Standards pose teacher-prep challenge

Tags: Professional Development, Common Core, the common core, the new standards, English/language arts, teachers, Education WeeK, teacher education, development, talent development, educator preparation, instructional units, teacher preparation, Common Core State Standards, Lipscomb University, teacher-educators, Katherine K. Merseth, school districts, Pamela Seki, middle school reading, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, skills students, Edgewood College, Daniel Kahneman, 4th grade math teacher, Published, English language arts teacher, Eric Westendorf, learning experiences, practice-based, Andrea Lemon, education schools, Nancy S. Grasmick, Towson University, education school, Patricia Swanson
Content: Education WeeK Spotlight on MATH Instruction n
On professional development for Common Core Published April 23, 2014, in Education Week Standards Pose Teacher-Prep Challenge By Stephen Sawchuk Like so much else in the world of teacher preparation, progress at readying new teachers for vastly different K-12 content expectations can probably best be described by one adjective: inconsistent. There are those faculty members committed to revising courses and syllabuses to reflect the Common Core State Standards, those still sorting through what the standards mean for training, and those who resist the call to orient preparation around them. Even for the early adopters, the standards pose some vexing questions: Page 2 >
Editor's Note: Supplying teachers with quality professional development is one requirement for common-core implementation. In this Spotlight, take a look at new talent development models, how schools are rethinking instructional practice, and what educators are saying they need to do to feel more prepared for the common-core era.
Table of CONTENTS 1 Standards Pose Teacher-Prep Challenge 3 Two Districts, Two Tacks on Curriculum 6 Standards Worrying Teachers
8 Early Implementers' of Common Core Grapple With Aligning Tests, Curriculum 9 Study: Many Teachers Need Common-Core Professional Development
10 Q & A: Charlotte Danielson on Teaching and the Common Core Commentary 12 Professional Development Is Broken. Let's Fix It.
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Education WeeK Spotlight on Professional Development for Common Core n
What does "alignment"--a vague concept to begin with--mean for educator preparation? How will the common core change the teaching of both content and "methods" classes in which prospective teachers learn pedagogical techniques? Does student-teaching, generally cited by teacher-candidates as the most important element in preparation, offer enough opportunities to practice teaching to the standards? Add to those questions the decentralized structure of higher education, and the scope of the challenge becomes apparent. "The control that faculty members have over their content makes it harder to get everyone to agree to move in the same direction," said Rick Melmer, a former dean of the University of South Dakota's education school. "There are more filters that change has to go through." Volatile Mix Teacher education has been under many pressures of late, including calls to improve student-teaching, classroom-management coursework, instruction, and Program Outcomes. The addition of the common core into that mix promises to be especially volatile, because it stands to reshape teacher education curricula to a greater degree than the other efforts. And that fuels concerns about academic freedom, as well as long-standing debates about whether programs' main duty is to prepare teachers capable of carrying out specific, state-approved courses of study-- or, as others argue, to prepare teachers to be knowledgeable about competing theories and to be critical actors in education policy. Compare the comments of two education deans on the standards. "We can teach awareness of the common core, but prepping kids to teach it moves into job-specific training, which is unrelated to teaching and learning in an academic sense," said Timothy Slekar, the dean of the education school at Edgewood College, a private Catholic liberal arts institution in Madison, Wis. "If we stop doing that as teacher-educators, we're no longer a profession." The dean of the education school at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., Candice McQueen, offers a different perspective. When districts are demanding talent well versed in the common core, "it's frankly unethical to put out teachers that don't know the standards," Ms. McQueen said. "Yes, we're teaching candidates theory, and to be thoughtful about understanding policy, but honestly, our job is to prepare the very best teachers that go out into the field. We do hold that very practical philosophy." Frequently, faculty members within an
" When people stood up and said, `This is an attempt by big business to take over education,' I knew we had challenges ahead." Nancy S. Grasmick Distinguished presidential scholar, Towson University
institution are divided on the standards, as Nancy S. Grasmick, formerly a long-serving state schools superintendent in Maryland, recently discovered. Ms. Grasmick, under whose watch the standards were adopted in Maryland in 2010, was brought on as a distinguished presidential scholar at Towson University, near Baltimore, to help the college's education programs transition to the common core. (Towson produces the most teachers of any Maryland college.) In the 2012-13 academic year, Ms. Grasmick organized a yearlong series of meetings introducing faculty members to the new expectations and the major shifts in practice. Obliquely, she said, those forums illuminated faculty members' conflicting views on the initiative. "When people stood up and said, `This is an attempt by big business to take over education,' I knew we had challenges ahead," Ms. Grasmick said. Trump Card States approve which preparation programs can recommend candidates for a teaching certificate, so in theory, they hold the trump card where teacher preparation is concerned. Some, Colorado and Florida among them, have passed laws or promulgated rules explicitly requiring educator preparation to address their state's K-12 academic-content standards, according to the Denver-based Education Commission of the States. In practice, such requirements are difficult to enforce, especially if the state audits programs only every few years. The diffuse nature of the nation's 1,400 schools of education in terms of program size, institutional type, and delivery methods also complicates matters. When attitudes toward the standards vary so much, it's no surprise that colleges are taking different tacks in approaching the standards. In some education schools, the strongest push for the standards comes from teacher-educators who believe they offer an opportunity to improve teaching. Patricia Swanson, an associate professor
of elementary education at San Jose State University in California, is one such leader. She believes the common-core mathematics standards reinforce a deeper approach to learning that teacher education programs value but that has been at odds with the pressure in districts to cover test material. "In some ways, common core takes us back to the way we think math ought to be taught," said Ms. Swanson, who teaches both preservice teachers and a professionaldevelopment course for practicing teachers. Her revamped methods courses focus on the set of eight standards for mathematical practice--such as making sense of problems and modeling with mathematics--that undergird the content expectations in the common core. Although she covered many of those practices before, she now teaches them more explicitly, with assignments requiring candidates to analyze a task they might perform with students and how it relates to one or more of the practices. For a lesson on functions and mathematical modeling, for instance, Ms. Swanson has aspiring teachers use windup toys to measure the distance traveled over time, and then to represent those journeys in different ways--as a series of ratios, points on a graph, and ultimately, as an equation. "We are trying to have kids see math as something we can use to describe our world," Ms. Swanson said. There are cases in which educators themselves need more time simply practicing the mathematics and learning different ways of conceiving of it, she added. Fractions, which under the common core are introduced in 3rd grade, tops that list. It's a point reiterated by Katherine K. Merseth, a senior lecturer and the director of teacher education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, who believes the shifts will require more programs to improve their content preparation. "Kids can learn to invert and multiply in order to divide fractions, but then they look at the teacher and ask, `Why'?" Ms. Merseth said. "We have to make sure that our students and our graduates can answer exactly that question."
