Archive for Human Capital

An update to Having a teaching force look like the students they serve

Apparently, I was late to the game seeing the proposed legislation in CT, and luckily other education reform advocates (who focus specifically on CT) were already at work proposing additional legislation that does a better job taking a multifaceted approach to increasing the minority teaching force.

AN ACT CONCERNING MINORITY TEACHER RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION. requires the state to work on developing reciprocity agreements with all states (not just the neighboring states who have some of the same representation issues that we do), and provides options for student loan reimbursements and mortgage assistance. In addition, AN ACT ESTABLISHING A PILOT PROGRAM TO PROVIDE INCENTIVES FOR EDUCATORS TO LIVE IN CERTAIN MUNICIPALITIES, includes the creation of a housing pilot program to develop affordable housing for educators. I particularly appreciate that the latter bill breaks down the silos in state government and requires collaboration between the Departments of Housing and Education. 

The combination of these bills is more likely to result in actually increasing the number of minority teachers in CT, as opposed to a bill that looks good on the surface, but doesn’t actually have much of an impact in individual buildings. The big question remains, does the state have funds to make what’s proposed in these bills a reality? But, if it works and results in increased learning and engagement in students, how can we not make such a commitment?

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Having a teaching force look like the students they serve

While an effective teacher is desired for all classrooms, we know that teachers who look like their students has a positive impact on student learning (see this article from The 74 for links to several studies).

While many districts are taking steps to recruit more minority teachers and leaders (including alternate routes to certifications for paraprofessionals), states are getting in the game as well. Recently in Connecticut, Gov. Lamont advocated for legislation to extend mortgage assistance and student loan forgiveness programs to graduates of historically black colleges and hispanic-serving institutions, and to enhance reciprocity agreements with other states (EdWeek, proposed legislation, CTPost). These steps, in addition to existing efforts to increase the number of quality teachers in CT should help improve the ratios of minority teachers in the state, and especially in districts with high percentages of minority students.

While it looks good on the surface, the legislation could be strengthened as there are a limited number hispanic-serving institutions (especially in the Northeast) and Latino students are the fastest growing demographic in many communities. The most updated list of Hispanic-Serving Institutions that I could find was from 2007 [and are mostly based in Puerto Rico, California, and Texas (1 in CT)], but there was an eligible list from 2016 (eligible but not necessarily approved), and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) also posts a list of HSI’s (2 in CT), but they may not be approved by the U.S. Department of Education as an official HSI. Bottom line, the legislation is helpful, but if it’s not very feasible for students to attend Historically Black Colleges or Universities or Hispanic-Serving Institutions, how helpful is it?

Even beyond these efforts, ensuring that teachers and staff are culturally responsive to students, regardless of their own cultural lenses, is also important. Teachers who share a racial/ethnic background with their students, still need to be culturally responsive. We all have multiple cultural lenses which overlap, and sometimes even conflict, with each other. These lenses might include our upbringing (family composition, urban/suburban/rural), gender identity/expression, ancestry, skin color (as perceived by others), languages, etc. These lenses form our own identities and how we interact with others, but they also influence how others interact with us as well. All teachers (and all of us) should work to acknowledge our own lenses and the lenses of others. (For more on culturally responsive teaching, check out this publication from the Center on School Turnaround.)

Increasing the diversity of our teaching force is one important step. Ensuring that the teaching force is highly effective AND culturally responsive are the crucial subsequent steps.

 

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New program for progressive district leaders

I’m delighted to announce a new professional learning opportunity for district superintendents and deputy/assistant superintendents – the Purpose to Practice Academy (P2P Academy).

Progressive district superintendents and their deputies/assistants often seek out their own professional learning opportunities to push their thinking, learn about innovative approaches, and problem solve issues of practice. While state education leaders and large districts have more access to experts in the field, small to mid-size districts often lack access to education reform experts and information on how to apply research and promising practices to their own practice.

The continuous improvement cycle can be applied to all districts (and all organizations). There is always room to provide more efficient and effective services, supports, and structures.

The Purpose to Practice Academy is a virtual learning network for progressive district superintendents and their deputies. The virtual academy, includes a series of six 2-hour webinars, off-line peer support on a problem of practice, and an e-newsletter with current research and promising practices.

The inaugural cohort will feature 6 sessions between late October 2018 and late April 2019. Additional or rolling cohorts may be added, dependent upon interest. For more information – click here. Completed applications are due by Monday, September 24, 2018.

Questions and completed applications can be emailed to academy@corbetteducation.com. I look forward to seeing how this program will evolve and serve district leaders across the country.

