I just got my hands on an absolutely wonderful resource courtesy of Kathy Wiebke, NBCT and Executive Director of the Arizona K12 Center at Northern Arizona University. Using the InTASC [Insterstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium] Model Core Teaching Standards, developed by the CCSSO, which are used in the accreditation of most public and many private teacher education programs, a team of 10 National Board Certified teachers created a document called: Standards Continuum Guide for Reflective Teaching Practice. The document is designed to help teachers continuously and systematically reflect on their teaching and determine the specific areas in which they need further professional growth.
The document is intended primarily for use by teachers for self-assessment, but may also be used as a teacher-designed tool for "mentors, coaches, and administrators" to aid in developing meaningful and standards-based professional development plans. Professional development coordinators and teacher educators should also find this publication an extremely useful tool, especially for new teachers. The authors stress that the Guide "is not designed as a teacher evaluation instrument, but can support the teacher evaluation process as a reflective and developmental guide for professional growth" (8).
Each of the InTASC standards has several indicators used to describe or assess it. The NBCT team created reflective questions for each indicator that would help teachers look at their own work in light of the standards. The Guide also includes sample scenarios of how it might be used by a teacher alone or with the help of others to assess a specific lesson. It is an impressive undertaking, and one for which all of us in education should be grateful.
This Guide is very similar to the TeacherSolutions projects done here at Teacher Leader Network, and it captures the spirit of teacherprenuerism. The Guide is thoughtful, practical, and timely. Not surprising since it came from the same organization that gave us one of the best documentaries about teaching ever: Mitchell 20. The Standards Continuum Guide for Reflective Teaching Practice is exactly the type of work we as a profession should be generating and putting forward with the authority of highly accomplished practitioners of our craft.
For copies or more information contact Arizona K12 Center: email@example.com
This combined post first appeared in TeachMoore Jan. 21 & 25, 2007. I share it again as my TLN colleagues are addressing parental involvement over at the Teaching Ahead roundtable at Teacher Magazine. Join the conversation.
Educators and administrators across the country are wringing their hands and shaking their fingers over the need for “more parental involvement in our public schools.” But what exactly do we educators mean by “parental involvement”? There are at least three possible scenarios:
#1. Send us your child. Clean. Well-dressed. Fed. Disciplined. Obedient. Eager to learn. Cooperative (and preferably already reading, counting, and computer literate). In 12 years (give or take a few months), we’ll send the little darling back to you ready to use that college trust fund.
#2. Come to school when we call you and deal with your child (this usually means there is a disciplinary problem); send money, supplies, science fair project boards, and your signature when required. You may come on parent night or to special events.
Then there’s another possibility.
#3. The parent who thinks public education means the public gets to run it. The parent who wants to approve lesson plans, classroom rules, and the reading list. The parent who questions the necessity and logic of homework or class assignments. The parent who demands to see credentials, has a copy of the curriculum guide, and highlights the school’s published report card, noting deficiencies. The parent who has the principal’s cell phone number, and the school board president’s on speed dial. The parent who visits the classroom frequently, and stays. The parent who never misses PTA meeting and always has questions, suggestions, or criticisms for the staff.
When I hear fellow educators lamenting the lack of parental involvement and blaming parents for not supporting their children’s education, I wonder which of the scenarios they’d wish to see instead? There are some places where meaningful parental involvement is routine. In those places where it is not, there are reasons--and some of those reasons are us. If we had genuine parental involvement from the majority of our parents, how many of us could really take the pressure?
Some of the best and brightest students I have ever taught had parents who were not just dysfunctional; they were dangerous. Conversely, some of the lowest performing students I have seen had parents who were passionately interested in their education.
Larry was one of the most naturally intelligent and engaging youngsters I have ever taught. He was also terror in the hallways at our high school. He loved to write, absorbed books by the dozens, and generated questions at light speed. Parental involvement? Larry’s mother deliberately put rat poison in his food,"To teach him a lesson because he was eatin’ too much food from the other children."
Cinque, another amazing young African American student, had earned one of the highest scores ever at our school on the ACT. Halfway into his senior year, we learned that his mother had packed up his youngest siblings and left him and a younger brother to fend for themselves. They lived in a dilapidated trailer in an extremely rural area. Cinque had been paying the bills and maintaining the home for two months before anyone found out they were living alone.
Tonisha finished high school in the top 10 of her class, with scholarship offers from several major colleges. Her freshman year, her mother and stepfather slipped off one night and moved out-of-state leaving Tonisha and her two brothers asleep at an aunt’s house. Tonisha slept on a cot in the kitchen for the next three years, and stayed awake most nights to fend off her drug-addict uncle.
The list goes on and on.
Still, all students need support. They need and deserve teachers who are genuinely concerned about them, their lives, and their academic progress. Students also need other adults around to encourage them and to push (or pull) them through the rough places.
I grew up with an incredible and extended network of supportive adults. In fact, I cannot remember any adult ever using the word if when discussing my future; it was always, when you finish college…when you become a professional. It distressed me that so many of my students would not have that kind of wonderful nurturing and encouragement.
One technique I developed to help give all my students the opportunity to experience that kind of support was a classroom mentoring program. At the beginning of the school year, I required each student to choose a significant adult to be his/her mentor for our English class for the entire year. This could be the parent(s), but it did not have to be. The primary requirements were that the person be: a) an adult over 21 years of age; b) someone the student respected highly; c) someone who really cared whether the student finished high school. One of the first writing assignments of the school year was to draft a personal letter to that person asking him/her to be a mentor.
Over the several years I used that process, the results were always overwhelmingly positive. Grandparents, pastors, coaches, Scout leaders, Head Start teachers, all came to serve as stand-in parents. There were always a couple of students who could not think of any adult they believed would be their mentor. For them, I always had a set of colleagues and community volunteers on call. I communicated regularly with the mentors about student progress, and at the end of the year, we would hold an event for the students. I did not give up on communicating and trying to work with the parents as well, but having that additional adult was beneficial in so many ways. Some of the working parents were especially grateful that there was another adult who could help their son or daughter, or come to school events.
Many things can hinder effective parental involvement; not the least of which is the unwelcoming attitudes of educators or the limits we put on when and how we want parental input. The best teachers cultivate strong ties with parents and communities. I would love to hear from some of you, teachers and parents, who have had positive home-school relationships on how that was done.
Many thanks to Stephen Sawchuk of EdWeek, who has been following this underreported but very important discussion over at the U.S. Department of Education about how to determine the quality of our teacher education programs.
Specifically, the DOE has been in negotiations with a number of stakeholders about the rules for the proposed "TEACH grants for low-income students who commit to teaching in hard-to-staff schools". Apparently, among the issues was whether to use value-added measures calculations of the standardized test scores of K12 students taught by teachers from a particular teacher education program to determine whether that program could qualify for TEACH grant money for its candidates. Take a closer look at the issues raised in those negotiations.
I wrote the post below in response to questions posted by the editor at National Journal.com Education Experts blog on Secretary Duncan's push for more arts education in schools. Here's part of what she asked and my thoughts:
What is an “arts-rich” school? Is arts education really so critical? (Duncan himself hammers on the need for more scientists and engineers.) Is it possible to quantify the benefits of arts education? Can arts education be incorporated into math and reading curricula or vice versa? Are some arts “richer” than others? What is the future of art education?
The real question is not whether arts education is important, but who deserves it. With so much attention rightfully focused on improving the quality of education in low-performing, high-needs schools [translated: schools that serve poor students and/or students of color], the prevailing wisdom argues arts education is a luxury. “Get those reading and math scores up, and maybe we’ll allow you the privilege of art classes.” For many years, the art or music class was seen as a holding area for elementary students while their other teachers were on the 20-min break, or as an easy elective for high school students trying to earn the magic number of Carnegie units.
I agree with award winning Alabama teacher, Anne Jolly:
Not offering the arts is as much discrimination as not offering math or reading. Some of our children with the richest talents may never have an opportunity to express them. The arts (including exposure to a wide variety of music and art styles) should not be reserved for the more affluent folk who can afford to enroll their children and transport them to classes after school.
The association of arts with privilege has a long, ugly history. The truth is many of our students, sometimes those who are the weakest academic performers, come to school with incredible artistic talents or interests. Every child benefits from exposure to and learning about the arts; for some it could be their calling. Or could have been.
Our youngest daughter loved to draw in a variety of mediums from a young age. By her teens, she was already talking about working in art therapy. But she never had the opportunity to take art at her school, and at the time, we had neither access or funds to get her private lessons. She entered college an honor student in academics, but convinced she could never compete with other students who had already studied art, and reluctantly chose a less satisfying career course. How many other children’s dreams and talents have we killed with our twisted notions of who does and does not deserve education in the arts?
Another of my TLN colleagues, Steve Owen, a music teacher argues it this way:
…arts education must be valued for its own sake, not because of some presumed effect on math or literacy. And the arts should not be lumped together, because each brings something unique to the table. The reason we must advocate for the arts is that these are fully human endeavors, things that people do and find value in irrespective of the material conditions in which they find themselves. People were painting on cave walls and performing the Verdi Requiem in a concentration camp!
For those who need more practical arguments and data for the inclusion of arts education in every school, I recommend this recent analysis at Edutopia, Why Arts Education is Crucial, and Who’s Doing It Best, but teacher Bill Ivey sums up the greatest value of all: “The arts open up the world.”
The merits of the Administration’s R.E.S.P.E.C.T. proposal are those ideas they have gotten from teachers, specifically from the recent Commission on Effective Teachers and Teaching (CETT), whose chairperson, fifth grade teacher Maddie Fennell, was invited to speak at the end of Secretary Duncan’s announcement.
It’s not that we don’t know what needs to be done to improve teacher preparation and quality. We actually have much information and many good, workable ideas not only from the CETT report, but also from another Blue Ribbon Commission on teacher preparation that included representatives from all the stakeholders who would have to work together to make transforming the teaching profession a reality. Sadly, unlike other countries, we have been unwilling to make a significant and lasting commitment to achieving a quality teaching force, which brings me to the primary demerit of the R.E.S.P.E.C.T. initiative: More competitive grants.
The Administration continues to promote inefficient competitive funding as its vehicle of choice for education reform. Consider the recent competition that left the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards—which has pioneered development of the highest quality standards for teachers and, now, administrators--- without important funding, despite the Administration’s own glowing claims of how effective and important National Board Certified teachers are for students and as mentors to other teachers. Also, grant cycles are usually too short to produce lasting, significant changes being sought. Sometimes, these projects generate a bump in temporary measures such as test scores, but that rise is more often a result of the synergy created by the ramp up to the grant and the sudden infusion of much needed resources. Too often, these flashes of success plateau and decline once the grant cycle ends. Where is our real, bedrock commitment to teacher quality?
One of my Teacher Leader Network colleagues summed up the growing teacher skepticism about Secretary Duncan’s pronouncements:
“I believe his response to …the whole teacher leadership movement is to use our words and ideas, so that we feel heard, and so he can sound like he knows what he's talking about….Repeat what we say in speeches across the country. Then turn around and invest billions in more testing and data systems and other corporate interests he is somehow willing or obliged to cater to, that reduce teaching to test prepping. I would love to be wrong about this of course.”
These teacher sentiments have been echoed by others including Mary Tedrow, who served with me on the CETT.
Secretary Duncan is correct that teachers deserve more respect for the critical, difficult work we do. Transforming teaching in the United States into a true modern profession is necessary, possible, and overdue, but it will take more than borrowed phrases and transient grants.
Cross-posted at National Journal.com Education Experts
"Until the killing of black men,
Black mothers' sons
Is as important as the killing of white men,
White mothers' sons
We who believe in freedom cannot rest..."
The words of civil rights leader, Ella Baker as set to song (Ella's Song) by Sweet Honey in the Rock.
Sign the online petition HERE.
With all the emphasis from the President on college and career readiness (which is not the primary goal of of education, but that's for another blog), I would think there needs to be more attention to the chronic lack of counselors in our nation's high schools.
According to The American School Counselors Association, high school counselors are responsible for providing timely and personal college and career guidance to hundreds of students (the average in California is 819 students/counselor). While these numbers presumably represent the number of counselors per students across the state, not in each school, we know that there are not enough counselors (in most high schools there is one) to service all the students.
This is particularly true today due to two concurrent trends. On the one hand, students are coming to school with ever greater counseling needs. On the other, counselors at many high schools are also the defacto standardized test coordinators. At smaller high schools (such as those in which I have taught) that serve students in middle school through high school or that run a block schedule, that means the counselor is unavailable to students for weeks at a time during the school year.
One of the best programs to help provide more college and career counseling for students was through the Tech Prep initiative some years ago. As part of that program, all the classroom teachers in a building were trained and provided time to do college and career consultation with students. Hence, students got more personal attention, more timely information, and it was reinforced throughout the school day/year.
Like many great ideas in education, it lasted only as long as the funding. I would love to see a return to this concept or an updating of it--say creation of cohorts of students served by a team of teachers, counselors, and other support personnel throughout their high school experience. Not just at a few select schools, but as a matter of general practice.