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Education WeeK Spotlight on Professional Development for Common Core n
Trying to get all institutions to share a consistent level of fluency with the standards is one of Ms. McQueen's goals in Tennessee. Lipscomb University received a grant through the state's federal Race to the Top award to craft resources for teacherpreparation programs in the state, such as video exemplars of common-core-aligned teaching. Achieving Consistency
aware" of the common core's ELA expectations, they won't be trained specifically on how to implement its principles, he said. "All three of my literacy faculty said they wouldn't advocate it as the curricula of choice because it would violate their Academic Integrity," Mr. Slekar said. "It's the same way I wouldn't endorse direct instruction and I wouldn't endorse whole language," he said, referring to two reading methodologies.
Early feedback from statewide training institutes for faculty indicated that colleges needed more specific help. So Lipscomb, with assistance from the Washington-based Aspen Institute, has produced a self-assessment meant to guide faculty members as they rework their courses. Some of the ideas Tennessee institutions are working on include using the standards as a required course reading; requiring teacher-candidates' "capstone projects" to align to the standards; and incorporating text-dependent writing, a core feature of the English/Language Arts expectations, into the portfolios candidates must submit. Lipscomb faculty last fall submitted revised course syllabi with their self-assessments. "Now, we're going back to areas they didn't feel as confident in and trying to give some individual attention by pairing them up with faculty who were strong in those areas," Ms. McQueen said. Some progress is dependent on factors outside a college's control. Tennessee, like other states, this year is administering exams aligned to the state's old standards. That means prospective educators currently doing their student-teaching aren't necessarily seeing the common core enacted in classrooms in the way it should be once the new exams are in place, Ms. McQueen said. Debate about the standards within colleges seems to be especially fierce with respect to the ELA expectations' focus on nonfiction and grade-level reading. In fact, some of those standards' most vocal critics are teacher-educators, such as Nancy Carlsson-Paige, a professor at Lesley University, in Cambridge, Mass., and Joanne Yatvin, formerly an adjunct professor at Portland State University in Oregon. Mr. Slekar of Edgewood College, though a critic of the common core, acknowledges that districts are likely to seek new teachers with knowledge of the standards. That puts his institution in an uncomfortable situation. While Edgewood faculty members will make sure teacher-candidates are "fully
Ripples in a Pond Ms. Grasmick said she's changed gears to working with the most receptive faculty members at Towson University. Many are participating in work groups to address main common-core themes, such as the changing nature of assessment. Another lever, Ms. Grasmick said, has been building up support among the districts that take many of the colleges' students. Towson University is beginning a partnership with the 108,000-student Baltimore County public schools to create an entirely new program, with lots of studentteaching, that supplies teachers with all the competencies the district wants to see. "It gives us an opportunity to shape the next generation of classroom teachers and make sure it's competitive with what's going on with the teaching of common core," said S. Dallas Dance, the Baltimore County superintendent. The ultimate goal is for the district to offer Towson graduates who complete the program "advanced contracts," in which they could be guaranteed a teaching slot in the spring. And that's a powerful lever for change, Ms. Grasmick said, now that education schools are being pressed by accreditors, and potentially by the U.S. Department of Education, to show that their graduates can find jobs. Towson's gradual approach to the standards may be less dramatic than a mandate, but in the end, perhaps more effective. "I think it's unrealistic to think we're going to have 100 percent of faculty on board, or even 90 percent," Ms. Grasmick said. "But I think if we can get a core group, it's going to make a difference." Coverage of policy efforts to improve the teaching profession is supported by a grant from the Joyce Foundation, at Education. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.
Published April 23, 2014, in Education Week Two Districts, Two Tacks on Curriculum By Catherine Gewertz Three thousand miles apart, district leaders in Orlando, Fla., and Long Beach, Calif., faced the same problem: They needed to revamp their instructional materials to reflect the Common Core State Standards. They solved that problem in very different ways. The Florida group scoured the market and chose a suite of materials from a major publisher. Their colleagues across the country, dissatisfied with that same marketplace's offerings--and limited by their thin pocketbook--wrote their own curriculum. That tale of two districts reflects a dilemma of the common-core era: How do schools find or craft good curricula that truly reflect the new standards when they have limited time and funds and when the market is overflowing with materials claiming they're "fully aligned" with the new standards? Districts are wrestling with those decisions as the instructional-materials market, worth $7 billion to $8 billion annually, is poised to pick up steam. States and districts have been putting off buying textbooks and other materials in the last five years because of the recession and uncertainty about the transition to the common core and to digital resources, according to Jay Diskey, the executive director of the PreK-12 Learning Group at the Association of American Publishers, based in Washington. That market was up 4.3 percent in 2013, he said, after two years of declines. Evaluating Options The Orange County district, which serves 187,000 students in the Orlando area, began its search for new materials in mathematics and English/language arts about a year ago. Working from Florida's list of approved materials, the district undertook a laborious process of review before deciding on a lineup largely from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Go Math! for
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Education WeeK Spotlight on Professional Development for Common Core n
K-8, and two series of HMH texts for high school; Journeys for K-5 English/language arts and the Collections series for high school. It chose the College Board's Springboard curriculum for middle school. The move came with a hefty price tag: $14 million for the K-5 materials, which teachers are trying for the first time this school year, and $10 million for middle and high school materials, which are scheduled to debut in 2014-15. Before inviting the state's approved publishers in to make presentations, Orange County school officials drew up a list of criteria that new materials would have to meet, said Jesus F. Jara, the district's deputy superintendent. The list was long. Vendors would be rated on the strengths of their products' digital components, interventions for struggling students, and professional development. The products would have to offer enough support to guide new teachers, yet provide enough flexibility to allow veteran educators to customize them as they wished, said Scott Fritz, the district's chief academic officer. But at the top of that list was how well the new materials would capture the spirit and letter of the common standards, which Florida adopted in July 2010. Reviewers would have to see all the central shifts of the new standards reflected. Reading passages would have to include a heavier dose of nonfiction and stepped-up Text Complexity. Teacher guides would have to pose "textdependent" questions, which drive students back into their reading for answers, rather than let them simply share their personal feelings about it. And reviewers would want to see writing across the curriculum, as well as rich performance tasks. "They had to offer the components the common core offers," said Shana Rafalski, the district's director of elementary curriculum and instruction. "Our rubric [of requirements] was very tight, and numbers don't lie," added Mr. Fritz. "We knew where some [vendors] were weak." Meaning of `Aligned' Teams of district teachers spent several days alongside the central-office review team, poring over vendors' materials and listening to their presentations. In the end, "there was no one perfect product," said Ms. Rafalski. Choosing among the top three vendors was a "close call," said Mr. Fritz, but Houghton Mifflin's products stood out for being a stronger reflection of the common core and for having a better digital component and better interventions for students with weak
skills, he said. Maggie H. DeMont, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's senior vice president of product management and strategy, said the materials Florida approved for its districts disprove the claim of some educators and analysts that many publishers' materials are only barely tweaked versions of their pre-common-core products. Publishers created "companion" materials for the new standards in the first couple of years, she said, but by now, have had time to "build from the bottom up" for the common core. "We do submit our materials to curriculum experts in a state like Florida, and we have been given the green light that they're approved and do meet the standards," she said. Even with the materials chosen, however, there is still much work to be done as Orange County makes a fundamental shift in the role textbooks play in the classroom. That's taking a lot of time and professional development, Mr. Jara said. "We're trying to move away from just turning pages in the textbook and having that be the curriculum," he said. "I'm not telling you we're there yet, but it's the goal." Houghton Mifflin Harcourt provided
write words with -ness, -able and -less suffixes, and being able to locate text features like sidebars and diagrams. It describes skills students should be able to show at, above, and below grade level, and explains common misunderstandings students might have about the material. Leona Jacobsen, a middle school reading teacher who served on the review committee for grades 6-12, said she is glad her elementary-level colleagues have new materials and she is looking forward to trying the secondary-Level Ones once they're rolled out. "It's good to have new textbooks, but what matters is what the teachers do with them," she said. "We're the ones who come up with the strategies and the creativity to get the students where they need to go." For opponents of the common standards, however, the district's entire thrust is worrisome, since it flows from academic expectations they disapprove of. Cindy Hamilton, an Orange County schools parent and an activist with Opt Out Orlando, which wants to eliminate highstakes standardized testing, argues that the standards impose a uniformity of thinking on students.
