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53 Articles Categorized in "Teacher Leadership"

Mark Gardner | Current Affairs, Education, Education Policy, Teacher Leadership | April 16, 2014

Leadership, Implementation, and Puppetry

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Picture0017 copyBy Mark

Education Secretrary Arne Duncan recently shared his "Teach to Lead" initiative, which has sparked some interesting responses, including this one on Education Week which discusses a couple of perspectives on the issue. (Duncan has partnered with Ron Thorpe and NBPTS to focus on "raising the visibility" of teacher leadership.)

I believe, like many others do, that teachers and teacher leadership are essential to the success of our public education system. There is a difference, though, between leadership and implementation. Rick Hess in the Education Week post linked above takes the position that Duncan's call for leadership is "a call for teachers to help promote the Obama agenda--to shill for the Common Core, celebrate new teacher evaluation systems, and be excited that the feds are here to help." My gut makes me tend to agree with Hess's interpretation of Duncan's call--something tells me that the USDE would not be thrilled with teacher-leaders who design and advocate for alternatives to the Common Core. 

Should teachers be driving the implementation of Common Core, new teacher evaluations, and all the other changes? Absolutely. However, that's driving a vehicle that someone else designed, bought, and parked in our parking lot. 

Maren Johnson | Assessment, Education Policy, National Board Certification, Science, Teacher Leadership | March 16, 2014

Want innovation in the classroom? Get teachers involved in Policy

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by Maren Johnson

I spent the weekend in Washington DC at the Teaching and Learning 2014 Conference. It was dazzling. Famous and thought provoking speakers, incorporation of art and music, huge diversity in education viewpoints and experience.

With all the hubbub over the big names at the conference, what I'm heading home thinking about is a session led by a middle school science teacher from Washington state. From the small town of Cheney, no less.

Teacher Tammie Schrader's session was titled, "Coding in the Classroom." I went into the session expecting to learn a bit about coding itself, and perhaps a bit about how to use coding to teach concepts in life science. I came out of the session thinking about innovation and education policy.

Tammie started out the session by introducing herself and her classroom programs. She has been facilitating student coding in her science classes for several years now. That, itself, is innovative, but not extraordinarily unusual.

Then Tammie started talking about education policy. My ears perked up. What was going to be the tie-in here? I've been to sessions on innnovative instructional methods. I've been to sessions on education policy. I have rarely been to a session incorporating both.

Tammie's point? She wanted to do cutting edge things in her classroom. In order to be free to do these things, she needed to be released from some of the usual considerations of what might be expected in a classroom. There were a few non-negotiables, however. She would still need to assess; she would still need to show student growth. She wanted to assess and show student growth in a way that would fit her classroom. The solution? Get involved in policy. Tammie has done this, in a big way, at state and national levels.

I thought to myself, "This woman's message needs to get out there." So there I was, like the paparazzi, taking photos and tweeting. Not that Tammie isn't already well known in many education circles, but I wanted to do my part!

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The policy involvment has allowed Tammie's innovative classroom work to become systemic. Tammie has worked on state assessment committees and on designing frameworks for Career and Technical Education. She helped write the state science test. Because she knows what students are expected to do, she's not ignoring the state science standards or the Next Generation Science Standards. She's not letting all of that go. She's just helping to shape policy and then use it in a way that helps herself and other teachers be innovative in their classrooms.

Tammie has spent time talking to policy makers at all levels. Having a teacher involved in these areas allows education policy to encourage innovation as opposed to stifling it. Want innovation in the classroom? Get teachers involved in policy.

Mark Gardner | Teacher Leadership | March 9, 2014

What do Teacher Leaders Need?

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Tl cstpBy Mark

From the BadassTeacher Association to WEA to CSTP and everywhere between, regardless of positions on the "big issues," many organizations recognize that teachers are the change-makers in our system and thus should have their voices amplified and listened to.

The tougher question is how teachers do this. Many approaches are in the toolbox, from painting signs and marching to harnessing social media. 

A while back, CSTP convened teachers to develop a Teacher Leadership Skills Framework that outlined the need for teacher leaders to have knowledge and skills, opportunities and roles, and mindful dispositions that triangulate to foster authentic leadership.

I'm brainstorming a project--hopefully in conjunction with CSTP and modeled to an extent from the original Auburn Teacher Leadership Academy--for my own district.

Therefore, I'm shopping for ideas: What do teacher leaders need? (Not just in terms of tangibles or trainings, but I'll take suggestions for those as well.) What books or articles are good resources to get us off to a good start? What has helped you along your path in teacher leadership?

Rob | Education, Education Policy, Mentoring, Professional Development, Teacher Leadership | November 27, 2013

Beginning Educator Support

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By Rob

The top priority of the Quality Education Council Report is to “Make Progress Toward Ample Funding for Basic Education.”  The QEC recognizes many “non—basic education programs to be essential for providing critical services for students” – including funds for professional development.  A little further down the list of priorities is support for the recruitment, development, placement, and retention of educators who are culturally competent and possess skills and competencies in language acquisition.

That’s what I do.  I am part of a team of six Instructional Mentors who oversee the novice teacher induction program.  But funding for our position does not come from the state.  

 

CSTP--Staff | Education, Education Policy, Elementary, Life in the Classroom, Mentoring, Teacher Leadership, Travel | October 5, 2013

Translation from Finnish

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The following is a guest-post from Sarah Applegate, an NBCT teacher librarian at River Ridge High School in Lacey Washington. She is passionate about quality information literacy instruction, working with teachers to provide a wide range of resources for students, and dark, bitter Finnish licorice.

I have a confession.  I am a “Finnophile” (“one who loves all things from Finland”) and a “ChauvaFinn” (“one who displays excessive pride in Finland”) yet I hold an American passport.  My friends and colleagues will tell you that since I returned from a Fulbright study in Finland in 2011, I have sought out every opportunity to reflect upon and share what I learned and observed during my research on the Finnish education and library system.  Some might say I sought out TOO many opportunities- during casual dinners, on long runs, and while watching our kids at the park,  to share memories, insights and observations from my time in Finland. While embracing my Finnish obsession, I have continued to reflect on what I observed while in Finnish schools and libraries. I have constantly considered how schools in Washington could learn from Finnish education practice and translate them into Washington state settings.

On September 21, I was finally able to make connections between what I had learned and observed in Finland through a Finnish Education Conference, funded by the US Department of State with support from CSTP and WEA. We gathered 50 teachers from Washington to hear and think about what makes Finland’s education system work and how their approaches could be used in Washington state schools. I brought together four US Finland Fulbright teachers, as well as two Finnish teachers, to speak on how Finland organizes their education system, designs and delivers instruction and trains their teachers. During the morning, participants were able to learn about Finnish education practices and in the afternoon, teachers a chance to “translate” what they had learned to their own teaching context and plan for potential implementation of Finnish practices in their Washington state setting. What we translated has some promising implications for us in our schools - read on to see what we cooked up.

