Teaching Quality

Those close to me professionally know how much I dislike use of the term teacher quality.  It does not serve us well, and does nothing to help our kids and teachers accelerate their work.  It is NOT about the quality of the individual teacher himself, it is in-fact about his teaching quality that we must focus on.  Someone might say this is simply word-play.  Think about it more deeply and I’d bet you will see how one term sets us up for confrontation, and the other term sets us up for better focusing on the behaviors, not the person, and for providing better coaching and other supports to ratchet upward the quality of every teacher.

When we concluded more than 7 years of research behind Power of Teaching–the Science of the Art, we discerned the 44 most powerful teaching behaviors that affect quality of teaching and learning.  The attached video clip provides an explanation of the work and how our research team decided to place the behaviors into coaching categories.  For more information about Power of Teaching, contact NWEA professional development at

Here goes:

Mathematics and shifting to the Common Core Standards

I hear little chatter on this topic as I travel from state to state. The silence is deafening, so I fear that our guard may be down when our sense of urgency needs to be up.

Given that roughly 40% of the states are generally below or well below the Mathematics standards by which the NAEP (National Assessment of Academic Progress) is calibrated and given the generally-alarming state of student performance in Mathematics, it seems that when we shift from state-driven to national (common core) standards, we will have more than a little dilemma on our hands in America’s school and classrooms.

If we are going to ratchet-up standards in Mathematics, and prepare students for full-fledged Algebra by 8th grade in states where this is not already the standard, we must look beyond simply mapping the existing gaps. We must also focus and deliver teacher supports as follows:

1. Schedule students in performance bands to accommodate better remedial and accelerated strategies to get all kids moving more rapidly through the work of skill and concept building. We need to abandon simple organization by traditional grade levels. NWEA schools can use RIT bands to organize kids and teachers with great confidence.

2. Better differentiate teacher professional development according to where each teacher’s Mathematics competence reveals just like we should be providing for students. This must be coupled with as much content training as training in teacher pedagogy.

3. Abandon traditional approaches to spiraling so that time is not wasted on thin revisiting of already-learned skills. Take time to go deep when new skills are learned.

4. Listen to the best Mathematics teachers–they know where the text book will and will not work. They must serve as the main informers of curriculum mapping, teacher professional development, and teaching strategies.

The shift to Common Core Standards is upon us, except where politicians in a few states (such as Texas) have used their ideology to fight the feds by blocking the Common Core Standards at the expense of their own kids. Will we be ready? Will we win for kids or waste time?

What did I miss?


IMSA Design Charrette

On December 3, 2011, I had the privilege of facilitating the first ever Design Charrette for the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy–a residential school for scholarly high school students.  The Design Charrette served to work-out intense plans and strategies for the future growth and accelerated impact IMSA is to have on students, teachers, and our whole Nation in the areas of Mathematics and Science education.  Below is one snapshot of the intense work being done by participants of the Design Charrette.  Watch closely the work of IMSA president Dr. Max McGee and that of his Board, educators and students at IMSA.  They will continue to be a formidable force in the advancement of Mathematics and the Sciences in Illinois and our Nation.

Happy New Year!


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