Collaborate! What I Learned from the NBPTS Policy Briefing
Wednesday, October 6, 7:00AM: You know it's October when stores begin to sell costumes and children begin talking about who or what they want to be for Halloween.
Halloween is still weeks away, but I feel like I'm already wearing a costume. It's my formal dark business suit and shiny red tie that I have named my "Weddings, Funerals, and Occasional Official Education Function Outfit" (WFOOEFO) since that's when I tend to take this costume out of the closet.
For this event, I'm on the Metro rail to Washington DC and my accessories of my man purse, iPhone, headphones, and sunglasses complete my disguise as a cramped suburban warrior commuter.
I'm attending the National Boards for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) Policy Briefing on Capitol Hill, followed by an afternoon NBPTS hosted discussion forum with other teachers serving in various roles in other agencies.
The purpose of the NBPTS Policy Briefing is to highlight the work NBPTS has done with states and districts. The panel includes classroom teachers, school administrators, NBPTS officials, a governor, and a congresswoman.
In the audience are members from various professional organizations such as the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, National School Boards Association, teacher fellows with various organizations, etc.
Of all the excellent issues raised on the panel, two questions stood out most.
Mr. Aguerrebere, president of NBPTS, asked, "How do you make good practice, standard practice?"
Dr. Weast, Superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools, raised the challenge: How do you go to scale with quality, and be sustainable?
These are difficult and complex questions; yet, I think that the answers will come from collaborative efforts between educators and various government, professional, and private organizations.
Here's what NBPTS has to offer as an "organizational collaborator":
1) NBPTS knows how to define good teaching. The NBPTS process provides multiple measures of effective teaching that integrates student learning, professional development, and teacher leadership. Even if teacher evaluations and accountability move to value added assessments (which in itself are a controversial issue), most teachers teach in subjects that do not have current standardized tests. So we need something more beyond test scores to define good teaching across subjects, grade levels, and local school context.
2) NBPTS has an established framework to identify and promote good teaching. The NBPTS candidacy process and Take One provide a framework for teachers to discuss and share their teaching practices. As teacher cohorts in schools do Take One together, they can have powerful conversations about student learning, similar to the kinds of productive conversations in effective professional learning communities, but with a richer lens to view student learning beyond test scores and data.
3) Most importantly, NBPTS has developed partnerships. NBPTS is visible in several US Department of Education initiatives such being a recipient of the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) Grant and has partnered with organizations such as the Bill Gates Foundation to identify and measure effective teaching. Many states have mentioned the NBPTS process in their Race to the Top applications. Clearly, the NBPTS process is a respected vehicle for improving education.
As the NBPTS standards and processes possibly become integrated in teacher education programs, advanced degrees (such as the Advanced Studies in Teaching and Learning at George Mason University), and teacher evaluation, this expertise can be brought to a level of scale that was not possible had the National Board decided to work alone.
As much as I enjoyed the morning presentations, I enjoyed the opportunity to talk with other teachers in other organizations even more during the afternoon meeting.
As a Teacher Ambassador Fellow, I'm working with the US Department of Education. Across the table are two teachers working with the National Education Association. There are several Einstein Fellows with the Triangle Coalition for Science and Technology who are working in several government agencies such as the National Science Foundation, National Aeronautic and Space Administration, and Department of Energy. There are also teachers from the Tacoma Education Association and the Arizona K12 Teaching Center.
Despite our affiliations with different organizations, we all, as teachers, share a common language about education and student needs. I appreciated the level of constructive dialogue that educators working closely with other stakeholders can bring to the table. As educators in the field, we can have the honest and difficult conversations about teacher evaluation, assessment, and student learning that is not always possible in the public forum that quickly becomes polarized and paralyzed.
I wish there were more organizations that integrated the teacher perspective and the voices of classroom teachers.
I wish there were more opportunities for these embedded teachers to have these types of discussions between organizations.
Then, I think the policy debates would more productive. The challenge of "making effective practice, standard practice" and "bringing quality to scale" would benefit from hearing more from those who will be the implementers of any proposed solutions.
As I think about the events of this day, I'm encouraged by the collaborations that are occurring between the National Board and other organizations.
I'm hopeful that there will be more opportunities for teachers to collaborate and amplify the teacher voice within these institutions and with others.
So, whenever and wherever you can, get involved in policy and opportunities to work with educational organizations. Apply for the fellowships I mentioned in this blog post. Push for more organizations to embed teachers in their decision making.
As teachers, our business suits should not feel like costumes that are rarely used, and we should wear these outfits more often other than for the rare weddings, funerals, and the occasional official education functions.