It’s the Ed Reform Prom!

Vision 2032: Shaping the Future of Education.  That is the topic of this year’s Yale School of Management Education Leadership Conference.  The event, hosted by the Yale SOM Education Club, has become a “must attend” for national education reform leaders, offering a virtual who’s who in the reform community.  

This year’s festivities start this evening with a concentrated day of speakers and panels tomorrow.  Friday morning kicks off with a morning keynote featuring John King, Kevin Huffman, and Deborah Gist, the state commissioners in New York, Tennessee, and Rhode Island, respectively.  The impressive lineup of speakers can be found here.
For those who will be New Haven for the event, dear ol’ Eduflack has two roles at the conference.  Tonight, I am part of the kickoff panel titled, “Connecticut — At the Tipping Point?”  I’ll be discussing the reform efforts in the Land of Steady Habits with Mary Loftus Levine, the president of the Connecticut Education Association, and Paul Vallas, the interim superintendent of Bridgeport Public Schools.  Also joining us will be Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy.
Tomorrow, I’m moderating a session on collaboration between school districts, unions, and charter schools.  Participants include Garth Harries of New Haven Public Schools, Boston Collegiate Charter School’s Shannah Varon, Kelly Tynan of UP Academy Charter School of Boston, and the AFT’s Randi Weingarten.
For those attending, welcome to Connecticut (and to New Haven).  For those not registered, you should be able to follow the event on Twitter from @YaleELC or by following tweets with the #YaleELC hashtag.  It’ll be well worth the look.
(Full disclosure, Eduflack served on the Advisory Committee for this year’s Yale ELC.)

Happy happy!

This week, Eduflack celebrates its fifth birthday!  That makes this blog about a year younger than my son, and about six months older than my daughter.  

So a big thank you to all of those who have helped Eduflack win those awards and recognitions.  A big thanks to those who post comments or share content from this blog with others.  But most importantly, the biggest of thanks to those who read this blog.
When I first started writing Eduflack, I never thought folks would actually read it (and I’m not being humble here, I actually started writing it because I found the process cathartic).  I never quite know what to say to people when they tell me they’ve been reading for years.  So all I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you!

Do We Get CEUs For This?

Down in Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal has offered an education reform package that leaves most other state reform packages in the dust.  Eliminate tenure.  Overhaul how teachers are paid.  Offer families vouchers to send their kids to private and parochial schools.

And like most states that face such reform proposals, Louisiana’s teachers’ unions are none too happy.  Unions leaders are standing up to the reform proposal.  They are speaking out.  They are rallying the troops.
But in a new twist, the unions are also getting local school districts to close their schools so that teachers can go to the state capitol to protest.  Officially, these newly decided days off are billed as “professional development” days, as the Advocate reports.
According to Learning Forward, the nation’s premier organization focused on educator effectiveness, the definition of PD is “a comprehensive, sustained, and intensive approach to improving teachers’ and principals’ effectiveness in raising student achievement.”
Now Eduflack is all for everyone having the right to exercise their First Amendment rights and ensuring that their voice is heard during the legislative process.  But all this begs an important question.  Does protesting pending legislation, waving signs, speaking out to protect your benefits and the like, serve as a “comprehensive, sustained, and intensive approach” to raising student achievement?  Does it demand that taxpayers, through their local school boards, cancel school days for students and pay teachers to go exercise their lobbying rights?
And if it does, can one get CEU credits for lobbying state legislatures or marching against the governor?

Evaluatin’ Teaching Hoosiers

No, it isn’t just states like New York and Connecticut that are currently focused on strengthening teacher evaluations and putting some real teeth into the process.  The good folks over at Hechinger Report have previously reported on similar efforts in Florida, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.  Next up … Indiana.

As Scott Elliott and Sarah Butrymowicz report:

Teachers across the state will be rated 1 through 4, with 1 being the lowest. Those ratings will be based in part on the test-scores of their students.

The ratings come with consequences.

Those who receive ineffective ratings can be dismissed at the end of the school year. After two years, anyone twice rated as needing improvement—teachers rated a 1 or 2—also can be fired. Teachers rated in the bottom two categories also can be blocked from receiving a raise.

