Sunday, March 30, 2014

Witnessing a celebration . . .

The RC signal for Level 0 Voice
On Friday morning I joined Rock Creek Elementary students, staff, and visitors in their second Spirit Assembly of the year and it proved to be as exciting as I was told it would be from those who attended the first.  The assemblies are part of their work with the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports Program, PBIS, that many of our buildings have embraced.  It was truly a celebration with hundreds of young people and adults having sharing an experience that brought them closer together.

The focus of this gathering was to reinforce implementation of the 0 to 5 level voice with 0 being used in the hallway and 5 reserved for outside.  They also throughout the program recognized individual students with Eagle Grams and Eagle Feathers for changes in their behavior and contributions to others.  At times the multi-purpose room rocked with loud music, pom-poms, and dancing teachers. At other times it was silent.  What amazed me was how quickly it went from one to the other with a signal or verbal request for change in level of voice.  They used a school developed video, skits, and interviews to reinforce the need for different voice levels and from their behavior the students understand and are practicing them.

I am thankful for the invitation as it was one of those experiences that resulted in goose bumps and appreciation for the commitment the Rock Creek Eagles adult community has for this program.  From my observation and from the stories being told it is having a positive influence on the school's culture.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Backing off . . .

This is probably old news for many of you, but important to share.  Earlier this week we learned that Indiana has become the first state to back out of a commitment to the common core standards.  Though we have been reading about a number of states reviewing their commitment and others pulling back from the two testing consortia, this is a first that leads to the question will other follow.  Will this decision provide leverage for others at the state level advocating for the same outcome?

You can read about the decision in this NPR article.  Below are some comments from Governor Pence who signed the legislation.

"I believe our students are best served when decisions about education are made at the state and local level," said Pence in a release about Senate Bill 91.

"By signing this legislation, Indiana has taken an important step forward in developing academic standards that are written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers, and are uncommonly high, and I commend members of the General Assembly for their support," he said.

It is interesting to see legislators on the far right and far left find common ground for different reasons in their objections to the common core.  So far, I don't see and don't expect it to take hold in our state, but there are other states experiencing attempts at legislation that passed in Indiana.  Some of those decisions will be determined by who is elected at the state level in the November elections as this issue takes on more significance in those elections.

I don't see this as a tipping point, but it should certainly be a concern for common core advocates.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How to pay for fully funded basic education . . .

John Schuster posted a comment to Tuesday's post focused on the impasse in Olympia in responding to the McCleary ruling and April 30th legislative response.  He also shared a link to an article in the Seattle Times Education Blog by WASA Executive Director Bill Keim urging voters to get serious about school funding.   His message to voters is to get educated and consider the quality of education they want for our state and how to fund it.

One of the obvious causes of the Olympia stalemate is the cost to fully fund basic education in our state, estimated in the article to be about $5 billion per year and to reach the national school funding average about $2.5 billion per year.  Funding at this level will require new taxes, closing loop holes will not generate this level of funding and many in Olympia and in our state are adamantly opposed to raising current or generating new taxes.  Keim suggests that voters may need to consider the referendum and initiative processes if legislators and the court cannot reconcile their differences.  Again, it will be important to see how the legislators respond on April 30th.

In the article Keim shares a chart comparing spending in Washington to Massachusetts and Alabama.  He shares the data to demonstrate that funding has not kept pace with the increase in student achievement as measured by the NAEP assessment.  Yes, the legislators are faced with a very difficult decision, a decision that should be based on the current reality of public education in our state, not on national rhetoric or the reformists calls for competition, charters, and business practices.  The reality is one that suggests across the state we are seeing gains in student achievement and have earned the right to continue our journey without additional one size fits all mandates.

Any review of how we got to this point would include the passage of House Bill 1209 in 1993. It was intended to improve both the funding and performance of our schools. Two decades after that bill passed, there has been a remarkable increase in student achievement. Washington is now among the top 10 states on the National Assessment of Student Progress (NAEP), but the funding hasn’t followed.

The infographic below uses data from Education Week’s Quality Counts report to illustrate that point. The comparison with Massachusetts is interesting, because they are similar in size, demographics, economic base and rigorous learning standards. Alabama is included to show how we compare to a state with lower initial funding and NAEP scores among the bottom 10 in the nation.

In 1995, Washington was slightly behind both the national average and Massachusetts, and a good bit ahead of Alabama. By 2011, Washington’s per student funding was significantly lower than all three comparisons. Washington has dropped to 41st in the nation in both per student funding and the Quality Counts measure of the state’s funding effort.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Laws, political posturing, and our work . . .

As I reflect on the content of my posts over the last few months I can't help but be saddened by the number related to waivers, common core fighting, and the McCleary decision.  It reinforces for me the influence that policy makers have on our work and once again leaves me wondering who has their ear and is influencing their decision making.  Though I am not completely aligned with those that believe the goal of large foundations and their leaders such as Bill Gates and like-minded CEO's is to destroy public education, some of their positions and advocacy leaves the door open for me to reconsider.

Given that, I have two possibilities for sharing this evening.  One is on waivers and the difficulty the federal department now faces with deciding how to punish our state for failing to mandate use of state test scores in teacher evaluation or an editorial on the lack of response shown by legislators to the Supreme Court funding mandate under the McCleary decision.  I'll probably at some time do both because of their importance to our work so tonight it will be funding.

In a recent editorial in The Columbian the paper cautions state lawmakers to take note of Supreme Court actions in Kansas and New Jersey related to funding mandates where the Court's have prevailed in forcing action.

As the Legislature's short 2014 session drew to a close recently, news from the heartland served as a reminder that lawmakers' work is not yet finished for this year. By April 30, as instructed by the state Supreme Court, legislators must devise an adequate, specific year-by-year plan for funding K-12 education.

As the court has written in a finger-wag to lawmakers: "We have no wish to be forced into entering specific funding directives to the state, or, as some state high courts have done, holding the Legislature in contempt of court. But, it is incumbent upon the state to demonstrate … concrete action."

I had forgotten about the April 30th timeline for a plan to close the gap to fully fund by 2018 that will takes billions in new revenue.  In the recently ended short session legislators added about $60 million, hardly a dent in this large and imposing gap.  From personal experience this year in conversations with legislators and from what I read I know that there are those that believe the Court has no authority to mandate budget expenditures and are feeling no tension to comply with the Court's order as I blogged about in this post from January of this year.

The editorial suggests that law makers may want to rethink this stand given what recently took place in Kansas where the Court has once again forced the legislature into action and with comments such as this from a former State Supreme Court Justice.

" Former Chief Justice Gerry Alexander said, "If I were the Legislature, I would take it seriously. I think the court laid down the gauntlet, and I think they will have to follow through. Otherwise their decision seems sort of meaningless — 'We want you to abide by the Constitution, but we're not going to do anything if you don't."

I'll be watching for the report at the end of April and wonder once again with the divisions in Olympia how the two houses will be able to reach agreement on what to include in a report.  Having a specific plan for achieving full funding of public education seems an even greater stretch since they can't agree on the dollar amount gap and revenue source to close it.  The editorial closes with a statement capturing the chose in front of our state legislators.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Think teaching is easy . . .

For those that think teaching is easy you may want to refer them to this Larry Ferlazzo post sharing research from a Larry Cuban post and more recent research from a study on the number of decisions teachers make a day and the options available for these decisions.  Below is a summary of the new research that found a staggering number of options in the complex world of teaching.

From using concrete or abstract materials to giving immediate or delayed feedback, there are rampant debates over the best teaching strategies to use. But, in reality, improving education is not as simple as choosing one technique over another. Carnegie Mellon University and Temple University researchers scoured the educational research landscape and found that because improved learning depends on many different factors, there are actually more than 205 trillion instructional options available.

