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Lea Ambion Mary Takle
University of Washington, Bothell
Part I - Introduction Evident in most classrooms is the overwhelming ratio of students to teachers which creates a lot of difficulty in ensuring that each student is receiving the appropriate amount of time for their learning. By providing more instructional support in the elementary classroom, a teacher’s workload becomes lightened with a volunteer, a parent, or college student who is seeking experience in the field. Schools with smaller class sizes report significant student learning increases. (Haimson,2000). With the current fiscal attitude in Washington State continuing to cut funds for education, it is unlikely that more teachers would be hired to help reduce class sizes in the near term. This project proposed linking volunteers and college students with classroom teachers in order to create a lower adult to student ratio. While this is not the same as reducing class size, we believe it can bring in some of the same benefits. One of the obvious benefits would be that students who were struggling could have additional assistance from the adult volunteer. This is one of the strategies employed in Finland, a nation whose students rank first in the world in Reading and Science tests. “A tactic used in virtually every lesson is the provision of an additional teacher who helps those who struggle in a particular subject. But the pupils are all kept in the same classroom, regardless of their ability in that particular subject” (Burridge, 2010.) This school change project proposes to provide a computer database for teachers to specify classes and or days where an additional adult could be useful in their classroom. It will also provide an easy way for volunteers from the school community, students from a nearby college, or even working professionals to view the needs and offer their time as a volunteer to fill the teacher’s request. Those selected to be in the classroom would have appropriate background checks and indicate a passion for sharing their knowledge with others. We believe the outcomes from this change model would be a smaller adult to student ratio, extra assistance provided to struggling/more advanced students, an improved classroom climate as students are able to receive more individualized instruction, expanded lesson plans, and increased flexibility in classroom organization as the teacher may be able to create different groupings of students. All of these outcomes would ultimately lead to an increase in student performance. Part II - Interviews Interview with DN - Para Educator (April 19, 2010) This interview was with a Para educator who frequently substitutes at her district’s junior and senior high schools in both short and long term substitute positions. As a substitute, she has seen many different learning situations, especially from the perspective of the low achiever or special needs student. When the model was presented to her, she expressed an overall approval of it. She agreed that it would be beneficial to have additional adult help in the classroom, especially if that help were not targeted to just one student, but to several. She felt that it would permit the teacher to make greater progress in meeting the needs of the learners
better. She thought that it would particularly helpful in science and math classes and with English Language Learners (ELL) students. As we discussed the implementation, she voiced some concerns. One of the things she has noticed as she has worked in multiple classrooms is that some teachers do not know how to use helpers well. She mentioned that teachers who are organized tend to be able to use extra helpers well. Unorganized teachers might really need the extra help, but unless they have something specific for the volunteer to do, the volunteer’s time can be wasted trying to figure out what to do. She also mentioned that there is a loss of valuable teacher time every time the teacher needs to explain an assignment to the volunteer. For this reason, she recommended that the program try to encourage volunteers to be consistent and to stick with the same classroom/teacher in order to be more productive and to help the volunteer build a good working relationship with the teacher. Another concern she pointed out was that volunteers need to pay careful attention to the students they are working with and not be too willing to give away the answer of do the work for the student. In her experience, high school students can sometimes try to take advantage of a new person by pretending to not understand something in order to not have to do the work. She thought that it might be good for volunteers who have net had prior experience working in the classroom to receive some instruction about how best to work with teens. She added that it is important for the volunteer to try to build a relationship with the students he or she works with and to not be afraid to interact with the students. Her final concern was the commitment level of the volunteers. She thought it would be very important for the volunteer to understand that they are making a serious commitment to help when they sign up. If a teacher has planned the classroom lesson around having the extra adult, then it would be essential that the adult show up and be ready to actively participate. Sometime volunteers can be inconsistent. Inconsistency on the part of the volunteer would negatively impact the program. Interview with KK - Middle School Math Teacher (April 20, 2010) This teacher thought the idea was an excellent one. He immediately wondered if it was something that could be implemented in his school as he would love to take advantage of it. He was able to think of several things that he could task a volunteer with, including working with small groups of struggling students to bring them up to standard. He did not see too many hurdles, but did mention that some teachers might be resistant to having another adult in their classroom. Some teachers can be self-conscious about their teaching and not want another person to observe them. He agreed that the program would be better received if participation were voluntary. He did wonder if his administration might pressure teachers into participation because of the overarching concern about closing the achievement gap. Teachers are expected to take any measure they can in order to close this gap, and having a program that adds volunteers might be something that the administration would see as a good tool to assist with closing the gap. He definitely preferred to have the same volunteer every time, but understood that might not be possible given the volunteers schedule. He would really like to have the volunteer consider making a regular commitment to a particular day/time.
He thought that there might be some issues associated with background screening and visitors on campus. He knows that every school handles this differently, so the volunteer would need to be briefed on the school’s policy and would be expected to comply with it. He was certain that there would be some computing hurdles to overcome. At his school, all computing decisions about software, programs and website access are made at the district level. There is much concern about protecting the system form virus attacks as well as keeping the students protected from inappropriate material. If a program were to be installed on a school’s computing system for teachers to have access to it, the district IT office would need to approve it. Interview with AS - Former Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) Board Member (April 29, 2010) AS thought the project was promising. She thought the PTSA would readily support it, but was not sure exactly how. Committee members were very rare in her experience and often it was the overworked PTSA board members who did everything. She thought that if there was a parent who really liked the idea, they might be willing to run the orientations. She also mentioned that the PTSA’s primary purpose is to fund raise. They would most likely support such a school project with funds. She was not so sure it would work in a high school or junior high due to the low level of parental involvement. She feels that most parents with kids in junior and high school are “burned out” and not so willing to help in the classroom. Her recommendation was to try it in an elementary school. When asked about how she thought the teachers would respond to such a tool, she initially thought they would really like it since they seem to want to connect with volunteers. She was concerned that some teachers would not like to use it if it was computer based. Some teachers have not learned to use computers very well because it is not required for them to do so. A new computer based system might be too challenging for some teachers. She also felt that most parents wouldn’t use a web based tool to sign up, but later qualified that to mean that she might not because she isn’t a strong user. She expressed concerns about how the volunteers would be filtered and screened. Interview with TM – a Junior High Teacher & Former School Principal, (May 1, 2101) TM listened carefully and was quite intrigued with the idea. His first response was to keep it simple as simple changes have a greater opportunity to get implemented and to be successful. He felt the project had a huge opportunity to flop. In order for it to be successful, it would need to get a buy in from the teachers. He recommended we present the idea in such a way as to make it perceived as helpful. He said we should talk to the teachers about their needs and how they could use the program. In his opinion, volunteers could be used effectively to help with one-on-one tutoring, leading a group activity while the teacher was working with a student or group of students, or helping students with special projects. TM mentioned that often the reality is that the volunteer helper is not truly helpful and the teacher ends up babysitting the helper. He recommended that there is a way to rate
and or black list someone. He also recommended providing a way for teachers to request a specific person. TM was adamant that this project should be modeled after substitute teacher system. Ideally it could be piggybacked with the existing substitute teacher database and that would make it easily accessible to the teachers. If not piggybacked, then it should somehow be on the district website so teachers can easily find it. The district already has forums via email and if it can be part of that it would have a greater chance of being used and sustained. In the Substitute Teacher signup a teacher can select who they want as a sub – if this idea were similar that would be a good thing. TM was certain that this idea will need to be run through the district technology person. Without that person’s support, there is no chance of getting this done. He felt that we should incorporate a community piece – through the PTSA signups during registration. Sell this as a vehicle for teacher and parents to connect. To sell this to the administration, we would need to make this community based. Principals are feeling pressured to link to the community more and more. If this tool would be able help the principal do that, he/she will most likely support it. TM recommended that I talk to human resources folks about how to screen people – clearance will be stored with the head secretary at the school. Whenever someone is scheduled to be in a school as a volunteer, be sure to email the administrator and head secretary. Principals care about who is on their campus on a regular basis. When we discussed the orientation needed for this project, TM felt that quarterly orientation would be more than frequent enough. In order to be successful, we will need a proactive person meeting with the department heads in order to sell this on the system. He recommended that we have the teachers predetermine dates they would like help and enter them early. Have some sort of drop down menu describing the need. He recommended we look at the classrooms in the coop programs to see how they use their parent volunteers and how do they work around confidentiality issues such as student disabilities. TM felt that the best place to pilot this would be at an elementary school. He felt that an elementary school PTSA might be very supportive. At the middle school level parents check out of their kid’s education and are not as involved. If the pilot were successful in an elementary school, it might be moved up to the middle school level as parents move up with their kids. Interview with SR - a public school student (April 19, 2010) This student is currently a sophomore at a public school located in the suburbs of Snohomish County. She stated that currently her classes are "really big" in the sense that there are not enough desks for each of the students. She stated that in order to accommodate those students without desks, chairs have to be brought in a placed at shared desks. She stated that her largest classes were typically her hardest classes such as AP European History, English and Honors Chemistry. I asked her to describe to me her perspective on the skill levels in her class, she stated that students are pretty separated in skill level however all the students communicate with each other. She specifically referenced her AP European History class by stating that all the students help each other because the teacher "teaches well but some students are slow" to pick up the material. Everyone has their fair share of questions in these classes.
The biggest issue she is having in class is in her Honors Chemistry class where she said that "she [her teacher] needs help or needs to go back to teaching" implying that the teacher needs to reassess her teaching methods. There used to be a lot of labs but lately they have been doing worksheets after the teacher lectures. She said that she enjoyed doing the labs and does not understand why lab time has been cut. It was mentioned that there is a student in class who is constantly ignored because she constantly have questions. I mentioned to her the proposed change in classroom by adding another adult in the classroom and she did not seem incredibly enthusiastic about the change but also did realize the some teachers may benefit from it (like her Honors Chemistry teacher). She had different reactions to the kinds of volunteers that may possibly in the classroom, she stated that a parent or teacher volunteer might be intimidating (depending on how they teach) but a student volunteer she would feel more comfortable with. I asked her what kind of additional help her teachers currently offer students who need additional help. She stated that only her math teacher offers to help students after class. Her math teacher seems to really care and invest time in advising her students for future classes. Interview with GC - Public School Math Teacher (April 30, 2010) This teacher felt the model that I presented was more idealistic and would be difficult to implement. He stated that he very much "values the community's involvement in public education from the private sector to the public" however, since he has been in the educational field he has found that instructional support from a volunteer tends to lessen from elementary to secondary schools. He went on to give some reason as to why this may happen for people, why volunteers are not so prominent in high schools and he stated that perhaps it was due to volunteers lack in self-confidence on certain subject material. He believes that some great examples of volunteers would be engineers to come out to schools and help in the classroom but this kind of program would have to be initiated from the corporation. He goes on to give an example of a time he remembered when Boeing ran a big brother/sister program where engineers would come to schools and work with a student or two. He felt that this kind of supported helped students make the connection with real world and the topics they are learning in school. He commented on the resources that are needed in for this kind of change and stated, "There is some validity in the 'resources' column where a particular university program can interact and provide funding for teachers. I know that the University of Washington Computer Science Department has seen a drop in local students applying into their program. To increase greater awareness and the value of computer science on the world, their department is taking a greater role in providing talks (speaking engagements) that would inspire students to consider computer science. Perhaps down the road, they may actually take a stake at providing funding or even a course where they provide doctorates to come in a foster help in their learning in the midst of big classes". He went on to state that due to the budget woes that education faces, he believes that this model is just not feasible (although he very much supports the idea of having extra support in the classroom). He states that currently there is additional support in some classrooms but they are mainly for the lower level classes. He believes that what this model comes down to is time and resources. He believes that there are some difficulties in getting teachers to "buy in" to this change because it can be very difficult to get a
dedicated volunteer who will sit down and keep up to date with the curriculum plan and this could potentially just create more work and stress for the teacher. His critique of the model goes on to say, "to me, I feel that student and teacher ratios will change for the worse and teachers will need paid time for quality professional development, and in-service time for planning/grading. Professional development can help where teachers learn new pedagogical ways that better manage large class sizes and provide efficiency in grading. And that's what I feel this model lacks is that it fails to look at other possibilities or ways to increase student learning". Interview with JK - University Student Teacher Placement Advisor ( April 29, 2010) "After reading your questions a couple of times, I'm not feeling confident to answer your questions or respond to your model. I coordinate Teacher Candidates who are in a different category than volunteers as Teacher Candidates are in graduate professional university courses rather than volunteer positions. If I am reading correctly, I suggest that you do some more research before your interviews as the model you have outlined is not new. Volunteers have worked in classrooms for many years, and many schools have coordinated volunteer programs for many years. You may want to also read about class size research to check whether research confirms your statement about student learning being dependent on class sizes." Interview with DB - College of Education Advisor (May 19, 2010) DB was interviewed in order to learn more about the process of interfacing with a university. All of the questions posed to DB were specific to how best to implement this model from the university perspective. DB mentioned that her campus has people in place whose job it is to match volunteers up with organizations that need volunteers. She recommended that we contact these people and provide information to them about our project. DB believes that most school districts already have someone in place to coordinate and screen volunteers, but that in the current economic climate, those people are significantly overworked and that volunteer coordinating might not be as high a priority as other tasks. She thought that providing a database interface would be an excellent idea. She recommended that we examine the website www.donorschoose.org as a potential model for the volunteer database. She has used this website to make donations to teachers who placed specific requests for resources in the database. DB thought that the project idea was an excellent one - especially because it might encourage more people to enter into education. She believes that people might find their classroom volunteer time enjoyable and then consider teaching as a career option. She thought we should target high school students as potential volunteers in order to help them meet their volunteer-service-hours requirement and expose them to the teaching side of education. DB had one suggestion for how to promote the database idea. She recently read a newspaper article that was highlighting the service of someone who volunteered in a school on a regular basis. She felt that tapping into local newspapers to feature our volunteers would be an excellent way to promote the project.
Part III Project Goal The goal of this project is to implement a low maintenance teacher/volunteer database that is easy to access and successfully links teachers with volunteers. Teachers will request volunteers and volunteers will be able to register their availability and talents. Teachers and volunteers can create a match if they see one, or simply register with the hope of a match later on. Each volunteer/teacher match will generate an additional volunteer helper in a classroom where a teacher desires help permitting classroom instruction to be extended, smaller grouping of students, and more individualized attention. All of these outcomes will contribute to an increase in student learning. Implementation Model This model will be examined from the perspective of the committee head. It is assumed the two grad student authors are co-committee leaders and will fill the role of committee coordinators. Fixen, Naoom, Blasé, Friedman, & Wallace (2005) lay out a model for implementing change in several stages. Our project implementation would be modeled using the first part of their process. The multiple steps of the implementation are shown in Figure 1 and detailed in the following sections.
Exploration and adoption. This stage is the planning stage where the idea is explored and clearly defined. Fixen (2005) breaks this stage into four steps: "identify the need for an intervention considering the information available, acquire information via interactions with one another; assess the fit between the intervention program and community needs, and prepare the organization, staff, and resources by mobilizing information and support." We have
identified the need for intervention from our perspective, but would require a school that would agree with us about this need and support the implementation of the change project in their school. The main areas to explore in order to implement the project are detailed below. As we explore these areas and develop a plan, we will be completing the remaining three steps Fixen et al. listed. The pilot elementary school Since we are outsiders to the school, we would need to develop relationships with the teachers, PTSA, and school principal at the elementary school where we plan to pilot the project. By meeting with teachers at the school, we can learn of their concerns about usability, working with volunteers, and feedback about the process. We recognize the authority the school principal has and understand the importance of having his or her support on this project. The final group we would meet with at the school is the PTSA. We see the PTSA as the group who will sustain the program once it is successfully implemented. Our current thought is that there would be a PTSA committee member who would take over the coordinating role for the program and manage the program in order to free the purveyors to implement the program at another school. One long term goal is that the program would move from the elementary to the junior high as volunteer parents move up with their kids. We recognize, however, that the model would most likely need to be adapted slightly to work well in a junior high and that the implementation team might be needed again in order to adjust the model to fit the needs of a junior high. The local university As project coordinators we would need to convince the university liaison(s) of the validity of this project in order that they would whole-heartedly support it and recommend it to any students who need volunteer hours. Without volunteers teacher needs would never be met and the program would fail. Raising awareness of school needs and making the database accessible and easy to use are two things we hope will help with bringing in more volunteers. We understand the university professors have great potential to refer students to this program, so we would likely attempt to speak at a faculty staff meeting in order to present the project. We also want to make sure we tap into any volunteer placement organizations that already exist on the university campus. School district Another key person we need to support this project is the district Information Technology (IT) person. Since this person is the gatekeeper of the school computing resources and we want to house the project on the school district website, the IT person must be willing to support the project. Most likely, we would need to bring in the principal and supporting teachers in order to establish a need for the program and to be able to sucure the computing resources and support we will need to implement the database. The district may already have a volunteer coordinator in place and we would want to discuss the implementation of this project with them. Since the database would make it easier to link volunteers with teachers, we expect that the district person in charge of volunteer placement might wholeheartedly support the project. We hope to be able to use their position in order to gain access to advertising the database matching program on the school website and in other district and school publications.
Funding sources We expect the PTSA to be able to support us financially, but we might find that additional funds are needed beyond what they can provide. Soliciting the local Rotary club might be another possibility and they may also be able to support us with volunteers. Product of the exploration and adoption process After the initial groundwork has been completed, the key players in the process would need to meet together to discuss implementation and training. This gathering would be designed to work through the last two steps of the exploration and adoption phase - the need to assess the fit and prepare for the change by mobilizing information and support. It is at this point in the project that the design should be adjusted to accommodate the input received from the various sources in order to create a best fit for the situation. Fixen et al. (2005) state that "The result of the exploration stage is a clear implementation plan with tasks and time lines to facilitate the installation and initial implementation of the program." The outcome from this stage would be a document detailing the implementation process. Program Installation In order for the program to develop fully, all of the pieces needed for implementation must be brought together. This stage essentially allows each component of the project to be developed as agreed upon in the exploration stage. At this point in the project a core team of people should exist. We see the need for the coordinators who would act as the committee head, at least two supporting teachers form the elementary school, a volunteer coordinator, and a publicity coordinator. These people oversee the following events which occur in this stage: • The database would be built, tested, and installed on the district website. • All training materials for the volunteer training program would be developed. • The process for screening volunteers would be developed. • Specific promotional strategies would be determined. • University recruitment strategies would be constructed. • All publicity documentation needed to launch the program would be developed • Teacher training and how best to inform the teachers would be determined. • Funding sources would be secured. • Additional team members needed to implement the project would be recruited and brought on board. • The feedback process and survey would be detailed out. • The way to measure outcomes and present would be determined. Initial installation Many events need to occur in rapid succession in this stage. The teachers need to be trained and encouraged to use the database. The supporting teachers who are part of the implementation team would be responsible to perform the training. Ideally, this training would occur at a school-wide meeting prior to the start of the year. Teachers would be encouraged to make many requests for volunteers and begin to populate the database. They would also be informed of the process including the feedback process that occurs after a volunteer has served in the classroom. Someone from the implementation team
will need to monitor teacher requests and personally encourage teachers who have not entered requests. This stage has a great risk of failure. It will be extremely important for teachers to fell they can trust the computing system to help match them up with volunteers. Communication about how the system works and reminders to use the system will be important during this stage. The second phase of this stage will be to begin volunteer recruitment, registration, and screening. The beginning of the school year is a perfect time to inform parents about the database and encourage them to sign up in it. Parents will also need several reminders about the database, so we hope to use many venues for publicizing the database. Once volunteers have registered, volunteer training will need to occur. It is likely that multiple training sessions will need to be held in the initial stage in order to populate the database with volunteers and get the matching set into motion. The purpose of the training is to prepare volunteers to be effective in the classroom. Several of the people we interviewed mentioned the need to qualified volunteers in order to impact the classroom in a positive way. Prior to attending the training, a volunteer should register for the training and submit background check paperwork. There would be a parent from the committee who is responsible for keeping track of the list of volunteers and ensuring that their paperwork was complete. This person would also take care of any screening issues that might arise. The volunteer coordinator would be responsible for organizing the training session details. This person would work closely with the participating teachers who would most likely be performing the training. As part of this training, several issues would be addressed: • School specific cultural issues • the importance of a serious commitment from the volunteers • suggestions for how to be an effective classroom assistant • training for how to use the database • instructions for what to do when reporting to school to serve We see this as a critical piece of the success of the program and a place for parents and supporting teachers to contribute their talents. By requiring all volunteers to attend this training, we hope to provide teachers with people who are committed and serious about volunteering. Publicity would be managed by the publicity coordinator. In order to develop a pool of volunteers, the program must have someone who is in charge of spreading the word. This needs to be someone who is willing to contact the various departments at the local university as well as someone who is comfortable interacting with parents and recruiting volunteers. The publicity person would make sure that the school newsletter had information about the volunteer database. They would also be responsible to make sure that the volunteer database was introduced to parents at every opportunity such as parent open house and curriculum night. It will be especially important for this person to connect with volunteers early in the school year. This person should work closely with the volunteer coordinator in order to be informed of training dates and specific volunteer needs. The publicity person would also be responsible for soliciting additional volunteer
sources such as high school students who need volunteer service hours or local business professionals. Full Operation The full operation stage would be entered once the database has been populated and matches have occurred. Since it will take some time to overcome the inevitable inertia involved in starting a new project, full operation may not occur until several months into the program. It is hoped that with the help of the teacher and publicity coordinators, that the database populating can be heavily encouraged and that matches would happen early in the school year. Database operation The database would be designed to collect teacher requests as well as permit teachers to choose a specific volunteer. Volunteers could either select a teacher who has already submitted a request or just sign up listing their availability and/or any expertise they may have. The computer would not do any matching, instead teachers and volunteers would be expected to periodically search through the database to see if there is a match. As part of the teacher training prior to the school year start, we would encourage teachers to identify needs and enter them into the system in order to "seed" the database with some specific needs before we open the database to volunteers. Volunteers would then see a list of teacher needs and could either choose to fill an existing need or submit their availability in order to be listed as available to meet a future need. The project coordinator could periodically search through the database and attempt to match volunteers and teachers up as well and also to clean-up any incomplete requests. After a match is made, an email would be sent to both the requester and the volunteer in order to confirm the match and provide contact information for both parties. The indivduals involved would then be responsible to follow up with each other and share any additional details. Prior to the beginning of a school week, the database would email the office staff a list of volunteers who would be on campus in the coming week. Some additional features of the database might include: • Volunteers who register with the database cannot be matched up until they have completed training. This will ensure that only pre-screened applicants participate in the classroom. • The ability for a teacher to list any special needs/requests associated with the volunteer request. This might include the desire for someone who is an expert in a particular field or to communicate the the volunteer would be doing a very specific task. • Teachers would be able to "block" specific person from accepting a request. • Volunteers could also prevent teachers from selecting them. Online Registration System Volunteers who wanted to serve in the school would register using the online registration system that is part of the database. Once registered, the volunteer coordinator would contact the person in order to provide training details. Feedback Survey The database would include a short survey that each volunteer and teacher would be asked to complete after the volunteer had served in the class. This feedback from this
information would be used to improve the database system and teacher/volunteer training. Outputs Teacher Satisfaction: A satisfaction rating system would be devised and provided to each teacher to evaluate the student who worked in their classroom Volunteer Satisfaction: A satisfaction rating system would be devised and provided to each volunteer to evaluate the teacher and classroom environment Slots Requested/Filled Percentage: This statistic is necessary to track success in filling all requested classrooms able to use results to develop changes if necessary, such as needing more advertising of program. Additional Adult in each Requested Classroom: In theory, each request from a teacher is fulfilled and each adult who wished to volunteer is matched with a teacher. Outcomes There are several desired outcomes from this project. The main outcome is increased student learning. With the additional of an adult in a classroom, it is believed the learning increase could be realized in several ways, as listed below. Classroom Organization Flexibility By having an additional adult in the classroom the teacher has the option of breaking the classroom up into different groups. The teacher could choose to have the volunteer work with those students who might need extra help, those students who could use more challenging material, or students working on a long term project. The ability to group the class and have adult oversight of the groups allows the teacher flexibility in assignments. Expanded Instructions and Assignments When teachers have extra adult help, they can provide an opportunity for students to move on to more challenging activities with support from the volunteer. Instruction could also be expanded to provide an opportunity for students who do not understand the current concept to spend more time on a topic. Classroom Climate and Relationships improved Students will have an opportunity to get to work with another adult or to spend more time with their teacher in a small group environment. This can help to build new relationships or strengthen existing relationships between the student and adult. The extra adult can bring in new energy and ideas which can improve the class climate. Learning goals expanded The presence of an additional adult in a classroom could permit the teacher ot expand the learning goals for the class. High achievers could be taken further, low achievers could be brought up to standard, interesting projects could be explored, or specific content standards could be met through the help of an expert volunteer. Part IV - Analysis Structural Frame In Bolman and Deal (2002, p.) the structural frame examines the project through the lens of team hierarchy and interaction between members. When structure is clearly defined people are able to function well because they understand what their role is and the role of the other people involved. The type of organizational structure that would best fit this project is a committee team with equal roles. For this project, we believe the team will
need to consist of the project coordinators, supporting teachers, a technical support person, a volunteer coordinator and a publicity coordinator. Project team structure. Each person on the team has an equal role in the project’s success and therefore the official tiles will be defined as project coordinators, teacher coordinators, publicity coordinators, technical support coordinators, and volunteer coordinators. By giving each team member a coordinator title, we hope to instill the idea that each member has an equally important part it he team and that we are all coordinating our efforts. Without the equal participation of each team member, the project cannot be successful. Figure 2 below shows the key players in this project and the primary communication plan.
Project coordinators The role of the project coordinators is to oversee the other coordinators in the project and ensure that each coordinator has the needed support to complete the task. Project coordinators would also be responsible for securing the funding. The team coordinators would need to employ the use of normative power as they manage this team. Normative power, as defined by Etzioni (as cited in Chance & Chance, 2002) is the type of structural that generates collaboration between team members and produces a high level of commitment. The coordinators of the team will need to reward members with praise and recognition of a job well done as there really is no other type of reward built into this model. True to many service organizations, the reward is typically one of selfsatisfaction because of supporting a greater good. Teacher coordinators Teacher coordinators would be teachers from the pilot school who enthusiastically support the project and want to see it successfully implemented in their school. These teachers would be responsible of the development of the training materials for both the
teacher training and volunteer training sessions. They would also be the ones to present the project to their peers and train volunteers to work in the classroom. Teacher coordinators would help guide the team as they work with the various staff members in the school. Teachers have the unique perspective of understanding the values of a school and how things really work. They will be able to provide insight into the school culture that an outsider would not know existed. Edgar Schein (as cited in Chance and Chance, 2002) used the analogy of an iceberg to describe the overall values of a school. On the surface are the visible elements that everyone would see – the school philosophy, goals, etc. However, many of the values of the school are lying below the surface and are unseen to the outside observer. “Assumptions are the essence of the culture because they define an individual's relationship to the environment and the realities upon which the school is anchored” (Chance and Chance). The teachers on the team have unique and essential insight into school values that only those who work “beneath the surface” can observe. As team members follow the advice of these teachers, they will have more success integrating the project into the school environment. Volunteer coordinator We see training as a critical piece of the success of the program and a place for parents and supporting teachers to contribute their talents. By requiring all volunteers to attend this training, we hope to provide teachers with people who are committed and serious about volunteering. The volunteer coordinator will handle all of the details associated with setting up and overseeing the volunteer training sessions. Volunteer registration would be managed by this person. Since the school district will have requirements in place for screening volunteers, this person will need to work closely with the district employee in charge of volunteer screening to make sure all of our volunteers are in compliance with district screening policies. This person will need to communicate with the teacher coordinators to schedule training sessions and develop the agenda for the training. Publicity coordinator The publicity coordinator would be the person who interfaced with the outside world to inform people about the volunteer database. This person would work closely with the liaisons at the university to make sure that they were promoting the database and encouraging volunteers to register. The publicity coordinator would also interface with the school district person in charge of the website in order to have the database access prominently displayed on the school website. Ideal school climate. “Open school climates, characterized by high levels of communication among teachers and administrators and by teachers who are highly supported by administration and generally committed to the goals of the school, are more conducive to change and manifest leadership that promotes educational effectiveness.” (Chance and Chance, 2002) We see this type of school environment as the best place to implement our project. Teachers will need to feel comfortable with volunteers in their classroom and are taking a risk by permitting outsiders to take an active role in their classroom. It will be very important for the school climate to be one of acceptance and not judgment in order for the volunteer project to succeed. Volunteers are such a broad range of people and do not necessarily have formal educational training so they might not understand all that goes on in a classroom and my even be inclined to criticize what they see. Teachers who work in
a school where they know the principal will support them can feel more comfortable working with volunteers knowing that the principal would be willing to listen to their side of any issue that arose. “School culture is also reflective of the larger societal culture in which it exists.” (Chance and Chance, 2002) The district culture will greatly influence the pilot school culture and will also have an impact on the success of this project. If much resistance is encountered at the district level with either the volunteer coordinator or with the IT department, the project could easily fail. This project needs a district climate that is trusting and supportive, not coercive and controlling. IT departments have a serious responsibility to protect school computing systems from malicious threats. This can cause IT personal to be unwilling to install new software or even permit access to external websites. Our team project managers must work closely with the district IT person in order to meet the district computing requirements for the database and satisfy the IT person’s demands in order to get the database installed on the district computers. Human Resource Frame It is our plan that the implementation team will work together to ensure that there is program coherence, defined as "the extent to which the school's programs for student and staff learning are coordinated, focused on clear learning goals, and sustained over a period of time" (Newmann et al. as cited in Fullan, 2001, p. 64). By creating an environment that fosters program coherence, we hope to recognize everyone's ability to contribute to the success of this program. For example teachers are a vital part of the initial implementation process and teachers need to be trained and encouraged to use the database. We believe that it is important for teachers to take leadership in the training because they bring in a perspective that can relate to other teachers who are unfamiliar with the system and hopefully lead others to internalize these new approaches, "that is, to both master and value new practices and ways as how might this learning happen" (Levine & Marcus, 2007). Giving teachers the ownership of the training allows teachers to display their personal knowledge and opinions about the project but they can also open a conversation about moral purposes with other teachers. It could be during these open discussions that some teachers may bring up their hesitations. It was mentioned by some of our interviewees that teachers may find the use of computers intimidating and they would not be comfortable using a new program; however we would hope that the teachers conducting the training have experience with the database and can clearly show the ease of using such a database system. Also by imitating the substitute database system, we can show teachers that there is not much more to learn or adjust to that is technology oriented. The principal also plays a vital role in ensuring that there is program coherence. It is important that the principal supports the program in order to become the liaison between the community and the school. We would invite the school principal to greet each group of volunteers as they are trained in order to facilitate the development of a relationship because according to Fullan, "schools and school districts can get tough about student learning, can use their minds to identify new and better ideas, and can establish strategies and mechanisms of development. But successful strategies always involve relationships, relationships, relationships" (Fullan, 2001, p. 70). One of the potential strengths of this program is the opportunity for teachers to connect with volunteers and build relationships. We hope that volunteers will commit to a regular
schedule that the teacher can depend on. If the relationship between the teacher and volunteer develops to a high level, the teacher may be willing to take even more risks and try a new activity or teaching style. Taking a risk can put the teacher in a precarious position and yet it has the potential to take learning to a new level. Teachers need to be assured that should the risk fail, they will not be judged harshly, but instead be permitted to learn from the mistake. "Even highly educated professionals bring their needs and their humanity with them when they come to work. They still need to feel safe, to belong, to feel appreciated, and to feel that they make a difference" (Bolman and Deal, 2002, p.66). Another important factor group of people we have to recognize in the human resource frame are the parents of our students as well as those parents who are volunteering. It is crucial that parents are able to express their concerns in an open communication environment because their involvement is important in the success of our students, “Parent involvement improves students’ academic achievement and lowers students’ dropout rates regardless of racial, cultural, or socioeconomic background” (Flaxman & Inger as cited in Levine & Marcus, 2007). We find that parents will find value in participating in this kind of program because they are contributing to the success of their children in school and to the improvement of the community. The most critical person that we must ensure is satisfied under the human resource frame is the District IT person. As the implementer of this project, we can easily see why we would value the skills that the IT person would have seeing that this project hinges on creating a workable database system however, in a give an take world the District IT person might have difficulty reasoning what he or she may benefit from this relationship. As mentioned by one of our interviewees without this person on our side, this project will have reached a dead end. Political Frame The political frame is all about politics and power. It examines the strategies needed best to implement the change and to resolve or avoid conflicts. In the political frame, it is important to look at the team players and how the project fits into the larger scheme. In the current political climate resources are scare and often fought over. Having a good political strategy can be helpful in getting the resources needed to implement the project. Also, since this project relies heavily on recruiting people to register in the database, it is important to have allies in the school and district who will support the project. Within this project it is assumed that everyone is on board and able to work well with each other. Because of the small team size and the lack of opposition to the project, we do not anticipate political issues within the group. Our overall team strategy will be to convince people that the project is beneficial because of the research. Petersilla (as cited in Fixen et al., 2005, p. 8) states, “Unless a community recognizes or accepts the premise that a change in corrections is needed, is affordable, and does not conflict with its sentiments regarding just punishment, an innovative project has little hope of surviving, much less succeeding.” One of the key players is the school district computing department. Our interviews have revealed that the best place to house the database would be on a school district computer system so that teachers can have easy access to it. We would need to determine how to permit volunteers (who are external to the school district) access to the database. Should the district be unwilling to house such a database, it would need to exist on an external website. This might prevent some teachers from using it. We would model the database
after the district substitute teacher database since teachers are already familiar with this system. In order to have access to the security sensitive teacher resource database or any of the district computers, we will need authorization and support from the District IT person. This person typically has a lot of power in the school district because of his or her specialized knowledge. The job he or she performs is critical and the district computers must be kept safe from malicious threats. Therefore, security becomes a critical issue and is often wielded as a weapon. Figuring out how best to work with the district IT person is essential and it may involve needing to bring in people who have authority over him in order to get the cooperation needed. Hopefully, things will go smoothly, but this is such a critical area that we absolutely need to gain this person’s support. The leverage we have to work with is limited. The district IT person really has nothing to gain by giving us access to the system, so we have no ability to negotiate or barter. Our only hope, at that point, would be to appeal to the moral compass of this person and demonstrate the altruistic reasons why we should have access to the computing or to find someone in authority over the district person to force him or her to comply. Another critical person to the success of the project is the school principal. We believe that with the principal, we do have leverage to strike a bargain. If we can present the project to the principal in such a way that it will convince him or her that additional goals beyond student learning could be achieved, we might have success. Broad agreement exists among educators and families that a primary principal responsibility is motivating students and teachers to do their best work (Markow & Scheer, as cited in Bellamy, Fulmer, Murphy, & Murk, 2007, p. 38). One approach is to use the argument that principals are under great pressure to improve their schools and one way they can do this is through community relations (personal communication). “Leadership for social capital is an important aspect of every principal’s job because it emerges from the particular social context of each school and community. This creates unique leadership challenges for school principals as they strive to foster communication and trust across all communities affected by the school and to influence the norms that support collaboration in all aspects of the school’s work.” (Bellamy et al., 2007, p.108). It is our hope that by bringing parents and local college volunteers into the school it will help the principal develop communication and trust between the school and the community. Another group we need to create an alliance with is the teachers in the pilot school. The teachers need to be convinced that this will be a useful tool and that it will match them with volunteers who will be helpful. We have tried to consider the teacher’s perspective carefully as we designed the project in order to win them over. KK (personal communication) expressed a concern that teachers might get pressure to use the program from their school principal. Since principals are doing everything they can do improve student learning, they might impose their will on teachers and require them to add volunteers to their class. As implementers we do not have control over something like this happening, but we would be inclined to discourage it. Rather than use a political method to persuade teachers, we would prefer to use a less coercive method. It is our hope that parents will prove to be an invaluable political ally in the process of implementation. We hope to use the leverage that they have over the administration and
teachers to encourage the use of volunteers in the classroom. We believe that most parents will be happy to have additional volunteers in the classroom, but recognize that there could be some opposition as well. We hope that by creating an alliance with the PTSA, we will be able to gain an awareness of parent concerns and satisfactorily address their concerns. This parent support group would most likely be providing our funding for any expenses we might encounter. They would also assist by managing the training sessions on a quarterly basis. The PTSA would need to be convinced that this program would be valuable to their students and that all participants would impact the classroom in a positive way. We understand that the PTSA as a group can be a great resource for a school and that it will have influence over the principal. We hope that the environment is one of open communication and that the parents wished would be respected by the principal. We believe that if we can win over the parents and the PTSA, we will have a greater chance of success. The final group of people we need to create political alliances with are at the university. We need the support of the university education department and career center in order to spread the word about this program. We would need to convince these folks that they can support and strengthen their educational program by participating in the schools in their community. This program can provide a much needed service to students who must fulfill volunteer hour requirements. It can also provide university professors with a ready pool of teachers and classrooms for their students to work in. There are two critical allies at the university level from who we will need to enlist support. They are the education department placement adviser and the volunteer coordinator at the college. Both of these people have multiple sources competing for their attention. It will be important for our publicity coordinator to carefully explain the program. Additionally, the publicity person will need to convince them as to why they should recommend college students register in the database. The political frame permits our team to strategize and think about any roadblock we might encounter. It gives us an opportunity to discuss how we might handle the roadblocks in advance and also can build team trust as members have a chance to share their political insight about the various people we must interface with. While political perspective can be considered a negative, we hope to use our understanding of the political situation in a positive way. Symbolic Frame The Symbolic frame assesses the project through the lens of culture. This perspective on a team or project allows one to understand the rituals and other significant items that help to create a cohesive team. It is also critical to understand the existing school culture where the change will be implemented in order for the project to succeed. As we consider the symbolic frame, we will also look for opportunities to strengthen the project team and create a team culture. Our project will also need to be aware of the culture within the school and the community and try to find ways to work within the existing culture. We initially planned to implement this program in a secondary school. However the feedback we received from our interviews caused us to rethink that idea. Several of the people we interviewed felt that this program would be best piloted in an elementary school because of the strong parent volunteers that are already part of the school culture.
Secondary schools do not have the same level of support from the parents. Epstein (as cited in Levine & Marcus, 2007) might have shed some light on this when he stated, “Secondary teachers, however, generally see their role as subject-area specialists responsible for contacting parents only if there are problems in their specific class, rather than as resources aiming to engage and partner with families.” The current culture in schools is such that there are parents volunteering in classroom at the elementary level and not at the middle or high school level. Rather than attempt to implement the project in an unfriendly culture and try to figure out how to change the school culture, we opted to implement the project in an elementary school where the culture will support what we are doing. In the long term, once the database program is established, it could be moved up to the junior and them high school level as the parents move up with their kids. By developing a team of volunteers who understand how to work with teacher and how to help in a classroom, we would hope that these same volunteers would have a desire to extend that service into the junior high level. The junior high school culture could then become one of encouraging volunteers. As project implementers, we are outsiders to the school culture and will need to observe how the pilot school members work together. In additional to observing how ting work, we will need to try to find ways to integrate into the existing culture and support it. “Supporting the development of social capital is critical to successful school leadership, because social capital underlies the ability of a school and community to address all other school responsibilities. In essence, social capital serves as a multiplier of the school’s work toward sustainable goals, strategic priorities, and effective daily action.” (Bellamy et al., 2007, pg. 50). We believe that our project is one that can assist the school in developing social capital by bringing together volunteers and community members to work alongside teachers in the classroom. Another potential cultural issue was brought up by DN (personal communication), the para-educator we interviewed. She commented that sometimes teachers are not very organized and don't know how to use volunteers well. This is a topic we can bring up with our teacher coordinators in order to get recommendations about how best to help teachers use volunteers well. We want to be careful to not appear critical of teachers since as Fullan states, “Over the years we have built up all kinds of structural and cultural barriers to sharing, and they [schools] are having a devil of a time overcoming inertia.” (2001, p. 99). Change is difficult and we need to find ways to build teachers up instead of criticizing them.. Instead of presenting the idea from a critical perspective, we will probably find a way in the teacher training to offer suggestion to the teachers about how they can use the volunteers effectively. As we seek to implement the project, we have already discussed how we plan to work closely with the school principal in order to gain his support and political influence. Bellamy points out that “Principals strengthen social capital and focus underlying values on school work by a combination of activities to understand and enhance any of the social capital in school’s internal and external communities. Internally, principals foster the development of supportive norms, and steward those norms through conversation, personal example, and supportive school structures. Externally, principals can help families increase social capital supporting their children’s learning and foster productive connections with other community groups.” (Bellamy et al, 2007, p. 130 ) We believe that our project can support both the internal and external goals of the school’s principal.
By bringing trained volunteers into the classroom, we hope that teachers can use the additional help to be more productive. In so doing, we expect them to share their successes with other teachers and promote the database model. Also, we hope that the parents and other volunteers will gain a better appreciate for what goes on in the classroom and how they can support teachers and the school. Within the project team itself, there are many ways we can create a culture that positively contributes to the outcome of the project. We can celebrate each of the transitions in the stages of the implementation in the project. When the project moves from the exploration and adoption stage into the initial implementation, we should celebrate with the team members who have worked so hard to get the project off the ground. At this point in the implementation, we should also have a project name determined and even a logo in order to build recognition of the project. Bolman and Deal (2002. p. ) mention that membership in the group and how one obtains it can be an important element. As part of our orientation and in our database, we can heartily welcome both the teachers and the volunteers into the program. By doing so, we can cultivate our own culture for members. Often a strong community can be attractive to outsiders and cause them to want to get involved. Teams that are moving forward and appear organized and successful, inevitably attract attention. Creating a culture that celebrates the participants ant lets them believe they are significant and that their contribution is valuable is one of the desires we have for the project. One of the interviewee’s mentioned that she saw a volunteer celebrated in the local newspaper. This idea is something we can have our publicity person assist with. If we interview volunteers and publish short write-ups on them, we can increase interest in our project and perhaps bring in more volunteers.
