TNTP publishes the 2014 Fishman Prize winners’ essays and announces the 2015 Competition

TNTP PrizeAnnouncing Applications and Nominations for the TNTP’s 2015 $25,000 Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice. It’s the only national award exclusively for teachers in high-poverty public schools.

TNTP is looking for the next set of winners. Last year, TNTP received thousands of nominations and over 820 applications from teachers nationwide.

Start an application or tell a great teacher how much they matter with a nomination. The winners aren’t the only ones who benefit. Nominators get a chance to recognize teachers who deserve more attention. Applicants get a chance to reflect on their teaching. And finalists receive $1,000 each.

The early application deadline is Tuesday, November 4, 2014.

To apply or nominate someone go to:

TNTP has also published the 2014 Fishman Prize winners’ essays, “Languages for Learning.”

In the essays, you’ll hear how “deep discipline” helps students who have never touched an instrument become championship band members. You’ll see what “getting to know your students” really means in an AP Calculus classroom. You’ll hear why learning physics starts with talking like a 10-year-old. And you’ll learn what Hiroshima has to do with teaching fourth grade English language learners in Oakland.

If you are a junkie for great teaching, drop whatever you are doing and read the essays now.  No, really. They are that good.

For more information, please visit:


America Achieves Launches Global Learning Network

america achievesRecently, over 300 dedicated school and district leaders, from across the United States and Spain came together in Washington, D.C. for the Convening of World-Leading Schools. Each attendee represented a school or schools that exhibited impressive leadership by taking the PISA-based OECD Test for Schools to better understand how well they are preparing their students for success in our changing world. These leaders have joined the growing number of schools globally that are leveraging this powerful tool for learning. The convening marked the official launch of America Achieves Global Learning Network (GLN). The GLN is a professional learning community for assessment participants.

The members of the Global Learning Network are well-respected school and district leaders, many of whom represent world-leading schools here in the U.S. As members, they have the opportunity to better understand their assessment results, share improvement strategies made in response to those results, learn from best practices at schools within the GLN and around the globe, and serve as spokespeople, illustrating how practice shifts made in response to results have contributed to improved student outcomes. This work has already been featured on the PBS NewsHour, in Education Week, and in the New York Times.

Attendees at the Convening of World-Leading Schools had the opportunity to learn from national and international experts, including Andreas Schleicher of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Amanda Ripley, author of The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way. Participants discussed ways to improve outcomes based on assessment results in areas ranging from creating positive learning environments to strategies that initiate the right practice shifts in math, reading, and science. Participants also engaged with one another to share their experiences with the assessment and discuss specific actions that they are taking to improve student outcomes. America Achieves is grateful to all of the school and district leaders in attendance.

For more information, please visit:


Online Resource puts NAEP Data at your Fingertips

IES_NCESAs someone who cares about education, you may already know the value of The Nation’s Report Card – the nation’s gold standard for measuring student achievement. Whether or not you’re new to the report card – also known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) – there’s a new way to get to know and use its findings at home and in the classroom. The National Assessment Governing Board has created a data backpack filled with tools to help you make informed decisions that can ultimately improve student achievement.

The backpack’s “Five Ways to Use NAEP This School Year” provide information on:

  • How students are performing in key subjects
  • How factors in school and at home affect learning
  • How NAEP encourages high academic standards
  • What NAEP tells us about college preparedness
  • How NAEP can offer lessons about technology in assessment.

NAEP is the largest continuing, nationally representative measure of student achievement in core subjects at grades 4, 8, and 12. NAEP informs the public about student achievement results, reveals trends over time, and compares performance among states, urban districts, and student demographic groups.

Take a look at the backpack for resources and more:


TFA Responds to Increased Scrutiny

tfa.ashxA small group of Harvard students, backed by a national grass-roots student organization, has taken a very public stand against Teach for America. In a letter last month, they urged President Drew Faust to block TFA from recruiting on campus unless the group makes major changes – including repudiating key corporate sponsors and pledging to send its recruits only to districts with a teacher shortage. TFA’s co-CEOs, Elisa Villanueva Beard and Matthew Kramer, have posted an open letter [] offering to sit down with the growing number of TFA critics on campuses across the country. The two write that they see such dialog as “essential to shift the education conversation in a positive direction.” Student activists promised a “more escalated national action” if things don’t change.

TFA’s leaders have already made significant changes. They’ve launched pilot programs to give some recruits more training and to encourage corps members to stay in the profession for more than two years. They’ve also stepped up TFA’s efforts to recruit minorities, veterans, mid-career professionals and first-generation college graduates. But the campus protest movement continues to grow, fueled by concern that a rotating cast of rookie teachers may hurt, rather than help, struggling schools – and by anger that TFA novices may be displacing veteran teachers in some districts. The response from Kramer and Villanueva Beard? “We believe that students are best served when principals have access to the most robust possible talent pipeline,” including TFA and myriad other teacher prep programs.

