Wednesday, August 27, 2014

PARCC Practice Tests

TCAP is gone and a new era of state assessments are fast approaching. The CCSS (Common Core State Standards) will be assessed in Colorado by one of the large consortium called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC). These assessments will be taken online by students beginning in third grade. The most noticeable difference between the TCAP and PARCC is that PARCC will gather data from numerous states and millions of students. The intent is to determine where students compare on a national level rather than simply to peers in the state. There are 13 states that will take the PARCC assessements with over 12 million K-12 students occupying those states.

With these new assessments comes an adjustment period. By taking a look at the PARCC practice tests, you should be able to notice the increased complexity of test items. Students will need to be able to navigate the technical aspects of the TestNav platform as well as be able to understand what is being asked of them. The PARCC assessments are different than any formal assessment that student's have taken at the elementary level because along with understanding the content assessed, they will need to know how to communication that information in a digital form. I would advise all parents to take a look at the practice test items to get an idea of what your student will be experiencing beginning this year. If you have questions about the Common Core or PARCC, please do not hesitate to ask me.

Here is the link to the practice tests.

Students will be tested in English/Language Arts and Math.  

-Mr. Watanabe

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Future of Learning

This is an interested video about how education has changed. I am not endorsing this company but do like how this makes you think about an avenue for the future of learning.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

I recently read an article via Twitter about how educators are concerned about kids in Colorado beginning to use marijuana at a young age. As most know, Colorado has legalized the use of recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older with limits on how much you can grow and carry. While I do think that the accessibility and acceptability of recreational marijuana will probably increase in use from citizens of Colorado, there lies an important lesson for young people to understand: Just because you can, doesn't mean you should!

Every day most of us are given countless opportunities to make choices for ourselves. These choices are affected by many factors such as context, morality, values, and background. In elementary school, students encounter somewhat harmless decisions like:

Should I play games on my computer instead of writing my narrative?

Should I throw this ball on the roof so that no one can play wall-ball anymore?

Should I go tell on my friend for calling me a name, even though I called her one first?

Ideally, a student would reflect and say to themselves: “I could do this, but I shouldn’t.” You might call this having a conscience.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. The ability or capacity to do something does not mean entitlement to do it. As an elementary teacher, I attempt to instill this mentality into students while they are still learning appropriate social behaviors. Almost daily, I help mediate conversation between students who are “being mean” to each other or are having “friend-problems.” My suggestions to students are to encourage them see how his or her actions have affected the other person, whether intentional or unintentional.

Ultimately, my goal is to increase the student’s consciousness. Consciousness of how his/her actions are impacting others, consciousness of the environment where they work and live, and most of all the consciousness of choices. Developing consciousness is the task of both parents and teachers and is an essential skill for all people and begins with awareness. People who are aware ask themselves the question, “How are my actions/choices/decisions affecting the way people see me and I see myself.”

As we get older, decisions become more difficult because the stakes are higher and may shape our lives and the lives of those around us.

Should I send that Snapchat?

Should I start smoking marijuana now that it’s legal?

Ideally the response would be the same as expected from ten-year olds: “I could do this, but I shouldn’t.”

It seems like almost weekly there is another athlete, politician, or celebrity in the media for inappropriate tweets or Facebook posts. I often wish I could ask them, “Was that necessary?” or “Are you aware of how this might negatively affect you or the people around you?” I am not naive however, some people take great joy in creating a stir in the media. Yet, most inappropriate tweets are examples of a lack of awareness. There are many lessons from these situations, one being that more so than any time in history, everyone has an audience. Social media allows everyone the opportunity to share. Since everyone has a platform, the need for consciousness is even more vital than ever. Preventative measures are always more effective than reactionary measures. Teaching students to reflect and become more aware is a preventative social measure.

In education, teachers stress the importance of 21st century skills. They are the skills that allow students to apply critical thinking, information literacy, collaboration, self-direction and invention to all contexts. This is all an attempt to increase a student’s awareness and consciousness. The goal of a quality educator is to see students leave his classroom with a better understanding of the world, themselves and how to navigate the world. In other words, we want students to take control of their own learning and be able to independently know when to enact the, “I can, and I should” mentality and just as importantly the, “I could, but I shouldn't” mentality when making choices.

My hope is that students are people who are awake and alive to the world around them.

-Kevin Watanabe

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Parent Toolkit by Education Nation

Finding good parenting resources to explain the CCSS or the academic development of kids can be difficult. However, I came across a fantastic resource that will help clarify for parents what students should be doing and appropriate ways to support their child. Some parents that I talk to have no idea about the changes in the education system and often expect school to be similar or exactly the same as when they were in school. The system of education in America is undergoing many changes that parents should be aware of. I came across the wonderful tool called the Parent Toolkit produced by NBC News: Education Nation and sponsored by Pearson. The website is user-friendly and contains important information to assist parents in understanding learning goals and overall development of their students. It also can help prepare parents for middle and high school with the expectations around parent/teacher conferences and overall academic standards. I suggest that parents take a look at not only where your student is right now, but where he/she is expected to go.

The website is:

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Play, Passion and Purpose

I came across this TED talk video from Tony Wagner about Play, Passion and Purpose. When thinking about the need for educational reform, he thinks of it in terms of re-imagining. If you have a couple of minutes this TED talk is worth the time. Made me think about what am I doing to innovate in my classroom for students. Feel free to comment below if you have thoughts or reaction.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

How to Avoid Education's Death Valley

Ken Robinson is one of my favorite speakers to listen to about education reform and the overall state of education. This video is well worth the time. He talks about the value of a teacher and the need for a balanced curriculum.

Friday, October 25, 2013

How To Change Education from the Ground Up

A thought provoking video about how educational reform can be affected by the teachers and administrators in the classroom.