Thursday, December 31, 2009

Short wish for you . . .

Final post of the year to wish you a HAPPY NEW YEAR!


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Reform efforts result in what?

I found this short article on Larry Cuban’s sight to be closely aligned with my concerns about state and national reform and again made me reflect on our the future. The article references a federal study mapping state proficiency standards against NAEP scores. The study compares state proficiency scores in grades 4 and 8 in reading and math against the predicted NAEP score to determine if states are lowering proficiency standards in the face of the negative consequences of NCLB.

The topic reinforces for me the concern I have with the focus on common core standards, assessments, and more seat time in the form of additional credits for graduation. These seem to be what we hear from in the other Washington and is certainly embedded in our state’s move to Core 24. We will need to wait to find out what will happen in the next legislative session when congress takes up revisions to ESEA, but the current discussions signal more of the same.

When will there be a better balance of “basic skills” being pushed by these current reform efforts ad what we have learned are essential skills for young people to experience success in post high school learning and work? Are people in positions of authority at the national and state level reading books such as Pink’s A Whole New Mind, Zhao’s Catching Up or Leading the Way, Friedman’s The World Is Flat, and Wagner’s The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don't Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need - and What We Can Do About It,? If yes, then why does the focus continue to be on more of the same which leads to what Rona Wilensky describes in the Cuban article and that is reinforced in these books?

I believe that we have found this balance in our Classroom 10 initiative and that we must find ways to maintain focus during the next round of federal and state changes. Engaging young people in the learning focus of Classroom 10 will provide them with the basic skills and the enhanced skills that position them for success and that will open many doors not available to those with a focus on only Core 24 learning.

Before closing, here is a shot of my grandson flying his first kite. Couldn’t be better!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The levy message . . .

I am beginning to think about what and how much information to share next week with staff concerning the levies. It is essential that all of us have a common understanding of the importance of these measures to who we are and to our ability to support adult and student learning. The operations levy provides us with about one out of five of every dollar we spend or about five times as much as we needed to adjust to balance this year’s budget. All of us felt these adjustments, but they would seem very minor compared to what would be necessary if this measure were not to pass. Simply stated, this local revenue provides us with the opportunity to create a comprehensive program for young people and learning opportunities for adults.

The technology levy is the major funding source for this program. Two out of every three dollars we spend on hardware, software, and support comes from this levy. Our program has expanded rapidly and is about to be augmented with the purchase of about 2100 new machines. Thanks to our tech fusion staff we are providing learning opportunities that you will not find in many other districts. Again, we would not be able to provide the equipment or learning opportunities in the absence of this funding.

So, what to share in a short period of time? I also want to share some thoughts on our Classroom 10 journey which makes it even more difficult to identify what is essential to present. Not unlike what teachers decide every day.

Here is one picture from today at the beach. It was a clear, beautiful, crisp day that I thoroughly enjoyed. We topped it off by watching Alvin, his brothers, and some Chipettes in the Squeakquel.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Our Christmas . . .

I stayed offline since before Christmas, three days is a long time for me. Hope your Christmas was wonderful and that you continue to enjoy peace and love with family and friends. I have included a few shots of our day.

We are spending the next week at Ocean Shores with our grandkids. I intend for more relaxation than work, but we’ll see how it goes. Our granddaughter is 10 and presents no problem by herself, but sometimes in combination with her brother who is 3 it can be quite different. He has the capacity to push one’s buttons including mine.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The conference concludes with . . .

The climate conference has concluded with some agreements that don’t do enough, but the leaders did change the tone and kept it from ending with nothing. The agreements and pledges to cut emissions are not going to keep us below the 2degrees Celsius warming threshold scientists warn could be disastrous, but it is a start. Though much of what was accomplished was pledged before the conference, the $100 billion annually pledged by 2020 to support developing countries and the movement by China to become more transparent were positive steps.

Here is an interesting White House transcript that highlights the meeting President Obama had with leaders from India, Brazil, South Africa, and China that supported the agreements that were reached. What appeared earlier in the week as almost a lost cause was changed through the interactions of leaders in critical countries. This meeting is giving some cause to reconsider the process for future U.N. meetings like this. That makes good sense. There are simply too many countries each with equal opportunity to control the outcome to reach the critical decisions that must be made to preserve the future of this one world.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Climate and levies . . .

As a follow up to yesterday’s post on COP15 I’ll share this blog site where a team from Yale focused on China has been blogging live. This post again points to the make or break position that both China and the U.S. have in these delicate negotiations. Secretary Clinton raised the ante with a $100 billion commitment to developing nations.

I like this part of her presentation.

I have often quoted a Chinese proverb which says that when you are in a common boat, you have to cross the river peacefully together. Well, we are in a common boat. All of the major economies have an obligation to commit to meaningful mitigation actions and stand behind them in a transparent way. And all of us have an obligation to engage constructively and creatively toward a workable solution. We need to avoid negotiating approaches that undermine rather than advance progress toward our objective.
It raises the ante by meeting one of China’s stated needs, more money for developing nations while also reinforcing the U.S. need for transparency by China.

Closer to home, the board Tuesday approved resolutions for the operations and technology levies to go before the voters on February 9th. Yesterday, we shared the information at the Chamber meeting where their board endorsed both measures. This is a critical endorsement as the Chamber represents an essential component of our team and has the capacity to have a positive influence in the community. At both meetings the following slide was used to share our concern.

The recent economic downturn and its impact on the housing industry have resulted in turbulence for us. What to ask for based on the Governor’s budget proposal with the potential to increase revenue through local collections was difficult to process and changes at the county level have made setting of levy amounts much different than in previous years. The result of the county’s recent reviews of assessed valuation is a 14.6% decrease in the district’s assessed value. This means an increase in dollars per thousand of about $.50. In most years there is little fluctuation in this number so this is significant. It is this number times the assessed value of one’s home that determines how much one pays in school taxes. It makes our task more difficult this year with the issues faced by many and the changes to numbers that are difficult to explain and will impact how some view the need for these replacement levies.

We will be sharing with staff at meetings on January 4th.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Leaders to the rescue?

In case you haven’t been keeping up with COP15, the United Nations Climate Conference, I will share two blog posts that will bring you up to date. The first is a post by Yvo de Boer, the UN’s top climate official, with a bleak update. The talks have stalled on the eve of arrival by world leaders from the participating countries, including President Obama. What was to be a two day period of agreement signing by these leaders now appears to be the last chance to find a compromise agreement with enough clout to impact global warming.

Will these leaders now come in and broker a significant deal that could not be reached by their nation’s scientists and negotiators? Will they swoop in and save the day? I don’t believe that will be the case. The issues, identified here, require compromise and commitment in money and behavior that appear to be beyond what can be achieved at this time. The talks have also been marred by conflict between protesters and Danish police. Remind anyone of WTO in Seattle in 1999?

