Teachers as Researchers: Another Mark of Professionalism

screen-shot-2011-09-29-at-7-26-35-pmOn his Education Week blog, Marc Tucker argues that teachers should serve as the agents of education research, not just subjects of it. There is no argument about the need for research in the United States, but Tucker worries that most of it is done by academics not involved in the daily demands of teaching. Why not empower teachers to be the lead researchers for the profession that they so desire to see improve?

Here is an excerpt from Tucker’s comments:

The United States has by far the biggest establishment of university-based education researchers in the world.  But a number of countries, in Asia, Australasia, and Europe, train many more of their teachers in research techniques than does the United States.

I do not mean to suggest that they provide their teachers with the same level of mastery of sophisticated research techniques that we provide to trained researchers holding doctorate degrees, but they do provide their teachers with the rudiments of research methods, on a very large scale.

I would argue that the fact that their teachers typically receive basic training in research methods is very important.  In many of these countries, as I have pointed out elsewhere, teachers spend much less time in front of students than is the case in the United States, and much more time working with other teachers, mainly to develop lessons together, work collaboratively on development of more effective instructional methods, and perfect their systems for formative evaluation.  

Which is to say that teachers in these countries are viewed as primary agents of school improvement.

So it is no small matter that they have basic research skills.  Not only are they expected to work together in a disciplined way to improve their own practice, but they are expected to use their research skills to determine whether their efforts are leading to improved outcomes for their students.

Tucker is not advocating removing professionally trained researchers who take on detailed projects that full time teachers simply could not do, but he is advocating a system that sets up a structure for teachers to be more involved in research so that they can improve their teaching and improve the field of teaching overall.

Read the full blog and leave your comments here: http://bit.ly/1rAuHMQ.



Ten Things to Know About PARCC

PARCCThe Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) has released a list of 10 things you should know about the PARCC assessments as you start off this school year:

  1. PARCC is your state’s homegrown assessment. PARCC is not a testing company – it’s a group of states working together to build better assessments. Your state’s educators and state education leaders actively participated in the design, field testing, and implementation of the new assessments. Your state’s education commissioner or superintendent is one of the PARCC Governing Board members making the decisions about the PARCC assessments. Your state is not buying a test from a vendor. Your state is in charge of your state’s tests.
  1. The field test last spring was very successful, and provided lessons for the first full administration next spring. More than a million students at 16,000 schools in 14 states plus the District of Columbia took the field test this past spring and with the exception of some minor glitches, as PARCC anticipated, the tryout was a huge success. PARCC has received lots of feedback from teachers, coordinators, students and others. PARCC is compiling the survey results and making adjustments. For example: PARCC is making the test manuals more concise and is working to improve the equation editor that students use to build equations for the math tests. Student feedback was generally positive. As one student said: “I like this test so much more than [the state test] because it makes you think.”

PARCC has been sharing results from the surveys in its newsletter updates. PARCC will release a full report in September with more details. PARCC will also be sharing some research studies later this fall. Stay tuned.

  1. Paper-based tests are available for schools that are not yet ready for the technology. The goal is for all students to benefit from computer-enhanced features. Though the majority of schools will be using the computer-based version, paper forms are available for schools that need them. However, computer-based assessments provide a faster turn-around of results to give teachers information they can use, and give students engaging real world features.

Part of the field testing research, which will be completed late this fall, looks at whether results can be compared between students who take the tests on laptop vs. tablet, desktop or paper-and-pencil.

  1. Teachers in your state are playing an important role in developing the assessments. Ask around – some of your colleagues have been involved in the development of the PARCC assessments, contributing to the design, reviewing test items, and reviewing reading passages.

To read the rest go to:  http://www.parcconline.org/ten-things-know-about-parcc


September Issue Brief: School Culture

In Case You Missed It!The job of the teacher today is more demanding than ever, and teachers need the support of colleagues and a productive school culture for continuous growth and ongoing resilience in the face of challenges. But a vibrant school culture is an elusive concept. In this month’s issue brief, we explore various commentary, resources, and ideas related to teacher collaboration, school culture, and learning communities to build understanding and provoke discussion related to this concept.
What are the most productive methods for fostering a collaborative culture among teachers? How are the most effective learning communities organized and facilitated? Please respond to our call for commentary. We’d love to hear from you!

