On Tuesday, May 7, 2019, the Texas Senate Education Committee, chaired by Senator Larry Taylor (R), heard public testimony regarding the student, mental health-related legislation House Bill 18 (HB 18; Price et al.). HB18 requires teachers, counselors, and principals to receive professional development related to student mental health every year. This training is to focus on how mental health conditions, including grief and trauma, affect student learning and behavior and how “evidence-based, grief-informed, and trauma-informed strategies” support the academic success of students.Read More
oday, May 6, 2019, the Texas legislators are slated to vote on a version of the school finance legislation, House Bill 3, that includes a proposal to add four more writing tests and tie school funding directly to third-grade STAAR results. The new exams would bring the total number of annual assessments to 21 and would mark the second change to the number of tests since 2012. Currently, the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) includes the following assessments:Read More
It is hard to imagine a segment of our American society in 2019 that has not been impacted by the dysfunction of our current political and social structure. Nevertheless, our inability to find unifying solutions to matters that we agree upon is an indicator of a much deeper problem that we have not begun to understand. Sadly, these issues are magnified in the public education system in America. I am sure we have all heard the adage derived from the writings of Thomas Reid, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Unfortunately, today the strength of character of the individual educator is the "weakest link" and is often overshadowed by the debate over the effectiveness of the United State's public education system.Read More
It seemed like yesterday when educators were introduced to the concept of "21st Century Skills" during professional development sessions and conferences. The message was clear, teachers need to teach differently to prepare students for the industries of the future. Now, it is not uncommon for educators to see the need to prepare students to contribute and shape the society they will inherit. But, starting with the early 2000s, teachers were fed a heavy diet of the frequently updated futuristic 'Did You Know' videos.Read More
Living is learning
Character through challenges
Learning is ruined
Politics and agendas
Stay Purpose Driven
In an age of accountability and high stakes testing, public education has accomplished a lot. We have managed to utilize assessment data trends to identify resources and programs to support students' educational needs. We have also learned how to breakdown objectives or learning standards to their most intricate parts to align our resources. Most of all we have developed ways to hold educators accountable for student achievement...One question remains: at what cost are we making all of these efforts? In other words, what have we sacrificed for this “data-driven” approach to education?Read More
On Aug. 15, the Texas Education Agency released academic accountability ratings for districts, charter schools, and other campuses across the state. In this first implementation of an A-F scale to rate how well school systems are functioning, Texas joined 15 other states across the country that have implemented a similar accountability system.In 1999, Florida became the first state to adopt an A-F school rating system as part of its A+ Education Plan. In 2015, when the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law, the federal government gave states the authority to meet education standards without hampering them with excessive mandates and stipulations. In response to this new flexibility, several states began implementing accountability models like Florida's. Now that the approach is becoming more widely used, educators all over the nation are debating the merit and implications of an A-F accountability system.Read More
When I first became an educator, I taught secondary Mathematics and Physics to high school students in the largest district in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and in a much smaller school system in the suburbs. I first worked with low-performing and economically disadvantaged students and later in an environment with all talented and gifted students. Once I decided to move beyond the classroom and into a role as instructional coach, I began mentoring teachers and delivering professional development training. With this background as both an urban educator and teacher leader, I had a close-up opportunity to see the problems that are pervasive in K-12 education. Having served as a District administrator for 9 years, I now have a bird’s eye perspective of those problems as well as potential strategies for success, particularly, in an urban setting.Read More
In today’s economically and culturally diverse society it is vitally important that educators and community leaders find clarity on each other’s role in supporting our students' academic achievement (Anderson-Butcher et. al., 2010). This need is only intensified when we consider the context of the required school reform actions brought on by No Child Left behind (NCLB) and Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) accountability measures. However, the formation of effective school and community partnerships is usually defaulted to the responsibility of the schools and often are not established due to communication and expectation barriers (Hands, 2010). With increasing reports of economic disparities between parents and communities of high performing schools and those of schools in need of academic achievement improvements, various factors have served as barriers to strong school and community partnerships.Read More
Satisfying the demand for highly skilled workers is the key to maintaining competitiveness and prosperity in the global economy. For this reason, many educational policymakers strive to craft policies that assist educators in developing a stronger workforce. This was the intended aim of the 2001 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act put forth by the Bush administration. However well intended the NCLB Act was, the consequences of several key requirements have turned out to be counterproductive.Read More
The increasingly competitive global workforce of the 21st century has brought on the need for students and teachers to develop new skills and competencies in our educational systems. Given that the 21st-century classroom is characterized by innovation and project-based context, schools should adopt a 21st-century teaching and learning methods that blend creative thinking skills and employs methods of instruction that integrate modern learning technologies and real-world contexts (Wan & Gut, 2011).Read More
