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Dr. Barry Bachenheimer is the Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment at Pascack Valley Regional High School District (NJ) and a 2014 NSBA 20 to Watch Education Technology Leader. He has been in education since 1993, serving as a teacher, social studies supervisor, principal and central office administrator. He also served as Director of Instruction in the Caldwell-West School System in Caldwell, NJ, prior to coming to Pascack.

Dr. Bachenheimer values personalized learning, student voice and thoughtful integration of technology in classrooms, and he recently supported Pascack Valley’s efforts in creating a “Virtual Day” to take the place of a snow day in 2014. He was kind enough to take time to share his thoughts on these and other issues, including implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

Public School Insights (PSI): Let’s start with your background. Where were you before you came to the Pascack Valley Regional High School District, and what positions did you hold that contributed to your current work in curriculum, instruction and assessment, as well as with technology? ...

By Tracy Crow, Director of Communications, Learning Forward

If school districts relied on Craigslist to build effective learning systems, the search would be simple: "Passionate learner seeks same." While the reality of building learning systems and teams is more complex, the principle is the same--committed learners at every level of a system are the key to improving teaching and learning for students every day.

Passionate learners in today's schools aren't optional. And yet, of the five beliefs that undergird Learning Forward's work, here's the one most likely to make educators do a double-take: All educators have an obligation to improve their practice.

The word obligation gives pause here. Are we willing to say that every educator MUST improve his or her practice? ...

By Joan Richardson, Editor-in-Chief, Kappan magazine (PDK International)

The young woman sitting across from me had just finished eight weeks of student teaching, and she was anxious to have her own elementary school classroom in one of America’s major cities. She gushed with the kind of enthusiasm that you want to see in beginning professionals. All hope and energy and belief.

I can’t wait to talk to her at Thanksgiving.

Eight weeks of student teaching. At the end of the school year. Under the watchful eye of a veteran teacher. Rarely left on her own. Like me, you are probably seeing all kinds of ways her experience can go wrong. And, like me, you have probably had this same conversation dozens, maybe hundreds, of times.

Encounters like these are just one reason why Ron Thorpe’s proposal for a teacher residency modeled after medical residency makes so much sense. (See “Residency: Can it transform teaching the way it did medicine?” from the September issue of the Phi Delta Kappan.) Sending a teacher into a classroom after just a few weeks of fulltime student teaching is tantamount to supporting malpractice. Does the profession believe there is a link between the quality of teaching and the quality of student learning? If so, then we must closely examine all of our practices to ensure that we are doing everything we can to ensure a high quality of teaching in every classroom. ...

By Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director, National School Boards Association (NSBA)

Who should govern America's public schools? Should public education be led by the president and Congress? State authorities? Or should local school boards -- with access to the local context and community -- be responsible for the quality of public education?

According to the 46th Annual PDK/Gallup Poll of Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, 56 percent of the adults surveyed say that local school boards should have the greatest influence in deciding what is taught in the public schools. Only 15 percent -- less than 1/7 of adult respondents -- support federal government assumption of this role.

This year's PDK/Gallup poll elicited Americans' opinions on a wide array of education topics, including Common Core State Standards, student standardized testing, international comparisons, school choice, and school governance issues.

Despite active debate among lawmakers, policymakers, and education leaders, the public's attitudes on federal involvement are clear: ...

This piece was co-authored with Dean Vogel, President of the California Teachers Association. It first appeared in the Sacramento Bee. View the original here.

The new school year brings one of the biggest transitions our state’s elementary and secondary education system has ever experienced. As students settle into new classrooms, our teachers are adjusting their instruction to help students meet expectations of the new Common Core state standards. It’s our job – as parents, business leaders, students, community members and educators – to look beyond both the hype and hysteria to ensure that students benefit from thoughtful, locally driven implementation.

Part of the challenge we’re facing is a lack of clear information about what the standards are and aren’t. They emphasize critical thinking, problem solving and inquiry-based learning – what students need to thrive in college and in today’s global economy. Far from prescribing what should be taught or how, the new standards outline what students should know while giving teachers the flexibility to decide how to help each student get there. Under Common Core, there are actually fewer standards, allowing teachers to slow down and students to explore each topic in depth. ...

By Sharon P. Robinson, President and CEO, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)

Recently U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan issued a statement responding to widespread concerns about standardized testing—saying that “testing issues today are sucking the oxygen out of the room in a lot of schools” and offering to delay by a year the federal requirement that teacher evaluations include some “significant” influence from students’ performance on state assessments.

Reaction from the field1 to Duncan’s statement has been, as expected, profoundly respectful and professional. Unions, administrators and policymakers have expressed relief that the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has finally acknowledged feedback from the field as to the wisdom of policy. While the announced delay in tying teacher evaluations to these impact measures is very important, I am even more interested to see how consistent, congruent and powerful the Obama administration intends to be in its handling of similar policy questions. ...

A week ago, U. S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, issued a Back to School message in his Department of Education blog, Homeroom, that made news because it announced that states will have the opportunity to request a delay in when test results matter for teacher evaluation in their compliance efforts with No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Certainly, this was a welcome announcement, and the Learning First Alliance (LFA) issued a statement later that same day in support of the Secretary’s announced flexibility.

However, the aspect of the announcement that was most heartening to me wasn’t the new flexibility offered, but the tone of the message and the respect communicated for the educators on the ground doing the work. Too often in the past, messages from the Department of Education have led with doom and gloom and the assertion that America’s K-12 public education system is “failing” and that the professionals working in the system are not among the academically skilled in the workforce and “come from the bottom third of their class”. This year’s Back to School blog was “a message of celebration and thanks” for the educators who have worked tirelessly over the past years with the results that America’s students have posted some unprecedented achievements ...

By Amber Chandler, American Federation of Teachers member and 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts Teacher at Frontier Middle School in Hamburg, NY

Religion. Politics. Sexual Orientation. Breastfeeding. Abortion. Homeschooling. Salary. Buy or lease. Immigration. Organic.  In no particular order, these are some of the topics of conversation that I generally avoid talking about with complete strangers or getting in to verbal duels on Facebook about.  Sure, if you are in my inner circle, you might know how I truly feel about these issues.  That is not to say that I don’t have an opinion, but that is to say, I’m not generally the type to try to indoctrinate anyone, and I’ve been known to play devil’s advocate to make the conversation more interesting. It isn’t that I don’t have conviction, I do. I just try to intellectually consider the other side.  To some people, this makes me interesting. To others, infuriating.  If you would fall in to the later category, you have my permission to stop reading, no hard feelings.

In the last year, I’ve added the words “Common Core” to my inner radar of “let’s not go there unless you have an hour” topics.  I have heard and read so many ideas about this topic that I am certain we are not all talking about the same thing.  The conversations have stopped being healthy debate, but rather devolved in to lines in the sand with picketers on both side, and politicians handing out tracts and gathering email addresses.  The machine is at work, and despite most people’s best efforts, we’ve been sucked in ...

When we discuss the implementation of new college- and career-ready standards, such as the Common Core, we talk a lot about how teachers can adapt their practice to best help students achieve. And we talk a bit about the important role that principals, superintendents and parents will play in the process.

One stakeholder is rarely mentioned: The school counselor. Yet the adoption of new standards directly impacts their daily work, their pre-service training and their professional learning.

The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) is in the process of updating their Mindsets and Behaviors for Student Success, which identify and prioritize the specific attitudes, knowledge and skills that students should be able to demonstrate as a result of a school counseling program. This document is intended to serve as the foundation for classroom lessons, small group work and activities within a school counseling program, and its newest iteration will be aligned with the Common Core, as well as with other national, state and district level documents.

In a recent e-interview, ASCA Assistant Director Eric Sparks took the time to tell us more about this project and the important role that school counselors play in academic support, as well as how their work is shifting with the adoption of new college- and career-ready standards.

Public School Insights (PSI): What are the topline messages that those in the education community who are not school counselors – such as teachers, principals and parents – should know about the ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors for Student Success?

Sparks: The ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors for Student Success describe the knowledge, skills and attitudes that students need to achieve academic success, college and career readiness and social/emotional development. ...

By Sharon P. Robinson, President and CEO, and Mark La-Celle Peterson, Vice President for Policy and Programs, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)

On July 22, New York Commissioner of Education John King convened a task force to advise the state on its future use of edTPA, a performance assessment system for aspiring teachers that is now required for licensure in New York.

As the first state to fully implement policy requiring new teachers to pass edTPA for licensure, New York and its PK-12 educators and teacher educators have encountered a variety of operational challenges. Every state that follows New York, as well as our larger professional community, will benefit from New York’s initiative, experience, and solutions.

Consequential use of edTPA is just one of four assessment innovations rolled out in New York’s ambitious new licensing process. (Other required licensure assessments are the Educating All Students exam, Academic Literacy Skills test, and certificate-specific Content Specialty Tests.) While some of us have expressed concern about the rapid roll-out schedule, it is apparent that many candidates were indeed ready to meet the rigorous new requirements: The initial edTPA pass rate was 84%, which we find impressive ...

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