What has been of particular interest to follow has been the bantering between the U.S. and Chinese representatives. Though China for the purposes of the conference is viewed as a developing country they are in talks with the developed countries. Issues have emerged between the two countries over measuring, verifying, and reporting of reduced carbon emissions. China wants to maintain sovereignty over these while the U.S. wants them to be independently verified. There is also disagreement over the amount of money that developed nations will commit to developing nations to mitigate climate warming issues and to move towards clean energy sources. I agree with this quote from Ban Ki-moon.

"This is the time where they should exercise the leadership," said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a speech in Copenhagen on Tuesday. "This is the time to stop pointing fingers, and this is a time to start looking in the mirror and offering what they can do more."Read more:

It is time for the two big dogs in the room to stop posturing and come to an agreement on how we can move forward in ways that benefit all people and the world that we all share. Barking and snarling must be replaced by skillful conversation and collaboration.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Could tomorrow be the first of this winter's calls . . .

The bitter cold seems to be behind us, but I don’t like what has replaced it. Yes, here in the foothills of Ravensdale we have white on the ground and on the road. Though I can’t say that I enjoyed the cold, I’m not looking forward to a phone call in the morning with those no-win choices. Well, I guess that’s another reason why I make the big bucks. But, somehow those big bucks just don’t make these particular calls, or I should say the feedback, any easier to make.

On a different topic, I’ve written quite a bit recently about the Race to the Top so I thought I’d share this light-hearted poke at it by Yong Zhao. You can follow him here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

More detail more pain . . .

After perusing the governor’s budget in more detail the areas below are where we will feel the impact to our staffing and to our programs if we are not able to backfill the revenue loss. I am not faulting the governor as she has been clear that she does not want to make these cuts and would like to see a better balance by increasing revenue as well as making cuts, but it is still disheartening. As Ethan said in a comment to yesterday’s post speaking for Scott and himself.

I'm with Scott. It is frustrating. Many predicted we'd end up in exactly this situation a few years ago when the reforms were greenlighted with no plan for how to fund them. Scott spoke of how, even though the cuts don't come as a surprise they are still disappointing. I'm right there with him on that one too. It is dispiriting. Until there is fundamental change in how education is funded we will continue to go through these cycles of hope and frustration. Knowing about it, predicting it, expecting it doesn't help me (and I would guess many others) keep at bay the very human response of being deeply disappointed and feeling like our work is unvalued.

The proposed cuts in the governor's budget would result in revenue loss of about $2.8 million for next year. This is on top of the approximately $3.6 million in adjustments we made to balance this year's budget.

*Eliminate Local Effort Assistance (LEA) 470,000
*Eliminate K-4 Class Size Enhancement 1,400,000
*Eliminate I-728 915,000
*Eliminate Gifted Program Funding 65,000
*TOTAL $2,850,000

One of the more disturbing parts of the governor’s proposal is her plan to ask for an increase in the local levy lid to 36% for all school districts. For years, there has been a push by some “rich” districts to raise the lid, but only in difficult times has it been done and not by the amount she is proposing. I believe that it went up about 2% over time to compensate for lost revenue. We are currently at 24.7% so going to 36% would be an increase of about $7 million per year if we were to ask for and the community would pass this amount. The problem with this is that it once again shifts the burden from the state to the local community to pay for “basic” education services. Some of the surrounding districts will applaud this as it will be easy for them to pass. Others will have difficulty gaining support at this level from their local community.

The problem is heightened by the fact that we and others are taking action this month on levy resolutions for a February ballot that sets the dollar amount for collection for the next four years. We have done this not knowing what the levy base will be because of other discussions at the legislative level that would artificially raise money to partially offset last year’s cuts and now we have this possibility to confront. Our board was to take action next Tuesday on our recommended levy amount that we must now revisit for potential adjustments. Do we still go for four years with all the unknowns or do a two year levy? How much do we ask our community support? What we do know is that we must go before our community once more and ask them to decide on what they want to commit in local taxes to define the scope of programs we offer in our schools. Time will tell if we experience success. There must be a better way to do this.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

More potential budget adjustments . . .

The governor released her budget today designed to close the $2.6 billion budget gap. The budget includes no new revenue; the gap would be closed with budget cuts. Education would experience about $470 million in cuts. We will feel these in our school system as the proposal would eliminate any funding for I-728, cut levy equalization, and impact K-4 funding.

I’ll share more when we have time to analyze the proposal in more detail and see how it will impact us. It is not good news coming on the heels of what we needed to do to balance this year’s budget. Here is a link to the League of Education Voters announcement of the governor's budget.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The climate conference begins . . .

Today is the opening of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference sponsored by the United Nations. I have followed at a distance the planning and preparation for this conference and tried to keep abreast of the politics that must be overcome for an agreement to be reached. It is interesting that nearly 100 world leaders will attend and that President Obama has changed the dates of his attendance to the final weekend when the real decision making is expected. The President has also changed his opinion and now believes that a meaningful deal can be reached at the session. It appears that the U.S. may now be willing to pick up its fair share of the $12 billion per year necessary to help developing countries fight global warming.

The conference opens with baggage after hackers released e-mails and other materials from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia. This information has been used by skeptics to cast doubt on the data and impact that humans are having on global warming. Since the release, Phil Jones, the head of the unit has stepped aside while an inquiry is conducted and other research universities and organizations have responded such as this from the American Meteorological Society and the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change. This Time article that was referenced on Climate Change helped me better understand the whole issue of the hacked information and what has happened because of the leaks.

The released information provided an opportunity for doubters to support their argument that scientists have been hiding and manipulating data to support the global warming theory. I didn’t review this information in any detail, but for me there is enough information from multiple sectors of the scientific community to support the need for world leaders to come together around this issue. We need to find solutions for how we use our resources in ways that others in the world view as equitable, to put in place practices to slow the trends and impact on our world, and to embark on creating new and cleaner ways of living in the flat world described by Friedman.

Paul Krugman makes the case for the conference reaching a deal in this New York Times opinion piece that I found on Climate Progress. He believes that this is the right time for agreement on greenhouse gas emissions, that is affordable, and that it may even stimulate the economy.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Revisiting football . . .

It has been some time since I posted about football so this weekend seems like a good time to revisit since both the Huskies and Seahawks won. The Huskies looked great in blowing away the California Bears. They finish their season at 5 wins and 7 losses, one win away from a possible bowl game. It makes me go back to the Notre Dame game where they had many opportunities to put the game away and couldn’t. It turned into a what if season. What if they could have won at UCLA, or Notre Dame, or . . . If Jake Locker comes back next season it could be interesting. Do you think he will be back or will the lure of multi millions as a high first round draft choice be too much to pass up?

It wasn’t as easy today with the Hawks, but they did prevail on a last play field goal. It wasn’t the best game, it wasn’t all that exciting until the end, but when you are 4 and 7 you take every win. What is was though was COLD. I thought I dressed for the weather, but it got nippy especially when the sun went behind the stadium. I can’t imagine what it is like in Chicago, Green Bay, and Buffalo when it is below zero. I don’t think I’m a wimp, but based on today being around freezing with a little wind chill I don’t know if I could make it through one of their really cold games.

