Friday, December 31, 2010

A great start . . .

Yesterday wasn't the new year, but the Huskies win in the Holiday Bowl was a big surprise.  Now, if the Seahawks can follow suit on Sunday it would be just as big a surprise.

Have a safe and fun evening as we kick in the NEW YEAR!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Do we need value added?

What do you know about “value added” as it relates to teacher evaluation? It is not something on our immediate radar in Washington, but in other parts of the country it has been front page news. I have posted about contracts in Washington D.C., New York and other places that have negotiated agreements using value added modeling as part of their evaluation systems.

In case you have not followed it and are not aware of what it is, below is a Wikipedia definition.

Value-added modeling (also known as value-added analysis and value-added assessment) is a method of teacher evaluation that measures the teacher's contribution in a given year by comparing current school year test scores of their students to the scores of those same students in the previous school year, as well as to the scores of other students in the same grade. In this manner, value-added modeling seeks to isolate the contribution that each teacher makes in a given year, which can be compared to the performance measures of other teachers.[1]

What is beginning to emerge in the field is an understanding of the complexity of teacher evaluation and the need to include multiple criteria before making judgments about teacher effectiveness. This removes the primary focus on using standardized test scores that many policy makers desire, but it does not remove the need to consider these scores in a comprehensive assessment system.

I believe that this will become more of an issue in our state as the evaluation systems that are being piloted begin to form the future parameters for state-mandated evaluation of teachers. In a blog about this pilot they reference a recent report from the National Education Policy Center that cautions against an over reliance on using test scores.

The brief, Getting Teacher Assessment Right: What Policymakers Can Learn from Research notes that most current discussions about improving teacher quality tend to be imbalanced, focusing disproportionately on student test scores. “While there are important questions about what exactly achievement scores can—and cannot—indicate about individual teachers, there is no question that placing extreme emphasis on test scores alone can have unintended and undesirable consequences that undermine the goal of developing an excellent teaching force,” says Hinchey.

The debate is on and you can find reports and individuals that support either position related to the use of test scores. In this New York Times article you can read how eight people feel, four for use and four against use of test scores. I think they capture the essence of how most of us feel.

What are your thoughts about the role of value added in teacher evaluations? Should student achievement growth from year-to-year be used to measure the effectiveness of a teacher? How should measures of teacher effectiveness be used?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

By the way . . .

In case you are not aware, I thought I'd share with you what happened last Wednesday with the Cedar River power problem.  As I shared in Tuesday's post, we rented a generator that did the job for us on Tuesday.  In that post I made the following statement.

Thankfully, we only have one more day before break so there should be no additional disruption for students and staff.

As I reread the post I decided to substitute the word "should" for the original word "won't" that I had used.  Good thing I did this because the generator quit early Wednesday morning.  Three technicians couldn't get it running by 6:00 a.m. so I once again cancelled school.  Not a half hour later a fourth technician showed up and was able to get the generator going, but it did not last.  It turned out to be the right call, but it was once again difficult.  Had we not been on a half day, it would have been easier, but this year I don't think easy is going to be a word we will use to describe weather related decisions.

A little late . . .

I took a few days off from online to focus on family and the holiday, but thought I should get back to it this evening.  It was good to take some time though I can't say it was stress free.  I am a last minute shopper so I am used to being out when it is crowded, but this year I found myself a little forgetful and had to go back out two times to pick things up for Christmas dinner.  Safeway was a zoo, crowded and long check out lines.

Even with the stress it was a great holiday.  The decorations were beautiful, dinner was great, and with grand kids how can it be anything but an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

The one thing I didn't do before shutting down was to wish for you a happy holiday - I hope it was a joyful time with family and friends. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Generating power . . .

We still do not have power through the PSE grid at Cedar River Middle School, but we were able to open school today by renting a very large generator. Thanks to J.R. Electric, a local electrical contractor and our Maintenance Supervisor Yaha Abduraheem, the generator was located and wired early last evening giving time to test it and get the building heated.

As you can see it is very large, but surprisingly very quiet. It will take a few more days to get the necessary parts to fix the transformer and then a couple more to repair the system. Thankfully, we only have one more day before break so there should be no additional disruption for students and staff.

In case you are wondering what happens when the district is open, but one or more schools are closed, there is an emergency appeal made to OSPI. In these cases a district is asking the state to excuse operations for the day due to unforeseen circumstances. This can be done for no more than two days per occurrence and no more than three total days in a school year for an individual school. Going beyond these limits would require making up the days. That is one more reason why I am so thankful for the temporary fix to this problem.

As I get ready to call it a day, the winds are once again picking up here in the Cascade foothills.  I hope they don't mean another early phone call.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Another closure . . .

We start another week with at least one school closed.  Cedar River will be closed tomorrow with no power.  The wind storm resulted in the loss of a transformer on our end.  We are hoping that it will be fixed sometime tomorrow.

This makes two schools closed because of wind in less than one week.  This follows the loss of a day due to wind earlier this month, or at least I think it was this month.  At home, we were without power for 24+ hours this time, enough to get the generator going as it was pretty cold in Ravensdale.  We actually had about a quarter inch of snow last night that froze resulting in icy conditions this morning.

The snow I understand at this time of year, though I can do without it at least until a break.  The wind, however, is not something I ever get used to.  The wind storm that started late Friday seemed to go on much longer than what I recall as normal for us.  Strong gusts through the night and into the early morning hours was causing me anxiety and raw nerves.  Thank goodness it was a weekend and I didn't need to consider whether we would have school the next day.  Had it been a weekday, we would have lost another one to the weather.

Could just be me, but I think something is not normal with the weather this winter.  Though it is nerve wracking, we have it easy compared to other parts of the country experiencing extreme cold, ice, and snow.  Just seems different.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

State budget struggles . . .

With the words, “I hate my budget,” Governor Gregoire paints the gloomy picture of the state budget for the next biennium. She is honoring what she sees as the voter mandate by cutting instead of raising revenue to maintain programs.

Public schools will not be immune from these cuts. Already in this year’s budget, we are looking at cuts to levy equalization and K-4 supplemental funding. For K-4 staffing this means a reduction in staffing support from a level of 53.2 per 1000 in grades K-3 and 47.43 per 1000 in grade 4 to 49 per 1000 in grades K-3 and 46 per thousand in grade 4. Using the November enrollment count, for us it is the equivalent of about 8.5 teaching positions. In addition to these cuts effective February 1, 2011, the federal stimulus dollars allocated for each district in the Education Jobs Federal Grant, will be deducted from the district’s apportionment payments. Fortunately, we had made the decision to not include this as revenue in our budget as we anticipated that this would happen.

