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Principal Whitney Meissner has worked in public education for a total of 22 years as a math/English teacher, an assistant principal and middle/high school principal for the past 11 years. Her observations and insights reflect the experience gleaned from her decades of experience. In an e-interview, Principal Meissner outlines her own experience in a teacher preparation program, shares her thoughts for supporting new teachers as well as components of good evaluation systems. As an instructional leader, she offers thoughts on the Common Core State Standards and the challenges and benefits associated with them. Finally, she reflects on her own continued learning and growth as a professional.

Principal Meissner has completed the University of Washington Center for Educational Leaderhship training as well as the Association of Washington School Principals Evaluation Training (2013-2014). In 2008, she was a Phi Delta Kappa (PDK) International Emerging Leader and in 2009 she received the 2009 PDK Dissertation Award of Merit. In 2012-2013, she served as the President of the Association of Washington Middle Level Principals (AWMLP). She is an active community volunteer where her newest role is serving as a Zumbathon (c) Coordinator to benefit those affected by the Oso/Darrington Landslide. She received her Ed.D. from Seattle Pacific University in 2008.

Public School Insights (PSI): Thank you so much for taking time to share your insights and wisdom gleaned from your many years in different positions in the education field. We are delighted that we can share your expertise with our readers and the wider community.

First, starting at the beginning, you've spent the past 22 years in education. What inspired you to go into teaching? Were you always interested in school administration as a part of your career?

Meissner: I think I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I used to play school in the summer with the neighborhood kids. My mom, aunt, and grandfather were/are teachers. I don’t know if I can point to one specific thing that inspired me; it was more like a ...

To get Common Core implementation right, educators must be truly engaged in the effort. Teachers are on the front line, charged with ensuring that our nation's students are prepared to be successful in the global community in which we live. But in debates over the standards, they are often overlooked in two very important ways: As advocates, and as practitioners with valuable expertise who need time and resources to align their work with the vision of college and career readiness for all that the Common Core embodies.

To help elevate the voice of teachers on this issue, as part of our continuing series of interviews on the standards, we are thrilled to highlight the perspective of Diane Siekmann, a National Board Certified Teacher at a Title I elementary school in Phoenix, Arizona. She has experience teaching first and third grade, including six years in a self-contained ELL classroom. And in addition to her current responsibilities as a third grade teacher, she is working with the National Education Association's Master Teacher Project with Better Lesson, an effort to highlight and share the best teaching practices around the Common Core.

In a recent email interview, Siekmann shares her thoughts on teaching under new college and career ready standards and the supports needed to get it right. What I found most encouraging: The changes she has seen in students under these new, higher standards. To quote: "The most exciting thing about the Common Core is witnessing the critical thinking by students. Their knowledge and skills are so visible, and they really enjoy explaining their thought process. The students have become great problem solvers with analytical skills that I have not experienced previously with my students. They truly enjoy the challenges placed before them....”

The complete interview is below.

Public School Insights (PSI): As you’ve transitioned to working under new college and career ready standards, how has your teaching changed?

Siekmann: The biggest change has been on the amount of reflection that takes place for my practice. As teachers we save and hold on to resources, worksheets, and “stuff” from year to year. This year with the change to the new college and career ready standards, I have changed by rethinking everything that is being presented in my classroom. Most of the resources I saved have now been replaced with new lessons and new approaches to teaching the standards. I’m always thinking about ...

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

I learned one of my first lessons about teacher leadership the hard way. It started with a call from a very angry principal one morning when I was a newspaper reporter in Detroit. He berated me about how badly my front-page story that day had damaged teacher morale in his school. Teachers, one after the other, had come into his office in tears after reading what I had written about one of their colleagues. “How could you do this?” he asked.

My crime? I had written a glowing report about a science teacher at his middle school who had become one of the first teachers in the country to earn certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

I was stunned. I telephoned the PR person for the National Board and sputtered out a description of the call. She wasn’t at all surprised. “Welcome to my life,” she laughed. In quick order, she taught me this code ...

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

The teaching profession is well known for losing almost 50% of its novices in the first 5 years. This churn is concentrated in high-need schools, which have a hard time attracting teachers in the first place. Not only does this “revolving door” phenomenon increase the chance that students with the greatest educational needs will be taught by an inexperienced teacher, but it is also financially costly in recruitment, staffing, and induction burdens.

Why can’t we find a better way to staff high-need schools? If we could reduce the churn of novice teachers, even by 30%, how might that positively impact student achievement—and reallocate the financial savings for learning needs?

These questions are hardly new, but it is high time they are addressed. We cannot still be asking the same questions 20 years from now.

Of course, educator preparation programs cannot address these critical issues alone, but AACTE members are eager to collaborate across the professional community to get started. Not only do we have a moral imperative to improve students’ experience in schools, but our graduates also deserve to work in supportive environments that are ...

By Stephanie Hirsh, Executive Director, Learning Forward

Last month I wrote a blog describing the shifts in practice needed in professional learning to improve educator practice and student results. This month, I would like for you to consider shifts in professional learning policies at the state and system level.  

