Who Are We To Argue with #TeacherEd Magic Eight Ball?

Is the future of teacher education a competency-based model focused on ensuring prospective teachers are able to do and apply everything they have learned? Over at Inside Philanthropy, Tracey DeFrancesco looks at that question, highlighting some of the work currently being done by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and its Woodrow Wilson Academy of Teaching and Learning.

As DeFrancesco writes about the WW Academy:

So can this dual academy/lab track break new ground in training methods to have a lasting impact on American education? Considering the backing from funders, a partnership with MIT, and buy-in from school districts, a shake of the Magic Eightball says, “Signs point to yes.” The main premise, here, is to prepare the STEM teachers that our schools so desperately need by reimagining training models that were developed in a different paradigm. Times have changed, and we’re hoping a fresh take will get results.

The full article, including an interview with yours truly, is worth the read. The future of teacher education may very well be now.



“A New Compact for Teaching and Learning”

There is little question that the edu-world is experiencing a time of transition. Whether one is talking about testing and assessment, socio-economic issues, instructional expectations, teacher preparation, design of the school or the school day, or virtually any other issue that touches today’s students, one thing is clear. The schools, teaching, and learning of the future will likely bear little resemblance to those we experienced when we were young learners.

Earlier this week, NCTAF released What Matters Now: A New Compact for Teaching and Learning. In its call to action, NCTAF issued a call to action focused on six key reccs designed to help shift the field toward “more engaging and relevant teaching and learning for all.” These recommendations include:

  1. Policymakers should establish and broadly communicate a new compact with teachers
  2. Every state should establish a Commission on teaching, learning, and the State’s Future
  3. States and districts should codify and track whether all schools are “organized for success”
  4. Teacher preparation should be more relevant and clinically-based
  5. States should support all new teachers with multi-year induction and high-quality mentoring
  6. Education leaders should evaluate all professional learning for responsiveness and effectiveness

The full report is well worth the read. In a era of relative doom and gloom, NCTAF provides a positive view of both what is possible and what is necessary. All of the areas provided above are of importance to the future of both teaching and learning. But dear ol’ Eduflack wants to throw a spotlight on NCTAF’s specific thinking with regard to buckets four and five — teacher and ed and teacher mentoring.

Specifically, when it comes to teacher prep, the report offers :

To stem chronic shortages and turnover and to improve teachers’ experience and efficacy, it is particularly important that pre-service teachers gain significant experience with real classrooms. Therefore,

  • Teacher preparation should include a year of clinical experience
  • Coursework should include social-emotional as well as academic learning, and experience in culturally knowledgeable and responsive practices
  • Performance assessments, proven to be a reliable way to ensure that beginning teachers are competent to lead a classroom, should be used as a strong indicator of teacher readiness
  • Teacher preparation programs and school districts need to invest in and strengthen their partnerships to improve teacher candidates’ effectiveness and retention

And when it comes to supporting those new to the teaching profession, NCTAF provides the following ideas:

New teacher induction and mentoring leads to improved teacher retention, satisfaction, and efficacy. Yet currently only a few states provide this critical foundation for their teachers. States should:

  • • Require a multi-year induction program as a licensure requirement
    • Provide sustained program funding
    • Require multi-year mentoring, with carefully selected and trained mentors
    • Consider additional release time for new teachers as is done in other countries
    • Consider pilot programs that provide differentiated induction for teachers from different pathways

From a strong clinical experience to multi-year mentoring, these are important pieces that must be factored into the future of teacher preparation and educator development. They are items that many of the organizations I work with, from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation to TeachStrong, are focusing on. And they are issues we need to spend more time not only talking about, but actually doing.

(Full disclosure, Eduflack previously worked for NCTAF, but it was many, many ages ago.)

Vote Now: Teaching CAN Be a Game!

It’s that time of year again, when the good folks at SXSWedu open up the online polling places and let all of us cast our ballots for those sessions we think would make for an interesting, compelling, and valuable SXSWedu.

Yes, the #SXSW2017 Panel Picker is now open. And dear ol’ Eduflack respectfully requests that you cast your ballot (and you can vote for as many sessions as you want, so no need to make choice while denying another) for: Think Preparing Teachers Is a Game? It Can Be.

In this session, my friends from MIT, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the WW Academy of Teaching and Learning will discuss how gaming — including role plays, virtual reality, and other scenarios — can be used to better engage prospective teachers and improve teacher education programs. You’ll even hear how 21st century gaming doesn’t just mean online and digital. Old school gaming with cards and boards and dice can be just as effective.