In the Governor’s proposed budget for the next biennium these same cuts would be carried over for the next two years as well as continued suspension of I-732, the cost of living adjustment. In addition to these changes she has also proposed many other cuts to education and other services that can be found in this Seattle Times article. One of particular interest to us and to teachers is the proposal to save money by freezing steps on the K–12 salary schedule at levels provided for in the 2010–11 school year. In calculating certificated instructional staff salaries for the 2011–12 and 2012–13 school years, educational service districts will exclude any educational credits or years of service earned after August 31, 2010 thus freezing salary schedule placement for the next two years. In this proposal as in many others, there is still much to be decided and negotiations to be done as the house and senate craft their budget proposals.

We are closely monitoring the budget discussions and decisions and will be sharing our findings with the school board next week. Once the session begins in January, we should begin to better understand how the cuts will be implemented and the impact of each on our district, information necessary to develop the 2011-12 budget

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Disagreements with study interpretatation . . .

Well, there has certainly been follow-up in the blog world over the release of the Gate’s funded study onto value added and student survey responses that I blogged about on Sunday. In this Education Next post by Jay P. Greene, he refutes the claim made in the New York Times article about the correlation between teachers who drill for standardized tests and their value added scores.

One notable early finding, Ms. Phillips said, is that teachers who incessantly drill their students to prepare for standardized tests tend to have lower value-added learning gains than those who simply work their way methodically through the key concepts of literacy and mathematics. (emphasis added)

I looked through the report for evidence that supported this claim and could not find it. Instead, the report actually shows a positive correlation between student reports of “test prep” and value added on standardized tests, not a negative correlation as the statement above suggests. (See for example Appendix 1 on p. 34.)

The statement “We spend a lot of time in this class practicing for [the state test]” has a correlation of 0.195 with the value added math results. That is about the same relationship as “My teacher asks questions to be sure we are following along when s/he is teaching,” which is 0.198. And both are positive.

It’s true that the correlation for “Getting ready for [the state test] takes a lot of time in our class” is weaker (0.103) than other items, but it is still positive. That just means that test prep may contribute less to value added than other practices, but it does not support the claim that ”teachers who incessantly drill their students to prepare for standardized tests tend to have lower value-added learning gains…”

I won’t copy the whole article, but I wanted you to see what he found in his analysis. Silly me, I took what the paper reported as factual though I was more interested in how the students answered the survey questions than in how drilling influenced the value added scores. He also claims that the same information is misinterpreted in the LA Times article that came out over the weekend.

Andy Russo in This Week in Education post also takes exception with the report in the LA Times, but does agree with the New York focus on the influence of student answers on learning gains. If you have the time and are interested, you can read the initial findings of the report here.

What did I learn? To be more skeptical about how reporters are interpreting the findings of education studies. To wonder what the communication was between the Gate’s people and the newspaper people that lead to the conclusions that may not be supported by the study’s findings. To wait for the reaction to the study by those that actually read it before sharing in a post, or at least acknowledge that there will be one. It will be interesting to see how the reporters and Foundation staff respond to these critiques of the articles or if they even do.

There are too many people looking for easy answers to what is wrong in our profession. The issue is complex and the answers will not all be found in our classrooms. Yes, we can and must do better at ensuring that all students experience success. And yes, there will be information from this study that we can learn from. We can do this, however, without the misinterpretation and finger pointing that normally accompanies a $45 million study.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Another loss . . .

I haven't said much about football and probably shouldn't after today's loss at San Francisco.  Two minutes left and they are losing 40 to 14 though they may score after the two minute warning.  I can't believe how much I watched of this game.  Turnovers and poor play over and over again this year.  If it was a home game I would have left by now. 

Well, they did score to make it 40-21, but now another injury to a wide receiver doesn't bode well for next week.  Bad team, terrible conference, and I just bought my playoff tickets.  Difficult to believe after today that the Seahawks could be a division winner.  Could they win with a less than .500 year?

What students can teach us . . .

This New York Times article shares findings from a Gate's Foundation study about teacher evaluation systems.  This part of the study is focused on learning what good teachers do by asking students.  Teachers in the study are ranked using a value added statistical method and student learning is measured year-to-year on changes in test scores.

Positive correlations that have emerged thus far include the following.
  • "Our class stays busy and doesn’t waste time,” tended to be led by teachers with high value-added scores.
  • The same was true for students who ranked the following statement high,  “In this class, we learn to correct our mistakes.”
  •  “My teacher has several good ways to explain each topic that we cover in this class,”  also had a high correlation.
A finding that some may find interesting is the negative effect of learning in classrooms where teachers spend considerable time drilling and preparing for state tests.
  • Teachers whose students agreed with the statement, “We spend a lot of time in this class practicing for the state test,” tended to make smaller gains on those exams than other teachers.
In this post from March I shared what we learned from our students about what teachers motivate them to do their best.  Instead of asking them questions we had a conversation.  I am thinking that there is more that we can and should learn by asking them questions.  The summary of our findings is shown below where relationship is a significant contributor.

What questions should we be asking our students to learn what they see as teacher behaviors that influence their learning?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A different voice . . .

I found the link to this article in the Boston Globe from a retired Boston teacher at Russo’s This Week in Education. She writes . . .

Blaming us, the teachers, absolves all others of their complicity in the failure to educate our students and relieves them of all responsibility for solving the problem. It’s expedient. Yet until we accept collective responsibility for the problem and for finding a permanent solution, progress will remain an elusive phantom.

It is a short article and worth the read as she shares her thinking on what must happen if we are to truly change public education. In response to the cries to emulate Japan, Finland, Korea, and now I would add China, she cites the work of Pedro Noguera into the culture of those countries and the mental models people have of the importance of education compared to our country.

We need to hear more of these voices.

I can't believe it!

Yes, I can’t believe yet another message about a Sputnik moment; this time in reference to the “poor” showing of U.S. students on the 2009 PISA assessments in combined literacy, mathematics, and science. This is an international comparison of how 15 year olds did on these three tests. For reference, 5,233 students from 165 public and private schools randomly selected to represent the United States.

From this FLYPAPER post from Chester Finn we read about the reference.

Fifty-three years after Sputnik caused an earthquake in American education by giving us reason to believe that the Soviet Union had surpassed us, China has delivered another shock. On math, reading and science tests given to 15-year-olds in sixty-five countries last year, Shanghai’s teenagers topped every other jurisdiction in all three subjects. Hong Kong also ranked in the top four on all three assessments.

