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As teachers prepare lessons and materials for the fast-approaching 2013 school year, it is an opportune time to highlight the value of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) as a tool for the nation’s educators. Learning Forward explains PLCs as:  “Learning communities [consisting of education professionals that] convene regularly and frequently during the workday to engage in collaborative professional learning to strengthen their practice and increase student results.” PLCs are not a new phenomenon, but they are gaining increased attention as the national conversation around education focuses on improving teacher quality through effective professional development. ...

A couple months ago, I wrote about a new assessment designed to address one of the ever-present challenges in teacher preparation: How do you ensure that those entering the classroom can teach effectively starting their first day as the teacher of record?

Now called the edTPA (formerly the Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA)), the assessment was developed by Stanford University in collaboration with teachers and teacher educators (higher education involvement was coordinated by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education) to set a new standard for determining teacher readiness. It requires teacher candidates demonstrate the skills necessary to meet the daily challenges of classroom teaching, including but not limited to:

  • Planning around student learning standards
  • Designing instruction for students based on their specific needs
  • Teaching a series of lessons and adapting them to
    ...

Last week The New Teacher Project (TNTP) released a report entitled The Irreplaceables-Understanding the Real Retention Crisis in America’s Urban Schools which continues the theme espoused in their previous report The Widget Effect, that public school districts treat all teachers the same and hold them to low expectations, particularly in urban districts, with disastrous results for students.  To be clear, neither I nor any of my colleagues in the Learning First Alliance (LFA) believe that low expectations for teacher performance should be tolerated nor do we believe that current practices and policies should be perpetuated if they contribute to supporting mediocrity in the classroom.  However, we do believe that most teachers who are appropriately supported by strong instructional leadership and collaborative school culture can improve their practice in a way that benefits the students they serve. 

Without digging into the data used to identify those teachers labeled “irreplaceable” and those labeled “struggling” in the report or the variables that exist within the districts and schools surveyed, I find the remedies to retaining the “irreplaceables” less than new or eye-opening.  The report’s findings essentially said that teachers whose students achieved well (i.e. irreplaceables) in well managed schools stayed in their jobs longer….big surprise.  The key supports provided by ...

At a recent reception in the august Mansfield Room in the the U.S. Capitol celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), Ron Thorpe, the new President and CEO of NBPTS, compared the Board certification that almost every physician earns in order to practice medicine to the status and importance of Board certification for teachers in K-12 classrooms.  He specifically asked if we’d be willing to send our child (or grandchild) into surgery if the physician doing the work wasn’t Board certified in his or her field.  Of course, none of us is willing to send a loved one into the operating theatre under the care of a surgeon who is not Board certified, so why should we be willing to send our children to schools with teachers who may or may not be skilled in their practice? 

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards was established twenty-five years ago with support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and under the leadership of then North Carolina governor, James Hunt.  The Carnegie Forum on Education and the ...

Policymakers, researchers, practitioners and the general public all seem to agree: Improving teacher quality is one of the most promising strategies for improving education outcomes in our nation. But to date, most policies on teacher quality revolve around teacher evaluation – identifying weak performers and helping them improve (and getting them out of the profession if they don’t). And most seem to rely on one of two tools for measuring quality: Observations by school administration (some of whom have little time for, and training in, this particular activity) or standardized test scores (which are of questionable value in assessing educator performance).

Often ignored in the teacher quality conversation are those first entering the classroom. How can we be confident that they are able to teach effectively starting their first day as a teacher of record?

Recognizing the need for a new standard for determining teacher readiness, the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE) and Stanford University have partnered to ...

It seems the one thing we can all agree on when discussing how to improve public schooling for all our children is that we need data to guide our approach to personalizing teaching and learning in the classroom, so that we can ensure student success and support teacher effectiveness.  Yet we persist in ignoring data that points to root causes that hamper the most talented school leaders in their work with children. 

At a recent meeting on Capitol Hill, researcher Sean Reardon from the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) shared data showing the only developed country in the world with a larger percentage of children living in poverty than the United States is Mexico.  So the US is #2 in the developed world in children living in poverty (22 percent of our children live in poverty).  Dr. Reardon also ...

Editor’s Note: Our guest blogger today is Ann Meier Baker. She is President and CEO of Chorus America, the advocacy, research, and leadership development organization that advances the choral music field.  Her 25-year career has included several leadership positions in the arts and in education.

Students composing songs about chaos theory, tessellations, and the Fibonacci Sequence is just the beginning.

March is Music In our Schools Month and this annual celebration is a wonderful opportunity for people to sing (pun intended) the praises of outstanding school music programs that are an important part of a comprehensive and competitive education. Today, while there is an enormous amount of compelling evidence about the value of these opportunities for young people, the reality is that school music programs are being cut at an alarming rate, leaving some of us wondering if it’s more appropriate to sing a dirge this month, rather than a song in celebration.

For example, in national research commissioned for Chorus America’s Chorus Impact Study, more than one in four educators surveyed said there is no choral program in their school  and, of the educators who said that their school has no choir program today, 31 percent said their school used to have such a program. And yet these same educators also agree that choir participation helps make students better team players, develops stronger social skills, leads to better emotional expression and management, improves overall academic performance, and helps instill self-discipline. These are the very skills and strengths students will need as they come of age in the 21st century—as a society, we cannot afford to ...

Editor’s Note: Our guest blogger today is Lillian Kellogg. She is Vice President of Client Services for Education Networks of America (ENA), overseeing marketing as well as strategic national association partnerships. She has dedicated her career to education and technology and has more than 25 years of experience in working with school districts and libraries in the field of educational technology. Among her many accomplishments, she currently serves as the Board Chair for the Partnership of 21st Century Skills (P21).

While we are firmly within the second decade of the 21st century, it is apparent that so much more needs to be done to help each student truly comprehend what they need to know and do to be successful in the years ahead. This call to action is every bit as important today as it was when we first started the conversation on 21st Century Skills, but it has changed. Early on the notion of 21st Century Skills was aspirational; today it is an alarm bell.

Work and life in the 21st century continue to change at lightning speed (see the Iowa- Did You Know? Video) and today 21st Century Skills matter more and for many more students now than ...

Last weekend I had pleasure of attending the Celebration of Teaching and Learning in New York City. As always, it was an inspiring event.

In reflecting on the overall themes of the weekend, one emerged very clearly: Children and schools are hurting because of the current economic climate. The economy worked its way into just about every plenary, breakout and lunchtime conversation that I was a part of.

Three other themes were nearly as ubiquitous. All three were also related to the context in which the Celebration found itself.

  • Assessment and evaluation. Given the recent release of New York City public school teachers’ value-added evaluation rankings to the public – an action decried by everyone from Bill Gates to Teach For America Founder Wendy Kopp to Dennis Van Roekel and Randi Weingarten, the presidents of the nation’s two largest teachers unions – and the large number of NYC education professionals at the event, it is not surprising that assessment and evaluation were at ...

Last week I read two stories about large public education systems that have stuck with me for days. One story, on page one of The Washington Post, profiled the work of Chris Lloyd, the vice president of the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA), the teachers’ union representing the 12,000 classroom professionals employed by Montgomery County, MD Public Schools. It detailed the positive progress a district can make when its professionals at all levels work together to support good teaching and counsel poor performers out of the profession.  The second story, a posting on the blog Teacher in a Strange Land by Nadia Zananiri, an AP World History teacher in the Miami-Dade Public Schools, describes the tragic consequences of education policies that unfairly and inaccurately “rate” teachers using “value-added” data and publicly rank schools and the professionals who work in them by publishing those ratings in the popular press. Since both districts are large urban-suburban districts with a diverse student population, I’m puzzled by why the Florida district can’t learn from the Maryland district’s success.

For more than a decade, Montgomery County Public Schools has used a program called Peer Assistance and Review (PAAR) to evaluate, support, and improve classroom instruction.  The program was developed in partnership with the MCEA, the principals’ organization, and central office administrators with the support of the school board and focuses on providing mentoring for new teachers and ongoing feedback to experienced teachers to insure that the students in the district are successful. When a teacher’s practice doesn’t improve after ...

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