I know many of us, especially in the South, are on Spring break, but do find some time to check out two great education events this week:
- The Celebration of Teaching and Learning -- It's been called the "World's Fair of Educati," hosted each year in NYC by WNET and Thirteen. Here's the official description:
A premier professional development conference that brings together the world’s best thinkers, practitioners, and more than 10,000 educators to share their passion for teaching and learning. This two-day experience for educators happens March 16-17, 2012 at the Hilton New York in New York City.
- The 2nd International Summit on the Teaching Profession -- being hosted this year by U.S. Dept. of Education along with several other groups, including AFT and NBPTS will undoubtedly continue last year's amazing discussions about how teachers are selected, prepared, supported, retained, compensated, and honored around the world.
My friend, Kevin F. Gilbert, President of the Mississippi Association of Educators (NEA affiliate), issued the statement below on the proposed charter school legislation now being considered in our state. I share it with you as a cautionary tale. Here's a contextual note: Mississippi is a right-to-work state; so union membership cannot be required as a condition of employment, and collective bargaining is illegal. Teachers who choose to join either the NEA or AFT affiliate do so voluntarily, and pay dues out-of-pocket.
The Mississippi Association of Educators (MAE) has always been, and will continue to be a supporter of innovation in public education. Decades ago the MAE announced its support for the charter schools that would foster innovation so that an entire school district could reap the benefits of strategies that work and improve student achievement.
Although the current legislation proposed is being billed as a "tool" to promote student success, it is instead a direct attack on educational quality, on teachers and the education profession in Mississippi. Passage of this legislation would harm the education our children receive and ultimately our state.
Embedded in the legislation is a clause that allows for at least 50% of the staff of charter schools to be uncertified according to the Senate bill, or it allows for no certification of teachers or administrators as stated in the House bill. Having a qualified teacher in the classroom is the bedrock of school reform. If we allow schools to be established without certified, qualified teachers we severely damage the education they can provide children and educational outcomes will decline. Yes, schools need flexibility, but around bureaucracy, not core principles.
Legislators should recall the "emergency license" dilemma the state faced not so long ago. Then the state had a large number of "emergency licensed" teachers. Many districts had to send letters home to parents informing them that their children were being taught by "unqualified" teachers. Mississippi has been trying to undo this embarrassment ever since—until the introduction of this legislation.
Most shocking in this legislation is the bold admission by its proponents of their desire to strip not tenure (which teachers in Mississippi have never had anyway), but due process.
Another provision in the legislation exempts charter school teachers from the Education Employees Procedure Law (EEPL). It would virtually eliminate due process for educators in charter schools.
Consider that the EEPL already has a provision that eliminates due process for new teachers for two years, and one year for experienced teachers new to a school district. So, administrators have the right to remove teachers for two years without due process.
The right to due process is granted not only in the Mississippi Constitution, but also the United States Constitution. There is a process in place that safeguards against ineffective teaching. What is forgotten when administrators say, "Charter schools need to be granted the flexibility to hire and fire," is the role politics play in every school district.
Like similar measures around the country, the proposed legislation here seeks to undermine the long-standing promise to educators that they could retire with dignity in exchange for a lifetime of service to children in one of the lowest-paying states in the nation.
Finally, a clause in the legislation would exempt charter school teachers from the Public Employees Retirement System. No one has given any rational explanation for this. In a state where teachers have not had but one pay raise in six years, where many of our educators were furloughed and/or had to relinquish their local supplements, where all saw an increase in not only their contribution to PERS, but also an increase in insurance deductibles, this is a stunning insult. For the first time in the history of Mississippi, the average teacher salary went down. Teachers' small pensions allow them some measure of dignity after a lifetime of service to children and the state. Denying them access to that dignity is simply a way to hurt teachers, not improve teaching or our public schools.
Yes, Mississippi needs innovative charter schools that discover highly effective ways of teaching and import those discoveries to all schools. But we cannot abandon what we know is working well—namely highly qualified teachers—and we cannot use charters to disguise an attack on teachers and their profession.
What the MAE statement did not address is the other elephant in the room here: That this legislation might be used to make public education funds available to the extensive network of predominantly white private schools established in defiance of the orders to desegregate the public schools. These bills, of course, are being touted as a way to help parents in school districts whose schools are consistently labeled as failing. Many of those schools are in the Delta region--the state's poorest section--where the legacy of the resistance to desegregation has left those schools administratively crippled and under-resourced for decades. Yet, this plan is the key education legislation being promoted by the new Republican majority in our state legislature and state officers. They argue for "innovation" and "choice" as if it teachers have been the ones standing in the way of success in our public schools, when the opposite has actually been true.
The first step to real education reform in Mississippi and the rest of the nation should be to finally provide quality, fully-funded public education for every child led by a modern, respected teaching profession.
You've probably seen the big press announcement splash of a local school getting some big grant, and thought, "Great! Now they can do more for their students!" If only it were that simple.
The ugly, hidden truth, is that grant awards, particularly those to schools labeled as "failing" "low-performing" or "high needs" sometimes make conditions worse, not better for students and teachers in those schools. It's not that the schools don't need the money and the resources that come with such grants; they desperately do. For example, there are schools here in the MS Delta region for whom 20-30% of their operating budget is federal funding, most of that in the form of grants or entitlements (such as Title I).
However, anyone who's ever worked in a Title I school can probably testify to how difficult it can be to teach and learn under the conditions created by outside efforts to "help" our students.
I was reminded of this as I talked with teachers from several cities on our way home from the recent ECET2 conference sponsored by Gates Foundation for many of its grantees. Several of the teachers were quite candid about the effects of layers of well-intentioned, but poorly implemented reform policies and grant requirements being forced on their schools.
While I was teaching at a small rural high school, our district administration had applied for and received FIVE (5) separate reading/literacy improvement grants for the same group of 6 - 8th grade students for the same 2-year period. These poor children and their frazzled teachers had to endure several days each month of repetitive testing (diagnostic, pretests, progress/formative) resulting in a huge waste of instructional time. Each of the grants came with its own curriculum materials, pacing guides, seemingly endless reporting requirements, and a troop of expert consultants. The program methods conflicted with each other, yet teachers were penalized if they could not prove they had followed them all.
To accomodate all these time demands, instruction in subjects other than reading were either halted or reduced to the occasional homework handout. That year, one teacher had a heart attack; several suffered stress related conditions; some left the school and the profession. The children's reactions ranged from confused to angry.
After yet another standardized-styled reading test "just to see how they were doing," one 7th grader looked up at me almost in tears and asked, "Mrs. Moore, how many times are they going to tell us we're stupid?"
In that case, the foolishness did not stop until teachers and parents banded together to demand that the district cease the multiple programs.
I've seen many cases of school or district leadership applying for grants, bringing in consultants, and adopting reform models that they did not take the time to even understand, much less consider the full implications for staff and students. More than one teacher has told me how they dreaded the coming of any new administrator (which happens too often in high needs schools, anyway) and/or the discovery of yet another grant opportunity. "They hire a grant writer, and there they go, without so much as even asking our opinion. Next thing you know, here comes another so-called great solution."
Teachers are often unwilling to speak up about these types of conditions because they've been warned not to do anything that might put the funding at risk. Under-resourced schools often use these grants to obtain hardware, learning supplies, and pay salaries. While many grants, especially federal ones, usually prohibit states or districts from supplanting [using grant funds to pay for what the state/district is required by law to provide], in reality that is often exactly what happens. Or worse, the misery and demographics of a needy school are used to obtain grant funds or resources that are then shifted to other schools.
This long-standing state of affairs has only been made worse under the feeding frenzy created by policies such as No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Sabrina Stevens Shupe has written eloquently in many of her blogs about those who are taking advantage of funds for turnaround schools ["Carpetbaggers and Charlatans"]. Sometimes these bogus attempts at reform, block or divert resources that could have gone to genuine innovation or collaboration among teachers and parents already at a school that would lead to more profound and lasting improvement in student learning.
Educational researchers often comment on the need for (or lack of) "fidelity" in how an educational reform concept or program is applied in a specific school setting. While all such programs need to be adapted to fit the particulars of each community, program designers usually warn of half-hearted or sloppy program adoption rather than thoroughly understanding and committing to a program after considering all its benefits and disadvantages. These warnings too often go unheeded, especially when the children involved are poor or children of color.
Here's a radical concept: What if teachers, parents, and students were consulted beforehand about such grant requests, and were part of the decision-making process as to whether and which programs were appropriate for their community? What if grantors, from the federal government to private philanthropies, were more willing to support the development of local solutions by teachers and parents rather than imposing their reform model of choice on a school or community?
Oh, happy day.