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Closing achievement gaps in diverse and low-poverty schools – an analysis

Despite millions of dollars in funding to support closing achievement gaps, many efforts fail. After more than a decade of working in this field and seeing the same cycles continue, I would claim that the efforts often fail for a variety of reasons, including: a lack of root cause analysis, not aligning solutions to the root causes, lack of structural and systemic changes, and failure to implement with fidelity (note- all areas in which the adults are responsible).

A new report, Closing Achievement Gaps in Diverse and Low-Poverty Schools, from the Oak Foundation and Public Impact unpacks some of these issues. There are so many good pieces of information in this this report. So many, that I can’t summarize them. This report is a must read, as it examines systemic issues, structural/technical implementation issues, and connects to policies and practice.

The report highlights why closing achievement gaps and fighting for equity is such hard work. It’s not a quick fix to buy a program or bring in a consultant, but it requires a multi-faceted approach with a toolbox of programs, strategies, and changes. It requires going through the phases of the continuous improvement cycle, developing strong goals, building out an implementation plan, and monitoring (and making mid-course corrections) along the way. To do all of this requires strong capable leaders who can push change, while also engaging with the stakeholders to communicate the why and how. This work is not for the faint of heart.

Some of the findings and statements that I find particularly relevant include:

  • “Today, the achievement gap between low-income students and their more affluent peers is approximately twice as large as the racial achievement gap between white and African-American children.” (pg 8)
  • “Moreover, the income achievement gap for reading between children born in the mid-1990s to late 1990s is nearly 40 percent larger than the gap among children born in the 1970s.” (pg 8)
  • “Many school systems continue to operate discipline systems that suspend and expel students of color at higher rates than white students. Large-scale studies have shown that this cannot be explained by differential rates of serious infractions. Year after year, these systems keep students of color out of classrooms, perpetuating inequities.” (pg 9)
  • “Given the deep roots of achievement gaps, districts will not find a quick fix or a simple checklist of policies and practices that will close them. Instead, addressing achievement gaps successfully requires committing deeply to equity, engaging with the community to understand its needs and perspectives, taking persistent and complete action steps to change, and being accountable to the community for equitable outcomes. Only within a context of commitment, engagement, action, and accountability can districts expect the research-based policies and practices we outline below to have a meaningful and lasting impact.” (pg 14)

In conclusion, the authors write that “a district must be willing to commit to equity, engage families and the community, take a complete set of actions to fulfil the commitment, and embrace accountability for success” (pg 22). The authors are on point throughout the piece and all district and state education professionals who aspire to close any and all achievement gaps should would benefit from the findings in this piece.

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Residency models for teacher training

We know that on the ground training with close monitoring and mentorship is more likely to produce better professionals, yet we still see this done in isolated communities. This recent post on bringing the medical residency model to education reminded how badly this is needed and how much our routes to teaching certification still need to change to reflect the realities of education and our economy. I saw a similar model when visiting Ann Arbor, Michigan a few years ago to write a case study  on their efforts to close achievement gaps. In Ann Arbor, the university held classes for pre-service teachers at the school and concentrated the student teachers within a small number of schools. This brought exemplar teachers into the school on a regular basis, shifted the overall approach to one of continuous learning, and impacted the pre-service teachers as well as the veterans. I also this type of approach when in England learning about their education systems as well. We must also recognize that in today’s economy, some folks may enter the teaching field mid-career, and others will move on to different sectors after a few years. Leaders in Michigan are clearly thinking creatively and we all must think out of the box to recruit the best and brightest into education, to provide them the skills they need to lead a classroom, and the supports they need to thrive in the future.

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The importance of a good principal

There are so many good pieces in this video clip from EdWeek. It’s only a few minutes and I recommend the quick watch. We know how important good strong principals are – they foster collaborative relationships between students, they set high expectations for staff, they care for students (and the students know it), they are open and receptive to parents and families, they understand how to improve instruction and support teachers to do so, and so much more. We also know that traditional principal training programs don’t often teach principals how to do all these things (in addition to the business and operational aspects of running a school that are also often lacking in new principals). Strong mentor programs and embedded professional development opportunities for principals are key to supporting new principals. Providing appropriate administrative and operational support for principals is also a way to ensure that the principals can focus and prioritize the instructional, systemic, and cultural pieces of a school that are so very important.

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Cause and effect of principals rating teachers accurately

Despite years of SEAs encouraging/requiring/begging districts and school principals to rate teachers more accurately, two recent studies (here and here) highlighted in an EdWeek article show that there has been little improvement in this area. One of the pullout quotes in the article is from a principal in Delaware. She states, “Somebody’s job is in your hands.” This statement is accurate and teacher evaluations should be taken very seriously, but as a principal, the futures of hundreds of students are in your hands every day. While a low rating could potentially cost an educator his/her job, the system should be designed to support that person improve over a specified time period. But, we must get back to the impact on the students.

