Effective Education Delivery Types

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Education Week via Learning Forward @multibriefs.com
In addition to personalized learning for students, the most exciting thing about the shift to digital learning is the potential to improve teachers’ conditions and careers. A recent DLN SmartSeries paper illustrated how “blended learning environments can create more and better opportunities for teacher collaboration, enable differentiated staffing, and boost meaningful professional development opportunities.”

Benchmark One Discussion:

The importance of face-to-face contact and two way communication is creeping back into the content of articles and training conferences as a value-added approach to learning and the transfer of learning into practice.  When you think about the best ways for you to learn and transfer the information into practice, what approach is most likely to result in changes in your practice?

What kinds of follow-up for the training approach you prefer, works best to support consistent changes in your practice over time?

Is this kind of follow-up a realistic option in your current work environment?

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Now is the time . . . Opportunity knocks . . . Will we rise to the challenge?

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Improving education 3_legged_stoolas a system is much like a three legged stool.  Each leg must maintain the same strength and length in order for the stool remain standing and balanced.  Current education reforms involve all three legs of the stool in the figure to the right.

In the past 30 years, we have had legislation that supported one, then two, of the legs with less than anticipated results. Now, with all three education reforms in progress, we have a more comprehensive approach and the opportunity to really achieve goals of improved student learning and organizational effectiveness.

I recall a professional development colleague of mine grimacing as she referred to “this year’s new thing” or the improvement “flavor of the year.”  Unfortunately, and probably because of the overload it causes, school improvement plans and the focus/efforts that result tend to engage staff in one or perhaps two areas for change at a time. This doesn’t include designing strategies to maintain the progress achieved with whatever focus that might have risen to become major improvement strategies for the year before.

Educators love to see their efforts pay off with improved organizational climate, increased student achievement in core content areas, decreased absenteeism, etc.  However, we don’t seem to have the interim progress targets, measures, and regularly scheduled data collection in place for staff improved practice as well as student performance, to pinpoint what occurred within the successful achievements of the year before that we should “keep”, “drop”, or “add” to sustain the progress over time.

Improvement – if you accept the three legged stool metaphor – is cumulative.  As a system, educators must develop the tenacity to preserve and learn from past successes in order to comprehensively improve the education system as a whole.  We have the opportunity.  Will we rise to the challenge?

How has STEM education been integrated

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ASCD SmartBrief Jun 6, 2013

Which of the following best describes how the STEM education (e.g. programs, courses, or certification) movement has affected your school?

stem

STEM to have its own caucus in Congress

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STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education in the U.S. will soon have a dedicated caucus in Congress. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., who will co-chair the caucus, says the group will focus on issues related to both education and workforce development with an eye to getting more girls involved and building U.S. competitiveness. San Francisco Chronicle (free content)/The Associated Press (6/3), The Union Leader (Manchester, N.H.) (6/3)  from SmartBrief EdTech.

Educator Evaluation – a Colorado Perspective

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I remember just 2 evaluations during my 30+ year tenure as a teacher and district administrator.  The first, which was early in my career, informed me that I did not understand how the system worked and that I was pushing too hard to get diagnostic information to support a student whose academic scores were going backwards because of his reading; and I wasn’t sure what to do to help him.  Those were the days when elementary teachers taught everything including P.E., art, music and library and we never heard of a classroom aide.

The next time I received an evaluation, I was working in District Central Office.  At that time, I received the paper copy to review and sign during my evaluation conversation – the first and only evaluation conversation I had with my supervisor during that year.  When I inquired about one of the supervisor’s responses to a question about areas for improvement in an otherwise glowing evaluation, the answer I got was, “Well, I had to put something in that space, so that is what I wrote.”  Perhaps you have had better luck with your evaluations i.e., more clarity regarding how to improve your performance and meet expectations, throughout the years you have devoted to education and your professional practice.

However, times are changing and I, for one, am delighted to see the change.

The first pilot rendition of the Colorado teacher evaluation rubric has been simplified and shortened based on feedback from year 2 of a three year pilot.  The clarification of performance expectations, supervisor feedback, and coaching as a result of classroom observations and walk-throughs is seen as a benefit to many teachers. This information guides their work to improve their practice and thus, student learning. In Colorado, 50% of a teacher’s evaluation is based on student growth as measured by the state standardized assessment and/or multiple other assessments that measure student learning and growth over time.  The rest of the teaching effectiveness score includes trained evaluators’ observations of classroom practice and other measures.

As with most change, particularly something as personal as performance evaluation, anxiety is often a first reaction, along with many critiques of the changing system and its short comings.  Perhaps we should remember that change is a process not only for the people involved but, for the tools that support the change.  Benefits of the current changes in districts’ performance appraisal and efforts to improve teacher practice cited by some teachers and administrators include:

  • Official observations that are lengthier and increasingly focused
  • Administrators spending much more time in classrooms
  • Clarifications of the look and feel of results-driven, effective, professional practice
  • Conversations focused on student learning and “best practice”/shared successes to achieve greater levels of learning for students and staff
  • Opportunities for principals to have focused, engaged conversations with teachers about their growth and development
  • Data targeted to inform educator development, support better decision-making and improve the system from within
  • Reexamination of strategies that work, countless reflective discussions surrounding results, and a focus on “effective” vs. the oft applied solution to improve learning of “more and harder.”

Colorado’s goal for Senate Bill 191 and its implementation is, at its core, to improve teacher and principal quality through meaningful evaluations and conversations throughout the year.  “This is the first time we’ve had a roadmap,” said Linda Barker, Colorado Education Association director of teaching and learning.  Critics express concern about training to increase evaluators’ knowledge and skills in areas such as: effective instructional practice, providing meaningful feedback and coaching, and evaluating staff “within an acceptable, comparable and fair manner.”

Of the resources available, the most relevant, most scarce, and most challenging for leaders is to manage the TIME required:

  • to engage in the evaluation process in ways that lead to improved practice;
  • to identify and access training and development resources;
  • to document and record the salient details of their observations and conversations with their staff throughout the appraisal and development process; and
  • to reflect upon their own practice, mine the meaningful data/outcomes to support systemic improvement decision-making.

The most cogent overview of teacher and principal evaluations I have read recently was written by Julie Poppen (May 21, 2013) for EdNewsColorado, a publication of the Colorado Public Education and Business Coalition, titled “Colorado districts gear up for new teacher eval rules.”  While the article refers specifically to Colorado’s legislation regarding improving educator quality, many of the comments, successes, issues and concerns are similar to those in other states as we at Benchmark One follow the national trend to improve educator and organizational performance across the U.S.