And if one wants to play edubuzzword bingo, they will also explore how gaming can create a next generation of career teachers prepared to lead classrooms focused on personalized learning and cognitive science.

You have the Eduflack guarantee it will be a worthwhile session. And it should also prove the perfect venue to see, first hand, some of the teacher-focused games MIT and the WW Academy are currently developing.

Vote early, vote often. And please vote for this session. All you need to do is click here and then click on the thumbs up. Easy, peasy.



Think Education is a 2016 Campaign Issue? Think Again.

Every election season, the same debate seems to happen in edu-circles. We discuss how important education issues are in this particular election. Such talk often will refer to a recent Gallup poll that places education fifth or eighth on the list of things people most care about. We mention the role of unions, particularly teachers unions, in turning out the vote. And we convince ourselves that education policy will matter this election year.

Earlier today, EdWeek’s Andrew Ujifusa provided a nice dive into what the Democrats’ education platform looks like, while last week his partner Alyson Klein reported on Donald Trump’s eduspeak at the GOP convention. We even have multiple edu-bloggers writing in recent days on the WikilLeaks DNC email dump and DNC staff referring to Common Core as the “third rail” this political season.

A lot of words, yes, but how does this translate to the average voter and the average campaign issue? To be fair, I don’t expect national campaigns to be running on campaign issues. I’d be shocked if Trump even mentions education again over the next three-plus months, other than have some of his surrogates mention Common Core and federal takeovers of our schools (and maybe bathrooms) as red meat for the base.

And while I don’t believe the key to Hillary Clinton picking up enough undecided voters to secure a plurality of voters come November is going to be edu-speak, I do expect education to be part of the discussion for the future. I believe a strong society and a strong future depends on a strong educational infrastructure. Whether that is managing student loan debt, improving access to postsecondary options including career and technical education, enhancing early childhood opportunities, and, yes, raising student test scores. Education is a key strand in the DNA of what so many are seeking when it comes to their futures.

So I was quire surprised when I received an email from the Hillary Clinton campaign this morning, asking me to fill out a survey to share what issues matter most to me and my family. I was asked the issue that mattered most to me, and was provided 14 choices (plus an other box). As you’ll see in this photo, choices included everything from gun violence prevention to criminal justice reform to climate change to Wall Street reform to disability rights. But no education.


When I checked “other,” I didn’t get a free-fill box to write in my choice. So what “other” means to be will never be revealed to those tabulating what is most important to my family.

And when asked what the second-important issue was to my family, I got the same list.

I can only hope that those compiling the results from this survey (and from similar surveys being done by Team Trump) recognize that education is the non-negotiable in all of these. Looking at the 14 options provided, Eduflack can’t see how any of these issues cannot be fully addressed without improving the P-20 educational systems available to our families.

But I’ve also done enough political campaigns to know that subtlety and nuance are not things found to be effective in such efforts. When lists like these are provided to the average voter, we internalize that these are the issues most important to the American people. And we subconsciously acknowledge that education just isn’t on our list of the top 14 issues the country is facing.

And that’s a cryin’ shame.


The Values of #TeachStrong, Seen in Places Like Indiana

Improvement, however, must not breed complacency. How do we ensure that all of Indiana’s schools — particularly those in high-need communities — have the teacher pipeline to meet the needs of the 21st century? How do we make sure that every child in the Hoosier state has strong teachers leading their classrooms, from the earliest learning days up through high school graduation.

– Eduflack writing on TeachStrong and the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship, in the South Bend (Indiana) Tribune


We Need Your Help: Letters for Latino Students

Today, I am want to give a shout out to a new initiative that Eduflack has recently launched. As loyal readers know, I am incredibly proud of my family and the story of how we became a story. As chronicled in my award-winning book, Dadprovement, both of my kiddos were adopted from Guatemala. They are full birth siblings. And we are all incredibly proud of their heritage.

Next week, the entire family is headed out to Missouri as part of a national gathering of families who have adopted from Guatemala. MoGuat provides families like ours a sense of community and of belonging. And it helps our children, in particular, to see that they are not alone.

It’s no secret that now is not the ideal time to be young and brown in America. Talk of walls and sending families “back to their own countries” sends the wrong message to kids. It can also be very difficult for young people to understand, as they feel they aren’t wanted. That is why I launched Letters to Latino Students. I want to begin a national movement that shows what a bright future our young people have ahead of them. The first phase of this is seeking encouraging words from leaders across the country — Latino or not — on what is ahead. The call for these letters is below. I ask all Eduflack readers to please share this post with any and all who can contribute. All notes will be posted to the Letters to Latino Students website and will be shared as part of a broader effort.