The rapid development of competing global markets has forced the American educational system to confront the need for the development of a more highly educated workforce. As a result, K-12 school systems have been forced to prepare more students for the rigors of a variety of postsecondary experiences by refocusing their efforts on improving students’ awareness and readiness. Texas’ 2013 legislative suite of educational changes, House Bill 5 (HB5), includes a vast array of reforms designed to provide flexibility for students to develop their talents and pursue early their postsecondary interests. A major component of HB5 involves the expectation that school counselors take a more individualized approach to advising students for postsecondary pathways of their choice at earlier stages in their K-12 experience. Specifically, 33 Tex. Educ. Code § 33.007 states that, starting in the 2014-2015 school year, elementary, middle/junior high, and high school counselors will be required to advise students and parents annually of the importance of postsecondary education; high school counselors must provide families with information related to the advantages of the new postsecondary focused graduation requirements.Read More
There are many different blended learning models today, but what is at the heart of blended learning? According to the Innosight Institute, blended learning is a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online delivery of content and instruction with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace and least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home.At first glance, this definition sounds very technical, but at the heart of this definition is a situation in which students are engaged in a realistic learning environment for today’s expectations. This becomes more clear when we consider the needs of the 21st-century learner as well as the deficiencies of the 21st-century American workforce. Both unveil the misalignment between our current educational practices and our desired outcomes.Read More
Today’s demand for a highly skilled workforce in the areas of science, technology engineering, and math (STEM) is making an immediate impact on our society and what we value in education. Changes in state and federal budgets further illustrate this shift our society is making in educational priorities. I am starting to wonder what will be the long-term effects of these changes.Read More
There are many different blended learning models today, but what is at the heart of blended learning? According to the Innosight Institute,
blended learning is a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online delivery of content and instruction with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace and least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home.
One of the most prominent issues that affect K-12 public schools as social organizations is a propensity to operate from the position that "We're going to do what we've always done because that's what we've always done." This notion is pervasive and widely unrecognized and acknowledged. Likewise, the habits that arise from this notion are formed subtly yet become deeply ingrained in (and debilitating to) the system operations. Practically speaking, systems tend to employ practices or habits that are undocumented in policy, unsupported by data and are not effectively educating students. The negative consequences of this mindset include parents withdraw their students in favor of the more flexible and responsive systems of private and charter schools; educators' efforts are constrained and academic performance is weak; the best and most innovative educators are recruited by other systems or possibly even leave the field; and students suffer because they are not prepared to meet the demands of an ever-changing society. Left unchecked, poor organizational habits within systems ultimately weaken our nation's ability to compete on the global level.Read More
Throughout an academic year, an instructional coach can find themselves going through cycles when working within professional learning communities (PLCs). When you reflect on the function of your PLC group, it is easy to see how the PLC could loose focus on the main goals. If the facilitator of the PLC doesn't recognize the need for re-calibration early enough even the most dedicated group of educators could become completely derailed and discouraged. As a result of experiencing PLC train wrecks as well as PLC success stories, I developed the following short refocusing exercise for the instructional coach or PLC facilitator to implement with a team of teachers. Every team has different dynamics, but usually, around mid-year, a very observant instructional coach could begin to notice the signs that suggest it is time for a PLC Refocus. This is simple in concept, but it requires skillful execution. If the timing is right and the approach is non-judgmental the PLC could benefit greatly. Give it a try, and share your results.
Revisiting PLC Norms
Present each question to the entire team for collaboration and ask them to share their thoughts one question at a time. Ask clarifying questions like those below to simplify the group’s responses and collect their final answers.
What will you say and do when you disagree?
What will you say and do when you are not comfortable with a concept or teaching strategy?
What will you say and do when a colleague achieves a goal?
What will you say and do when a colleague doesn’t follow the PLC Norms?
Recently the Texas Commissioner of Education, Michael L. Williams, announced that he was deferring implementation of a 15 percent grading requirement for the 2012-2013 school year. This news was received by the vast majority of educators across Texas with jubilation and relief. To put this reaction in context, you would have to understand the policy’s origins and scope. When the state of Texas decided to upgrade its assessment and accountability system in 2009, it included a ruling that made a student’s score on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) end-of-course examinations count toward15 percent of the student’s final grade in each tested subject area.
Now at first glance that would seem alarming, but when you consider the fact that students would be required to take several more assessments with more rigorous content and testing conditions, it became a serious anxiety accelerant for school administrators and educators. Commissioner William’s decision marks the second year the rule has been deferred. In the 2011-2012 school year, more than 1,100 of the state’s more than 1,200 school districts notified the Texas Education Agency that they would be selecting the voluntary deferral option.