For more information, please visit the following link:



PARCC Releases Updated ELA Rubrics for Prose Constructed Responses

PARCCThe PARCC ELA/literacy prose constructed response item rubrics have been updated with the help of educators across PARCC states to reflect lessons learned from the PARCC field test. A PCR item asks students to produce a robust written reply to a prompt. The rubrics are a voluntary resource, aligned to the CCSS, and designed to help teachers pinpoint what the different types of PCR items – research simulation, literary analysis and narrative tasks – ask students to know and do.

The rubrics provide yet another window into the development of the PARCC assessments. Teachers may elect to use the PCR rubrics in their classrooms to give feedback to their students or to discuss best practices in their professional learning communities.  

Updates include:
  • Score points for the Conventions trait were reduced from 4 score points to 3 points. Educators saw that there was not enough difference between student responses to have both a score point of 4 and a score point of 3 and apply the rubric with reliability.
  • PARCC created a separate rubric for scoring of narrative writing. The narrative criteria for Written Expression was separated so that both teachers and scorers could easily apply the correct criteria.
  • PARCC added an additional bullet for score point 1 in Written Expression. During the review of the field test items, educators saw responses that were well-developed and text-based, but not clearly tied to the prompt. Language was added to score point 1 to recognize the writing ability demonstrated in this type of response.
  • While the criteria themselves did not change, the descriptors for some score points were refined to clearly delineate the lines between score points and to ensure clarity of the criteria.

For more information, please visit the following URL, scroll down, and access the rubrics from the left-hand column:


Upcoming (and recorded) Webinars from the Regional Ed Labs

IESThe Regional Education Laboratories offer a number of webinars that are of interest to education reformers. Below, you will find a list of recently recorded webinars as well an upcoming event of interest.

Effective School Leaders

This webinar explores the role of school leaders in fostering teacher effectiveness and  discusses strategies they can use to increase school leader competencies.

Principals play a vital role in supporting and retaining successful teachers. Learn what the research says about effective school leaders and how principals impact teacher quality, student achievement and school culture. Led by Dr. Eric Hanushek of Stanford University, the webinar examines the relationships among school socio-economic status, school leadership, and teacher turnover rate. Dr. Hanushek, a leader in the study of the economics of education, will draw from his recent publications, including his 2013 article, “School Leaders Matter.” The webinar is designed for principals, teachers, administrators, and anyone who has an interest in school leadership and professional development.

To view the recorded webinar, see:

Using Student Surveys as a Measure of Teacher Effectiveness

Join REL Appalachia to learn about the research base that supports the use of student surveys as a measure of teacher effectiveness. Participants also will learn about Kentucky’s statewide student voice survey.

To view the slides from this webinar, access the following URL and click “Materials”:

Action Research 101: Research as Teaching Practice

Join REL Pacific for a webinar that will introduce teachers, principals, and other educators to the concept of action research—research conducted by educators within their specific school contexts to impact student learning.  Dr. Geoffrey Mills, Professor of Education at Southern Oregon University and author of Action Research: A Guide for the Teacher Researcher, will provide an overview of the origins and foundation of action research, its goals and rationale, and the four steps of the action research process: identify an area of focus; collect data; analyze and interpret data; and develop an action plan.

To view the webinar, follow the link and enter a valid email address:

Using Classroom Observation to Measure Teacher Effectiveness

October 21, 2014

This Ask An Expert online chat. will feature discussion of practical suggestions for using classroom observations to generate data and to provide helpful, timely feedback for teachers. Christy McInnis of Cambridge Education will lead the discussion as a continuation of the Using Classroom Observation to Measure Teacher Effectiveness webinar.

Register here: Using Classroom Observation to Measure Teacher Effectiveness



International Benchmarking: State and National Education Performance Standards

AIRThere is considerable variance in state performance standards, exposing a large gap in expectations between the states with the highest standards and the states with the lowest standards. Although this gap in expectations is large, many policymakers may not be aware of just how large it is. In general, the difference between the standards in the states with the highest standards and the states with the lowest standards is about 2 standard deviations. In many testing programs, a gap this large represents three to four grade levels.

This “expectations gap” is so large that it is more than twice the size of the national black–white achievement gap. Closing the achievement gap is important, but so is closing the larger expectation gap.

Reducing the expectation gap will require consistently high expectations from all states.

The report also found that success under No Child Left Behind is largely related to using low performance standards. The states reporting the highest numbers of proficient students have the lowest performance standards. More than two-thirds of the variation in state success reported by No Child Left Behind is related to how high or low the states set their performance standards.

These results help explain why the United States does poorly in international comparisons. Many states think they have high standards and are doing well, and feel no urgency to improve because almost all their students are proficient.

To read the full report, please visit:


Ending Teacher Tenure Would Have Little Impact on its Own

brookingslogoMatthew M. Chingos of The Brookings Institution has written a compelling new piece arguing that ending teacher tenure would have little impact on its own.

Tenure for public school teachers is increasingly under attack, with the Vergara v. California judge ruling in June that “both students and teachers are unfairly, unnecessarily and for no legally cognizable reason…disadvantaged by the current Permanent Employment Statute.” In 2011, Florida legislators ended tenure for new teachers beginning this year.

