All Discussion Topics

  • Are Schools Making the Most of Classroom Observations?

    Are Schools Making the Most of Classroom Observations? Teacher observations play a key part in teacher evaluations, often counting for a significant portion of final scores.

    However, some recent research suggests that classroom observations are more effective when they are used as part of a formative process to generate reflection (versus high-stakes evaluations). And while classroom observations in the United States tend to be conducted by principals and external evaluators, other countries have moved to incorporate teacher-to-teacher feedback loops.

    What role should peer observation and feedback play in professional development and evaluation? How might current evaluation structures be modified (if necessary) to allow these kinds of changes? See Posts >
  • Are Teachers OK With Opt-Outs?

    Are Teachers OK With Opt-Outs? While still proportionately small, the standardized testing opt-out movement has gained prominence this spring, with many parents in some areas deciding to pull their students from common-core-aligned assessments, due to concerns about overtesting and the uses of the results. As a teacher, how do you feel about the opt-out movement? In your view, is it helping or hurting in terms of bringing attention to important issues teaching and learning? Has it impacted your work to any degree? How has standardized testing in general—or the backlash against it—affected your school's culture and your approach to instruction? See Posts >
  • Are You Prepared for the Common Core Standards?

    Are You Prepared for the Common Core Standards?

    To date, all but four states have adopted the Common Core State Standards, designed to prepare students for success in college and the workforce. The common standards aim to increase rigor, critical thinking, and communication skills in America's classrooms.

    Many believe the standards offer unprecedented opportunities for teachers to collaborate on refining instruction. But states and districts are struggling with the tension between imminent plans for Common Core implementation and awareness that teachers need professional development and resources to adjust instruction.

    As a practicing teacher, what are your hopes for implementation of the Common Core Standards? How will your own planning and instruction change? What kinds of support and professional development will be necessary for transition to the standards to be successful? What should district and building administrators understand about that transition? How do you think the Common Core Standards will (or will not) help teachers better prepare students for the future?

    See Posts >
  • As Schools Adapt to Common Core, What Should Be Taken Off Teachers' Plates?

    As Schools Adapt to Common Core, What Should Be Taken Off Teachers' Plates?

    Teachers in many states face a daunting challenge as they work to integrate the Common Core State Standards into their instruction and curricula. The task requires educators to adjust some methodologies, find and incorporate new materials, and adapt to new expectations for how student demonstrate their learning.

    What, in your view, could school systems take off your plate to help you focus more on your instructional priorities in connection with the new standards (or other pressing teaching initiatives)? What institutionally entrenched policies or other aspects of your job get in the way? What responsibilities could policymakers or administrators feasibly shift away from teachers during this transition? How could schools create more time for teachers to work together to align instruction and address student learning needs?

    See Posts >
  • Building Teacher Leadership

    Building Teacher Leadership Teachers and administrators are increasingly working to create structures in school systems that facilitate teacher leadership, as described in a new special report from Education Week Teacher. Yet the definition of teacher leadership isn't universal, leaving some school leaders unsure of whether teacher leadership initiatives truly empower teachers or fall short.

    What does true teacher leadership look like? Describe your teacher leadership journey and a project you led. What supports helped you lead the project? What obstacles did you face? How can school systems empower teachers as leaders to improve schools? See Posts >
  • Can Teacher Shortages Be Solved?

    Can Teacher Shortages Be Solved? As has been widely reported, a number of states/districts have been dealing with teacher shortages this year, particularly in high-demand subject areas like math, science, and special education. Some have resorted to emergency measures to try to bring new educators into their schools.

    In your view as a teacher, what steps (allowing for certain budgetary constraints) could states and districts take to address teacher shortages over the long term? How could they improve the teacher pipeline to bring talented and diverse individuals into the profession, and encourage them to work in areas and fields they are needed in most? And what can schools do to improve retention rates among existing teachers? What has worked for your school? See Posts >
  • Can Teaching's 'Revolving Door' Be Stopped?

