December 2009 Archives

Does being certified guarantee good teaching? That's the question NPR asked recently, after examining the Halifax County School District in rural North Carolina where only six of 10 students graduate high school, despite 98 percent of the staff being certified. In North Carolina, licensed teachers must demonstrate that their students are learning, and student test scores play a huge role in determining whether or not to renew a teacher's license every three years. "Student performance on assessments must be a major component in determining which teachers are effective," said Rebecca Garland, who oversees teacher licensing in the state. And yet, ...


For all the emphasis on interactive technology and hyper-connectivity in schools today, some educators are finding it can still be beneficial—maybe even essential—to expose their students to slower and more time-honored modes of learning. For example: The card game bridge is apparently gaining a toe-hold in schools, with a small but growing number of math teachers and after-school programs using it to teach strategy, concentration, and abstract-thinking skills. Seem too time-consuming or off-curriculum for you? Consider that both Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are known to be avid players and have contributed millions to the School Bridge League,...


A recent study of 3,001 children by the National Literacy Trust in the United Kingdom finds that children who engage with technology have stronger core literacy skills than their technologically unsound peers, according to BBC News. The survey found that 24 percent of children ages nine to 16 have their own blog, and that 82 percent of those children send text messages at least once a month. "This suggests a strong correlation between kids using technology and wider patterns of reading and writing," said Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust. "Engagement with online technology drives their enthusiasm ...


A bipartisan group in Congress hopes to expand the federally run Troops to Teachers program, which has helped nearly 12,000 former military members go from the armed forces to the classroom in the past 15 years, according to the New York Times. By all counts it is a diverse group. Men account for roughly 80 percent of the participants, and about 35 percent are members of minorities. Participants are being encouraged to fill some of the toughest teaching positions in math, science, and special education. Congressmen introduced legislation in October of this year that would allow service members with ...


More From NSDC, St. Louis-- Yesterday, my co-live bloggers Nancy Flanagan and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and I put ourselves in the spotlight and gave a presentation at the NSDC conference on "Leveraging Online Tools for Teacher Learning." I offered a short contextual intro (after figuring out how to work the microphone and realizing I shouldn't stand in front of the projector, that is), and then the pros took over. Nancy gave an excellent primer on the art of facilitating online training sessions, and Sheryl provided a stirring look at the transformational potential of new learning technologies (complete with a live Skyped-in ...


Live From NSDC, St. Louis-- Scene from "The Principal Story," a film exploring the gritty reality of being a principal in a tough school: The principal is prowling around a room filled with teachers, a staff meeting called to discuss student achievement. The looks on teachers' faces reveal the seriousness of the issues. There's more than a little anxiety. The principal says: "Who is the lowest-performing student in your class? How do you know he is the lowest? What is your evidence?" The teachers are thinking. Concentrating, chewing on their lips. Reluctant to write down any child's name, even though ...


Live From NSDC, St. Louis-- - Determined not to let lack of sleep, cold freezing rain, or flight delays keep me from St Louis or from attending the 41st NSDC Annual Conference, I dashed from the taxi, checked into the hotel and rushed to my room just in time to facilitate a couple of webinar sessions for a PLP cohort I am helping to lead. Anxiously, I finished up and was out the door to meet up with co-live bloggers Nancy Flanagan and Anthony Rebora. Dodging the cold wind while waiting for the shuttle, I ran into two educators from ...


Live From NSDC, St. Louis-- I didn't get to attend the Michael Fullan session yesterday, but a lot of people were talking about it, and I was interested to read Nancy's description of his emphasis on "broad goals" and cultural change as opposed to a fixation on detailed outcomes. Variations on this idea have popped up in several sessions I've attended--often enough that I think it could be designated as one theme of the conference. At a session I attended yesterday on instructional leadership, for example, author and University of Minnesota professor Karen Seashore Louis emphasized the importance of making "soft...


Live From NSDC, St. Louis-- At lunch, I sat next to three teachers from Iowa. Their school district has adopted a new formal peer coaching program, and they were attending a day-long session to learn about the model. Which is why, they said, the district popped for funding a national conference; they were very excited about the wealth of professional learning opportunities as well as the speakers and the exhibits. For the next few days, they're in the leadership club. They will be held accountable for bringing back and rolling out some specific skills and information. In the meantime, their ...


Live From NSDC, St. Louis-- So there's an impressive vendor hall here, with six long rows of booths (many decked out with impressive technology) from which education organizations of various stripes are working hard to promote their staff-development or instructional products and services. But here's the kind of amusing thing: The vendor who's getting by far the most traffic is--you guessed it--the "Scarf King," a guy who's selling cashmere scarves for $10. His stall is seriously mobbed; you can't even see the display table unless you maneuver your way in. There has to be lesson in this somewhere....