Couple this number of options with the number of decisions that teachers make in a day provides some sense of how complex teaching is.  According to research cited in the Cuban post, at the elementary level teachers have between 1200 and 1500 exchanges with students each day.  A separate study found  .7 decisions per minute during interactive teaching.  This might also be one of the reasons why it can also be a very tiring experience.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Information to study and consider . . .

If you are like me you're interested in how to ensure that young people experience success in post high school learning and work and so you read a lot and get into the "is college worth it" world.  Last month Thomas Friedman had an op-ed piece in the Sunday New York Times focused on how to get a job at Google where a growing percentage of employees without any college education is growing over time.  He hares insights from an interview with Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of people operations for Google - the guy in charge of hiring.

Getting past the part about grades and tests being worthless criteria for hiring he then shares five attributes that Google uses in their hiring process beyond checking for technical coding ability, about half of the jobs.  I'll  share some of the information below, but Friedman provides more in his piece if you are interested.

  1. For every job, though, the No. 1 thing we look for is general cognitive ability, and it’s not I.Q. It’s learning ability. It’s the ability to process on the fly. It’s the ability to pull together disparate bits of information.
  2. The second, he added, “is leadership — in particular emergent leadership as opposed to traditional leadership. Traditional leadership is, were you president of the chess club? Were you vice president of sales? How quickly did you get there? We don’t care. What we care about is, when faced with a problem and you’re a member of a team, do you, at the appropriate time, step in and lead. And just as critically, do you step back and stop leading, do you let someone else? Because what’s critical to be an effective leader in this environment is you have to be willing to relinquish power.”
  3. Humility and ownership. “It’s feeling the sense of responsibility, the sense of ownership, to step in,” he said, to try to solve any problem — and the humility to step back and embrace the better ideas of others.
  4. Bock, it’s “intellectual humility. Without humility, you are unable to learn.” It is why research shows that many graduates from hotshot business schools plateau. “Successful bright people rarely experience failure, and so they don’t learn how to learn from that failure,” said Bock.
  5. The least important attribute they look for is “expertise." 
So, how do we ensure our young people leave with these attributes, not just for potential jobs with Google, but because growing numbers of employers are looking for the same ones.  We heard similar attributes from a Boeing Executive with once again expertise being the least important because they can teach that.  what we once referred to as "soft skills" are taking on more importance.  Look fro our revised Outcomes and Indicators for guidance in providing the learning opportunities to support acquisition and growth of these attributes.

But Bock is saying something important to them, too: Beware. Your degree is not a proxy for your ability to do any job. The world only cares about — and pays off on — what you can do with what you know (and it doesn’t care how you learned it). And in an age when innovation is increasingly a group endeavor, it also cares about a lot of soft skills — leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn and re-learn. This will be true no matter where you go to work.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Affirmed, we get it . . .

A team of administrators and representatives from TEA met today with Scott Poirier focused on increasing our knowledge of the teacher evaluation process and preparing for the first summative evaluations later this spring.  Scott represented WEA as a developer of the model and has a deep knowledge base and experience with the process, models, and intent of TPEP.  He also has experience in our system when he worked in the Snoqualmie School District and participated in some of our administrator staff development.

It was for me another affirming experience.  Our focus on teacher growth aligns with the intent of the authors, something that he spoke to multiple times and complimented us on our practice.  The power in the model is found in the conversations between teacher and evaluator and teacher-to-teacher around supporting growth in instructional practice.

In response to a reflection from Rob on retaining our focus and culture while we work through this new process, Scott labelled it as "negligent" if we were to lose our identity because of this mandate.  He called us a "lighthouse" in the state for our focus on teaching, learning, and growth.  It certainly felt good to hear him speak in those terms about what we are creating on our instructional practice and leadership journey.  I was proud to hear the questions and comments that resulted in Scott continuing to say we get it and how that is not the norm in many other systems in the state.

