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Professional Collaboration

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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 ...

By Stephanie Hirsh, Executive Director, Learning Forward

A few weeks ago I had the honor of presenting to many leaders at the U. S. Department of Education who agreed that professional learning can and must be improved. They also agreed that it is essential to promote, support and sustain the changes we need to see made in schools. But what are those changes? Just as we identify shifts for student learning called for by the Common Core, what are the required shifts that need to accompany them for professional learning?           

In planning professional learning that leads to changed educator practices and improved student results, there are five shifts that must occur. These changes in practices will occur in schools and school systems that align planning, implementation, and evaluation with ...

By Kwok-Sze Wong, Ed.D, Executive Director, American School Counselor Association (ASCA)

Like millions of immigrants, my parents came to America with the hope that their children would have better lives than they themselves had. The very foundation of the American Dream is the belief that people can be upwardly mobile despite their parents’ social and economic standing. Although many immigrant and low-income families struggle, those of us in the margins always believed we had the opportunity to join the middle class. Sadly, this is increasingly less true.

The United States continues to have the world’s largest gross domestic product (GDP) and more millionaires and billionaires than any other country. Unfortunately, the number of people living in poverty in the United States is also among the highest in world. The wealth gap has been steadily growing for more than a decade as the middle class continues to decline.

President Obama has called income inequality “the defining challenge of our time.” Although some conservative politicians contend there is no inequality, people on both sides of the political aisle agree on one factor crucial for improving Americans lives and mobility: education. ...

By Joellen Killion, Senior Advisor, Learning Forward

States and districts are deep into the implementation of their educator evaluation systems. The backbone of these programs includes competent, skillful evaluators; high and explicit performance standards; constructive feedback; and individually focused professional learning aligned to individual areas for improvement. Individually focused professional learning holds both potential promises and pitfalls.

Among the promises is the opportunity to personalize learning to address the unique needs of each educator. Well-designed and developed systems provide access to a suite of differentiated professional learning opportunities and support to change practice. The ability to meet this promise depends on a rich educator development system that uses educator, student, and system data to establish individual improvement goals. This system must also identify and make available learning opportunities aligned with all performance standards and indicators, appropriate to all grade levels, disciplines, roles, and school and district contexts within which educators work. Such a system holds the individual educator responsible for his or her own growth, development, and results.

Individually focused professional learning, while addressing individual learning needs, has potential pitfalls. First, it may contribute to less collaboration and greater fragmentation among educators within a school community as ...

By Jill Cook, Assistant Director, American School Counselor Association (ASCA)

Robin Zorn believes school counselors can make a difference in students’ lives, and she goes out of her way to prove it.

It’s this belief that informs her work every day at Dr. M.H. Mason Jr. Elementary School in Duluth, GA, and her advocacy work at the district and state level. Her efforts were recognized last week when the American School Counselor Association named her the 2014 School Counselor of the Year.

Robin and the six previous winners of the award exemplify the work school counselors across the country do to increase academic achievement while promoting students’ personal/social development and career needs. Since she became a school counselor in 1999, the profession has undergone a transformation from being reactive to proactive and from ancillary to a critical cog in overall school improvement. 

This transformation is due largely to the ASCA National Model, which was published in 2003 and provides a framework for school counseling programs so they are comprehensive in scope, preventive in design and developmental in ...

Cheryl S. Williams's picture

Learning from PISA

The Learning First Alliance (LFA), a partnership of leading education organizations representing more than 10 million parents, educators and policymakers, has released the following statement:

Today, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released the latest results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a test of reading literacy, mathematics, and science given every three years to fifteen-year-olds in the United States and approximately seventy countries and economies worldwide.

It is vital that parents, educators, policymakers and other education stakeholders view these results in context. While the ranking of the United States is disappointing and reflects little change in how our nation’s students are performing relative to their peers around the world, this ranking is only one indicator of student achievement. Other measures show significant improvement in the performance of U.S. schools in recent years. The U.S. estimated on-time graduation rate has improved dramatically since 2000 – the first year of PISA. In addition, on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), U.S. 4th and 8th graders made significant gains in math scores between 1995 and 2011.

We would also like to remind stakeholders that there is valuable information in the PISA report beyond the rankings that we should not ignore, including the results of OECD research on the policies and practices that high-performing nations use ...

Tarsi Dunlop's picture

What is Innovation?

What is innovation? Google the term and it is, “the action or process of innovating” – a fairly unhelpful definition for those who subscribe to the notion that you can’t define a word using a derivative of it. Synonyms include change, alteration, upheaval, transformation, or breakthrough.

People frequently imagine new technologies, electronics, scientific advances, startups and other types of change when they hear the word innovation. People, including those who care about education and those who work in education, frequently want to be innovative. Yet innovation frequently connotes disruption; not always the best environment for students and children. But, can simply changing a process itself be considered innovative? If a process is changing or transforming, then isn’t it by definition, innovative? What’s more, when the conditions are ripe for innovation through process, it’s not just about an innovative change-maker bringing in an idea; it becomes about the innovator inside each and every person with the expertise to create a wider scale change. The collective power of people, in a community, with good ideas, changing the process to produce different outcomes: that’s legitimate innovation. ...

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