    Can Teaching's 'Revolving Door' Be Stopped? It's a question that has bedeviled school systems across the country and become central to education-policy discussions at all levels: Why do so many great teachers leave the profession?

    Several recent studies point to the quality of school leaders--specifically principals--as the most important factor in teacher retention. Unsatisfactory working conditions, low pay, lack of professional--advancement opportunities, and a recent narrow focus on testing are also commonly cited as reasons teachers leave.

    What factors have been most influential in your decision to continue teaching? More broadly, what specific policy changes do you think could help keep other great teachers in the classroom? What advice would you give to education leaders and policymakers on sustaining a high-quality teaching force over the long term? See Posts >
  • Career Path Dilemmas

    Career Path Dilemmas

    Traditionally, the career path set for most teachers has been flat. If a teacher wanted to move ahead professionally, he or she generally had to leave the classroom.

    In recent years, however, that paradigm has come into question, in part due to evolving teacher expectations and pressures on school systems to leverage "human capital." At various points around the country, new "hybrid" roles have been developed for master teachers, teacher-coaches, or teacher leaders. In these roles, teachers may spend part of the day in their own classroom and the remaining time observing other teachers, analyzing student data, leading professional learning communities, or performing other leadership tasks. Separate tracks for short-term teachers and "career" educators have also been considered.

    As a practicing teacher, are you satisfied with the career-advancement opportunities currently available to you? In your view, how could teacher career paths and school-staffing arrangements be transformed to improve learning in the 21st century and to better accommodate the talents and ambitions of educators?

    See Posts >
  • Design Your Dream Teaching Job

    Design Your Dream Teaching Job According to the recently released MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, more than half of teachers are at least somewhat interested in taking on hybrid roles that combine classroom teaching and other responsibilities in their school or district, with 23 percent saying they are "extremely" or "very" interested in this option. Meanwhile, 51 percent of teachers currently hold leadership positions in their schools, such as "department chair, instructional resource, teacher mentor, or leadership team member."

    Why do you think teachers are so interested in work that occurs outside the classroom? What would your dream school position--hybrid or otherwise--look like? Why would it be better for both you and students? What would need to change, in terms of mindsets, systems, etc., to make that job a reality? See Posts >
  • Developing Grit in the Classroom

    Developing Grit in the Classroom In his much-referenced book How Children Succeed, author Paul Tough draws on dozens of studies that point to perseverance, "grit," and other non-cognitive skills as critical factors in students' success. At the same time, researchers like James Heckman of the University of Chicago have demonstrated that living in poverty can affect children's development of these skills. What role do you think traits like grit play in academic achievement? What steps are you taking in your classroom this year to help high-needs students to build such non-cognitive skills? What steps do you think administrators should take? Policymakers? See Posts >
  • Do Teachers Need More ‘Grit’?

    Do Teachers Need More ‘Grit’?

    In recent months, the term "grit"—tenacity, resilience, or perseverance—has been popping up in discussions about student success. Many researchers and educators argue that grit is a critical factor in students' academic performance. Now, a new study of novice educators in high-needs schools suggests that teachers with higher levels of "grit" may be more effective than their peers—and less likely to leave the classroom.

    How do this study's findings compare to your own experiences as an educator? How important is "grit" to teacher effectiveness? Should school leaders and policymakers seek to hire teachers with more "grit" or focus their attention on other factors affecting teacher retention and effectiveness? If you were a policymaker, which would you prioritize?

    See Posts >
  • Do Today’s Classrooms Need Remodeling?

    Do Today’s Classrooms Need Remodeling?

    In a recent Huffington Post article, Texas elementary school teacher Emily E. Smith argued that classroom-design conventions are in need of a major upgrade, saying that regimented, lecture-style layouts hinder the possibilities for student learning today. To foster greater student creativity and collaboration, she suggested, classrooms need to be more open and varied. A number of schools, meanwhile, have begun experimenting with new classroom-design concepts—including, for example, breakaway learning studios and comfortable collaborative spaces—to facilitate learning arrangements that combine face-to-face instruction with online learning and research.

