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By Hayes Mizell, Distinguished Senior Fellow, Learning Forward

National education reports often have difficulty getting attention, but that was not the case when the Gallup polling organization released State of America's Schools.  Rather than prescribing technocratic approaches for improving education, the report focused on the "human elements" that drive student achievement.

According to Gallup, the factors of engagement, relationships, collaboration, hope, and trust are essential for learning and high performance. This is true not only for students, but also for teachers.

In fact, the report's headline grabber was that nearly 70% of teachers "are not emotionally connected to their workplaces and are unlikely to devote much discretionary effort to their work."  Among reasons for teachers' lack of engagement, two stand out. In a Gallup survey of employees in 14 different occupational categories, K-12 teachers "were dead last ... in saying their 'supervisor always creates an environment that is trusting and open.' " ...

A recent meeting hosted by the Alliance for Excellent Education on Improving the Effectiveness of Beginning Teachers brought back memories of my time teaching many years ago. And it seems that though my experience happened long ago, I fit right into the profile of today’s teaching force: I left the profession after four years of teaching. The difference is that today attention is focused on the problems posed by a work force that overwhelmingly turns over in the first five years and provides an essential service not only to the health of our education system, but to our country. What was true then and is now being identified through research and increased attention is that to retain and develop a highly skilled teaching force, we need to provide support and continued learning opportunities for all our beginning teachers. 

At the Improving the Effectiveness of Beginning Teachers event, Richard Ingersoll, Professor of Education and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, shared his research on the demographics of the teaching profession and how that’s dramatically changed over the past twenty plus years, with the result being that the majority of the current teaching profession have fewer than five years’ experience in the classroom. Dr. Ingersoll’s research has looked at the kinds of new teacher induction practiced with this novice work force and the effect that induction has on teacher turnover in the first five years of employment. Percentage of turnover ranges from 41 percent for those teachers who received no induction support to 18 percent for those who were supported in significant ways in their first year on the job. ...

By Amber Jimenez, American Federation of Teachers member and ELL teacher in Colville, WA

I like to take the first few weeks of summer vacation to do some serious reflection. I think about the school year and my successes and failures. This helps determine which books I read and classes I attend to help me prepare for the next school year. For the last few years, though, I have also thought seriously about teaching as a profession, how we as teachers are perceived, and how decisions and trends policy makers make affect my teaching practice.

Accountability seems to be the big buzz word these days. Starting with NCLB when I was a new teacher, districts began to take a closer look at student subgroups and became accountable for their success. As an ELL teacher I was happy to see a greater focus on my students’ progress. Yet NCLB’s focus on punishment in the end hurt my students. Because they needed more support, my elementary students lost access to the arts and even core subjects of science and social studies in the push towards reading and math. My high school students also lost out on elective opportunities because they needed to take resource and support classes to improve their test scores. My students were not well rounded and for many of them, the “fun part” of school was lost. Race to the Top wasn’t much better. States are relying on waivers from NCLB to retain funding. My new home state even recently lost its waiver. Our accountability system is up in the air. ...

 Principal Thomas Payton has spent several years as an assistant principal and principal, following his classroom teaching, in schools across the country from New York City to Clark County, Nevada. He is currently a principal at Roanoke Avenue Elementary School in Riverhead Central School District, NY. Principal Payton is also a National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) State Representative and recently served as a member of the NAESP/NASSP Teacher Evaluation Committee. The committee put together a set of policy recommendations aimed at supporting principals in implementing teacher evaluation systems.


As a school leader, Principal Payton is working to create a building wide understanding of the Common Core - in both ELA and math - with teachers across all grade levels to better facilitate student learning in accordance with the new standards. In a recent e-interview, he took the time to discuss the specifics of this work. He also shared his thoughts on effective teacher evaluation systems and the importance of creating individualized professional development opportunities for classroom teachers.
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By Dan Brown, Executive Director, Future Educators Association (part of the PDK International Family of Associations)

Fresh out of New York University film school in 2003 and with only a whirlwind summer of training, it was pretty clear to me that I wasn’t safe to practice as a new teacher. Still, the New York City Teaching Fellows gave me hiring papers. Fueled by excitement and inspiration, I took a job teaching 26 4th graders in the Bronx that fall. Although I knew virtually zero about effective teaching, I plunged ahead armed with wits and worksheets.

My rookie year in Class 4-217 at P.S. 85 was, of course, a fiasco – lost learning time that those students can’t get back. Visitors to our class would have seen student fights, unceasing chatter and a stressed-out teacher resorting to survival mode and lowered expectations.

I should have had to wait until I could demonstrate a baseline of competency. The practice of heaping everything on underprepared rookies – like my 22-year-old self – needs to stop. In this trial-by-fire culture, everyone loses: students and parents get stuck with low-skilled teachers, new teachers struggle and run for the door, and our education system remains locked in a state of churn.

The lack of a clear, high bar for what new teachers should know and be able to do on day one also has lowered expectations and respect for the teaching profession. ...