Maren Johnson | Education, Education Policy, Professional Development, Teacher Leadership | October 1, 2013

CSTP celebrates the big 1 - 0 ! Now where are those talking points?

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by Maren Johnson

We’ve got something unique here in Washington state in terms of education organizations that work with teachers.  Yeah, we have some great districts, state education agencies, unions.  In addition to all that, here in Washington, we’ve got an independent nonprofit with a focus on teaching—and that organization, the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession, is celebrating its ten year anniversary this month!

So what does CSTP do?  Just a few of the activities:

Community Dialogue and Advocacy.  What’s different about CSTP advocacy training?  No talking points provided!   Whether online or in person, CSTP advocacy training gives teachers the opportunity to develop their own messages for their own audiences, whether that audience is local, state, or national.  At an advocacy training before a recent legislative session, one teacher, a tad frustrated, asked, “Where are the talking points?”  The facilitator’s response: “The talking points will be better if you, the teachers, develop them!”

The communication is not just limited to speaking—writers’ retreats (and this blog!) have given educators the opportunity to develop writing skills.

Teacher Leadership. Very frequently, in K-12 school cultures, the term “leadership” is used interchangeably with the term “administration.”  The Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession has worked to expand that definition with the development of the Teacher Leadership Skills Framework.
The NBCT Leadership Conference, one of CSTP’s signature events, has been a launchpad for many newly certified NBCTs to not only hone leadership skills, but also to develop their own personal network of statewide teacher leaders. 

CSTP doesn’t just strengthen the teaching profession, CSTP strengthens individual teachers.  One teacher recently said, “There’s a whole lot going on besides what is going on in my own little classroom, and CSTP helps me learn about it.”

Research.  CSTP commissions research to help all sorts of agencies and organizations better understand teaching and learning, as well as support for teaching and learning, in Washington state classrooms.

And hey, the audience for all this is definitely not limited to teachers!  CSTP pulls together instructional leaders of all sorts in work such as helping train and support the Instructional Framework Feedback Specialists for our new state teacher principal evaluation system.  In another example of working with administrators and teachers across the career continuum, CSTP developed a module designed to help principals better assist new teachers in their buildings. 

Advocacy, leadership, and research?  It’s been an amazing ten years.  So where is CSTP going in the next ten?
Mark Gardner | Assessment, Current Affairs, Education, Education Policy, Mentoring, Teacher Leadership | September 23, 2013

Finally: Growing our Newest Teachers and Leaders

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File523f26e8d88c7By Mark

I had an amazing mentor my first year of teaching. Fresh out of my M.A.T. program and almost three hundred miles away from my small-town home, she was exactly what I needed. 

A great start makes all the difference.

Any investment we can make in a great beginning is a worthy investment, whether for our pre-K kids, our own new students in September, or for those teachers just starting their careers. Of course, resources are sometimes the stumbling block. However, the Beginning Educator Support Program is a way to provide opportunities for early-service teachers. Grant applications are due October 4th... so get those ducks and row them up. Here is the text of a recent email from CSTP about this work:

Districts or consortia of districts may apply now for grants from the Beginning Educator Support (BEST) Program, administered by OSPI and funded by the legislature. BEST provides competitive grants for districts to create comprehensive support for early-career teachers. Specifically, BEST grants provide $2500 per first year teacher, $2000 per second year teacher and $500 for other provisional-status teachers who change assignments. Districts agree to provide a paid orientation for new teachers, well-trained mentors, professional learning for both new teachers and mentors, and release time for mentors and mentees to observe others. 

Applications are due to OSPI by 5 pm on Monday, Oct. 4. You can find the application and more information about BEST here - http://www.k12.wa.us/BEST/

To read the State's Induction Standards go to CSTP's website -  http://cstp-wa.org/sites/default/files/CSTP_ind-standards.final_08.pdf

 

As exciting is the recent news that the state of Washington has been selected to part of a $15 million, three-year grant program from the U.S. Department of Education via the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and which will be collaboratively administered by the powerful trifecta of WEA, OSPI and CSTP in the coming school years. These grants are in part aimed at cultivating teacher capacity as instructional leaders. The name of the program, SEED (which stands for Supporting Effective Educator Development), says it all.

Mark Gardner | Assessment, Current Affairs, Education, Education Policy, Life in the Classroom, Professional Development, Teacher Leadership | September 20, 2013

Growth, Part Three: Growing Others

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File5234868add499By Mark

One drum I beat constantly is that if we want education reform to work, teachers must be the ones empowered to not only implement the change, but to be the ones who design it.

I often hear about "layers of bureaucracy and waste" in school districts. The comments under the news website articles about education tout the inefficiency and top-heaviness of school systems. That is perhaps the case in some places. Over the last few decades, instructional coaching has been in fashion as a layer somewhere in limbo between classroom teacher and building administrator. In tight budgets, these positions are often the first to go, since their impact on students is not always so obvious and traceable.

To some, coaching or being a TOSA (like I am for .4 of my day) is a stepping stone out of the classroom into administration. That's fine, but I believe that for most of us in that role, it isn't a means to some personal ladder-climbing end. For me, having no aspirations to be in administrative leadership, coaching or TOSA-ing is about supporting classroom instruction.

Logic and research both prove that of all the factors within the control of a school, the one with the greatest impact on student learning is teacher pedagogical skill. If this is the case, the potential power of teacher-leaders in coaching or TOSA roles cannot be understated. With so many demands on building administrators for everything from student discipline to recess duty to teacher evaluation, it is very easy for the difficult and time-consuming work of improving instruction to get unintentional short shrift. In too many cases, efforts to improve instruction manifest as hastily assembled sit-and-get powerpoint assaults or the spending of inordinate amounts of money to fly in some expert to talk at teachers for a day or two about decontextualized theory and the next new curriculum to buy. Missing are the intense and reflective one-on-one probing conversations that demand not only time but strong relationships that likewise require time to develop.

Mark Gardner | Current Affairs, Education, Education Policy, Social Issues, Teacher Leadership | August 30, 2013

Myth and Misunderstanding about TPEP

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File5220b00b5c523The History Channel recently ran a series called Your Bleeped-Up Brain, and if you can get past that staggeringly stupid title, there are some interesting tidbits to be found about how our minds work.