    What design changes would you like to see in classrooms? What sorts of spaces do teachers need to meet the learning needs of today's students and take advantage of technological and curricular changes? What are the risks of transforming classroom layouts? What do you think successful classrooms will look like 10 years from now?

    See Posts >
  • Engaging and Communicating With Parents: A Teacher Guide

    Engaging and Communicating With Parents: A Teacher Guide In teacher preparation programs, soft skills for teachers—such as building relationships with parents—have been traditionally underrepresented. Despite the importance of involving parents as learning partners, many new teachers are unprepared to interact with parents.

    How can teacher preparation programs better train teachers to interact with parents? How can colleagues and administrators help? What strategies have you found to be effective in engaging and communicating with parents? See Posts >
  • Has Online PD Changed Your Teaching?

    Has Online PD Changed Your Teaching?

    This month marks Connected Educator Month, an initiative launched by the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education and numerous participating organizations to draw attention to online professional networks and communities of practice in education. According to recent research, a growing number of K-12 teachers (though still less than half) are turning to social-networking platforms, online courses, and virtual learning communities for professional-development opportunities.

    What kinds of online platforms do you use in your professional learning? Has participating in online learning networks changed your teaching practice and your view of professional development? Could networked learning have a potentially transformative effect on teachers and schools —or is the hype overblown? How can state and school PD systems do a better job of supporting teachers’ participation in online learning communities?

    See Posts >
  • How Can Schools Help New Teachers?

    How Can Schools Help New Teachers?

    New data show that new teachers make up a significant segment of the U.S. teaching force, making their ability to thrive (and stay) in the classroom an increasingly critical issue for schools.

    In your view, how well do schools support new teachers? What could they, along with experienced teachers, do to help new teachers better adapt to the profession? What, in your experience, makes a difference?

    This discussion is part of a special report on new teacher support, produced with support from the Joyce Foundation.

    See Posts >
  • How Can Teachers Develop Their Own Social-Emotional Skills?

    How Can Teachers Develop Their Own Social-Emotional Skills?

    Before teachers can truly develop their students’ social and emotional competencies, they need to be able to look inward and regulate their own emotions. This is an especially important skill given the stresses of teaching that contribute to the field’s high burnout rate. In an effort to keep teachers in the classroom, many schools and education researchers have focused on the importance of self-care and social-emotional learning for teachers.

    In your view, what social-emotional competencies do teachers need to have in order to be an effective classroom leader? What are the best ways to prevent teacher burnout? And how can schools support teachers in creating a healthy classroom climate for everyone, including themselves? How can teachers pass on those social-emotional skills to students?

    This discussion is part of a special report on teachers' social-emotional competencies, produced with support from the NoVo Foundation.

    See Posts >
  • How Can Teachers Influence Decisionmakers?

    How Can Teachers Influence Decisionmakers?

    This spring, teachers across the country have spoken out about a range of education issues: benchmark MAP tests, school closures, implementation of the Common Core State Standards, the use of value-added scores for teacher evaluations. Teachers have found a variety of ways to reach out to policymakers, school leaders, and their communities to advance awareness about education issues—from blogs to boycotts to meetings at the statehouse.

    What do you think are some of the most effective ways for teachers to advocate for their profession? Have you advocated for students or other teachers recently and, if so, what strategies have you found most successful in influencing decision makers? What tools, resources, or organizations would you recommend for other teachers looking to get involved in advocacy work?

    See Posts >
  • How Can We Make Teacher Recertification Meaningful?

    How Can We Make Teacher Recertification Meaningful?

    Every five years, most teachers have to go through the process of meeting their state’s continuing education requirements to renew their teaching licenses. But for many educators, the ritual is more about paying a fee and proving they’ve sat through enough hours of coursework than it is about meaningful professional growth.

    In your view, what requirements would you add—or changes would you make—to certificate renewal so that it better supported teachers’ professional learning?

    This discussion is part of a special report on teacher recertification, produced with support from the Joyce Foundation.

    See Posts >
  • How Has Technology Changed Your Teaching?