Not accurately rating a teacher for ineffective performance (if warranted) makes it more difficult 1) for subsequent principals to provide accurate ratings (i.e. “I’ve never been rated poorly, this isn’t accurate!”) 2) to obtain the professional development that may be needed for that teacher, 3) to remove that teacher if performance doesn’t improve, and 4) most importantly, an inaccurate rating could harm classrooms of students for years. Based on these reports (in addition to the original TNTP report), as well as working schools and districts identified for performance issues, it it clear that simply requiring principals to rate teachers more effectively isn’t the solution.

This is a multifaceted issue and requires deep analysis and a number of solutions. Some of the areas that must be examined for root cause and possible solutions include: providing appropriate training for principals on both assessing the quality of instruction AND providing constructive feedback to staff, streamlining paperwork burdens (so that it is easier for principals to rate teachers ineffectively and provide them services), supporting principals with PD provision for the lower rated staff, providing high quality professional development to support staff that are rated ineffective (so that they can improve in a reasonable time frame), providing additional instructional support to the students in classrooms with teachers rated ineffective (so that they continue learning), and increasing the teacher pipeline (so that if ineffective teachers choose to leave or are removed, that there are people to replace them).

Some educators that I’ve met with over the years have also proposed tying a principal’s evaluation to the effectiveness of their teachers (i.e. Are the teachers improving their proficiency and effectiveness? Do the teacher ratings correlate with the performance/trajectory of the student body?). I fully agree that teachers should not solely be accountable for student performance. All of the adults in the education system play a critical role and should be accountable for how their actions impact student learning.

These areas can be complicated, filled with additional barriers, and are not easy or quick wins. But, putting the most effective teachers in front of our students should be an absolute priority in every single classroom across the country.

Ann Arbor, Michigan and New Haven, CT also recently revamped their teacher evaluation policies and interviews with staff from both of those cities demonstrated promising results.

 

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Raising the bar for teachers

Many incoming teacher candidates will now be expected to take and pass a performance-based assessment, which requires the demonstration of planning, instructional and analytical skills. While states may choose to require the test for all teaching candidates, individual states will also determine the cut scores for passing. A state could set a high bar, which would force schools of education to step up to the plate and ensure teachers are adequately prepared to 1) teach content and 2) know how to teach. A state could also choose a low bar and little change would result – with the exception of placing undue stress on teacher candidates who study for a test that their universities don’t prepare them for.

There is a great deal of backlash against any type of performance-based pay system in education, yet there is little outcry against inadequate schools of education. Personally, I would be livid if I attended a 4-year college, paid $100k+ for a BA in education that would supposedly teach me to teach, accepted a job, and then once in the classroom realized that I had no idea how to actually teach. The quality of teachers is one of the biggest factors in a student’s performance, and our (underperforming and inadequate) schools of education hurt the entire education system. Until we significantly increase the expectations for teachers who enter the teaching profession, and ensure that training programs (university-based or alternative) teach true classroom management and instructional skills (in addition to content-specific knowledge), our potential for improving education stagnates.

As some states mandate this new assessment, we must pay attention to the cut scores states set, and how colleges of education alter their teaching training programs as a result of the increased pressure. It will also be useful to examine the results of candidates who were traditionally trained (university-based) or trained through alternative programs (TFA, urban teacher residencies, etc.).

NB. There are many good (and great schools of education) out there, just not enough of them.

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AmeriCorps to assist with turnaround efforts

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) announced $15 million of available funds to place AmeriCorps members in persistently low-achieving schools. The additional capacity from the corps members will assist school turnaround efforts and the grants are designed to:

  • target parent and family engagement and student learning time;
  • improve school safety, attendance, and discipline;
  • address students’ social, emotional, and health needs;
  • accelerate students’ acquisition of reading and mathematics knowledge and skills; and,
  • increase graduation and college enrollment rates.

ED and CNCS will award School Turnaround AmeriCorps grants to approximately 650 AmeriCorps members each year for three years, at an estimated 60 schools in urban and rural areas across the country. Local school districts, states, public or private non-profit organizations, IHEs, FBOs, and consortia of any of the above groups are invited to apply. Notice of intent to apply is due April 2. Applications are due April 23rd.

Turnaround schools need as much additional capacity as they can get – as long as the additional capacity is high-quality and aligned to the rest of the turnaround initiative. Bringing in AmeriCorps members to turnaround schools may also help alleviate some of the staff burnout often associated with turnarounds. A note of caution is that any school using the new School Turnaround AmeriCorps program must plan for the end of the grant and build up internal staff capacity when the additional support ends.

For more information:

 

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A reminder of the potential

Today’s Chicago Tribune includes a story of a student who in most cases would be overlooked. He had the tenacity to commit to school, despite being homeless, but he was also provided a variety of opportunities that put him where he is today – a highly qualified applicant for some of the most prestigious universities in the country. Kudos to Lane for being determined, kudos to his mother for providing whatever support was needed, and kudos to Lane’s teachers and mentors (past and present) who saw through the statistics and circumstances.

This story is a stark reminder of the potential so many students have, but whose skills and dreams are not nurtured, encouraged, or refined. The power teachers have to “discover” kids like this is truly amazing and can change the course of a child’s (and a family’s) life.

From homeless shelter to elite science fair

By Bridget Doyle, Chicago Tribune reporterJanuary 25, 2013

In March, Lane Gunderman, a senior at the University of Chicago Lab High School, will fly to Washington to compete for one of the nation’s most prestigious high school science awards. The 18-year-old is one of 40 finalists — out of more than 1,700 applicants — for the Intel Science Talent Search.

Such an achievement may not seem unusual for a student at an elite private school. But Gunderman’s journey to reach this point has been anything but typical.

Six years ago, he and his family were homeless and living in a crowded North Side shelter. Schoolwork, he says, is what helped him get by.

“There wasn’t much to do at the shelter, and there was very little privacy,” he said Thursday. “I focused my attention on schoolwork — especially since lights had to be out at 8 p.m.”

Through his tenacity in the classroom, Gunderman, who now lives in an Uptown apartment with his mother and younger sister, has found a niche in the intellectual hive of Hyde Park.

“Lane was brought into a completely different part of the city and culture; he started out a little introverted and shy,” Lab School Assistant Principal Asra Ahmed said. “He’s an incredibly amazing kid that’s never asked for any special treatment — even when he should have. He rose to the challenge of this school and has done exceptionally well.”

Gunderman said his family has been “poor or extremely poor” for his whole life. They always managed to scrape by, but in 2006, Gunderman, his parents and two siblings lost their apartment in Rogers Park.

Over the next several months, they stayed with a relative in a pop-up trailer and moved around the Chicago area.

When his parents divorced that same year, the bottom fell out. One night, his father dropped the rest of the family at a North Side police station and drove away. Gunderman and the others slept on a bench in the police station, later moving to a temporary overnight shelter.

The family spent the next year or so in various homeless shelters on the North Side. Previously home-schooled by their mother, Gunderman and his siblings enrolled in public school for the first time.

At Burley Elementary School in Lakeview, Gunderman gained the attention of teachers for his dedication to schoolwork. He received high grades and did well on tests, leading teachers to suggest he apply to the U. of C. Lab High School.

Gunderman’s application to Lab and back story stood out, Ahmed said. He was accepted and offered a full scholarship from the Malone Foundation, a group that provides educational options for gifted children.

After a year of living in homeless shelters, Gunderman and his family managed to stay in various apartments. And after 31/2 years at Lab School, Gunderman is thriving both academically and socially.

He was accepted last year into the school’s Summer Link Science Research Program, which helps place science-focused students in real lab settings. Gunderman was able to work with Greg Engel, an associate professor of chemistry at the University of Chicago, in a lab where his Intel Science Talent Search project was born.

Last summer, Gunderman joined a working team of scientists and graduate students on a project that “explains how photosynthesis uses quantum physics,” Engel said.

After just a few weeks of working together, Engel said he realized Gunderman’s immense potential in the field.

“Lane jumped into a difficult project in a complex system. It was great fun watching him tackle big questions in the field,” Engel said. “He’s so driven and talented. I think he’s someone with potential to be a truly spectacular scientist.”

Over the summer, Gunderman created a computer simulation of his project, along with an in-depth analysis of the work. That was submitted to Intel in November, and this week he found out he was one of 40 finalists and could win up to $100,000.

“It’s the dream of a science teacher to see someone achieve what Lane has,” said Lab School biology teacher Sharon Housinger, who had encouraged Gunderman to apply to the Summer Link Program.

Gunderman has big plans for his future. He has applied to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago and is also looking at schools like Harvard, Princeton and the California Institute of Technology.

The trip to Washington, though, will be his first time aboard an airplane. He admitted he’s a little nervous about that.

“It’ll be an adventure to my next adventure,” he said.

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