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:


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:


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:


New STEM Initiative: Blow Minds. Teach STEM.

Teach STEM

Urban Teacher Center (UTC) together with 100Kin10 and dozens of partner organizations, announced the launch of “Blow Minds, Teach STEM,” a coordinated, co-funded campaign to inspire undergraduates and recent graduates with strong science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills to become teachers.

The U.S. ranks 27th in math and 20th in science among industrialized countries, slotting in somewhere between the Slovak Republic and Lithuania. There is no way of turning around these dismal results without great math and science, tech and engineering (or STEM) teachers in our nation’s schools. Because of this, President Obama called for 100,000 excellent STEM teachers in his 2011 State of the Union Address.

100Kin10 is a network of 200 multi-sector organizations responding to this exact need. Working with over 30 of those organizations, 100Kin10 partnered with creative agency Cultivated Wit to design the campaign, which introduces STEM teaching as an impactful, even mind-blowing career option for STEM majors and recent graduates, while amplifying the importance of STEM teaching to a much broader audience.

Urban Teacher Center is working in partnership with 100Kin10 to recruit the best and the brightest to teach STEM subjects. In particular, UTC is focused on preparing a new cadre of highly accountable, Common Core State Standards-trained, mathematics teachers who have a deep capacity and desire to support the diverse needs of students. Through its intensive, four-year preparation program, UTC is developing highly effective educators who consistently outperform their peers. These teachers are preparing students for future success in a society with an ever-increasing need for STEM professionals.

“All students-including those in our country’s urban schools-deserve access to today’s innovative, entrepreneurial global economy,” said Jennifer Green, CEO and Co-Founder of Urban Teacher Center. “We need to recruit and prepare a new generation of teachers to build the skill sets and depth of knowledge in math and science that students need to compete and thrive in a 21st century landscape.”

Even before launch, “Blow Minds, Teach STEM” has garnered significant national attention from a range of supporters. Over 700 backers signed up to participate in the coordinated launch on Tuesday, September 16, amassing a social reach of over 12.7 million.

Singer-songwriter John Legend, actor Michael Ian Black, co-founder of Reddit Alexis Ohanian, human-centered design firm IDEO, media firm GOOD, “Father of the Internet” Vint Cerf, Time’s first Person of the Planet Sylvia Earle, and the United States Department of Education have lent their voices to “Blow Minds, Teach STEM.” They are joined by multitudes of parents, educators, scientists, mathematicians, and entrepreneurs, alongside a chorus of passionate citizens.

You can join in this effort to bolster and grow our national STEM teaching force by visiting


Finn: Eight of the Toughest Challenges Schools Still Face



Chester E. Finn Jr., a veteran of the education policy wars in the United States over the last several decades, finds two main things to be pleased about in terms of school reform, but eight main things to be targeted as needed reforms for the future.


Following are his two positives:

  • First, we now judge schools by their achievement results, not their inputs or intentions. And while we still struggle with the details, over the years we’ve developed academic standards that set forth the results we seek, created measures to gauge how well they’re being achieved, built a trove of data that generally makes results transparent and comparable, and constructed accountability systems that reward, intervene in, and sometimes sanction schools, educators, and students according to how well they’re doing.
  • Second, choice among schools has become almost ubiquitous. Though too many choices are unsatisfactory, and too many kids don’t yet have access to enough good ones, we’re miles from the education system of 1981, which took for granted that children would attend the standard-issue, district-operated public school in their neighborhoods unless, perhaps, they were Catholic (or very wealthy).

And here is his list of challenges to be tackled in the future:

