By Daniel Stone
Ogden’s Exploring Computer Science (ECS) class is in its second year, and the course is growing! Computer science courses have been identified across the country as being key to future success. In the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) field, jobs are in computing account for 71% of new jobs, and computing occupations are largest source of all new wages in the U.S. (Source: Code.org) With computers shrinking in size and growing in number, it’s more important than ever for students to have a solid foundation in how computers work and are applied to solve problems.
Students practiced their skills to do everything from coordinating movement of objects in paths across the screen, to developing looped algorithms to code more efficiently, and even create their own games. Students collaborate to help each other, and challenge each other through games and other work that they do in the course.
Additionally, we have had the opportunity to connect one class of students with Big Brothers Big Sisters and provide mentors to students. Mentors are professionals from a variety of backgrounds, and they interact through an online social media platform and in a few in-person class visits through the year. Most mentoring is done as students work through an online curriculum that helps them consider college and career goals and what steps they need to take to achieve those goals.
Students will continue to practice coding and will soon start their own web design using Thimble, and then to more complex block-based programming in MIT’s Scratch coding environment. Ogden’s Exploring Computer Science course will help students understand computers and computational thinking to help them make the most of technology and get an edge in the pursuit of their hopes and dreams!
By Diploma Programme English Teacher Ms. Sara Eisenbaum
This week in my English classes we have the opportunity to work with the Writer’s Theatre. They approached me to bring our students to a matinee version of “The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde (1895). Eager to jump at the opportunity to bring learning to life, I happily accepted the invitation and am so happy that I did. Not only do we get to travel to see this play, but the company also has artists in residence who come to the schools to work with the students to engage them in dramatic expression and other significant concepts they will see in the play.
With high school students, it is hard to gauge what their reaction might be to having to act silly in front of their peers, but this was a smashing success. Students were able to warm up their bodies with stretching exercises, they practiced their speech with tongue twisters, they created puns that Oscar Wilde would approve of, and they used their bodies to create tableaus that represented what they were most excited to see in the play. At the end of the day as students were leaving the classroom and I overheard one student say to Mr. Garrett, “You should come back once a week!” This is what every teacher wishes for; students who engage in their learning with high regard and look forward to how it will push them to interact with the world around them. With our artist in residence we engaged in discussions of power ahead of seeing the play so that we could have an initial understanding of why Wilde was so fond of social commentary. The students will continue this critical thinking process after seeing the show as they regroup with Mr. Garrett and use their dramatic exercises to apply knowledge of their surroundings in 2017 to their initiation in a developing historical context.
In my English classes engaging with context is always at the forefront of our minds. If we are to help students to be ready to be productive global citizens, we need to expose them to the world around them. Venturing outside of the building, outside of the normal classroom confines, and outside of the assumed role of education is continuing to push students to not hold back or diminish their opportunities for learning and growth.
By MYP Coordinator Mr. William Campillo
As our students reach the end of the Middle Years Programme at Ogden, we begin the process of evaluating how well students have developed the knowledge, skills and understandings that will help prepare them for a life of learning, acting, and reflecting to make a better world.
The culminating learning experience for this phase of an IB students’ education comes in the form of a self-directed exploration in an area of personal interest. Over a six month period, beginning in October and continuing until March, every tenth grader will choose a topic, research the topic, and work toward a goal or outcome that connects their learning to the world around them.
This Personal Project requires students to self-evaluate their progress as they research a question and strive to meet a goal they have set for themselves. The personal project also provides an important indicator of how well we have prepared our students to be motivated lifelong learners. As the project nears the deadline students will produce a report describing the process and outcome of the project. These reports, along with evidence of the outcomes, are assessed internally by Ogden teachers and are also assessed externally by the IB to ensure a “globally-consistent standard of excellence”.
We are currently at the beginning stages of the project where students must make important decisions about topics and goals. Each student has been assigned a faculty project supervisor to help guide and advise them with selecting topics and setting appropriately challenging goals. The project supervisor has an important role in monitoring student progress toward their goals and ensuring that students complete all the required work of the project.
Supervisors will meet with students at least three times during the span of the project and guide the student through completion of three elements - the product or outcome, the process journal, and the final report. Upon completion of all projects, supervisors will standardize assessment for the project and scores will be sent to the International Baccalaureate Organization for moderation.
In mid-march we will ask students to present their work in an exhibition for the Ogden International community. The exhibition also serves as an example of personal project ideas for our current freshmen as they will soon be asked to go through the same process beginning in the fall of 2018.
