Crystal Brownlee, Assistant Principal at Oceanside High School, has a monumental task: to make sure that each of her 2,000+ students get the right set of courses to graduate, ready for college and career. This is a challenging process in the best of years, often taking more than a month, a whole wall of white boards, and a bunch of late nights. This year, it’s even more complex: Oceanside is in the midst of a transformation in partnership with Pivot Learning’s Beyond High School initiative, which is helping Oceanside to re-imagine their learning environments to ensure all of their students have the opportunity to succeed in college and career. They are building on the success of two established career pathways–Health and Justice–and piloting up to three new themes: Urban Development; Arts, Media, & Technology; and Public Service.

Beyond High School, a user-centered change design process for high school redesign, is helping Brownlee and her team to develop career-themed pathways aligned with redesigned instruction, assessment, school culture, and master scheduling. With limited time and resources, as well as intricate school operations, Oceanside wants to align their redesign goals with an innovative schedule reflective of their vision.

“Beyond High School is without a doubt the best thing we could do for our students,” Brownlee said. “But with so many new options, the scheduling process was becoming even more complicated. I didn’t know how to create an effective, equitable, and accessible schedule.”

In came Abl, one of Pivot’s “partners in time,” who has launched a cutting-edge Dynamic School Scheduling platform. Abl is helping schools like Oceanside utilize digital tools to unlock time and resources for a streamlined, flexible, and efficient master scheduling process. Oceanside used Abl’s scheduling platform for their 2017-2018 master schedule, which allowed them to offer courses during the most optimal times for maximum student access. Pivot is also working with School by Design.

With Pivot’s support, Oceanside will build different schedule prototypes that mirror their redesign goals and ultimately create a rejuvenated master schedule within Abl’s platform that meets the diverse needs of the entire school community.

As the new school year begins, the Pivot and Oceanside teams are diving deeper into Oceanside’s transformation to create the first prototype of the comprehensive redesign plan. With a goal of more personalized, authentic learning experiences for greater student success, the road that lies ahead is rife with opportunities.

Help us launch our interactive workshop, Unlocking Time: A New Look at Master Scheduling, at next year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) EDU’s 2018 Conference by voting for us here.

Beyond High School is built on the research-based principles of Linked Learning: improving outcomes for students with an integrated program of study, work based learning experiences, and student supports to graduate equipped for college and career.

 To learn more about our Beyond High School initiative, contact us.

PIVOT LEARNING ACQUIRES CONSORTIUM ON REACHING EXCELLENCE IN EDUCATION, INC. (CORE) THROUGH A GENEROUS GIFT FROM OWNERS

Oakland, CA – On May 22, 2017, the Pivot Learning Board of Directors approved the acquisition of the Consortium on Reaching Excellence in Education, Inc. (CORE) through a generous gift from the founder and owner Bill Honig, as well as owners Catherine Honig and Linda Diamond. This gift brings together two of the longest tenured and most respected education service providers to districts and schools in California and the nation.

Over the past 23 years, Pivot Learning has become the largest and most experienced non-profit technical assistance provider for school districts in California. Pivot’s mission is to revitalize our public school systems so that all students have the opportunity to succeed in college and career. Pivot works at the state, district, and school levels to develop systemic solutions in the areas of standards implementation, education finance, leadership development, and school redesign.

CORE is a national professional learning organization that has been serving schools, districts, and states for 23 years. CORE applies the research on best practices and effective adult learning principles to equip educators with the knowledge and skills to significantly improve academic achievement. Through targeted professional development, job-embedded coaching, principal mentorship, and careful selection of curriculum and assessments, CORE collaborates with school systems to implement high quality reading, writing, language, and math instruction PreK-12.

CORE will become a subsidiary of Pivot Learning and its CEO, Dr. Arun Ramanathan, will serve as Chairman of the CORE Board of Directors. Linda Diamond will serve as President of CORE. Pivot and CORE will continue to deliver their respective services and will work together to implement comprehensive solutions that take advantage of the unique strengths of each organization.

“CORE’s decades-long history of providing quality professional learning services to classroom teachers is a natural complement to Pivot’s long history of working in partnership with district and school leaders to transform education systems,” said Diamond. “We are thrilled by this new phase in our proud history.”