" It's good to have new textbooks, but what matters is what the teachers do with them. We're the
ones who come up with the strategies and the
creativity to get the students where they need to go."
Leona Jacobsen Middle school reading, Orange County
several training sessions for teachers and coaches, Mr. Jara said. During the year, Orange County's four math and English/language arts coaches are working with teachers in its 122 elementary schools to help them get comfortable with using Go Math! and Journeys in creative ways in their classrooms, he said. District leaders rewrote their scope-andsequence documents, quarterly listings of the standards that need to be taught at each grade level. They rebuilt their content maps, which lay out instructional units of several days to several weeks in length and are organized around "essential questions." The new textbooks are listed as one--but not the only one--of the resources teachers can use. A 3rd grade unit, for instance, focuses on helping students decode text and use text features to understand what they're reading. It lists learning goals, such as being able to
"When all those publishers produced those books with the common-core logos all over them, it makes it hard for the state to purchase anything but common-core curriculum," said Ms. Hamilton. "You're not going to write any curriculum I'm going to want my kids to participate in if we are measuring it to these standards." Different Journey The experience of district leaders in Long Beach, Calif., was distinctly different from that of their colleagues in Florida. It wasn't just that the district couldn't afford a new curriculum adoption, which carries a $10 million to $12 million price tag per subject, said Pamela Seki, Long Beach's director of curriculum, instruction, and professional development. When the 85,000-student district explored the marketplace about
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Education WeeK Spotlight on Professional Development for Common Core n
a year and half ago, it came away disenchanted. "We didn't see that the field was producing the types of materials that we wanted to purchase," she said. In English/language arts, Long Beach had been using a 2002 edition of McGraw Hill Education's Open Court, along with a range of major publishers' products across the K-12 spectrum, all vintage 2002 to 2004. In math, it had been using five- to 10-year-old textbooks from an assortment of big publishers. The district's needs lagged behind the state's adoption cycle, though, and the trickle-down process is slow. California unveiled its list of approved K-8 materials for math in January, so Long Beach plans to convene its teacher teams and district experts to review and recommend materials from that list for use in the 2015-16 school year, Ms. Seki said. Since the state doesn't plan to approve new English/language arts materials until November 2015, Long Beach doesn't anticipate having new literacy texts in place until 2016-17, she said. Given that schedule, the state of the marketplace, and its own slender budget, the district decided to repurpose its current textbooks and undertake an extensive curriculum-writing process around them. It began in the 2012-13 school year by conducting common-core training sessions for teams of four teachers from each school. Some of those teachers later joined a panel of 15 that became the "common-core development team," writing curriculum alongside district content leaders and instructional coaches, Ms. Seki said. By last fall, the district had overhauled its scope and sequence and created new units and course outlines. The units retained the same themes from the old textbooks, such as "the hero's journey" in middle school, "so teachers would have something to hold onto" amid the shift to the common core, Ms. Seki said. The new units list the common-core skills and knowledge that teachers must impart, sequenced across the school calendar. Some refer to passages from Open Court, but since that program doesn't offer much nonfiction, Long Beach added its current science and social studies textbooks as additional references for literacy teachers, so they could draw on those to build students' skills with "informational text." That takes teachers only partway to the common core, though. Those textbooks' reading passages are "at a very low level," said Lisa Worsham, the district's English/language arts curriculum leader for K-5, who helped lead the rewriting project. So while the textbooks supply informational text,
the curriculum team expanded the list of resources in its new instructional units to include texts that are more challenging, she said. The district also bought a set of books that introduces students in grades K-2 to nonfiction. In the materials the district team wrote for teachers, the emphasis is on tying reading and writing together, as the common standards envision, and making sure that students learn to cite evidence from their readings to support their interpretations. "Too many questions in our old texts were `right there' questions," Ms. Worsham said. "Kids didn't even have to refer to the text to answer them." The new instructional units draw on a bank of free questions composed by the Basal Alignment Project, a national collaborative undertaking by teachers across the country to rewrite suggested questions from teachers' guides to make them textdependent. The units also include formative strategies to help teachers gauge how well students are learning as they go along. Math units were reworked to dive more deeply into fewer concepts. To do that, some skills were dropped and some were moved to lower grades or moved earlier in the school year, Ms. Seki said. The math units involve more collaborative discussion and problemsolving and also require more writing, with an emphasis on showing an understanding of math concepts, she said. The district also bought a set of books that help teachers devise strategies to get children to talk about their reasoning. A New Approach The difference in the Long Beach district's instructional units is dramatic. A six-week, English/language arts unit for 4th grade students from 2012-13 is a one-page, barebones outline of seven lessons in phonics, word analysis, and grammar. A 4th grade unit from 2013-14 runs 23 pages. With the theme of the "mystery of medicine," it says "students will have academic, collaborative discussions about text" and "learn about the structure and elements of effective opinion writing" as they "learn about the field of medicine, exploring its societal and cultural impacts on modern health practices." Long lists of suggested texts support three daylong performance tasks, and daily activities are designed to let students show what they know. The common standards that need to be covered, and a suggested sequence for covering them, are included. Getting that granular about instruction marks a huge change for Long Beach, where Ms. Worsham says the culture has been to
"march through Open Court. They were religious about following it." District leaders felt that with the common core's deep shifts in expectation and practice, it was time to make sure teachers were all pulling in the same direction, Ms. Seki said. "There's always that push and pull, that you might be telling your teachers too much," she said. "But we felt this was very new and we were getting feedback from teachers that they needed and wanted this type of support." The units, which teachers must follow, have been coordinated with the teacherobservation protocols that principals use to watch their teachers, Ms. Seki said, although she noted that those observations are not used for evaluations this school year. "This is about experimenting, informing our professional development," she said. It's been a lot for teachers to take on, said Virginia Torres, the president of the Teachers Association of Long Beach, a 3,600-member affiliate of the National Education Association. In August, teachers wanted to see curriculum units for the entire year, and they weren't all available yet, she said. "I got phone calls. It made some of my teachers uneasy." Some teachers have complained that the pacing guides don't allot enough time for some topics, she said, but overall, the new materials are getting good reviews. Maria Yepez, who teaches 4th grade at John Muir Academy, is finding the new materials helpful without being too intrusive on her judgment. Still, change comes slowly. At a late February meeting of her gradelevel team, she and her fellow teachers were struggling with lesson plans in this lessscripted era. "My colleagues keep asking if they are doing the right thing," Ms. Yepez said, "and our principal keeps telling us, `You have the flexibility. You are doing the right thing.' " Coverage of "deeper learning" that will prepare students with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in a rapidly changing world is supported in part by a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.
