Landmark Partnership in Maryland

????????????????????In a landmark agreement, leaders of eight Maryland education organizations are joining together to support the implementation of Student Learning Objectives (SLOs), a key component of the new teacher and principal evaluation system. This level of collaboration is unprecedented at the statewide level.

All of the organizations have agreed to coordinate resources and strategies and provide teachers and principals with the training and tools necessary to develop high quality SLOs. The SLO process supports the primary goal of the evaluation system–to improve effectiveness in the classroom and ultimately increase student growth.

The organizations include the Maryland State Board of Education, Maryland State Department of Education, Maryland State Education Association, Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland, Maryland Association of Boards of Education, Maryland Association of Secondary School Principals, Maryland Association of Elementary School Principals, and Baltimore Teachers Union.

Details of this unique partnership are covered in The Washington Post, Associated Press, The Baltimore Sun, and Education Week.


Test and Punish – A Reality or Mirage?

newamericafoundationAnne Hyslop of the New America Foundation has written a compelling piece about the supposed test-and-punish legacy of No Child Left Behind. Nearly 15 years on from that piece of legislation, which many prominent public school advocates such as Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University and AFT President Randi Weingarten have lampooned for its punitive measures for underperforming schools and its teach-to-the-test tendencies, Hyslop argues convincingly that the accountability model of NCLB has never really materialized. (In few cases where it has been allowed to take force, improvements have been made, especially for low-performing students and in math.)

Because of the Obama Administration’s waivers, states have even more flexibility and time before accountability measures are implemented. For example:

High stakes [for teacher evaluations] don’t have to enter the picture until Spring 2017—after Arne Duncan hands over the keys to the next Secretary of Education. Teachers could get two ratings and two rounds of “support and improvement” before any stakes are involved (and even then, federal leverage is limited in terms of how much evaluations must inform personnel decisions). And don’t forget, the Department has also let states apply for an extra year to use evaluations to “inform” those decisions. That delays full implementation until as late as Spring 2018. Simply, the debate over whether there should be consequences for teachers during the transition to new assessments often obscures the fact that a no-stakes period is already standard federal policy. And now that the Department is relaxing its review process for extending the waivers, they could be opening the door to even more delays—a move that would be welcomed by many, including Darling-Hammond and Weingarten.

Hyslop sums up the situation bluntly:

In short, if educators or local officials feel like today’s accountability systems “test and punish” them, it’s got much more to do with their responses to federal accountability, not the policy itself. In the transition to new standards and tests, states have tried to be sensible and already halted many of the consequences. If NCLB is a zombie, then “test-and-punish” accountability is a ghost: you might think you see it, and you might be afraid of it, but turn on the light, and you’ll find it just isn’t there.

Hyslop concludes her hard-hitting article with a call for states and districts to make hard choices to actually make improvements:

It may not be as easy to implement, or as cheap, but there are alternatives that don’t sacrifice high-quality, rich instruction at the altar of test-based accountability. These alternatives may require building professional capacity, training teachers and leaders differently, and providing new resources and time… And making these choices more popular will require tackling education challenges—often beyond the scope of accountability policy—head-on, from teacher preparation to school leadership.

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Teacher Led Professional Learning aims to catalyze changes to ensure that all teachers have the chance to learn on the job and that great teachers can lead on the job.

The website starts with a simple premise:

Schools already have their greatest professional development resource on hand: great teachers who are ready to take on leadership roles, who could lead professional development that is a natural part of everyday school work. Instead of continuing to spend great sums on low-impact professional development, schools must allow these teachers to continue teaching while helping their peers improve.

To design high-quality, teacher-led professional learning, the website offers overviews and links to resources for every step, from schools, districts, and supporting organizations across the U.S.:

  • Defining teacher-leader roles: Descriptions of teacher-leadership roles that put great teachers in charge of developing their peers
  • Selecting teacher-leaders: Information on skills and competencies that teacher-leaders need to help their peers improve instruction and achieve positive student impact
  • Training for teacher-leaders: Descriptions and links for well-regarded national teacher-leader training programs
  • Finding time for teacher-led professional learning: Multiple ways to find time during the school day for frequent, teacher-led, job-embedded, collaborative development
  • Funding for teacher leadership: Funding methods for on-the-job teacher leadership
  • Leading successful teams: Research and resources on successful team leadership
  • Evaluating teacher-leaders: Methods for developing effective evaluation for teacher-leaders

The new website was developed by a team of the Pahara-Aspen Teacher-Leader Fellows including teacher-leaders, union leaders, nonprofit leaders and others. The fellows’ goal is to help teachers and their schools, unions, and districts implement collaborative, job-embedded professional learning that leads to better student learning by developing and using the skills of involved teacher-leaders.

The Teacher-Leader Fellows who conceived of the website believe teacher-leaders need their own training and development, time to collaborate with and help peers during the school day, and supportive administrators who ensure that professional learning is part of everyday teaching. They believe that teacher-leaders should lead the great majority of professional development in schools-and be paid and empowered to develop excellence among teaching peers.

Teachers consistently report wanting more collaboration and opportunities to develop. With high-quality professional learning led by great teacher-leaders on the job, all teachers win-and students can reap the rewards.

For more information, please visit:


Achieve and Teaching Channel Partnership to Release Videos for Teachers

achieveAchieve and Teaching Channel announced the launch of their new partnership by releasing three new videos that introduce and explore Achieve’s Evaluating Quality Instructional Products (EQuIP) initiative. The videos, which are publicly available for viewing on Teaching Channel’s website (, introduce the EQuIP Peer Review process and provide an in-depth look at real teachers using the mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA) rubrics to evaluate the quality and alignment of lessons and units.

EQuIP was launched by Achieve as a means of identifying high-quality materials aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The objectives of the EQuIP initiative are twofold:

(1) to increase the supply of high quality lessons and units aligned to the CCSS that are available to elementary, middle, and high school teachers as soon as possible; and

(2) to build the capacity of educators to evaluate and improve the quality of instructional materials for use in their classrooms and schools.

Lessons and units submitted to the EQuIP peer review panel are evaluated on a rubric with four different dimensions: alignment to the standards, evidence of instructional shifts, evidence of instructional supports, and assessment. Each dimension contains specific criteria and clear guideposts for using the rubric to provide feedback. The EQuIP peer review panel is currently comprised of 55 educators representing nearly half of the states in the U.S. Peer reviewers volunteer up to 12 days over the course of their commitment and collaborate both in person and virtually. Since the program’s inception, EQuIP peer reviewers have identified and publicly posted 40 lessons/units rated “Exemplar” or “Exemplar if Improved.”

The three EQuIP videos produced by Teaching Channel provide an overview of the peer review process and introduction to the benefits for both ELA and mathematics teachers. Peer reviewers and Achieve staff explain the dimensions of the rubric as well as the ways in which EQuIP-reviewed products can be used in real classrooms.

All three videos can be viewed here:

Individual videos are listed below:

EQuIP Overview:

Using the EQuIP math rubric:

Using the EQuIP ELA rubric:

To learn more about EQuIP or download exemplary lessons and units, please visit


Creating Anytime, Anywhere Learning for All Students

allianceforexcellenteducationA new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) argues that a comprehensive digital infrastructure must include changes in teaching practice, professional learning, assessment, and other key elements.

While connecting the nation’s schools and libraries to the internet by modernizing and expanding the federal E-rate program currently dominates education technology efforts, a new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education urges that adequate broadband access be accompanied by a comprehensive “digital infrastructure” that unlocks the potential technology to enhance student learning. The report, “Creating Anytime, Anywhere Learning for all Students: Key Elements of a Comprehensive Digital Infrastructure”, adopts a broader definition of digital infrastructure that includes professional learning, changes in pedagogy, parent and community engagement, and assessment and data systems.

“Traditionally, when educators think about digital infrastructure, they see only computers, wires, and high-speed internet connections,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “While these basic components are vital, they do not guarantee academic success. The comprehensive digital infrastructure envisioned in the report can support the shifts in instructional practice and professional learning that really make a difference in student learning.”

For more information, please visit:


The Rich Potential of a Student-Centered Approach

logoA new research brief from the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) documents practices and outcomes of four urban high schools that, through student-centered approaches, are providing building blocks of knowledge and skills students need as adults. These schools are non-selective and predominantly serve low-income students of color. Their vision shapes what students are expected to know and do when they graduate, how students are assessed and taught, and ways they are supported to achieve these goals. Each of the schools is exceeding state and local averages for student academic achievement.

Personalization enables adults to know students and tailor interactions to meet individual strengths, interests, and needs. This includes advisory programs, a culture of celebration, student voice and leadership opportunities, and connections to parents and community. Each school supports student leadership capacities and autonomy within the classroom, emphasizing connecting with and applying what is learned through culminating performance-based assessments. The schools draw on relevant curricula, inquiry-based instruction, collaborative learning, student-directed learning, a focus on mastery, and flexible uses of time. In-class and out-of-class strategies support ongoing academic development through advisories to provide academic support, differentiated instruction, tutorial and after-school support, and additional resources for English language learners and special education students.

The approach featured in the report requires substantial investment in developing and supporting staff capacity. Student-centered instruction is challenging to enact effectively, but states and districts can support these rich environments by balancing common goals and local opportunities for invention and innovation tailored to the needs of students and schools.

For more information, please visit:


9 Steps to Successfully Implementing the Common Core

center for american progressThe Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted by more than 40 states, are one of the most important reforms to American public education in decades. However, despite the many benefits of the Common Core, its bipartisan support, and the widespread adoption and integration into state plans to redesign their education systems, the success of the standards is in jeopardy. Several states are reconsidering their commitment to the Common Core standards and the aligned assessments.