Instead of walls, let’s build some bridges. We need those letters, folks.

You understand how important it is for children to have quality role models. But in the U.S. today, millions of Latino students hear far too often that they are part of the problem and that their dreams count less than those of many of their classmates. I am writing to you not seeking money but simply asking for your inspiration for those students who need to hear that they can be successful and that they are as important as their more privileged counterparts.

Through Letters to Latino Students, we are seeking motivational works for so many of today’s young people. So I write to ask you for a favor. Can you share with us some motivational words for today’s students? Can you offer a story from your own childhood that inspired you to finish school, go to college, or seek your passions? Can you share those quotes or movies or songs or books that gave you the inspiration to become the success you are now today?

Too much of today’s media communicates – intentionally or otherwise – that brown children are somehow at fault for many of our nation’s ails. They are told we need walls to keep them away and that they should “go back to where they came from.” And while they will soon represent the single largest group of students in our public schools, Hispanic students are too often made to feel inferior.

Let me be honest with you, this is a very personal subject to me. As the father of two Latino children, I have heard, seen, or experienced what can be said or done to kids that look like my beloved children. I know how brown students can be seen as a burden in the public schools, having heard from my own elected officials that we need to “do less” in our public schools to make them less attractive to “those families.” And while I know that my children can achieve anything, many others don’t share that view.

Letters to Latino Students seeks to share with all Hispanic students that anything is possible. It hopes to show today’s young people that there are generations before them that have succeeded, embracing and proud of where they come from and who they are. We hope to ensure that all Latino students can be inspired to persevere, regardless of the options placed before them.

I hope that you will take a few moments to write some inspirational words that can be shared with today’s Hispanic young people. All responses will be shared on our website, and all will be heavily promoted through social media. You can send your letters or thoughts to letters@letterstolatinostudents.org.

My kids, and the millions of children like them, look forward to your response.

Transforming Teacher Ed in Michigan

If Eduflack had a nickel for every time I heard that it is just too difficult and too time-consuming to transform and improve teacher education, I’d have … sacks and sacks full of those Thomas Jefferson-portraited coins.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Late last week, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation (an organization near and dear to Eduflack’s time and focus) hosted a national convening of its Teaching Fellows in Detroit. The convening provided prime examples of how teacher ed can and has been addressed to meet the demands of the 21st century classroom. Educators from Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, and Georgia gathered to talk about the value of their preparation at 28 universities through the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship and how that preparation has translated into success in their classrooms.

In delivering remarks to the gathering, Stephanie Hull, EVP and COO of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, spotlighted the specific efforts in Michigan, the host state for this year’s event. In her speech, Hull noted:

Here’s a snapshot of the work that took place through the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship in Michigan:

  • Every one of WW’s partner institutions transformed its teacher preparation curriculum to focus on a yearlong clinical experience and rigorous coursework tailored to that experience.
  • Every one of these partner universities established school-centered clinical placements and helped place Fellows in positions in high-need schools.
  • Every one of them created a double mentoring system, working through both the university and the school to support Fellows throughout their three-year teaching commitment.
  • Every one of them developed new partnerships between the education school, the arts and sciences, and in some cases the school of engineering to make all of this work.
  • Four of the six collaborated with the Detroit Public Schools to create a shared approach to mentoring, including the preparation of mentors and the kinds of support that mentors would receive in working with Fellows.
  • Of all the Fellows enrolled in the Michigan program, 80 percent were certified;
  • By the time Michigan’s last cohort of Fellows was admitted in 2014 — that’s the group of Fellows who are finishing their second year of teaching this year — we were seeing 100 percent placement rates; and
  • Retention of WW Teaching Fellows in the program has consistently been in the 90 percent range.
  • Among the schools where these WW Teaching Fellows teach, 95 to 98 percent of these schools are high-need schools, with about two-thirds of the students in these schools on free and reduced lunch, and 60 to 70 percent are students of color — so the Michigan Fellows have absolutely found their places in the schools where great STEM teachers are most needed and can make the most difference.
  • Finally, all six of the partner institutions reported to us that they had diffused the WW Teaching Fellowship model into their other graduate-level teacher preparation programs, and three had also extended it to their undergraduate STEM teaching programs as well.

These are impressive results, particularly when all we seem to hear about Michigan is the problems and struggles its educational institutions face. It shows anything is possible. And it demonstrates that tomorrow’s exemplary teachers are already being prepared today.