In particular, I caught a snip the other day about how humans define "truth." The main salient points: first, we are wired to believe the first information we see, hear, or learn; second, it is incredibly difficult for us to unlearn that "first" and replace it with new information. This is essentially the "primacy effect," where we are inherently more apt to trustaccept, and maintain belief in the first thing we hear or read. Add this as well: we are far more apt to believe information that confirms feelings we already hold, regardless of the veracity or validity--or even logic--of that information.

I have been fighting a slow and constant battle within my district to help implement our new evaluation system (TPEP, though I hate acronyms) and empower teachers to understand and use the framework not just when thinking about their performance review but moreso when thinking about their own practice. In our district of roughly 400 certificated staff, it is obviously difficult to communicate to everyone in a personal, meaningful, and clear way. It is also a challenge to accurately and authentically monitor what they really do and don't understand. 

Because we are human beings, we often look to one another first for information, before digging into things such as legalese about what is actually policy. The clear problem with this? It is easier to chat in the staff room and spread hearsay than to actually look it up. Sadly, we're then more likely to use unsubstantiated hearsay as the foundation for our feelings and opinions--and then refuse to accept new information when confronted with fact that contradicts what we thought we knew.

Case in point: recently I was told that it states unequivocally in the state RCWs that teachers are required to compile an eight-section portfolio of evidence to support their performance on each of the eight state evaluation criteria (and in areas of focus, cross-referenced with framework elements). I know the law, and it states absolutely nothing that could even be stretched to construe such a directive. Yet, this colleague of mine was certain she was right and I was wrong. Why? She heard it from a friend who teaches in another district. 

Mark Gardner | Assessment, Current Affairs, Education, Education Policy, Life in the Classroom, Professional Development, Teacher Leadership | August 21, 2013

Test Scores and Teacher Evaluation: Now What?

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File521431c138930There are few things worse than being fired up and not knowing what to do next.

That is where I find myself with the recent discussion about student growth, teacher evaluation, and the federal government. (Chances are you've already read a little about this from me, Tom, Maren and Kristin.)

But here's where I get stuck. It is easy for me to sit here at my desktop and engage in discourse with my peers about how misguided is the federal position on using one-shot test scores to evaluate teachers. In discussion here, on facebook, on other blogs, and even in old-fashioned face-to-face conversation, I've discovered that there are a lot of very intelligent people talking about this issue. (CSTP even noted that the traffic on this blog has spiked by a couple thousand pageviews in the last few days alone.)

For other issues, I've known to whom to go: my local leadership, state legislators, and so on. With this one, though, I truly don't know what to do next. Conversation needs to continue, for sure. At some point it needs to translate to action, or else this is all just a bunch of cached webpages.

Brainstorm with me, if you will: What can you and I do next? Who do we talk to? Is there hope? And what do we do once we've ignored the people who answer "no" to that last question?

If nothing else, let's keep the conversation going--and invite others to join in.

Mark Gardner | Education Policy, Life in the Classroom, Teacher Leadership | June 26, 2013

Lessons in Teacher Leadership

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File51cb02ad3388dBy Mark

David B. Cohen at InterACT (Accomplished California Teachers' blog) recently posted an interesting piece about the Teacher Leader Certification Academy in Riverside, California, which got me thinking about my own experience this past year in a newly formed "teacher leader" role in my district.

When I stepped into this role as "Teacher on Special Assignment," the job description was vague. Our district had not had a role like this at the secondary level, and as it was a part-time gig (two periods out of my day--with the other four periods consisting of my prep period and three periods with kids) neither I nor the leadership above me really knew what the work would look like in practice.

In the end, I learned so much this year. I learned things that I can apply in my own classroom, and of course I learned a thing or two about what it means to be this particular breed of "Teacher Leader."

The first thing I learned was to whom I should listen, and why.

Mark Gardner | Current Affairs, Education, Life in the Classroom, Teacher Leadership | April 20, 2013

Trust, Power, Change and Risk

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File5172abe3badc9By Mark

Change is hard, and for change to happen, trust is critical.

I've been thinking often about trust lately--sitting in meetings with administrators as they strategize how to build trust within a staff. In meetings at the ESD and with OSPI, I hear about how cultivating a climate of trust is vital for evaluation to produce growth.

Thus, we have more meetings, use surveys to find the root of the distrust. Still, I have bosses I trust more than others. I have colleagues I trust more than others. 

And when I sit and listen to my fellow teachers, they likewise lament situations where they do not trust their administrator or evaluators. As a building union representative, I sit in meetings where we talk about erosion of trust, and that the climate of distrust needs to be fixed. We talk about it, point at it, discuss it, and then leave the table waiting for that trust to somehow repair itself.

If I don't trust my administrator to make good choices, there is an assumption about how that lack of trust is to be remedied: If I don't trust you, the only way for trust to be repaired is for you to change.

Bam. There it is.

Mark Gardner | Current Affairs, Education Policy, Life in the Classroom, Social Issues, Teacher Leadership | February 9, 2013

Matters of Education...and Class Size

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Class sizeLast year was my first foray into tromping the halls of Olympia as a novice education advocate. I'm still far from an expert--which was one of my reasons for being so reticent to have a political voice.

I think many of us feel that way. The first step, as always, is just to pay attention...read, watch, listen, make up your mind (and remember, it's okay to disagree with your colleagues, your school, and your union, as long as your disagreement is informed).

WEA keeps an active site that is a good place for your radar to first ping: OurVoice. A few bills of note (and I think they're all still live as I type this...but things can change quickly!)

  • S5588: Restricts use of half-days for professional development, marketed as "changing the definition of 'school day.'" (WEA's take, here.)
  • HB1293: Requires districts to disclose the real costs of testing, which has led parents to ask legislators a question they cannot seem to answer.
  • HB1673: Gradually reduces student-to-teacher class size ratios for calculating state allocations, including provisions for even smaller class sizes in high-poverty schools. According to this document, Washington would need to hire over 12,000 teachers to bring our class size to the national average (we're presently the 4th most crowded). 

While there are other bills (and troubling ideas) out there and various stages of their life cycles, ranging from misguided attempts to businessify the teacher evaluation model that hasn't even been given the chance to get off the ground to others that affect collective bargaining, the class size bill, HB1673, is the one I'm thinking about at the moment. 

Mark Gardner | Assessment, Current Affairs, Education, Education Policy, Life in the Classroom, National Board Certification, Professional Development, Teacher Leadership | December 9, 2012

The Time to Do the Right Work

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Ship in a bottleAs a writing teacher, one of my greatest struggles involves getting kids to understand the writing process. Writing can be frustrating, arduous work. Understandably, then, when a kid puts the last period on the last sentence in the last paragraph, the impulse then is to put down the pen or click "print" and pass that piece on to the teacher.

