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The power of collaboration seems, at times, to be the best kept secret in education reform. Despite district variance, efforts to increase student achievement levels often see higher levels of success when all stakeholders work together. Studyville School District (the name has been changed to preserve anonymity) is just one such example. It is a story of collaboration and compromise in which stakeholders came together to design and implement a more effective teacher evaluation system. We live in an era where evaluation and accountability dominate the national education conversation and where student outcomes are being tied to merit pay and teacher performance. It is imperative, given the high-stakes nature of evaluation, that such systems are put in place with fidelity and the buy-in of all actors. ...

Derryn Moten's picture

Raising the Bar

Editor's Note: Our guest blogger today is Derryn Moten. Derryn is a Professor of Humanities and Co-President of the Faculty-Staff Alliance at Alabama State University. He serves on the AFT* Teacher Preparation Task Force, which recently released a report entitled “Raising the Bar: Aligning and Elevating Teacher Preparation and the Teaching Profession.” Here, he shares his thoughts on why this report is so important.

What will it take to ensure that all new teachers are prepared to teach a diverse student body in the rapidly-changing 21st Century?  I teach at a historically black university with the oldest state-supported college of education in the nation, so I’m very interested in having an open dialogue about how to answer this question. Those of us who collaborated on the AFT’s recent report, Raising the Bar, are all striving to answer that question, too.

Our work on this report was guided by two assumptions. First, if teacher preparation matters, then assessing student teacher performance throughout their matriculation in teacher training programs matters. Likewise, to paraphrase AFT President Weingarten, teacher preparation standards should be done by us rather than done to us. Our schools of education have graduated many wonderful teachers, whose service to the nation’s students is of immeasurable value. But in order to help the next generation of teachers reach their fullest potential in their work with students, we must make sure our teacher preparation programs are of consistently high quality, and we as educators must reclaim ownership of ...

Tarsi Dunlop's picture

Voices From the Field

Education reform debates increasingly belong to a relatively small number of very loud voices. Hundreds of thousands of other voices get lost in the din. They belong to students and teachers, and their vision for our nation’s high schools varies dramatically from the content in mainstream education reform discussions.

The College Board recently released a supplement to Phi Delta Kappan that highlights key thoughts from students and teachers on both school reform and student engagement.  The results are worth summarizing and repeating mostly because the takeaways are remarkably uniform with regard to recommendations and advice for education reformers. The main message is that we need a long-term commitment to a well-rounded, multi-pronged approach to school improvement. ...

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am delighted with the election results from earlier this month.  Well, I’m delighted with most of the election results.  I’m sorely disappointed that my friend and colleague, Helen F. Morris, lost her position on the Alexandria City (VA) School Board, where she serves as Vice Chairman and has put countless hours into advocating for strong schools and effective teachers for ALL the students in Alexandria, especially children of color and those from disadvantaged homes.  Helen ran for re-election in a field of six for one of three positions in her region.  She was the only incumbent running and the only candidate with a child in the Alexandria City Public Schools.  I have no idea how capable (or not) the other candidates are (I live in Maryland and didn’t study the other candidates’ positions or backgrounds).  What I do know because I worked for years with her on issues around strong public education is that Helen’s position on the school board was a good thing for the children and citizens of Alexandria. ...

Each generation has a personality, characteristics and preferences that define their behavior and their views of the world. Millennials, those born between 1980 and 2000, are no different. Their arrival in the professional world has significant implications for the workplace, across sectors but including – and perhaps especially – education.

The October issue of Learning Forward’s JSD features “Boomers and Millennials: Vive La Difference,” an article by Suzette Lovely that examines ways to blend different generational styles in the learning environment. The article poses five suggestions for creating a generationally friendly culture. They pay homage to the distinct differences between generations in the same workplace. What’s more, they aim to foster a more collaborative learning environment, helping ensure that an older, more experienced generation of teachers can pass on their knowledge to a new energetic teaching force. This new generation of professionals, in turn, must feel embraced by their older colleagues and respected for their ideas, innovation and energy. ...

Candidly, and not surprisingly, I’m delighted that Barack Obama was elected to a second term as President of the United States.  As someone whose entire professional career has been devoted to public education and life-long learning, I believe that President Obama’s values and priorities are closer to mine than his opponent’s are.  

Having stated my delight in the President’s re-election, I also want to enumerate my hopes for his administration’s leadership in strengthening and improving public K-12 education over the next four years. I fervently hope that:

  • The President, Secretary of Education, and administration leaders will STOP saying that our public school system is failing.  We all know that there are serious inequities in the current system that need to be addressed and that a collective effort needs to be made to increase the rigor of instruction in many of our schools.  But, most public schools in this country do a good job; indeed, a better job than has ever been done before.
  • The President, Secretary of Education and their spokespersons will STOP saying that the current teaching force is largely recruited from the weakest students in any
  • ...

With the recent release of the movie Won’t Back Down and the high-profile Chicago teacher union strike, it seems US public education is, once again, getting negative coverage in the mainstream media, with parents pitted against teachers or teachers pitted against administrators.  Committed education professionals, in their advocacy on behalf of our nation’s public schools, continually highlight the importance of collaboration among teachers, administrators, parents and community members when it comes to ensuring high-performing public schools. The belief is that we are all in this endeavor together and we each have an important role to play. One inspiring example of effective parent-teacher engagement can be found in the Academic Parent-Teacher Teams (APTT) model. ...

Toppenish High School, in south central Washington State, is a rural high-poverty school with 99% of students qualifying for free and reduced lunch and a 95% minority student body. The community’s economy rests primarily on agriculture and tourism, two sectors suffering from the recent downturn.

Schools with such profiles in such communities are often ones that grapple with inadequate funding, find student groups struggling on standardized tests and have lower graduation and college-going rates. But proving that great school leadership is a key component of beating such odds, Principal Trevor Greene has set high goals and invested in key improvement strategies that are showing amazing results for Toppenish High School. He was recently recognized as MetLife/NASSP’s 2013 National High School Principal of the Year. ...

It seems everyone has an opinion about the teacher strike currently taking place in Chicago.  I do too, but it’s not about who’s to blame.  There’s plenty of that to go around.  What I do know is that regardless of how this strike ends, nobody will have won—

  • Students will have missed valuable learning time
  • Teachers and their union will be vilified for selfishness
  • The mayor and school board’s judgment will be suspect
  • Parents will be disappointed and frazzled with child care challenges
  • The President’s “reform” agenda will be questioned
  • The citizens of Chicago will be embarrassed and dismayed for their city

While I have followed the events as they’ve unfolded in Chicago between the mayor, the school board he appointed, and the teachers’ union, the facts I’m able to glean from public sources only raise questions in my mind as to what’s really going on.  I do know that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) are under-resourced and that ...

Leadership matters. Principals set the tone of a school and can inspire students and teachers alike to reach new heights. They are second only to teachers among the in-school influences on student success.

Yet we don’t hear much about how to measure a principal’s performance. And the little research that exists on principal evaluation suggests that current systems do not accurately judge performance, do not provide information that is useful for professional growth, and often aren’t even used.

The federal government has begun to take note, making changes to principal evaluations a condition of Race to the Top funds, School Improvement Grants, and waivers to some of the requirements of No Child Left Behind. Unfortunately, they are often requiring that the evaluations be based in significant part on student performance on standardized assessments. As we all know, test scores represent a very narrow definition of ...

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