Speaking of the weather, out in Ravensdale this morning we had a little snow. It was white on the ground and on the road when I left for the game, but fortunately the roads were clear when I got home. I’m hoping to get through the season without needing to make a snow call, but this week could be tough. Hope the El Nino makes it better than last December’s snow and ice that seemed to last forever.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Another step towards Common Core Standards . . .

Here is yet another strategy to support implementation of the Common Core Standards Initiative. The Gates Foundation is giving the national PTA $1 million to promote adoption of the standards beginning in Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, and North Carolina. The states were chosen because of their ability to mobilize behind a cause, but the effort could extend to other states by the middle of next year. Here is the announcement on the PTA site.

We can now add this partnership to the attachment of the standards as a condition for qualifying for federal stimulus grant money and the courting of the national teacher organizations to see a formidable campaign forming. Acceptance of the standards by states, however, will be balanced by the significant investment that each has in their own standards and required assessments. It will be interesting to see who prevails. Currently, my money, if I were a betting man, would be with the core standard movement.

So what? Why do I keep posting updates? Well, I am concerned as I have shared before with the potential for another shift in focus and the necessary alignment process. This process takes time and resources and we have been required to do it multiple times already as our state standards have changed over time. The implementation of our Classroom 10 initiative that will shift our focus to instructional practice will be influenced by this potential change in standards because it assumes an aligned curriculum. We are also seeing the need, without the necessary funds, for new secondary math resources to align with the recently revised state standards. Do we purchase resources that best align with these standards when they may be replaced by the core standards after one year of use?

There are other questions that cause us concern as we consider the implications of this significant shift in focus. Will the federal standards, once developed, remain in place for an extended period of time or will they, like our state standards, experience expensive revisions after only a few years? Will the other content areas follow the initial math and language arts standards, and if yes, when? We want to use our resources wisely and not continue to repeat processes over time so we must continue to monitor this process. Who knows, maybe my concerns will amount to nothing when the standards are released and we find that they are aligned with those in our state. We can hope. Or, perhaps our state will choose to maintain autonomy and forego the opportunities for federal and private money to support change. Maybe something similar to what Texas may do as is shown in this Flypaper post. Here is the letter from a Texas commissioner to a legislator.

Dear Senator Cornyn:

I am writing to express my deep concerns regarding recent efforts by the U. S. Department of Education (USDE) to adopt a national curriculum and testing system in the United States. This effort can be seen as a step toward a federal takeover of the nation’s public schools.
As you are likely aware, a number of entities that develop and market education assessments and materials and several non-profits have banded together in an effort they have named the “Common Core Standards Initiative.” I believe that the true intention of this effort is to establish one set of national education standards and national tests across the country. Originally sold to states as voluntary, states have now been told that participation in national standards and national testing would be required as a condition of receiving federal discretionary grant funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) administered by the USDE. The effort has now become a cornerstone of the Administration’s education policy through the USDE’s prioritization of adoption of national standards and aligned national tests in receiving federal funds. The Secretary of Education has already reserved $650 million of ARRA funds for the production of these national tests.

In short, because Texas has chosen to preserve its sovereign authority to determine what is appropriate for Texas children to learn in its public schools, the state is now placed at a serious disadvantage in competing for its share of ARRA discretionary funding. Billed by Secretary Duncan as the “Race to the Top,” (RTTT) it appears that the USDE is placing its desire for a federal takeover of public education above the interests of the 4.7 million schoolchildren in the state of Texas by setting two different starting lines - one for nearly every other state in the country and one for Texas.

Texas has consistently maintained that states should retain their authority to determine the curriculum and testing requirements for their students. The elected Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) sets the standards Texas students are supposed to meet for each subject taught in the public school system. Texas law requires the direct participation of educators, parents, business and industry representatives, and employers in the development of the standards. Through this process, Texas has recently adopted college-ready math, English language arts, and science standards and will soon complete work on the social studies standards. The state has purchased new textbooks, created targeted professional development for our teachers, and developed new assessments aligned with these new standards. Joining the national standards and national testing movement would require Texas taxpayers to re-spend at least $3 billion.

If the USDE has its way, Texas’ process, along with every other state that has a similar process, will be negated. With the release of the RTTT application, it is clear that the first step toward nationalization of our schools has been put into place. I do not believe that the requirements will end with the RTTT; I believe that USDE will utilize the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to further the administration’s federal takeover of public schools, including withholding billions of dollars from our disadvantaged and special education students.

Ronald Reagan once said, “I believe a case can be made that the decline in the quality of public school education began when federal aid to education became federal interference in education.” Having the federal government use Washington-based special interest groups and vendors as proxy for the USDE in setting national curriculum standards and then using ARRA federal discretionary funds to develop national tests for every child in the nation represents unprecedented intrusiveness by the federal government into the personal lives of our children and their families.

I encourage and invite you to stand with me against national curriculum standards and national tests. The authority to determine what students in our public schools should learn properly resides with states, local school boards and parents. The federal government should not be engaging in activity that seeks to undermine our ability to determine what will be taught in our schools.

Robert ScottTexas Commissioner of Education

Monday, November 30, 2009

The lure of BIG money . . .

You may want to spend some time on the League of Education Voters site. They are focusing on how our state stacks up against the RttT criteria. They are also asking a question of the week related to this federal initiative that I have referenced in previous posts. Here is the question for the week.

Should student performance be included in teacher evaluations?

You may want to comment and share your thoughts with them. I believe that this question will surface in this year’s legislative session as those in positions of power at the state level attempt to influence our ability to be successful in this grant opportunity. I also believe that this organization wields some political clout in the state and can influence legislators. There will be much discussion leading up to and during the session on this topic and others related to positioning for RttT success. Let your voice be heard in multiple formats before decisions are made that all of us must live with. There is simply too much money available ($150 - $250 million for Washington) to ignore. Our state will file in round two. Changes are necessary for us to be better aligned with the scoring criteria and here for a successful application. The question of concern is what these changes will be and how they will influence our work.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Corruption and lowering standards . . .

I found this post on Larry Ferlazzo’s site. It called to mind the recent announcement by Superintendent Dorn to delay requirements for meeting the math and science graduation requirements. His decision was not received positively by all as can be seen by this response from the Governor.

The post is interesting because he takes us to a post by Yong Zhao where he shares information about corruption issues in China caused by the perceived need for ever higher standardized test scores to qualify for entry into more prestigious colleges. He compares this to our country in the following way.

On the surface, the corruption cases in the US may seem different from those in China, the root cause is actually the same: the desire to demonstrate good performance according to some standardized quantitative measures.

He shares that this phenomenon has been termed Campbell’s Law.

“The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.”

All of this is another reason why our focus must continue to be on Classroom 10 with success on the WASL or other assessments a byproduct of this focus.

Would you consider Superintendent Dorn’s proposal a lowering of standards? Is it the correct action to take at this time?

Monday, November 23, 2009

More from Education Week . . .

Here are two other very short articles from the November 11th Education Week that caught my eye. The first has the title, ‘GenY’ Teachers Don’t Reject All Merit Pay, which shares information from a report about a willingness on the part of teachers 32 or younger to consider merit pay under certain conditions. Less than half, however, were open to tying teacher pay to student test scores.

What really caught my eye was the last paragraph where we learn that merit pay was rated last of twelve proposals for improving teaching in this survey. Doesn’t that make the title a little misleading? What are the other proposals that were all rated higher and why no focus on them?

Overall, though, merit-pay plans did not rank high as a policy prescription among the group of younger teachers. They rated it last among 12 proposals for improving teaching.

The second article is another short report on a paper about the importance of teacher quality and the need to improve the supply of skilled teachers. As with the previous article it was the last paragraph that resonated with me.

In the end, the paper concludes, if we want high-quality teachers, we will need to accord teaching with a higher status, create policies that attract and keep good teachers in the workforce, enhance school working conditions, and create policies that demand that those teachers continue to learn and teach their students well.

If we could establish the learning environments described in this paragraph, the accountability policies mentioned might not be necessary. Our experience would suggest that to be true. Our teachers are open and energized by learning opportunities and focused on supporting learning for all students. Yes, we need to increase the supply of skilled teachers. We also need the environments to retain and support them and those already in our class rooms. What are the attributes of a system with these environments that result in teachers wanting to work in them?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Is it possible without Gates support?

What do you think about the Gates Foundation giving $335 million to a few school districts and charter schools to learn what makes an effective teacher? We learn in the article why no Washington state districts were invited to apply. I can’t help but wonder if these same reasons won’ result in lack of success in the quest for RttT funding. By the way, our Governor announced we will not be going after funding in round one. Wonder what the legislature might be considering?

Foundation officials said they looked for districts with a lot of high-needs students, a history of tackling teacher-quality issues and a willingness and readiness to try bold new approaches to how teachers are recruited, trained, evaluated and paid.

Teachers unions — or teachers, if there was no union — had to be a partner.

State policy was also a factor, said foundation spokesman Chris Williams, and that hurt the Seattle School District. Washington state, he said, hasn't pursued the kinds of teacher-quality efforts the foundation would like to see.

One of the prerequisites for consideration was involvement with the local teacher association and its national affiliate an indication that the NEA and AFT are open to supporting change in teacher preparation, support, and evaluation. Consider this comment from an article in Education Week.

Each of the sites that made the final cut devised its application in collaboration with teachers, reflecting what Gates officials, in an interview, called “unprecedented” support from the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, as well as from local teacher associations.

Each of the participants will be defining effective teaching, creating new teacher evaluation and compensation systems that include the use of student achievement data, and designing support structures for teacher growth. I believe that these are all steps that we should be taking. It would be nice to have financial support, but we shouldn’t let that get in the way of identifying and supporting what quality teaching looks and sounds like and what data is used to make judgments about when it is in place.

Our Classroom 10 journey is our response to this work. We need to suspend old assumptions and be open to influence by the changes in place and planned. We must continue to find ways to engage the teacher and at some point the student voice in this work.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Another report, another disagreement . . .

I found some interesting articles in the November 11th issue of Newsweek. I’ll share one in this post and others in future posts. A report is shared in this article that includes policy recommendations for improving the quality of teachers in the nation’s 100 largest school systems. The recommendations range from raising the bar for who can enter teacher preparation programs, to recruitment strategies, to evaluation and salary schedule changes.

Like many reports in our profession the release is followed by concerns from other education agencies. Of particular interest with this one is the inclusion of the AFT President on the panel as well as the NEA President and two other representatives of teacher associations. Panel member Francine Lawrence, Toledo Federation of Teachers, shared the following.

“There weren’t many of us on the task force speaking for teachers, and I think the report reflects that, especially in the lack of emphasis on principal effectiveness,” said Francine Lawrence, the president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers, an AFT affiliate, and a member of the panel. “It doesn’t speak to the professionalization of teaching at all, which is a real disappointment.”

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, task force chair, shared the process used to reach agreement or lack of agreement on the final document.

“. .said the panel had a “consensus on much of what’s in the report,” but he explained that there had been no formal vote of its members to endorse the report because of some disagreements.
“We wanted the recommendations we put forth to be significant and specific, so we did not water it down in order to get agreement from everyone,” said Mr. Pawlenty, a Republican.

With this type of process, having dissenting opinions should be no surprise. The six guiding principles and the twenty recommendations are worthy of consideration, but once again we find ourselves in the all too frequent position of disagreeing on process and focus that precludes collaboration around the intent and recommendations of this effort. Unfortunately, it will be viewed by some as another example of teachers being against change and for maintaining the status quo in our profession. We believe that this is not the case in our system, but I wonder if those in our community know.

Crystal at maybecrystal taught me how to embed a pdf today by walking me through a jing. It worked and I was able to do it with the report cited above. THANKS Crystal!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Grand kids are . . .

We took the grand kids to the last showing of Disney on Ice today at the Showare Center in Kent. It reminded me of Disney World and Disneyland with the multiple opportunities to spend money. They sure know how to market; we couldn’t walk or look anywhere without seeing something that Kobe didn’t want. We left with lighter wallets, but the smiles on their faces during the show made it well worth it.

I don’t know if there is anything I have experienced that beats this grandparent gig. We had them since Friday with Ciara’s first ice skating competition that night and finished tonight by dropping them off with Mom. They left with their treasures and tired and we left tired and pleased that we could provide them with this fun weekend. Yes, having grand kids to love and be loved is one of life's true joys. You can't beat those hugs.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Standards again . . .

I found this article on Education Week. It is about the common core standards and states slowing work on their own standards while waiting for the release early next year. I found some of the information interesting and informative. It also raised additional questions about the future plans for our state.

I can understand why states would want to not engage in standard’s work if they are planning on adopting these national standards following their release, but where are we as a state. We have been told that we will not adopt them for at least two years so we continue to work on alignment and assessments that may change again in two years. The article shares the following information.

Mr. Montgomery said that, based on a CCSSO survey, he expects that at least a dozen states will adopt the common standards within six months of their release. He said 16 participating states have the capacity to adopt them within six months and another 15 within a year; the rest would likely need more time.

I wonder if we responded to the survey request and, if yes, how. This would be important information for us to have. It could certainly influence how we choose to use our time and resources. Early in 2010 we are required to submit a timeline and process for adoption of the language arts and mathematics standards since we have already signed on indicating our agreement. All indications point to adoption by our state, we just don’t know when at this time.

The following comment in the slow down article is troubling for me because of concerns I have previously shared. It speaks to the use of federal dollars as the carrot to entice states to move in this direction. Will money be the primary motivation for this significant change?

"The delay would be very pragmatic because, as someone said to me, ‘Why should I spend my money if I can get Race to the Top money to do exactly the same thing?’ ” Mr. Kamil said.

Is there anyone out there with a direct pipeline to our governor or to Randy Dorn? If yes, next time you talk with them you might want to find out the timeline for adoption by our state. Once released, I look forward to OSPI’s review of the alignment of our standards with the common core standards. That will be important information that will influence how we respond to the anticipated change. At this time, we can only hope for high alignment to our own.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Wordle time . . .