As adults, we know that the last period is not the finish line, and that often the toughest work begins when the writing is "finished." The act of meaningful revision--the analysis of effectiveness, the cutting and splicing of sentences, the refining of vivid vocabulary--that formidable work often makes the first stages of writing seem simple. We know, though, that the difference between mediocre and exceptional comes with the time invested in revising, polishing, and refining. It is hard work. It is the right work to do, and it takes time. If that work is skimped upon or shirked, the end product will not have achieved its full potential.

When I had the opportunity to present to the Gates Foundation last week, the other presenters and I never met ahead of time to coordinate our message--yet the same point resonated loud and clear: the new evaluation system is the right work to do to improve teaching, schools, and student learning. 

And the corollary to that point: doing this work will take time.

Mark Gardner | Assessment, Current Affairs, Education, Education Policy, Life in the Classroom, National Board Certification, Professional Development, Teacher Leadership | December 8, 2012

The Right Work

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As some of you might have seen on Facebook, this past Thursday, December 6th, I had the privilege and opportunity to offer a short presentation and serve on a discussion panel for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Education Pathways meeting.

IMG_1558In the audience were names attached to some of most important and influential groups in public education in the state of Washington--and beyond, since also present were Ron Thorpe, President and CEO of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and Washington's own Andy Coons, who serves as the Chief Operating Officer of NBTPS. Walking into a room with leadership from OSPI, the Gates Foundation, the Association of Washington School Principals, CSTP, and numerous other organizations, I was quick to feel intimidated. After all, my main thought during my drive to Seattle was about whether my ninth graders were behaving for the sub--nothing quite so heady as the future of statewide policy.

My comfort zone is much more intimate with much clearer roles: When I walk into my own classroom, I am the expert, I am the authority. It's not that I wield power like a tyrant over my domain, but to those fourteen- and fifteen-year olds, I am the voice they are to listen to, heed, seek for advice, and learn from. I am the teacher: what I have to say matters.

In my eleven years of teaching, as I've ventured little by little into the world of education policy, there are many times when I find myself in a room filled with nicely pressed suits (and me wearing my one pair of decent slacks) feeling just the opposite way as I do in front of my classroom. I think to myself: I am just a teacher. Will what I say matter?

Travis Wittwer | Professional Development, Teacher Leadership | December 6, 2012

Rigorous Teachers

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By Travis Wittwer

I typically do not post on other posts. However, a post from Education Week caught my attention and shares a great deal of what I hope for Washington when I think of its future as an education state. 

The AFT (American Federation of Teachers) has an ambitious plan and I can get behind much of it.

I found myself nodding my head to was the call for rigorous, and consistent standards in teacher training programs. It is good for students and Washington because everyone gets a stronger teacher. It is also good for the teaching profession because it raises the quality of teachers which will raise the respect the profession gets.

Mark Gardner | Assessment, Books, Current Affairs, Education, Education Policy, Life in the Classroom, Professional Development, Teacher Leadership | October 20, 2012

The Mindsets

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FWhen I was an undergraduate, I loved having the opportunity to choose whichever courses interested me. Outside of my major, I took everything from calculus to photography to sociology. I also took advantage of another benefit offered: the option to take courses "pass/fail." I engaged this option whenever there was the chance that I would earn less than an "A."

At the time, I justified it from a financial standpoint. I had tuition and housing scholarships which required a certain GPA: a "C" would harm my GPA, but a "P" had no effect on it and I'd still earn the credit. However, in hindsight, I see that this behavior was a sign of something I'm only now starting to understand: my transcript was my identity.

Recently at an after-school meeting, one of our building associate principals shared an article summarizing the work done by Carol Dweck of the Stanford University School of Psychology. The gist: while it is not absolute, there are generally two "mindsets" into which people can be classified--the "fixed" mindset and the "growth" mindset. 

A person whose disposition is in the "growth" mindset will relish challenge, recover from failure having learned and applied critical lessons, and "end up" in a different and usually better place from where they "start out."

In college, I was clearly of the "fixed" mindset.

Rob | Education, Education Policy, Elementary, Life in the Classroom, Literacy, Parent Involvment, Social Issues, Teacher Leadership | September 22, 2012

Guidance Team

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By Rob

Struggling students are referred to the Guidance Team.  We identify the most significant barrier to student success.  We develop a plan to address the barrier.  We choose metrics to track the effectiveness of our plan.  We document our interventions and meet regularly to track progress. 

A teacher may bring a student to the team who’s reading below grade level.  We review the student’s reading data.  Perhaps we find evidence they need phonics support.  We align our school’s resources- this student will meet with our reading specialist for an 8 week phonics intervention.  This may lead to improved fluency and the student can then carry the meaning while reading.  As a result, their reading comprehension improves.  I’ve seen this happen.  It demonstrates some of the best work a school can do.

Rob | Education, Life in the Classroom, Professional Development, Teacher Leadership | August 23, 2012

Sparrow vs. Goose

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By Rob

One of my favorite summer activities was playing fetch in the park with my dog.  After the pooch was worn out we’d sit in the grass and I’d marvel at the swallows that arrive by late morning.  These birds would swoop, dive, bank and turn.  It was dizzying to see how quickly they’d change directions and commit to a new path.

Janette MacKay | Education, Elementary, Teacher Leadership | August 9, 2012

Reality Check

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Bursting BubbleWhat do you say when someone tells you they want to be a teacher?

You’ve probably had this conversation: some starry-eyed young college graduate starts to tell you about how he’s going to become a teacher so he can inspire his students and help the parents and do all these great projects and…

I remember when I was that young teacher how deflating it was to hear veteran teachers grumble about how things have changed and all the joy has been taken out of teaching. As a novice teacher, I vowed to never get all bitter and grumbly.

And now?

Mark Gardner | Assessment, Current Affairs, Education Policy, Life in the Classroom, Literacy, Professional Development, Teacher Leadership | July 30, 2012

Realigning to Common Core

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File7011343695826By Mark

This summer, I've been participating in a book study about challenges in implementing Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts. In that spirit, I sat down today to look at my scope and sequence for the classes I teach (Freshman English Lit and Comp). All along I've been saying to myself and others that this whole Common Core Standards shifting is no big deal: we're already doing that work, it's just a matter of identifying in those standards all the things we already do--we won't really have to do much that is "new."

As it turns out, this whole process really made me rethink what I teach and how I teach. I found that there were many standards which were addressed, reinforced, and assessed in basically every single unit of the sequence. I also found a few standards which never appeared more than once, buried as a footnote in some broader unit. More concerning: some of the projects and assessments that I and my students enjoy the most were supported by only tenuous connections (at best) to the standards. 