Said Ramanathan, “We are grateful to CORE’s owners for this generous gift. Together, Pivot Learning and CORE can better support schools and districts across California and nationally to achieve our mission of ensuring that all students graduate college and career ready.”

Contact:
Morgan Pulleyblank
mpulleyblank@pivotlearning.org
510.808.4067

###

It’s a new year. Some things are certain. The children in our schools will get older. By March, I will have stopped writing 2016 on checks and letters. And Pivot Learning will continue to innovate as we work to achieve our mission of equitable access to college and career for all students.

It’s amazing what we accomplished last year. We worked with more than seventy school districts throughout the state, both large and small, and our first charter network. We developed a new logo, website, and look for our organization that reflects our future focus. We launched ground-breaking new initiatives, like our Beyond High School program to redesign high schools and the California Curriculum Collaborative website, to provide districts with information on the right curricula to implement the California State Standards. Our Smarter School Spending project and the Rural Professional Learning Network, among others, continued to have an impact. We secured our first federal subcontract in collaboration with the American Institutes of Research to support states in school improvement. Our reputation attracted amazing new talent into our organization from all over the state and the nation. Amidst this exciting work, it’s no wonder that we’re looking forward to 2017.

One more certainty is that there will be change for our nation, state, district/charter partners and for Pivot in 2017 and the years ahead. A new administration in Washington could pose significant challenges to the equity agenda and there will be a new education department with a focus on choice and vouchers. In California, the election for a new Governor and State Superintendent will kick off. Meanwhile, our current state leadership will have to develop a plan to implement the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Of course, we will all closely watch the economy and how that will affect funding for states and schools.

As always, Pivot will adapt and innovate while remaining true to our mission and vision. We believe that the work we do changes the lives for the most vulnerable students across the state. We look forward to continuing this work with partners, districts, and supporters to ensure that every student is ready for college and career.

Best Regards,

Arun

During this holiday season, we are taking a moment to reflect on the impact we have had at Pivot Learning, and to thank you for going on this journey with us.

This has been an eventful year at Pivot – we shortened our name, got a new logo and look, and partnered with 72 districts to improve outcomes for students! Our Center for Equitable Education Spending helped districts identify millions of dollars in their budget to reallocate to important priorities, and Beyond High School is transforming the student learning experience across California. We partnered with fifty leaders, from high school principals to school board members to think about how the LCAP could be better, and we continue with our commitment to supporting rural schools.

One thing is clear: we couldn’t have done any of this without your support. From all of us at Pivot to you and yours, we wish you peace and a prosperous 2017!

Tips for Teachers: Finishing the Semester Strong
Leadership Development

Tips for Teachers: Finishing the Semester Strong

At schools across the country, students are expecting visits from relatives and friends, wondering what new gadget they might be getting, and trying to impress peers and family at winter music performances – all while keeping a focus on exams, group projects, and assignments. You’re trying to help students end this semester strong during this very busy time of the year. So what is a teacher to do? Check out these tips to keep your students settled and focused until the very last day before their winter break:

  1. Prioritize your time with students. You know you only have a matter of days before winter break, and students’ attention begins to wane. This is where reviewing your pacing guides, curriculum plans, and goals for the semester are really important. Where are your students relative to your semester goals for them? Consider where you really need to spend your time with students to help them achieve their learning goals. You can’t cram it all in, so prioritize the most important lessons you want to teach them, and provide ample time for them to engage thoughtfully in their learning.
  2. Be intentional. Be purposeful in the decisions you make around instruction and the activities you ask students to engage in. It can be easy to pile on too many tasks for students in hopes of teaching more content before the winter break, but this is a time where students can be highly distracted and overwhelmed – by projects, final exams, and all the excitement that this time of year brings. Stay focused and be thoughtful in your instruction.
  3. Focus on community. Winter and the holidays can be both an exciting and difficult time for students. They may be excited by the prospect of family time, winter activities, gift giving (and receiving), and celebrations. But for other students, this is a stressful time of year if their families are struggling financially, or missing family members. So don’t forget to create opportunities to make kids feel like their classroom community is a special place where they have people who they can trust and an environment that is supportive of their mental and emotional states.
  4. Be clear of your expectations for your students this time of year. From providing study guides for final exams or project outlines for semester projects, over-communicate what students need to be working on and why. And remember, if you are a middle or high school teacher, your students are being pulled in numerous different directions among all of their classes, so it may be difficult for them to keep track of all their responsibilities. Communicating clearly and regularly to your students will help them be their best!
  5. Take time for yourself. This is a busy time of year for you too, so don’t forget about your own needs. From helping students prepare for end-of-semester projects and exams, to completing report cards and other progress monitoring activities, you are busy in your work life, and likely your home life too. Take time to have lunch with a friend, read a book, or enjoy a run outdoors – whatever it is that helps you relax and stay focused. Your students need you to be a calming force in the chaos before the winter break, so take care of yourself!

The last few weeks before the winter holiday can be a special time for students, teachers, and their school community. By taking a thoughtful, intentional approach to closing out this semester, you may find it to be a joyful and productive time in the school year.

Why do the laws of physics apply to change? Why is it so hard to transform our schools, even when they are not yielding the results that people want?

The traditional, factory model high school is one of our most outdated institutions. Most of the nation’s high schools look pretty much the same as they did fifty years ago. Students move from class to class every hour or so, give or take a few minutes, alerted by bells; the same discrete subjects are taught; the teacher is usually the center of attention at a board at the front of the room; and learning content knowledge and facts are the focus. Individual tests and tasks are prioritized over collaboration and teamwork. Bullying is often present, in part because there is no real attempt at community-building or attending to creating a positive school culture. Classroom environments might vary from teacher to teacher, including those where more innovative and engaging activities are occurring and classroom communities are being built, but each teacher, subject and classroom is often a world unto itself.

So much of schooling has stayed constant at a time when the rest of the world has changed dramatically. Any fact can be found instantly on a smartphone. The workplace has altered as have the types of jobs available. Entirely new fields and areas of study exist while others have become irrelevant or changed so significantly that they look nothing like years past—think biotechnology and virtual reality.

Given this increasing gap between our schools and the world that students enter after high school (even that dichotomy is problematic—that the wall between school and the real world is so solid), it is no surprise that employers bemoan the fact that even college graduates are unprepared for the workforce and are lacking in experience, both soft and hard skills. This gap is also the reason that Finland has rethought traditional subjects, opting instead for a more thematic, project-based approach to high school curriculum.

It is for these reasons that Pivot is embarking on a new initiative, Beyond High School, to help high schools transform themselves using Linked Learning, career-focused pathways in which all students have exposure to college-preparatory coursework, technical career-focused classes, and work-based learning experiences such as internships. In this process, the high schools we work with will reconsider and reorganize the classes they offer, how they organize time, and how they ensure that their students interact with the real world and the workplace. All aspects of the school will be considered in this design process, including instruction, teacher and student collaboration on thematic, interdisciplinary projects, professional development, and school climate and culture.

We look forward to sharing more as we delve into this important work of changing an entrenched, outdated structure that doesn’t adequately prepare young people for today’s world. And we are excited to work with our partners to build new and vibrant institutions of learning that engage and educate youth in meaningful ways while raising their preparation and achievement for life – beyond high school.

Pivot Learning has worked on behalf of educational equity for more than twenty years. Our mission is to revitalize our public-school systems so that all students have the opportunity to succeed in college and career.  We have long served—and remain committed to—the highest poverty and highest need districts and schools in California and beyond. We believe that all students, regardless of their gender, race, color, sexual orientation, religion, home language, or immigration status deserve the highest quality education.

Our schools are the bedrock of our democracy and our children are the hope for the future of our nation. We now know we live in a time when these core beliefs have been questioned and will be tested. We are aware of the impact of the recent election on many of the children and families in our schools and communities. Every child deserves to go to school, knowing that they and their families are safe from bigotry and hate. We will continue to work with in close partnership with school districts, government, and the non-profit community to achieve our collective vision of a more just and equitable education system and society.

I wish that discussions of education data were as interesting as my conversations on baseball statistics. Contrary to my reputation as an Ed Dork, I do not wake up every morning, grab my phone and check out EdWeek, EdSource and Eduwonk for the latest Ed news. I wake up, grab my phone and check out two pretty amazing baseball blogs: crashburnalley.com and fangraphs.com.

The first was created by amateur statisticians and hardcore fans of the Philadelphia Phillies. The second is the online bible for baseball statistics junkies nationally. Both sites view the game through the lens of numbers. The movement of those numbers up and down reflects the performance of ballplayers. The beauty of these sites is that they’ve taken the numbers that were once the province of baseball lifers and general managers and democratized them. This has resulted in the proliferation of metrics such as OPS (On-base Plus Slugging), WAR (Wins Above Replacement), BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play), and countless others. Over the past decade, as these metrics have proliferated, it’s hard to know which ones have been created by professionals and which ones by amateurs. In fact, the stats revolution has moved beyond baseball, taken over basketball and started to change football.

So, why is education still so old school?

Take the debate over testing. At one extreme, you have people bashing standardized testing of any kind. On the other, you have people supporting testing, but typically focusing on just two data points (English and math). The first perspective just seems silly. It’s like saying that we shouldn’t measure batting average and instead just look at hitters to see whether they’re good. The second seems insanely limiting – as in, we should only measure batting average and runs batted in (which is basically what baseball did for most of its history).

It would be much more productive to have a 21st century conversation about how all data are good. Instead of just two data points, we should use as much data as necessary to paint a complete picture of student performance. This means accepting student data beyond academic measures, like social-emotional learning, and investing in new ways of assessment such as portfolios and exhibitions. In combination, all of these data can present a far more interesting and realistic picture of a student’s strengths and needs than just grades and tests. Indeed, the proliferation of multiple data points in baseball has highlighted the potential of players who would have been overlooked or completely ignored in earlier times.

The other lesson that baseball can teach education is that the people who have always been in charge of the numbers are not in charge anymore. Anyone can now become an amateur statistician. Some reports about district accountability, continuous improvement and the state’s role in determining school quality could have been written 20 years ago. They presume that the state is still in charge of all education data and their presentation. That may still have a little truth now but it won’t be true much longer. Statistics, particularly those paid for by taxpayers, are in the public domain. And smart people are going to come up with their own presentations of those data for public consumption, especially if they can make a buck off it.

This means that discussions on coming up with the latest policy innovations like “dashboard presentations” of districts and school performance vs. using a single indicator like the Academic Performance Index (API) will soon become moot. The state may come up with dashboards. Private companies and education stats junkies may come up with dashboards. But if they are too difficult for the average consumer of this information to use, stakeholders ranging from parents to homeowners will find an alternative more similar to the API that bundles and weights all of these indicators into a composite score. Again, when you look at baseball, it’s only really a small percentage of the baseball fans who have the inclination to delve into Fangraphs and the glories of Win Probability Added (WPA). To resolve this, the stats geeks created a composite metric called Wins Above Replacement (WAR) that is increasingly used by the average fan. Now, I might not like the API. I might believe that it’s the wrong way to look at the complexity of schools. But I also know that I live in a world that ranks everything with numbers or grades, from my restaurant, to my Uber driver, to my graduate school.

This leads me to my last point. We live in a world, very different from the old world, where data are also inevitable. How many times have you checked Facebook or LinkedIn, shopped online, texted your friend, used the word “weather” in a search engine today? You may not have counted, but someone else has. Last month, I talked to a friend at one of the largest consulting companies in the world. It is now using an algorithm that looks at keywords in résumés and cover letters and screens out candidates based on words and phrases used by previous unsuccessful candidates. A similar trend is happening in sports, where every movement of an athlete is captured as a data point. One day everything  we do in the digital world will paint a picture of our competency or lack thereof. Regardless of whether you support or oppose this trend, it is becoming our students’ reality.

As policymakers navigate this new world they will  have to come to grips with the limitations of their power. They will have to factor in the impact of “bottom-up” solutions in areas they previously controlled, such as ratings of school performance (see greatschools.org and reportcards.edtrustwest.org) and measurements of college readiness. Instead of trying to stamp out these efforts, they will have to think very differently about issues of accountability, transparency and privacy. Otherwise, they will become just as irrelevant as old-school baseball traditionalists.

To date, the proliferation, democratization and inevitability of data in sports has been immensely beneficial. If we start with an open mind and work to guide instead of control the use of data, it can have the same positive impact in education.