A Message to Teachers’ Unions

Excellent commentary from Hanna Skandera and Kevin Huffman. In calling out the destructive behavior of teachers’ unions, they’re standing behind what is best for our kids.

JW

http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2014/aug/03/the-destructive-behavior-of-teachers-un/?page=2

A Unique Approach to Teaching Common Core

Here’s an outside-the-box approach to teaching Common Core standards. Two teachers in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools have founded Hip Hop University, “an upbeat approach” designed to help at-risk students grasp Common Core concepts. The HHU team uses positive hip-hop culture as a motivator and helps students put lessons to lyrics. HHU is part of the Philip O. Berry Academy of Technology. Using information gathered, in part, from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the academy focuses on two issues in particular: dropout and imprisonment.

http://www.thecharlottepost.com/news/2014/07/09/local/students-put-their-lessons-to-lyrics/

Continuing to Watch Colorado

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Colorado’s Education reform policies are the strongest nationally. The state is headed in the right direction with an increased on-time graduation rate of 1.5 percentage point increase. What’s more, they’re beginning to close the race/ethnicity graduation gap. Great progress for sure, but the Colorado DOE cautions, “more needs to be done.”

Take a look at the interesting infographic the Colorado DOE created to show graduation rate trends.

http://www.cde.state.co.us/sites/default/files/GraduationInfoGraphic_to_update_%202013v5.pdf

Teachers Lying about their Teaching?!

WOW. This new article in the Atlantic is a must read: http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/07/why-teachers-lie-about-their-classrooms/375099/

Last paragraph is most pertinent. “It’s no easy task for teachers. But I think we owe it, to ourselves if to no one else, to tell the most honest stories that we can. I’ll only advance as a teacher, and offer something of value to those around me, if I’m able to say what I do.”

Our role as instructional leaders is to make it easy and psychologically safe for teachers to be honest about their practice. Like all other professionals, teachers deserve the best in coaching, supports, and of course real mentoring if they are to not only be held to high performance standards, but seen as champions. I wonder how much we as leaders cause teachers to “lie about their teaching”.

Here’s a possible playbook:

School Principals and other Education Leaders: Up your supervision and teacher coaching game.
Members of the print and broadcast Media: Up your reporting game to shine a balanced light teaching in America, and recommit to respecting the profession.
Superintendents and School Board Members: Up your governance and policy game to ensure a REAL balance between rigorous teacher evaluation and coaching.
Lawmakers: Up your level of honesty about funding, standards, and societal standing your lawmaking places on teachers and teaching.
Parents: Up your use of power. Hold those mentioned above accountable. Vote. And, coach your kids to respect and embrace their teachers’ teaching
Teacher Unions: Rethink your advocacy away from so many current positions that do more to protect ineffectual teachers and less for upholding top teachers

Superintendents as Instructional Leaders

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 5.43.44 PMIn my work, I am finding it more and more rare that school superintendents are actually engaged in instructional leadership. Here is a SHINING positive example. Dr. Michael Bregy, newly appointed superintendent of the North Shore school district 112 in IL, has been a long-time client and friend. Now that he is on his second gig as superintendent, he has “sharpened his saw” even more. Today, in a session we facilitated, Michael provided this list of ESSENTIALS to his team. I thought you might want to take a look. This school district, already high performing in a sense, will greatly accelerate its work as I see many predictors in place. Congratulations to Michael and his team for an outstanding 2-day work out. Also thanks to Atlantic colleagues David Sundstrom, and Dr. Rob Tomback for your valuable- and wise-counsel in the work.

JW

HS Drop-out Re-engagement in Bethel WA

Note of personal privilege here:

Last summer when I recruited Bart Anderson to lead our Atlantic Firm to build out a new vertical service to school districts, we had no idea, reaching our first milestone in this new work would get us onto such a great start. Today we opened our first Acceleration Academy in Bethel, WA as a partnership with the progressive Bethel School District, and their superintendent Tom Seigel. By the end of this week, this Acceleration Academy will have enrolled more than 50 former drop-outs into meaningful high school diploma-seeking work. Check more of this work out at: http://www.atlanticeducation.org and find the cool pictures of the (almost fully) built-out site at Atlantic Education Partners Facebook page. Link is: https://www.facebook.com/diplomasmatter

You probably already know the degree to which the high school drop out issue is reaching epidemic proportions in our Nation. Find more about the issues, the solutions and the opportunity before us to fix this challenge at Dr. Anderson’s blog: http://www.atlanticeducation.org/diplomas-matter/

Congratulations to my Atlantic colleagues, including Drs. Bart Anderson and Jim Hager, Adrienne Leonard, Frank Walton, Mark Graves, Lila Bradley, David Sundstrom, Ryan Graves, Mark Sundstrom, Alex Morgan, Amy Mims, and others. These colleagues are truly invested in what’s right with education, and armed with the courage to tackle the hard problems. To Tom Seigel and your progressive school board and team, thank you! We look forward to helping your district get to the top of your game in high school graduation rates and helping you achieve even more success stories with your team, students, and families.

JW

New Report: Charter Schools More Cost Effective

The University of Arkansas has released a new report – The Productivity of Public Charter Schools – that finds even though public charter schools receive fewer dollars per student than their traditional public school counterparts, they’re producing greater results when it comes to national math and reading assessments and better long-term economic gains for students.

The report found that public charter schools are 40 percent more cost effective nationwide, but in some cities the percentage gap was more than 100 percent.

While there’s a lot of work to be done, and regardless your view as pro-charter or anti-charter, we can be optimistic that school choice is a critical component to ensuring that all students receive a high quality education.

http://www.uaedreform.org/downloads/2014/07/the-productivity-of-public-charter-schools.pdf

Teacher Pay-Needs a Fix!

Interesting article about Randi Weingarten, and others with the “same ole, same ole”.  Link is:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/15/tntp-teacher-pay_n_5586127.html?utm_hp_ref=politics&ir=Politics

While graduate degrees can add great value, as can teachers’ experience in their craft.  Regardless, there is no evidence that graduate degrees and experience add value (statistically) to students’ learning and academic experiences.  Further, it pains me to employ more than 250 teachers adding immense value to their students in our Distinctive Schools, and having to pay them a good bit less than their unionized counterparts make in IL.  

Until we fix broken funding streams to free up funds for top teachers, and break our (political and policy) addiction to steps, lanes, experience-driven, and graduate-degree dependent salary schedules, we will not be able to pay the best teachers what they are REALLY worth, or even get much closer to it.

When will we EVER fix this national problem around teacher compensation?!  Union Leaders–you aren’t helping!

JW

 

Texas-worse than pathetic?!

Link below is an ad.  The contents of the ad are not important.  What IS important is this snapshot of latest Texas achievement gap-actually now a chasm.  Texas, known for standing behind lowest tier academic standards in the Nation-with their Governor enthusiastically rejecting Common Core State Standards, continues to demonstrate what we know to be true.  Low standards hurt poor and underperforming kids the most.  This seems worse than pathetic to me.  What a shame.  Worse, they defend their stance on the issues and their work.  See link:

https://crowdmark.com/blog/state-achievement-tests-incite-controversy-in-texas/

LEAP Innovations

See video link featuring students from CICS West Belden.  Next year CICS Irving Park, Bucktown, and West Belden will all be working with Leap Innovations to deepen participation, rigor, and efficacy around device-driven personalized learning.  Mary Stafford and several Distinctive Schools team members developed the grant applications which led to this funded partnership.  Stay tuned for progress.  Special kudos to Phyllis Lockett and the LEAP Innovations leadership.  LEAP Innovations advance the use of personalized learning and technology to accelerate education for students. LEAP serves as the new R&D hub for education innovation, bringing the best technology to Chicago to pilot, research and scale. This is a wonderful initiative for Chicago students, parents, and teachers to bring more 21st Century learning to schools.
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