Over time, TPEP is becoming another tool to support teacher growth.  Just as we have integrated our Classroom 10 model into CEL 5D+, structures in TPEP are leading to more and better conversations in the system.  The many questions still unanswered and the ambiguity built into the model will become more clear over time as we "Tahomize" this process to support our core beliefs.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Door remains open . . .

Sorry about the proliferation of posts on status of the federal waiver, but it is significant and continues to play out in local and national media.  The federal education departments decision in this case will have wide reaching implications for others states struggling to maintain waiver status.  This Politics K-12 post suggests that the door may not be completely closed on continuation of the waiver to NCLB and AYP requirements.  Michele McNeil points to the positive changes, success with struggling schools, and previous recognition at the federal level the state has received as possibly balancing the invitational nature of using student achievement data in teacher evaluations.

But what is a surprise is this: When it comes to the crux of what No Child Left Behind Act waivers are about—school and district accountability—Washington is faring much better than other states.

Even as most other states struggle with the lowest-performing "priority" and "focus" schools, Washington is one of the few that's "meeting expectations" in those areas. Most other NCLB waiver states have really struggled, according to their monitoring reports, to implement School Improvement Grant interventions uniformly across all priority schools. And most states have struggled with focus schools—those with the largest achievement gaps—that fail to link interventions to the reason those schools are struggling in the first place.

In fact, federal officials praise Washington for working collaboratively to raise expectations and set interventions for the lowest-performing schools. And, the state is praised for "developing a collection of instructional, research-based best practices for use by all schools in Washington." 

So, the speculation will continue while we wait for a ruling, but at least the door may be open a bit door a positive outcome.  It would be a positive step for Secretary Duncan to recognize the good work taking place  in our state and recognition that a one size fits all strategy is not always the best.  It is a difficult decision that they face as shred in this Politics K-12 post.

The challenge for the Education Department may be ensuring that Washington state doesn't get off easy—while not disrupting the strong work the state is already doing in intervening in its lowest-performing schools, a weak area of NCLB implementation for many other waiver states.
"It has to be painful enough so that other states see losing a waiver as something that they don't want to go through," said Anne Hyslop, a policy analyst with the New America Foundation. "It can't just be a perfectly consequence-free scenario, but it also needs to reflect some common sense."
Also shared in this post is the complexity of how to implement sanctions in a state that was operating under a waiver.  Will they treat it as year one of sanctions or year two?  Further complicating it is the reality that not all districts in the state will be giving state assessments this year with the transition to Smarter Balanced being piloted by many of us with no building or district feedback.

So should Washington state restart the NCLB clock, putting every school back at square one (which would mean no sanctions at all for at least a year), or should the feds pretend that Washington never got a waiver in the first place, which would mean that more schools would be subject to even more serious sanctions? Hyslop explores the question in this blog post and ultimately comes down on the side of a specially tailored waiver for ex-waiver states.
Whatever the department decides to do will affect a lot of schools, said Chad Aldeman, an associate partner at Bellwether Education Partners in Washington. Seventy-two percent of schools in Washington didn't make AYP in 2010-11, according to Education Department data, he noted. And that percentage has probably only climbed since then, he estimated.
Aldeman, who served in the Education Department under the Obama administration and worked on waivers, also noted that Washington (like most other waiver states) set less ambitious (but arguably more realistic) goals for student proficiency in its waiver. Instead of having to bring 100 percent of students to proficiency by the 2013-14 school year, as all states are required to do under NCLB, Washington just has to get 77 percent of all of its students proficient in reading.
"That is a pretty large jump, and as far as I know, that would be the biggest jump any state had to do with NCLB," Aldeman said.  

Monday, March 17, 2014

Speculation while waiting . . .