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Education WeeK Spotlight on Professional Development for Common Core n
Published February 27, 2013, in Education Week Standards Worrying Teachers
By Catherine Gewertz Even as the Common Core State Standards are being put into practice across most of the country, nearly half of teachers feel unprepared to teach them, especially to disadvantaged students, according to a new survey. The study by the EPE Research Center, an arm of Editorial Projects in Education, the publisher of Education Week, found deep wells of concern among teachers about their readiness to meet the challenges posed by the common core in English/language arts and mathematics. "Teachers are under tremendous pressure," said Lisa Dickinson, an assistant Director of Educational issues for the American Federation of Teachers, which conducts several common-core training programs in school districts each month. "The new standards do require a major shift in instruction. And the needed supports really aren't there." Teachers in adopting states were asked to rate their preparedness on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being "very prepared" and 1 "not at all prepared." When asked how prepared they were to teach the common core to their own students as a whole, 49 percent rated themselves a 1, 2, or 3. More than two-thirds said they were not well enough prepared to teach the standards to English-language learners or students with disabilities. More than half said they were not yet ready to teach them to low-income students or those considered at risk of academic failure. Another survey, released last week, however, found teachers feeling confident about their readiness to teach the new standards. The Neediest Students The EPE study, based on an online survey conducted in October, is not nationally representative of U.S. teachers. It is drawn from 600 K-12 educators who are registered users of But the sample is quite diverse, drawing on K-12 teachers, school-based curriculum coordinators, instructional coaches, content specialists, and department leaders in cities, suburbs, small towns, and rural areas, and in schools of all sizes, serving students of varying income levels. As such, it is one notable
gauge of how the precollegiate world is responding to the expectations of the common standards, which have been adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia. And that gauge shows pronounced worry that teachers, students, districts, and states are far from ready to make the common core a success in the classroom, a little more than two years from when the first tests on the standards are scheduled to be given. Students with special challenges, such as learning disabilities or limited English proficiency, appear to be particularly at risk of not being well served, since educators said they were the least prepared to teach those students. Even teachers who have had more rather than less professional development in the common standards reported that they were the least ready for those subgroups of students. Three-quarters of those who have had more than five days of training said they felt prepared to teach their own students as a whole, compared with one-third of those who had had less than one day of professional development. Six in 10 of those with more than five days of preparation felt ready to teach low-income students or those academically at risk, compared with about one-quarter of those who had had less than a day of professional development. Students with disabilities and Englishlearners posed the greatest challenges: Only four in 10 of the teachers who have had more than five days of professional development in the common core felt prepared to teach the standards to such students. Fewer than 14 percent of those with less than a day of training said they felt ready. While teachers' sense of readiness to teach the common core tracks with how much professional development they've had, the survey shows nearly three in 10 have not had any such training at all. Of the 70 percent who have, 41 percent have had four days or more. Three in 10 have had only one day or less. Thirty-one percent reported having had two to three days of professional development. Many in education contend that the common standards demand significant changes in pedagogy, and, in some cases, teachers' content knowledge. In math, for instance, students are being asked to demonstrate their understanding not only of procedures,
but also of their conceptual underpinnings. In English/language arts, they're expected to marshal evidence from what they read to support arguments and build their muscle with informational texts. Quick-Hit Training The most frequently addressed subject of professional development was English/language arts, followed by math and a comparison of the common standards with states' previous standards. Curriculum resources and collaboration with colleagues to teach the standards were also popular topics of professional development. The least-frequent topic of professional development was how to teach the standards to subgroups of students. Only 18 percent of those who have had some training said it explored that area. That's a worrisome sign for some of the neediest students, said Sherida Britt, who oversees some of the professional-development activities conducted by the Alexandria, VA.-based group ASCD. "We have to look at what teachers are saying and give them opportunities to engage in professional learning that addresses these issues and the needs of those particular students," she said. Although research has shown that job-embedded professional development is the most effective kind, only three in 10 educators who had received some training for the common core said that was the way it had been given. "Due to resources, professional development is still the drive-by" variety in most districts, said the AFT's Ms. Dickinson. More typically, professional development was provided through seminars, lectures or conferences, or collaborative planning time with colleagues. The most frequent providers of that training are staff members from the teachers' schools or district central offices. One-third reported getting it from outside professionals; one-quarter received it from the State Department of Education; and 15 percent got it from a professional association. What teachers really need, Ms. Dickinson said, is time to collaborate during the school day, when they can "really unpack the standards and look at lessons and understand what it looks like for student learning.
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Education WeeK Spotlight on Professional Development for Common Core n
"Teachers need time to collaborate [not only] within their grade, but across grades," she said, "so they can understand the progression of the standards, what's come before, and where they're going. This is very complex work, and the time is just not built in for them." Funding and capacity problems complicate the provision of good-quality professional development, said Ms. Britt. Without a "strong, clear vision and support" for ongoing, consultative professional development, teachers get quick-hit sessions that don't really build their collective capacity to improve instruction, she said. "That's pretty much in line with what teachers have been getting in previous years," said Ms. Britt. "But the common core compounds the problem because there's a sense of urgency. [The common assessments] are coming [in 2014-15], so people are really scrambling." Schools, Districts, States In addition to being asked about their own sense of preparedness for the common standards, educators answering the EPE Research Center survey were also asked to size up the readiness of their schools, districts, and states for the new standards. On the whole, they had more confidence in their own readiness than in that of the systems in which they function. Fewer than one-third said their schools were well prepared or very well prepared for the standards, and more than two-thirds said their schools were not well prepared. Confidence dropped as the locus of authority moved even further from the classroom: Only 27 percent of the educators said their districts were up to the task, and only two in 10 said their states were. Turning their eyes to their own students, teachers showed grave concerns about the children's prospects for mastering the standards. Asked to rate how well prepared their students are for that task on the 1-to-5 scale, with 5 being very prepared, only 23 percent of the educators gave the students 4's or 5's. Thirty-seven percent gave them 1's and 2's, and one-third gave them 3's. Teachers gave a mix of responses when asked about the standards' quality and their potential to improve their practice. About 37 percent said the common standards are about as good as their own states' previous standards, and 41 percent said the common standards were better. But even with that mixture of views, two-thirds said they thought the new standards would improve their teaching. The EPE Research Center's survey of educators' views on the common core was funded by the Hewlett Foundation.