By Casey Carlson, American Federation of Teachers member and resource specialist at Soquel High School in Santa Cruz City Schools (CA)

Editor's note: This month, a judge in California handed down a ruling that pits teachers against their students, claiming that due process rights for teachers – often called tenure – negatively affect disadvantaged students. The American Federation of Teachers asked educators to offer their perspectives on what due process rights mean to them and how those rights impact their work in the classroom. The following post is one teacher’s response.

What Due Process Means to Me

As a special educator, I have often had to disagree with, or act in opposition to, directions of my administrators in order to stand up for the rights of students with disabilities.

When I was a young teacher in Oakland, I was part of a program that moved students with more severe disabilities from a segregated campus to a junior high school. At first, we were not included in school activities like assemblies, and my students were not integrated in PE or music. I had to stand up for their right to be included ...

Mark White is the incoming President of the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). He began his career as a principal 25 years ago, after serving as a classroom teacher for six years, and he is eminently qualified to share best practices and recommendations as a long-serving building leader. Mr. White has been the principal of Hintgen Elementary School in La Crosse, Wisconsin, since 1990. He has served as President of the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators and held a variety of positions with NAESP, including State Representative and Federal Relations Coordinator. He is in his third year on the NAESP Board of Directors, representing Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Principal White was kind enough to share key insights and advice on a diverse array of topics, including supporting new teachers, creating a safe school climate, the need for elementary principals to have background in early childhood development, and implementation of the Common Core State Standards. In his comments, he exemplifies a respect for teachers, appreciation for the critical role parental support plays in a child’s education, and the need to communicate with the local community. LFA is deeply appreciative for Principal White’s contribution to our interview series.

Public School Insights (PSI): You’ve been a principal for 25 years. How have principal needs changed in the past decade or so? And what advice would you give to newer principals who are starting out?

White: The role of the principal has shifted dramatically in the past decade.  The need for a refined set of leadership skills by principals has never been more important.  The expectations by the community, parents, and staff point directly to the principal’s office.  With those high expectations comes great responsibility and resulting possibility.  The education community has never been more open to innovation and creativity on the part of principals.  Along with the openness comes increased expectations and accountability ...

The Learning First Alliance (LFA) is leading a focused campaign advocating for time, support and resources for successful implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS). It includes interviews with education leaders from across the country who are sharing how their states and communities are working to Get It Right, the title we’ve given our campaign. Several meetings I attended recently outlined strategies for “getting it right” that showcased research and practice in key areas necessary to “get it right”:  accountability measures, state education agencies’ capabilities and classroom teacher practice.

Last week, the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) hosted a daylong meeting on Rethinking Accountability: Putting Students and Learning First that looked at accountability from a variety of angles, including accountability for meaningful learning, professional capacity and resources. All three types of accountability point to the requirement for system change that’s built on an evidence-based design and factors in responsibility at a variety of levels – state, district, school, classroom and community. While success happens locally, that success and the responsibility for that success is dependent on adequate resources, a culture of support and a realization that professional capacity is built over time ...

By Joellen Killion, Senior Advisor, Learning Forward

Research supports the value of educator collaboration. A recent report from the Rennie Center confirms that when teachers collaborate, students benefit. Too often, however, professional learning within communities of peers is merely a label.

Professional learning communities (PLCs) are hijacked in multiple ways, usually under the pretense of facilitating or supporting the collaboration. Administrators who dictate the content of collaboration are some of the biggest offenders. Teachers who fail to engage responsibly as professionals with colleagues in collaboration are also offenders. When educators at any level arrive late, break commitments, seek to maintain the status quo, or remain within their comfort zone, they are subverting the core principles of professional learning communities.

Within authentic professional learning communities, members determine their content and process for their continuous improvement. While they may benefit from skillful facilitators who offer processes and protocols, the community commits to learning as a means to improve practice and results. A key distinction exists between a community of professionals who engage in learning for continuous improvement and a gathering of professionals who conduct routine work together ...

By Dr. Helen Janc Malone, Director of Institutional Advancement, Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL)

The Institute for Educational Leadership is a non-profit organization whose mission is to equip leaders to work together across boundaries to build effective systems that prepare children and youth for postsecondary education, careers, and citizenship. The work of IEL focuses on three pillars required for young people and their communities to succeed:

  1. Involving the broader community with public education to support the learning and development of young people.
  2. Building more effective pathways into the workforce for all young people and supporting the transition to adulthood.
  3. Preparing generations of leaders with the know-how to drive collaborative efforts at all levels.

The year 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of Institute for Educational Leadership. Fifty years yields many lessons. IEL’s broad network of leaders—superintendents, principals, policy leaders, academics, public officials, private funders and community-based practitioners—shared what they have learned about effective leadership as a part of IEL’s 50th anniversary celebration. Ten powerful lessons emerged from our review of their advice. We are grateful for their contribution.

  1. Leaders are anchored in a commitment to equity and the pursuit of social justice. They mobilize partners and ...
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