I decided it was time to do a Wordle of my blog to get some sense of what I have been sharing. It certainly shows the emphasis in my recent posts with national standards, the Gates Foundation, and the need for support. Teachers and teacher are fairly prominent so I feel pretty good with the focus. I know most are not as interested as I am in RttT and core common standards, but I do believe that they will have significant short and long term influence on our profession.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The President says . . .

In this article in last week’s Los Angeles Times President Obama once again speaks to the need to judge teachers by how well their students do on some type of assessment.

Obama called for the abolition of "firewall" rules, which prevent many schools from judging teacher performance based on student performance.

I believe that we should be held accountable for the learning of all students, but for me the operative word is we. Teachers work in schools, that are in school districts, that operate within state guidelines and funding mechanisms. Yes, the research is quite clear that the teacher is the single most important variable in this equation, but we can’t ignore the system within which teachers and students engage.

I believe that there can and should be a point in time when we will be able to link student achievement with teacher performance. That time, however, will come after we work collaboratively to identify the support that is necessary over time to achieve a “teaching standard” that results in teacher accountability for student achievement. The support is the responsibility of the system to provide under the guidance of the building leadership of which the principal is the key player. Then there will be the issue of what assessment(s), in what content areas, and over what period of time

I wonder if the President and others pushing this agenda are seeing this accountability only for what we traditionally call the core content areas or for teachers in all content areas. Is the accountability standard the same for the first year teacher and for those in the profession for longer periods of time? Will states be allowed to identify the standards and determine the cut scores for assessing success or will they be national standards? There are many questions that need answers before we can successfully implement this change.

It was interesting that the President made these remarks in a charter middle school. He and the education department have made their support of charters quite clear. I also found the following statement quite interesting.

"If a state wants to increase its chances of actually winning a grant, it will have to do more," Obama said. "It will have to collect information about how students are doing in a particular year -- and over the course of an academic career -- and make this information available to teachers so they can use it to improve the way they teach. That's how teachers can determine what they should be doing differently in the classroom. That's how principals can determine what changes need to be made in our schools."

If only it were that easy. It will take much more than simply making achievement data available to teachers to achieve the President’s vision. The data is only one critical component of a very complex system. Forcing change on this system through grants is not the key to successful change that sustains over time. Yes, we need to change and we must ensure that all young people experience K-12 success and are prepared for continued success in post high school learning and work. That is what we are working to achieve for the students in our school system.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

More national standards, opportunity or . . .

It would appear from this short article in Education Week that there is now a new movement to add common core standards in K-12 science and social studies to those being developed for math and language arts. The title of the article is a little misleading as the math standards are currently being developed and are supported by 49 states including Washington.

This could add an additional layer of complexity to our work that would involve two additional content areas with once again needing to go through a possible alignment process. The state science standards have undergone multiple revisions over time and I do not look forward to revisiting this process once again with national standards. I anticipate that there will be significant pressure for our state to adopt these standards when and if they are developed. If this is the direction of the future it would be good to have this knowledge now so that we can discuss options on how to proceed.

It will be a welcome relief when we can put the alignment and curriculum process behind us so that we can focus on and support instructional practice? I believe that there are some valid arguments for moving towards national standards, but I am frustrated with the timing and the continued emphasis on NCLB that includes nonsensical requirements for adequate yearly progress. What do teachers think about this potential for additional national standards in science and social studies? If the pattern continues in these content areas, national assessments will follow.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Could it be?

Did you happen to see this post on Blogger King about Bill Gates? I first saw it here on Certainly, spending $200 million dollars per year and having foundation staff end up on Duncan’s staff results in having an influence on public education, but Duncan has far more than that to spend through Race to the Top in a short period of time. The foundation’s positions on education especially support for charters and improving teacher evaluation systems are resulting in a closer alignment with the department. This, together with their support of states’ efforts to secure federal stimulus funds may be moving them into a position to have significant influence on future education policy.

In an earlier post I shared the Gates Foundation’s original support of 15 states in positioning for stimulus funds. After complaints from other states and organizations the foundation recently made the decision to support the remaining 35 states in this effort. This doesn’t satisfy the critics concerned with what they see as a partnership between this private foundation and the federal education department. Gates sees it differently.

"It's no secret the U.S. education system is failing," Gates said. "We're doing all kinds of experiments that are different. The Race To The Top is going to do many different ones. There's no group-think."

To receive support from the foundation in the competitive proposal process the state must first sign off on the foundation's education reform platform. Does signing off mean agreement? If yes, than I would suggest that they are in position to have significant influence on public policy as states race to them for support in writing their proposals. In an e-mail from OSPI in October we were told that our state is in the process of developing a proposal for round 1 of these funds. That is interesting considering the governor’s comments in this July article when she shares that we would not be in consideration for round 1. I wonder if the foundation is involved in this change. I am told that soon we should be seeing updates on the proposal at this site.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A communication focus for learning . . .

I can’t leave this COMMUNICATION theme without a follow-up to last week and last evening’s learning opportunity. In a meeting this week with one of the same people from last week’s conversation, the ill-advised statement I made was returned in an answer he gave to a question I asked. My concern was reinforced when I asked him if it was from what I said last week and he confirmed that it was. This poorly timed comment had an impact on what he heard and on what he took away from last week’s conversation and it was not the intent or outcome that was intended. Ethan hit it on the head in his comment when he said:

  • Unasked for advice, regardless of our relationship with the advisee, is perceived as criticism.
My statement led to the assumption that I was being critical of the listener’s behavior when that was not the case. It was instead an attempt to be more supportive of the initiative being discussed and the person’s important leadership role in the initiative.

Communication is an essential component of my work and as demonstrated above, I find myself continually learning how difficult it is. It seems to be a topic of concern for me with the many difficult issues we are currently facing in our Classroom 10 journey, our continuing struggle with budgets, and in identifying a comprehensive capital improvement package that meets the short and long term housing needs of our school system. It reinforces for me the need for a solid foundation of knowledge and skills that intentionally drive my behavior. I should bring my SPACE tent, my ladder reference, my advocacy/inquiry balance, and my private/public reminder to all my conversations.

Last night I attended a Diversity Forum at Tahoma Junior High and was surprised by the number of students, staff, parents, and community members that were present. My guess would be about 125 people with a representative sample of adults and students. Once again, COMMUNICATION was a critical component of the message that we were given. Young people shared their experiences in our schools; the words and behaviors that adults and their peers use to communicate in ways that are supportive and in ways that are demeaning and critical. We have much to learn and much to do to make our school environments conducive to learning every day, for every child, in every classroom. The committee will take the feedback that was given to identify strategies for continuing this crucial conversation and plans for influencing the culture young people experience in our schools.

Please thank your building’s representative to the Diversity Committee for their effort and support of this work and the board for the direction and focus on eliminating non-academic barriers to student success.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Seeking skillful conversations . . .

Last week I had conversations with two separate people at the high school that I find myself revisiting because of a comment that was made toward the end of one conversation and the next day in a phone call with the second person. In both cases, the comment referred to something I said that stuck with the other person and influenced their ability to maintain focus. It troubles me because these were important conversations and my intent was to create energy, reflection, and support, not questioning or concern on the part of the listener.

This experience once again reinforces the need for me to use SPACE effectively and to be more intentional about the questions that I ask and how they are asked. I know that my questioning at times can feel like interrogation that is not supportive of skillful conversations. When you leave a conversation with a colleague that is energizing, what did the other person do that leaves you feeling this way and wanting to continue the conversation?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Reflection, not always easy . . .

The comments to the post on James Paul Gee on Edutopia identified two of the areas causing me dissonance. Ethan’s comment about can we transform schools into cool places is making me think about the upcoming bond measure and the importance of thinking carefully about the new spaces we want to create. Will they be places where students want to be? Will they have flexibility of use to accommodate a variety of approaches to learning and teaching?
Mike’s comment focused on what Gee labeled professionalism and yes, it made me revisit the journey we have been on to create a documented Classroom 10 curriculum. Mike captured it with these comments.

I see the later content of the segment as a cautionary tale to a prescribed, scripted curriculum with no flexibility for teacher ingenuity (his comments on professionalism).When revisiting the posts about implementing the curriculum with fidelity from a year ago and processing the information provided in the video I can see where it may cause some questions not about our curriculum work but about the level of professionalism allowed the teacher in implementing (and being involved in creating) new curricular pieces.

Early in our work our practice would not be aligned with what Gee describes as professionalism. We were prescriptive and “teaching with fidelity” meant losing autonomy over what was taught and how it was presented. As we have responded to feedback and have adapted our model to increase the rate of unit development, we are aligning more closely to Gee’s proposal. As we expand the content areas doing this work there will be opportunity for teachers to influence the content and focus through the development of the curriculum framework. Unit and lesson development will follow with authors coming from the team of teachers in each department. Revision and changes to lessons will also come from a process involving teachers responsible for implementing the curriculum. More flexibility is being built into the design as well as more opportunity to influence as materials are created.

Dissonance is a good thing as it makes me reflect on our practice and on my beliefs. I continue to be supportive of a documented curriculum that ensures all young people have the opportunity to learn and to acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for success in our learning journey and in post high school learning and work. At the same time I am influenced by the need to find balance between a common curriculum and a teacher’s capacity to influence the delivery in his or her classroom. This balance is not always easy to find as some have shared on comments to past posts and in my words and behavior over time.

Thanks guys for labeling my dissonance and putting it out there. I strive to continually learn and to be open to being influenced. This is especially the case in our Classroom 10 journey where we are creating the road map as we go and where the itinerary has been influenced thus far by a small number of people. I believe that most successful initiatives that sustain in change over time begin this way, but are ultimately successful only when all engaged in the change are heard and we answer the two critical questions; is it worth it and can I do it? Today, we are engaged in answering these questions and finding that balance that leads to reenergizing the system as opposed to the energy drain we experience when out of balance.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Football and education reform . . .

Two days of football on three levels each ending in defeat for my teams. It was good that I made the Bear’s cross country and volleyball games last week both ending on a more positive note. It doesn’t ease this weekend’s losses, but it does reconfirm that it isn’t my allegiance to the Bears, Huskies, and Seahawks that are causing the defeats.

Here is a video interview of James Paul Gee on Edutopia that I learned about on Daniel Pink’s blog. The title Grading With Games is misleading as he shares in about 12 minutes many more thoughts than just those related to games. His comments on professionalizing teaching and school reform have left me with some dissonance. I have viewed it two times now and it is causing me to reflect on my thinking and on our work.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day 2009, my small contribution . . .

Today is Blog Action Day 2009 that I first learned about from thehurt at Edumacation. It is an annual event where bloggers from around the world share their thoughts on an identified topic. The theme this year is climate change. If you follow my blog, you may know that I have shared some of my experiences with sustainability and the importance of engaging our young people in understanding the importance of this work, how we have arrived at this place in our history where global warming is an important issue, and how we will move forward with implementing changed practices that do less damage to our commons.

Though I am no expert on climate change or sustainability, I am concerned and believe that it is an issue that must be addressed with a sense of urgency and collaboration not yet seen in our world. Regardless of how we got here and who is to blame we will not successfully meet this challenge unless we can embrace it across this world of ours. Our country must play a significant role in this effort by acknowledging our historical contribution to climate change, by honoring the need for those in other countries to improve their quality of life, and by taking a leadership role in changing practices. We must unleash our creativity, our technological prowess, and our competitiveness to invent, implement, and sustain clean energy practices that first slows and then reverses the rate of global warming.

Can we do it? I struggle with saying yes when I read this piece by Thomas Friedman where he shares the Applied Materials story. This is the story of an American firm, Applied Materials, the world’s biggest solar equipment manufacturer that has built 14 solar panel factories in the last two years with none of them being built in our country. Why? Friedman suggests that it is because our government has not created the incentives that others have for businesses and homeowners to switch to this power source.
Then I read about this EPA document that was suppressed by the Bush administration citing global warming as a serious risk to the U.S. By suppressing it what was gained? The science hasn’t changed since then, there is only additional data to support the link between our behavior and changes to climate. Add to this the issues that are emerging between countries as they prepare for the December Copenhagen Climate Conference and it makes me doubt that we will see significant change in a short period of time. It feels sort of like health insurance reform on a global platform.

So what am I doing? I am trying to change my personal behavior beginning with recycling and practices to use less energy at work and at home. I am doing much better, but I must admit it is not easy and transferring these practices to others in my family has proven more difficult than I anticipated. It is not much, but I see it like the starfish story. If each of us committed to similar behavior across this planet we would have a significant impact on our commons. I’m not real proud of this meager beginning, but it is where I am.

I also believe that it is essential that we engage our youth in this work. They must have factual information, they must understand the story of how we arrived at this place, and they must be positioned for making decisions that influence how we will live in the future across this planet. They must have Classroom 10 capabilities to embrace the challenge, to understand the importance of global cooperation, and to discover new ways of living and sharing the resources of this world. I have confidence that this is possible if the world leaders of today can create the environment that unleashes this capacity.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Much better weekend of . . .

Well, a much better football weekend with two wins and one loss. The Bears suffered the loss to Kentridge, but played well. Other than the first play of the game where Kentridge scored on about a 65 yard touchdown run the Bear’s defense was superb. They gave up only two first downs the entire game. We just couldn’t get going offensively in the second half.

The Husky game was unbelievable, I guess. I decided to sword fight with my grandson with about four minutes left thinking they wouldn’t come back. By the time I quit after being smacked on the hand the game was over and I had missed the comeback. Upset with myself, but they won.

The Seahawks were stellar in all phases of the game winning with a shutout. I’m still going to take LoomDog’s advise and try to get in some other Bear athletes this week; volleyball, cross country, and soccer. Go BEARS!

Speaking of LoomDog, did you see his comment to the last post where he shared part of a conversation with a teacher from North Carolina? I share his concern with the potential unintended consequences of our state possibly adopting the standards after two years. How many more years will that mean of aligning new standards to our developed curriculum? More time and energy to do curriculum and assessment work at a time when we are intentionally shifting our energy to instruction. Another shift that contributes to the frustration that many of us feel with constantly changing targets ending in some adopting negative attitudes to change and the don’t worry this too shall pass syndrome. Some stability in targets would be welcome and appreciated.

There are some positives to this potential alignment with national standards including the fact that that they are currently written for only the content areas of Reading/Language Arts and Mathematics. This means that the majority of our work will not be interrupted unless and until other content areas become worthy of national attention.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

NCLB assessment comparisons . . .

I thought that Flypaper post sharing the comparison of state NCLB assessments was interesting enough to share. It compares the difficulty of these assessments in reading and mathematics and ranks them by difficulty for each of the twenty-six states in the comparison based on cut scores across all grade levels.

The point being made in the article is that the wide range of results is evidence for the need for common standards; a movement I have referenced in several previous posts. Though there is currently no agreement across states on standards, one would have to take acceptance of the standards one step further to agreement by states to use the same assessment and same cut scores. That might become more difficult to achieve as many states may not want to see the rankings based on common standards and cut scores. Politically, it is much easier to publicize state results when the cut scores are determined at the state level.

As of today, there are forty-eight states that have signed on to the common standard initiative with one being our state. OSPI is monitoring this process that includes K-12 standards in English/Language Arts and Mathematics and College and Career Ready standards. It was a wise political move to indicate interest as this is certainly a high priority for the Education Department and the current administration. Adopting the standards, however, will be a more difficult decision. Agreement on common assessments and cuts scores, the larger goal, will be even more difficult to achieve. There are so many obstacles to achieving this; imposing of federal authority on state’s rights; loss of local control over the content of what is taught, and the potential adverse publicity and political upheaval for states whose students will score at or near the bottom of the rankings where under state control students are meeting standard at a much higher level.

Rankings in this study suggest that our students would fare well as we are 16 out 26 in the reading assessment and 21 out of 26 in the mathematics assessment comparison. Of course this comparison does not include about half the states, but over time we have been led to believe that our standards and assessment are among the more difficult in the country. The study can be found here. It is lengthy and I have only looked at the information for our state. In general, our cut scores range from the middle to the upper third in the comparison except for grades 3 and 4 reading that are lower in comparison.

Of interest was the comment in the report referring to a “walk to the middle” by states with high standards who are concerned with meeting the 2014 NCLB requirement to have 100% of students at standard in reading and mathematics. There is a tendency to lower the cut score so that the requirement can be more readily achieved.

I'd post the comparison charts for you to see like the Flypaper post, but I still have not learned how to get them into my posts. The same for files I would like to refer to and PDF's, and . . . So much to learn - I guess I need help.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sharing our leadership journey . . .

The first zero wins, three loss weekend of football. The Bears, Huskies, and Seahawks all lost. Three straight days of agony. I’ve got to find another sport; these guys are driving me crazy.

On Friday Connie and I are making a presentation at the fall WSASCD on our teacher leadership learning model. When we responded last spring to the request for proposals we were engaged in the training with teams from all of our schools and also from the Riverview and Snoqualmie School Districts. After we were informed that our proposal was accepted we ran headlong into the budget adjustment process with teacher leadership being one of those programs that was placed on hold. It was a difficult decision for me, but given the circumstances the appropriate one to make.

As I began to think about preparing for our Friday presentation it bothered me that we would be sharing a model and experiences that are not in place this year. I shared my concerns with Connie and she made me understand that it was my call. I decided that it would still be important to share so we will be there on Friday. Amy has agreed to join us to share the Tahoma Middle School experience.

Why did I decide to share? Because I believe that the foundation that we have created to support our Classroom 10 initiative was made possible through this work. As a system, we have put in place mental models and skill sets that support communication and learning environments that engage in change and embrace a focus on the needs of young people. Planning templates, influencer strategies, system thinking, and the capacity to engage in skillful conversations have assisted in this work. We are also transferring much of what we learned to our work with our Ten Tech Teacher Leaders and I was also asked to work with Rock Creek’s leadership team last week and for one additional day. So, we are still doing the work, but in a different context.

Our success with the Classroom 10 initiative will be influenced by our ability to distribute leadership across our system. We need teacher leaders to support their colleagues in this change effort that have the communication skills and the capacities to develop, implement, and assess adult learning opportunities. In many cases they are better positioned to do this work than are those in formal leadership positions. Yes, I’ll share our journey because I believe that others might gain a better understanding of the importance of teacher leaders in ensuring that change sustains over time.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Is it cheating?

I found this article from a post on Cool Cat Teacher Blog September 19th about student cheating and their attitudes towards cheating. The article identifies the top five ways that students cheat electronically and goes on to discuss that many of today’s students do not see this as cheating.

They quote a survey by Common Sense Media that states:"35% of teens use their cell phones to cheat by:
*26% store info on their phone and look at it while taking a test
*25% send text messages to friends, asking for answers
*17% take pictures of a test – and then send it to their friends
*20% use their phones to search for answers on the Internet
*48% warn friends about a pop quiz with a phone call or text message"

I am wondering how prevalent this is in our district. I don’t have any data and I am not aware of conversations where administrators are seeing this as a significant issue. Are our students not engaging in this behavior in similar percentages or perhaps they are more adept and avoid being caught? I would be interested in your experiences. Is this just a high school and college issue or are similar behaviors and attitudes seen in younger students?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Another football weekend . . .

I just got home from the Seahawk game to close another not so successful football weekend. Thanks to the Bears it wasn’t winless, but certainly “my” teams did not all do well. The Huskies came back down to earth with a thud and the Seahawks continue to drive me crazy. I don’t consider myself one of those fanatics, but it does cause me some grief when they could or should have won and this was one of those games.

I hope this season will not continue to be win one, lose two, but that has been the case in each of the last two weeks. Last week it was the Huskies that won, this week the Bears, and next week I still have hope for all three.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

My growing concern . . .

At the system level, the proposed national core standards are bothering me for many reasons, one of them being what Ethan and Jonathan share in their comments about mixed messages and the potential for more years of alignment to changing standards, curriculum development, gap lessons, and adjusting assessments. Energy expended on this work is energy and time not focused on the how of implementing Classroom 10 and the heart of learning, the interactions between adult and student in the classroom. We have been engaged in this alignment and development work with the many revisions to state standards for too many years.

The thought of spending two more years on state standards with the potential for federal math and English standards to follow simply frightens and upsets me. If at that time we must or will officially “adopt” them at the state level than why not just bite the bullet and do so now? Please understand, I am not endorsing adoption, but I would like to get a better sense from state level officials about the potential for adoption in two years. Information in the OSPI press release does not provide me with a comfort level or the necessary direction to identify how our system should respond to the potential for these changes in a relatively short period of time.

I am also concerned with the pressure from the federal level to adopt them in order to qualify for billions of dollars in innovation funding. Yes, I know the likelihood of our state qualifying in round 1 or future rounds may not be great because of the other equally disturbing criteria that must be met to qualify, but I don’t like being placed in the position of potentially adopting simply to qualify for enhanced funding. And, isn’t it sad that the Gates Education Foundation or here, located in our back yard, is supporting the work of 15 other states with their proposals. They have recently made the decision to support any additional states that can answer eight questions affirmatively with question two requiring adoption of the national core standards by June 2010. Reading the OSPI press release, the earliest we would do that is in two years leaving us out of any support from the foundation, seen as a critical component of any successful proposal.

I think that there are some good arguments for having a set of national core standards, but NCLB created mandates giving states autonomy over content that should not be expected to change as rapidly as I feel we are being pressured to do with this proposed set of standards. Perhaps this change should be embedded in long needed changes to NCLB legislation that makes sense and provides direction and support that we can all get behind. From information in this article, however, it doesn’t appear that this administration is in any hurry to take on that challenge. It does appear, however, that they are willing to share with us through RttT funding criteria what we should be doing without supporting us or showing us how to do it.

I will continue to follow these developments and periodically share updates and my thinking. I fear that this has the potential to pit state against state at the federal level, to be disruptive and divisive at the state level, to reinforce the perception that all teacher associations are against change, and to make the work at the local level more difficult to maintain focus and use diminishing resources efficiently and effectively. Who knows, maybe this is what “they” want. We certainly know that many in powerful positions see charters as the savior to all our public school problems. Too bad they don’t know about the Tahoma School District and the many others whose teachers are just as committed and successful as those in the charter schools being portrayed as saviors for our youth.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

National standards released . . .

The national standards in mathematics and English were released this week with little fanfare. There was some mention in blogs I follow, but not as much as I had anticipated. There was also an OSPI press release found here and one in the Washington Post here. Our state is one of the 48 that have joined the initiative. Included in the release is the following statement by Superintendent Dorn.

“I’m pleased to be part of the new standards team,” said Randy Dorn, state superintendent of public instruction. “A common benchmark of standards for all states will make our education system more efficient and cost-effective, and it will give our kids a better chance at competing in a global economy.”

Superintendent Dorn’s comment would lead one to believe that as a member of the team we would be adopting the standards, yet later in the press release we find the following.

. . . The common standards created by the NGO and CCSSO will be examined thoroughly and transparently. Any changes to the state’s standards would not occur for at least two years, and then only after an ample opportunity for public review and comment.

This is good to know because we are in the first year of implementing revised mathematics standards. This means that most school systems are engaged in the alignment process once again and it is good to know that this work will be necessary for at least two years. We have already had to adjust to too many revisions to standards in mathematics and science over the years.

We also know that at the federal level the education department has endorsed the standards and is recommending that all states adopt them. Adoption could also become a requirement or criteria used to qualify for Race to the Top and other federal grant opportunities. This will certainly place our state in a difficult position in the short term if the standards are not adopted for at least two years. It will be interesting to watch how this unfolds over time. There could be pressure to adopt from outside the school community and pressure to preserve autonomy from inside. What advice would you give the superintendent and governor?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Learning styles - BUNK?

I found this article by Daniel Willingham in an entry on the blog. He is the author of "Why Don't Students Like School?," a book I started, but have still not finished. In this article he makes the claim that learning styles theory is bunk and that districts that force teachers to include multiple strategies focused on learning styles are actually making teacher jobs more difficult with no benefit to students and without research to prove its effectiveness.

In the article he takes exception to the D.C. school district’s learning framework that focuses on learning styles. He suggests that what influences learning are . . .

Some lessons click with one child and not with another, but not because of an enduring bias or predisposition in the way the child learns. The lesson clicks or doesn’t because of the knowledge the child brought to the lesson, his interests, or other factors.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Did You Know 4.0

Most adults in our system have had one or more opportunities to view the Did You Know video first done by Scott McLeod and Karl Fisch. Last week a new version, Did You Know 4.0, was unveiled in the blogosphere with mention of it on multiple blogs that I follow. Here you can find copies of all the versions. If you are not registered on Teacher Tube and want to see just this latest version you can find it here.

I have used various versions of the video with community groups to start conversations about the need for change if we are to prepare young people for the world described in these videos. It always results first in adults being surprised and awed by the information followed by questions on what this means for our students and how we are responding as a system. I believe at one time that the video was shown to high school students, but I don't know how it was received. If you have used it, I would be interested in knowing how students responded.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Implementing the vision . . .

On our journey to Classroom 10, one of the highest priorities is the development of curriculum units across all content areas and all grade levels. At the district level this has meant that the Teaching and Learning Department has focused on providing direction and support to this effort in three of the core content areas, language arts, science, and social studies. We are at different places in each of these areas based upon a variety of factors with department capacity to write and support the authors of the curriculum being a significant contributor to the timeline. The work began at the middle school level and at present there are projects in each grade level band.

You may recall that last year there was a series of blog entries about this process with many comments from teachers with concerns about the process. Since that time the process has evolved to increase the level of teacher engagement and to provide opportunities for teachers other than those authoring lessons to have influence on the product. As we know from our Classroom 10 initiative, we are creating our own road map with this work being one of the most critical components of ensuring that all students have opportunity to learn and to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for success in post high school learning and work. Since there is no template for the journey we must learn and adapt along the way.

Already this school year we have experienced a need to monitor and adjust based on teacher feedback from the Junior High language arts department. Through feedback and sharing of private thoughts a variety of issues emerged concerning implementation of the first unit of the year and the level of staff engagement in the development of future units. As was the case last year, the concerns resulted in reflection on the process and openness to being influenced by the thinking of those in the department. Through the efforts of the teacher leaders at the building level suggestions were made to adapt to the need for a revised timeline for implementation with fidelity and for a more collaborative lesson development effort. So, we now have Teaching and Learning staff, building administrators, and teacher leaders refining a process that will result in quality products endorsed by those responsible for using them with students.

What was once perceived accurately as completely top down has evolved and I believe will continue to change based on the situation and the need at any given time. What will not change is the focus on Classroom 10, the need to work collaboratively, and the importance of teacher empowerment to generate energy and commitment around the work. We started the initiative believing we needed to be directive and prescriptive as we were concerned with alignment to the vision and perceived need for Classroom 10 changes. Today, we are not experiencing teachers questioning the need for these changes, but are instead being asked important questions about the what and the how of the initiative. We are continuing to learn and to reflect on our practice that is resulting in positive change and increased collaboration. We are doing what professional learning communities do as they struggle with finding and implementing structures that support teachers and students in classrooms.

I thank those teachers and teacher leaders for the manner in which they are identifying and sharing concerns and for the suggestions that will increase engagement and result in quality products. This is certainly the case in conversations this last week between grade nine language arts teachers, building administrators, and the T&L department. I also thank Nancy and the department for their work, for understanding the need for teachers to feel empowered, and for their unwavering commitment to this initiative. I am also appreciative of the opportunity to engage with the department on this work and for influencing my thinking and behavior by forcing me to reflect on the ladders I bring to the work table. I am so blessed to work with committed, competent people doing important work.

Thank you!