This coming school year, I anticipate that many of my posts will reflect my process with the Common Core. Interestingly, when I try to characterize my feelings, the first word that pops into my head (however irrational this may be) is the word mourning. Some of those projects that kids seem to connect with so well lack strong connection to Common Core, even if they are the tasks that former students still recall to me ten years later. No matter how much I, or they, love the experience, these are the things I really need to examine and honestly assess whether they belong in my classroom under my new expectations.

As I try to help other teachers make this transition to the new standards, I need to remember that word that popped into my head. As I encounter resistance, I need to remember that isn't just about being "opposed to change." I need to remember that the first reaction when you are told to do something new might not actually be a reaction to that which is new, but rather a quick and confusing pang of loss for something deeply enjoyed that no longer seems to fit. 

Travis Wittwer | Current Affairs, Education Policy, Teacher Leadership | May 31, 2012

Edulemma

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I sat at my dining room table this morning, finishing up a crossword, before moving on to what’s new in education news.

Budget cuts, great numbers of teachers leaving the profession, and frustrating class sizes are creating an education dilemma. An edulemma, if you will.

In an effort to view the current situation from all perspectives, I donned my alter ego, William P. Levitt, and found that solutions to our educational situation are within reach. 

Travis Wittwer | Life in the Classroom, Social Issues, Teacher Leadership | May 7, 2012

Relationships

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By Travis Picture 7

I took my sons to school with me on national Take Your Child to Work day. It humanized me. I have a good rapport with students because I care about them as people outside of my subject area. I know for many students the intricacies of Shakespeare’s language in The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is not what is important for their survival that day. I also know that my class may just be a blip on their day of ups and downs. Given this, I work hard to make their time in my class an “up.”

Mark Gardner | Current Affairs, Education, Education Policy, Games, Life in the Classroom, Social Issues, Teacher Leadership | March 19, 2012

When I'm Happiest

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File5971332208838By Mark

Everyone has probably heard about, or actually read, the New York Times website article that discussed the supposed downward spiral of teacher morale. It highlighted how teachers working in struggling schools had the lowest morale, and the teachers with greater satisfaction tended to have "more opportunities for professional development, more time to prepare their lessons and greater parental involvement in their schools."

Travis recently shared his one cent about how morale can easily crumble in our present atmosphere. Tamara shared some thought provoking questions, too. And Tom found himself indigo and then entered stage five.  

In my meetings and phone calls and emails and faxes (yep, faxes) with legislators the last few weeks, I've found myself repeating the phrase that I feel like I have "a target on my back and the blame for all society's ills on my shoulders." In quiet moments in the car or after my kids are in bed, I too have thought about what other jobs I could apply for.

But the next day, I walk into my classroom, close the door on it all, turn to face them and breathe a sigh of relief.

Travis Wittwer | Current Affairs, Education Policy, Teacher Leadership | March 8, 2012

My One Cent's Worth

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By Travis

As I turned on my classroom lights this morning, I saw an envelope, sitting, in the middle of the floor. It was out of place. I paused as I picked it up, wondering. Someone had slipped the envelope under my door late last night (I left school at 6 pm) or the did so early this morning (I arrived at 7 am). 

Doc - Mar 7, 2012 1-18 PM

The note was from a former student. As I read, I was torn between the emotional beauty of being a teacher, and the sad reality of how Washington State views its teachers. I believe this is a feeling many teachers have had recently.

Mark Gardner | Current Affairs, Education, Education Policy, Teacher Leadership | February 20, 2012

Olympia and Novice Advocacy

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Washington_State_Capitol_Legislative_Building

By Mark

Today was the culmination of a decision I made sparked by authoring this post, titled "What to do when you need someone to tell you what to do." If you click back to that post, I lined out eight levels of involvement as an advocate for the education profession, and basically posed the question: "how do we move ourselves to the next step in advocating for students, teachers, and the profession as a whole?" Realizing that I needed to practice what I preached, I made the decision to participate in the February 20th WEA-NBCT political action day.

I realized that I was hovering in the lower levels, having occasionally crested as high as level six. Never, before today at least, had I set foot in any offices in Olympia to meet with senators or representatives. Before I reflect on my meetings, I have three simple take-aways from today:

1. This was way easier than I thought it would be.

2. This was easy because we have a system in Washington that seeks to amplify teacher voice.

3. You can do this, too. (See take-away #1.)

Rob | Education, Education Policy, Life in the Classroom, Mentoring, National Board Certification, Professional Development, Teacher Leadership | December 29, 2011

A New Role

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By Rob

Mentor
Some time ago I was struggling to set up procedures during my literacy instruction.  I was attempting to meet with a guided reading group while the reminder of my class was engaged independently in a meaningful activity.  For some students the “independent” activity was a too challenging and they needed support.  For other students it was too easy and they were finishing early.  Other students had difficulty remaining on task and caused disruptions.  These are the challenges of a novice teacher.

All things considered I was doing pretty well but I knew it could be done better.  But I wasn’t sure how.  I was building the boat as I was crossing the ocean.

I spoke with some other teachers and we shared the same struggles.  After I confided in my principal I found this “struggle” reflected in my evaluation.  Prior to that evaluators found little to criticize.  I regretted opening up my practice.

Mark Gardner | Assessment, Current Affairs, Education, Education Policy, Games, Life in the Classroom, Professional Development, Social Issues, Teacher Leadership | December 6, 2011

The Four Point Scale.... again.

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Elephant-clockBy Mark

I sat at a table with two other teachers, two building administrators, and the top two admin from the district office. We'd spent the better part of an hour sorting through the assessment rubrics and frameworks associated with the new teacher evaluation system mandated through legislative action in Senate Bill 6696

Silence settled on us all at once. The weight of what we were examining suddenly became overwhelming. 

Like so many things in education, the ideas and philosophies behind this new evaluation system (in brief: a shift from the binary satisfactory/unsatisfactory on a menu of teacher behaviors to a four-point continuum of evaluation using as many as sixty individual descriptors of teacher practice) we could all agree were sound, necessary, and powerful both in terms of evaluation and potential professional development.

But as we began to picture how it all could transition from philosophy to action, the beast began to be revealed.

Mark Gardner | Current Affairs, Education, Life in the Classroom, Social Issues, Teacher Leadership | November 26, 2011

Turning the Corner

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Mayan_calendarBy Mark

For me, mentally, the coming December holiday break marks the "half-way" point in the school year. While this is not necessarily chronologically true, it is certainly emotionally true.

Back when I was a pre-service teacher, I remember seeing a chart like this one that graphs a first-year teacher's motivation and emotion over the calendar year--with November and December being the pit of disillusionment--but don't despair, rejuvenation and hope are just around the corner!

Ten years later, I feel like the chart still applies to me. It is always in November and December that I wander the web to see what other kinds of jobs my credentials and dispositions might match.

Travis Wittwer | Current Affairs, Education Policy, National Board Certification, Professional Development, Teacher Leadership | November 23, 2011

What NBCTs Mean for Washington

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As our way to recognize and celebrate the National Board score release this weekend, our NBCT/Bloggers shared a bit about what being a National Board Certified Teacher has meant for them, and for our state. The process of becoming National Board Certified involves hundreds of planning hours and demonstrating best practices in teaching. Those who recently certified had an additional stress of a delay in score results due to a computer server glitch.

With the glitch solved, and over a thousand new NBCTs to join them in Washington state, we offer our congratulations and invite you to read on and be inspired by what our bloggers have said about how being National Board Certified is making a difference for teachers in our state.

Mark Gardner | Assessment, Current Affairs, Education, Education Policy, Life in the Classroom, Professional Development, Teacher Leadership | November 11, 2011

The Four Point Scale

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CRW_3531By Mark

Senate Bill 6696 has put into motion changes in the way teachers are evaluated.

First... the relevant language of the bill (from the link above):

Evaluations. Each school district must establish performance criteria and an evaluation process for all staff and establish a four-level rating system for evaluating classroom teachers and principals with revised evaluation criteria. Minimum criteria is specified. The new rating system must describe performance on a continuum that indicates the extent the criteria have been met or exceeded. When student growth data (showing a change in student achievement between two points in time) is available for principals and available and relevant to the teacher and subject matter it must be based on multiple measures if referenced in the evaluation.

Classroom Teachers. The revised evaluation criteria must include: centering instruction on high expectations for student achievement; demonstrating effective teaching practices; recognizing individual student learning needs, and developing strategies to address those needs; providing clear and intentional focus on subject matter content and curriculum; fostering and managing a safe, positive learning environment; using multiple student data elements to modify instruction and improve student learning; communicating and collaborating with parents and the school community; and exhibiting collaborative and collegial practices focused on improving instructional practice and student learning. The locally bargained short-form may also be used for certificated support staff or for teachers who have received one of the top two ratings for four years. The short-form evaluations must be specifically linked to one or more of the evaluation criteria.

Here in southwest Washington, ESD 112 is leading a group of districts who are beginning the process of adapting and implementing the evaluation procedures described in this bill. Of course, the first step is a careful reading of relevant parts of SB 6696. 

There are two elements of the language above that I like in particular. To begin, there's this:

Rob | Assessment, Current Affairs, Education, Education Policy, Elementary, Life in the Classroom, Literacy, Teacher Leadership | October 26, 2011

Corrective Action

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Graph Down Arrow

By Rob

My school is in the third round of No Child Left Behind sanctions.  Among other procedures these sanctions call for ‘corrective action’ to be taken. 

Arriving at this point wasn’t a surprise.  It’s taken many years to get here.  Our school has been labeled ‘failing’ for a while but only after seeing last year’s test results do I feel like we’ve failed.  No teacher at our school wanted to enter the third round of NCLB sanctions.  Round 2, Schools of Choice, was embarrassing enough. 

There was pressure to improve our school’s test results.  I sensed a change in the tone of my evaluations.  Many new teachers were not hired for year two.  A veteran teacher was removed.  It seemed to me that the pressure was high and morale was low.

Perhaps other teachers felt this pressure more acutely than I.  Last year many of them have transferred elsewhere.  Of 23 classroom teachers 11 are novice (in their first or second year).  In my tenth year teaching I’m the second most experienced teacher at our school.

I’ve wondered how we’ve arrived at this unfortunate point.  Each fall we receive our state’s standardized test scores.  Teachers, energized and committed, face the challenge.  We’ve created systems for tracking student progress, providing extra support, engaging families, growing professionally, and improving instruction.  I believe some of these systems have been of great benefit to students.

While I thought these systems were beneficial our data never really showed it.  Here’s what it shows: (click the picture for a clearer view) 

Capture
In 2011 our scores dropped 30% to under 40% of students passing the 4th grade reading MSP.  The year before 71.4% of students passed the 3rd grade reading MSP.  The test didn’t get harder.  The state average pass rate remained flat.  This isn’t isolated to one grade.  Our 3rd grade reading pass rate fell 13.1% from the previous year.  Our 5th grade reading pass rate fell 32.8% from the previous year.

This drop in performance is startling.  So what happened?  Who knows?  I wish I had more answers and fewer questions.

Did the students consistently miss a particular type of reading comprehension question?  That could be addressed with an adjustment to the curriculum.

With a 37% mobility rate could the students who left be the ones who passed in 2010.  Might they have been replaced with students who didn't pass?  How about the families who left because of school choice (a NCLB sanction for schools in step 2 of improvement)?  Did the student population change significantly?  Are we comparing the same students from year to year?

Did students who narrowly passed the MSP in 2010 narrowly miss passing in 2011?  Did a slight drop in performance signify a drastic drop in the percent of students meeting standard?

Did significant numbers of non passing students come from specific classrooms?

Could school community, teacher morale, and the shame & blame policies of NCLB account, at least in part, for a dramatic drop in student performance?

Answers to these questions are important as a school undergoes “corrective action.”  I don’t know if anybody is asking these questions.  I don’t know if answers are available.  But I’d like to know exactly what problem I’m correcting and we all deserve a clearer answer than ‘you didn’t meet adequate yearly progress again.’ 

Rob | Education, Education Policy, Teacher Leadership | August 21, 2011

A Top-Down Reform I'd Support

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By Rob

Human-pyramid
Teaching is a flat profession. A teacher with 20 years of experience performs the same job as a teacher with two years of experience. Aside from moving into administration there isn’t a career ladder for teachers to climb. School systems may be hesitant to remove the best teachers from classrooms. Consequently, cultivating leadership from the ground up is a difficult task.

Why not cultivate leadership from the top down? Two-thirds of superintendents are hired from outside the district. Nationwide the average tenure for superintendents is just over five years. In urban districts it is under four years. This constant turn-over negatively impacts the continuity of reforms.

When a new superintendent arrives the cabinet, departments, and programs are often restructured. This creates a lot of work for school personnel. It may be done in the name of improving student learning but it is not about student learning; it is about change and reorganization. Given the rate of superintendent turn-over it is a task that is likely to be repeated soon.

Changes in leadership impact teachers. With new superintendents come changes in curriculum, programs, models of instruction and evaluation. In my ten years of teaching I’ve had three superintendents. Where we once focused on expanding access to Advanced Placement classes and participation in Lesson Study we now focus on Guided Language Acquisition Design and Professional Learning Communities. We’ve shifted from broadening all curricula to narrowing some and expanding math and literacy. We’ve replaced teacher designed tests with norm-referenced tests.

