February 2014 Archives

This week, I've looked at an important effort to increase our schools' capacity for digital learning: E-Rate reform. A modernized E-Rate won't be complete without the FCC providing for proper accountability and oversight. While we should hold the program accountable for the dollars it distributes, has the President set our expectations for a new E-Rate too high?


While policymakers, education policy wonks, and education leaders are trying to have smart conversations about school infrastructure--something they'll have to do more often in the digital age, regardless of E-Rate--it seems rather important they can keep these terms straight.


The FCC needs to acquire better information on service pricing and applicant spending, and assess whether and how to share those data. Publishing this information would be an invaluable vehicle for accountability and third-party research and analysis. And a more transparent E-Rate market could lower prices and allow funds to stretch further. Here are three changes the FCC may consider in its effort to improve transparency of E-Rate spending.


But, dull as it can be, the digital learning conversation has to start with capacity. The movement's success relies as much on fiber and IT departments as flashier concepts like personalization and blended learning.


For my last day here at RHSU, I'm going to go a bit into the weeds to talk about what I think are the two most important technical issues that will affect Common Core implementation. These are the quality and alignment of both assessments and curriculum materials.


In today's post I'm going to talk about what I view as the biggest political threat to successful implementation of the standards--teacher evaluation. Tomorrow I'm going to talk about what I view as the biggest technical threats to implementation--assessments and curriculum materials.


Yesterday, I talked about why I'm optimistic about U.S. educational performance. Today, I'm going to talk about why I'm also optimistic about standards-based reform (the latest incarnation of which is the Common Core State Standards + state waiver accountability systems). In short, my read of the evidence is that standards-based reform works


Over the course of this shortened week, I'm going to talk a bit about why I'm optimistic about public education in the U.S. To grossly over-simplify the current education reform debate, most folks these days fall into one of two camps--a) things are terrible and we must reform now, and b) things aren't so bad/are improving and reforms are destroying our schools. I'm going to argue that both groups are partly right--that things are clearly, by almost any metric, improving, but that this doesn't mean we should cease our efforts to improve schools.


Since teacher leaders are classroom-based professionals who are on-the-ground innovators, I thought I'd take the liberty of seeing how these 9 principles would help describe the disruptive force of teacher leadership


Teachers bring on-the-ground credibility to such work and can speak powerfully about perception and reality through real stories about real students. And, while I recognize the limitations of my perspective, I have grown through the year as I listen to teachers across the state from Jamestown to New York City share their perspectives on our social studies frameworks and resources that would add value to their work.


If we are to bridge the sometimes cavernous gap between policy and practice and move closer to the promise of a premier education for all our students, the voices of successful educators must be incorporated into policy development from start to finish.


In the rush to apply quick-fix solutions to very complex problems, the voices of those most knowledgeable about how to best educate kids in mathematics (teachers, math specialists, teacher educators, and researchers) often get drowned out by the masses who are not in the education field, but have strong opinions nonetheless. The result is a misguided attempt at reforming the way we teach math in our country.


The Sword of Damocles has once again been raised. Unfortunately, today it hangs over the head of the American teacher. For many educators, these are the times that try men's souls. Teachers are not only faced with the challenges of implementing new learning standards and evaluation models, but must also take care of the physical and emotional needs of every student under their watch.


What will happen to society if education reform continues to rush past students, only to bear-hug standards?


I have a bit of problem, to be honest with you. I am addicted to teaching. I can't stop thinking about school. My mind is constantly thinking about new ways to organize my lessons, challenge my students, and help improve student engagement. The list goes on.


In addition to my "day job" as a literacy coach at Miller Park Elementary in Omaha, NE, I serve in several teacher leadership roles that have provided me great opportunities to bridge the world of practice and policy. I have attempted to succinctly organize some of the bigger ideas I am working on.


I loved teaching and never saw myself in any other role. However, as life evolved, and mentors guided me, it led me to paths I had never imagined. I had unique and wonderful opportunities that were extremely entrepreneurial as education leadership positions go. And all too rare.


When I was in the classroom, I yearned to have a colleague who knew my curriculum and could counsel me in literacy practices and effective and efficient technology integration. A peer who understood adolescent development and would problem solve by my side. One who could talk through the intricacies and complications of guiding students through analytical research. A collaborator and innovator to help push me deeper into my own practice. I was looking for somebody who had superpowers, and she was nowhere to be found.


We have all heard Common Core bashing. Statements like the Common Core will "undermine student individuality, teacher autonomy, and mark a dangerous takeover of local control." Unlike many of the Core-bashing voices, I am a classroom teacher with actual experience teaching with Common Core, and I beg to differ.


As a teenager, I was in a band. Well...technically, I was in the band. Anyone who has survived high school can tell you that there is a huge difference. Guys in a band get gigs, friends, and dates. Guys in the band--they get punched.


In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell describes the archetypical protagonist who feels compelled to embark on a quest. Over the course of the journey, there are many challenges, as well as support, assistance, and successes. Ultimately, after enduring and overcoming a supreme ordeal, the hero undergoes a form of resurrection because of the life-changing power of the experience. It is a universal formula for transformative stories across cultures and generations.


We need more teacher leaders in our schools. To be clear, one does not need to be an administrator, a team leader, or even a department chair to be a leader. Leadership is not a position, but rather action. This can be done by anyone regardless of title or position within a school building.


The opinions expressed in Rick Hess Straight Up 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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