Should High Schools Open Later?

11219.pdfHigh school students everywhere may rejoice to hear the latest research on school start times for students in their age group.

A new report from the Education Commission of the States ( says school begins too early for these students, a point about which there should be no dispute.

Following are three key takeaways from the report:

1. Research shows adolescents, driven to later wake/sleep times by their biological clocks, lose as much as an average of 2.7 hours of sleep on school days.

2. There is virtually unanimous agreement in the research community that later start times in adolescent education would produce a positive change in adolescent learning, health, and safety.

3. Few, if any, educational interventions are so strongly supported by research evidence from so many different disciplines and experts in the field.

Following is the link to the report:

The conclusions of this report will certainly be useful to the state of Maryland, which passed a bill earlier this spring to study school start times. Montgomery County Public Schools (MD), one of the largest school districts in the nation, has already been studying the issue, and Superintendent Joshua Starr has recommended moving school start times back 50 minutes.

See the related link to an article about the MD bill:


Rural Education: Examining Capacity Challenges That Influence Educator Effectiveness

mcrellogo.ashxJane Best and Courtney Cohen of McREL have written a helpful document looking at some of the hot button education issues today, but with a unique focus on rural education.

While a quarter of all American students are enrolled in rural public schools, many rural teachers and administrators believe that education stakeholders are slow to fully recognize and address the unique challenges facing rural educators.

This brief addresses some capacity challenges highlighted by rural teachers and administrators including:

  • Recruiting and retaining highly effective teachers
  • Connectivity to technology and use of digital capacity
  • Effective teacher evaluation processes for rural school settings

The paper discusses recent steps taken by the federal government and individual states to address the concerns of rural teachers and administrators and provides considerations and recommendations for policymakers. It concludes with a series of thought-provoking follow up questions, which would be very useful for a professional development session.

For more information, please visit:


A Model Code of Ethics for Educators

nasdtecNASDTEC has undertaken an important new initiative, the development of a model code of ethics for educators. The focus of this work is to provide a uniform set of standards that educators can use as they interact with colleagues, parents, and students. The goal is to provide a model code of ethics that state agencies, school districts, professional associations, and educator preparation programs can adopt or adapt as they deem best.

An outstanding group of educators will serve as the Model Code of Ethics for Educators (MCEE) Task Force. Katherine Bassett, Executive Director of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY), has agreed to facilitate the work of the task force. Anne Marie Fenton, of the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (GAPSC), will serve as the co-facilitator. The MCEE Task Force will benefit from the support of a highly regarded subject matter expert, Dr. Troy Hutchings of the University of Phoenix.

NASDTEC has established a page on its website that will serve as a source to keep you informed on the progress of the project, including a press release and a full list of the members of the task force.

Should you need additional information, please feel free to contact Mike Carr at

For more information on this unique project, please visit:


White House Report: Race to the Top Setting the Pace for Gains across the Education System

race to the top.ashxMore support for educators and increases in student achievement are among signs of progress at the anniversary of President Obama’s signature education reform, at least according to the U.S. Education Department.

In the four years since the Obama Administration announced its first Race to the Top grants, the President’s signature education initiative has helped spark a wave of reform across the country, according to a report released recently by the White House and Department of Education, entitled “Setting the Pace: Expanding  Opportunity for America’s Students in Race to the Top”.

As the four-year anniversary of those grants arrives, “Setting the Pace” finds that the President’s education reform agenda has helped raise standards for students, foster better support teachers and school leaders, and turn around low-performing schools. Ultimately, these efforts have led to signs of encouraging progress among the nation’s students.

Among the report’s key findings are:

  • States that received Race to the Top funds to reform their K-12 education systems serve 22 million students and 1.5 million teachers in more than 40,000 schools.
  • These states represent 45 percent of all students and a similar percentage of all low-income students. Some of the most encouraging signs of progress have come in states that have done the most to embrace the types of reforms called for in Race to the Top, including Tennessee, Hawaii and the District of Columbia.
  • All Race to the Top grantees have taken key steps toward focusing on college- and career-readiness for all students and supporting hard-working teachers and principals, including developing a number of new tools and resources, providing coaching for educators, and expanding options for students.