The results of this assessment produced immediate reaction from our Secretary Duncan and many others in the blogosphere. It has been a hot topic the last two days.

"For me, it's a massive wake-up call," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Monday. "Have we ever been satisfied as Americans being average in anything? Is that our aspiration? Our goal should be absolutely to lead the world in education."

The surprising news was that Shanghai replaced Finland at the top of the rankings. Our students scored around the average on all three tests resulting in a ranking of 23rd out of the 65 participating countries and education systems in science, 31st in math, and 17th in literacy. This average ranking is what has given rise to all the media hype. You can find articles in the Washington Post here, in the New York Times here, the Seattle Times, and a CNN article that gives reasons why we must start learning from Asia.

This short Washington Post article raises one of the questions going through my mind; given these results, has the NCLB focus on testing been successful? There are also the questions about education in Shanghai not being representative of that in China, that Hong Kong, another high scoring country, is not governed by China, the issue of one test for comparisons, universal education, the cultural differences, and . . .

This is one more opportunity for center stage about how poorly we are doing. I’m not familiar with the content of the assessments, but it would be interesting to see how our young people would do compared to the U.S. average and to those from the other countries. If one of you is a statistician, 5,233 students would be a representative random sample for what n? I don’t know how many 15 year olds in our country, but it seems like a small number. Probably just reaching when I need to accept the data and see what we might learn from it.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Another Sputnik moment . . .

On November 29th I blogged about Energy Secretary Chu’s comment of this being a “Sputnik Moment” for our country related to China’s work on renewable energy. Now, today I read about President Obama’s speech where he says that we are facing a “Sputnik moment” related to our nation falling behind others in the future.

But as it stands right now, the hard truth is this: In the race for the future, America is in danger of falling behind. That's just the truth. And when -- if you hear a politician say it’s not, they’re not paying attention. In a generation we have fallen from 1st place to 9th place in the proportion of young people with college degrees. When it comes to high school graduation rates, we’re ranked 18th out of 24 industrialized nations -- 18th. We’re 27th in the proportion of science and engineering degrees we hand out. We lag behind other nations in the quality of our math and science education.

I wonder if this Sputnik moment thing is something that we will be hearing about from other federal agencies. Maybe it’s a planned strategy or maybe the President read about Secretary Hu’s comments. In either case, how many of these fundamental shifts in doing business can we afford at one time given the current economic situation? I applaud his comments about the need for more spending, but do not agree that the reforms and initiatives from the education department are necessarily going to achieve his goal.

We’re reforming K-12 education –- not from the top down, but from the bottom up. Instead of indiscriminately pouring money into a system that’s not working, we’re challenging schools and states to compete with each other –- to see who can come up with reforms that raise standards, and recruit and retain good teachers, raise student achievement, especially in math and science. We call it Race to the Top -- (applause) -- where you get more funding if you show more results -- because part of the argument here is, is that if we’re going to have a government that's smart and helping people compete in this new global economy, then we’ve got to spend our money wisely. And that means we want to invest in things that are working, not in things that aren’t working just because that's how things have always been done.

Race to the Top was not about more funding if you show results. It was about what states lined up the best to meet the parameters established by the federal education department. It was about forming partnerships with groups like the Gate’s Foundation for grant writing and other support purposes. The RttT winners haven’t shown better results they simply achieved the highest scores on the rubric designed to separate winners from losers. Yes, competition is alive and gathering more momentum in the department and being supported by the President given the above comments. Over time I hope that the “reforms” embedded in the winning proposals prove effective so that we can learn from them. I remain skeptical and we don’t have the time to wait before moving forward without the support of additional funding.

In his speech the President also said that we shouldn’t be cutting funding to education and innovation.

So we can’t stop making those investments. The best antidote to a growing deficit, by the way, is a growing economy. To borrow an analogy, cutting the deficit by cutting investments in areas like education, areas like innovation -- that's like trying to reduce the weight of an overloaded aircraft by removing its engine. It’s not a good idea. There may be some things you need to get rid of, but you got to keep the engine.

That’s why even as we scour the budget for cuts and savings in the months ahead, I will continue to fight for those investments that will help America win the race for the jobs and industries of the future -– and that means investments in education and innovation and infrastructure. I will be fighting for that.

I for one do not want to see any cuts to federal support for public schools so calling for more just might be an effective strategy in at least keeping it at current levels. Given the changed makeup of the House and Senate, maintaining current levels would be a victory as I don’t believe that many of the new members are going to be supportive of “new” money going to public education.

I wonder how the talks on ESEA and replacing NCLB are progressing. Does anyone know or care?

Sunday, December 5, 2010


One of the blogs I follow is the Cliff Mass Weather Blog.  Last Friday his post was titled, Climatologically, The Worst Is Over.  I got excited after reading the first couple paragraphs that maybe the nightmare winter will not be a reality.  Please know that I don't understand many of the charts that he uses to explain the weather, but things looked good until I got to this part.

If we looked at surface winds, a similar story would be evident..the end of November is ground zero for rainy, stormy weather and the situation improves in December.

And certainly the first week of December this year is going to seem like a walk in the park compared to what we had at the end of November.

But the worst is yet to come for one parameter...snow. As shown below for Sea-Tac, January is the snowiest month in our area.

Just what I didn't want to know, especially since I think that February is historically as bad as January.  See what I mean about titles being misleading. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Like kicking a beehive . . .

A couple weeks ago Secretary Duncan and Bill Gates made the news by supporting economists calling for the end to teacher bonuses for master degrees. The claim is that research has shown over time that there is no connection between the master degree and increased student achievement.

In an article in the Huffington Post we hear from Gates and Duncan.

Duncan told the American Enterprise Institute on Wednesday that master's degree bonuses are an example of spending money on something that doesn't work.

On Friday, billionaire Bill Gates took aim at school budgets and the master's degree bonus.

"My own state of Washington has an average salary bump of nearly $11,000 for a master's degree – and more than half of our teachers get it. That's more than $300 million every year that doesn't help kids," he said.

"And that's one state," said Gates, the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, at a speech Friday in Louisville to the Council of Chief State School Officers. Gates also took aim at pensions and seniority.

"Of course, restructuring pay systems is like kicking a beehive," he acknowledged.

From the article, we also learn that in a study of fifteen states coming out of the University of Washington, master’s degree bonuses amounted to between 2% and 3% of total education spending. Given this, doing away with the bonus will not have a significant impact on education spending; something the economists and Duncan suggest is necessary and possible given the current economic situation of most states.

So, what do we do with this information? It is clear that successful systems use research and data to inform their decisions and that they are focused with a laser like beam on instruction for increased student achievement. If there is no connection between the bonus and student achievement, should we continue to operate as Juke’s would suggest ttwwadi (that’s the way we always did it) or should we be exploring other options? When and how do we pick and choose what research will influence our work and the decisions that we make to support success for all young people?

There is certainly much turmoil and uncertainty in the current education environment and this just adds to those finding fault. Research reports, articles, and influential people continue to suggest that public schools are not preparing young people for the future and that we need charters and more competition to force us to change. I don’t believe this to be true or necessary given our current reality, but it does concern me that there is data such as the master’s findings that we don’t consider as we continue our journey.

Might there be a better way to use this compensation that research would show does support increased achievement? I don’t see the motivation for change being a cost saving measure; it would be more of aligning salary with learning and increased knowledge and skill that is directly linked with achievement, the major component of our purpose for being. Remember, we still have the capacity at the local level to determine what success is, how it is measured, and how we use the data.  The external measures forced on our students should be a byproduct of the work that we do, not the driver for all that we do. 

So many opportunities for study and so much information to influence our choices.  Finding the leverage to maximize the use of our resources to increase student achievement should be driven by research.  Is the master degree issue leverage for us at this time?  No, I don't believe that it is, though it would be interesting to pursue as a topic for future consideration.  Leverage for us is implementing research based practices and learning from them in our school environments something that we are doing as we focus on three of the Classroom 10 characteristics; making key content visual, active learning, and checks for understanding.  Collecting data to determine the impacts on achievement is a necessary component of this work.

More on this topic to come in future posts.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cancun climate change conference . . .

Though I haven't blogged much about climate change and efforts at reducing carbon emissions I continue to follow the difficulties the world faces in challenging global warming.  Last December's Copenhagen conference was a failure so the latest United Nations Climate Conference that started today in Cancun begins with only hopes for minor changes.

One of the big issues remaining from Copenhagen is a replacement for the Kyoto Protocal a thirteen year old document that the United States never signed.  The agreement expires in 2012 and there is little expectation that a new one will emerge in Cancun.

This New York Times article summarizes the major issues faced by delegates from the 190 nations represented at the talks.  Chief among these are problems between the world's two largest emitters China and the U.S., the pace of slowing emissions, and how countries will be held accountable for goals that are established.  The world economy and finding the money to support developing countries in their efforts to cut emissions are also issues that will be difficult to overcome.

Coincidentally today, Energy Secretary Hu made an address where he cited the work of China and other industrialized nations to develop clean energy sources as a "Sputnik Moment" for our country.  In case you are not old enough to remember the first "Sputnik Moment", it occurred when the Soviet Union beat us into space.  That event launched a national effort that changed public schools and resulted in our country surpassing the Soviet Union in the space race. 

I agree with him on the need for our country to wake up and enter with commitment this new race to create and lead the world in identifying new, cleaner, and sustainable energy sources.  Failing to do so will impact our future and that of future generations as the winners will be positioned for economic success. Somehow I don't see President Obama and the recently elected House and Senate as having the capacity to make this a priority issue let alone reaching agreement on how to accomplish the need to reduce emissions and to enter this new race by unleashing our creative capacity with government support as do the Chinese and other leading nations.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A beginning . . .

As I shared in the previous post, our district is beginning to study and plan for integrating online and blended learning opportunities for our students.  A summary of this review can be found on this document

The four components of our work are outlined in the chart below.  Currently, ten teachers are working with Moodle, a web-enhanced learning management system to identify how this tool can provide flexibility and support for teachers and students.  We also plan to implement one current high school class as a blended learning opportunity second semester of this year and a new blended course for fall 2011 focused on the self directed learner.

I am excited about this work and the opportunities it will provide for students and families.  I believe that options, flexibility, and online are going to be important components of a comprehensive public school system of the future.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Influence of online learning . . .

I took a couple days off from electronic media so I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

In this post I want to share with you an area I believe will have a growing influence on public education - online and blended learning.

What will learning be like in the future? One of the trends that we are beginning to see is the need for options and flexibility. This is evidenced by the chart from stephen’s web showing the growth of online learning. Though the chart is for students taking college classes, the increase of about 20% from 2002 to 2009 is large and will not be confined to college classes in the future. The Sloan Consortium Study behind this data can be found here.

files/images/sloan1.jpg, size: 31840 bytes, type:  image/jpeg

Why are we seeing this type of growth? In edreformer we find ten reasons why students may prefer to participate in online learning.

1. I can sleep in
2. I can pursue my own passions
3. I can focus on my work without distractions from my classmates
4. I can move at my own pace
5. I don’t have to compete to share my thoughts and ideas
6. I can take more interesting classes
7. I can learn with a schedule that meets my needs
8. I can learn despite health issues that might get in the way of a traditional class setting
9. I can easily communicate with my teacher when I need to
10. I can easily communicate with my classmates when I want to

Though I don’t see all of these as compelling reasons for change, there are many that have and will continue to be reasons why more and more students will pursue this option.

Looking to the future, our school system is beginning to work on creating this flexibility for our students. The chart below from the Sloan study identifies various delivery models.

In a future post I will share what we are doing to increase flexibility and options for our students and families.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Another closure . . .

We made the call to close again tomorrow.  The outlying roads are covered with ice and a little snow that by tomorrow with the bitter cold will not be safe for morning travel.  The busses would be on limited transportation meaning the kids would need to walk further to bus stops in this cold weather and have a longer wait depending on the traffic and road conditions.  For me, these calls have been some of the easier ones we have had to make over the years. 

The down side to this is that we are now into the week of June 20th for the last day of school and we still have the normal snow months of January and February in front of us. 

Here is my back deck in Ravensdale at about 4:30 this afternoon - that is between 6 and 7 inches.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Some clarification . . .

A reader e-mailed me with a comment about the information I posted on the recently passed graduation requirements by the State Board.  He wanted to make sure that we understand that fitness has been moved into the mandatory requirements as identified in the chart below.

Ethan also posted a comment to this same post questioning how the Essential 20 could be budget neutral with the potential shift in classes.  I agree that there will be additional costs especially with the added lab science.  This will require specialized spaces we do not have and additional teachers.  The changes in class requirements will also impact staffing as some content areas will have increased requirements and some will have flexible requirements.  Yes, there will be costs to this potential change both fiscally and in personnel.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Changes to state math assessments . . .

This morning at the monthly PTA Roundtable meeting some questions were asked about the new state required end-of-course mathematics exams that replaced the traditional tenth grade WASL. For some students the change may require them to take two assessments this spring, one for algebra and one for geometry even if they are not taking those classes this year.

There is an information sheet on the high school web page that explains the changes and options that students have to meet this requirement for graduation. The new requirements are in place for students with sophomore status or younger. On page two of the document is the test schedule that provides no flexibility. The state has determined the test dates and there are no make-up opportunities until January 2012. We question the requirements for students beyond geometry to take these end-of-course assessments, but unless the legislature reverses the OSPI decision we have to follow the guidelines as identified.

We will be providing support for those students taking end-of-course assessments in classes they took one or two years ago. Please follow the high school’s web page for additional information as these supports unfold.

Are new graduation requirements here?

Earlier this month the State Board of Education formally adopted Washington’s new graduation requirements called the Common Core. They will present the new requirements to the legislature in January for approval and funding. The key term here is funding, because the previous legislation was clear that the requirements would not be implemented without funding. When funded, Washington’s high school students will need 24 credits for graduation. The current state requirement is 20 for students graduating in 2013 and our district requires 2 additional credits for a total of 22.

Today, we learned that the state is forecasting an additional $1.2 billion drop in tax collections between now and 2013 giving the next legislative session starting in January an unbelievable $5.7 billion shortfall. Given this, there is little to no likelihood that the recently adopted graduation requirements will be implemented on the identified timeline.  The price tag on page 2 of this document is too much under these conditions to expect. For additional information go to the State Board web page.

So, if the new requirements are not implemented as planned, what can we expect?  The State Board has planned for this possibility by identifying the Essential 20, one of multiple changes to the state requirements that the state board sees as no-cost policy recommendations.  A comparison of the current policy to the Core 24 and Essential 20 is provided below.  Other information on this straw proposal that emerged in the June 15th State Board meeting can be found here.

At this time, moving to the Essential 20, far right column, seems a more likely possibility to emerge from the upcoming legislative session.  Given the budget shortfall, perhaps nothing will change during this session related to graduation requirements. 

This is a lot of information for something that is not likely to take place soon.  One of the interesting things about it, however, is how something of such significance can take place with very little public knowledge even in our school systems.  We'll keep monitoring and let you know if there is anything new to report.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Some elaboration required . . .

Once again Ethan in his comments to yesterday's post has posed some interesting questions and thoughts.  I don't know, however, that I totally agree with his experience from the state level work about the need to separate the work of defining what the standard is from how the standard will be assessed.  In their work to create learning standards and assessment tools for students I don't believe that the students played an active role in the work.  They are the recipients of the work done by adults and the ones held accountable.  The adults create the tools, but do not have the responsibility to implement the work and be held accountable to a standard as the teachers do in our context. 

I believe that initially we were engaging in conversations about both what the standard is and how it will be assessed and that work did become confusing.  It was not, however, this confusion or concern around accountability that resulted in the decision to not assess growth this year on the goal.  This statement from Ethan's comment captures the reason.

We should have maintained our focus squarely on defining what focusing on key content, using active learning strategies, and checking for understanding looks and sounds like until we were crystal clear on that. Only then should we have begun to think about how we might go about assessing mastery of these “standards.”

As of today, we are still not "crystal clear" on what it means for key content to be visual, stated in appropriate student language, be tied to unit goals or broader learnings, and be reinforced throughout the lessons.  We know more because of recent research we did that was shared last week with teacher leaders, but there are still questions that we have not yet answered.  We know more about checking for understanding because of Ethan's work and the teacher tools he created.  We also have identified teacher resources for active learning, but have only recently begun to document them for teacher use. 

The reflection tool is another resource that provides necessary information on what it looks and sounds like, but it has not yet been introduced to all teachers.  This tool and the "crystal clear" vision of the three characteristics should have been available when we introduced the goal.  Implementation should have followed creation of these additional resources with accountability to follow.  That is what I meant by not able to support the goal given the lack of clarity on the characteristics, the inability to identify resources to bring clarity to the work, the competing commitments that were not factored into the timing, and the expected questions on what accountability would be. 

We are better positioned today and will continue this year to focus on bringing clarity to this work.  Teachers will continue to focus on the characteristics without the accountability component.   We will learn from this work and apply that learning to creating tools that bring additional clarity and understanding to the work.  I don't know that we have taken a step backward, more of monitoring and adjusting our pacing to align better with our current reality.

Once again thanks to Ethan for pushing my thinking and assisting me in elaborating on my post.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

An error in pacing . . .

Over the last few weeks I have found myself reflecting on my work more than normal. Our Classroom 10 goal has been the reason for this reflection. I believe that we initiated a focus on key content, active learning, and checking for understanding before we were ready. Many questions have been asked by principals and teachers since we shared the goal at the opening breakfast. Not being able to answer all the questions or to provide the resources that some have requested has led to my added reflection.

Following the work of building leadership teams and an ad hoc team formed from these teams we have a teacher reflection document that I believe is a positive step in this work. They have created a document that provides more information about what Classroom 10 looks and sounds like when these characteristics are influencing interactions between teachers and students. It is also the tool we will be expecting all teachers to use in an online version to collect data for next year's refocus on this goal.

Yes, next year will be the real implementation of this goal because the system was not ready to support it for this year. Our eagerness and excitement about removing the word Draft from the document resulted in this premature goal and for that I take responsibility. The work we are now doing is setting the stage for implementation, providing answers to the questions, and creating the resources necessary to support this work.

I am feeling a sense of renewed energy by admitting that I made some mistakes in the planning for and pacing of this work.  It has resulted in changes that will have positive influence on our future and the work that we will do.  These changes include engaging teachers through the leadership teams in the development of future goals.

For this year, the system goal will consist of teachers self reflecting on the document referenced above.  The data will be used by T&L and the leadership teams to determine the scope of next year's goal and the structures that will be necessary to support teachers in this work. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bond measure direction . . .

The board met this evening to continue discussion on the bond measure and to confirm their role of advocating for quality learning environments for current and future students of our school system. They once again reviewed the components of each of the individual projects and also discussed the timing of those projects, the projected costs, and asked questions as they considered the two decisions they must make.

• When to bring the bond measure to a vote.

• What projects and related costs to include in the bond request.