    How Has Technology Changed Your Teaching?

    Many experts believe that advances in information technology have the potential to transform classroom teachingfor example, by providing alternatives to the standard lecture format and by giving students immediate access to a wealth of high-quality interactive resources and tools. But schools have been inconsistent in implementing instructional technology initiatives, evidence of effectiveness has been murky, and some teachers have been resistant to wholesale efforts to re-orient instruction around computers.

    In what ways have you found digital technology transformative in your students' learning? What opportunities and challenges do high-tech advances present to schools and teachers today? What advice would you give policymakers or administrators on implementing classroom technology? What role should teachers have in developing classroom technology and apps? What do you think the classrooms of the future will look like?

    See Posts >
  • How Should Teachers Be Paid?

    How Should Teachers Be Paid? Arguments around changes to teacher compensation have been heating up all across the country. In Tennessee, for example, education officials just put a new plan in place that eliminates annual step raises given solely for experience and advanced degrees, asking districts to also consider factors such as test scores and whether a teacher works in a high-needs school. The state's teachers' union has come out firmly against it, saying it could lower teaching requirements and overall teacher pay.

    Meanwhile, places like The Equity Project Charter School have experimented with innovative approaches to compensation, including starting teachers’ salaries at $125,000.

    How do you think teachers should be compensated? Should "effectiveness," leadership, degrees, and/or years served be part of the equation? If so, how? To what extent is differentiation in teacher pay feasible? How could teacher compensation change to better support student learning? See Posts >
  • How Would You Change Teacher Prep?

    How Would You Change Teacher Prep?

    In an Education Week Commentary last year, Linda Darling-Hammond wrote that teachers "reach the profession through a smorgasbord of training options, from excellent to awful." Regardless of your stance on the efficacy of alternative routes vs. traditional college-based programs vs. residencies, there's no denying that all teacher preparation programs have room for improvement.

    Looking back, what do you wish you'd learned or experienced during your preservice preparation? In what areas do you think teachers tend to have deficits when they first take on classrooms of their own? What aspects of your teacher preparation have you found particularly helpful in your own teaching practice? In your opinion, how will teacher prep programs need to change over the next few decades to meet evolving student and school needs?

    See Posts >
  • Improving Access to the Best Teachers

    Improving Access to the Best Teachers Disadvantaged schools have long struggled to recruit and retain high-performing teachers. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Education unveiled a strategy under which states will have to submit plans for distributing top teachers among the neediest schools. Yet historically, states have had little success with such teacher-equity plans.

    How can school systems improve access to high-performing teachers in struggling schools? What working and cultural conditions must be present to recruit and maintain top teachers? Why do you think states' efforts to provide incentives for accomplished educators to work in low-performing school have often fallen short? See Posts >
  • Is the Traditional School Schedule Outmoded?

    Is the Traditional School Schedule Outmoded?

    Over the last several years, a variety of factor--including budget cuts, advances in technology, and efforts to boost graduation rate--have forced school systems to reconsider the amount of time students spend in school. Some states have begun awarding credits based on mastery rather than "seat time." Other states have given districts leeway to shorten the school week to four days. And in some cases, federal and local officials have offered incentives for low-performing schools to extend learning time.

    How do you think schools can maximize what time they do have with students? How might teachers' time be structured differently to achieve better results for students? Is the traditional six-hour day/180-day year still the most viable--or productive--student schedule? There are also countless options for restructuring "school time" that have yet to be explored. What do you imagine the school "day" or "year" could look like in the future?

    See Posts >
  • Preparing Students to Enter the Workforce

    Preparing Students to Enter the Workforce For many years, the American education system has touted college as the ideal next step for high school graduates, even though a majority of students enter the workforce directly. But recently, several states have renewed efforts to prepare students to go straight to the workplace. For instance, in April, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed legislation that offers an alternate pathway to graduation for students who are not college-bound. Meanwhile, there's growing interest in other nations' approaches to career readiness, including the Swiss model of vocational education and training.

    Critics of career-pathway programs argue that they will create a two-tier system in which students of color will be pushed disproportionately toward weaker academic curricula.

    Teachers: What are your thoughts on the move away from "college for all"? Are you concerned that amping up career-pathway programs will perpetuate inequalities? What lessons have you learned in working with students who are going straight into the work force? How could schools better serve these students? See Posts >
  • Public Perception of Teachers

    Public Perception of Teachers According to the recent Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup annual poll, "three of four Americans say they have trust and confidence in the men and women who teach children in the public schools"--a finding that's stayed steady for the past three years.

    However, there's also been escalating negative rhetoric about teachers--or what president of the American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten has called the "demonization" of teachers--over the last few years, especially by politicians and other public figures.

    As a teacher, how do you think the public perceives your profession? Does this affect your practice--and how? What could you and your colleagues do to alter public perceptions about your profession? Or, considering how many other responsibilities you have, should you leave that up to someone else? Ideally, how do you hope the public's view of teachers will change over the next 10 years? See Posts >
  • Restructuring Teachers' Time

    Restructuring Teachers' Time On average, teachers in the United States work more than 50 hours a week, much of it in the classroom. Many teachers struggle to find time to collaborate with peers, pursue professional development, and explore leadership opportunities without taking the administrative track.

    But innovative ideas for rethinking teacher time are emerging across the nation—from teachers themselves. A group of Kentucky teachers recently created three recommendations for reallocating teacher time to benefit student and teacher learning. And a growing number of school districts now have teachers in hybrid roles—expert teachers who lead professional development and pedagogy-improvement initiatives while teaching part-time.

    What do you think is the greatest challenge to teachers' time and schedules? How would you rethink how time for teachers is used in your school and district? How can schools and districts free up teachers and give them more opportunities to lead without leaving the classroom? See Posts >
  • Serving Low-Income Students

    Serving Low-Income Students Much research suggests that family income is strongly correlated with academic achievement, but there's little consensus about what that should mean for education policy. One major rift is between those who urge a focus on poverty as an underlying factor for lagging achievement and those who concentrate on in-school factors, especially teacher quality.

    Looking for on-the-ground perspectives, we've posed this challenge to five teacher panelists who have substantial experience teaching low-income students:

    Imagine it's 2022. Over the past 10 years, you've helped to design and sustain a replicable school where low-income students are achieving at high levels. In your first post, tell us about the three or four factors that have driven your students' success.

    In your follow-up post, reflect on one of these questions: Who were the major players in making this school a success? What are the basic components needed to replicate this school? And back to present-day reality: Are you optimistic about the potential for schools to move in the direction you've envisioned?
    See Posts >
  • Should Teachers Run Schools?

    Should Teachers Run Schools?

    A recent survey conducted by Education Evolving, a nonprofit group specializing in school redesign, revealed that 54 percent of teachers are very interested in working at a "teacher-powered" school (also known as teacher-led, teacher-run, and teacher partnership schools). In teacher-led schools, teachers work in teams—with shared accountability and responsibility—to design and run their schools.

    Currently, teacher-led schools operate in 15 states. (A new guide released by the Center for Teaching Quality has compiled resources and steps for creating teacher-led schools.)

    Are you interested in working in a teacher-led school? What would your school look like? What benefits might teacher-run schools offer students and communities? What potential drawbacks and challenges do they present? Do you see teacher-led schools as a viable model for school improvement?

    See Posts >
  • Student Voices: What Teachers Really Do

    Student Voices: What Teachers Really Do

    This month, in anticipation of Teacher Appreciation Week (May 5-9) and the Center for Teaching Quality's #TeachingIs social media campaign, we've invited five student bloggers to share their thoughts about what #TeachingIs.

    In February, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Scholastic released the Primary Sources survey, which sampled the views of 20,000 U.S. teachers about their profession. Among the findings were the following:

    • 99 percent of teachers said that teaching goes beyond academics and that educators also have a responsibility to reinforce good citizenship, resilience, and social skills;
    • 82 percent of teachers said the biggest challenge they face is the constantly changing demands placed on themselves and their students; and
    • 88 percent of teachers agreed that the rewards of teaching outweigh the challenges.