By Annamaria Castellucci Cabral
The IB Diploma Programme (DP) Visual Arts course is a two year program that develops the student’s analytical skills in problem-solving and divergent thinking. It encourages students to develop their confidence as art makers, as well as challenge their own creative and cultural expectations and boundaries. Students are expected to engage in, experiment with and critically reflect upon a wide range of contemporary practices and media. The course is designed for students who want to further develop their art skills and/or seek lifelong enrichment through visual arts. DP visual art is designed to develop the student into an independent and resourceful thinker.
The Ogden International High School has the benefit of being in a central location of the city which affords us the convenience of taking field trips at least once a year that supplement topics discussed in class such as the Chicago Imagists (Roger Brown Study Center), printmaking (Spudnik Press) or Scientific Illustration (Museum of Surgical Science). These invaluable opportunities not only extend far beyond the reach of the classroom but also give us the benefit of meeting, speaking and on occasion working with Chicago artists. Our visual art students have gone on to enroll in programs through Marwen, After School Matters, Gallery 37, IntuitTeens, Arte Vida and even intern with local artists like Tracee Badway.
The intention of this course is to encourage a love of the visual arts, a respect for the process and further develop a learning that pushes boundaries and ideas. This course, although fun, does entail a series of written comparative, sketchbook documentation, development of a theme and the expectation of developing a solid body of work upon the completion of the course. The course has some high expectations and it does require a good work ethic and strong commitment to completing assignments. The Visual Arts course is weighted just as heavily as all of the other Diploma Program courses and because of this, prepares the student for not only college level courses but a genuine appreciation and understanding of the arts.
The Diploma Programme aims to encourage students to be knowledgeable, inquiring, caring and compassionate, and to develop intercultural understanding, open-mindedness and the attitudes necessary to respect and evaluate a range of viewpoints. The Visual Arts course embodies this being cross curricular and tying into all of the other required course including Theory of Knowledge (TOK), advancing skills and finally, exploring rich cultural surroundings through field trips and/or internships.
This rigorous course that promotes art analysis, questioning and development concludes in a final senior exhibition which is also the class’ final culminating assessment. At Ogden International we celebrate the students’ two years of hard work by promoting the event and inviting the outside community to the exhibit. These students have been fortunate enough to showcase their work in the public exhibiting in venues such as SIP coffeehouse, West Town Public Library and Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art. This course and these students are truly amazing!
By Principal Michael Beyer, Ed.D., NBCT
Every now and then Ogden administration receives questions and concerns from parents about teachers’ grading practices. One common question asks why teachers have different grading practices, such as the frequency of when grades are entered in Gradebook, how many grades should be entered, and the weight of the grades.
Admittedly, we only have two local policies regarding grading practices at Ogden International. The first is the weighting. For example, in grades 6th-8th, formative assessments can count for no more than 35% of the final grade. Homework can only count for up to 10% or less, participation 5%, exams (or summative assessments) 20%, quizzes 10%, and projects 25%. The total is actually 105%, but this is because these are maximum amounts that can be assigned to each weight. However, this policy does not mean teachers must give, for example, quizzes. Teachers have a wide range of discretion in what they can assign and grade.
The second local policy is that Ogden teachers are required to enter in Gradebook at least one grade per student per subject/course every week. This is a low number of grades, considering many schools require three to four per week. Best practice suggest teachers should enter more than one grade per week, but in my experience, mandating more doesn’t change a teacher’s practice. When I was a teacher I had colleagues who would simply add fluff grades to achieve the quota. We want grades to mean something, and quotas won’t guarantee that.
Teachers at Ogden are also undergoing a transition. We have a small but dedicated core that are experimenting with criterion-based grading. This is similar to standards-based grading, but criterion is the IB parlance.
What is criterion-based grading? First, let’s understand the traditional way teachers have typically graded student assignments. On an assignment with ten questions, and the student answers eight correctly, this would translate to an 80%. On a ten-point scale that is the grade of a B. This is a simple way to grade, but it does not tell us if the student has mastered a skill or concept, because each of the ten questions might align to a different skill or concept. The student receiving this grade simply knows they answered 80% of the questions correctly. What does the grade tell them? Essentially, “Do better next time!” Not very useful.
Even if all ten questions align to one skill or standard, if the assignment entered into Gradebook is titled “Mice and Men Quiz”, or if the student is never told what skills and concepts are being assessed, again, the student won’t know what they need to do better next time.
Sports are a good analogy to compare best practices. Imagine if a baseball batter has an average of .250. Every fourth at-bat they get a hit. They want to improve their hitting, but how? All the batting average tells them is what the end-result is, not what is causing this result. An effective batting coach, like a teacher, will give the batter feedback on their swing, stance, and dozens of other factors. Each factor could be individually assessed and graded. The batter then knows they have to focus more on their stance, whereas their swing might not need additional attention. That is criterion-based grading.