Part V – Reflection Lea Ambion As I anticipated the concept of change is extensive and thorough as we studied the intricacies of the political, human resource, structural and symbolic frames. My shallow understanding of change as a process that merely is accepted or opposed has now been deepened by this new knowledge and I see change not only as a process but as a complex organization working towards a common goal. I understood that implementing a change in a school environment could be difficult, especially if the proposed change is seen as radical or if it is seen as a threat to the current school culture, however, I was completely oblivious to the notion that there are so many people, organizations, conditions and school cultures that are effected. I am well aware now that it would benefit me to lay out a plan that outlines my proposed change plan and all the groups of people it would effect before committing myself to that particular change. The book, Reframing The Path to School Leadership by Bolman and Deal helped me the most in viewing situations in a school environment under different frames of mind. I hope to find as much success as Joan Hillard during her journey of her first year of teaching although resolves to her conflicts seemed to work themselves out unnaturally, fairly well. I cannot hope for the same luck that Joan encountered but I can now better prepare myself for the kinds of obstacles I may meet in the near future during my
September Experience in student teaching. I do not plan to attempt to create drastic changes during my student teaching, however, I can see how my cooperating teacher may find my presence a large change to their classroom environment. By understanding how change may effect my cooperating teacher and those other groups involved in the process, I can adjust my behavior as to not upset the current classroom culture. I also can discover the power players in the political frame to ensure that I give myself the opportunity to be in the good graces of the right people especially my cooperating teacher, the principal and the secretary of the school. This relationship could greatly benefit me for future requests that I may have or perhaps assist me to furthur my career. Also by understanding the structural frame of the school and this September Experience, I will know what is expected of me so I can be sure to meet my advisor's and cooperative teacher's expectations of me. These meetings of standards also overlap with the human resource frame where I have to make the effort to foster an open communication with my cooperative teacher so that we both may express our concerns or our suggestions for classroom lessons or conduct. This way we can try to create a safe and open environment where we both feel that we are being heard and our needs are being met and where are morale remains firmly intact during the whole experience, satisfying the symbolic frame. With a solid foundation on the theory of change and how it applies to the school environment, I can go into student teaching with more confidence as to how others might be reacting to my presence. The ultimate impact Mary and I wanted to acheive was towards student learning and in order to do that we believe that what was needed to change in schools was the number of adults in the classroom. In order to get more adults in the classroom, the actual change we were going to implement was the process of finding more volunteers-a change that we thought was feasible for most schools and a small enough change that it will not disrupt the overall school environment. When Mary and I first wanted to implement this change we had limited knowledge about the different frames and the process of change however, even after gaining more incite about the theory of change and all that encompasses it, I still would have implemented the same change. I believe that for someone atttempting to create change for the first time in a large setting like a school enviroment, it is better to start off with a change that is small and reasonable so if I was to fail, then my failure would be small enough to not discourage me from starting a new change project.
Mary Takle This past week I interviewed with two teachers at the school where I hope to student teach. I specifically asked to student teach at this school because of the instructional program they are piloting – complex instruction. I am greatly intrigued by this model and the way it engages students. I am also very excited that I will be observing and teaching during the second year of the program, as I perceive it will be a year of progress and improvement for the school. The teachers have spent this entire year rewriting curriculum to be used in the new instructional model. This follows on the heels of a year when they implemented new textbooks curriculum and spent the entire year creating new lessons and teaching out of an unfamiliar textbook. When I interviewed, I could sense that the teachers were weary. They have had two long years of daily hard work and no rest. Each and every day of instruction for the past two years has included something
new and required hours of labor to prepare for it. I have not been a part of those two years of labor, but instead will benefit greatly from it. As I interviewed, I was extremely positive and enthusiastic – I truly look forward to being in the school and participating in the change. After my interview, I was reflecting on the situation and realized that I have much I can offer to the teachers I work with. I have energy and time and “youthful” enthusiasm – something that they lack right now. I also realized that there are many things I will need to be careful about in my enthusiasm. This course has given me four frames to analyze my future teaching situation from and I can see the relevance of those frames even after a 45 minute interview. Politically, I will need to figure out who in the department or topical sub-teams (the school organizes the teachers into small teams for each math topic – algebra, geometry, etc.) are the leaders? How can I become an ally, without annoying them with my energy and enthusiasm? I recognize that my enthusiasm could easily be interpreted as “criticism” of their weariness. I will need to carefully present my skills, talents, and desires in such a way that it can be perceived as well intended and not critical. Gaining the respect and trust of the political leaders and other teachers will be advantageous as I hope to bot only contribute positively to the school while I am there, but also as I will need references for my future job search. I recognize that the teachers I will be working with are the experts when it comes to their school and learners. I have a lot of “theory” and little experience. They will most likely be tired of “theory” after two years of slogging through the realities of implementing “theory”. As I examine the culture of the math department, I will look for the cues about how the teachers collaborate and work with each other and how much theory they have actually managed to implement in the curriculum. Until this project, I don’t think I would have considered examining something like curriculum for clues about the teachers, but I now realize that the products of their labor will reveal much about how thoroughly they embrace the new instructional model they are being tasked with implementing. From my discoveries, I will have a better idea of how much of the “theory” these teachers are actually buying into and can temper my input accordingly. From a human resource perspective, I sense that there has been a change in operation over the past year. I was able to ask about collaboration and learned that this past year all of the teachers in the math department agreed to work together in small teams. Initially, it was out of necessity, since developing 180 days math curriculum as the year unfolds is not possible for any one person. The team approach has been so successful, that the teachers have agreed to continue them next year. They even plan to get together over the summer and work. One of the teachers said that she would continue the extra team meetings even if they don’t get paid for them, because she found collaborating so valuable. From a structural perspective, I will need to understand how the department is organized and how the individual teams fit into the bigger picture. One thing I understand about myself is that I am a big picture person. I need to understand the bigger picture before I can interpret the details. I have worked in business situations where the structure is unclear and turnover is high. Since my situation will require me to integrate into the team in order to complete my training, I know that understanding the team’s structure will be important.
Resources Bellamy, G. T., Fulmer, C. L., Murphy, M. J., & Muth, R. (2007). In Principal accomplishments: How school leaders succeed (pp. 17-27). New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Bolman, L. G., & Deal, T. E. (2002). Reframing the path to school leadership: A guide for teachers and principals. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin. Burridge, T. (2010/04/07). Why do Finland's schools get the best results? BBC News. Retrieved from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/programmes/world_news_america/8601207.stm Chance, P. L. & Chance, E. W. (2002). Organizational structure: Fundamental constructs that define schools. In Introduction to educational leadership and organizational behavior: Theory into practice (pp. 11-33). Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education. Fixsen, D., Naoom, S., Blasé, K., Friedman, R., & Wallace, F. (2005). Implementation Research: A synthesis of the literature. Tampa: University of South Florida Louis de la Parte Mental Health Institute. Fullan, M. (2001). Leading in a culture of change. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass Haimson, L. (2000). Smaller is Better: First-hand Reports of Early Grade Class Size Reduction in New York City Public Schools. Educational Priorities Panel. Retrieved from:http://www.edpriorities.org/Pubs/Report/Report_Smaller.html Levine, T. H. & Marcus, A. S. (2007). Closing the achievement gap through teacher collaboration: Facilitating multiple trajectories of teacher learning. Journal of Advanced Academics, 19(1), 116-138.
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