Even though school systems have been given a reprieve with regard to the 15% grading requirement, students still must take all STAAR tests and meet all requirements for graduation.Even though most of the state appears to be finding a resolution, I am troubled by the majority reaction and am left with several yet-to-be answered still questions for theTexas Education Commissioner and K-12 School system educators throughout the state.
Why do we have so many conflicts with the 15% rule in the first place?
Who is looking into the nearly 100 out of the 1200 independent school systems that did not request a deferral of the 15% ruling during the first year of implementation, and how are these school system fairing? What led them to reject the deferral?
What does all the conflict with the 15% ruling really reveal about the Texas Educational System?
In summary, I am left with wonderments of the potential of the new state of Texas assessment and accountability system. One can not help but notice how that the system is being altered from what its planners originally intended. This is not to say adjustments are not needed, but the goal is to improve student achievement, all of these backtrackings no the 15% rule could be the proverbial beginning of the end. This end is the political dismantling of a once-promising state assessment and accountability system that supports more rigor and better student preparedness for their post-secondary endeavors. Perhaps we are simply witnessing an assessment accountability system deferred.
By now many of you have heard about the recent reports of rampant teacher cheating and unethical practices in the Atlanta public school system. What kind of world are we living in when the adults responsible for shaping the minds of our future leaders resort to cheating of this magnitude? Since the reports surfaced, I have been trying to understand why or how this could happen. Now, I'm not saying that it is implausible for anyone to cheat, after all, it is an element of human nature to cheat. I also realize that cheating takes place every day in different forms, but isn't there a line somewhere? Actually, there isn't.
You better believe that this is not the first time the teachers in Atlanta, or teachers all over America for that matter, have cheated. I believe this cheating is a symptom of a more substantial problem. So much of our educational system encourages this kind of behavior. Since the advent of the era of high stakes testing, many school systems have felt the pressure to meet standards with limited or no additional resources including highly qualified teachers. I have personally seen teachers succumb to the pressure to get students to pass the test that they simply "teach the test" in an effort to get higher scores. This only creates an even bigger problem for the school system in subsequent years which leads to more pressure to cheat. Some public school systems fall in line with similar behavior by constantly manipulating data to satisfy the ever-growing political pressures to meet or exceed standards (often self-imposed standards). Together, these behaviors seem to suggest that the accountability system, which includes the high stakes testing, data reporting, and a whole host of other political constraints, is what drives public education today and produces the right conditions for cheating on all levels.
Well, that is what I think about this scandal, but I would like to know what you think about the sad state of affairs in the Atlanta Public School System.
Check out this Get Schooled blog post by Maureen Downey on the cheating scandal in Atlanta Public Schools. I would like to know if you agree. Set unrealistic test score quotas and people will either fail or cheat | Get Schooled.
There have been many books and articles written on the theory of change but since we live a result oriented world, how do we practically get through it? The world of education is not immune to the ever-growing pressure to change. In fact, we may be at the very heart of it. According to the latest Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) rankings, American students scored 32nd in math ability and 23rd in science achievement. With more and more rankings, reports, and achievement data pointing to the fact that America's educational system is in decline, one has to ask how can we turn it around. Currently, the debate is center on education reform. Some experts speak of the need for broad sweeping reform, while others lean toward shifting the focus to more economic growth and development. Regardless of where you stand on reform, one thing rings true. We have to change. That is not to simplify the magnitude of the needed change. After all, we have data supporting the need for change in our teacher recruitment & retention, curriculum focus, instructional practice, teacher evaluation, and assessment & accountability. My goal with this blog post is to begin taking a look at the conditions needed for changing our instructional practices in the classroom.
We have to educate our way to a better economy. We have a 25 percent drop out rate in this country. We're losing about a million children each year from our schools to the streets. That's just economically unsustainable and morally unacceptable and we all have to work together and challenge the status quo.— Arne Duncan
When I am working with teachers to help them improve their effectiveness in the classroom it is easy to underestimate what conditions are necessary for change to take place. In Jim Knights book Instructional Coaching, he describes two conditions necessary for ideas introduced to survive and be implemented. He states that (1) the teacher must see that the new choice is more powerful than their current practice; and (2) the new choice must be easier for the teacher to implement. In addition, I have noticed that when I have been successful at motivating a teacher to try a new practice, I was deliberate about how I demonstrated my support for them while provided implementation the new practice. After ensuring the conditions for change are in place I had to have a realistic expectation about the time it takes for this process to take place. Nothing can be taken for granted about the different backgrounds, experiences, and understanding of each individual teacher being asked to change. Now, this is where the fun begins.