Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Class Objectives

As faculty members at Sorenson’s Ranch School we are working on revising the written objectives for each course we offer. We start by reviewing the state core standards for each content area and then add what we think is appropriate for our typical students. We know that we work with a unique group of students, and our goal is to provide the best educational experience possible for each one. Our class objectives will be based on state requirements and our experience with students of the past, as well as best practices for students who have or probably should have an IEP for some accommodations in their education. Our class objectives will help us consistently cover important information on each topic, and be flexible enough to meet the needs of our diverse students. We use a variety of instructional strategies and assessments allowing our students to demonstrate proficiency in different ways. One method we use for assessment is portfolios, which allows students to collect samples of proficient work under the direction of their teacher. Class objectives are important because they drive all of the components of the educational process. We teach our students the things we want them to know, we assess what they are learning through both formative and summative strategies, and we evaluate ourselves all based on our objectives. We use the information we gather to plan, modify, and assess future instruction. Deciding what we want our students to remember from all of the information covered helps us to organize our efforts, and it helps our students with retention of the information. Most of our students struggle with retention of information. By organizing and constantly assessing, we are able to help our students with these types of issues. We realize that having objectives is not a guarantee of performance or learning, but as I mentioned before, it serves to organize the process. There are a lot of things covered in every class at Sorenson’s Ranch School, enough to overwhelm the average student. Taking the time to create and organize what we want our students to learn during the time that we get to work with them helps us to better serve their needs.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Technology in Education

Computer Technology is an important part of classroom instruction. It is something that is more and more a part of the workplace that we are preparing our students to enter. However, there is a false assumption in education that more advanced technology in the classroom will somehow equate to better learning outcomes. There is no substitute for a good teacher in the educational process. There are many computer-related skills that can be taught to students to prepare them for the workplace. Among these are basic computer concepts, typing, word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. At Sorenson’s Ranch School, students are taught typing in middle school classes, and the remainder in a high-school computer technology class. This requirement for graduation is not all that students need to know with regard to computer technology, but it gives them most of the basics on what employers will be looking for in a career-track position. (Donaldson) For purposes of the program at Sorenson’s Ranch School, the students are not allowed to access the internet, except to complete online college courses from BYU Independent Study. Each internet address the students are allowed to access must first be approved by the administrator of the computer network. Social networking sites are strictly prohibited from access. In addition, the students are not allowed to use email. Parents of Sorenson’s Ranch School students can email the school which can then be passed on to the students, but students must write letters to their parents if they want to send mail. The computer technology course I teach here at Sorenson’s Ranch School includes a chapter on information technology essentials, in which students learn the basics of computer hardware and software. There is also a section of the course that allows students that have no personal computer experience the opportunity to learn how the Windows 7 operating system works. The remainder of the course teaches students the Microsoft Office Suite of software. This gives the students the experience and skill development in word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations that employers are looking for in their human resources. (Donaldson) The students use each of these programs individually, which is important. Then they are allowed the opportunity to integrate the programs to be able to put objects from Word, or Excel into a Power Point presentation, for example. This integration is a level above what the basic education in the Microsoft Office Suite includes. This should make success in the workplace or at the university level an easy transition for students. Some legislators have proposed introduction of tablets, or other technology into the hands of every student. This is a course that has a high cost, but results are mixed. At Sorenson’s Ranch School, the technology is kept in the classroom, and learning about technology is structured. When students return home, they are able to have parents guide them through emails, internet usage, and social media. The basics are taught at Sorenson’s Ranch School to give students the skills needed to succeed in the workplace when they are finished with their academic studies. Works Cited Donaldson, C. (n.d.). The Top Ten Tech Skills Your Child Needs Now. Retrieved 2 20, 2015, from

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

TABE Adaptive Testing at Sorenson's Ranch School

One of the principal aims of the accreditation process is identifying with some clarity the strengths and weaknesses of the school being evaluated for accreditation. Areas of strength are identified as “powerful practices” and commended in the final report. Areas needing improvement are also identified so that efforts toward school improvement can be focused and effective. Corrective measures aimed at improvement in those areas must be addressed in a report to the accreditation commission via AdvancED twenty four months after the date of the school evaluation. The primary area of focus for Sorenson’s Ranch School during this accreditation cycle is the establishment of a comprehensive assessment system which will allow us to quantify, to a much greater degree than we ever have, the progress that students make academically while they are with us. As one component of this goal, we have instituted semi-annual testing of the entire student body using TABE Adaptive. TABE stands for Test of Adult Basic Education. For years TABE has been a very reliable and widely used instrument for assessing academic achievement in adult education programs across the nation. Due to increased demand for a reliable test that could be used for students aged twelve to eighteen, the developers of TABE, McGraw-Hill, normed a version of the test for use with this younger population. In addition, the test was formatted for administration on-line, and TABE Adaptive was born. The word “adaptive” in the title indicates that the on-line test adjusts future questions based on the responses given by the student. For example, if a student misses two questions in a row, the testing software will make next question easier. If a student continues to get correct answers, the software will increase the difficulty of the ensuing questions until the student answers incorrectly. Through this process of making the questions harder or easier based on student performance, the grade level equivalent of the test subject can be more accurately determined than was ever possible with a paper-and-pencil test. TABE Adaptive results are given as a scaled score and as a grade equivalent (GE) score. Scaled scores are useful for comparison to previous and subsequent test administrations, but do not mean much in isolation. GE scores are also useful for comparison, but because they indicate a grade level, they are also instructive when used alone. For example, a student may earn a GE score of 9.2 which indicates that the student’s performance is equal to what would be expected from an average student in the second month of the ninth grade. Students are tested on reading, language usage, mathematics computation, and applied mathematics. A score is computed for each subtest, and a composite score is computed for total math and the entire battery. The bottom line for SRS is that we now have a highly accurate way to determine the academic performance of our students when they arrive and at sixth month intervals while they attend our school. New arrivals are given TABE Adaptive within about a month of their arrival and are then tested with the rest of the students every March and September until they discharge from our facility. We will use the data generated from testing to adjust our curriculum and teaching practices to better serve our students’ needs.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Developing Critical Thinking Skills

As students prepare to leave Sorenson's Ranch School, they will enter a world of complexity and change. Some students will go on to enroll in higher education and some students will be on their own, lacking outside support. These students will most likely work in several different career areas and hold many different jobs. Some of our many goals at Sorenson's Ranch are to help the student to develop a base of knowledge and to acquire the skills they need to solve complex problems and make difficult decisions. We try to help instill in them critical thinking skills. Critical thinking means that the student is progressing beyond memorizing or temporarily recalling information. It requires them to apply what they know about the subject matter for a particular problem. It also requires them to use common sense and experience during the process. Creative thinking is required during problem solving to discover all the reasonable choices, consequences and supporting arguments. During this process, out of the ordinary ideas and views outside the obvious are sough out. As we teach critical thinking in the classroom, it can be accomplished with basic activities. Some of these activities such as debating group discussions have been very useful and a great way to engage students in thinking critically when making decisions that will affect their futures. It is our goal at Sorenson's Ranch School to develop as many skills as possible to enable our students in making positive decisions and helping them to experience success.