As a result of an uneven implementation process, parents are unfamiliar with the standards, and educators across the country have concerns that they have received inadequate support and have not been sufficiently engaged in the implementation process. Further, many teachers are apprehensive about the use of student performance on the new assessments in teacher evaluation.

These are all valid concerns, but the good news is that they can be addressed. While it is true that the transition to the standards and assessments is difficult, states and districts across the country are using promising and effective practices to implement the Common Core.

Carmel Martin, Max Marchitello, and Melissa Lazarín of the Center for American Progress have prepared a report, “Roadmap for a Successful Transition to the Common Core in States and Districts” which provides examples of states or districts that are charting a practical course to realize the benefits of the Common Core and improve the quality of education for all students.

Specifically, states and districts should:

  • Administer better, fairer, and fewer tests.
  • Continue to improve and implement education evaluation and support systems but phase in high-stakes consequences for teachers and students that are based on the new Common Core-aligned assessments.
  • Maintain accountability systems based on disaggregated student results on state assessments using the outcomes of the system to target more dollars and resources to students and schools that are struggling.
  • Ensure that teachers are engaged in the development of—and have access to—comprehensive curricula and instructional materials aligned with the Common Core standards.
  • Invest in training and ongoing professional development for educators.
  • Provide teachers with more time for ongoing professional development as well as to plan and  collaborate together.
  • Engage educators, parents, and other stakeholders in the implementation effort.
  • Assist districts and schools to further develop their technological capacity to support the new computer-based Common Core assessments and provide instructional tools that allow for more individual instruction.
  • Leverage additional resources to improve the Common Core implementation process.

For more information, please visit:


A Global Look at Teaching and Learning

logooecd_enNearly 90 percent of lower secondary teachers in the U.S. are happy with their job, but only 34 percent think society values their work. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development‘s Teaching and Learning International Survey features results from the U.S. for the first time.

The survey asks educators in 34 countries about various factors that contribute to learning environments, like professional development, school climate, evaluation feedback and more. About 42 percent of U.S. lower secondary teachers said they never collaborate across classes or age groups and they’re working longer hours than teachers in other countries.

In addition, the survey finds that more than nine out of ten teachers are satisfied with their jobs and nearly eight in ten would choose the teaching profession again. But fewer than one in three teachers believe teaching is a valued profession in American society. Importantly, those countries where teachers feel valued tend to perform better on PISA.

More than 100,000 teachers and school leaders at lower secondary level (for students aged 11-16) in 34 countries and economies took part in the OECD survey. It aims to help countries develop a high-quality teaching profession by better understanding who teachers are and how they work.

For more information, please follow this link:


Bonuses for High Performing Teachers in the Worst Schools?

vandyVanderbilt University has recently put out a new study on teacher retention, which examined a Tennessee program that offered high-performing teachers in the state’s worst schools a $5,000 bonus to stay on another year. The program was fairly small and implementation was uneven, but researchers still found preliminary evidence of a positive effect.

Middle schools were slightly less likely to participate in the program than high schools, and schools with mostly lower socio-economic status were more likely to participate than were schools with more diversity of socio-economic status.

The bonus seemed to make the most difference to educators who taught a grade or subject covered by Tennessee’s standardized tests. Top teachers in that group were 24 percent more likely to remain in their struggling school than colleagues who received strong performance ratings but just missed qualifying for the bonus.

Given the impact the best teachers can have on student performance, the researchers concluded that the program was cost-effective. According to the report, “Teachers who accepted bonuses had overall teacher effectiveness ratings more than a full standard deviation above the state average, and the average teacher hired by Priority Schools was rated roughly two-thirds of a standard deviation below the state average.”

For the full working paper with the results, please click here:


Who Gets to Write the History of Teacher Quality?

bellwetherIn his blog, Marc Tucker argues that success in improving teacher quality should be measured by our country’s ability to transform teaching from a blue-collar occupation to a high-status profession.

Tucker was encouraged to write this particular blog post by a new report, “Genuine Progress, Greater Challenges: A Decade of Teacher Effectiveness Reforms”, penned by Andrew J. Rotherham and Ashley LiBetti Mitchel. This report offers the alternative position that success in improving teacher quality should be measured by the level of accountability that holds teachers responsible for student performance, particularly through various means of teacher evaluation.

Tucker, a veteran of American education policy wars and no far-left winger himself, hopes to remind readers that the accountability version of the story is not the only one.

Tucker’s model, which called for (and still advocates) a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards as well as a more rigorous process of teacher preparation, believes that if it is a more challenging process to become and remain a teacher, better teachers will join the profession who demand and deserve respect. This general position has also been supported, since the 1986 A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century by education figures such as Linda Darling-Hammond, heads of national teachers unions, and countless other high level state education officials.

For more on why Tucker does not believe in Rotherham and Mitchel’s model, see this post, but the questions for now are first, who gets to talk the loudest when explaining the narrative of reform of teacher quality, and second, how can the two camps can find enough common ground to work together for what surely is the common goal of making teachers better, bringing teachers more respect, and ultimately helping students achieve better success?

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