    Based on your experience as a student, what are the biggest demands that teachers face? What do you think makes someone a good teacher? Would you ever consider becoming a teacher? Why or why not? How do you think the public views teachers and the teaching profession today?

    See Posts >
  • Teachers’ Advice for President Obama in His Second Term

    Teachers’ Advice for President Obama in His Second Term President Obama's administration, which has had a sometimes-strained relationship with teachers, will face a host of K-12 education priorities in his second term of office. Those include issues surrounding the Race to the Top program, NCLB progress waivers and possible reauthorization, education funding, and teacher-recruitment programs.

    Imagine you had a chance to sit down with the president to talk about education. What experiences would you share? What advice would you give him on improving conditions for teaching and learning in today's schools? Should the president attempt to improve his administration's rapport with teachers? In your view, what could he do in his second term to leave a positive legacy for the teaching profession of the future? See Posts >
  • Testing at a Crossroads?

    Testing at a Crossroads? Last month, teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle made headlines by collectively refusing to administer the Measure of Academic Progress exam, a computerized adaptive test that many districts use to gauge students' progress over the course of the year. Some observers defended benchmarking tests like MAP as valuable tools to help educators identify students' learning needs. But others pointed to the Garfield protest as evidence of a rising tide of skepticism toward the role that testing has come to play in schools.

    What's your view as a teacher? Are data from progress-monitoring assessments and other standardized exams helpful in determining instructional gaps and student growth? Does the emphasis on testing detract from student learning, as the Garfield teachers have contended? Did the Garfield teachers take the right approach in publicly boycotting the exam? What hopes and concerns do you have about the role of assessment in schools in the next five to 10 years, particularly with regard to the Common Core State Standards? See Posts >
  • The Common Core's Image Problem

    The Common Core's Image Problem

    A number of recent surveys have shown that the Common Core State Standards may have a growing image problem. One poll found that 60 percent of U.S. adults oppose the standards, though some 73 percent support the idea of having a single set of standards. Another found that support for the standards among teachers is dropping, too—from 76 percent to 46 percent over the past year. A poll conducted by Education Week’s Research Center, meanwhile, found that less than half of teachers feel well-prepared to teach the standards, even as more than 65 percent believe that they will improve student learning.

    Why do you think confidence in the common core appears to be slipping, at least according to surveys? Does it surprise you? How would you characterize your experience working with the common standards? How can schools and teachers navigate the negative publicity surrounding the standards?

    Share your thoughts on this topic during the #CTQchat on Twitter Thursday, September 18th at 8:30 p.m. ET.

    See Posts >
  • The Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education

    The Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education

    This week marks the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared segregated schools unconstitutional. While Brown represents a turning point in our country's history of racial inequality, many civil-rights advocates argue that the ruling's promise has not been fulfilled. They point to growing examples of racially isolated schools (often as a result of court-ordered releases from desegregation rulings), as well as persistent racial achievement and resource-equity gaps throughout the country.

    As a teacher, what are your thoughts and emotions on the anniversary of Brown? Are school systems in your district and state resegregating? If so, what effects does this have on equity and achievement? What are the biggest issues facing students of color and their teachers? What recommendations would you make to policymakers and education leaders on fulfilling the legacy of Brown?

    See Posts >
  • The Media Is the Message

    The Media Is the Message Teachers often say that the media portrays teachers—but not necessarily teaching—in a negative light, focusing on teacher misconduct or union negotiations. Many teachers feel that the media can make them look like scapegoats for a school’s failure.

    How do you think teachers are portrayed in the news media, and is that depiction fair? What responsibility do teachers have for helping shape media portrayals? What kinds of education stories would you like to see more of in the news? What kinds of news media do you consume in regards to education, and what do you recommend for those interested in the education system? See Posts >
  • The Value of Teacher Leadership Today—and Tomorrow

    The Value of Teacher Leadership Today—and Tomorrow

    In the most basic sense, teacher leaders are educators who take the reins on initiatives and projects outside their own classrooms. They might head professional learning communities, mentor new teachers, work with community nonprofits, or engage with policymakers at the district, state, or even national level. Teacher leaders are often trusted sources of advice at their schools. And in many cases, they're catalysts for school change.

