Friday, November 14, 2008

How Do I Motivate My Students?

One of the best ways to make sure your students improve in any area is to measure their performance. Since you are looking to increase their MVPA levels during the week for your GRPA data submission, why not hold a contest? But how do you successfully roll out a contest that is fair and does not promote unhealthy competition between students? There are several strategies to achieve this goal, but I will discuss one that has been show to be effective in the districts that I work with. Several great ideas came out of trainings that I recently held at Harlan County Schools and Mercer County Schools. Both districts are in Kentucky but are very different in their approach to PE. One district relies on classroom teachers to deliver PE while the other has PE Instructors at all levels within the district. These ideas will work for both groups.

There are several rules you should follow when putting a contest together. We have found that when you follow these rules, your contest will promote the behavior you are looking to improve and create healthy competition. Those rules are:

1. Easily measured behavior. Whatever you are measuring, be it MVPA minutes per week, steps, performance in fitness test items, make the indicator easy for your students to measure. Try and select criteria that do not require specialized equipment to measure. One example is a teacher who has students report their physical activity minutes as part of a fitness journal. The students then sum up their minutes for the week and report back to the teacher.

2. Group competition instead of individual competition. While you can reward individuals as part of a group competition, the best approach to create a supportive environment and cooperative behavior is to put your students into groups. Organize them according to fair criteria and have them compete against other groups of similar ability. You should post results according to groups and not single out any individuals. Encourage groups to support each other throughout the competition.

3. Set clear criteria. One of the best competitions is to measure the percentage of students in a group who achieve a particular goal. The winner of the contest would be the group with the highest percentage. Make sure your students understand how they will be measured and what is acceptable. Consider posting the rules of the contest where they are accessible.

4. Reward positive behavior. Set your reward before you start your contest and try to spread the wealth around. While your budgets may be small, there are ways to increase the reach of your dollar. Talk with current suppliers to have them help you through discounts or free product. Talk with area merchants so they extend you discounts and possibly provide product at cost.

5. Constantly remind and promote. Have your entire school get involved. Involve classroom teachers and the administration. Have reminders placed in daily announcements. Speak with the staff of the entire school before your contest begins to get their buy-in and support. When you see your students, provide encouragement, especially to those students and groups that are lagging behind.

There are several contests that we have see run effectively. They have made significant improvements in the performance criteria that are being measured. You know your students and what motivates them. A well run contest doesn’t have to include high dollar prizes as a reward. Your attitude and the support you receive from the rest of your school can make a contest wildly successful.

President's Challenge Fitness is Fun

One great resource that is published each month by the people at the President's Challenge is the newletter titled Fitness is Fun. If you would like to access this free resource, click HERE. This information is a great all-around resource that can give you ideas of what other professionals in the field of PE are doing to make improvments in their program.

Monday, November 10, 2008

It is All About the Timelines...

You have heard in elections that “It is All about the Economy Stupid.” Fortunately in our industry the economy has very little to do with grant implementation. However, successful grant implementation and evaluation has everything to do with proper planning – planning of what you will do and almost as important, the timeline to support that plan.

You may look at a district that has successfully implemented their grant and think, “Wow, they must know something I don’t,” or “They must have access to tools that I don’t.” In both cases, you would be wrong. Their personnel are no more talented, skilled, or committed to proper grant implementation that you are. They most likely do not have access to armies of personnel to help them in their efforts. What they do have that you may not is a detailed strategy for implementation of their project.

I have discussed putting together a detailed implementation plan in the past. I will focus instead in this article on the actual timeline and how you should put your first one together.

First you need to evaluate your evaluation needs. Start your assessment process as soon as you can. Evaluate your students, teachers, and process as required by your project. Set clear dates for when you want to conduct the pre and the post-test so that you can plan the rest of your schedule around those dates. Optimally, you will conduct your pre-tests before you begin the actual modifications to curriculum, introduce staff development, and purchase new equipment.

Next, look at your equipment orders. When can your suppliers get you the equipment that you need. Your equipment needs to arrive before the supporting staff development sessions and curriculum introduction. I have clients who have tried to reverse this order and it is less than effective.

Shortly thereafter, plan the dates for your staff development sessions. You most likely scheduled release time for your teachers, so getting this on to the schedule will be dependent on your district process and the amount of lead time they require to schedule substitutes. Make sure you do the paperwork and get the subs scheduled. Send a email to the building principal letting them know the sessions are required if they would like to receive the mountains of equipment that you have purchased. 99.9% of principals will comply. A quick call to your superintendent will make sure that the late bloomers do.

