Sunday, February 24, 2013

In need of stability and support . . .

If you follow my blog you know that I have been advocating for "stability" to be the driver in Olympia as opposed to the reform agenda we see coming from many legislators in both houses.  The two main reasons for the need for stability are not, in my mind, driven by funding, but additional funding would support the work.  This position does not diminish my advocacy for new funding to meet the McCleary directive from the State Supreme Court, but the immediate tension comes from another place.

So, what are the two drivers for stability.  In our work I believe that they are the implementation of the new Teacher Principal Evaluation Plan and the transition to the Common Core.  Both of these initiatives are multi-year, system level change efforts that should not be asked of us at the same time.  I am not arguing the merits of either initiative though you know my thinking related to TPEP, what concerns me is the complexity of each and the stress that they bring to our work.

We should not be faced with additional change initiatives out of Olympia while we find resources to meet the demands of these initiatives.  It is time to balance the high demand with high support out of Olympia, not increase the demand.  No new changes is a part of high support.

Andy Smarick at Education Next shares in this post, The Common Core Implementation Gap, some of the same reasons I have for concern.  One of those is combining the two initiatives in most states at the same time.

For example, even the best state departments of education were fretting about the massive challenges associated with overhauling educator evaluation systems before Common Core implementation was front and center. Student achievement data for untested grades and subjects and inter-rater reliability of observations were keeping smart folks up at night when state content standards, teacher professional standards, and assessments were static.

With changes afoot in all of these areas, teacher-evaluation reform has gotten exponentially more difficult. 

In it, he questions a report done by Education First and EPE Research Center on the status of state level implementation of the Common Core.  The report suggests that states are better off then they were last year and are in pretty good shape.  Smarick questions this premise and after reviewing how our state responded to the survey questions, I share his concern.

Our state responded that teacher professional development plans are "Complete" for the Common Core as is the teacher evaluation plan.  Our experience would suggest otherwise.  Our Teaching and Learning Department, in partnership with other districts, are the primary support for Common Core implementation.  It would be good to know what "Complete" means as it would related to the evaluation plan.

Smarick captures the issue.

The report’s upside is that we now know more about state-level planning. The downside is that we know nothing more about the quality of that planning—and this is the whole ball of wax.

 Looking back at the table above, captures additional lack of support in the middle column where our state responded to the questions about curriculum guides and instructional materials by stating "No planning activity reported", something we know well.  Of the forty-eight states that have adopted the Common Core, thirty are providing support in this critical area where each district in our state must do it on their own or form collaboratives.  I guess this would be an example of wanting to provide "local control" - too bad we don't have more of that.

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