  • The basic structural and governance arrangements of American public education are obsolete. We have too many layers, too many veto points, too much institutional inertia. Local control needs to be reinvented—to me, it should look more like a charter school governed by parents and community leaders than a vast Houston- or Chicago-style citywide agency—and education needs to join the mayors’ (and governors’) portfolios of other important human services. Alternatives are emerging—mayoral control in a dozen cities, “recovery” school districts in a few states, and more—but the vast majority of U.S. schools remain locked in structures that may have made sense around 1900, but not in 2014.
  • I dare you to track, count, and compare the dollars flowing into a given school or a given child’s education. I defy you to compare school budgets across districts or states. I challenge you to equalize and rationalize the financing of a district or state education system—and the accounting system that tracks it—in ways that target resources on places and people that need them and that enable those resources—all those resources—to follow kids to the schools they actually attend. What an unfiltered mess!
  • We’re beginning to draw principals, superintendents, chancellors, and state chiefs from nontraditional backgrounds, but we haven’t turned the corner on education leadership. We still view principals, for example, as chief teachers—and middle managers—rather than the CEOs they need to become if school-level authority is ever to keep up with school-level responsibility. We already hold them accountable as executives, but nothing else about their role has yet caught up.
  • Curriculum and instruction. “Structural” reformers—I plead guilty to having been one—don’t pay nearly enough attention to what’s happening in the classroom, in particular to what’s being taught (curriculum) and how it’s being taught (pedagogy). The fact is that content matters enormously—E.D. Hirsch Jr. of the Core Knowledge Foundation is exactly right about this—and that some instructional methods work better in particular circumstances than others. Both standards-based and choice-based reform have remained largely indifferent to these matters, but that ought not continue.
  • High-ability students. Smart kids deserve education tailored to their needs and capabilities every bit as much as youngsters with disabilities. And the nation’s long-term competitiveness—not to mention the vitality of its culture, the strength of its civic life, and much more—hinges in no small part on educating to the max those girls and boys with exceptional ability. Yet gifted education in America is patchy at best; at worst, it’s downright antagonistic to the needs of these kids.
  • Preparation of educators. How many times do people like former Teachers College President Arthur Levine and organizations like the National Council on Teacher Quality have to document the failings of hundreds upon hundreds of teacher- and principal-preparation programs before this gets tackled as a top-priority reform? Once again, promising alternatives are emerging, and a smallish number of traditional programs do a fine job. But, once again, the typical case is grossly inadequate.
  • Two forms of complacency alarm me. The familiar one is the millions of parents who deplore the condition of American schools in general but are convinced that their own child’s school is just fine (“… and that nice Ms. Randolph is so helpful to young Mortimer”). The new one, equally worrying, is reformers who think they’ve done their job when they get a law passed, an evaluation system created, or a new program launched, and then sit back on their haunches, give short shrift to implementation, and defy anyone who suggests that their proud accomplishment isn’t actually working.
  • I hail the entry into the education reform camp of entrepreneurs with all their energy, imagination, and venture capital, but I’ve seen too many examples of their settling for making their venture profitable for shareholders rather than kids. That’s not so different from traditional adult interests within the public and nonprofit sectors battling to ensure their own jobs, income, and comfort rather than giving their pupils top priority. A firm that’s just in it for the money is as reprehensible as a teachers’ union that’s in it just to look after its members’ pay, pensions, and job security.

Despite the fact that his challenges outweigh his gains by a factor of 4, the tone of his article is still quite positive: Finn believes in the new generation of reformers and the ability to transform American education.

For more information, please visit:


Achieve Creates Tool to Help School Districts Track Their Use of Assessments

achieveEarlier this summer, Achieve launched the Student Assessment Inventory for School Districts, a new tool to help school district leaders to take stock of how many assessments are administered throughout a school year and for what purposes they are given.

Designed from a student perspective, the tool can be used by education leaders to make decisions about what amount of testing is appropriate and provide more transparency for parents about testing in schools. It supports a process by which districts evaluate current assessments; determine the minimum testing necessary to serve essential diagnostic, instructional, and accountability purposes; and work to ensure that every district-mandated test is useful and of high quality.

The toolkit that accompanies the assessment inventory includes a recorded webinar, power point, training materials, and CCSSO criteria for high-quality assessment.

The Student Assessment Inventory for School Districts and associated toolkit is available at


“Bar Exam” for Teachers looks more likely

pdk_logoAccording to the 46th annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll, the American public sees a need for change in how teachers are prepared, meaning a higher likelihood for the teacher “bar exam”.

With stunning unanimity, the American public has concluded the nation must demand more of its future teachers and those who prepare them, a new survey shows.

By margins ranging from 60-to-40 percent up to 80-to-20 percent, the public believes college entrance requirements for would-be teachers should be more rigorous; that practice teaching should last a year or even two, and that teacher candidates should be required to pass a type of national “bar exam” before being allowed into the profession.

For existing teachers, the public believes that performance evaluations are important both to help teachers improve as well as to weed out those educators who are ineffective. But the public does not believe those evaluations should turn on the standardized test scores of a teacher’s students.

Those and many other findings are contained in the second release of information from the 46th edition of the PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. Conducted annually by PDK International in conjunction with Gallup, the poll is the longest-running survey of American attitudes toward education and thus provides an extensive and trusted repository of data documenting how the public’s viewpoint on public education has changed over the decades.

“We shouldn’t be surprised that Americans want great teachers in their classrooms,” said William Bushaw, chief executive officer of PDK International and co-director of the PDK/Gallup poll. “But it appears we’ve reached a real turning point in public attitudes. While we can speculate about all the factors that brought us here, there’s no longer any question about whether the public supports a major overhaul in the preparation and evaluation of teachers.”

The emergence of such clearly defined public opinion comes at a time when state and local officials, university educators and teacher unions already are taking some steps to address the issue of how best to ensure a young college grad is ready to teach and inspire K-12 students.

The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation recently began implementing new rules that will set minimum academic standards for students wishing to enter a university’s school of education. More than 100,000 U.S. teachers already have earned national board certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education has endorsed a performance assessment developed by Stanford University — built on national board certification and likened to a bar exam – to determine whether teacher candidates really are ready to teach on Day 1.

“Many programs designed to help teachers improve their skills already exist,” added Bushaw. “But this year’s results show that more work, study and action by district, state and federal leaders is needed to implement these programs that Americans support.”

Among the key findings:

–By a margin of 81-to-19 percent, the public said teachers “should be required to pass board certification in addition to earning a degree.”

— When asked if entrance requirements to education schools should be raised, 60 percent said “yes” and 36 percent said they should be left where they are today.

— Asked how long a student teacher should practice with a certified teacher before getting his or her own classroom, only 4 percent said they supported the most common practice today of six weeks of student teaching. An astonishing 44 percent said student teaching should last one year and another 27 percent said two years.

The second and final section of this year’s poll also asked questions about the public school calendar and curriculum and educating undocumented children. About 44 percent of the American public generally supports the idea of adding more days of instruction to the school calendar, while 45 percent say the number of instructional days shouldn’t change but vacations should be spread through the year instead of concentrated in the summer. Only 31 percent generally support the idea of adding more hours to each school day.

Depending on how the question is phrased — using, or not using, the word “illegally” — support for educating undocumented children ranges from 49 percent to 56 percent.

A majority of the public believes the curriculum used in their local schools needs to change to meet today’s needs and that local high schools need to provide more career counseling. Interestingly, while 91 percent of those questioned say a college education is “fairly important” or “very important,” the 2014 poll found an unexpected shift between those two categories. In 2010, 75 percent of those question said it was “very important” compared to 21 percent who said it was “fairly important.” This year, the split was 43 percent who said “very important” compared to 48 percent who said “fairly important.”

“We were genuinely surprised by the divided response on the importance of college,” added Bushaw. “Americans seem to be rethinking the idea that a college education is essential for success in the U.S. economy, perhaps in part because parents are less certain they will be able to pay for it.”

PDK, a global association of education professionals, has conducted this poll with Gallup every year since 1969. The poll serves as an opportunity for parents, educators and legislators to assess public opinion about public schools.The latest findings are based on telephone interviews conducted in May and June 2014 with a national sample of 1,001 American adults, including a sub-sample of parents.

Additional poll data are available at The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percent.


CCSSO Wants Your Comments on Revised Standards for Education Leaders

ccssoThe Council of Chief State School Officers is seeking feedback from the public on draft standards for education leaders that aim to ensure district and school leaders are able to improve student achievement and meet new, higher expectations.

The standards detail the leadership skills and knowledge effective district and school leaders need in order to influence teaching and student learning.

You are invited to read the draft standards here and can provide feedback through a survey here. The public comment period will last until October 10. After that period, the standards will be finalized and released later this fall.

The standards are voluntary. States, districts, schools, and university and nonprofit leadership preparation programs can choose to use the standards to guide preparation, practice, support, and evaluations for district and school leaders, including superintendents, principals, assistant principals, and teacher leaders. Most states adapt them to local needs.

The draft standards for district and school leaders include 11 broad standards and specific actions under each one. Among the broad standards: developing and implementing a child-centered vision of quality schooling shared by the school community; enhancing instructional capacity; promoting robust and meaningful curricula and assessment programs; engaging families; and developing an equitable and culturally responsive school.

For the past several months, CCSSO and the National Policy Board for Educational Administration (NPBEA) have led an effort to refresh the standards to reflect research-based evidence and experience gained since the last update of the standards in 2008. More than 70 principals, superintendents, state education department staff, education professors, researchers, and others have been working on this set of draft standards.

To learn more go to the website:


U.S. Department of Education Issues New Guidelines On Collecting Student Data

PTAC_Logo_trans_0This past July, the U.S. Department of Education released the Transparency Best Practices for Schools and Districts, a new set of guidelines created to improve relations between school districts and parents surrounding school districts’ collection, maintenance, and distribution of student data. The new guidelines seek to keep parents more informed and if properly implemented, such guidelines are intended to create a uniform standard to which school districts may be held accountable.

The new guidelines arose out of the Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), a subdivision of the U.S. Department of Education, which serves as a hub for resources related to data privacy and security practices related to education. School districts throughout the United States regularly collect and store data on their students including test scores, discipline records, special education needs, etc. In addition, many school districts make this information available to third parties, such as educational agencies, in order to target and improve student academic achievement. This interest at time runs contrary to the interests of parents who are increasingly concerned with the risks associated with such information being collected and shared with third parties. The guidelines established by PTAC strive to strike a balance between the two so that parents will now know what information is being collected, why it is being collected, how it will be used, and what other parties may have access to this information..

To read the Transparency Best Practices, visit

For more information, go to:  Legal Insights for School Leaders at