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10 posts from November 2012

Kristin | | November 30, 2012

Student Growth Ratings


ImagesChuck-norris-thumbs-upBy Kristin

Seattle has rolled out "Student Growth Ratings." Some teachers are devastated, some confused, and the vast majority are unaffected.  Next year all 4-8 reading / math teachers and all 9th grade algebra teachers will receive SGRs. These teachers are called, "Teachers of Tested Subjects."  Despite the HSPE being THE big test students need to pass before graduation, 10th grade LA/Math teachers are not considered "Teachers of Tested Subjects." Last week some teachers were told they had "low," "typical," or "high" student growth. Watch this overview video if you are curious.

Tom | | November 26, 2012

The NBCT Effect


125_NBCT_SEALBy Tom White

According to a recent report by the Strategic Data Project out of Harvard University, National Board Certified Teachers make an enormous impact on their students. To wit: “On average, NBCTs outperform other teachers with the same levels of experience by 0.07 standard deviations in elementary math.” While that might mean something to you, I was not the “numbers guy” in my family. That would be my brother Steve. Fortunately, the Strategic Data Project saw me coming and offered this translation: “These effects are roughly equivalent to two months of additional math instruction.”

If that’s true – and I have no reason to doubt Harvard University – that means that the State of Washington is getting an enormous bargain. Let me try to explain:

First we have to accept elementary math data as a proxy for general teaching effectiveness. We also have to assume that the data can be generalized from Los Angeles, where the study was conducted, to Washington, which is where I live. I see no reason why we can’t accept either premise. So we can presume that NBCTs in Washington are having a positive effect equivalent to two additional months of instruction. Two months of instruction is roughly 20 percent of the school year, which means that NBCTs are 20 percent more effective than their non-NBCT colleagues.

The average teacher’s salary in Washington is about $50,000. Let’s assume for now that compensation is provided as an exchange for the effect teachers have on their students. If NBCTs have a twenty percent greater effect on students than non-NBCTs, it stands to reason that NBCTs are worth twenty percent more. If I’m not mistaken, twenty percent of $50,000 is $10,000. Therefore, in a perfect world, NBCTs should be earning $10,000 more.

They aren’t. In Washington State, NBCTs receive an annual stipend of $5,090. There are currently 6,173 NBCTs in our state. Paying them each a bonus costs us a little over $31 million. Obviously, that’s not nothing, but apparently it’s only half of what they’re worth. Washington State is getting more than its money’s worth. Twice as much.

That’s what I call a bargain. And it’s something worth remembering as the legislative season heats up and lawmakers are looking for stuff to cut.

Maren Johnson | National Board Certification | November 25, 2012

Thinking about those NBCTs



by Maren Johnson

Teachers.  Great teachers.  Lots of them.  Thousands of them, literally, all across Washington state.  What do I think of when I think of National Board Certification?  I think of all those effective teachers, in all those classrooms, teaching all those students in our state.  This week on Stories from School, we are celebrating National Board Certified teachers and candidates with a series of blog posts.  So what does National Board Certification mean to me?

1. Deprivatized practice:  As a candidate it was a new experience for me to share my classroom videos and writing very publicly with a group of teachers I did not know particularly well (or at least I didn’t know them very well at first), and I became a better teacher because of it!

2. Teachers supporting other teachers: Teacher support is the heart and soul of the National Board process.  In my district, one candidate said to another as our cohort meeting started last week: "I came to this meeting today because I wanted to watch your video!"  In another district, a retake candidate wrote after finding out her scores, “I’ll tell you what was a big motivating factor when I was feeling terrible after learning my results. The response of NBCTs.  I wasn’t entirely convinced before, but now I know this is a community I very much want to be a part of.  Every single person I know who is National Board certified has offered to help me redo my portfolio. Every single one.”  While the response this candidate received was extraordinary, without a doubt NBCTs are as a group generally very helpful to other teachers.  

Kristin | | November 24, 2012

Thankful for New NBCTs


Placing_box_labelBy Kristin

Just googling the image of this box gave me kind of an ill feeling.  The terror, the feeling like I was taking a shot in the dark, the waiting, the exposure.  Teachers who take on the challenge of measuring their practice by gathering evidence and writing a massive thesis on top of their daily teaching load are the kind of teachers I want to work with and have teach my daughters.  Why?  Because they're tough, they take risks, and they're not afraid to try and fail.

    Two years ago my neighbor and friend climbed Rainier.  There's a great picture of him standing on top, wearing his three-year old daughter's tutu because of course, even on top of Rainier she was on his mind.  He thought he could do it, he thought it was worth doing, and he did it.

    Earning your National Boards is like that.  You've got the day in and day out evidence that you're doing a pretty good job.  You're trying to do a good job.  And then you decide you might successfully measure your teaching up against a rigorous set of national standards.  You think you can get certified, you think it's worth doing, and you do it.  

    And, like climbing Rainier, it's not easy.  You might not even summit your first time.  And if you summit someone might shoot down your accomplishment, saying that research shows NB Certification doesn't necessarily increase test scores, saying anyone can climb Rainier if you pay the right guide.

    But if you've loaded that box up with your best shot, and if you've put on your crampons and tutu and climbed Rainier, you've done something not everyone will or can do, just because you thought it was worth the pain and the effort to try.  Just because you had the guts to see if you could.

34774_1513944006916_7515986_n 3440035405_6349dc3c0e_b             Well done.  

Travis Wittwer | | November 20, 2012





By Travis

Across America, teachers at various levels and subjects went online to read the results of their National Board certification process.

Congratulations! Washington has always done well as a state and this is because Washington is on course to making excellence in education a state-wide goal. 

Tom | | November 19, 2012

Here's to the Retakers


DownloadBy Tom

In recognition of "Score Release Day" the writers here at Stories from School are focusing this week on National Board Certification. We're recognizing and connecting with the new NBCTs, offering our congratulations and welcoming them into the community of accomplished teachers.

Achieving National Board Certification is incredibly difficult. At least it was for me. So to all the new NBCTs out there, congratulations! You’ve done something amazing, not only for yourselves, but for your students. Celebrate. Live it up.

But I want to focus on a certain subset of National Board Certified Teachers: the retakers. (Or as the National Board calls them, the “Advanced Candidates”) As you probably know, the National Board essentially gives candidates three years in which to certify. Those who don’t certify the first year can bank their higher scores and redo the parts in which they fell short. And if they need to, they can do it again the next year.

I am in awe of those teachers.

Not because I’m one of them, but precisely because I’m not. When I went through the process, twelve years ago, I certified – not by much – but by enough. Had I fallen short, I’m pretty sure I would have turned the page on the whole sorry episode, chalked it up to unfounded hubris, and moved on. Sort of like my failed attempt to climb Mt. Baker. (See figure A)

Since certifying, I’ve had the opportunity to work with dozens of candidates. Some of them certify and some don’t. And of those who don’t, some try again and some don’t. Those who try again - who go through the anger and grief of not certifying; yet ultimately dust themselves off and go through it again; those candidates are my favorites. I admire their grit; their persistence, their perseverance and their endurance. And thier humility

Obviously, everyone wants to certify the first time around. That’s the goal. Not only is it more efficient, but it’s cheaper. NB certification, however, is an assessment. And like all assessments, it doesn’t always accurately measure what it’s supposed to measure. In my experience, the biggest barrier for most candidates is their ability to clearly communicate, in written form, how their teaching measures up to the standards. Being a good teacher is one thing; being able to write about it is something else altogether, and it’s that “something else” that frequently prevents good teachers from certifying.

But National Board Certification is more than an assessment. It’s also a very powerful process of professional development. By mandating self-analysis and reflection, it makes teachers better, whether they certify or not. It stands to reason that those teachers who spend two or three years immersed in this process get more out of it than the rest of us. Not that they’d want it that way, of course, but still.

So here’s to you guys. The retakers. The advanced candidates. You tried to climb that mountain, but failed. Then you tried again and made it. Some of you had to try three times. You’ve shown persistence, perseverance and endurance. You’re role models for the rest of us who worry about trying something difficult; something we might not accomplish.

You’re exactly the kind of people who should be teaching.

Mark Gardner | | November 18, 2012

Welcome new NBCTs!


UnknownYesterday, Saturday November 17th was "score release day" for NBPTS certification candidates-in-waiting.

Some teachers will open their NBPTS profile to a message of congratulations, others will have to dust themselves off and think about whether to bank scores and attempt to give it another go.

Either way, in my opinion, any teacher who participates in the process should come out the other side having grown. There are always naysayers and exceptions both good and bad, of course, but going through the kind of self-assessment and close examination of practice that is demanded of the NBPTS certification process no doubt pays dividends.

To those of you who now can post those four letters after your name, congratulations and welcome. For those who read and post here--what has pursuing or earning National Board Certification meant to you, your practice, your students and your school?

Maren Johnson | Assessment, Books, Current Affairs, Education Policy, Science, Travel | November 15, 2012

What’s that standard? Excellence in Washington State and Finland


by Maren Johnson

Pasi Sahlberg 1I attended an amazing conference in Seattle this week, Excellence in Education: Washington State and Finland. We learned about some great things going on in Finland, we learned about some great things going on in Washington, and I experienced some culture shock.  Was it the differences between Finland and the United States that struck me?  Well yes, there was that, and that is what got me started thinking about culture.  However, instead of international differences, I was thinking about some of the cultural as well as philosophical differences between education groups in our own Washington state: differences between people who are in the classroom and those making policy decisions guiding classroom work; differences between policy makers and those doing education research. How to overcome those differences and build on them?  Keynote speaker Pasi Sahlberg, Director General of Finland’s Education Ministry, said, “So much of what we do in Finland, we have learned from American researchers and educators.”  He then very provocatively said the difference is that in Finland, they actually implement that research!  Here in Washington, we need to get those research<—>policy<—> implementation links tightened up, and yes, those are double-headed arrows: information needs to flow each way!

There are some vast historical and social differences between Finland and Washington—an education system cannot just be transplanted.  However, Finland has not always been an education high performer—it languished in the mid twentieth century—but over the past several decades, as Pasi Sahlberg said, “Finland has improved a lot, while the rest of the world has improved a little bit.”  This improvement can be traced to policy decisions.  What are a few of the Finnish Lessons we might learn?

Mark Gardner | Assessment, Education Policy, Life in the Classroom, Professional Development | November 11, 2012

What I need to change


SharpenerWe are in transition.

As a "Marzano" district piloting forward toward implementation of the new teacher evaluation system, I am coming face to face with the kinds of expectations that are going to rattle my paradigm. The instructional frameworks OSPI allowed us to choose from do not represent dramatically different approaches to teaching or schools of thought about how teaching and learning should take place. What the frameworks do establish, though, are specific "research-based" teaching strategies that emerge as valued and therefore expected, since they are named in the evaluation scales against which I will be measured. In Marzano, a few stand out to me: learning targets, performance scales (rubrics), and students tracking their own growth against those scales.

I agree that these are solid instructional strategies: they just haven't always been a consistent and practiced part of my repertoire. 

Now they are going to be--or else.

Mark Gardner | | November 3, 2012



ClipboardAt some point in nearly every writing assignment I submitted in high school, those three letters were scrawled in the margins: "awk." To clarify for those who have clearer syntax and diction than I do, "awk." stands for "awkward."

What that means, and how specifically to remedy it, is kind of hard to pin down.

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