“Race to the Top set out to advance a simple idea: that the most powerful ideas for improving education come not from Washington, but from educators and leaders in states throughout the country. Now, nearly four years in, change is touching nearly half the nation’s students – for an investment that represents less than 1 percent of education spending,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said. “We know this work is never easy, but what is most encouraging is that despite some debate in state legislatures and here in Congress, state and district leaders have had the courage to put their plan into action.

“The Obama Administration is focused on expanding opportunity for America’s students to ensure not only that they have a shot at achieving the American dream, but that the next generation of American workers can continue to compete in the global economy,” said Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. “The Race to the Top program has helped spur the change and improvement needed in our education system, demonstrating that by working together across the federal government, with governors and school boards, principals and teachers, businesses and non-profits, parents and students – we can provide the education that our young people need and deserve, to prepare for college and a successful career.”

At 80 percent, the nation’s high school graduation rate is the highest in American history, potentially influenced by comprehensive, state-led efforts inspired in part by Race to the Top. In addition, student test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress are the highest since the test was first given 20 years ago.

With an initial budget of just more than $4 billion – less than 1 percent of total education spending in America – Race to the Top unleashed a flurry of pent-up education reform activity at the state and local level. Hopefully, these efforts have created strong enough partnerships among parents, educators, and state and community leaders to continue this progress in the months and years ahead.

The report highlights examples of the most innovative and effective reforms that are taking place in states across the country to prepare students for college and careers, support educators, and spur innovative educational strategies. From Massachusetts’ work to increase access to Advanced Placement (AP) classes by training more than 1,100 middle and high school teachers, to Tennessee’s efforts to support its educators by coaching 30,000 on new state standards and equipping 700 teacher-leader coaches, to Florida’s investment in programs to get the best and brightest educators to the highest-needs areas, to Maryland’s development of STEM curriculum models for use in language programs statewide, states are leading the way with plans tailored to meet the unique needs of their educators and students. This federal support, paired with state and local investment and leadership, is getting results for students and educators.

Looking at these examples and the progress made across our education system, the report finds that while much work remains, Race to the Top has empowered and reinforced the best ideas at the state and local level. By staying on course, America can continue to make progress toward ensuring that every child has an opportunity to get a world-class education and the skills he or she will need to succeed in today’s economy – and tomorrow’s.

“Encouraged and supported by Race to the Top, states are taking major steps forward for our nation’s students,” the report concludes. “There will never be a moment to declare victory in this race – the work will continue for many years to come. But America’s educators remain committed to support all our children on their path to a prosperous future. State and local leaders share that commitment. Staying on course is critical while this hard work is underway.”

For more information, please visit:


ED Releases New Parent and Community Engagement Framework

fce-frameworkThe fourth quarter of the school year is generally a time of preparation for schools and districts as they finalize next year’s budget, student and teacher schedules, and professional development for the upcoming school year. During this time of preparation, it is important that schools and districts discuss ways that they can support parents and the community in helping students to achieve success.

To aid in this work, the U.S. Department of Education has released a framework for schools and the broader communities they serve to build parent and community engagement. Across the country, less than a quarter of residents are 18 years old or younger, and all of us have a responsibility for helping our schools succeed. The Dual Capacity framework, a process used to teach school and district staff to effectively engage parents and for parents to work successfully with the schools to increase student achievement, provides a model that schools and districts can use to build the type of effective community engagement that will make schools the center of our communities.

An example of how the elements of the framework can lead to improved engagement is exhibited in Baltimore. Baltimore City Public Schools worked to support 12,000 pre-kindergarten and kindergarten homes, and to engage families in home-based literacy practices. Each week students received a different bag filled with award-winning children’s books, exposing children, on average, to more than 100 books per year. The book rotation also includes parent training and information on how to share books effectively to promote children’s early literacy skills and nurture a love of learning. Through the program, families are also connected with their local public and school libraries. At the culmination of the program, children receive a permanent bag to keep and continue the practice of borrowing books and building a lifelong habit of reading.