Yes, we are in a waiting period to learn whether Secretary Duncan will pull the state's waiver of the impossible AYP requirements for 2014 outlined in NCLB, a mandate that should have been rewritten years ago.  While we wait, we can speculate on our chances based upon what we read in the media and any other information sources we may have including our own perceptions.  Depending upon who you choose to believe you get the idea in this Education Week article.

You can be positive and go with this statement.

"We continue to work with Washington officials on their request for flexibility," said Dorie Nolt, press secretary for U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Or, you can believe it is only a matter of time until it is pulled as Superintendent Dorn believes.

But Dorn said on Friday his office has been in an ongoing conversation with Duncan's office throughout the legislative session.
"I'd surely like to talk to him to see if there's anything we can do," Dorn said, adding, however, "I don't think we'll get a waiver."
Dorn said he didn't know if some part of the waiver was still salvageable.
"I don't know how much flexibility they're talking about. We'll definitely continue to talk," he said.

I find myself leaning toward the loss of the waiver unless something is happening at the federal level with our congressional delegation that will influence the secretary.  I struggled to see how we would retain it even with the change in language to include the word must if local districts maintained autonomy in how the state test data would be used.  In this time of March Madness pools, this might be another short term betting opportunity.  Care to weigh in? 

If you want a concise explanation of the current situation I recommend this KPLU summary.

Where Fate Of Wash. State's Education Waiver Now Stands, And Why It Matters

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Now we wait . . .

As expected, the legislators adjourned late last week in a session that put most big issues off until the next year.  Once again the philosophical gap between leadership in both houses was too difficult to close for agreement on a transportation package and even on a capital budget.  As far as education issues went they put some money on to basic education, but not what the Governor was requesting or most felt was needed to met the requirements in the State Supreme Court's letter to full fund basic education.  Secretary Dorn's frustration is evident in this statement that followed the session closure.

The adjournment of the 2014 Legislature has turned my uncertainty to frustration.
Legislators had three education responsibilities this session. They needed to add the $400 million to basic education. They needed to come up with a plan to meet McCleary by 2018, as the Supreme Court directed in a Jan. 9 order. And they needed to pass a bill to secure our state’s No Child Left Behind waiver.
They did none of those things. In my estimation, they failed in their duty: to the state Constitution, to voters and most important to our public school students.
Unexpectedly, they were not able to reach agreement on a bill to require the use of state test scores in teacher and principal evaluations.  As I shared in earlier posts this was a surprise to me.  With the Governor and Secretary Dorn heavily lobbying for the change it became clear last week with the big push by WEA that it would be difficult to find the votes creating the possibility of losing the federal NCLB waiver.  Now we wait and see what Secretary Duncan will do.  

A big issue that they did take action on was the delay of the 1080 hour requirement until the 2015-16 school year.  In the same bill they altered the requirement to allow for grade level averages that provides some flexibility to continue our staff development Fridays in some format beyond next year.  The bill gained enough votes partly because it also included implementation of the Core 24 graduation requirement with the Class of 2019 by moving money from staff development to support for increasing the credits required for graduation.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Difficult last . . .

Superintendent Dorn
Last night was another last as we celebrated Classified Employees in the sixth annual dinner.  This will be at the top of my list of most difficult lasts as this is an evening that means a lot to me.  People talk about leaving at the right time and leaving a legacy, something I give little attention to as my retirement date grows closer.  One exception would be related to this dinner and to the relationship that we have intentionally created with our PSE employees. I would be proud to be remembered as one individual who cared about and promoted the well being of these important contributors to our work.

In my career I have received a little recognition from outside agencies with two being important to me that I will always cherish.  The first is being recognized by PSE as Honorary Employee of the Year.  It is one of the few times that I have been surprised and that has touched me.  The second is last year's recognition by the Community Center for contributions to the community.  In this case the recognition was especially important because it was presented by Jim Flynn and Dave Pilgrim two individuals I have tremendous respect for.