They have spent almost three years focusing on this need and this evening made the decision to direct us to prepare a resolution for a bond measure vote in April 2011. They also directed us to include in the resolution the dollar amount necessary to complete the projects identified in the long range plan. We will subtract from this amount projected interest earnings and any further savings that may be made from a review of timeline related to inflationary costs and the use of projected impact fees for identified projects.

So, we will now prepare the resolution for final action and move forward to share information with our community on our need and options if we are not successful in passing the April measure. I will share with you the resolution dollar amount that will be less than this evening’s projection of $127.5 million. I expect this to be completed within the next month.

The next phase of our story can now move forward.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

We need more ideas . . .

I want to continue to focus on the bond with this post.  In a comment to Thursday's post, Stacy says that parents need to see a timeline for project completion and they need to know what will happen if the bond doesn't pass.  Christel adds to this the impact on learners and the impact on taxes when passed.

What other ideas do you have.  You have an opportunity to influence what we will include in our fact sheet.  This is an important document for some who want to understand the need and impact on them before they cast their ballot. 

Another priority is any ideas you may have about ensuring that parents register and vote.  It is difficult for me to understand why so many parents that are registered didn't vote in the last levy election.  As I shared, only about 2500 of the 6000 who are registered returned their ballot.  Why?  Is it complacency?  Do they not support us and make their statement by not voting?  How can we overcome this?  I welcome your thoughts.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Expressing concern for the bond . . .

I had the opportunity today to hear from two staff members committed to our school system and concerned for it's future.  The concern is the need for increased capacity and the lack of urgency they are feeling in the community.  There are many indicators of this as we make presentations and begin discussions with staff, parents, and community members.  They asked me many questions and wonder what we can do to share our story in ways that provide voters with the information that they need to make this critical decision.

The Board will be making decisions on Tuesday including scope of the projects and timing of the vote.  As with all of these measures, as a school system we are limited in what we can do.  We can't "market" the measure or influence people to vote yes.  We can, however, create one fact sheet that can be used multiple times and distributed in a variety of forms.  Other than scope and cost, what information must we include in this fact sheet? 

  • What do those that are not connected to the school system want and need to know?
  • What do parents parents want and need to know?
  • If the bond measure were to fail, what happens and how much of this information needs to be included in the fact sheet?
  • How can I do more than just share factual information?
  • Given the lack of urgency in the community, is February the best election date?
Perhaps one of the most disturbing findings is the recent discovery that of the approximately 9000 parents in our school system about 6000 are registered voters and of this 6000, only about 2500 voted in last year's levy election.  Why don't more registered parents vote?  Why are there so many parents not registered?  How can we influence more parents to register and vote?  As we begin this process, there are many more questions that must be answered.  Some will be answered by the school system and others will be answered by people that make up the Voice of Tahoma Education, the VOTE Committee.

If you feel the need to be an active participant in this process, the VOTE Committee is the appropriate venue for participation.  They need help with new ideas and people to do the work.  There is room for all of us.  They can be contacted on their web page found here

I wasn't able to create a comfort level today in my conversation with the two colleagues who care a great deal about this school system.  They are frustrated, concerned, and want to see more action.  As the board enters the week for making the critical bond decisions, the time for action is here.  The fact sheet will follow the decisions and the community information sharing will increase and become more visible.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A typing support . . .

At a meeting today, I learned about an ap for my Android that makes typing easier called Swype.  I watched it being used, but didn't get a chance to try it.  It is intuitive with use and could increase my slow speed.  It looks awkward, but the user said that he mastered it in a short period of time.  Looks like something I should try.

Then, this evening going through my RSS feeds at edReformer, there was this post on a new texting keyboard.  The New York Times article identifies the new program called 8Pen that will be released shortly.  It also looks a little weird, but one of the developers said it only took about 10 minutes of use to feel comfortable.  The interface is designed to recreate the action of handwriting.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Some additional reflection . . .

There are three comments to yesterday’s post on the amount of math necessary for everyday use that I encourage you to read. They each provide a different perspective on the issue through their personal experience with math. There are also links in two of the posts that provide additional perspectives on this issue. In one of those links I found this statement that would describe my experience with math.

The purpose of learning math, which most of us will never use, is only to prepare us for further math courses . . . which we will use even less frequently than never.

I took math classes the first three quarters of college and as long as I could memorize short term I did very well. I found that whatever that third quarter class was (?), it turned out to be the beginning of the brick wall for me, as simply memorizing and regurgitating no longer worked. Prior to that I thought my future was in the science/math area, but that experience pushed me in other directions.

Maybe the question I posed is not the best question to reflect upon. The national push for more scientists and engineers has been a catalyst for more emphasis on all students taking more math in high school. Another has been the need for all students to be college ready. If this is the purpose for learning math, to be college ready and prepared for a career in science and math then perhaps geometry is not far enough. One would need to go beyond this to be accepted into most if not all four year colleges.

The struggle for me begins with the data from our school system. Last year 35% of Tahoma graduates enrolled in a four-year institution with the range over the last six years being 33% to 42%. Yet, the math program is designed to prepare students for continuation of the math sequence in college. It works well for those students, but what about the 65% last year that didn’t enroll in these schools or the 38% who didn’t enroll in any school. Do they need to be in the same sequence, with the same purpose, and the same pace? I don’t think they do and I don’t know that the algebra, geometry requirement best meets their needs for future success.

I don’t disagree with the need for math, but as Ethan suggests in his comment the appropriate ending course or courses may not be geometry. Yes, we need more engineers and scientists, but all young people are not going to become engineers and scientists. Yes, more students from our system should be attending four-year schools, but there isn’t room or money for all to attend. Then why have the same math sequence and expectations for all students?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Another try . . .

On Thursday's post, I shared a Washington Post article that raises the question about how much math one needs in everyday life.  I raised the same question in the post wondering if anyone would comment.  Unfortunately, there were none.  With the changes to our state's graduation requirements in math and the national emphasis on math, it is difficult to take a stance against students taking more math.  Yet, I know that there are people who do not believe that all students should be required to meet standard in geometry to graduate.  It would be hard to support geometry as necessary for everyday life.  So, why the graduation requirement and the national emphasis on more math for all.

Care to share your thoughts?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

How much math . . .

I found this Washington Post article on dangerously ! irrelevant interesting and thought provoking as we implement a new secondary math curriculum and new math graduation requirements.  After sharing his insights into how A Nation At Risk provided colleges with an opportunity to create and sell mathematics education programs he asks the question many of us wonder about.

  • How much math do you really need in everyday life?
The author suggests no more than can be learned in the early years of math study.  As I reflect on my work and my everyday life, that would be true for me.  I rarely have the need to use math algorithms at work or in my daily life.  When I do, I find that I use a calculator to perform them.  On the other hand, I wonder how the logic and patterns of upper math study may have influenced my thinking, how I process information, and how I approach problem solving tasks, all of which I encounter daily. 

In the article, the author argues that we have been sold on the need for math to lead a successful life.

A lot of effort and money has been spent to make mathematics seem essential to everybody's daily life. There are even calculus textbooks showing how to calculate -- I am not making this up and in fact I taught from such a book -- the rate at which the fluid level in a martini glass will go down, assuming, of course, that one sips differentiably. Elementary math books have to be stuffed with such contrived applications; otherwise they won't be published.

What do you think about how much math is necessary for success in everyday life?  Should all students be required to meet standard in algebra and geometry to graduate from a Washington high school?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Another benefit of partnerships . . .

Third graders at Shadow Lake and Rock Creek went home today with heavier back packs thanks to a Maple Valley Rotary program. Our local club made the decision this year to join other clubs in the area in providing a free dictionary to all third grade students. The room was filled with excited students as the Rotarians passed out the books and engaged them in looking up words and definitions. Tomorrow, students at Lake Wilderness and Glacier Park will receive their dictionaries.

I am proud to be a member of our local Rotary Club. We support initiatives at the local, national, and international level and are always ready to assist school clubs and local service agencies in meeting their needs. An example of support for students is the annual awarding of scholarships to high school seniors in excess of $20,000 to support continued learning. In the community Rotarians play a prominent role in organizing and working at projects such as Make A Difference Day and in the recent renovation of the Maple Valley Community Center.

Thank you to the Maple Valley Rotary and the leadership and organization from Kelly Snodgrass for supporting our third graders.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A new WORDLE . . .

I haven't done a Wordle of my blog in quite some time so I thought I'd take a look tonight.  I'm pleased to see words like learning, classroom, school, and thinking prominently displayed.  At least it suggests I am focusing on topics important to our mission.  My fondness for football and the Bears is also evident, but I'm struggling to remember where some of the words like Brant and yard are coming from. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Another high school story . . .

Lettuce from the high school garden was served at Armondo's in Renton last week.  Thanks to Matt Tucker for sharing this exciting event with me.  Here is how it read on the menu as shared by head chef Tom Small.

TAHOMA HIGH SCHOOL FIELD GREENS local chanterelles, oven-roasted tomatoes, Cypress Farms goat cheese crostini

Also, thanks to board member Tammy Henkel for making the connection between the retaurant and Matt that made this possible.

Another exciting event was Friday night's Tahoma football game won by the Bears 36 to 34 over Kentridge.  They won on a 47 yard David Stoecker field goal with no time left on the clock after kicking what they thought was a 42 yard winning kick, only to be called back on a penalty.  The boys and coaches deserved it after last week's loss on the last play of the game.

                                                                                            Maple Valley Reporter

 Two of our girl's teams are having outstanding years.  The lady Bears soccer team continued their winning streak on Saturday with a 1 to 0 win over Kentlake.  That could move them up from number three in the state rankings.  The girl's volleyball team is also on top of the league with an 8 to 0 record.  Go BEARS!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

New learning tool . . .

There is an addition to the high school that is clearly visible as you approach the office and that will become another learning enhancement for high school science students. Solar panels have been installed in a partnership between the district, McKinstry, and Puget Sound Energy. Mckinstry supported our successful efforts to acquire a Renewable Energy Education Program grant from PSE for installation of the panels and solar photovoltaic monitoring equipment. With this grant, we have a system that will provide opportunities for web based monitoring and integration of the system and data analysis into existing science programs.

Thank you to PSE for this opportunity and to Mike Hanson, high school science teacher, for his vision and leadership in making this a reality for our students and teachers. The PSE grant that made this possible was for $16,550.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Superman and Design Thinking . . .

I thought I was done with Superman until I read Kathryn Strojan's comment to my October 7th post on no easy fix.  In the comment Kathryn shares a link to an article in the Huffington Post by Stephen B. Brant entitled Waiting for "Superman" and How Design Thinking Can Make Us the Superheroes We've Been Waiting for.

Brant makes the point that the movie missed the point when it said the system is broken by focusing on two broken parts; poor teachers and the availability of quality schools.  He claims this is the result of analytic thinking.

Analytic thinking is a machine age concept that treats all problems like a car with a dead battery. Fix the battery and the car will run. But if -- based on changes in the larger environment in which you are traveling -- you really need to be in a boat or an airplane, you are out of luck. Analytic thinking doesn't give you the thinking tools to ask whether you should be in a car or not.

According to Brant, what is required because the system is not only broken it is also obsolete, is a redesign based on Design Thinking.  I have read a number of books on systems and, though I am far from an expert, I believe that this is an important point.  Our Classroom 10 focus can lead to this redesign.  I believe that Brant would agree based on the following statement from the article.

Real education does not treat students as empty vessels meant to be filled with some sub-set of what knowledge is already known. Real education creates a love of learning that continues for the rest of a person's life, because the educational process recognizes that knowing a basic set of facts and foundational skills (like reading) is not enough to create a well-rounded human being.

Classroom 10 learning is an attempt to create a love of learning, creative problem solvers, collaborative workers, and critical thinkers.  These are the value added qualities embedded in our focus for learning, qualities that Brant and others see as necessary for future success in the world.  The structures we are creating on this journey are the foundations of this new design.  They include the focus on more than factual information, examining instructional practice, assessing all Classroom 10 characteristics, and the emergence of true teacher voice and leadership. 

Tomorrow, the district administrators and coaches will be at the high school to continue this journey.  We will be observing classrooms together over the course of the year to develop a common understanding of what Classroom 10 learning looks and sounds like in actual classrooms. I am excited about these opportunities as we learn to understand and support our redesign of the Tahoma School District.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A little football . . .

Not a perfect football weekend, but better than most.  The Seahawks won on the road today beating the Bears.  They played good defense and had enough offense to hold off the Chicago Bears for their third win.  I'm looking forward to next Sunday's game against the Cardinals.

Yesterday, the Huskies won a thriller against the Beavers in double overtime when the Beavers went for two and the win, but failed to convert.  It was one of the better games of the year for me.  The Cougars are also playing better, but can't pick up a win as they lost to Arizona.

The big disappointment was the Bear loss to Auburn Riverside on Friday.  It was the first "fall" Friday night of the football season.  It was clear and cold, perfect high school football weather.  Things were going great until the end as the Bears lost another heart breaker on the last play of the game 20 to 17.  The Bears had taken the lead moments before on a 37 yard field goal by David Stoecker, but couldn't hold on after a long pass play set up the winning  one yard run as time ran out. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Our kids are great . . .

Last evening at the TMS auditorium, a number of our students did a wonderful job presenting the Watershed Report sponsored by the Friends of the Cedar River Watershed (FCRW).  The city of Maple Valley and our school system were co-sponsors of the event.  It was an opportunity for the students working with the FCRW to share their beliefs, commitment, and powerful Watershed Report DVD.  It was also an opportunity for our high school Green Team to share our district initiatives and their work goals for the year.

It was a moving presentation with the kids doing the speaking  and sharing.  They were supported by Peter Donaldson in the creation of the DVD and in preparing for this evening.  We are blessed to have him as a partner in our work.  He brings knowledge, experience, and commitment to our sustainability education efforts. 

There was once again so much to be proud of as a member of our school system; the King County Green School recognition, the commitment to a sustainability unit in grades K-12, the partnerships with many organizations in our effort to conserve energy, recycle, and reduce waste, and the young people that both support and challenge us to do more.  We are mentioned several times in the DVD for these efforts and for being a role model for other school systems.  One of our high school students, Connor Durkin, has a prominent role in the DVD and does a wonderful job.  You can check out Conner on the DVD at their  web page where the Flickr photo is Cassandra Houghton another of our high school students.

There are so many people to thank for this work, some that I know of and others that I don't.  Trying to name them all will result in missing many, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention Nancy and the teachers writing the curriculum units, the school board for their support and commitment to this work, the teachers in the Global Academy and Outdoor Academy at the high school for their curriculum focus on this work, Clare, Matt, and Cort for their nurturing of the high school Green Team, the adults that support the other building Green Teams, and Todd and Cary for introducing our students to Peter and his work with the FCRW.

We also used the occassion to recognize Connie Jo Erickson from Glacier Park for her commitment and vision that started the building efforts.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Not an easy "fix" . . .

I was going to share my thoughts on this Washington Post article where urban superintendents and others share their thinking on how to fix broken schools. The article is titled, How to fix our schools: A manifesto by Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee and other education leaders.  I changed my mind, however, when I read this post by John Sener at Educational Technology Center, etc.  He does a much better job than I could.

I am not suggesting that you read the manifesto, but I do encourage you to read the Sener post.  I believe that what he has to say will resonate well with many of you.  His basic premise is that schools do not need fixing and that they are not broken because they have never essentially worked for all students.  I know this from my own school experience and from my observations over many years.  If they are simply broken we should be able to go back and identify what caused the break and "fix" it.  Unfortunately, the fix will require adaptive changes because as Sener suggests, they never did work for all students. 

I find myself agreeing with most of what he says, but I'm struggling with his argument that we do not know how to educate all children.

But the really massive error being made here is the notion that we already know how to educate everyone, and we just need to remove the remaining obstacles like “poorly performing” teachers. We have raised our expectations to reach every child through education, but we haven’t yet figured out how to meet them. It is a noble, historic, risky, and ultimately awesome enterprise to undertake, but it is badly undermined by pretending that we know how to do this, or ever did.

I believe that we know much about what needs to be done to support each student's achievement and that our focus on key content, active learning, and checking for understanding is a good start; one that research suggests does have an impact on learning.  Yes, I understand that we also have obstacles to overcome and learning that must take place to achieve this worthy and necessary goal of academic success for all students.  I'm energized by the challenge and eager to engage in the work with the adults in our school system.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A charter focused on "master teachers" . . .

I checked out the Equity Project charter school that Stacy shared to the Superman post.  Would these words on the opening of their web page captures your interest?

The Equity Project (TEP) charter school believes that teacher quality is the most important factor in achieving educational equity for low inclome students.  Spurred by this belief, TEP reallocates its public funds by making an unprecedented investment in attracting and retaining great teachers.

How?  First, all TEP teachers earn a $125,000 salary, plus an annual bonus of up to $25,000.
I would think that any teacher would be interested in further investigating this opportunity. 

A closure look suggests that TEP sees teacher quality, especially master teachers, as the key to success.  In their words, they use a three-pronged strategy that they term the 3 R’s: Rigorous Qualifications, Redefined Expectations, & Revolutionary Compensation to achieve its mission.

Rigorous Qualifications  Categories under this criteria include the following with more detail to be found on the link.  It is clear from this and the other information that new and inexperienced teachers need not apply.  Their recruitment focuses on master teachers, a term defined by some of the criteria under the 3'R's.
  • Expert subject-area knowledge
  • Teaching expertise and experience
  • Strong curriculum development ability
  • Outstanding verbal ability
Redefined Expectations  TEP redefines the school day, the school year, and career development.

Work Day:  The work day extends from 7:45 am to 5:00 pm with two 50 minute planning periods. Teachers are paired, observe each other each day and use one of the planning periods to share and jointly plan.

Work Year:  The student school year follows the New York city school calendar.  Each summer all TEP teachers are required to attend a six week Summer Development Institute leaving them with a summer break of three weeks.

Career Development:  TEP calls it a career arc that includes a mandated sabbatical every four years. These are unpaid sabbaticals.

In addition, TEP teacher sabbaticals are not “sabbaticals” in the usual sense of the word, since they will typically occur every fifth or sixth year, instead of every seventh year. TEP believes that the intensity of the teaching profession mandates a shorter duration between sabbaticals. TEP teachers are expected to begin researching sabbatical opportunities at least one year in advance of their sabbatical year. Teachers may use their sabbatical year for employment (e.g. a position at a think tank), education (e.g. a one-year art-history masters program), or travel (e.g. a travel fellowship). Teachers are not paid by TEP during their sabbatical years; however, TEP attempts to assist teachers in securing funding for their sabbatical-year project.

Revolutionary Compensation:  This is obviously a key component of the program and besides the salary and bonus opportunity it includes a comprehensive benefits package.
TEP is operated with public money, but must find donations to lease or purchase a facility.  I couldn't find any achievement data, probably because it only opened a year ago. 

In her comment Stacy asks if you would have the gumption to apply.  Would you?  She also asks us to suspend our assumptions about what she labels "clock punchers" as there is much more to a teacher's dedication than the time spent at school.