To check out this month’s newsletter and access resources on school culture, please follow this link: http://us5.campaign-archive2.com/?u=a4ae2b1b129b9f8a29d50b80f&id=4097245fff&e=6922d4304c

To ensure you do not miss future issues, we encourage you to subscribe to the monthly newsletter by following this link: http://tinyurl.com/byje6b9


Engaging Educators: A Reform Support Network Guide for States and Districts

5-to-watch-evaluation-reform-July29Many states are proactively engaging educators in shaping key reforms, including evaluation, feedback, and support systems. The Reform Support Network has released a study titled Engaging Educators: A Reform Support Network Guide for States and Districts that takes a close look at five states/districts to watch. These include Denver Public Schools; Hillsborough County, Florida; Illinois; New Haven, Connecticut; and Tennessee.

For more details, follow this link for the full pdf: Engaging Educators: A Reform Support Network Guide for States and Districts.


Educator Accountability for Education Professionals – A New Idea

SchoolAccountabilityOn his Education Week blog, Marc Tucker discusses the National Center for Education and the Economy’s latest report, which calls for replacing the current system of test-based accountability with a system much more likely to result in improvements in student performance.

Following is an excerpt  describing the plan outlined in the new report:

Fixing Our National Accountability System says the alternative to the kind of punitive accountability measures now dominating American policy is not just a different accountability system but a different kind of education system.  The report’s proposal does not focus on getting rid of our worst teachers, but on producing a surplus of very good teachers and making sure those teachers are equitably distributed among our students, so that students who are harder to educate get more of them than those who are easier to educate.  The countries that outperform the United States in comparative studies of student performance are recruiting their teachers from the upper ranges of their high school graduates, greatly raising the standards for getting into schools of education, making sure that prospective teachers have a very strong education in the subjects they will teach and making sure they learn their craft with early and comprehensive experiences in real school settings overseen by experienced mentor teachers.  They are attracting first class candidates into the teaching profession by offering them starting salaries comparable to those of high status professionals, using career ladders to create real careers in teaching, and recruiting and training school leaders who are very good at making schools the kind of places that true professionals want to work in.

This blog also covered Tucker’s recent series on school accountability. Please follow this link for more details: http://www.coreeducationllc.com/blog2/marc-tucker-designing-a-better-accountability-system/

Read the full blog here: http://bit.ly/1kXVgbV

Access Fixing our National Accountability System here: http://www.ncee.org/accountability/


McREL Policy Brief: Continuous Improvement in Schools and Districts

Mcrel-LogoDiscussions about improving public education often focus on outcomes without considering how schools and districts can accomplish those outcomes. Research shows that using a continuous improvement process has proven successful in healthcare, manufacturing, and technology, and may hold potential for use in education as well. This brief defines and describes the continuous improvement process, and looks at the policy considerations for using such a process in education to help schools, districts, and systems achieve higher levels of reliable performance.

Key Ideas:

This brief addresses some policy considerations for adapting and using continuous improvement processes in education, including:

  • Addressing problems more effectively by focusing on fewer, and more specific, goals
  • Creating system flexibility that allows for rapid prototyping of potential solutions
  • Planning for ongoing evaluation of programs that allows for midcourse corrections
  • Development of school and district leaders trained in formal improvement methodology

For more information, please visit:



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.


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: http://all4ed.org/articles/creating-anytime-anywhere-learning-for-all-students-comprehensive-digital-infrastructure-must-include-changes-in-teaching-practice-professional-learning-assessment-and-other-key-elements-says-ne/


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: https://edpolicy.stanford.edu/publications/pubs/1200


Cutting Red Tape: Overcoming Bureaucracy to Develop High-Performing SEAs

CuttingRedTape-COVERPHOTOIn many ways, the success of educational policies in the United States depends greatly on the success of state education agencies.

States—traditionally through state education agencies, or SEAs—monitor districts and schools to ensure that students are safe in school and that their education meets minimum quality standards. But the space occupied by SEAs is also an ambiguous one.

Under mounting federal pressure to be more involved in improving schools, SEAs have seen the scope and breadth of their work significantly increase in recent years. SEA staff are now tasked with a long and growing list of responsibilities, including teacher licensure, distribution of funding, technical assistance to educators, the management and administration of end-of-year tests, and maintenance of state-level student and school databases. Because of this wide scope of duties, those who lead SEAs serve an important role in the future of our country as schools are pivotal to our global competitiveness.

In this paper, Robert Hanna, Jeffrey Morrow, and Marci Rozen of the Center for American Progress explore the red tape that binds state education leaders as they seek to make today’s ambitious reforms a reality.

The paper includes the following recommendations for federal and state policymakers:

  • Federal policymakers should improve and streamline compliance monitoring and reporting requirements.
  • State leaders should reexamine their states’ legal requirements and identify areas for agency improvement.
  • State policymakers—legislators and state employee organizations—should streamline civil service processes to improve state agency operations.

For more information, please visit: