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From Theory to Practice. Sustaining a Culture of Rigor and Relevance . Susan Gunderman International Center for Leadership in Education Kennesaw Mountain High School Cobb County, Georgia. A Model of Effective leadership Special education

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From Theory to Practice

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From Theory to Practice

Sustaining a Culture of Rigor and Relevance

Susan Gunderman

International Center for Leadership in Education

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Kennesaw Mountain High SchoolCobb County, Georgia

A Model of

  • Effective leadership

  • Special education

  • Character-centered teaching

  • Service education

  • Rigor/Relevance Framework™

  • Personalized learning

  • Supportive relationships

  • By the Numbers (2007)

  • 3,100 students

  • 29% minority

  • 9.8% students w/disabilities

  • 14% free/reduced lunch

  • 3% dropout rate

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  • Prepare students for the world they will inhabit outside the schoolhouse walls.

  • Engage them in learning

  • that will develop skills

  • that are transferable

  • to the 21st Century

  • world.

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Teaching is only as

good as the learning

that takes place.

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Rigorous instruction prepares students to think critically

so they can solve problems in unpredictable, real world


Thinking outside the car.

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Intelligence v Relevance

Students will


what is meaningful

to them.

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“What we can do is take the best features of the American system—openness, INNOVATION, creativity, and flexibility—and enhance them so that we can create new industries, new technologies, and new jobs.”

~Fareed Zakaria, 2006

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21st Century Skills

  • Communication and Information

  • Thinking and Problem Solving

  • Interpersonal and Self-Directional

  • Collaboration

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21st Century Classroom

  • Student focused

  • Engaging project-based activities

  • Integrated curriculum

  • Problem solving

  • Performance-based assessment

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Vision and Implementation

“There are no teachers with correct answers, only guides with different areas of expertise and experience that may help along the way.”

~ Peter Senge and Fred Kofman, 1995

Flip the funnel

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Focus on Learning

  • Active engagement in learning

  • Primary and dynamic resources

  • Application of knowledge

  • Performance-based assessment

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Rigor/Relevance Framework

Shifts the focus from

teaching to learning

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Rigor/Relevance Framework

1. Recall Knowledge

2. Comprehension

3. Application

4. Analysis

5. Synthesis

6. Evaluation



  • 1. Knowledge of one discipline

  • 2. Application within discipline

  • Application across

  • disciplines

  • 4. Application to real world predictable situations

  • 5. Application to real world unpredictable situations

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Rigor/Relevance Framework







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From Theory to Practice

Moving Rigor and Relevance

Into the Classroom

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Theory to Practice

  • Focus on instruction through RR

    • Work with ICLE

    • Instructional Strategies Handbook

    • Common vocabulary

    • Collaboration for best practices

      Professional Development Groups

      Faculty meetings

      Snack ‘n Shares

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  • Nurture relationships with teachers

  • who show potential

  • Involve students

Make them part of expectations and celebrations

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Instruction with High Expectations

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Conceptual Physics

  • Why does pizza dough flatten when it is tossed?

  • Why do golf balls have dimples?

  • What causes high and low tides to occur at the beach?

  • How do barrels on interstates lessen the severity of a crash?

  • The physics of a piano

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Romeo and Juliet AdaptationNinth Lit/Comp

“In performance, students must understand the material at the highest level in order to write an original adaptation of a particular scene, and they must have the ability to work cooperatively in order to make the performance successful.”

~Writing America, 2004

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Student Reflection

“I think these skits gave us a chance to expand our knowledge of Romeo and Juliet in different ways. It made sure we really understood the basis of the play and it brought us closer together as a classroom community.”

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January 2006

  • Dr. Daggett meets with students and teachers

  • Responses surprising

    • “I feel a little sorry for my teacher

      trying to get to D”

    • Teachers 4; students 2.5

  • Clearly not there yet

  • The challenge

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    Answering the Challenge

    • Staff development task: Create a D quadrant lesson

    • Share with colleagues

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    Expectations and Resources

    • Work in collaborative groups

      1.5 hours per month


    • Snack and Shares

      Rigor and Relevance 101

      Graphic Organizers

      Movie Maker and Garage Band

      Designing Rubrics

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    Kennesaw Mountain IDOL

    • IDOL Committee

    • Plan

      • February workday: Department meetings to

        select “best in show”

      • Application and Rubric

        • Rigor and Relevance Framework

      • Reviewed by committee

      • Four finalists and six cameos

      • March workday: Final presentations

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    • Superintendent

    • Assistant Superintendent

    • for Curriculum

    • Area Assistant Superintendent

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    Kennesaw Mountain Model Lessons Presentation

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    Physical Education

    The Pit: Seasonal Sand Training

    PE Department

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    Biology II

    Human Anatomy Project

    Dr. Joanne Jezequel

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    Children’s Book ProjectAnatomy & Physiology

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    Honors Algebra II

    Money Management

    Graduation D-cisions

    Jimmy Whittemore & Dana Rogers

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    Overall Project Description

    These lessons have been designed to provide students with an opportunity to explore their post high school path of either attending college (Hon Alg II project) or immediately entering the job market (Money Management project). By collecting real world data, both groups of students evaluate the consequences of one of these decision paths utilizing mathematical concepts being explored in their respective curriculums.

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    Honors Algebra 2 students use the web to research the cost of a four year college education. The information is evaluated and analyzed using exponential and logarithmic models. In summary, this assignment requires the students to:

    Research real word data

    Make Computations using mathematical models

    Predict a variety of financial investments options

    Revise original plan based on imposed real world obstacles

    Organize findings into a Power point presentation in a way that validates the investment and mathematical models

    Money Management students use newspapers, the internet, and real life experiences to research projected income and cost of living expenses based on a chosen career path and self-designed lifestyle. Each student must prepare an extensive budget that will:

    Demonstrate how each expense decision can be justified

    Validate purchase decisions that are supported by mathematical calculations

    Prioritize the level of investment choices based on budget

    Present conclusions on the challenges faced with balancing a budget

    Individual Project Descriptions

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    English DepartmentModel Lesson

    Dramatic Conventions

    in Shakespeare

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    Sustaining High Expectations for Rigor and Relevance

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    Sustaining the Work

    • “Single-mindedness”

      • KFC not Baskin Robbins

    • Collaborative planning

    • Sharing resources, insights,

      challenges, success

    • Monitor progress

      “Inspect what you expect”


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    Sustaining the Work

    • Keep the Foundation Strong

      • Revisit the research (ICLE Briefings)

    • Bridge the gaps of time and turnover

      -- CORR, Model Schools Conference

    • Avoid “educationese”

      • Buzz words

      • Name Dropping

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    • Standards and state tests will take care of themselves because you’re not changing fundamentals of good teaching, just changing focus from teacher to student

      (Bob Marzanno and John Antonnetti)

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    Involve Students and Community

    • Talk to the students

      • Monthly principal’s lunch

        Enrollment in AP/Honors classes

        What motivates you in a class?

        Interpret test data

    • Involve community

      • Authentic work requires authentic audience

        Help them understand the work you are doing

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    Sustaining the Work

    • Confront Active Negativity

      • Eye-rollers, “BMGs” and Toxic Dumpers

    • Involve students and community

    • Be creative

    • Have fun!

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