Published February 26, 2014, in Education Week Curriculum Matters Blog
`Early Implementers' of Common Core Grapple With Aligning Tests, Curriculum
By Catherine Gewertz if you want a primer on the sink-or-swim implementation issues for the common core, you should read a new cluster of reports. They profile the work of four school districts that jumped into the new standards earlier and more aggressively than most. The collective portrait that emerges from the work of these districts maps the long, slow climb up the peak of putting the common core into practice in ways that drive positive change. The flip side, however, is that the stories offer a stark picture of the many ways to take shortcuts around the base of that peak--and the many ways to slip backwards on the climb up. Katie Cristol and Brinton S. Ramsey, consultants at Education First, wrote the reports for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a Washington think tank that has been a supporter of the Common Core State Standards. The authors chose four districts to illustrate different demographics and dynamics, each connoted by an assigned nickname: Kentucky's "trailblazer" Kenton County; Nevada's "creative" Washoe County in Reno; Nashville as the "urban bellwether," and Illinois' District 54 in Schaumburg as the "high-performing suburb." They examined the districts in five areas: communications and engagement, leadership, common-core-aligned curricular materials, professional development, and assessment and accountability. Going Deep In an overview, Cristol and Ramsey share conclusions that echo much of what we've found in reporting on the common core over the past few years: n The field hasn't produced enough good in- structional materials that reflect the new standards, so educators are struggling to create their own; n Professional development for the standards is too often quick and shallow; and n Educators are caught in a tough spot now as their students approach tests that aren't aligned to what they're teaching. Here is how the authors summarize a key
lesson that too often eludes states, districts, and schools as they try to do this work: "Implementation gains traction when district and school leaders lock onto the Common Core standards as the linchpin of instruction, professional learning, and accountability in their buildings." The five areas of implementation they studied are the ones that can make the common core sink or swim. The authors chose not to focus on another pivotal problem for the common core: the political controversies about the federal government's role in promoting the standards and funding the accompanying tests. Those, of course, could also sink the common core in states. And it's probably a key reason why the authors noted a common lesson in their districts as they keep "opposition and misinformation" from taking hold: "avoiding political debates by focusing their messages on instruction." More Centralization One of the most interesting things that emerges from these reports is how the four districts are tackling the thorny problem of curricular materials. Even as they steer clear of the marketplace's dubiously "aligned" materials in favor of writing their own, there is a shift to a more centralized approach, Cristol and Ramsey found. "Letting a thousand flowers bloom isn't consistent with ensuring that all teachers are using high-quality and well-aligned materials," they write. The districts featured come at this in various ways. In Illinois' District 54, teachers and district leaders wrote a new curriculum from scratch. Kenton County chose the College Board's Springboard curriculum. Nashville went the state-approved-textbook route, and Washoe wrote its own sequencing guides and course maps. Only District 54 has yet cobbled together enough stuff to form a complete curriculum; the others are working their way toward that end. Also worth noting as we read about these districts is that each appears to have enlisted teachers deeply in developing or choosing common-core curricula and in-
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Education WeeK Spotlight on Professional Development for Common Core n
structional materials. When that happens, the authors note, buy-in and support--even for a curricular approach that is more centralized than before--is strong. When it comes to professional development, the reports make clear that what's needed to make the common core work is stratospherically different from the "sit-andgit" that defines most such sessions. Teachers must now spend multiple class periods teaching a single text, since the new standards expect text- and evidence-based reading and writing, the authors note. That demands development of "more sophisticated lessons." The emphasis on going deeper in fewer math concepts can bring some teachers face to face with the "limits of their own content knowledge," the report says.
Practicing the Change "Professional development must go beyond basic workshops describing the common core standards at a macro level," the authors write. "Teachers need extensive opportunities to deeply understand, practice, revise, and practice again the changes in content and instruction reflected in the common core." The building of professional development and the use of instructional coaches in the four studied districts show how they went beyond the typical quick-hit PD. Washoe County's Core Task Project is especially noteworthy in this regard. That district has drawn wide notice for its home-grown, grassroots approach to immersing teachers in the common core. That teacher-led project devel-
oped its own training course for teachers. One overriding message of the four case studies is that deep, substantive implementation of the common core takes immense amounts of time and reflection. How possible is that, given all the pressures on educators, schools and districts? There's the federally imposed deadline of using common-core tests in 2015. There are states' promises to use test scores to evaluate teachers. Layered over that are the politically charged debates about federal overreach that throw doubts over states' willingness to continue their embrace of the common core. Moving ahead with a ticking time clock, not to mention uncertainty about whether your state will hang in there, complicates an already gargantuan task.
Published August 8, 2013, in Education Week Curriculum Matters Blog Study: Many Teachers Need Common-Core Professional Development
By Catherine Gewertz Many teachers in states that have adopted the common standards have not had any professional development to help them adjust to the new expectations, a new study shows. The findings, based on a survey by the Center on Education Policy, which has been tracking common-core implementation, highlight the difficulty states face in reaching all their teachers to prepare them for the Common Core State Standards. Fewer than a dozen states reported that three-quarters or more of their teachers have received professional development for the Common Core State Standards.
Of the 40 states responding to the survey, 22 said that better than half of their math and English/language arts teachers have participated in PD for the common core. Eleven couldn't supply estimates, and the rest said fewer than half of their teachers had participated in such sessions. As the report points out, these numbers could be explained by the later timelines that some states adopted in implementing the new standards. But if they are, it suggests that these later timelines are leaving an awful lot of teachers underprepared for the new expectations. "The implementation clock is ticking," says the CEP report, which was released yesterday. "If changes in instruction are to occur on schedule and if students are to
be well prepared to master the standards, then teachers and principals must receive effective professional development to aid them through this transition." And that doesn't mean drive-by PD, either, according to the CEP. "One of the most urgent challenges is to not only provide an adequate amount of CCSS-related professional development, but also ensure these services are of high quality," the report says. Indeed, 37 of the 40 responding states said that providing professional development to teachers in sufficient quantity and quality for the common core is a challenge. Thirty-three said the same about providing professional development to principals.
Estimated percentages of teachers and principals receiving professional development in the CCSS
Type of educator
Number of states estimating that the following proportions of educators have participated in at least some CCSS-related professional development:
76% to 100%
75% to 51%
50% to 26%
25% or less
Can not estimate at this time/ Don't know
math teachers*
ELA teachers
ELA teachers
Table reads: Respondents in 10 states estimated that at the time of the survey, between 76% and 100% of their state's math teachers had participated in at least some professional development related to the Common Core. *This row totals 39 rather than 40 because one responding state did not adopt the CCSS in mathematics.
Source: Center on Education Policy
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Professional Learning
Questions inspire! When teachers pose thought-provoking questions to their students, they send a powerful message that students' ideas about, and interpretations of, what they read are valuable. Asking the right questions at the right time is a skill that is cultivated over time. Teachers who learn the art of effective questioning help their students develop the capacity to think critically, to analyze and comprehend challenging texts, to listen carefully to new perspectives, and to communicate complex ideas both orally and in writing. At the Great Books Foundation, our professional learning courses, webinars, and consultation days are centered around Shared InquiryTM--a proprietary method of learning that we have been teaching since 1947. Shared Inquiry is designed to foster an appetite for learning, a love of reading, and a respect for the diversity of ideas expressed by teachers and students.
