Education Week - April 3, 2013 - (Page 23)
more-sophisticated concepts across the K-12 spectrum and
by setting the expectation that students will learn more
deeply by using their knowledge to actively investigate real
scientific questions and engineering problems in multiple
and varied contexts. The facts of science, while interesting,
are easily forgotten and become useless unless they can be
marshaled and applied to phenomena and problems outside
These new standards will challenge our current notions
of when complex ideas can be introduced to students. For
example, the standards drafts proposed introducing sophisticated ideas, such as properties of waves, in elementary
school. They also challenge all students to represent, test,
and revise their initial science and engineering models in
more-conscious and systematic ways than ever before.
The framework and the pending science standards rest
on solid research in the learning sciences, but will still need
time and space for evidence-based testing and revision. To
reach their potential, we will need finely tuned assessments
that provide strong actionable evidence for multiple purposes, including informing teachers’ day-to-day instructional decisions, school and district instructional-materials
purchases, and professional-development plans. States will
need evidence to assess whether support systems are effective. Instructional-materials developers and researchers
will need independent evidence to probe the effectiveness
of curricular designs and nuances of student learning. The
standards-writers will need information to inform whether
they should make adjustments in their product. No single
test format will serve all of these varied constituencies well.
Consequential testing, especially in its cheap, easily
scored format, will undermine all of these purposes. Myriad unfortunate examples in medical research, finance, and
education should make us step back from the pressure for
quick results at the risk of compromising integrity. If anyPAGE 25 >
ARTHUR H. CAMINS is the director of the Center for Innovation
in Engineering and Science Education at Stevens Institute of
Technology, in Hoboken, N.J.
Above all, our organizations’ findings show
that any state-level uniform enrollment target is too simple a solution for the complex
problems associated with special education
enrollments and equal access. If a state
implemented a single target enrollment for
all schools, more than half of charter and
district-run public schools would fail to meet
the enrollment target. A natural—and undesirable—response from these schools would
be to designate more of their students as
needing special education services.
There are certainly bad actors in both the
charter and district sectors who discourage
students with disabilities from applying to
schools or who fail to serve their needs once
enrolled. However, our findings suggest that
trying to address discriminatory practices
through a single policy instrument, based on
a simplistic diagnosis of what is going wrong,
is not the cure.
Instead, policymakers should invest in research to identify where underenrollment of
students with disabilities exists in charter
schools. They should work with the charter
school community, as well as stakeholders in
the traditional system, to develop innovative
strategies to address specific problems. n
ROBIN LAKE is the director of the Center on
Reinventing Public Education, at the University of
Washington Bothell. Follow her on Twitter:
@RbnLake and @CRPE_UW. ALEX MEDLER is
the vice president of policy and advocacy for the
National Association of Charter School Authorizers,
in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter: @AlexLMedler
APRIL 3, 2013
School Leaders: Make Sure Your
Teachers Don’t Lose Heart
By Laurie Barnoski
lined up to board a plane in Seattle when a
security agent reached for my husband’s ticket
and read it. She said, “Barnoski?” Then she
swiveled her head, finding me as her eyes filled
with tears. “Mrs. Barnoski, I was one of your
students in high school!” I recognized Andrea
right away; it was her smile. She reached out to hug
me as I kissed her on the cheek.
As I walked down the ramp to the plane, someone
tapped me on the shoulder. A man asked, “You’re a
teacher, aren’t you? So am I. History. Seeing former
students is a great part of the job, isn’t it?” I agreed. It
is all about connections. Andrea and I made a connection when she was 16, and we formed a relationship.
Teachers have the same two goals: connecting with
their students and helping them learn as much as
they can about a subject area. In my case, as a high
school English teacher (now retired), my focus was
to teach my students how to read, write, and speak
effectively. My colleagues and I sometimes differed on
our methods, but we were committed to helping our
students succeed in school and in life.
These two goals alone are difficult to achieve. Most
high school teachers teach five classes a day with an
average of 30 students per class. Picture trying to
connect with 150 teenagers with their unique backgrounds, personalities, intellects, motivations, skills,
learning styles, and needs. Regardless, an effective
teacher is hypervigilant, always on the lookout for how
a student is doing intellectually and emotionally. She
leans down to ask a student about his day; says something nice by the door while he is leaving; requests a
meeting to get to the bottom of a student’s problem. A
teacher grabs any moments she can find to connect.
Making a connection helps teachers achieve their
second goal: teaching subject matter effectively. Teachers are excited and knowledgeable about their subject
area. They relish figuring out ways to engage students,
but it is not always easy to keep their attention. They
must hook students who may not be interested in our
subject and then hold them accountable for learning
the material. This takes time, energy, imagination,
As an English teacher, I may have asked my students to picture Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird and to compare him to someone in their own
lives they admire and respect. A hand would shoot
up. A student would talk excitedly about his neighbor
who invited him into his workshop to learn how to use
tools; they built a shed together. These moments when
students “get” the lesson are what teachers live for, but
they don’t happen all the time.
Teachers in 2013 are getting discouraged. Their
two goals are difficult enough without trying to
incorporate all the newest programs and strategies in
I recently emailed a former colleague, a highly
respected math teacher, to ask her to list the programs
she was supposed to consider implementing in her
classroom. Here goes: standards-based grading and
instruction; common-core standards; common grading; end-of-course assessment, or eoc; conversation,
help, activity, movement, participation, and success,
or champs; creating independence through studentowned strategies, or criss; love and logic; pyramid to
intervention; response to intervention; learning targets; data walks; teacher-principal evaluation project,
or tpep; school improvement plans, or sip; academic
collaboration time, or act; positive behavioral intervention and supports, or pbis; and a new whisper in
the halls, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium
Can you see why teachers feel overwhelmed with
all of the “shoulds” hanging over their heads? Teachers cannot connect with each student, teach subject
matter effectively, and incorporate all of the proposed
programs that their administrators are pushing.
Granted, some of the programs can help teachers be
more effective, but the quantity of programs, the speed
Is every directive worth the
reduction of teacher-student
with which they change without being assessed, and
the time and paperwork they require for teachers
to develop, learn, and implement are not feasible or
realistic. Teachers get discouraged when there is not
a chance that they can achieve what they are being
asked to do.
What follows are six suggestions for administrators
to help them encourage teachers:
Survey teachers. In the spring, as you consider
programs for the following year (or years), send out
a survey to teachers asking them to rate the areas
where they need help. Pick your programs accordingly.
You won’t please everyone, but this is a chance to address your teachers’ real concerns.
Consider the trade-offs carefully. Teachers
often exclaim, “All I want to do is teach!” Training
teachers about new programs during the school year
costs teachers their time and districts their money. Is
every directive worth the reduction of teacher-student
Provide opportunities for master teachers.
In a school, there are beginning teachers, struggling
teachers, competent teachers, and master teachers.
Each group needs to have the opportunity to learn and
improve its teaching skills. Like the classroom where
an effective teacher has enrichment activities for his
top students, there must be challenging opportunities
for your strongest teachers. The model of all teachers
assembling in a room to learn the same material at
the same rate is not the best use of anyone’s time.
Remember to assess. Spend more time assessing
existing programs before implementing new ones. Discover which programs have made significant impacts
on students and which ones haven’t. Sometimes programs require more than one school year to evaluate.
Take something off the table. Teachers are being
asked to do more without letting go of something else.
Surprise your teachers before school next year and
strike a program that was assessed to be ineffective.
Your teachers will love you for easing their load.
Return to the classroom. Put yourself back in the
classroom and imagine teaching high school students.
Make a list of the pluses and minuses of being a high
school teacher in your school district. Then think
about what you are asking your teachers to do. Is it
fair? Could you do it if you were in the classroom?
Would you want to? Would you like to be a member of
your faculty or district? Why or why not?
People become high school teachers because they
have a passion for young people and a passion for
their subject matter. They are willing to try to incorporate a reasonable number of new strategies and
programs that will enhance student learning. Think
carefully about what and how much you are asking
your teachers to do. As administrators, you must
encourage your teachers to not lose heart. n
LAURIE BARNOSKI taught high school English for 32 years
and is now retired. She lives in Olympia, Wash., and can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - April 3, 2013
Education Week - April 3, 2013
Test Rules Differ Between Groups for Special Ed.
Consortia Struggle With ELL Provisions
FOCUS ON: ASSOCIATIONS: Leadership Shifts in Changing Field
Safety Plan for Schools: No Guns
Access to Common Exams Probed
News in Brief
Gaps Found in Access to Qualified Math Teachers
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: 3-D Printing Classes In a Virginia School Attract Global Visitors
Arizona Weighing ‘Performance Funding’ For Schools
L.A. ‘Incubator School’ to Teach Startup Tactics
Blogs of the Week
Cantor Raises Profile on Schooling Issues
Calif. Districts’ Waiver Bid Heads to Review Phase
Congress Tweaks Special Education Funding Mandates
Marriage Arguments Hit Children’s Issues
ROBIN LAKE & ALEX MEDLER: Do Charter Schools Serve Special-Needs Students? The Answer Is Complicated
ARTHUR H. CAMINS: Assessing the Impact Of New Science Standards
LAURIE BARNOSKI: School Leaders: Make Sure Your Teachers Don’t Lose Heart
DAVID BERNSTEIN: It’s Time to Mainstream Progressive Education
Education Week - April 3, 2013