom teachers. We also filled out parts of the NAfME Workbook pertaining to Supporting Structures, Program Expectations, and General/Collective Measures in our programs. 

As part of our assignment this week, we were asked to complete the Relevant Information portion of the worksheets for all components in Domain 1:

  • 1a: Demonstrating Knowledge of Content and Pedagogy
  • 1b: Demonstrating Knowledge of Students
  • 1c: Setting Instructional Outcomes
  • 1d: Demonstrating Knowledge of Resources
  • 1e: Designing Coherent Instruction
  • 1f: Designing Student Assessments

We were also asked to select one of the components for more in-depth study. The result of our in-depth study was to develop a narrative proving we know how to accomplish the proficient or distinguished criteria for our selected component. I chose to focus on Component 1f as this rubric is a main focus of my evaluation for this year through my Individual Teacher Professional Development Plan. I hope to gain a better understanding of the expectations in the Danielson rubric as well as the skills to develop assessments that accurately reflect what my students know and are able to do.

 

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Assessing in a New Year: Part 2

As we are rounding up the first round of assessments, I wanted to comment on how things are going. My last post was about the new assessments we are using this year. We are seeing incredible results with our students. These assessments are falling on the third lesson in the cycle. The first lesson introduced the assessment material to the students and allowed us to give them some initial feedback before their practice. The second lesson was a continual review of the assessment material with us giving students more feedback on their progress. We use the same rubrics in our lessons as we do our assessments. For our advanced students, we were also looking at All-State or Honor Band audition material. Most importantly, our students who struggled in lessons last year are performing extremely well on these assessments. The next lesson cycle will have four full lessons before an assessment. Most students will be assigned other material from their lesson books in addition to the melodic etude they will perform at the end of the next six-week grading period.

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