Introductory Course Anyone who is interested in implementing a Great Books program should take our Shared Inquiry Essentials course. This 10-hour course is offered in two formats: as a two-day live, on-site training or as a combination of six hours (one day) of live instruction followed by four hours of web-based instruction. Both formats are taught by our experienced Great Books professional learning consultants and are highly interactive. Participants will cover key concepts and the basics of: C Leading a discussion C Preparing a reading selection C Asking effective follow-up questions C Conducting program activities For an outline of this course and a list of courses held around the country visit For information on hosting a course, please contact us at 800.222.5870 or [email protected]
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Professional Learning Using Shared InquiryTM with Nonfiction This course helps you understand how to apply our Shared Inquiry method of learning to nonfiction texts by introducing the single-text and anchor-text models required to meet the Common Core State Standards. Prior training in Shared Inquiry is strongly recommended. We offer additional professional learning courses that will help you apply our Shared Inquiry method to a wide variety of materials and disciplines. For more information, please visit or contact us at 800.222.5870 or customer.service
According to Learning Forward and the National Education Association, Great Books professional learning increases student achievement in elementary, middle, and high school grades.
Consultation Days Schools and districts can maximize the continuing impact of their Great Books program by taking advantage of our on-site Consultation Days. Our Consultation Days are customized to the unique needs of each school/district and help teachers strengthen their understanding of how to effectively use all the components of Shared Inquiry in real-world classroom settings. During Consultation Days, we: C Provide practical advice on implementation C Co-conduct discussions or other activities C Observe and offer specific constructive assessments of teachers C Assist in lesson planning or preparation Contact us as 800.222.5870 or [email protected] for details.
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Reading Comprehension Strategies Learn how to increase students' reading comprehension skills by integrating strategies such as rereading, making inferences, and asking questions. Duration: 90 minutes · Fee: $50/person The Power of Student Questions Learn how to prompt students to ask questions about a text to deepen their engagement with the material and increase learning. Duration: 90 minutes · Fee: $50/person The Close Reading Process Learn a concrete step-by-step reading process that teaches students to work closely with texts in order to build higher level reading comprehension and critical thinking skills. Duration: 90 minutes · Fee: $50/person Shared Inquiry Review Refresh and extend the key concepts and skills you learned during your initial Shared Inquiry training. Prior participation in our Shared Inquiry Essentials course is strongly recommended. Duration: 90 minutes · Fee: $50/person Administrators Briefing Experience the Shared Inquiry method of learning by participating in a short discussion. Then learn more about our K-12 offerings. Duration: 90 minutes FREE
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Education WeeK Spotlight on Professional Development for Common Core n
Published March 13, 2013, in Education Week Teacher Q&A Charlotte Danielson on Teaching and the Common Core
By Anthony Rebora
Charlotte Danielson, a former teacher and school administrator with degrees from Cornell and Oxford Universities, is one of the most recognized authorities on teaching practice in the United States. A popular speaker and trainer, she is best known as the creator of the "Framework for Teaching," a 115-page set of components for effective pedagogy that is used in many states and districts to inform teacher evaluation and professional development. Danielson recently released a new edition of her Framework for 2013, with updates designed to reflect the Common Core State Standards. In a recent interview, we talked to her about the common standards and how they might change teachers' work.
What are the central implications of the common standards in terms of instructional practice, or the way teachers teach? That's a good question, because we tend to think about the common core in terms of what students learn--for example, whether they demonstrate understanding of a concept or strong argumentation skills, being able to establish a point and defend it logically. Those are, of course, curriculum and ultimately assessment issues. But they also have implications for instruction--that is, how do you teach students the skills of argumentation? How do you teach in a way that advances conceptual understanding rather than superficial knowledge? These types of learning outcomes require different kinds of instructional practices--ones that many teachers are not adequately prepared to use. I think the common core rests on a view of teaching as complex decision making, as opposed to something more routine or drill-based. That's a view I've always taken as well. It requires instructional strategies on teachers' parts that enable students to explore concepts and discuss them with each other, to question and respectfully challenge classmates' assertions. So I see the common core as a fertile and rich opportunity for really important professional learning by teachers, because--I don't know now how to say this nicely--well, not all teachers have been prepared to teach in this way. I see that as one of the enormous challenges facing the common core rollout. When you walk into a classroom, will good teaching look different under the common core? Well, that depends on how teachers are teaching now. But when I walk into a classroom, of course I care about what the teacher is doing, but in some ways I care even more about what the students are doing. What's the nature of the task? Are students being invited, or even required, to think? Naturally, that has implications for what the teacher is doing and what the teacher has already done. That is, has the teacher designed learning experiences for kids that engage them in thinking or formulating and testing hypothesizes or challenging one another respectfully or developing an understanding of a concept? You really only know what a teacher is doing
when you look at what the students are doing. I also listen carefully to how teachers question students--if they ask kids to explain their thinking, for instance. That's very different from just saying that's the right or wrong answer. It's a very different mindset about wanting to understand the students' thinking and their degree and level of understanding. How much of your framework has changed as a result of the common standards? Not much. What I did was make explicit some things that were always there. The Framework for Teaching has always been grounded in the same fundamental assumptions as the common standards-- for example, the importance of student conceptual understanding and of student intellectual engagement. I just called those things out. But it's important to note that the common standards so far only apply to two subject areas, literacy and mathematics, whereas my framework is generic--I intend it to apply to all settings. So in terms of the actual rubrics and the critical attributes of the different levels of performance, I could only incorporate those aspects of the common standards that in fact apply everywhere--for example, those things we've been talking about like argumentation and conceptual understanding. For things that are more subject-specific, such as the close reading of texts and the balance of fiction and nonfiction, I included those only in the examples for particular critical attributions. The common-core documentation says that the standards are designed to give teachers flexibility. Does that make it more difficult for schools to evaluate teachers--insofar as there is no one right or prescribed way to do things? It's true that the common standards are silent on the subject of how students should learn the content of the standards--there's no doubt about that. But I don't think that necessarily makes it "more difficult" for administrators to evaluate teachers' practice. That is, if I'm going into a classroom and looking for how well a teacher is implementing the common core, I'm going to look for those common themes that run through the common core, and if it's literacy or math, look for specific things. Again, I tend to look at what the students are doing. So, for example, do
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Education WeeK Spotlight on Professional Development for Common Core n
you see evidence of the teacher developing the skills that would encourage good argumentation--not only by asking good questions themselves but by encouraging the students to ask good questions and respectfully challenge one another's point of view? That kind of holistic inquiry has always been a part of my Framework. OK, so, imagine you are a school leader. How much room would you give teachers to experiment as they are implementing the common core? I personally would allow them to experiment quite a bit, because, again, the common standards only describe what students will learn. There are many ways to achieve those goals. In addition, this is all very new. As I said a minute ago, this is a rich opportunity for good professional learning--and for teachers to work together and maybe watch videos of one other teaching, then pause the video and talk about how or why particular decisions were made. I think implementation of this will be more productive if it's done through groups of teachers working together or with a principal or instructional coach or team leader--as opposed to having a principal say, "This is the way it has to be." It seems to me that, given the opportunity for deep professional learning work, teachers will have the expertise in this at least as much as principals or other school leaders. I mean, they're the ones who are going to be able to say, "This is what common core looks like in algebra," or "This is what it looks like in 3rd grade reading class." Furthermore, we've discovered in our work that principals don't always recognize real student engagement. If the students are compliant and doing what the teacher says, if they're on task and busy, principals will often call it "engaged." But the students might not be doing any thinking at all. They might just be filling in some blanks on a worksheet. So I think this shift is going to challenge a lot of people to think deeply and differently. That's my hope. And from a school leadership perspective, this means you don't want to be ramming things down peoples' throats--I think that's at odds with the spirit of what you're trying to do with the common core. There's a lot of talk about teachers being able to share and to make greater use of supplemental curriculum materials like primary sources. Do you have any recommendation for teachers on evaluating the quality or relevance of such resources? Yes, the use of primary sources in lessons-- diaries, ships' logs, letters--can be wonderful and extremely enriching. And when teachers use these kinds of things, they can engage
students in the kinds of learning that absolutely reflect the common core--that require analysis and conjecture and move away from rote learning. And I think that as more materials become available online, and as teachers begin to delve into the standards and understand what kinds of skills they are trying to develop in students, this can be a very rich experience for teachers themselves. They will be able to get involved in conversations with other educators and gain expertise as to the kinds of resources they need or want. I also assume that districts and curriculum directors will also help teachers evaluate lesson materials, in terms of their applicability to particular standards. At least in the early going, teachers may just need to trust their school or district leaders' judgment on the value of particular materials. What's your advice for developing formative or benchmark assessments based on the common standards, given that the official common-core-aligned assessments are still under development? I think it's the same issue as with teaching in general. You need to have a deep understanding of what the standards are about. Let's say you teach 4th grade mathematics. From reading the standards, you can see that there's a premium on mathematical reasoning, let's say. So you would want to be both teaching and formatively assessing kids on that. For example, do the students understand the processes they are using? Can they apply them in varied situations? But we have to define what we mean by formative assessment--some people use that term to mean interim summative assessments, these benchmarking exams that companies sell. That's not my definition of formative assessment. I consider formative assessment to be a part of teaching, something that is assimilated into lesson plans and instructional decision making. It's ongoing monitoring done by the teacher, not just of the group as a whole but of individuals as well. In my view, it's not mini-summative assessments--it's not something you administer, if you will, in January. It's an integral part of instruction. Formative assessment is not something you buy off the shelf. It's a skill you learn how to do. But how do you know if you're doing it well? The same way you know if you're doing teaching well. To me this is another place where there's an opportunity for teachers to work together and determine what it looks like on the ground when students are reaching the kinds of higher-level Learning Objectives
the common core describes. It has to be part of teaching--an integral part of conversations teachers need to be having about whether they are implementing the standards with fidelity. What kind of responses are we getting from our students? What kind of evidence do we have that they understand what they are learning? I think figuring out how to measure these expectations is very much on-the-ground work. How will the common core affect teachers who have students with a wide range of skill levels or high needs? Well that hasn't changed. That is the perennial instructional challenge--kids come into your classroom with a huge range of backgrounds and skills. I fear that the common core papers over that problem. In what way? Well, in mathematics, for example, you're expected to focus on a few key concepts for 3rd graders. But suppose you've got some students who never mastered the 1st grade skills. The standards documentation, as far as I can see, is silent on how a teacher handles that situation. So what's your advice for a teacher in that position? As an outsider, it's hard to be specific, but I think one has to understand the developmental learning sequence of particular concepts and teach them in a way that's compatible with the central themes of the common core. That is, the specific topics to me are less important than the Big Ideas. So if I'm teaching for conceptual understanding, which is a big idea in the common core, I'm going to go for conceptual understanding while maybe modulating the specific skills I'm teaching. Say I'm a 4th grade teacher and prime numbers is a 4th grade skill, but I've got some 4th graders who don't understand place value. In that case, my own personal inclination would be to ensure that my students develop conceptual understanding of place value at that point-- because that's what they need. So the big idea of conceptual understanding is still consistent. But the actual topic? I don't see how you can responsibly say anything other than that you have to be flexible and teach students what they have the background to learn at that point. Otherwise, you're setting them up for failure. Are there things about the common core that you don't like? No, not really, not conceptually. But I do worry somewhat about the assessments--I'm concerned that we may be headed for a train wreck there. The test items I've seen that have
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Education WeeK Spotlight on Professional Development for Common Core n
been released so far are extremely challenging. If I had to take a test that was entirely comprised of items like that, I'm not sure that I would pass it--and I've got a bunch of degrees. So I do worry that in some schools we'll have 80 percent or some large number of students failing. That's what I mean by train wreck. But who knows? We just don't know enough about the assessments right now. But when I have shown some of those released items to groups of educators--to teachers and administrators--the room just goes very quiet. So I can imagine a hostile response on the part of some educators and communities. But I'd like to be wrong about that. I do think the vision of the common core, in terms of the conceptual framework, is terrific. For some educators, it represents a real change in mindset. It's about getting away from this scripted or pre-digested textbookbased instruction and really asking questions and encouraging deep understanding. I love all that tremendously. I mean, when you ask a kid who doesn't like school, "Why not?," you never hear him say, "because it's too hard." Kids say, "It's boring." And you know what? They have a point. A lot of it is. There are a lot of boring lessons out there--and I see the common core as a way of breaking out of that, because it does put a real premium on students' deeper learning and understanding and engagement, real engagement. Do you have specific advice for teachers who are making the transition to the common standards right now? I guess my advice to teachers would be to take a deep breath and look at ways this might be compatible with what they're already doing and what they want to do in their classrooms. Good teaching has always been what the common core is asking: inviting students to think and to understand complex concepts. The standards are going to invite teachers to think deeply about what the students are learning, and about whether they are really teaching for understanding, and how they can do that better--because that's where the real power in learning is. This is a big initiative, and it is going to require a major reorientation in how many people think about instruction and student learning. There's no doubt about that. I don't think we should pretend otherwise. On the other hand, it's always been the vision of some people, including me, that that's how we ought to be teaching--for deep engagement. And by engagement I mean intellectual engagement, resulting in the understanding of complex concepts.
Published November 4, 2013, in Education Week Rick Hess Straight Up Blog C o m m e n ta ry Professional Development Is Broken. Let's Fix It.