With criterion-based grading the students are informed of the skills and concepts they have to master, ideally at the start of the unit. Students receive a rubric that describes what is required to show mastery of the criterion. The teacher, maybe with the help of the student, grades the assignment using the rubric. Lastly, the assignment is entered into Gradebook with a name such as “Compare and Contrasting Characters”, or “Solving variable equations”. The student and parents can then look at Gradebook and know specifically what skills and concepts the student needs to work on.
This is a significant transition that takes several years for a teacher to develop. It requires a lot of preparation and planning, along with a deep understanding of the content being taught and how to assess the content. If teachers are given different courses or grade levels to teach every other year, it isn’t likely they will develop this expertise.
Criterion-based grading is also a mind shift because students are given additional opportunities to demonstrate mastery of the criterion. With the traditional approach to grading, students have one shot at the assignment. Even if they demonstrate mastery of a skill or concept later in the semester, that earlier grade remains, typically preventing the student from achieving the highest grade possible.
As an example, imagine if a student began the school year in a world language course and did not know any of the language. The student struggles more than their classmates, and fails the first assessment. Then, the student improves their study habits, receives tutoring, and masters the world language at a level higher than all other students in the class. Unfortunately, their final grade will be lowered due to the earlier failure. With traditional grading, we have seen students give up because they know they can’t pass because of early failures. We have also seen students who know they can’t achieve an ‘A’, so they skate by, forced to be content with a ‘B’.
We want students to continue to learn and improve their skills, and criterion-based grading enables a growth mindset, whereas the traditional grading is a system of compliance and completion.
This is all to say that we are encouraging our teachers to experiment with criterion-based grading so they make this transition. Mandating the same grading practices will likely turn off many teachers and, while they might seem to comply on the surface, they won’t adopt the philosophy required for this new grading method.
Regardless of a teacher’s grading practices, there are three questions students and parents should ask about grades.
Is it fair? Does the student agree they deserve the grade? If not, has the student asked the teacher to explain why they received the grade? If the teacher can’t adequately explain in a manner that helps the student understand and agree the grade is fair, a parent-teacher conference might be warranted.
Does it inform? Grades aren’t simply measures of a student’s ability, they are also road marks indicating where they are in the course, and what they need to do to improve. If a student receives a grade and can’t explain how or why they need to improve, there is probably something missing in the grading process. Often it is the lack of a detailed rubric.
Is it timely? If a teacher grades an assignment long after the assignment was turned in, it is likely the student won’t remember what they did on the assignment, so it won’t mean as much if they received the grade within days of completion. Similarly, if a teacher enters critical grades a couple weeks before the end of the semester, the student is not given a chance to improve. This is difficult to rectify, since most teachers give end-of-unit tests, which can drastically affect grades for the better or worse. Yet, if the assessment is fair, it should align to how the student had already been performing. In other words, if a student has an average grade of a B in a course, but then fails the final test, were the assignments given throughout the course assessing the same skills and concepts on the test?
Grading is an imperfect science, but at Ogden International we are always here to help students and families understand how their child is learning, and how they can improve.
By Michael Beyer, Principal
I knew our city had a problem with the perception there is a 'lack' of quality schools when my son was barely one year old. That summer I was in our front yard, pruning our trumpet vine, when a neighbor stopped by. His wife was pregnant and he wanted to know what elementary schools I could recommend. He was thinking years ahead of us, as we did not start considering until the year before preschool. We would have been happy with our neighborhood option, but alas, all preschool spots went to high-needs students, mainly four-year-old children from families in poverty.
Our son is 8 years old now and we're already looking ahead to high school. Now and then my son asks if I could be his teacher, and I remind him that we probably wouldn't get along so well if that were the case, but that I would like to be his principal if he attends Ogden International High School.
I'm not worried about him, or his sister getting in to a selective enrollment high school (SEHS). While we won't discourage applying, we know there are plenty of excellent options besides SEHS in Chicago. Ogden International is one of the best options., and perhaps better than most of the SEHS.
The University of Chicago produces some of the most respected research on educational outcomes. Recently, they released reports that indicate, as The Atlantic asked after reading one report, "...what if the high-school rat race is largely for naught?"
The authors of a recent study on Selective Enrollment High Schools (SEHS) find some benefits, but they are not academic as GPA is often lower for students in SEHS and, "...when it comes to test scores, attending a SEHS has no statistically significant impact. Simply put, on average, these students would have performed well on tests with or without selective schools."
Crain's take on the report, "The core conclusion-that attendance at Payton, Jones, North Side or one of Chicago's other elite high schools is a bit of an academic placebo-is disturbing. But it makes a little more sense once you consider what I'll call the small-fish, big-pond syndrome."