    Last year, a consortium of 38 organizations released the Teacher Leader Model Standards, which outline seven domains of teacher leadership. The domains, or areas in which teacher leaders can hone their expertise, include fostering collaboration, using research, promoting professional learning, and improving outreach.

    In your experience, what is the value of teacher leadership? In what ways do you consider yourself a teacher leader, and which of the domains do you find most important in your role? What can administrators and policymakers do to encourage educators to lead beyond their own classrooms? What are your hopes for the future of teacher leadership?

    See Posts >
  • Wanted: Tech-Savvy Teachers

    Wanted: Tech-Savvy Teachers

    On February 6, thousands of educators, students, and schools across the country will celebrate Digital Learning Day, an initiative created by Alliance for Excellence in Education to help teachers highlight and share innovative uses of classroom technology. Most educators agree that integrating "technology for technology's sake" is not good practice, but many see transformative potential in new learning tools.

    However, a recent report by the National Association of State Boards of Education suggests that many educators are not yet comfortable with integrating digital tools, which may be holding schools back from adopting new instructional approaches.

    What kind of successes have you seen with technology in the classroom? What strategies work best to help teachers to share their technological expertise with colleagues? What can school leaders, policymakers, and teacher preparation programs do to increase teachers' familiarity and skills with technology? What other ideas do you have for minimizing the gap between new technologies and classroom teachers?

    See Posts >
  • What Are the Best Ways to Measure Student Learning?

    What Are the Best Ways to Measure Student Learning?

    Today's school-reform initiatives often center on using measures of student learning to gauge school and teacher effectiveness. This focus on accountability has in some ways taken away from the more basic purpose of assessment: to figure out what students know and need to learn.

    Many schools deal with this gap by instituting benchmark or interim tests, which often mimic the final standardized tests, or tracking specific skills through progress monitoring. Teachers also design their own formative assessments, including anything from informal class questioning to written tests to performance-based tasks.

    How do you assess what your students know and are able to do? What tools or methods do you find most helpful in measuring student learning? Are you in favor of school-wide benchmark testing? How can schools and districts support teachers' efforts to reliably gauge student learning? How must assessments evolve in order to measure the knowledge and skills needed for 21st-century success?

    See Posts >
  • What Can U.S. Schools Learn From Other Nations?

    What Can U.S. Schools Learn From Other Nations?

    At least two factors—the evolution of the global economy and ongoing concerns about the quality of American education—are fueling interest in how other nations approach teaching and learning.

    American reactions to the recent release of PISA data from 2012 have ranged from grave concern about the state of American schools to enthusiasm for lessons that can be learned to dismissal of comparisons, particularly those based on student-assessment data.

    Share one or two international practices or policies you, as an educator, think American schools should adopt—whether at the classroom or systems level. Why would you advocate for these changes? How would they affect teachers and students? What evidence exists—or would need to exist—to convince district and state decision-makers that the changes are worthwhile?

    See Posts >
  • What Can We Learn From the Atlanta Cheating Scandal?

    What Can We Learn From the Atlanta Cheating Scandal? Last month, 35 educators in Atlanta, including former superintendent Beverly L. Hall, were indicted for their alleged roles in a scheme to alter students' answers on standardized tests. The indictments, coming on the heels of other district cheating scandals, have raised concerns both about test-based accountability and evaluation systems and the professional culture in many schools today.

    As a teacher, what was your reaction to the Atlanta cheating scandal? In your view, what school cultural factors lead to cheating and how could these be changed? How could school compensation and performance-measurement systems be re-imagined to reduce negative incentives (such as cheating and teaching to the test), while still providing useful and transparent information on student learning? See Posts >
  • What Does Effective Professional Learning Mean to Today’s Teachers?

