Cambridge College Section 11a course Syllabus Part I – Course Outline Department Name: Education Program

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Cambridge College

Section 11A - Course Syllabus

Part I – Course Outline
Department Name: Education
Program: Boston Public Schools and Strategic Education Research Partnership
Course Number and Title: Leading for Rigorous Instruction
Instructors: Judith Blanco and Michelle Forman
Course Dates: October 24-March 27 (3 credits)

Class Seminar Schedule




October 24, 2012


3:00 PM – 6:00 PM

November 7, 2012


3:00 PM – 6:00 PM

November 28, 2012


3:00 PM – 6:00 PM

December 12, 2012


3:00 PM – 6:00 PM

December 19, 2012


3:00 PM – 6:00 PM

January 9, 2013


3:00 PM – 6:00 PM

January 30, 2013


3:00 PM – 6:00 PM

February 13, 2013


3:00 PM – 6:00 PM

March 6, 2013


3:00 PM – 6:00 PM

March 27, 2013


3:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Class Seminar Location

Office of High School Support

Madison Park Technical Vocational High School

75 Malcolm X Boulevard

Roxbury, Ma. 02120

Green Tile Area

Course Catalog Description:

Course Outline


The working definition of academic rigor in the Boston Public Schools is helping students develop the capacity to understand content that is complex, ambiguous, thought-provoking, and personally or emotionally challenging. Rigor can be indentified in three areas: content, instruction, and assessment. In Boston Public High Schools, a complete rigorous learning experience must include: high expectations, high relevance, and appropriate support. The combination of these three components must be found in every lesson, in every classroom, of every school. Only then will we realize higher student engagement and learning across ALL Boston Public High Schools.

Improving academic rigor is an articulated goal in Boston, but what does “rigor” actually mean? What, exactly, does it look like in the classroom? Does it look the same across content areas? What concrete pedagogical moves will help teachers increase rigor in their classrooms, and what are the perceived risks involved with raising the level of academic task and expectation in the classroom? What supports do teachers need from principals in learning how to increase rigor in their classrooms? In this course, we will come, over time, to an understanding of how quantitative and qualitative information about student learning can be used to make evidence-based decisions that lead to higher student engagement, high level learning and growth.

The high quality evidence-based decisions that teachers will be able to make will enable them to address the following goals and targets from the Superintendent’s Acceleration Agenda:


  • Ensure all students achieve MCAS proficiency

  • Close access and achievement gaps

  • Graduate all students from high school prepared for college completion and career success


  • English Language Learners acquire academic language mastery and fluency

  • Significant academic growth for students with disabilities

  • “On-track” to graduate by the end of Grade 10

  • High school graduation

  • College-ready and success-bound

The key strategy to achieve these goals is to provide powerful, ongoing, embedded and collaborative professional development for identified teacher leaders to strengthen teaching practice and distributed leadership across schools and district.

Course Content and Design:

Teacher leaders from Boston high schools will explore this concept of academic rigor and lead a cycle of inquiry in their own school setting. Simultaneously, headmasters will be engaged in like inquiry in high school district Professional Learning Sessions to foster a sense of school and district cohesion. Participants will attend and support three district instructional rounds for cross-school learning. Leading for Rigorous Instructional Decision Making will include a series of seminars, triad instructional rounds, and one departmental instructional round. Embedded in the inquiry will be a focus on an Information Decision Assess Progress Next Step process, as well as the protocols useful for effective facilitation. The ultimate goal of the inquiry is to bring to scale a common understanding of what academic rigor looks like in classrooms, teams and schools, as well as to establish sound research practices across all high schools in the district.

Course Requirements:

Major Assignments:

Course Binder:

Binders will include:

  • Agenda and minutes from team meetings at home school site

  • Summary findings of student assessment/student work that contribute to new understandings of academic rigor.

  • Summary findings on instructional rounds that demonstrate new understandings of academic rigor.

  • Team action plan based on student assessments and instructional rounds, with next steps that demonstrate new understanding of academic rigor.

Reflections: Participants will write reflections based on readings or observations of classroom practice during the course. These reflections will include a description of their reading or observation process, initial understandings, questions and response, and impact on small group discussions. All reflections should be word processed and double-spaced. Reflections will be evaluated on the basis of content, analysis, self-reflection and critique, development of ideas, and overall cohesion.

Culminating Class Product: The class will collaborate to design a synthesis of course learning that will contribute to rigorous instructional practices in the district.
Required Readings:

Selected Chapters and texts will be provided:

Instructional Rounds in Education: A Network Approach to Improving Teaching and Learning by Instructional Rounds in Education: A Network Approach to Improving Teaching and LearningElizabeth A. City, Richard F. Elmore, Sarah E. Fiarman, and Lee Teitel

The Power of Protocols: An Educator's Guide to Better Practice by: McDonald, Joseph P.

How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School by: Committee on Developments in the Science

Classroom Assessment: What Teachers Need to Know by W. James Popham (2010)
Rigor Redefined by Tony Wagner (Educational Leadership, October 2008)

Living the Questions: A Guide for Teacher-Researchers by Ruth Hubbard and Brenda Power (1999)
Excellence for All by Robert J Sternberg (Educational Leadership, October 2008)
How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms
by: Tomlinson, Carol Ann
A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Abridged Edition
by: Anderson, Lorin W.
Recommended Readings:

  • Results Now by Mike Schomker,

    • Part II. Literacy Education: The Greatest Opportunity of All

    • Part III. Learning and Leading in the Professional Learning Community

  • Classroom Assessment: What Teachers Need to Know by: Popham, W. James

  • Ahead of the Curve: The Power of Assessment to Transform Teaching and Learning by: Reeves, Douglas B.

  • Transformative Assessment by: Popham, W. James

  • Test Better, Teach Better: The Instructional Role of Assessment

by: Popham, W. James

  • Differentiated Instructional Strategies for Writing in the Content Areas
    by: Chapman, Carolyn

  • Integrating Differentiated Instruction and Understanding by Design: Connecting Content and Kids by: Tomlinson, Carol A.

  • Differentiation in Action: A Complete Resource with Research-Supported Strategies to Help You Plan and Organize Differentiated Instruction
    by: Dodge, Judith

  • Disciplining the Mind by Veronica Boix Mansilla and Howard Gardner (Educational Leadership, February 2008)

  • Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchhart and David Perkins (Educational Leadership, February 2008)

  • Understanding by Design by McTighe and Wiggins

  • Professional Learning Communities at Work by Richard DuFour and Robert Eaker

  • The Skillful Teacher by Jon Saphier and Robert Gower

  • Videos of classroom practice and student demonstrations (WestEd Series)

Outcomes of the Course:

Course Objectives

Participating Teacher Leaders will:

  • Deepen their understanding of classroom practices that guide and support complex student thinking around specific content.

  • Learn how to effectively design, collect, analyze and utilize student assessments/work and classroom data (Instructional Rounds) to advance student achievement.

  • Gain practice in facilitating a community that engages in a continuous cycle of inquiry utilizing new knowledge of student learning around identified instructional problems and measuring progress

  • Grow in their capacity to share inquiry processes and findings with colleagues.

Knowledge Outcomes:

Knowledge, Skill and Attitudinal Outcomes:

  • Teacher leaders will be able to use instructional techniques and tools to appropriately scaffold student learning that allows for a gradual release of responsibility.

  • Teacher leaders will be able to design and implement standards-based lessons focused on essential questions that elicit and promote development of complex student thinking.

  • Teacher leaders will be able to guide their departments in an ongoing cycle of inquiry that includes Instructional Rounds, analysis of student assessments/work samples as well as identification of next steps.

  • Teacher leaders will know how to effectively communicate what they have learned in Academic Rigor Seminars to help identify instructional problems and possible next steps for their department.

  • Teacher leaders will be able to facilitate Departmental Instructional Rounds and School Triad Instructional Rounds and to use findings to identify possible next steps for their school and department.

Contact Information:


Judith Blanco

Office of High School Support

Madison Park Technical Vocational High School

75 Malcolm X Boulevard

Roxbury, Ma. 02120

Tel: 617-838-6576


Michelle Forman

SERP Institute

14 Appian Way

Cambridge, MA 02138

Tel: 617-495-7661



Section 504 and the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 offer guidelines for curriculum modifications and adaptations for students with documented disabilities. If applicable, students may obtain adaptation recommendations from the Ross Center (287-7430). Student must present and discuss the recommendations with each professor within a reasonable period, preferably by the end of the drop-add period. Students are required to adhere to the code of student conduct, including requirements for academic honesty, delineated in the University of Massachusetts Boston Graduate Studies Bulletin, Undergraduate Catalog and relevant program student handbook(s).

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