Last night will be a cherished memory for me.  Barb's words of recognition touched me as she shared her thoughts when I announced my retirement.  Also present was Superintendent Dorn who was the last speaker and truly captured in his comments what is important to me.  I was very appreciative of the effort taken by PSE to have him attend for the entire evening and share in recognizing me.  Many know how I struggle with personal recognition, but last night was different.  I believe it was from the heart and when they stood to thank me it touched me and allowed me to be gracious in accepting their gifts and appreciation.  I take with me this lasting memory, an unbelievably beautiful quilt, and a pictorial reminder of my PSE recognition.

Many thanks for this memory.
Board members - Didem Pierson, Tami Henkel, Mary Jane Glaser, Tim Adam, Supt. Dorn

Yes, I can SMILE

PSE State President, Superintendent Dorn, Barb
Ruthie and Barb

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Making a commitment and reconsidering . . .

I would like to be posting about tonight's PSE Appreciation Dinner, but I'll wait until tomorrow when Kevin will get me some pictures for the post.  Instead, I'll share a decision I made and how two subsequent conversations resulted in wondering and revisiting the decision.

In this post from last week, I shared how competing commitments emerged in a meeting of superintendents and association presidents related to crafting a letter to legislators opposing changes to teacher evaluation to assure continuation of the NCLB waiver.  John Schuster, Tahoma President, asked if I would consider sending a letter from our system since consensus was not possible in the larger group.  It took a few days, but I made the commitment to take a position based on what is best for our system and not what would best benefit all school systems across the state.

Today, we sent this letter to all of our legislative representatives.  Though I understand that loss of the waiver will create issues for school systems across the state, I believe this was the right thing to do.  It will not resonate with most of my colleagues or the professional organizations that represent us, but this is a time to operate from belief not politics.

Later in the afternoon I received a phone call from Senator Mullet wanting to discuss the letter.  He was concerned and wanted to better understand our position.  He also shared some information that opened the door to consider a different context for the change.  Later, at the PSE Dinner, I had an opportunity for a brief conversation with Superintendent Dorn where he shared similar information and more detail that I didn't have that made me wonder.  It also made me wonder if I had done adequate research before commiting to the letter.

Based on these two conversations with men I respect I feel compelled to follow-up today's letter with a second rescinding my request for a no vote on House Bill 2800 while affirming my opposition to Senate Bill 5880.   I'm led to believe that this will result in an implementation delay until the 2017 school year and the locus of control for how we use state or other achievement data will continue to be determined in local bargaining.  Given this, it makes sense for me to reconsider and not add to the anxiety and stress created by the threat of waiver loss from Secretary Duncan.

I also had the chance for a brief conversation with John at the dinner and shared some of my thinking.  I'm not changing my belief that the best decision is no change to the existing law for all the reasons in the letter, but given the assurance of local control in the House Bill, I believe that we can maintain the positive impacts of TPEP without the burden of potentially negative change in how student growth is measured.

If you are looking for a short description of the struggle over this proposed legislative change I would recommend this short article in the  Bellingham Herald

Monday, March 10, 2014

Surprises me . . .

Thought you might be interested in this 2014 study from UNESCO on the daily wages of teachers.   I saw it on the Education by the Numbers Hechinger Report blog.   You may be as surprised as I was to find out that teachers in the United States are the sixth highest paid on a daily basis of the countries in the study. The methodology adjusts salary to reflect domestic purchasing power resulting in the ratings below.

I guess I'm surprised because of what we know about teacher wages in our country and the lack of information from other countries.  Though I find it interesting I don't see the need to analyze it or make comparisons such as the one below from the blog post.

The other interesting thing is that Asian countries, whose students top the international charts on PISA tests, don’t rank highly on this teacher salary chart. The highest paid teachers in Asia are in South Korea, the 21st county on the list.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

I'm wondering . . .