Live From NSDC, St. Louis-- Don't want to get on my high horse here, but bringing student groups in to entertain large education conference audiences is a mixed-message concept. At best. On the one hand, there is the nice idea of celebrating "what we're all about:" student learning and excellence. In introductions for the very fine middle school band that played at breakfast this morning and the St. Louis Children's Chorus at lunch, there was warm applause and nice language about "this is why we're in education" and compliments for the student performers. I spent 30 years teaching middle school ...


Live From NSDC, St. Louis-- When it comes to the professional literature on educational leadership, I'm pretty much an unrepentant Fullanite. Not that Michael Fullan is a particularly eloquent writer or inspirational speaker. He's neither--and his luncheon keynote today was classic Fullan: turgid, chock-full of video clips, way too much text and information, delivered at machine-gun speed, interesting but borderline incoherent. But here's the thing about Michael Fullan--his ideas are powerful and they square with the messy, uncontrolled nature of human learning and change. I fell in love with Michael Fullan when I plowed through "Change Forces," and read his ...


Live From NSDC, St. Louis-- I attended an interesting session this morning on "How Professional Development Fits Into Federal Policy," led by NSDC Executive Director Stephanie Hirsh and NSDC Federal Policy Advisor Rene Islas. The upshot was that NSDC is putting a lot of effort--through congressional lobbying, grassroots support, and field outreach--into getting a new definition of professional development into the reauthorization of NCLB. Islas noted that the PD definition itself--Sec. 9109 (34), if you're keeping score at home--is a little noticed part of NCLB but has a huge impact on other parts of law (e.g., Title I, teacher ...


Live From NSDC, St. Louis-- I laughed when I read Nancy's comment on taking "twenty minutes to understand the twists and turns of registration" here. It took me at least that long--and even longer to figure out where I was supposed to go for my first session this morning. It is a logistically complex conference--there's a sense of beehive-like activity. And it doesn't make matters any easier that's not easy to get a conference program--in the event that, like me, you forgot yours. I had to borrow one from the registration desk. Really, borrow: I was told I had to ...


Live From NSDC, St. Louis-- Tony Wagner opened his keynote this morning by declaring that the formulation of the problem is more important than the solution. We're not asking the right questions, he says--we're more focused on the answers. Well, yeah. Some of Wagner's key points and the questions they raise for me: Wagner on the current discourse in Ed World: We are making policy based on buzzwords and half-formed ideas about what students "need." It's a familiar refrain; in my head, I hear stock answers from traditionalists, the humanists, the innovators, the economists. What is the real problem in ...


Live from NSDC, St. Louis-I'm a newbie to the NSDC "big" conference, although I've been hearing about it for years--its size, scope and innovative practice in professional learning for educators. It takes a good twenty minutes to even understand the twists and turns of registration--NSDC puts its standards into practice by offering extended learning sessions, eschewing drive-by learning snacks in favor of reflection, conversation and substance. One of my personal questions about this conference is: Do conference participants, trained through decades of 6-period days and 55-minute content dumps, really embrace slow and deep learning? The opener keynoter is Tony Wagner, ...


Live From NSDC, St. Louis--I just caught a small part of a session on Response to Intervention given by a pair of educators with the Excelsior Springs (Mo.) school district. Here's something I never realized (and that seems incredible to me): The screening used to determine which intervention "tier" a student falls into--known as the curriculum-based measurement process--takes only one to three minutes to complete. From the results of that lightening-fast assessment, presenter Christina Compton said, she can tell right away which students are on a path to do poorly on the state tests. She added that there is some ...


Live From NSDC, St. Louis— Sometimes on a flight out of D.C., you'll notice that a good number of passengers are reading the latest Bob Woodward tome or (much more depressingly) that week's Federal Register. But on my flight today, several of the passengers--including the very nice woman next to me--were reading Work Hard. Be Nice.: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America, Jay Mathews' book about the co-founders of the KIPP schools. Upon inquiry, I learned that they were all teachers from Stafford Co., Va.--also headed to the NSDC conference. My seatmate, a 1st...


Quick note to readers: Over the next couple of days, we will be blogging in this space from the National Staff Development Council's annual conference in St. Louis. Joining me as special guest bloggers will be renowned teacher-writer Nancy Flanagan and learning-tech expert Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach. (The three of us will also be presenting a session on online professional development at the conference on Tuesday morning.) We hope to have a lot of great, up-to-the-minute information for you on the latest trends in professional development and other instructional issues. So stay tuned. Should be fun...


This spring, with her school district shut down for six days over concerns of the H1N1 flu virus, a math and science teacher at Paschal High School in Fort Worth, TX, /1792589.html">reached out to her students in the only way she knew how: online. Linda Antinone created "Sofa Studies," where teachers can broadcast lessons both online and through the school district's cable channels. Antinone contacted the district about the idea after her husband pitched it to her, and within hours, teachers began creating all types of lessons, ranging from physical education stretches to science experiments. "The first ones ...


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