Archive for April, 2013

Capstone–Standard 02 Meta-Reflection: Learning Environment

Standard 02 Meta-Reflection: Learning Environment

Creates and maintains school-wide and classroom environments that are safe, stable, and empowering.

Initial reflection during C & I Orientation:

In my role as the special education curriculum leader in an inclusion setting, I must ensure that a continuum of services is available for consideration by each student’s IEP Team. I must see to it that my students are provided services in the “least restrictive environment” and that they are given the opportunity to access free and appropriate public education.

Meta-Reflection following completion of EDU 6655 Human Development and Principles of Learning:

I enjoyed the opportunity to have guidance in this course toward some of the most recent brain research relating to education. While reading the first week’s chapters and articles, I found myself most intrigued and inspired by the Jossey-Bass descriptions of “mirror neurons”, and saw for myself many possible explanations of experiences encountered within my family (a brother who is severely disabled, and my father having suffered two gunshot wounds to the head) as well as those of students within my classroom. I found reading the article, On Empathy: the Mirror Neuron System and Art Education, to be very informative. In settings where I hear people (including my students) share their challenging, real-life stories find that I experience what some might refer to as “compassion fatigue”—therefore, I am interested in the impact of stress on learning. As stated within the Jossey-Bass Reader in Chapter 4, “It is increasingly recognized that efficient learning does not take place when the learner is experiencing fear or stress…inappropriate stress has a significant effect on both physiological and cognitive functioning….stress or fear also affect social judgment, and responses to reward and risk” (p. 44).

In my first paper written for this course, Personal Background Reflection Paper (please see link to Artifact 2.1 below), I reflected on my own childhood experiences in comparison to that of many of my students, and discussed how these intertwining factors influence my teaching interactions with students. As authors Stiggins, Arter, and Chappuis (2006), have clarified, the distinction between assessment of learning vs. for learning, places the emphasis on helping students answer the three questions, “ ‘Where am I going?’; ‘Where am I now?’; and ‘How can I close the gap’?”

Within my second paper, Professional Philosophy of Education and Developmental Theory (please see link to Artifact 2.2 below), I expressed thoughts pertaining to Erik Erickson’s developmental theory. “Erikson defined eight developmental stages during which a crisis must be resolved in order for a person to develop psychosocially without carrying forward issues tied to the previous crisis…” Author, Crain, states, “The adolescent’s primary task, Erikson believed, is establishing a new sense of ego identity—a feeling for who one is and one’s place in the larger social order. The crisis is one of identity versus role confusion” (p. 291). A reflective process I use with students (described below), is one method I believe helps them engage in the development of their ego identity:

Currently in my position as a special education teacher in a largely “inclusive” high school in terms of service delivery, much of my work with students is conducted in the context of individual appointments in my office. One tool that I use regularly with my students is a self-evaluation process—involving both written and verbal responses to a weekly progress report including; detailed listings of assignments, scores, current grade-to-date, attendance, etc. for each of their six classes. An overarching purpose of the use of this tool is to assist students with developing self-advocacy skills as they strive to succeed in high school as well as prepare for post-secondary endeavors. The reflective exercise guides the students through the process of reading information pertinent to their day-to-day life as a student. The completion of the form requires analysis of their current progress as well as the development of strategies for establishing and reaching both short and long-term goals, and encourages students to take ownership, responsibility, (and credit) for their actions and efforts (James, 2012).

Ironically, just this week in April of 2013, as I am working on completing the requirements for my master’s degree by writing/rewriting reflections on my own learning as a graduate student, a dramatic event occurred within my classroom as a student was completing his own written reflection. (Note: As of result of new learning in my graduate studies, I have increased the level of expectation for student reflection to include more extended written responses. The following account of a very recent experience relates also to the use of technology in the classroom—proving that even outdated technology can be used to connect with students).

Since I don’t have enough computer access for all students in my special education Learning Strategies class, I have chosen to use small keyboards to have students write reflections on a regular basis. Although the small, “NEO” keyboards are outdated devices, they are available for my use. Each device holds 8 separate “files” which I have students use to make progress notes in response to specific prompts at various times throughout each term. Files 1-6 are reserved for periods 1-6, and file # 7 is for “other”. Usually, I encourage student to describe in File # 7–accomplishments of which they are MOST proud. I upload their responses regularly and find this process to be extremely valuable in helping me maintain a connection with students and to assist me as I endeavor to respond to their individual needs. Some students are able to express so much more in writing than they would in face-to-face conversations.

Tuesday, as I was uploading and reading student reflections, I noticed the reflection of one very quiet and studious student was prefaced with the comment: “Mrs. James, be sure to read paragraph # 7″. As I continued to upload his work, I found a most heart-wrenching, yet beautifully written expression from this student who had recently been placed on probation. It was evident that he was experiencing a downward spiral toward severe depression. His cry for help included the words, “I can’t go out and make friends or give a shout out to others about my emotions. I get it out in writing or typing now. I stay silent and lonely to rot away…” Thankfully, I was able to talk with him after class and set up an appointment for him to meet with the counselor. The student and I have agreed that he will continue to use writing as a way to help him process his intense emotions.

An example of how research validates the threatened needs of this young man to be connected with his friends and to know that someone cares is referenced in my third paper, Professional Analysis of Developmental Appropriateness (please see links to artifacts 2.3.1, 2.3.2, and 2.3.3 below). As I discuss the Individual Transition form of the Individual Education Plan (IEP), I make the suggestion that work habits and interpersonal skills should be addressed on this form for secondary students because these skills relate to Kohlberg’s Level II Conventional Morality. Crain refers to Kohlberg’s Level II Conventional Morality—Stage 3. Good Interpersonal Relationships. “At this stage children, are by now usually entering their teens—see morality as more than simple deals. They believe people should live up to the expectations of the family and community and behave in “good” ways. Good behavior means having good motives and interpersonal feelings such as love, empathy, trust, and concern for others” (p. 161).

In my Week 4 Blog for this course, EDU 6655: Mind and Brain….Techniques–backed by research? (James, 2012), I expressed my conflicting thoughts about controversial brain research. I conveyed my tendency to agree with author, Hyatt, who suggests “that much of the rush by educators to provide ‘brain-based’ learning opportunities for children is based on information that is selective, oversimplified, or incorrectly interpreted, and he strongly urged that educators and the public exercise great caution when trying to apply findings from brain science to educational interventions” (Hyatt, 2007, p. 120).

Based on my informal, anecdotal research gleaned as an educator in the classroom from 1980 to the present, high school students generally experience a relatively high degree of stress–which I maintain to be a contributing factor to some of the struggles I observe in their lives. My goal is to continue in my endeavor to use any means available to meet the needs of my students as I address Standard 2: Create and maintain school-wide and classroom environments that are safe, stable, and empowering. In the process of completing the requirements for this course (see links to artifacts below), I appreciated the opportunity to reflect with a fresh and guided focus on my years in the classroom and I intend to continue to view new research as it becomes available. I believe new insights will continue to come, along with validation for long-held convictions.


Arter, J., Chappuis J., S.,  Stiggins, R. (2006). Classroom assessment for students learning. Doing it right, using it well. Boston, MA. Pearson Education, Inc.

Crain, W. C. (2011). Theories of development: Concepts and applications. Boston, MA: Prentice Hall.

Hyatt, K. J. (2007). Brain gym[R]: Building stronger brains or wishful thinking?. Remedial and Special Education, 28(2), 117-124.

James, L. (2012). Professional philosophy of education and developmental theory, Seattle Pacific University.

James, L. (2012). EDU 6655: Mind and Brain….Techniques—backed by research?, WordPress  blog, Seattle Pacific University. Retrieved from

Jossey-Bass Inc. (2008). The Jossey-Bass reader on the brain and learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Links to artifacts for Standard 2:

EDU 6655-ARTIFACT 2.1 Personal Background Reflection Paper

EDU 6655-ARTIFACT 2.2 Final Professional Philosophy Paper

EDU 6655-ARTIFACT 2.3.1 Final Paper SECONDARY TRANSITION Form Analysis

EDU 6655-ARTIFACT 2.3.2 TRANSITION Form Analysis.list



Capstone–“Standard 12 Meta-Reflection: Professional citizenship”

“Standard 12 Meta-Reflection: Professional citizenship”—Capstone

Willingly engages in dialogue that transcends the individual classroom, taking informed, coherent positions on important matters of educational policy and practice. (SPU, 2012)

Initial reflection during C & I Orientation:

I believe that on a continual basis I endeavor to develop my professional citizenship by serving as my school’s special education curriculum leader as well as a member of the building leadership team. Additionally, I am part of a professional learning community (PLC) group which meets weekly and I regularly participate in faculty and district meetings.

Meta-reflection following completion of EDU 6120Foundations–Issues & Ideas in American Education:

Upon the completion of my first course requirement toward the earning of my Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction, I must begin by saying that I am overwhelmed with gratitude.  The experience of returning to Seattle Pacific University after three decades of teaching in the public school system has been awe-inspiring. Although I will continue to teach full-time throughout the process of earning my degree, this quarter has shown me that it will not only be possible to work in “both worlds”—but that each experience will dramatically enrich the other.

Within the context of the Foundations course readings, lectures, electronic discussions, writings, and individual as well as group assignments, I have fully participated and gained tremendous insights. Not only have I read about and discussed a wide variety of historical, cultural, philosophical and legal issues with my colleagues and professor and discovered motivating connections to my educational setting, but I have also made astonishing connections within myself.

Module 1 Reflection addressed Professor Arthur Ellis’ lecture, “Four Broadly Accepted Goals of Education” outlined as:

Academic Knowledge: “idea of knowledge as an end unto itself”

Citizenship: “Building citizens, participating, enlightened”

Self-Realization: Individual goals “the person becoming what they want to become”

Employment:  “A career (ready for work)”

Module 2 Reflection, centered on responding to “The Emergence of Eastern Educational Thought” lecture by Dr. Ellis. During this module, I became more readily able to recognize elements in our American education system that are similar to that of Eastern thinking and increased personal appreciation for ideas represented in Eastern thought. Dr. Ellis explained that in American education, we see derivations of both Confucian and Taoist thinking in the form of two differing systems referred to as Essentialist and Progressive, respectively. “The essentialist movement, which is a very subject-centered and formal education with testing, textbooks, exams, grades…,”reflects Confucian thought whereas Taoism is seen as more Progressive.

Module 3 Reflection noted that as a special education teacher who focuses every day on the special needs and individual differences among my students, I am particularly drawn to some of the Greco-Roman traditions that seemed to highlight the matching of abilities with areas of study.

Module 4 Reflection, referred to my work in which each student’s Individual Education Plan, clearly has the child at the center—surrounded by a team. Perhaps this is a derivative of one of the effects on education of the Romantic Movement–that of “the American progressive movement and the child-centered movement”? As I consider the European ideas of “tracking”—vocational, middle and upper—with regard to a student’s course of study—I wonder why there is a current focus to push every student to become “college ready”?

As referenced within Module 5 Reflection, the lecture and readings on the history of education in America provided a wonderful overview of information I had learned as an undergraduate as well as the same “broad brush strokes” picture of the more recent decades that I have experienced as an educator.

Within my Module 6 Reflection I express my observation of the decline in moral expectations/standards among many students, and their families, and the increasing sense of helplessness as I am “swimming upstream”. I find that I am becoming conditioned to the “overlooking” by staff members of lowered standards. I am saddened to realize that I am actually surprised when a student is corrected by a staff member.  My personal hope is that I never lose sight of the importance of being a positive role model as I influence individual students.

My Module 7 Reflection, written in response to the lecture concerning both the Essentialist and Progressivist movements—particularly in the context of Dewey’s beliefs noted in his Pedagogic Creed—spoke to the conflict I often experience within myself, as a teacher. I began to view this internal conflict as a clash between Essentialist and Progressivist thinking. Encouraging, however, is the statement, “….there is a curious marriage of Essentialism and Progressivism seen in the current standards movements….when one looks more deeply at the methods…one sees many elements of Progressivism (Ellis).

In response to Dr. Ellis’ lecture, “What Knowledge is of Most Worth”, I wrote Module 8 Reflection in which I highlight his reminder: “We have the dawning in Dewey’s time of the Progressive era which is an interesting mix of Romanticism, pragmatism and the scientific method (Ellis, p.9).

In my Module 9 Reflection, I identified key ideas gleaned from Dr. Ellis’ lecture, “The Courts and Education”.. A highlight was the 1967 case of Pickering vs. The Board of Education of Township High, “The court ruled that teachers have the rights of a citizen….”. Ellis went on to state that, “…in terms of teacher’s  assignments and teacher’s freedom of expression, the courts are ruling in fact that teachers are themselves citizens with all full first amendment rights” (Ellis, slide 23).

Within the context of this course, I became part of a team we creatively named The Four Ladies. As a truly delightful requirement we collectively wrote two papers which I have attached as artifacts for this course: “Why Teach? What Are the Qualities of a Good Teacher?” , as well as Meaningful Student Learning In Reflective Classrooms.

As learner I have grown to appreciate my strengths and am challenged to work through my weaknesses—something I have always asked of each of my students.  As a teacher, I am reminded of a quote I took with me to my very first teaching assignment in 1981, “To teach is to learn a second time” (Joseph Joubert).

In his book entitled, Teaching, Learning, and Assessment Together, Professor Arthur Ellis introduces the procedure for the Key Idea Identification assessment strategy by asking the reader to consider the following:

“What do you remember from a particular class? If the teacher was successful with the subject matter and the experience in general, you will remember two things: the feelings and the ideas. The feelings should be positive, and the ideas should be few, but powerful (Ellis, p. 102, 2001).

I feel thankful, inspired, and deeply blessed. Although I do not yet have words to adequately summarize the positive impact of this course on my life, I do know that I have learned that my reflective personality—a quality that I have often viewed as a hindrance, is a gift from God that He will use, if I allow Him to.

“Reflective assessment is for everyone, students and teachers alike” (Ellis, xv).


Ellis, A. K. (2001).  Teaching, learning & assessment together: The reflective classroom.  Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education.

Ellis, A. K (2011). “Four Broadly Accepted Goals of Education”, Seattle Pacific University.

Ellis, A. K (2011). “The Emergence of Eastern Educational Thought”, Seattle Pacific University.

Ellis, A. K (2011). “What Knowledge is of Most Worth”, Seattle Pacific University.

Ellis, A. K (2011). “The Courts and Education”, Seattle Pacific University.

Ellis, A.K. (2007). “European Educational Ideas: The Beginnings of the Modern Era”, Seattle Pacific University

Capstone–Standards 01 and 03 Meta-Reflection: Instructional Planning and Curriculum

Standards 01 and 03 Meta-Reflection: Instructional Planning and Curriculum

01:       Designs and monitors long and short-term plans for students’ academic success.

03:       Provides knowledge and skills that bring academic subjects to life and are aligned with state content standards.

Initial reflection during C & I Orientation:

In my role as a special education teacher, my primary obligation is to ensure that both long and short-term goals are clearly articulated within each student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) and addressed on a consistent basis. I must also ensure my high school students have a transition plan and course of study which addresses the student’s post-high school goals.

Meta Reflection following the completion of EDU 6524Curriculum Design:

At the beginning of this course, along with my anticipation of fresh perspectives, up-to-date research and invigorating dialogue, I also expected that I might have difficulty selecting a project topic from a particular content area. In my years of experience moving from parallel special education classes to nearly full inclusion, I have found myself having to redefine my role as a teacher. My somewhat diminished view of myself has been compounded by the fact that for the past five years—I have not had a classroom. My current setting in a school which is only five years old, my colleagues and I continue to advocate on behalf of our special education students to ensure that a “continuum of services” is available.

Fortunately, I have seen many students “rise to the occasion” and perform successfully within the general education setting. The author refers to Vito Perrone, former director of teacher education at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education who “believes all students—including those assigned to remedial or low-track classes—should have opportunities to reach understanding, not just knowledge, by “making connections among and between things, about deep and not surface knowledge, and about greater complexity, not simplicity” (as cited within Parkay, Hass & Anctil, p. 533). I agree with Perrone and have witnessed the success of students who have been exposed to classes offering “greater complexity”, however, also believe that our high schools must recognize that our students possess of range of needs.

I responded to the discussion question of “values imbedded in the curriculum”—specifically related to the topic of “college ready”. My high school lists on our webpage the mission statement: “…students will graduate college ready. They will be prepared to act as informed citizens in a global society and empowered to care for their community”. A separate line states that “students will complete gateway courses for college enrollment”. Parkay, Hass, and Anctil, in Curriculum Leadership, convey the great challenge before us as educators: “To provide all learners—from those with diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds and with their variety of needs, abilities, learning styles, and prior educational experiences—meaningful and growth-promoting curricular experiences…” (p.). Before our school opened (in response to controversy around the phrase “college ready”) the team of educators and community members crafting the wording to “qualify” the college focus in the vision statement by including the words “post-secondary endeavors.” The concept of differences in student needs is expressed when Inlay writes that “community and belonging” is critical in “creating a safe place that accepts the different qualities of each individual” (p. 44).

I voiced the sentiment in my initial post that although the website displays “inclusive” language—acknowledging that we have a diverse population within our community, the course offerings appear to be heavily geared toward the college bound students. In support of this direction, I note that a surprising number of my students are finding success in their general education classes. I agree with the following research in the article, Authentic Assessment and Student Performance in Inclusive Secondary Schools: “…with more challenging tasks, students with disabilities performed better than students with and without disabilities who received less challenging tasks” (King, Schroeder and Chawszczewski cited within Parkay p. 237). It seems, however, that as standards and graduation requirements continue to increase, the number of options and course offerings that appeal to the “less-likely-to-be-college-bound” students decreases. I sometimes wonder what “imbedded values” some students perceive. Unfortunately, I see a number of students who become discouraged and simply drop out after finding little success in overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Within the article, Engaging the Disengaged Student: Research Shows Why Some Are Immersed in Learning While Others Are Indifferent, author Susan Black, provides suggestions for remedying  issues related to disengaged students. The article refers to what Charlotte Danielson, of the Educational Testing Service, describes a “’distinguished teacher’ as [: one] who has mastered a number of skills in four broad domains: planning and preparation; classroom environment; instruction; and professional responsibilities” (as cited within Parkay, Hass & Anctil, p. 531). Although my role as a special education teacher requires that I advocate for students with special needs and I sometimes voice my concern about unreasonably high standards, this does not mean that I am opposed to encouraging students to strive to achieve levels as high as possible. I agree with the author who states: “ Students stay engaged when teachers create lessons centered on ‘big ideas’ and design assignments at the correct level of difficulty—not too easy and not impossibly difficult—so students are challenged but still able to succeed” (as cited within Parkay, Hass & Anctil, p. 532).

As module 2 drew to a close, I began to focus on a predominate need in my setting. Specifically–to prepare my students to ask and reflect on the “big picture” questions pertaining to their life beyond graduation. My students must be encouraged to lift their sights beyond the day-to-day activities of high school life and consider the broader scope of what lies before them. While I believe it is true that we should encourage students to pursue training and education beyond high school, we must also keep in mind what Parkay, Hass, and Anctil (2010), state: “…curriculum goals can be clustered into two broad areas, each of which should always be considered in curriculum planning: goals that relate to society and its values and goals that relate to the individual learner’s needs, interests, and abilities” (p.8).

About a month into this course, I experienced an unexpected insight—somewhat strangely related to my understanding the topic of curriculum and backward-design. It came in the form of a highly personal application of keeping the “big picture” or “long-range view” in mind. Learning of the rapid progression and devastating effects of early onset dementia of one of my sisters—I began to come to terms with the perspective of “backward design” as it relates to life in general. As a family we are having to “lift our sights beyond the day-to-day activities and consider the broader scope” as we together consider her “needs, interests, and abilities”—in relation to the future. Somehow the importance of some aspects of life wane and others emerge as “overarching” and take precedence as they come to the forefront of our thinking.

Within module 3 I experienced an increasing excitement and enthusiasm for the curriculum project for this course and greatly enjoyed my focused efforts preparing for the peer review process. Both then and now, I continue to be pleasantly surprised by the transformation in my own perspective and the greater sense of optimism within me regarding opportunities to collaborate with others in my school on behalf of all students. Early in the module, I responded to the following discussion question from my vantage point as a special education teacher: How have the purposes for high school changed, and what should guide communities as they plan new high schools? Author Vivien Stewart in the article, Becoming Citizens of the World, discusses significant and new challenges facing secondary students in today’s schools represented by four major trends: economic, science and technology, health and security, and changing demographics. (p. 524-525). Merely from my perspective as a classroom teacher over the last three decades, I have seen incredible changes in all of these areas—especially considering that when I began as a high school teacher no one had a personal computer and needless to say, the world-wide-web did not exist. Many of my students who struggled in school academically could still find success in more of the hands-on classes such as carpentry and manufacturing. In the midst of the increasing requirements and demands to strive for rigorous standards, I as a special education teacher am concerned about those who are not able to meet with such expectations. Following a long list of skills needed by today’s high school graduates who will be engaged in global commerce and collaboration, Stewart expresses that, “U.S. schools are not adequately preparing students for these challenges….compared with students in nine other industrialized countries, U.S. students lack knowledge of world geography, history, and current events” (Stewart in Parkay, Hass & Anctil, p. 525). If U.S. students in general are falling short, where does this place many of my students?

Other colleagues voiced similar concerns within the posts for this module—although many postings were centered on the expectations for students in the very early grade levels. While reading these posts, I sensed that behind the academic dialogue were the voices of parents concerned about the increasingly demanding expectations for their own children—particularly in relation to the “Common Core”.

I have mixed perspectives on the issue of high expectations. While I believe that all students should be encouraged and challenged to perform to the best of their ability, I am concerned that those who are unable to compete at a high level will sense that they no longer “belong in the race”. I believe that high schools have an obligation to help all students develop themselves in preparation for a realistic future. I agree in particular with the following segment from the Coalition of Essential Schools, 1998: “…Curricular decisions should be guided by student interest, developmentally appropriate practice, and the aim of thorough student mastery and achievement. Students of all ages should have many opportunities to discover and construct meaning from their own experiences” (As cited within Parkay, Hass & Anctil, 2010, p. 522).

My response as a special education teacher is to continue advocating for my students as we together embrace these challenges. Additionally, having “lived through” 30 years of legislative changes and their corresponding effects on service delivery models at the high school level, I have witnessed a wide variety of impacts of these changes on individual student achievements. While inclusion has offered clear benefits for many students, I have found this to be the most challenging model to implement. In the article entitled, The “Three A’s” of Creating an Inclusive Curriculum and Classroom, author, Anctil, clarifies with regard to inclusion that “supports will be brought to the child (rather than moving the child to the services) and requires only that the child will benefit from being in the class (rather than keeping up with the other students)” (Rogers, 1993, p. 2) (as cited within Parkay, Hass, and Anctil, 2010, p. 82).

In the readings for module 5, I noticed Parkay, Hass, Anctil (2010) refer in Chapter 5 to “two dimensions of curriculum: the target and the time orientation”. State standards are seen as “target(s)…at the macro (level) due to the fact that they are geared toward large numbers of students while decisions that are made in individual classrooms are considered to be at the “micro level”. The “time orientation” is found along the continuum of “the present or the future”. A further distinction is drawn between “student-centered versus subject-centered curricula” (p. 251).

I see myself as standing in the gap striving to find that balance between “macro” versus “micro”, “present versus future”, and “subject-centered versus student-centered curricula”–for each of the students on my caseload. Much like trying to stand in the middle on an old-fashioned teeter-totter, I continue to find myself leaning first this way–then that, as I endeavor to sense what is best for each student. I appreciated the suggestion by Parkay (2010) that “student centered curriculum…(which) emphasize(s) the growth and development of students”(p. 252) is most often applicable at the elementary level, however, find this focus seems to be at the core for special educators at every grade level.

In many respects, I see standards as improving student opportunity. For instance, the inclusion model of special education service delivery strongly encouraged by my principal requires that all incoming 9th graders be placed into general education English classes (unless the student’s IEP team determines that this is clearly not the student’s least restrictive environment). The thinking behind this stance is to expose each student to the general education curriculum which is in turn geared toward preparation for meeting standards on the 10th grade state test (which I believe is not simply “teaching to the test”). This is an example of “Standards-based education (SBE) [which] is premised on the belief that all students are capable of meeting high standards” (Parkay, 2010, p. 253). On many occasions, I have observed students with qualifications in the academic areas of reading and/or writing (who in previous decades might have been placed in special education classes), respond well to the challenge. In some cases, students have subsequently tested out of special education as they have been found to no longer qualify for services, based on their three-year reevaluation.

With regard to standards, one particular colleague wrote this week: “If we’re teaching towards mastery of standards, and the tests assess the standards, the phrase teaching to the test means something different than the negative connotations traditionally associated with that phrase” (Lyle, 2012). Expressing my agreement and adding my thoughts to the discussion thread, I suggested that we consider the Common Core English Language Arts Standard for Production and Distribution of Writing: # 5. “Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience”. I then raised the question: Is it even possible to “teach to the test” in the traditionally negative manner when focusing on this type of standard? As with so many things in life–I believe balance and flexibility are key components to consider. I see great benefits to the presence of the standards, yet I also believe there must be room for appropriate “discretion”. I recall hearing professor/speaker, Anthony Gregorc, give an illustration many years ago during a Learning Styles class at Seattle Pacific (1984). Dr. Gregorc stated something to the effect of: “There are many ways to get to Chicago”–stressing the importance of acknowledging alternate ways to achieve the same results.

My curriculum project for this course, entitled: “Advanced Preparation ‘A.P.” for Culminating Project: Senior Portfolio”, began with the focus of addressing the needs of students in special education. Often, IEP students need extra time, struggle with confidence and self-advocacy skills, and lack experience in setting and achieving goals. However, as I have been talking with students who have recently completed their senior presentation, as well as school counselors and teachers who oversee the implementation of the current culminating project, each person has independently voiced that all students would benefit from the advanced preparation toward to 12th grade requirement and the newly designed features I have added to the existing curriculum–based on the Understanding by Design format and the requirements for this course. They have asked if I would share my ideas and products with our principal for possible consideration and inclusion into next year’s requirements. I must say that these discussions have broadened my view of the students within my “sphere of influence”, offered opportunities for increased collaboration, and provided significant personal encouragement. Therefore, the project continues to be a “work-in-progress” as many creative ideas are generated as a result of each new insight that is shared. I am hopeful that this new inspiration will allow me to see with “fresh eyes” my current opportunities in my school and that collaboration on behalf of all students ( “Backward Inclusion”?) will become a reality.

Artifact for Standards 1 & 3

EDU 6524 Project: Advanced Planning for Culminating Project: Senior Portfolio


Common Core State Standards Initative (2012) Retrieved May 2, 2012 from:

Conley, D. (2011) Building on the Common Core Educational Leadership, Volume 68 | Number 6 What Students Need to Learn, Pp. 16-20 Retrieved from:

OSPI webpage for Common Standards, Retrieved from SPU Blackboard, Curriculum class March 30, 2012

Parkay, F.W., Hass, G., & Anctil, E.- 2010: Curriculum Leadership; Readings for Developing Quality Educational Programs, 9th ed.; Allyn & Bacon, Boston, MA, USA .