As I catch up on my RSS reading that includes updates on the rapidly approaching last day of the state legislative session it makes me wonder what closed doors are precluding us from knowing our fate.  With the significant issues around the NCLB waiver, the 1080 hour requirement, and supplemental budget differences in the two houses I am sure that education is one of the major topics of conversation behind these closed doors.  Unfortunately, it is also the place where policy makers make trades at the last minute often resulting in decisions that influence our work without the opportunity to engage in the conversation.

After sessions I sometimes wonder how we lost something or how a particular requirement was added when it wasn't even on the radar before the last minute, closed door negotiating sessions?  An example would be when we lost the opportunity to apply for a waiver to use our Classroom 10 instructional model instead of one of the three state approved models.  What will it be this session?  Even with the teacher presence this past week lobbying against changing the language in the evaluation bill from "may" to " must" will they prevail or will the governor/state superintendent coalition prevail?  They have four more days before the scheduled end of the session before we find or before they decide that more time is needed behind closed doors.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Quality the Tahoma way . . .

An article written by Casey Henry was published in Our Kids Our Future.  It is about our We The People team and their preparation to once again represent our state in the national competition in Washington D.C. this April.  This is a rigorous learning opportunity that takes time and commitment on the part of these students beginning in the summer before school starts and on the adults and former students who support their learning.

This is one of many programs where our young people and adults have experienced success and that contribute to the positive reputation that we have in this state.  Teacher and mentor Gretchen Wulfing has earned our respect for building and sustaining success over time with fewer resources than other top ten teams across the country receive.  She will be taking our team to Portland to practice with a team that receives support from a legal firm each year and that are consistently in the top ten nationally.  This support results in their D.C. trip being covered and also provides each of the teams with a personal coach throughout the year and at the national competition.  No fund raising and no needing to stay up until the early morning hours preparing the night before the competition for their team.

Gretchen takes on all responsibilities without complaint and is taking our program to the same level without the monetary and other support provided to many state winners.  She has a team of high school teachers, parents, alumni of the program, and community volunteers that assist her in this work and that deserve our thanks and admiration for their commitment to what is another example of a quality Tahoma program.  Over time we have increased support and are reaching out to the legal community in different ways to seek their support not just for our team, but over time for the state representative.

Thank you Gretchen and your team.  Good luck and know that we are very proud of you.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Competing commitments . . .

Yesterday, John Schuster and I met with the other superintendents and association presidents that form the Center for Collaborative Support (CCS), an organization of five local school systems that formed a number of years ago to identify ways to support each other.  Though there have been common needs, we have struggled identifying structures to provide teachers across the systems with common support.  The exception to this are the Common Core online training opportunities that began last year and continue into this year and before that support provided for new teachers in the professional certification program.

At this meeting one of the topics for discussion was a request to consider writing a joint letter to key legislators currently struggling with the NCLB waiver issue I blogged about many times with latest being this past Monday.  Since that post two bills have emerged, one House Bill 2800 that would require the use of state test scores in teacher evaluation, but delays implementation until the 2017-18 school year.  The second is Senate Bill 5880 that contains the same requirement with implementation in 2014-15.  Similar bills with significantly different impacts making it a much more complex issue for legislators in a short period of time.  This is the same situation that usually results in last minute politicking and bills and/or budgets that surprise us and that result in mandates without the opportunity to engage with legislators around consequences and possible unintended consequences.

The issue is very complex.  Some of the issues resulting in this complexity include the following.

  • If we lose the waiver and districts and buildings are forced to send letters home saying they did not meet the NCLB annual yearly progress it could influence next fall's state elections. 
  • If districts lose control over part of their Title 1 federal funding to outside vendors it could cause the loss of teacher and paraprofessional positions across the state.  
  • The loss of these funds could also then open the door for review and growth of charter schools in the state.  
What for some in the room started as a collaborative effort to influence legislators to not support changes to the evaluation process deteriorated rapidly when superintendents in the room spoke to a position that was forming in our ESD for a letter to the same legislators supporting the House bill.  It emerged for me as a very good example of competing commitments at work.  I shared my struggles with signing a letter of support for either bill because of my personal beliefs and because of the potential negative impact on our system.  When I go to the balcony, however, I can see the bigger picture and how loss of the waiver can have a significant impact on some school systems such as described in this Tacoma News Tribune article and possibly open doors to other negative unintended consequences.

So, once again we are confronted with difficult choices that we must  make as individuals and as representatives of school systems and organizations.  Everyone in that room yesterday is a caring, committed educator from a good school system.  It saddens me that we are placed in this situation by actions from policy makers thousands of miles away who rely on the threat of losing funding to promote their belief in a one size fits all strategy that will not achieve the stated and unstated results of these mandates.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Anyone's guess at this time . . .

Last week I shared the compromise bill that Governor Inslee and Superintendent Dorn are promoting to ensure that the state is removed from "high risk" status and is granted a continuing waiver from NCLB sanctions.  The Governor shared his reasoning in this press release that indicated a comfort level that the compromise bill will meet Secretary Duncan's standard for continuing the waiver.

“This funding is crucial in our efforts to support struggling students, and I think everyone in Olympia agrees we must do everything we can to preserve it,” said Inslee. “I assured Secretary Duncan that if he grants us this waiver, we will ultimately be able to deliver a stronger, more effective evaluation system that better serves our students and educators. He indicated that, given our demonstrable progress on a range of reforms, this is a positive step could provide a satisfactory path forward. ”

In this Education Week Politics K-12 post questions are raised about the certainty of the bill meeting the standard for waiver continuation.  Because the bill postpones implementation of mandating state test scores in teacher evaluations until the 2017-18 school year there are some raising questions.

Here's the thing, though: Waiver states were initially supposed to fully implement their teacher evaluation systems—meaning gauge teachers performance on use them for personnel decisions—by the 2015-16 school year. The Obama administration has allowed states to apply for an extension, to the 2016-17 school year. The flexibility offered by the department so far has only applied to whether the evaluations are used for personnel decisions—not to whether the state gauges teacher performance using local or state tests, which is what Washington would be asking for under Inslee's draft proposal.

And note that, under the draft plan, by the time the schools in Washington state have to start using tests for accountability purposes, the Obama administration will be out of office.

So, even if it passes in Olympia it may still face a rocky road in Washington D.C.  Want to make a guess as to what will happen?  It has become far too political for me to know what will happen, but I lean toward the bill passing and a waiver extension.  I would be surprised if the Governor would float the plan in the legislature without prior approval of the Secretary even though I was very surprised that the original bill did not make it through the Senate.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Remember context . . .

You may have seen this short video of a staff development session in Chicago facilitated by consultants from California and the United Kingdom.  It was included in an article by Valerie Strauss in The Answer Sheet. titled "A video that shows why teachers are going out of their minds.".

In a follow-up she shares reactions including from those that support the process being used in the professional development opportunity that was obviously video taped without the presenters knowledge.  I struggle with the process though we are missing the broader CONTEXT.  This could be an example and practice of choral recitation, a strategy used by some of our teachers, so we should be careful in making judgments from this snippet.  In the article, however, I was drawn to her citing of a 2013 National School Board study of professional development and the report summary she shared.

The reason traditional professional development is ineffective is that it doesn’t support teachers during the stage of learning with the steepest learning curve: implementation. In the same way that riding a bike is more difficult than learning about riding a bike, employing a teaching strategy in the classroom is more difficult than learning the strategy itself. In several case studies, even experienced teachers struggled with a new instructional technique in the beginning (Ermeling, 2010; Joyce and Showers, 1982). In fact, studies have shown it takes, on average, 20 separate instances of practice before a teacher has mastered a new skill, with that number increasing along with the complexity of the skill (Joyce and Showers, 2002).

This validates our focus on feedback, coaching, and peer observations, practices that are being used in our system to support changes in instructional practice.  We recognize the need for support not only in the learning phase , but also in the implementation phase over time.