Teacher Evaluation

Playing to Our Strengths: Helping Teachers Hone Their Practice

Guest post by Jethro Jones

I had someone ask me the other day, “What does effective teaching look like to you? What do you look for when you walk into a classroom?” I thought this was a really interesting question that I have not had to answer in awhile, but I think it is important to share how my thoughts about this have changed over time. (more…)

The Brownsburg Way, Part Two: Supporting Teachers to Succeed

Guest post by Amber Schroering and Jim Snapp

In our post last week, we introduced you to The Brownsburg Way, the approach our district—the Brownsburg Community School Corporation (BCSC) in Central Indiana—uses to deliver consistent and high academic results year after year. We discussed how our narrow teaching and learning focus contributes to our achievement. Of course, curriculum and instructional programing aren’t the only factors. Without our stellar educators, none of our success would be possible. So how do we support our teachers so that they do their very best? (more…)

Advocacy Update

Inside the Beltway

What’s going on in Washington?

Last week, Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) introduced a crucial loan forgiveness bill that would help combat principal turnover. The Recruiting and Retaining Effective School Leaders Act (H.R. 3925) is enthusiastically supported by NASSP, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the American Federation of School Administrators. The bill would provide loan forgiveness over a seven-year period to principals who work in schools where at least 30 percent of the students qualify for free and reduced-price lunch. Last Thursday, November 5, the NASSP Board of Directors took to Capitol Hill to advocate for this bill and for the needs of school principals. Education Week covered the bill and NASSP’s support. (more…)

Common Core: Delaying Sanctions is not Delaying Implementation

States like Florida and Louisiana are not delaying Common Core implementation; they are delaying using test scores to rate schools and to punish teachers and principals.

We know that students thrive in a school with a focused school wide literacy initiative–purposeful reading, writing, and discussion in every classroom and across all content areas. By my count only about 1% of all high schools have or are attempting such a program, which, just so happens to be a foundation of successful implementation of the Common Core State Standards. A lack of content-based literacy instruction is not due to a lack of desire on the part of schools, but to a lack of training and practice on the part of the teachers and school leaders. It takes years to build teacher capacity to integrate literacy effectively into their content areas. Keep in mind that literacy is but one of many school wide instructional shifts that the CCSS are bringing to schools.

Let’s be clear. States are proceeding with CCSS implementation but delaying levying accountability measures while schools are building teacher capacity.

In fairness, neither consortium will have a fully operational assessment system–pre-assessments, mid-year assessments, performance assessments, summative assessments, and timely feedback to schools–for at least two more years. Schools will receive no feedback from the field tests. How can we possible hold schools and teachers accountable for assessments when they have no way of receiving any feedback and no way to predict student success until after the summative assessments administered in May 2015?

It is almost like asking schools to hit a moving target while blindfolded. A fair system would allow for at least two years of testing and feedback under a fully operational assessment system before holding teachers, principals, and schools accountable.

NASSP Board Approves Policy Brief on Teacher Evaluation Systems

Earlier this week at Ignite ’14, the NASSP Board of Directors officially approved the release of a joint policy brief with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) offering recommendations on how best to assist school leaders in implementing new teacher evaluation systems.

The brief, titled “Supporting Principals in Implementing Teacher Evaluation Systems: Recommendations from practicing principals to improve instruction and learning,” is the work of a joint committee formed by NAESP and NASSP in November to review current research and literature on the impact that new teacher evaluation systems are having on principals across the country. (more…)

Not the Best Administrative Fix

By Stuart Singer, author of The Algebra Miracle

Creating arbitrary rules is rarely the best solution in education.

Two days into the new school year a former colleague told me of a sad revelation. “Apparently the new thing this year from the administrative staff is a directive that every teacher is to be assigned three preparations.”  She explained that the second-year principal had instructed all department chairs that whenever possible teaching schedules should contain three different subjects. The goal of this exercise was to ensure that the distribution of courses within the faculty would be more equitable.

This is not a totally new approach for achieving this somewhat mysterious objective in the school. Four years earlier the previous principal announced a doctrine to address the same issue. This one stated that every educator should teach “at least one high-level and one low-level course”.

The rationale given in both cases was similar. These requirements were designed to stop inappropriately “rewarding” teachers with more seniority by assigning them the “easy” classes while giving less experienced faculty members the most challenging courses which usually contain the largest number of at-risk students. The most common explanation given is that such “balance” will improve staff morale and instruction especially for the most basic courses.

Unfortunately, such plans are far more likely to increase the problems they are supposed to diminish.

A false sense of equality

When actually enforced such mandates often result in diminished classroom success for both students and teachers.  From the teacher’s perspective, the problems are obvious. While there are a few individuals who prefer multiple preps as an antidote to boredom, they are in the minority. The reality is readily apparent. Creating lesson plans, assessment tools and grading for three different classes is far more time consuming than for two or one. Rare is the teacher who complains of having copious spare time to spend (more…)

An Homage to Today’s Educators

By Stuart L. Singer, author of The Algebra Miracle

I look at my retirement with a blend of joy and sorrow.

I love that the pension provided by my forty years of service allows me to pursue many of my passions. I can now commit hours creating meals, write a book about my experiences as a teacher, spend quality time with family all while bloviating about education on a regular basis in this space. But what saddens me is the knowledge that after leaving the classroom a mere five years ago, in all honesty I would not want to return to the profession that defined and enriched my life.

So many problems; so few solutions

I am in awe of the individuals who occupy the classrooms and administrative wings of schools in 2013. The obstacles that are constantly being placed into their paths are beyond daunting. And yet as another academic year begins, the heroic efforts commence anew. The challenges being faced by today’s educators are diverse. Here is a list (in no particular order) of the reasons I am now content to watch from the sidelines.

A lethal mix of politics and policy

An educational leader I greatly respect told me of a meeting he attended to design educational policy. “There were twenty of us in the room and I was the only person who had ever stood in front of a classroom or led a school. It was amazing to watch an important conversation in which so little hands-on experience was available.” Such situations are neither unique nor isolated. One former national teacher-of-the-year lamented his lack of input during a similar gathering comparing his presence to a piece of the furniture in the room.

The classic example of unrealistic political goals being attached to educational policy was The No Child Left Behind provision requiring a pass rate of 100% by 2014. Only a misguided idealist with (more…)