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Professional Development

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By Joellen Killion, Senior Advisor, Learning Forward

Across the nation, new state legislation is weaving together educator evaluation, student assessments, and continuous professional learning for educators. New evaluation systems for educators commonly define levels of effective performance, require preparation for those responsible for conducting the evaluations, and call for support systems for educators' continual professional growth and development. Too often these evaluation systems fail to include the essential policy components to support effective educator professional learning necessary for continuous growth, which reinforces an already deeply embedded practice of inequity in students' opportunity to learn.

Some educators are fortunate enough to work in school systems and states with sound professional learning policies that define effectiveness; hold school systems, third-party providers, and others accountable for effective professional learning practices; and make the necessary resources available for continuous learning. When other educators do not benefit from such policies, students' opportunities to ...

By Mel Riddile, Associate Director of High School Services at the National Association of Secondary Principals (NASSP)

Principal leadership matters--perhaps now more than ever before. As much as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are changing instructional practice in the classroom, we must acknowledge that student learning under CCSS requires a schoolwide transformation that transcends individual classrooms and requires the dedicated, continual attention of the principal. Consider how these five essential schoolwide conditions for CCSS will fundamentally shift the way principals go about leading schools.

1. A culture of college and career readiness. Culture reflects the mindsets and  expectations of everyone in the school and ultimately drives behavior. A CCSS culture reflects the universal expectation that all students will be prepared for life beyond high school, and it encourages students' capacity to imagine their long-term possibilities. In much the same way that a discipline policy becomes ineffective if only half the teachers enforce it, a culture of high expectations must pervade every meeting, every ...

Updated August 12, 2013

In a country where we expect free WiFi with our coffee, why shouldn't we have it in our schools?”

So asked President Barack Obama last week in announcing ConnectED, his plan for connecting all schools to the digital age. Acknowledging that success – for individual students, communities and the nation as a whole – in the 21st century is being driven by new technologies, the initiative aims to connect 99% of America’s students to high-speed internet within the next five years.

To meet this goal, President Obama is calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to “modernize and leverage its existing E-Rate program.” E-rate, created by Congress in 1996 and funded through a surcharge on telephone bills, provides discounts to assist schools and libraries in obtaining communications services, including Internet access. Currently, demand for the program much exceeds money available ...

I recently attended an event showcasing state initiatives that focus on the goal of ensuring all third grade students read on grade level – a lofty and perfectly reasonable goal.  The participants in the program included three governors as well as a panel of state superintendents of education.  One of the governors kept mentioning that in her state too much attention has been paid to the adults in the system to the detriment of the students.  Her belief in this root cause of the disappointing literacy rate of her state’s third grade students struck a cord and reminded me of another event hosted by Learning Forward and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) last month. That event, Advancing the Common Core: State Strategies for Transforming Professional Learning, showcased a set of resources to improve teacher practice developed under the leadership of Learning Forward with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Sandler Foundation, and the MetLife Foundation. It included a panel of education leaders at the state and local level who have participated and contributed to the project.

One panel member, Cynthia Cash-Greene, superintendent of the Orangeburg (SC) Consolidated School District #3, was especially impressive, and her message resonated with me.  She said district leaders need to be bold and know what they stand for.  She has focused on ...

Technology is an integral part of life in Washington’s Vancouver Public Schools (VPS), located just north of Portland, Oregon – and it has been for quite some time. They are the only district to host three NSBA Technology Leadership Network (TLN) site visits, the first in 1993, the second in 1999 and now 2013, which I was able to attend.

VPS serves 22,744 students in K-12 and it has 21 elementary schools, six middle schools and five high schools, as well as a school of the arts and Vancouver ITech Preparatory. The district is committed to providing an innovative learning environment for all students and helping them develop knowledge and essential skills so that they will be competent, responsible and compassionate citizens. During our visit to VPS, it was immediately apparent that the teachers, administrators and leaders are determined to serve each child. And while the commitment to the effective use of technology in classrooms is priority, the district also provides extensive supports for students and families. ...

Earlier this month the Learning First Alliance (LFA) hosted our annual Leadership Council meeting for LFA member organizations’ executive directors, senior staff, and elected leadership.  This year’s meeting brought 100 education leaders together under the theme Setting a Bold Agenda for Collaborative Leadership in Public Education, and working groups were charged with outlining the focus for the LFA coalition’s work in the coming months. With background information provided by Warren Simmons, executive director of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University; Saul Rubinstein, Associate Professor, School of Management & Labor Relations at Rutgers University; and Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University and 2013 recipient of the LFA Education Visionary Award, attendees outlined two major action items for our collective efforts.

The first day’s small group discussions centered on developing a common vocabulary and message approach that emphasizes the success that public schools have achieved individually and collectively throughout our country’s history.  Attendees were reminded that critics of public schools, who call themselves “reformers”, have a simple, straightforward message about public education that ...

By Joellen Killion, Senior Advisor, Learning Forward

Establishing more time for collaborative professional learning is only a first step. Using the time effectively and efficiently is also essential. Four simple processes can focus the interactions that occur in teams and connect what team members learn with student learning.

Establish a clear purpose for each meeting. At the beginning of each session or at the end of the previous session, team members commit to a clear purpose for the meeting that specifies the learning goals for educators and the outcomes they expect for students when their learning goals are implemented. Establishing a purpose also means being clear about what the non-purpose of the session will be. This trick of non-purpose is a powerful tool for maintaining a laser-like focus on the identified purpose and ...

By Marla Ucelli-Kashyap, Assistant to the President for Educational Issues, American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

Last month, AFT president, Randi Weingarten called for a moratorium on the stakes associated with Common Core-aligned assessments. Let me be clear, the AFT has long been a supporter of higher common standards and expectations for all students, regardless of ZIP code.

From the outset, we've maintained that the standards themselves would only be as good as the system that supports them: aligned curricula and classroom resources (including state-of-the-art online tools); meaningful, sustained professional development; time for teachers and other staff to adapt to the new standards; aligned and timely assessments that support college and career readiness and inform instruction; and participation of family and community stakeholders in the awareness-building, advocacy and support needed for the standards to truly change teaching and ...

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

In the 1980s, educators and policymakers swarmed across Germany to examine its two-tier education system that separated college-bound students from vocational ed students, all in an effort to boost the national economy. In the 1990s, Japan and its unique lesson study model attracted American attention.

Along came the 2000s, and Finland has the starring role. A country that once didn't warrant much attention, Finland has zipped to the top in international measures of education, and American educators in particular want to know its secret.

"It was a surprise to us that we were so high on the PISA in 2000," said Leo Pahkin, councellor of education at the Finnish National Board of Education who spoke to a group of American educators visiting Finland last fall in a trip sponsored by PDK International. "We knew we had good readers, but maths and science, that was a surprise to us." ...

While we live in a market-driven economy, where winning and wealth accumulation are desired outcomes, education advocates on all sides of the political aisle currently assert that public schools are failing our children, especially minorities and low-income students.  Education is a common good; it is the stepping-stone through which students can make something better of their futures. Therefore, we should not be setting up a system to create winners and losers. ...

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