This is the majority of the timeline. Now it is time to start to fill in the gaps. Make sure you set deadlines for your PE Instructors of when you require student test results. Provide clear expectations to your PE Instructors and they will know what your expectations are. How to motivate them to do so will be the subject of the next post.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I Have So Much to Do...

I just finished giving a day of training to one of the clients that we have and one topic kept coming up – teacher schedules. I know how busy the average or, in this case, the above average teacher is. Put on top of that the fact that you as your district Project Director have to manage the grant implementation and evaluation. What is the average superhero Project Director to do? Sacrifice weekends and holidays to enter data? Stay up night to be able to meet the deadlines that you have committed to?

I think I may have the answer. What you need to do is sit down and decide where you are in the process and what you need to do to complete your implementation and subsequently, your evaluation. Then bite off what you can. Remember that the one requirement you have with the DoEd is to submit your MVPA data. The rest of the implementation can wait.

I know this goes contrary to what you have been told. However, you can only do so much. You need to make sure you prioritize your task list and complete selected items on time. More than likely your grant is a three year implementation, so put portions of the implementation off until the second or third year. Determine that you would classify as “non-essential” and make those activities wait.

If you need help, you can also contact other Project Directors in your area. If you don’t have the time or the budget to pay them, contact me and I will either give you a hand myself or put you in contact with someone else who can. You should make sure you lean on the expertise of other people who can help you lighten your load.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Data Tracking at its Finest

So a big part of your PEP grant was agreeing to report back to the Department of Education the number of minutes of MVPA that the students of your district are able to achieve during four separate weeks. Many districts do not have a reliable platform that enables them to collect or report this required data. The time to figure that out is before you submit your grant. If for whatever reason you have not, don’t panic – there is help. Let’s start from the beginning.

MVPA is defined a Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity. Most experts agree that a person is demonstrating MVPA when they are expending more energy than is required to walk at a normal pace. The difference between moderate and vigorous is demonstrated by an individual who is engaged in exercise and their ability to carry on a conversation. If a person is in the category of “vigorous”, then they should not be able to carry on a normal conversation.

Dr. McKenzie of San Diego State University developed an evaluation tool called SOFIT to determine through classroom observation what level of activity students are engaged in. While many districts use this tool to determine the change of the level of activity in PE classes and the impact of the introduction of their PEP programs, this alone is not acceptable to the Department of Education as evidence of MVPA minutes in students. Classroom observation alone is inadequate for MVPA reporting. As a PEP recipient, you have to be more aggressive than that.

You need a log for your students to utilize to record their minutes of physical activity in a given week. Self-reporting has been shown to not be the most effective strategy, especially in younger students. However, it seems from my experience to be exactly what the Department of Education wants you to use. Our districts have been using self-reporting for about five years now and we have never had a problem with the submitted data.

Which platform should you use for student self-reporting? In studies I have reviewed, the closer to the incident, the more accurate the data that is reported. Some of my districts use online tools for their students. Others have technology grants to provide laptops for all of their students and they use supporting software. Most districts I work with end up using a Fitness Journal of sorts to help students plan physical activity sessions and to track MVPA.

As a Project Director, you have the flexibility to create a Fitness Journal for your students. The profile of the typical Project Director is a PE Instructor who cares deeply about their students and their craft. Most do not have the time to create a tool from scratch, collect the data from students, and report that data back to the Department of Education.

To this end, AFS has published My Fitness Journal, a self-reporting platform for students in grades 4-12. This tool takes your students through a progression, which starts with a fitness assessment and pre-test. From there they set specific goals to improve their performance in the tests, plan physical activities that will make the required improvements, track their activity sessions, and conduct a fitness post-test using the same evaluation criteria. After gathering their results, they are able to conduct an analysis of why they met or did not meet their goals. Students track all of this data in the Appendix of the book.

My Fitness Journal was developed to be an economical platform for teachers who have received a PEP grant. AFS also provides staff development sessions, an Instructor Manual, and evaluation follow-up to your district. We will hold your hand through the entire process if that is what you want and or need.