Parents perceive SEHS as 'better' because they start with the 'better' students. But are these students learning? Apparently not as much as we think, if students perform just as well if not better at a non-SEHS. In many cases they are losing opportunity to learn and grow, because they could have taken more leadership roles at a non-SEHS. I often wonder if parents are pushing their students to attend a SEHS for the perception of education they might receive, or for the label that comes with being accepted to a SEHS?
There might be other detriments from attending a SEHS. While SEHS are culturally diverse, students aren't being exposed to a diverse range of academic abilities. What will happen when students who attend a SEHS enter college or the job market and have to collaborate with peers or supervise people who struggle academically? Will SEHS graduates be able to relate to these people? Or will they dismiss them as 'lesser' in the same manner we dismiss the schools that serve such students?
In another report, researchers conclude IB schools with Diploma Programmes offer more rigorous learning opportunities:
I encourage parents to be confident that your child or children will be all right. In a more positive twist of 'the apple doesn't fall far from the tree', your child will be fine because they are your child. If you didn't fail, they won't either, no matter what school they attend, or don't attend.
In the mean time, join Ogden International High School at our last Open house on November 30th by registering here: http://ogden.cps.edu/admissions.html
Consider all the options, and quit the rat race.
By Principal Michael Beyer, Head of East Campus Cara Kranz, and Head of West Campus Stacie Chana
Hopefully by now, everyone has received an email or message from CPS CEO Forrest Claypool and CEdO Dr. Janice Jackson, which stated in part,
“With emotions running high after the presidential election, we want to acknowledge the responsibility we all carry as members of the CPS community.
Regardless of political affiliation, every one of our staff and students has the right to a safe, welcoming school environment where they feel valued and respected. We are proud of our District’s diversity, and believe strongly that every student, regardless of race, ethnicity, background, sexual orientation, language, religion or culture has the right to reach their full potential.
Helping students process this week’s events is both a challenge and a responsibility, but we are confident that it can be done in a way that supports their growth. Remember that this election presents us with a unique learning opportunity - a chance to teach our children about democracy while reminding them how important it is to respect each other’s differences and unique perspectives. Shortly, school leaders should expect to receive additional resources to support school staff in this capacity.
This is a time to support each other, our students, and our broader community through what may be a difficult time.”
We as administration at Ogden International have also received emails from parents emphasizing their concerns about how the election has affected their children, and their relationships with other children in school.
At East Campus, parents were concerned about how children are talking about the election during lunch and recess. My own son came home one day asking if his mother would be deported because she is from New York. I was able to clear up that misconception, but it was still disturbing recognizing he might have temporarily harbored fears of losing his mother.
We also heard numerous concerns from teachers and students at our West Campus, where they had a mock election the day before the actual election. The majority voted for Clinton/Kane, while 14% voted for Trump/Pence. This shouldn’t be a surprise, since the main predictor of a person’s views are their parents’, and Ogden’s mock election results mimic the results for Chicago.
The day after the real election, many students at West Campus had emotional breakdowns, crying at the prospect of having family members deported, and others angry about the bigotry they perceived in the election rhetoric. Another problem arose because students openly debated the candidates’ positions, so people knew who voted for which candidate in the mock election. Several Trump/Pence supporters didn’t feel welcome as emotions ran high.
Fortunately our teachers intervened and led conversations about respecting all opinions and perspectives. I read a brief statement over the intercom also stating as much, hopefully setting an official tone to help tamp down emotions. Since then teachers have begun planning how to channel students’ emotions. They want to create a quilt to highlight the diversity and unity Ogden West has enjoyed in recent years. Students will be encouraged to take action in their IB personal projects and other studies so they attack the issues from an academic standpoint.
As an IB school, Ogden International embraces the opportunity to take any real life issue or event and turn it into a learning experience, and we hope our parents embrace this opportunity, as well. We also hope our parents embrace these opportunities to learn and grow. This year we have SEED offered to parents and teachers. Although this cycle of SEED has already begun, we will be offering it again later in the year or next school year. We are taking intentional efforts at both campuses to celebrate diversity and inclusiveness. In fact, faculty at West have begun a Diversity Integration Team, which will eventually grow to the East Campus, as well.
The concepts of inclusion and respect for all opinions are built into the philosophy of IB, and we invite you to join us in our quest to improve how we welcome and embrace families of all types at Ogden International. If you are interested in helping our efforts, please contact administration with your ideas on how to improve Ogden.
This blog has contributions from a variety of faculty and staff at Ogden International.
Principal: Dr. Michael S. Beyer
Heads of Schools
East Campus: Cara Kranz
West Campus: Dr. Stacie Chana