Whether these shifts in focus have been positive or negative depends on your perspective. Professional Learning Communities can be a powerful transformative tool. So too can Lesson Study. Japan’s practice of Lesson Study has been well established since the 1960’s. My district tried it for only six years. The constant shifting of focus, energy, and funding that comes with new “outside” leadership means many programs never reach their full potential.

When a new leader takes the helm I question if they were good a teacher. Do they have an appreciation for the complexities of managing classrooms? Will they take these complexities into consideration as they make decisions? If new superintendents are from outside the district these questions may not be answered. I’m less likely to have these concerns if I’ve had the chance to work beside them.

Suppose schools hire two-thirds of their superintendents from inside the district. There would be more opportunity to build a culture around a common vision. Wholesale changes to programs would be less likely. Shifts in focus may be more gradual and more targeted. Their initiatives may realize greater potentials.

I’m not a fan of many top-down reforms but I’d be happy to see schools cultivate leadership from the top.

Mark Gardner | Assessment, Current Affairs, Education, Education Policy, Life in the Classroom, Professional Development, Teacher Leadership | December 1, 2010

Collaboration

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By Mark

This video was emailed to me by a colleague...if you have a few minutes and are willing to maintain a sense of humor, it's worth a look:

 

Now, I wouldn't post this if I was just trying to be subversive or funny. In any satire or parody, there is always a kernel of truth (heck, sometimes a whole cob of truth). 

I truly enjoy authentic collaboration. In fact, I believe that my freedom to collaborate is actually what has kept me in education this long--if I were isolated in my own classroom all day with my only human contact being with 14-year-olds (who some contend are not quite yet human beings) I don't think I'd have lasted.

Because I get to collaborate and actually team-teach in my current assignment, I have grown as an educator and my satisfaction in my job has grown as well. There is something powerful about working closely with a like-minded educator or team of educators who share common philosophies, attitudes and dedication to increasing student learning. We challenge each other, support each other, and learn from each other. I am a better teacher because I have collaborated. My students perform better because I have collaborated.

Alas, like so many fads in education, Collaboration has become a four-letter-word to some, and I think it is in no small way due to the kinds of situations parodied in that YouTube video above.

Mark Gardner | Education, Life in the Classroom, Professional Development, Teacher Leadership | November 17, 2010

Why I Teach

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FqCgbp By Mark

November is a notoriously tough time for educators. The honeymoon of the first quarter has faded. Holidays, late starts and homecoming interrupt our best laid plans and the hacks and sneezes of the masses make the classroom sound more like an infirmary.

By now, the first few rounds of big projects and essays have left their treadmarks on my backside, and I've survived the first few rounds of angry parent phone calls and meetings as six- and nine-week grade reports have gone home.

In those gray clouds and cold winds there has to be a silver lining. If there weren't why else would we be in this job? 

A while back on the InterACT blog, Kelly Kovacic offered ninety seconds that summed up her reason for teaching, and it got me thinking about the reasons I teach as well.

I know that the right answer for why I teach does include something about making a difference in the lives of children or having the joy of watching the lightbulbs come on when they finally get it. It's also about the kind words and notes like the profound message Kelly writes about. For me, though, there's yet another dimension to why I teach. I work in a profession where every single day, I get to not only practice my favorite hobby but also help engage others in it as well.

Simply put, I get to think.

I've always loved thinking. I cannot imagine a world without it (though reality television might be a fair representation of such a world), and it boggles my mind that there are people who can ever just sit in silence and not think. I am always doing it. In the car, walking down the hallway, during staff meetings. The wheels are always turning, and my mind is always wrestling with something--sometimes profound, sometimes profoundly mundane. 

To me, teaching is thinking. As I present that lesson, I'm watching their faces--are they getting it? How can I tell? As I circulate during work time, I'm eavesdropping on the group a few desks away--what are they saying when they suspect I'm not listening? What are they learning? How are they thinking?

Sure, I am proud when my students make progress because of something I did or shared. Sure, it is nice to hear through the grapevine nice things that older students tell their younger sibs about how much they learned from me. But those ego strokes aren't enough to keep me coming back. Every day my mind is exercised, stretched, and challenged. I guess that's also called learning, since that exercising, stretching and challenging is exactly what I strive to get my students' minds to do as well.

No, I don't teach because I'm trying to save the world. That's just a happy by-product. I teach because I can imagine no more challenging mental avocation (for my tastes, at least). I teach because every minute of every day it makes me think.

In the pit of November, we all ought to take a moment to remind ourselves why we teach. And it's okay if, like mine, your reasons are as much about you as they are about your students.

Mark Gardner | Current Affairs, Education, Education Policy, Life in the Classroom, Teacher Leadership, Web/Tech | October 29, 2010

Building a Hybrid Virtual School

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Qbqonw By Mark

A colleague of mine posed an interesting proposition lately. Like many school districts, mine is apparently toying with the idea of a hybrid virtual/brick-and-mortar kind of school-within-a-school. The idea is that the curriculum would be administered face-to-face when necessary and via web interface when necessary, so this colleague of mine was casting out a few lines to see if any of us would bite.

I've voiced interest in participating, but have concerns and questions. 

A few years ago, I was part of starting a small learning community "school-within-a-school" of sorts in my high school, and it is still operating, but that endeavor was small by comparison with what my colleague has in mind. I am wondering what models of this kind of hybrid exist, what are the benefits or shortcomings, and what the best course would be.

I'm definitely in the learning stages here. Sure, I can Google it or read some journal articles, but that only gives part of the story.

So, SFS readers and contributors: what do you know, or what advice do you have about building this kind of educational opportunity? If you are a brick-and-mortar teacher, what concerns would you have for a hybrid or virtual school? What hopes would you have?

Mark Gardner | Assessment, Education, Education Policy, Life in the Classroom, Professional Development, Social Issues, Teacher Leadership | October 30, 2009

What makes schools work

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Gear mechanism on antique steam powered grain combine, Woodburn, Oregon, photo by Mark By Mark

It's a question I and my teammates get often: "Why don't they do this for all freshmen?"

About seven years ago, some administrators with a clear vision saw a need in our building: far too many tenth graders weren't actually tenth graders. By credits, they were still ninth graders.  Far too many kids were not on track for on-time graduation...or even graduation at all. These administrators had an idea of what they thought would help solve this problem. So, they attended conferences and did some initial research.

Then, those administrators with a clear vision did something that I fear is unfortunately rare, but has made all the difference. 

They identified the problem.

And then they trusted teachers to figure out how to best solve it.

Nancy | Teacher Leadership | October 17, 2009

Five Ways to increase Teacher Planning Time

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By Nancy

This past week I witnessed a teacher meltdown during a staff development workshop; after a day of training on a new curriculum, she asked the presenter how she and her teammates were supposed to assimilate all the new materials when they had only 30 minutes a day to prepare for 6 hours of instruction. The large group training venue was not appropriate for this teachers’ meltdown, but her question was valid. Everyone in the room felt the same stress and frustration.