There are very few options for tracking MVPA that meet the expectations of the Department of Education. To see a pdf of the first several pages of the manual, please email us and we will send you a pdf immediately. Remember that your evaluation is due mid April, so don’t procrastinate. Make sure you receive approval for the continuation of your funding by submitting quality data to the Department of Education on time.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What? You Have Hit Some Snags in Implementation?

Don't worry -- this happens to every PEP program that has been implemented since the beginning of the program. Regardless of your level of planning, something is bound to come up that will delay the rollout of your program. There are several different challenges that may arise. How long they delay you depends on your attitude and ability to work through challenges. Here are some of the more common delays that we have encountered in our exeprience of working with school districts across the country.
  • Curriculum -- The more successful PEP programs will implement or work with a well established PE curriculum. There are several to choose from, but the best PE curriculums will be research-based. If you have not selected a specific curriculum to work from, examine your Project Goals and search for a curriculum that will meet those needs. If you are totally lost, email me and I will provide you with information on several programs and will guide you through the proccess.

  • Equipment -- If you do not know what type of curriculum you will be using, stop right here. Do not order curriculum before you know what type of equipment the curriculum requires and will support. Work with a company that will support their equipment after the sale via warranties. Don't be afraid to ask for a discount.

  • Staff Development -- Meet with your PE instructors often. Outside of the professional development sessions for your curriculum, talk with your personnel about implementation and involve them in the rollout if you have not done so yet. Make sure you solicit their input and more importantly, USE IT!

  • Evaluation -- If there were four pillars of a successful PEP grant, the evaluation would be the fourth pillar. Work with an outside partner on your evaluation. This component will take the majority of your time. Review your Project Objectives and meet with potential evaluators. Clearly outline your expectations and when you decide who to use, sign a contract with specific measures and deadlines. I find that most projects can be evaluated for under $25,000.00 per year. If you need suggestions in this area, email me and I will put you in contact with some of the better candidates.

Without fail, every year I see districts that for whatever reason are unable to implement the program that they proposed as part of their PEP grant package and they need to change direction. While the ethics of this can be debated ad nauseum, it is reality. Contact me if you would like some help finding a direction and hitting the ground running.

Monday, October 27, 2008

PEP GRPA Requirements

For the last couple of years, the DoEd has required that districts submit the total number of students who are meeting the recommended minimums for suggested minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA). The recommended weekly levels are 150 minutes per week grades K-6 and 225 minutes per week grades 7-12. Along with all of the other process and product measures that a district has to track, MVPA is one of the more time consuming items to track. Simple classroom observation and guesstimates are not acceptable to the DoEd. Your students are required to track their actual number of MVPA minutes per week on four different occasions during the school year. This measure can consume you and your time unless you plan the data collection correctly.

AFS has developed a program that is designed to help students grades 4-12 to track their minutes of MVPA for four weeks during the school year. Our program is designed to provide students with the structure to track not only their MVPA minutes, but it also helps them do much more.

The program starts with the student recording their results from a fitness pre-test. We suggest you use the Presidential Fitness Test protocol. You then walk your students through a process that helps them set goals for improvement, outline weekly activities to help students make improvements, and track their progress in meeting their goals. Students track all of their data in their Fitness Journal, a book that can be provided by AFS.

Our staff can also train your teachers in the delivery of the curriculum. We can also take the time to align the curriculum to your State Standards in PE. Finally, our staff can tabulate the data provided by your teachers. We will also help you in the preparation of your reports to the DoEd.

PEP Implementation Is Hard

Let's face it, districts that have received the PEP grant will tell you that the grant development process was tough, but the implementation portion is actually more difficult. Between the reporting process required by the Department of Education and the difficulty of working with the many vendors that approach you, it will absolutely consume your time. That is why we are putting this blog together.

Advanced Fitness Solutions (AFS) has worked with districts across the country to develop their grant package, implement the package once it is awarded, and assist in the evaluation of the resulting changes. We have been in business since 2001 and have helped more than 75 districts through the process. Our company has worked with some of the largest and smallest districts around -- our skill set covers any size of district.

We suggest you subscribe to this blog as we will regularly post tips to help you on your path. This blog will feature insight on things like dealing with vendors, scheduling staff devleopment sessions, curriculum and equipment suggestions, and evaluation assistance. This is a free resource and there is no quid pro quo expected. So, enjoy what we present!

If you would like some assistance in any of the areas listed, please email or call us and we will be happy to help you work through some of the challenges.