    What Does Effective Professional Learning Mean to Today’s Teachers?

    Professional development is a phrase that's used within many careers, but it seems to hold special weight for the teaching community. PD can take many different forms, from expert-led workshops to professional learning communities to one-on-one instructional coaching to participation in Twitter chats.

    When tailored to meet individual teachers' needs, PD can have an overwhelmingly positive impact on teacher satisfaction, student achievement, and school culture. However, when ill-conceived or delivered poorly, professional development can seem like nothing more than a frustrating requirement, and a waste of precious time.

    How should districts, schools, and/or teachers themselves determine what professional learning is necessary? What is the best professional development you've experienced, and why? How has technology changed professional learning? What's your vision for professional learningand how could schools change to achieve it?

    See Posts >
  • What Should Teacher Evaluations Look Like?

    What Should Teacher Evaluations Look Like?

    Long governed largely by inertia and school convention, teacher evaluation has recently become a focal point of education reform. Many states, under prodding from the federal Race to the Top program, have begun to implement new, comprehensive evaluation systems that incorporate student test-score data and more rigorous observation protocols. School systems are also working to tie evaluation results more closely to teachers' tenure status and professional advancement.

    However, early models of the revamped evaluation systems (in Tennessee and New York, for example) have come under criticism for being haphazardly implemented, inconsistent, and process-heavy. Many teaching groups and advocates have also questioned the validity of relying heavily on standardized test scores to judge teachers' skills and capabilities. A related source of concern is how the new models can be applied equitably with respect to teachers in nontested subjects and grades.

    As a classroom teacher, how do you think teachers' performance should be evaluated? How can evaluations best be used to improve teaching and learning without creating undue complexity? What role should student test scores and other performance data play? What will the best teacher evaluation systems look like 10 years from now?

    See Posts >
  • What Should Teachers Tell Parents About the Common Core?

    What Should Teachers Tell Parents About the Common Core?

    A recent PDK/Gallup poll found that most Americans, including more than half of public school parents, are unaware of the Common Core State Standards, which are now being implemented in the vast majority of school districts. The survey found that even respondents who knew about the standards were often confused or misinformed about them.

    A PDK executive suggested that some educators’ reservations about the common standards (and how assessment results might be used) may keep them from reaching out to parents. At the same time, in some districts, teachers' efforts to give parents information about the common standards have been met with hostility owing to political factors.

    In your view, what role should teachers play in informing parents about the common standards? How can they effectively help parents and other stakeholders understand why and how instruction is changing? Have competing viewpoints about the standards affected your approach to talking to parents about them?

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  • What Works in Writing Instruction?

    What Works in Writing Instruction?

    The expectations for writing instruction have changed significantly in recent years, particularly with the adoption of college- and career-ready standards in most states. Students are expected to write more frequently and to master different types of writing, including argumentative and information writing. While there’s been an uptick in student writing in many classrooms, however, experts question whether teachers have received enough support to fully transition to the demands.

    What advice do you have for teachers and education leaders who are looking to improve student proficiency in writing? How has your writing instruction changed over the past few years? What challenges have you faced and how did you address them? What instructional or school-policy shifts have made a difference for you?

    (This discussion is part of special report on writing instruction produced with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.)

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  • Where Should Education Grant Dollars Go?

    Where Should Education Grant Dollars Go?

    Teacher quality has become a major focus of grant-making in education, which in turn has had a marked impact on the direction of education policy. In recent years, foundations have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on programs to improve the teaching profession. The largesse has covered (among much else) the development of new teacher-evaluation systems, changes to teacher pay and career paths, efforts to strengthen alternative-recruitment programs, and initiatives to promote teacher voice.

    Given the philanthropic interest in teaching, how do you—as a practicing teacher—think grant-making organizations can best spend their education money? What kinds of teacher-support programs do you think deserve more attention? Where do you think the real promise lies in terms of making sustainable and scalable improvements in schools?

    See Posts >

The opinions expressed in Teaching Ahead: A Roundtable are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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