Concept Schools Academic Directors (CSAD) is an experienced team of content area experts who research and recommend curriculum and research based strategies to optimize academic rigor.  Together we aim to foster teacher best practices and enhance student performance.
This Month’s Strategies:
Disciplinary literacy refers to reading and writing with the aim of acquiring subject specific knowledge, insights, and practices. Shanahan (2008) identifies three phases: basic, intermediate, and disciplinary (insert chart). We are always reaching for the goal of disciplinary literacy because we are a college preparatory network. Starting this year, we want to commit to presenting a repertoire of strategies that are associated with the intermediate phase of literacy so our teachers/students in an effort to broaden our school wide conversations about literacy. Our hope is that it will be a school wide effort. Many of the ideas this year will come from Doug Buehl’s book Classroom Strategies for Interactive Learning. This month our focus is on the strategies that promote good reading behaviors for comprehension. For information from Doug Buehl’s book, contact Andy Flaherty. 
Ali Uslu, Chief Academic Officer & Vice President
Summertime ends early for the Concept Schools Academic Directors (CSAD), and August is the busiest month of the year. We started this school year full of energy and excitement! We organized 14 PD days including inductions for new teachers, institutes for all teachers, an administrators training and learning extension days (LED) for all staff. You can find  the recordings from all of those LED sessions here (password:LED21). We received positive feedback from attendees that showed their satisfaction rate above 98% with the inductions and institutes. We recently visited all of our Chicago and Indiana schools. We were really excited to see students who were happy to be back at school in-person. We witnessed our staff and students’ engagement in teaching and learning. We thank all Concept Educators for reigniting everyone’s love for learning and look forward to meeting or reconnecting with you in the upcoming days! Remember, we are as close as your keyboard and computer screen! We can not wait to collaborate with you and support you either in-person or virtually!
Dincer Coach, Director of Science Education

We are energized to return to the classroom for another amazing year. I had the opportunity to meet you during the teacher institute days and time to share the Concept Schools’ science vision. We are looking forward to an exciting year of events and programs. 

As I said, science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge. A primary goal of science education is to create conceptual understanding for comprehension. Reading a science text, defining vocabulary, filling out worksheets, and answering low-level questions without intellectual engagement are forms of passive instruction. This means students will only be able to reproduce definitions and facts, but never be able to delve deeper into the content, make sense of the information, and defend an arugment.

We need to provide foundational skills using science and engineering practices. One of the first very steps in the process is “Asking Questions for Science.”

This document, produced by the STEM Teaching Tools, represents different ways to engage students in “Asking Questions” that promote conceptual understanding. Such as presenting students with a scenario that describes a phenomenon using text, images, video, and/ or data, and a research question, then asking them to answer a research question with evidence.                                                                
Ihsan Ozulas, Director of Foreign Language 

Our Foreign Language Department has a couple new teachers, but we are also grateful for those returning again this year. During our institutes a number of teachers expressed excitement to return to in-person teaching. So many stories were shared about remote teaching experiences and how the nature of language learning is better situated to in person teaching. However, one positive outcome of remote teaching was the improved use of technology. Stay tuned for more information on our annual Arts and Language Festival. 

We discussed the importance of using teaching strategies to improve comprehension which means, we must consider the interpretive, interpersonal, and presentation skills alongside the larger cultural context of the target language. For example, using the Cultural Iceberg Model by Edward T. Hall (1976) is a great way to probe these issues and provide a broader frame for language discussions.

Kimber Coté, Director of Educational Technology

Welcome Back!

Thank you to all the Tech and CTE teachers who joined me for our Induction and Institute sessions. I’m looking forward to working alongside you this year — I’m in the process of setting up site visits so I can meet you in person!

To help support students and families with foundational technology skills, you may want to refer to these student-friendly tutorials from Global GEG: ​​

Comprehension is critical in all areas of instruction, and questioning is one way of facilitating and assessing comprehension. I’d like to take a look at QFT: Question Formulation Technique. QFT is a questioning protocol that guides students to create, evaluate, and refine their own questions to prepare them for more effective inquiry. It can be used at the introduction of a new unit of study to help students access prior knowledge and build curiosity, at the end of a unit to help assess knowledge gained, or anytime to facilitate inquiry.

Check out this preso for a walkthrough of the QFT process and a sample student template:              

Sarah Chambers, Director of Social Studies Education

Thank you all for your participation during our 2021 Induction and Institute department sessions. As always, I feel so grateful that I get to be the director for such a curious, collaborative, and dedicated group of educators. 