For more information on the Dual Capacity Framework, as well as an introductory video from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, please take some time and review the website at In the coming months, ED will provide additional resources and information so that schools, districts, communities, and parents can learn more about family and community engagement as well as share the wonderful work they are doing to build parent, school, and community capacity that supports all students.

For more information, please visit:


April Issue Brief: The Changing Assessment Landscape

InCaseYouMissedIt_post_title_imageWith pilot tests being conducted and debates raging over Common Core-aligned assessments, new changes proposed for the SAT, and emerging plans for new science assessments, the landscape of educational assessments is changing rapidly. In this month’s issue brief, we have assembled summary information and links that will keep you on the cutting edge.

What are your go-to resources for information about the new assessments? What are your lessons learned from recent pilot tests? How are you navigating the changing assessment landscape within your organization?  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 assessments, please follow this link:

To ensure you do not miss future issues, we encourage you to subscribe to the monthly newsletter by following this link:


Teach to Lead

teach to leadSecretary Duncan announced that, over the next year, he and NBPTS President Ron Thorpe will co-convene a new initiative, Teach to Lead, to foster ambitious commitments on authentic opportunities for teachers to take up leadership roles without leaving the classroom.

The goal is to ensure that when important decisions are being made about the work teachers do, they are there to help set the direction for their classrooms, schools, the profession, and, ultimately, make sure students have the best opportunities to learn.

Teach to Lead will entail a series of gatherings engaging teachers, principals, district leaders, Chief State School Officers, and teacher groups.  Participants will commit to acting on the steps necessary to create more opportunities for teacher leadership in the field.  The Secretary and Thorpe will report back on the commitments and activities from this diverse group at next year’s NBPTS meeting.

Secretary Duncan, in considering the need for Teach to Lead, remarked, “I’ve heard from many teachers who are tired of the heartbreaking choice between serving their students and serving their profession.”  

The work of Teach to Lead was begun back in 2012 with the Blueprint for RESPECT campaign. In 2012 ED released the Blueprint for RESPECT, which was informed by input from thousands of educators and calls for strengthening and elevating the teaching profession in the United States. Importantly, rather than envisioning this teacher leadership as requiring teachers to leave their classrooms, RESPECT calls for career pathways so teachers can lead from their classrooms.

For more information, please visit:


Researchers Question Common Core Claims from Publishers

Common CoreNew studies of textbooks calling themselves “Common Core Aligned” suggest that schools and teachers should remember that a “buyer beware” policy is essential when it comes to purchasing quality textbooks.

William Schmidt, a professor of statistics and education at Michigan State University in East Lansing and head of a research team that recently analyzed about 700 textbooks from 35 textbook series for grades K-8 that are now being used by 60 percent of public school children in the United States, dismissed most purveyors of such claims as “snake oil salesmen” who have done little more than slap shiny new stickers on the same books they’ve been selling for years.

Other researchers agreed. University of Southern California professor Morgan Polikoff reached a similar conclusion after analyzing seven 4th grade math textbooks used in Florida.

In response, textbook companies assert that researchers were not looking at the right materials. For example, Lisa Carmona, the vice president of the pre-K-5 portfolio at McGraw-Hill Education, based in Columbus, Ohio, expressed disappointment that the researchers “didn’t pick a more current program” to analyze.

Some of Polikoff’s findings, she pointed out, were based on supplemental materials her company copyrighted in 2012 in order to help extend schools’ use of her company’s 2009 Math Connects program, which is no longer marketed. That textbook has been replaced by the McGraw-Hill My Math program for K-5, a digital and print resource created especially for the Common Core, Ms. Carmona said.

