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By Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Board Member, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), and Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Powerful Learning Practice

Millions of educators and others around the world have participated in hundreds of professional development opportunities as part of Connected Educator Month (CEM) the last two years. Originally developed by the U.S. Department of Education and its partners as part of the Connected Educators initiative, Connected Educator Month offers highly distributed, diverse and engaging activities to educators at all levels, with the ultimate goal of getting more educators more connected, spurring collaboration and innovation in the space.

The official kick-off is October 1, but there are many ways that you can get involved today. This year, the U.S. Department of Education is distributing the event's management out to the connected community. Event management groups (American Institutes of Research, Digital Promise, Grunwald Associates and Powerful Learning Practice) are working collectively with the community, and the U.S. Department of Education, to construct a robust program that will get more educators connected ...

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? ...

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 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 ...

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. ...

 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.
...

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 ...

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 ...

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