A primary stated goal of the California case is to “create an education system that gives every child a passionate, motivating and effective teacher.” According to one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, “This is going to be the beginning of a series of these lawsuits that could fix many of the problems in education systems nationwide. … We’re going to roll them out to other jurisdictions.” A similar lawsuit has already been filed in New York State. If these challenges to tenure laws are successful, will they lead to improvements in education?

Proponents of the California effort posit that the state’s dismissal laws create a process for removing ineffective teachers that has myriad steps, takes years of documentation, and has a price tag in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, leading to an average annual dismissal rate of 0.0008 percent. This line of argument suggests that eliminating what the California judge called “über due process” for teachers will lead to increased dismissals of incompetent teachers. That is almost surely true on the margin, but will it make a significant impact on our public education system?

Chingos brings new evidence to bear on this question by examining the early career paths of high-quality teachers and their less-effective counterparts, as measured by the progress their students make on state tests. The Brown Center’s research analyst Katharine Lindquist helped Chingos calculate value-added measures of teacher effectiveness for 2,272 fourth- and fifth-grade new teachers in North Carolina who entered the classroom between 1999-2000 and 2002-03, and tracked them for the first five years of their careers.

During this time period, teachers in North Carolina usually earned tenure after four years in the classroom. The data do not allow a determination of which of the teachers who left their initial job were let go and which left on their own. But if principals were taking advantage of their pre-tenure freedom to fire at will, we would expect to see the lower-value-added teachers leaving schools at much higher rates than their higher-value-added counterparts, and an increase in dismissals at the tenure decision point between the fourth and fifth years. The reality is that the data do not support this presupposition.

Advocates of efforts to relax firing protections are likely to be sorely disappointed in the results of such reforms if they are enacted in isolation for at least two reasons. First, sensible reforms to tenure laws will have little impact unless administrators make greater use of their newfound (and existing) flexibility, or other mechanisms are put in place to tie personnel decisions to teacher performance. Second, policies surrounding teacher dismissal may be the less important side of the teacher quality coin. The failure of the public education system to retain its best employees represents a wasted opportunity to improve student outcomes.

To read the report, please visit:


New Toolkit Helps Educators Engage Students

IESA new toolkit from REL West at WestEd helps educators productively engage students in school improvement efforts, including generating and analyzing data. The Speak Out, Listen Up! toolkit offers strategies for eliciting student voice, or perspective, about education challenges — a perspective that is beneficial in rethinking policies and practices.

The toolkit provides instructions and materials for three data-related activities. One tool leads students to analyze and interpret local data; a second tool organizes a “fishbowl” through which students and educators trade roles as speakers and listeners while grappling with a topic of mutual concern; and the third tool guides students to create a “digital story” that presents the challenges they face and what they think they need from educators in order to be successful. Each tool generates student ideas for solutions to local school challenges.

Nevada’s Washoe County School District partnered with REL West to develop the toolkit and has been using it to draw out student perspectives on a number of district challenges, among them high school dropout. For example, returning dropouts produced a video that describes firsthand accounts of why students quit school and what is needed for them to return and earn a diploma. The district has come to appreciate more fully from the video that returning dropouts need personalized supports—for example, credit recovery options, mental health services, and caring relationships with teachers – and is using this information, supplied by the students, to identify policy and practice priorities.

View the toolkit at:


Great Principals at Scale: Creating District Conditions That Enable All Principals to Be Effective

GPAS_cover1-239x300School leaders are critical in the lives of students and to the development of their teachers. Unfortunately, in too many instances, principals are effective in spite of – rather than because of – district conditions. To truly improve student achievement for all students across the country, well-prepared principals need the tools, support, and culture that enable them to be the best.

New Leaders and the Bush Institute’s Alliance to Reform Educational Leadership (AREL) launched the Conditions for Effective Leadership Project and partnered with leading researchers and practitioners to generate a comprehensive and research-based framework outlining the conditions necessary for transformational school leaders to succeed. Based on results from the Conditions for Effective Leadership Project, which included more than 20 education and leadership experts brought together by the Bush Institute and New Leaders, Great Principals at Scale: Creating District Conditions That Enable All Principals to Be Effective offers a framework of conditions that can help districts enable great school leadership. The Great Principals at Scale Toolkit was developed to help school system leaders assess their current leadership conditions and offers ways to improve those conditions to drive student achievement gains.


The report provides a framework to describe the set of conditions that effective school systems have in place that enable principals to be successful:

* Strand 1: Alignment among goals, strategies, structures, and resources, so that the work of every staff member in the district is supporting system-wide goals focused on increasing student achievement;

* Strand 2: Culture of collective responsibility, balanced autonomy, and continuous learning and improvement;

* Strand 3: Effective management and support for principals with on-going opportunities for development and feedback-and most notably, roles and responsibilities that are feasible; and

* Strand 4: Systems and policies to effectively manage talent at the school-level.

For more information, please visit: