ARLINGTON, VA — January 6, 2010 — The Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) Combined Task Groups met December 7-11, 2009 in Southbridge, Mass., to discuss their work and findings to date regarding a variety of curriculum and program topics currently under review.
DoDEA’s Task Group Initiative began in School Year 2008-2009 with the establishment of seven different task groups to examine Assessment, PreK-12 Literacy, PreK-12 Mathematics, Professional Development: Administrator Performance Appraisal, Professional Development: Data-Driven Decision Making for Differentiated Instruction, Professional Technical Studies, and the Virtual School programs. Three new Task Groups were launched at the beginning of School Year 2009-2010 to review 21st Century Skills, Early Childhood Education (ECE), and Middle Level Education.
The task group participants meet several times throughout the school year and represent a cross section of educators, administrators, and association representatives from all levels of DoDEA. In keeping with DoDEA’s intent to maximize Task Group representation at the classroom-level, more than 80% of each task group is composed of teachers. The task groups in each topic area are charged with a variety of duties including reviewing data, current issues and program evaluations, and student achievement.
Following their reviews, Task Groups make recommendations to the DoDEA Director and Deputy Director for improvement, modifications, or the elimination of programs. Task groups meet until their activities are completed and in some cases this may span several years.
“The recommendations of DoDEA’s task groups will `chart the course’ for the future of education across DoDEA,” said Charlie Toth, DoDEA’s Principal Deputy Director and Associate Director for Education. “Our Task Groups’ natural progression of study and review under the premise of Kaizen, or continuous improvement, helps us to ensure we deliver an educational experience for our students to ensure progress, success, and highest achievement.”
During last month’s meeting, members of the seven Task Groups established in School Year 2008-2009 met to polish final recommendations and action plans and, in some cases, finish developing additional recommendations for consideration by DoDEA leaders. Task Group participants also emphasized developing connectivity across all groups with a major “Crosswalk” activity that enabled all the groups to discuss how the individual group tasks and recommendations intersected and supported the systemic DoDEA focus.
Also covered during the meeting were the final recommendations of the first task groups convened at DoDEA prior to School Year 2008-2009, the High School Counseling Task Group and the Advanced Placement task Group. Summaries of those recommendations are attached to this release.
The meeting in Southbridge offered an opportunity for members of the 21st Century Skills, Early Childhood Education, and Middle Level Education Task Groups to meet for the first time. The first meeting for any new task groups focuses primarily on understanding the breadth and complexity of the issues the groups are exploring. Since members of all task groups were selected to represent their areas, much of the discussion in the new groups focused on the diversity and variability of schools and districts across DoDEA.
The new Task Groups will focus on:
- 21st Century Skills: defining 21st Century skills for DoDEA and develop action plans for the integration of these skills into education, operations and communications.
- Early Childhood Education: establishing consistency and accountability in ECE practices which promote young children’s optimal learning, development, and achievement.
- Middle Level Education: developing a systemic middle level philosophy and curriculum, decide what constitutes “successful middle level schools,” and identify how to make it happen across DoDEA.
Members of these groups reported good progress on their tasks, lively and impassioned discussions, and positive feelings about movement into the next phase of their mission.
Mark Bignell, Chair of the 21st Century Skills Task Force echoed these sentiments.
“The 21st Century Skills Task Group spent its time analyzing current theoretical frameworks for this issue, Bignell said. This activity was at times as intense as it was exhilarating. We found ourselves having to take a “collective breath” to stop and reflect on the magnitude of this charge.”
According to Bignell, his group will continue its work in February by examining the domestic and international working models for 21st Century education.
A large part of DoDEA’s student population is enrolled in its Early Childhood Education Program. Lori Pickel, DoDEA’s Early Childhood Education Coordinator and leader of the ECE Task Group, explained the importance of this group’s work and reported on its initial meeting.
“Early Childhood Education (ECE), grades PK-3, is the first tier of education in DoDEA,” said Pickel. “ECE is not a program or a curriculum, but rather, a way of thinking that is based in knowledge and research about how young children learn. Currently, 45% of DoDEA’s student populations reside in ECE classrooms. It is essential that DoDEA provide a strong developmentally appropriate base for our children to begin their educational journeys.” She explained.
“During the initial meeting, the group reviewed current DoDEA ECE programs, analyzed and discussed DoDEA student achievement data, examined assessment and progress reporting practices, and identified next steps,” Pickel said.
Mary Zimmerman-Bayer, Principal, Lakenheath Middle School and Chair for the Middle Level Education Task Group, also commented on her group’s first meeting and discussions.
“The task group is an exceptional group of creative and analytical middle level professionals who are dedicated to making our world class system even better for our young adolescents,” she said. “Last week, our “Middle Level Task Group focused on identifying multiple issues that affect more than 17,000 students in grades 6, 7 and 8 throughout DoDEA.
“So far, we have discovered 16 configurations of students at these grade levels in DoDEA, and a variety of delivery models,” Zimmerman-Bayer went on to say. “We are evaluating data and examining performance levels to improve academic and social excellence for all students.”
DoDEA’s Task Groups will continue their work in another meeting scheduled for late winter.
DoDEA directs, coordinates, and manages the education programs for Department of Defense (DoD) dependents who would otherwise not have access to a high-quality public education. DoDEA consists of the Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDDS) located overseas, and the Department of Defense Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools (DDESS) located in the United States and its territories and possessions. DoDEA provides education to eligible DoD military and civilian dependents from pre-kindergarten through12th grade.