“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 www.pdkpoll.org. 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:  http://www.ccsso.org/News_and_Events/Press_Releases/2014_Draft_ISLLC_Standards_for_School_Leaders.html


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 http://ptac.ed.gov/sites/default/files/LEA%20Transparency%20Best%20Practices%20final.pdf

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




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.