While the first step for many states is adopting more rigorous content and performance standards for students and educators, the key to fully implementing these standards lies in transformed professional learning. Without high-quality professional learning, adopting standards becomes an empty promise. ...

My work with and for public education leaders seems to focus on two conflicting messages and points of view. On the one hand, the relentless onslaught of criticism for the work that the educators represented in the Learning First Alliance (LFA) membership are involved in every day can become demoralizing. However, those often ill-informed attacks are balanced by the talented education leaders whose work is showcased regularly at meetings and presentations I’m lucky enough to attend. One such example of good news to spread about practitioner-led work underway in our organizations was the recent report by the National Center for Literacy Education (NCLE) entitled Remodeling Literacy Learning Together: Paths to Standards Implementation

The NCLE, a coalition of 30 professional education associations, policy organizations and foundations who work to support schools in elevating literacy learning, conducted a national survey of educators of all roles, grade levels, and subject areas to find out where we stand as a nation in-

  • Opportunities educators have had to learn about new literacy standards
  • Kinds of professional learning that are effective in supporting teachers as they implement change
  • Approaches of schools and districts to transitioning to
    ...

By Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director, AASA, The School Superintendents Association

When was it that building administrators forgot how to evaluate teachers? At what point did teacher development take a back seat to collecting evidence that might lead to dismissal? Is there really a failure to identify instructionally incompetent teachers that now requires school districts follow an extensive and costly process to comply with state and federal demands?

When critics point to our schools’ less than stellar performance on international tests, rarely do they consider what those leading nations are doing that’s responsible for the results they obtain. The professional development of teachers plays a significant role in their success. None of the leading nations engages in evaluating teachers based on their students’ standardized test performance.

I never encountered a school administrator opposed to evaluating teaching performance. Most principals I worked with could easily differentiate between their talented and their weak performers in the classroom.

During my early years as a superintendent on Long Island, when I was still teaching education research courses at the graduate level, I asked my principals to rank order their teaching staff from least to most competent. I then correlated their rankings with the end-of- year evaluation reports they had done for their staff and found a strong correlation between ...

For many, if not most of the years I’ve worked as an advocate for the appropriate and effective use of technology in schooling, the discussion has been focused on “why”—or as those of a certain age would say: I got a good education without technology, why do we need it in schools now? (Never mind that the definition of “it” was never thoroughly addressed either.)

However, at the meeting hosted last week at Discovery Education, future@now 2014, “why” was not even on the agenda. Thankfully, and refreshingly, the gathering and its speakers focused on how to manage change within a school and district to ensure that all stakeholders are involved in planning and implementing the change that a school experience supported with technology requires. As many of us have been saying for years and affirmed by the current public education leadership on the faculty of future@now, planning should not be about devices, but about educational goals and establishment of a school culture to support change, risk-taking and introduction of tools to support those goals.

The meeting led off with a discussion of the process needed for planning for school transformation supported with technology. Dr. Dallas Dance, the impressive, young superintendent from Baltimore County Public Schools, emphasized the importance of process, leadership and ...

By Anne Foster, Executive Director, Parents for Public Schools (PPS)*

While it may not be evident from voting patterns, casting votes for local school board members may have greater impact on a community’s overall quality of life than any other vote cast. Quality public schools bring the things that ensure a high quality of life — strong economic climate, better jobs, civic engagement, more citizens voting and an emphasis on the arts. And quality public schools are tied directly to the performance and effectiveness of their school boards.

All of us should pay more attention to our school boards — to electing them, supporting them and monitoring them. While many people today believe that too much local control has been wrested from local school boards, their role remains critical to the success of the schools they govern.

Voters elect a school board to represent them in the oversight of their schools. That is our system of government, and it’s a good one. School boards then spend the public’s money on educating children, touching the future as no other entity does. School boards set the tone for school districts — for student achievement, continuous improvement and financial management.

Successful school boards are made up of individuals without personal agendas and with a desire that all children have the opportunities that come with great schools. They understand that they are a bridge between the community and its schools, with one foot in ...

By Hank Rubin, Co-Founder, Institute for Collaborative Leadership*

Nearly every facet of education demands effective collaboration. 

If we adopt the time-tested definition that "A collaboration is a purposeful relationship in which all parties strategically choose to cooperate in order to achieve shared or overlapping objectives" (first published in Collaboration Skills for Educators and Nonprofit Leaders,1998), then everything from teaching and learning, curricular planning, building management, parental engagement, school-community/school-business partnerships, board leadership, policy development, and school reform rises and falls on the capacity of education professionals to build and manage successful collaborative relationships. 

One would expect that, as educators, we would understand collaboration deeply. But, as we look at the collaborations we need to lead schools, build curricula, strengthen instructional teams, engage parents and community, develop policy, transform failing schools, and build public support for successful schools, overwhelming evidence suggests: not so much!

You and I know people who are born with attributes that appear to make collaboration easy; like the teacher born with such a talent for empathy that students seem to connect with almost preternatural ease. But folks aren't born with the set of skills, the knowledge and strategic sensibilities, or the habits and intentional behaviors needed for ...

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