Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Call for the End of "Parent Trigger"

We've got to stop using the phrase "parent tri**er." For those not literate in edu-speak, "parent tri**er" is a process in which parents can call for the closure or transformation of a school if it is not doing well.

As a society, we've got to eliminate the use of "trigger" in association with our schools. It evokes violent imagery and sets up parents v. teachers when the real issue is two-fold:
  • Are children arriving at school ready to learn? Children need to feel safe and be well-fed, well-rested -- and curious -- in order to do well in school. If the answer to this question is "no," then we need to look at the variables that influence learning readiness. That is a societal issue worthy of a systemic response.
  • Do schools have the capacity to engage students? In wealthier schools, the answer is yes, but we have to ask to what end? Are we preparing students for individual achievement or civic engagement, or both? In our less wealthy schools, we need to develop the school cultures that foster effective learning and working conditions so that students make connections between school and society and teachers can do their jobs -- and flourish.
Can schools be more effective? Certainly. However, we've got to develop systemic solutions that engage families and unfurl educators' professional stewardship of education.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sustaining a Hybrid Teacher Network

Thanks to Nicole Gillespie, KSTF's CEO, I just finished reading "Getting Ideas into Action: Building Networked Improvement Communities in Education (2011). This article advances the idea that [K-12] educational practitioners should also be at the table when educational research -- and policy -- is designed.

As a busy practitioner, I know I could benefit from succinct access to academic research frameworks. And I KNOW that teacher voices can enrich and ground the often-lofty "Here, try this..." interventions.

Looking ahead to the elusive "Hybrid Teacher Network," teachers need time and support to stay in the classroom (1/2 time), but also have stewardship of the profession (1/2 time). Everything from curriculum, instruction, assessment and policy is on the table, and practicing teachers need to be creating the narrative with community partners.

How can NNSTOY, NBCT, VIVA Teachers, Hope Street Fellows, TAFNet, a nascent STEM teacher network, and other groups advance and sustain hybrid teacher roles?

What can we learn about teacher networks that aligns with [inter-]national educational equity and is based on local innovation?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

What is Effective Teacher Leadership?

I just re-read Carrie R. Leana's "The Missing Link in School Reform (2011)," and I agree that teacher collaboration, described by the author as a form of social capital, is what makes really good teachers become excellent.

The U.S. Department of Education's Blueprint for Reform (2009) suggests that teacher evaluation include room for multiple measures such as teacher leadership or peer-review (see p. 4).

I appreciate the flexible, aim-focused tone of the Blueprint. I wonder how the Department could be more explicit about what teacher leadership and peer review actually look like. How can the Department advance incentives, infrastructure or models that develop and sustain the essence of teachers' stewardship of the profession?

I also wonder about the future of the Blueprint, its intersection with Race to The Top and the reauthorization of Elementary and Secondary Education Act (aka No Child Left Behind). What can the Department do to foster policy that engages the millions of teachers we already have in our classrooms?

Cultivating the Effective Hybrid Teachers

Effective teachers help students develop a love of life-long learning.  Do our school systems provide opportunities for teachers to effectively use their wondrous crafts? How can teacher effectiveness be enriched by the hybrid teaching role? 
Essentially, hybrid teachers spend part of their time in the classroom and part of their time in stewardship of the profession. But before we agree this is idea, we have to develop the infrastructure that supports and sustains hybrid teachers. Bruce Taterka and I will be facilitating a conversation about the hybrid teacher at this year's annual EduCon in Philadelphia. 
An abstract of our conversation follows:
In order for K-12 teachers to be more effective, we need opportunities to study the intersection of curriculum, instruction, assessment and policy. For example, as federal agencies call for more teacher research, and states design high-stakes standardized assessments of student growth, teachers need to be more involved with what goes in in schools and districts. One of the challenges we face is that many teachers already work 50 hours a week; where do we find the time we need to lead? Data from the 2013 Measures of Effective Teaching study also shows that teachers also seek opportunities to lead without leaving the classroom.
We'd love to hear more about your experiences with hybrid teaching. What experience do you have with hybrid teacher roles? What systems should be in place so that the hybrid teacher roles are effective and sustainable?