Education Week - March 6, 2013 - (Page 26)

26 EDUCATION WEEK n MARCH 6, 2013 n Recognizing the Impact Of After-School STEM By Anita Krishnamurthi F ew dispute that the afterschool community has a vital role, and can make a crucial difference, in promoting science, technology, engineering, and math, or stem, learning. Yet after-school providers are often so immersed in their work with students that they don’t always present a unified voice in articulating their impact. A 2013 Afterschool Alliance study that I led, “Defining Youth Outcomes for stem Learning in Afterschool,” could help change that. By reaching consensus among a group of after-school experts (including 55 experienced providers and 25 after-school stem supporters, such as funders and national and state education policy leaders), the study lays out three major, achievable outcomes for youths in after-school stem programs: • Developing interest in stem and related learning activities; • Developing capacities to productively engage in stem learning activities; and • Valuing the goals of stem and stem learning activities. These are vital contributions that can change students’ lives. Yet many in the after-school community are pessimistic that their impact will be recognized and valued. They aren’t as confident about affecting the in-school outcomes that policymakers often focus on—grades and test scores—as they are about improving “foundational” skills, such as problemsolving and teamwork. The after-school community needs to reinforce the point that its role in stem isn’t an either-or proposition, particularly as Congress moves to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and considers where after-school programs fit into K-12 funding priorities. It takes both after-school and in-school stem efforts, and their respective strengths, to move toward educating a stem-savvy workforce that can compete in the global economy. After-school programs are uniquely suited to engaging students in flexible, hands-on learning that can spark an “ It takes both after-school and in-school STEM efforts ... to move toward educating a STEM-savvy workforce.” interest in stem. They also build real skills and help students appreciate the value of science, technology, engineering, and math for themselves and their communities. That’s why such programs are often the home of robotics and rocketry teams and environmental education programs, and why after-school educators frequently work with stem-related companies and university professors, among others, to give students a glimpse of future careers in the field. Such experiences can make all the difference for some students and provide a critical complement to their in-school classroom time. Moreover, by broadening the base of students who are interested in stem, after-school programs increase both the diversity and sheer numbers of students likely to succeed in science and math classrooms—and careers. Another report, also released in January by the organizations My College Options and stemconnector and called “Where Are the stem Students?,” reveals iS t ock ph ot o m .c o /K am r uz a z am nR at a n that the number of high school seniors interested in pursuing stem-related studies in college and beyond has increased 20 percent since 2004. After-school programs can support continued growth in that area, as well as help address an increasing gender gap noted in the study, since a fundamental strength of after-school programs is their ability to reach underserved and underrepresented populations. Indeed, the after-school community has seen increased interest from philanthropies and the business community precisely because many funders recognize that progress will not happen without the kind of informal stem education that is offered after school. Conversations around major stem learning outcomes (as well as a number of indicators and sub-indicators of progress outlined in the Afterschool Alliance’s study) cannot wait. As the reauthorization of the esea progresses and states devise new assessment measures in line with the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards, policies that directly affect the funding and focus of many after-school programs will take effect. At this crucial time, the outcomes and the associated indicators of learning identified here can, I hope, give the after-school community the clarity it needs to show what it does best and help policymakers understand that after-school programs are an essential partner without which stem learning can’t thrive. n specific, constructive, and timely feedback. Make feedback clear enough to be acted upon and connected to the work of teaching. • Recognize and address the variation in teachers’ development trajectories and learning needs. Teacher development is often uneven and nonlinear, so make evaluation systems and professional-learning supports fit specific teacher experience by grade level or subject. For example, a teacher who has taught 2nd grade for eight years might need targeted supports to reach the same performance level after moving to a 5th grade classroom. At present, most teachers in our country lack high-quality support to improve their practice. And many districts, particularly those that serve high-needs students, aren’t equipped to take a comprehensive approach to developing the majority of their teaching force. We believe this intense focus on teacher evaluation at the federal, state, and local levels provides an unprecedented window of opportunity to reinvent how we support teachers in their profession, while simultaneously helping students achieve. Improving professional-learning opportunities for teachers, while better than the status quo, is necessary but insufficient. New-teacher induction, stronger leadership, better pay, safe and supportive working conditions, more relevant preparation programs, opportunities to lead new projects and initiatives away from the classroom, and more manageable workloads are needed to attract talented people to teaching. Anything less will continue to deprofessionalize teaching. As the policy du jour, teacher evaluation holds promise. But if we really want our teachers to succeed, let’s invest the time to brainstorm, collaborate, and develop initiatives that go beyond teacher evaluation. Let’s muster the courage to take sometimes controversial stances to invest resources in supporting teaching as a profession even amid budget shortfalls. We urge leaders in states and districts to take the steps we’ve outlined and encourage those leaders who have already begun this difficult work to stay the course. As a new presidential term with new and strengthened educational priorities takes hold, so too should a new phase for teacher-effectiveness policy. n ANITA KRISHNAMURTHI is the director of STEM policy for the Afterschool Alliance, in Washington. She is an astrophysicist who formerly worked for NASA. Using Teacher Evaluation to Grow CONTINUED FROM PAGE 25 tricts and states can take right away to make growth-oriented teacher evaluation a reality: • Define the behaviors, knowledge, and skills that describe effective teaching along a continuum of performance. Many states and districts already have performance rubrics that define the skills and knowledge necessary for effective teaching and promote students’ college and career readiness. Use those rubrics to drive communication around new evaluation systems and select professional-learning opportunities. • Encourage teachers to regularly reflect on their practice. Reflection is one aspect of meaningful, results-oriented deliberate practice. It can increase teachers’ motivation to stick with the process and tackle difficult instructional problems, and in this way encourage reflection throughout the evaluation process. • Provide regular opportunities for deliberate practice with focused feedback. Refocus professional development by shifting the way districts and schools structure their supports for teachers. Use teacher “in-service” days, coaching resources, and other existing programs to promote instructional practice and make job-embedded professional learning centered on individual teachers’ immediate priorities and needs. • Provide detailed information and feedback skill by skill to identify opportunities for growth. Encourage evaluators to create a learning-focused evaluation system that provides teachers with high-quality,

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - March 6, 2013

Education Week - March 6, 2013
Los Angeles School Board Race Shatters Spending Records
Feds, States Dicker Over Evaluations
Governors Take Varied Routes in Boosting Aid
Principal Appraisals Get a Remake
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Study: Best and Worst Teachers Can Be Flagged Early
FOCUS ON: PRESCHOOL: Obama Preschool Proposal Stirs Debate Over Training
Principals Lack Training in Shaping School Climate
KIPP Outpacing Regular Public Schools, Study Finds
INDUSTRY & INNOVATION: Wisconsin Data-Contract Fight Goes Public With Ad Campaign
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Pew Survey Gauges Teachers’ Attitudes About Tech., Equity
Blogs of the Week
Voting Rights Act Case Has Stakes for Districts
Back Home, Top Lawmaker Gets Earful on K-12 Policy
Policy Brief
Sequestration and Education: Frequently Asked Questions
9 California Districts Seek Own NCLB Waiver
House Panel Weighs School Safety Concerns
MATTHEW LYNCH: Tracing Technology’s Unintended K-12 Consequences
ANITA KRISHNAMURTHI: Recognizing the Impact of After-School STEM
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
JD CHESLOFF: Why STEM Education Must Start In Early Childhood

Education Week - March 6, 2013