By Eric Westendorf As schools and districts across the country implement the Common Core State Standards, the need to provide high quality professional development for teachers has never been greater. Yet, despite the more than $3 billion invested annually in teacher PD, few in our industry would say the money is well spent. If you've ever observed a typical PD session, it's obvious why: undifferentiated "sit and listen" sessions abound, requiring little engagement from teachers and generating few personal insights as a result. To improve teacher PD, we need to shift to a talent development model. Research shows there are two factors critical for developing talent: engaging in deep practice, and focusing on challenging, bite-sized tasks. In this post, I will describe how these two ingredients can unlock teacher potential and build their capacity to orchestrate powerful learning experiences for students. Engage in Deep Practice In his book The Talent Code, award-winning author Daniel Coyle identifies deep practice as the central ingredient to talent development. To develop your expertise in an area, you have to work deliberately on whatever it is you are trying to master. For example, a violinist must focus intently on playing a sonata, a carpenter on making a bookshelf. They struggle, they have setbacks, they problem solve, and, as a result, they develop their talent. If the central role of teachers is to orchestrate powerful learning experiences for students, then teacher PD ought to be practice-based: focused on deep and structured practice of planning and delivering these learning experiences. Ideally, like an artist who turns to old masters to develop their understanding of shape, line and composition, we do so in ways that build on what excellent teachers have discovered will work with students. Teachers
study high quality lessons and resources and then try their own hand; deliberately thinking through the impact of each choice on student learning. There are a number of reasons why this works. First, we differentiate the professional development for teachers. Talking about "differentiation" is one thing; figuring out how to differentiate a particular lesson or resource to meet the needs of your students is another. In this model, a 4th grade math teacher works on a different plan than a 6th grade English language arts teacher. We move away from a nonsensical one-size-fits-all workshop on differentiation and focus on what really matters for that particular teacher. Second, this practice-based model creates accountability. Teachers cannot coast through the experience; they are responsible for creating something. At the end, it's evident whether they did or didn't. And when the best work product can be showcased publicly or made available to other teachers in their practice, there is an incentive to invest in doing great work. They are not doing it because it is mandated; they are doing it because they want to put their best foot forward in front of their peers. They also know that if their work is high quality, it will actually be used by their peers. The most important benefit of all, however, is that a practice-based methodology involves feedback. I can find out whether the plans I develop actually work with students. Did they help my students learn? Teachers can use "exit slips" or student work samples to find out. In his book, Thinking Fast and Slow, the Nobel Prize winning behavioral economist, Daniel Kahneman points out that people only develop strong, useful intuitions when they get quick and clear feedback on the effects of their actions. Not all professions provide quick, direct feedback, but when mechanisms - like those I will explore in Wednesday's post - exist to enable focused feedback, it's an opportunity not to be ignored.
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Education WeeK Spotlight on Professional Development for Common Core n
Focus on Challenging, Bite-Sized Tasks I'm convinced that one reason our industry provides such ineffective professional development is that we feel bad for teachers. As a former teacher, I know how incredibly taxing it is to manage a room full of kids each school day. And when I was a young principal, it felt mean asking teachers to work hard when they were exhausted from a full day leading classes. Yet, I've come to understand that efforts to be sensitive end up being disrespectful. What teachers really need is time. If we are going to ask teachers to use their time by passively listening to a lecture, we are wasting it. Professional development ought to challenge teachers to work hard on something they need to get done well; and to structure that time in a way that sets them up for success. We discovered the power of this approach somewhat accidentally at LearnZillion, when TeachFest, a conference we organized to enable hundreds of teachers to work together on creating high quality Common Core resources for free use by their peers, turned into the equivalent of a coder Hacka-thon, with teachers working together to crack the code. Unlike most conferences, TeachFest is all about work. Teachers spend 80% of the time sitting around tables in teams, working on crafting lessons. On the second night of a recent TeachFest in Atlanta, after a full day of planning, we gave the teachers three options: (1) go out on the town, (2) watch Ferris Bueller's Day Off on a large screen (with open bar and candy), or (3) continue to work on lessons in the basement of the hotel. At 11pm that evening, most of them were down in the basement working on their lessons. They literally looked as happy as kids in a candy shop (and that wasn't just because the candy had migrated from the movie to the basement). This only happened, however, because our challenges were structured to be bite-sized. At TeachFest, we break lesson planning down into challenging but do-able steps. First, they analyze high quality examples. Then they analyze a rubric that describes the attributes of high quality. Then they research one Common Core standard, etc, etc. Every step has a template to help guide the work. Every step involves discussion or feedback from a peer or coach. Every step is challenging, necessary to achieve quality, and do-able. In his book Drive, Daniel Pink identifies three sources of motivation: autonomy (you are given responsibility for doing something challenging), mastery (you can
see that you are progressing toward mastery), and purpose (you believe what you're doing matters). When professional development focuses on a useful product, and then breaks the creation of that product into doable steps, magic happens. Andrea Lemon, one of the teachers at TeachFest, describes this magic in her blog post: The Three Cs I Learned at LearnZillion TeachFest 2013. This magic is accelerated when you bring technology into the mix. Stay tuned for Wednesday's post, which focuses on the role technology can play in supporting teacher talent development. Eric Westendorf is co-founder and CEO of and former principal of E.L. Haynes Public Charter School in Washington, D.C.
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Get the information and perspective you need on the education issues you care about most with Education Week Spotlights The Achievement Gap l Algebra l Assessment l Autism l Bullying l Charter School Leadership l Classroom Management l Common Standards l Differentiated Instruction l Dropout Prevention l E-Learning l ELL Assessment and Teaching l ELLs in the Classroom l Flu and Schools l Getting The Most From Your IT Budget l Gifted Education l Homework l Inclusion and Assistive Technology l Math Instruction l Middle and High School Literacy l Motivation l No Child Left Behind l Pay for Performance l Principals l Parental Involvement l Race to the Top l Reading Instruction l Reinventing Professional Development l Response to Intervention l School Uniforms and Dress Codes l STEM in Schools l Teacher Evaluation l Teacher Tips for the New Year l Technology in the Classroom l Tips for New Teachers
On Homework
Published February 20, 2008, in Education Week
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COMMENTARY: 8 Dealing With
10 Zoe's Poster
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12 The Truth About Homework
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15 On Homework
sOnpTeaocher Ttips lfor ithge Nehw Yeatr OSnPClaOssrooTm LMaInGag HT Editor'sNote:Headingbackto ement school offers new challenges for teachers, as well as students. This Spotlight offers tips for educators on easing into the new What Are Your academicyearassmoothlyand productively as possible. New School-Year How INteRActIvecONteNtS: to Use 1 WhatAreYourNew School-Year Resolutions? Resolutions? Lefto 2TeachingSecrets: ver Clas Hang on to the Magic s 4 How Colleagues Can Help New Teachers Time Wisely 5 TeachingSecrets: 10 To-Dos for New Teachers 6 Teaching Secrets: A When the Kids Don't Share Your Culture 8 Getting Ready for the School Year 10 Summer Project: Tweaking Those Flawed Lessons 11 Teaching Secrets: Phoning Home
Published August 4, 2010, in Education Week Teacher
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Published July 22, 2009, in Education Week's Teacher Magazine
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practice by saying that without it, many people were "a digested actions." To take that metaphor a bit further, I could say that reflection is like Pepto Bismol!
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6 Hallway Hints
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8 Blackboard vs. Moodle
To Jon, on His of Teaching
12 The Miracle of Choices 14 Taming the Dragon of Classroom Chaos
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