Here are some recap notes in case you need them:

While teaching our students how to analyze and understand primary sources, it’s important to teach them to question the text itself. Whatever the document is, our students should be identifying the author but also questioning the author’s perspective and intention. These questions help us understand what lenses we should use to view the text. To better help your students understand why these questions are important, check out these resources:


(Poster from the Stanford History Education Group)

Regina Armour, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

New school year! New beginnings! Welcome to all of our new staff and administrators and of course we are happy to welcome back the rest of the Concept Family! September literally occurs at the last third of our calendar year, but for school folks it is just the beginning. This new start is exciting, and it is not without its challenges. The Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) says,“COVID-19 introduced some serious challenges to equal educational access and opportunity. Now, we are entering an overdue era of increased awareness about another serious challenge to equal educational outcomes: systemic racism. More than ever, we owe it to our students to do the hard work of fighting for equity in all that we do.”  (If they sound familiar, they are the MAP testing guys.)

Questions are a great part of comprehension strategies and will enable you to get to know your students better.


Below are two areas with questions* that may help you plan your lessons: 


Cultural:  Emphasis is on what’s being learned and its relationship to the students’ own culture.

  • Why might what you’re teaching be important to the students’ lives?
  • How will you know what’s important to them?
  • Who says it’s important?
  • If it needs to be taught, how can you connect it to your students’ lives?

Learning:  Encouraging students to make choices in content assessment methods based on their experiences, values, needs, and strengths.

  • Where do students have choice and how do different perspectives show up?
  • How do you know tasks are respectful, meaningful? And, to whom?
  • Where might you incorporate activities based on student readiness, learning styles or interests?

*(adapted from: Culturally Responsive Lesson Template based on Osseo Area SD 279 -CLEAR model®)

Because our network is stronger when you share your thoughts and resources please go to our
SEL + Equity Google Classroom to share or join with the following code: k62dhy6. 

Ayhan Caputlu, Director of Mathematics Education

Over the years, both in terms of curriculum and classroom technologies there have been many changes in math education. However, that one question we ask ourselves has always been the same: How do we improve the quality of our math teaching and our students’ learning? 

Whether we are looking at motivation or student ownership of learning, the only consistent factor we can identify is the role of our math teachers. Their passion, enthusiasm, and knowledge are vitally important phenomena in deciding whether our students will be successful.

We can ensure that students make the proper progress and be prepared to succeed in college and in a modern workforce with math teachers and staff being on the same page and working together toward shared goals.

Part of effective strategies is providing academic feedback that checks for comprehension and student progress regardless of grade, socioeconomic status, race, or school setting. When feedback and corrective procedures are used, most students can attain the same level of achievement as those students in the top 20%. 

Click here for more information on feedback in mathematics. 

Sam Davis, Director of College Guidance and Assessment

The college counseling department analyzes historical data to help our students reach their highest potential. As educators, making college attainable for our students is our goal and why we offer a college prep curriculum. We have dedicated college counselors working exclusively to foster our students on their college journey. This includes all of the latest tools to ensure college readiness is possible by providing our 12 high schools with an academically rigorous atmosphere. 

Meanwhile, college education may not be the first choice for some of our students. Our guidance system also works with the students to find the best options to fit their long term goals. Certificate programs, apprenticeship programs, and the military are some of the alternatives that we help our students consider as options to the college track. 

While college counseling is not a subject specific area, strategies for approaching life beyond high school are offered and encouraged. Making sure students have a clear understanding of the necessary steps to gain entry to college or the trade of their choosing. Naviance is an online tool that offers a personalized account for students develop their critical thinking and become more fully prepared for the college experience. 

Tammie Lieb, Director of Primary Education (K-2)
THANK YOU to all of our amazing teachers who joined me last month during our regional induction and institute days. As we kick off this year, I wanted to reiterate my commitment to supporting YOU and your needs as well as fostering collaboration across our network. If you haven’t had an opportunity to visit our K-2 Google Classroom, please check that out here. Included are resources (under classwork) shared during induction and institute as well as additional resources that may be helpful to you this year. Please check for additional resources as they will be posted throughout the year. While this year is going to look different than most, I am confident that you are going to do an amazing job offering social, emotional, and academic support to all our students. If you need anything, reach out to me at

As Albert Einstein said, “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” Wonder Walls are a great way to promote learning because they act as a “parking lot” for questions generated by the curiosity of the students which is an essential part of the comprehension cycle. You may adapt the strategy in a number of ways which allows you to glimpse into student interest and how they think. Thereby allowing you to target your instruction to best meet the needs of your class. Try choosing a few questions to discuss at the end of the week and instead of focusing on answers at first, make it a point to focus on the structure of their questions and how questions can help the audience learn more about a topic. This can easily shift into PBL, independent learning centers, or researched-based writing projects. For additional information on questioning techniques, check out the Right Question Institute to learn how QFT (The Question Formulation Technique) could be used in your classroom.

Sara Swamidass, Director of Upper Elementary Education (3-5)

Welcome Back and thank you for continuing to support our students, families and network! Education is challenging because it requires your energy, time, compassion, and patience. My goal is to guide you through this year in a positive, motivational capacity in order to lessen the load and make it possible for you to collaborate with other educators throughout the network. I greatly enjoyed meeting and speaking with each of you in our institute and inductions. We have begun the K-5 Collaborative Calendar Initiative with our first meeting on August 24th. I highly encourage you to attend the upcoming meetings and also take a look at the resources if you were unable to attend. You will find them in our 3-5 Google Classroom: code-a2oza5f. In addition, the 3-5 Excellence Awards will begin this month. So please submit your qualified students. 

As you may know, I just had a baby girl! I will be away during my maternity leave until approximately mid November, please reach out to Tamara Lieb ( or Michele Frigo ( during my absence for any questions or concerns. 

Prediction and prior knowledge are essential aspects of comprehension behaviors we should teach. I encourage you to go beyond your comfort zone and investigate prediction strategies such as the learning grids, anticipatory guides or even the Hot Potato game to engage students further in their learning. In addition, as Jim Cummins says, “Activating prior knowledge is like preparing the soil before sowing the seeds of knowledge.” By tapping into what students already know, teachers help with the learning process. This is because learning is relating the new information or concepts, to what we already know. Check out some commonly used strategies: Concept maps; Finding out tables; Learning grids; and Brainstorming
In the chart below, students indicate whether the A.) believe the status is true or agree with the statement. Or B.) beleive it is false and disagree with the statement. The purpose is to determine students’ prior knowledge so the teacher can provide additional information that will be necessary for full comprehension of the topic.

Andy Flaherty, Director of English Education

Concept English successfully completed our inductions and institutes for the 2021/22 school year. We launched with a reminder to learn from geese to fly in a V formation; focused on communication and collaboration as we pledge to review new curriculums, create more equity, and support social emotional learning. A new addition to our work this year will be a full spectrum of Literacy Programs that give our students and teachers the opportunity to collaborate with each other across the network. Of course we will still offer our two longest running events, which are the annual Spoken Word competition and Writing contest, but look for the Aspiring Readers and Writers Book Club (6-8) and READ. While READ has been in existence for a few years, we will now include 6-12th grade as well with book reviews instead of a poster. For more information on these new programs click here.

Students returning to school need to be encouraged to actively question the text which is an essential part of comprehension. One of our favorite research based strategies is the Author Says/I Say strategy that also promotes curiosity and inferential thinking about the connections student connections to the text. It moves in a circle from wondering, then moving into the text, connecting it to our own thinking, and back to wondering how it might apply to our own lives. While comprehension is not our goal overall, it is important at the beginning of the year to know what students can comprehend as a foundation for the year ahead. This strategy moves in a circual manner from wondering to deeper thinking about evidence and finally to inference. It is a great strategy because it covers many of the comprehension processes: questioning, determining importance, making connections to prior knowledge and inferring, and synthesizing new understandings.

Michele Frigo, Assistant Director of Academic Services

Hello, for those of you who do not know me, I am Michele Frigo, the Assistant Director of Academic Services. You may remember me from my work on the ConceptSIS instructional video and as the host of the virtual inductions and institutes. 

My role on the CSAD team is to assist the directors in various ways. I help communicate and coordinate events as well as curricular projects, projects like this newsletter, and a range of other things. Please be on the lookout for more information on our full range of events.

I also help teachers and staff communicate with the directors and get their questions answered and problems solved. I can also share with you my experiences from my years in the classroom. 

Andy and I are collaborating on this newsletter re-launch, and we hope that you find it helpful, informative, and actionable. If you have any comments, questions, concerns, suggestions, I’m your go-to person. We strive as always to improve our interactions with our schools and students. This school year, taking lessons from the pandemic, we are striving to be as intentional and impactful as possible. And, in my opinion, that work doesn’t happen without your input, buy-in, and honest communication.