The reality of the situation may be somewhere in the middle. It seems probable that many of the textbooks companies have dubbed “Common Core Aligned”, which are largely the same as they ever were, will continue to be used by teachers who might not have access to other resources or know any better than to continue using such texts. That does not necessarily make the publishing companies completely culpable because they have often worked directly with the authors of Common Core in order to create new, often digital, material for teachers to use.  The issue is whether or not these new materials will get into the hands of teachers and be successfully implemented. It certainly takes a lot of work to completely redo textbooks, and publishing companies don’t want to risk losing out on the $9 billion annual market.

Following is a graphic that represents some of the discrepancies noted by the recent studies:


For more information, please visit:



Do College Rankings Matter to Students?

The American Council on EducationStudents, particularly low-income students, aren’t really thinking about college rankings when choosing higher education options, according to a new brief released by the American Council on Education.

The study comes as the Obama administration works on its highly anticipated college rating system, which ACE says will become a de facto ranking system. Fewer than 25 percent of students said college rankings were “very important” when it comes to choosing a college. For low-income students, location is more important.

The findings of this survey fly in the face of the proposed motivation for the Education Department’s rating system: to help open the doors to higher education to those from lower income backgrounds by providing key information about colleges that provide the best value for the money.

For example, here what has been released so far on the structure of the forthcoming ED ratings:

The new ratings system has not been developed yet and we will work with all stakeholders— including students and families, states, colleges and universities, and higher education experts– to identify those metrics that will help consumers compare colleges based on their affordability and value, such as:

  • Access, such as percentage of students receiving Pell grants
  • Affordability, such as net price and loan debt
  • Outcomes, such as graduation and transfer rates, earnings of graduates, and completion of advanced degrees

If the reality is that the rankings/ratings mostly matter to the colleges and universities themselves, in addition to students from wealthier backgrounds, then it seems that the government efforts, however much as they might be focused on student needs, are misguided.

For more on the U.S. Education Department’s perspective on its forthcoming ratings system, please visit:

For the full pdf version of the ACE report, please visit:

For a more balanced perspective, please see:


Supporting Principals in Implementing Teacher Evaluation Systems

Pages from 13-465-AD_JointAdvocacyBriefing_rnd4Supporting Principals in Implementing Teacher Evaluation Systems is the latest policy brief from NASSP and NAESP.  It is the product of two months of work from a committee of elementary, middle level, and high school principals from the across the country who are all experiencing different challenges and opportunities in conducting classroom observations, mentoring and coaching teachers, and providing personalized professional development opportunities in their schools.

Principals know-as does the rest of the educational community-that teacher quality is the single most important school-based factor in student achievement. Principals want their schools and students to achieve. In light of that desire, principals want the teacher evaluation process to be successful. A successful process is predicated on meaningful feedback, mentoring, and coaching, as well as appropriate support for principals to execute evaluation models that accomplish the goal of evaluation-to improve instruction and learning in the school building.

Supporting Principals in Implementing Teacher Evaluation Systems offers policymakers and district leaders seven recommendations to support principals as new teacher evaluation systems take root:

  • Require states and districts to spend at least 10% of Title II funds from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) on high-quality professional development tied to new federal reforms that have changed school leadership roles and responsibilities.
  • Provide high-quality training, credentialing, and ongoing professional development on teacher evaluation for principals.
  • Respect the professional judgment of principals in the teacher evaluation process, and ensure sufficient opportunities for principals to provide direct feedback on the teacher evaluation models to verify that the evaluations are leading to improved teaching and learning in schools.
  • Reduce the number of observations required for teachers who demonstrate effectiveness and focus their evaluation on professional growth plans to maximize the time for principals to engage in instructional coaching.
  • Provide consistent funding for schools to hire assistant principals and other school administrators who provide direct support for teachers in every elementary, middle, and high school.
  • Provide personalized professional development for all teachers to support collaboration and best practices within school districts and schools to improve instruction and learning.
  • Provide principals with effective technology and related tools to facilitate efficient observations and support them to disseminate timely feedback to teachers as well as personalize professional development and learning opportunities.

Most agree that good teachers are the most crucial element in student success, but if the link between good principals and good teachers can be improved, students can only stand to benefit.

For more information, and the link to the full pdf of the report, please visit: