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Angelita Alvarado-Santos, Ph.D.

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1 Angelita Alvarado-Santos, Ph.D.
Widening our reach: Using multiple approaches to enhance teacher candidate literacy skills Ashleigh Thompson, Ph.D. Angelita Alvarado-Santos, Ph.D. Jennifer Case Office of Academic Affairs The City University of New York NYSATE/NYACTE Fall Conference Saratoga Springs, NY October 15, 2014

2 Agenda Academic Literacy Skills Test Overview CUNY Context
Goals of our work Approaches to support literacy skill development Outcomes Challenges Actionable strategies Today we’ll situate our work within the ALST, our CUNY context, and also our Faculty Development Project through Race to the Top. We’ll outline our approaches to supporting Literacy Skill Development, and share positive outcomes as well as challenges. Lastly, we’ll discuss actionable strategies in the hope that it will be helpful to you in your own campus context We’ve also left half and hour for conversation and idea sharing. So before we begin, please take a moment…we’ll have a chance to discuss these in the second half of today’s presentation Please take a moment to write down two questions you hope to have answered during this session

3 Academic Literacy Skills Test
Certification exam that students are finding the most challenging Reading section: 40% of total score, assessed through multiple choice items Writing section: 60% of total score, assessed through written-response items Teacher candidates reported common challenges: pacing and planning their time, stamina and perseverance with complex passages, difficulty analyzing prompts, and navigating the computer-based testing platform As you likely know, ALST is one of the tests that students need to pass to be certified to teach in NYS. It is the test students have struggled with the most- with many students needed to take the exam multiple times before they pass, with implications for their time and money. Statewide pass rate as of this October was 50.4%, so CUNY is not alone. The Academic Literacy Skills Test is a test of candidate’s reading and writing abilities. The entire exam is focused on reading and writing- with writing making up a slightly larger portion of the students score. (slide) We know from speaking with faculty and with candidates who had already taken the exam (both those who passed and those who failed) that there are some common challenges that candidates needed support with in order to be more successful on the exam. (slide)

4 CUNY Context CUNY is the largest public, urban University in U.S.
24 campuses across NYC 540,000+ students 44% of undergrads are first-generation Americans So while we’ll focus in large part today on ALST, I’d like to situate our presentation inside the larger frame: CUNY Context, then more specifically our Faculty Development Project, and finally our goal and work to improve teacher candidates’ literacy READ SLIDE: CUNY benefits from close geographic proximity, which is a real benefit for a Central Office in terms of communication and coordination, and convening faculty. It’s unusual that CUNY Central would be so directly involved with students, as we’ll describe, but we felt he sheer challenge of the ALST required strong support of our campuses. Starting about 7 months ago we dove into this work. about 14,000 of these students are teacher candidates at the undergrad and grad level. About half of our students have a first language other than English, and certainly that is a factor when we’re talking today about literacy.

5 CUNY Context: ALST Test Takers
So to give you a graphic illustration of CUNY’s context, this image depicts ALST test takers from Sept 2013 through August CUNY test takers are on the left, and the rest of NYS test takers are on the right. This graph represents about 12,612 test takers in total. 6.2% black vs. 10.4% 4.7% asian vs. 10.3% (Double) 10.5% hispanic vs. 21.4% (double) 63.4% white vs. 39%. (majority to non-majority) 3.25% other vs. 4.9%. 12% undeclared vs.14%. Just a different demographic when we’re benchmarking pass rates against NYS averages, and language diversity is also conflated here

6 CUNY’s Faculty Development Project
This work has been part of CUNY’s Race to the Top Faculty Development Project, funded through a MOU with the New York State Education Department which began in July 2012. CUNY’s Office of Teacher Education provides support and technical assistance in areas such as data-driven instruction, teacher certification exams, teacher and principal performance evaluations, and Common Core State Standards. ALST is one of the tests that students need to pass to be certified to teach. So the big picture is teacher preparation  Teacher Education in the CUNY Context  Faculty Development Project  goal is to improve teacher candidates’ literacy The work shared here resulted from CUNY’s Race to the Top Faculty Development project, funded through MOU with NYSED. Work began on the project in 2012, although the efforts we are describing have primarily taken place over the last 7 months- since the release of the ALST exam data.

7 CUNY Central Goals Overarching Goal: Improve teacher candidate literacy skills to help them become successful in their coursework and on the certification exams Integrate literacy skill development into current teacher education curricula Improve ability of faculty to teach CCSS/literacy skills Increase and strengthen test (ALST) preparation resources for students In order to help candidates be more successful on the ALST, we needed to improve their literacy skills. There is value in this beyond ALST as well- these are skills that will help candidates in their own education and in their classrooms.

8 Approaches to enhance candidate literacy skills
Three major efforts directed at – Teacher education programs and faculty Offices/departments and faculty outside teacher education Teacher education students To improve teacher candidates’ literacy, we implemented three major efforts through funding from SED: efforts directed at teacher education programs and faculty, programs and faculty outside of teacher education, and teacher education students In order to expose candidates to complex texts and writing tasks, as well as prepare candidates to teach to the new standards, CCSS needed to be integrated into teacher preparation. Faculty needed professional development to allow them to align course content and teach to the standards. In looking at the information we had, we realized that efforts needed to expand beyond teacher preparation programs. Supporting students on the ALST is not the only area of focus for teacher ed (course revisions, DDI, edTPA, other cert exams) and many programs were running into challenges with capacity. Looking for partners outside of ed programs helped to increase that capacity. In addition, much of the content of ALST is unrelated to teacher education coursework. In order to start building skills early, Arts and Sciences faculty needed to be brought in to the work. Some challenges such as pacing and providing opportunities to practice for the test were not appropriate for embedding into courses. Students needed resources and supports to help them with the test preparation aspects of the ALST. Publically provided resources were limited, and many students were unclear on the new exam requirements and exam content. We needed to provide information to students to help them prepare for the exams.

9 1) Approaches: Teacher education programs and faculty
ALST faculty development workshops Conferences/colloquium/workshops around CCSS Curriculum mapping and review Revisions to curricular documents, including course syllabi and assignments Approaches within teacher ed included: ALST faculty development workshops (Workshop content included information/strategies needed to support curriculum/program alignment to ALST. Workshops also focused on ways to prepare students for the tests through changes to courses/assignments. The goal was to focus on high impact areas that help students with coursework in general as well as all of the new assessments-areas such as analyzing prompts, organizing writing, incorporating data/evidence into responses- rather than looking at ALST test prep). Workshops were led by CUNY Central Staff (7 workshops for 89 faculty members this summer: June-August 2014) conferences/colloquium/workshops around CCSS (increasing faculty knowledge of CCSS and literacy skills demanded by CCSS) -inviting P-12 to the table *first workshops were more cert exam focused. These focused on CCSS and the shifts in ELA/literacy related to CCSS: reading complex texts, academic vocabulary, responses grounded in text based evidence These were intended to support faculty efforts in curriculum review and curriculum mapping, as well as revisions syllabi/lesson plan templates/assignments

10 2) Approaches: Offices/departments and faculty outside teacher education
Partnership with Arts and Sciences faculty Partnership with University initiatives like Writing Across the Curriculum and Centers for Teaching and Learning Conferences/colloquium/workshops around CCSS ALST turnkey workshops and kits Identification and training of writing tutors Engaging Continuing Education as a resource Identifying supports outside of teacher education- Early coursework, Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC), CLT Many students were taking the LAST early on in programs- or even at community colleges. For ALST to follow that timeline, Arts and Sciences faculty needed to be brought into the work. Building partnerships with all Arts and Sciences faculty wasn’t always possible given capacity. Needed to target key faculty- teaching writing intensive courses or courses that all ed majors took such as English 101 or Soc 101. To better support this effort, CUNY Central released an RFP over Summer 2014 for A&S faculty who were willing to partner in CC work. Our target in this work was faculty who were willing to be involved- rather than expending energy on the naysayers Also focused on bringing University initiatives into the work- these are already established programs with University funding. By involving these programs- which offer both faculty development and student support- we were able to create sustainable efforts and resources (systems change) Arts and Sciences faculty needed training in order to partner in the work. -CCSS workshops for faculty -developing resources for faculty (sample syllabi, CCSS handbooks, lesson plan templates, sample assignments) -embedding literacy skills in Arts and Sciences curriculum Students were requesting workshops but faculty needed to better understand the exam (format, content, challenges students face). CUNY Central developed a one hour workshop with all materials. Turnkey training was offered to faculty/staff identified at each college who could conduct workshop. This included writing center staff, education faculty, and education program staff. 21 ALST workshop kits have been distributed to campuses so far. Many schools realized students needed additional supports that faculty did not have capacity to provide. This led to the hiring/identifying/training writing tutors (4 campuses so far, with additional campuses considering this for ) Continuing Education programs are also offering exam support workshops to students- making additional resources available to those who are interested.

11 3) Approaches: Student support
Direct communication to students “One stop” resource library- CUNY Teacher Education website Blackboard group to house additional prep resources Student webinars and YouTube video series ALST student workshops with practice tests **May want to mention that we are focusing on ALST, but these efforts addressed and are recommended for all certification exams One early challenge that we faced was finding ways to ensure all students had access to resources and heard the same information about the ALST. We started by creating platforms for sharing resources and information. To do this, we created a CUNY Teacher Education website, Twitter account and address. This allowed us to communicate with students and provided a vehicle for students to contact us. On the teacher ed website, we posted all publically available links and created/shared CUNY specific resources. CUNY faculty created online preparation modules and ALST practice passages, which were shared through a CUNY Blackboard group. The goal was to create one resource that housed all preparation materials, rather than sending students to many different sites (NYSED, NYSTCE, etc). We also used our University system to send an about available resources to teacher education students. We plan to expand that campaign this year. Using the system provides us with analytics (number of students contacted, number of students who interacted with links) and allows us to follow up accordingly. Last semester we launched a student webinar series focused on the certification exams. These webinars were recorded and added to the CUNY YouTube channel as a sustainable preparation resource. Finally, as part of the turnkey training mentioned previously, CUNY Central staff offered ALST workshops directly to students, which 167 students attended. Additional workshops are scheduled for this fall.

12 Student Support Outputs
University wide system: 11,873 students contacted First system Viewed by 1,710 students ALST YouTube video: 860 views CUNY Blackboard groups: 437 users Student workshops: 167 students attended 4 student workshops in June, July, August- 167 students Resending to balance of students who didn’t open the These outputs represent CUNY Central efforts and do not include campus level efforts to provide resources and turnkey workshops to their students.

13 Outcomes Faculty Learning and Teaching
Increased knowledge and understanding of ALST and CCSS Improved ability and creativity to Embed literacy skills in their courses Create assignments that foster literacy skills Implemented changes to course content and instruction Increased awareness of barriers and supports needed Program as a whole: Built partnerships with P-12 educators, Arts and Sciences faculty, and community colleges This work has occurred over approximately the past 9 months. Observed outcomes so far include faculty’s increased knowledge and understanding of CCSS. In our last quarterly report, campuses reported that faculty are assigning more complex texts and requiring more complex writing assignments. Campuses also report that they have completed curriculum mapping and made changes to address needs in their programs. Faculty who attended workshops also reported a better understanding of the challenges of the ALST and ways in which they can support students and address those challenges. Teacher education programs, as well as participants in the RFP also report stronger partnerships and relationships. Do we need student outcomes??

14 Challenges Addressing sector needs with limited staff
Bringing faculty on board: philosophy and time commitments Preparing students who do not have a Common Core background for the nuances and complexity of this exam Making information widely accessible Being clear and addressing misinformation We are very excited about the success of the work so far, but it has not been without challenges. By far one of the largest challenges reported is that of capacity. ALST is not the only reform in progress and many times programs have to prioritize the work (edTPA, EAS, CCSS, etc). Even at a CUNY Central level capacity has been challenging. Meeting the demands of professional development training and candidate workshop requests, identifying areas to focus resource development- all things we had to consider as we engaged in the work. Getting faculty buy in to this work is also challenging. Many faculty have concerns over the ALST content and implementation. Our approach has been to focus on the fact that the ALST is here and our students have to take it, but the concerns around the exam must be acknowledged. Getting faculty to prioritize ALST with all of the other changes was challenging. The ALST is not a simple test. At first glance, many people agree that teacher candidates need literacy skills. However, helping everyone understand the difficulty and nuances of the ALST has been a challenge. In addition, our students did not come through a CCSS P-12 system, and so must take this exam without having the literacy skill development in their P-12 education that would support their success. In a system as large as CUNY, making sure everyone has the same information and access to information is an important consideration. The more we can pursue strategies like housing resources online or turnkey trainings the better we are able to expand our efforts to reach all stakeholders. This also helped address concerns about consistent messaging. We want to ensure that all faculty and students understand the new certification requirements and policy changes, as there has been a lot of uncertainty and misinformation that needed to be addressed. Many students were taking the wrong exams (LAST) or did not understand that they needed to take the ALST

15 What Worked: Recommendations and actionable strategies
Find key, high impact partners who can help increase capacity beyond the education program Provide continuous, consistent information to all stakeholders Create sustainable resources Provide opportunities for all faculty who prepare teachers to talk to each other and collaborate Communicate and share efforts across programs to avoid duplication On your tables you will find a more detailed list of actionable strategies. Increase capacity by seeking out relationships beyond the education program (e.g., writing centers, Arts and Sciences faculty, continuing education)- specifically focus on building key, high impact partnerships- writing faculty, faculty with a background in literacy, faculty teaching general education courses required for teacher candidates (Soc 101) Develop platforms to provide continuous, consistent information to both faculty and students. Use platforms to house resources. Take advantage of available resources and if needed, create additional ones that are sustainable, accessible, and applicable to multiple contexts Provide ample and continuous opportunities for all faculty who prepare teachers to talk to each other and collaborate inter- and intra-departmentally (e.g., Education faculty and A/S faculty communicating with each other and working as partners) Communicate and share efforts within and across programs to avoid duplication of work Increase faculty buy in by connecting CCSS/ALST conversations with issues or concerns that your department is grappling with to facilitate easier conversation with faculty. Rather than focusing on test prep, focus on high leverage knowledge and skills within education coursework (e.g., evidenced-based responses, analysis of complex texts). Model practices so students will learn to apply literacy development strategies in their future instruction. Create resources that address test-taking preparation (e.g., computer-based testing strategies, test taking skills) that are separate from course content

16 Table Talk What strategies/information from today’ session is useful to your work? What additional strategies would you recommend to the group? What questions do you still need answered?

17 Follow us on Twitter! @CUNYTeacherEd
Thank You Follow us on Ashleigh Thompson - Angelita Alvarado-Santos – Jennifer Case –

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