“This is a culture shift,” said Mindy Schlegel, who leads a new division within the Indiana Department of Education focused on educator effectiveness. “This is saying, ‘If you’re not good, you don’t deserve a raise.’ ”

How significant is this change? Consider this: Currently, many teachers are not observed even once a year. Few are rated as ineffective.

The reform is championed by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, who thinks the current system, which leaves evaluation up to each school, does not address poor performance. He pointed to a study of a sample of school districts that showed 99 percent of teachers were rated effective.

Bennett calls that a “statistical impossibility.”

Some required reading, particularly for those who are seriously looking at how to make educator effectiveness efforts meaningful.

Bam! It’s Eduflack

It is time for one of those truly self-serving blog posts, the sorts that toot horns and pat backs.  
This week, the Bammy! Awards announced nominations for excellence in education.  Included on the lists is Eduflack, which is up for Education Commentator/Blogger.
You can cast your vote for dear ol’ Eduflack by visiting the Bammy! site here.
For more information on the Bammy! Awards themselves (Eduflack also serves on the Bammy! Council of Peers), visit here.
Vote early, vote often! 

Lessons Learned from the School Board

Earlier this week, the Falls Church City Council honored dear ol’ Eduflack for his “dedicated service” on the Falls Church City School Board, noting “the City is grateful for your serving the students of the City and making the City of Falls Church Public Schools one of the highest-ranking school systems in the United States.”

I am very proud of my school board service.  It was a privilege for me to serve in elected office, particularly when my charge was to ensure that every child received a world-class public education.  I was fortunate to work with two great superintendents, a phenomenal group of educators, engaged parents, and terrific fellow board members.
As a result, I come away with several key lessons learned:
1. Teachers are the engines of successful schools.  Teaching, particularly today, is one of the most challenging jobs out there.  For schools to succeed and children to achieve, we need excellent educators in every classroom.  Those educators must be empowered to do what is best for the students.  And those successful educators must be paid fairly.
2. If teachers are the engines, then parents are the gasoline.  In Falls Church, we benefited from intense family engagement, with parents eager to be a part of what was happening in their child’s classroom, school, or the community at large.  For ultimate success, teachers and parents must work in partnership to educate the child.
3. No excuses.  In our community, we expected all students to achieve.  We competed every year to have the highest high school graduation rate in the state or to be rated the highest achieving district in the DC area (at least according to The Washington Post).  We encouraged all students to take AP and IB courses throughout their high school careers.  AND we made it a school board priority for the school district to pay the fees for those AP and IB tests.  We could not let family income be a barrier to student achievement.
These are lessons that every community — urban, suburban, or rural — can all learn from.  The value of great educators.  The need for engaged parents.  The true belief that all can succeed.  Imagine how much could happen in public education if we all could adopt these simple lessons.

Ed Reform: Team Play or One-Man Band?

Are teachers to blame for all that’s wrong with our public schools?  Of course not.  While many frustrated folks may want to put the blame squarely on the shoulders of educators, it simply isn’t the case.  There are too many factors in the mix for any one individual to bear all the blame.  

When we look at problems like achievement gaps and graduation rates, we know that these issues did not materialize overnight.  There is no one stakeholder to blame.  We all bear responsibility for our situation, be we parent or policymaker, educator or activist.
Why, then, is it OK for the defenders of the status quo to say that only teachers should be involved in education reform efforts?  
For years now, we have heard some educators say that those who are not in the classroom have no business engaging in school improvement efforts.  That this is only for teachers to solve.  The classroom educator knows best.
If teachers aren’t solely responsible for our K-12 ills, why would be possibly think that they are solely responsible for fixing all that’s wrong in our public schools?  It took a village to get us to our current level of educational mediocrity, and it will take a similar village to get us back on an upward trajectory.
As a parent, I have a responsibility to do everything possible to ensure my kids get the best public educations possible.  As a homeowner, I want to know that my local school district is excelling, exceeding expectations.  As a taxpayer, I expect my taxes are being well spent and my schools performing above the state mean.  And as an advocate, I demand that all children — regardless of their race, family income, or zip code — have access to great public schools.
Rather than looking to exclude key stakeholders from the ed reform discussion, we should instead be focused on how to build greater awareness and involvement from all of those in the educational village.  It is the only way we will make the progress needed … and it may be the one way we ensure that others at the table don’t place the blame solely at the feet of our teachers.  We all need to own the reform process.