According to a report by Stanford and the National Staff Development Council, in which they compared the US teacher workload with other top-performing countries, a US teacher on average only gets 3 to 5 hours per week of planning time, compared to 15 to 20 hours per week for teachers in other nations to prepare lessons, meet with parents and students, and work with other educators. US teachers also have far more direct student contact time than any other nation. The report shares some specific examples of what other top-performing nations provide for their teachers. For those of us teaching in the US, the examples from places like Korea and Singapore sound like a fantasy fulfilled by Oprah.

Mark Gardner | Assessment, Education, Education Policy, Mentoring, Professional Development, Teacher Leadership | September 9, 2009

Growth by Association: One good teacher makes a difference

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Pd_small_pencil_sharpener By Mark

Nearly every training and inservice repeats the same mantra: we must increase student learning. So we get shipped off to learn about a new strategy or a new tool or a new curriculum. We meet about goal setting and analyzing student data and impact on student learning. We are constantly doing extra in an effort to better the service we provide our students.

All that extra work, and it turns out there is something out there which has delivered a measurable impact on student learning, and it doesn't involve a special training or new curriculum.

Travis Wittwer | Current Affairs, Education Policy, Teacher Leadership | August 24, 2009

5 Ways to Improve Our Education System....I only need 1

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Picture 2 by Travis

Hmmm, five ways I would improve our education system if money were not an issue? I like that. It is a timely topic, often discussed. However, I only need one way. It's a big one. One with huge, sweeping results. But the good news--this one item will not require more money, per se. This one item is something we already have. This one item is nothing that we have not already known for decades. Bonus, improvements will be made quickly and with continued success regardless of levies or measures, politics or procedures. Is it too good to be true? No. It is a reality we already possess.

Travis Wittwer | Teacher Leadership, Web/Tech, Weblogs | June 20, 2009

Why Don't All Teachers Blog?

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Picture 2 by Travis

Why don't all teachers blog? It seems reasonable to think that a great many do. Teachers like to share and the internet allows for such ease in sharing. However, I wonder how pervasive teacher blogs are.

CSTP--Staff | Education Policy, Teacher Leadership | April 18, 2009

Who Speaks?

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By Guest Blogger Terese

I woke up today thinking, “How did I get here?”

Just a few short years ago I was teaching fourth graders, working hard to do the best job I could and otherwise minding my own business. On Tuesday I was at the state Capitol, talking with a legislator about an amendment to a bill that had just been proposed. 

What happened in between is a long story. But out of my experiences I have developed a belief that is now central to everything I do. I spend my days thinking about it, planning, trying to figure out what to do next. I toss and turn at night, problem solving. I am dedicated to promoting what I believe in every way that I can.

I believe in the power of teachers’ voices.

Travis Wittwer | Assessment, Teacher Leadership | February 25, 2009

WCAP, Part 2

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Picture 1



I like technology. Some say I adore it. But I do have limits. I am not bound by technology simply because something has a circuit board. For example, I have not found a decent calendar program that can display the many nuances that my monthly schedule takes. For this, I use paper. I make notes on paper, too. I gave up my PDA years ago after it failed to be as effective as paper. My PDA came close, but I knew it was not a match. I think knowing when to use a tool (and when not to) is crucial to efficiency. 

Travis Wittwer | Assessment, Books, Current Affairs, Education, Education Policy, Elementary, Life in the Classroom, Literacy, Mathematics, Mentoring, National Board Certification, Parent Involvment, Professional Development, Teacher Leadership, Web/Tech, Weblogs | February 7, 2009

Stories from School now on Twitter!

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Picture 1 

Do you want to receive your Stories from School posts through Twitter? Now you can . . . . 

Travis Wittwer | Education, Education Policy, Professional Development, Teacher Leadership | January 19, 2009

Collaboration, not Isolation

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Picture 3

Some days I feel like Sisyphus, carrying the same basket of laundry upstairs just to have it end up downstairs to be washed, or picking up toys just to have them appear on the floor as if a godly punishment for hubris. Again and again, day in and day out. Some days are better than others. However, this week, it was especially Sisyphistic.

Yep, that’s right. I just used that adjective. Check it out on Google in a month and see if it has caught on with the teenagers, “Hey Jennifer, you are looking totally Sisyphistic with your physics textbook.”

Anyway, I do have a point. And an education point at that. It goes like this . . . 

CSTP--Staff | Current Affairs, Education, Professional Development, Social Issues, Teacher Leadership, Web/Tech | January 5, 2009

Increase of Online Courses in School

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Picture 2


I have to admit, I have a bias here. I feel comfortable around technology and use it for education and social learning. I teach two online courses and use technology in my classroom for podcasts, vidcasts, and instruction; my students use technology as well for more than word-processing. So when I saw that Michigan was leading the way in online courses, I had to read the article, oh, and by the way, the article is online. 

CSTP--Staff | Education, Life in the Classroom, National Board Certification, Professional Development, Teacher Leadership | December 31, 2008

The Return to Teaching

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I am again looking forward to the classroom. I feel like it was long ago when I was there. I miss the interactions between students, watching young people make meaning of the world around them. I miss the opportunities to improve compassion and skill and purpose. I miss working with teachers who, by default, are amazing people with amazing talents to impact the learning of children.

Travis Wittwer | Education Policy, Mentoring, National Board Certification, Professional Development, Teacher Leadership | December 11, 2008

WASHINGTONIOUSLY Awesome: NBCTs fill the classrooms!

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Picture 2 I remember when I signed up for NBPTS. I was filled with the excitement of the challenge, the excellence. I remember when I received my NBPTS box. I was filled with sheesh, what have I gotten myself into. Now that I have gone through the certification process, I am a stronger teacher which, ultimately, benefits my students.
Travis Wittwer | Education Policy, Mentoring, Professional Development, Teacher Leadership | November 17, 2008

How to Take Down a State Education System in 3 Easy Steps

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When taking down an education system, it is important to know which areas are crucial and will cause the most future distress. Once you have targeted that, you will be able to take down an education system in a few easy steps.

Travis Wittwer | Assessment, Education Policy, Social Issues, Teacher Leadership | October 7, 2008

You Cannot Measure with Measure 60 (ORE)

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Picture_2I do not usually have a newspaper in my house. I usually do not read the newspaper. However, on this cold, wet Sunday, I read the newspaper. You see, it was left there by a guest and I am glad they did. I was able to read about Measure 60 in Oregon. Not our state you say, well, it is only one state away from Washington, and not too many away from the others.