Education Week - July 8, 2015 - (Page 24)

ed NOT Algebra Standards' 'Face-Lift' Is Spot-On To the Editor: As an 8th grade mathematics teacher and teacher of Algebra 1, I could not agree more with the article, "With Common Core, Algebra Course Undergoes a Face-Lift" (June 3, 2015). Under the common core, many states have increased the rigor and depth of knowledge of mathematics that students are expected to learn. This change in structure has allowed 8th graders to really focus in on linearity, the skills inherent in algebra, and how to apply that knowledge. When students are able to learn this content deeply, they have a foundation that can improve their chances of succeeding in higher-level mathematics courses. This will open the door to other mathematics courses and success in those courses. A strong algebraic foundation is key to later success. Although there is a recommended pathway for compacting 7th grade, 8th grade, and Algebra 1 content into two grade levels, most students are not ready for this level of acceleration. I agree with the article that state mandates that require all students to take Algebra 1 as 8th graders should be re-evaluated. In my experience, the recommended content in the common-core Algebra 1 course is closer to what Algebra 2 looked like 30 years ago. The authors of the standards took a structured and purposeful approach to the algebraic content. Algebra permeates the common core from kindergarten through 8th grade and beyond. As a result, students can build those skills and understanding from the beginning. By slowing down the content, but increasing the rigor, students will attain greater success with mathematics. In the years to come and with this approach, I predict that there will be an increase, not a decrease, in student understanding of and achievement in mathematics. Jane Porath Charlevoix, Mich. School-Leader-Licensure Standards Lose Their Punch To the Editor: The May 13, 2015, article, "New Leader Standards Kick Up Controversy" concerning the professional standards created by the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium merits a response. As former K-12 practitioners and current academics, we would like to share our opinion that the seven isllc standards, reduced from 11, in the 2015 revision significantly weaken our professional practice and represent a serious flaw in guidance for state educational leadership and graduate leadership preparation programs. Educational leadership is complex; perhaps 11 standards are necessary. By having fewer standards, the isllc has diluted their significance and done a disservice to the role they each play. For example, the greatest challenge in schools today is the struggle for students from low-income, minority, and other cultural backgrounds to achieve high academic levels. The 2014 Standard 10, "Equity and Cultural Responsiveness," which specifically addressed this particular social-justice issue, is missing from the 2015 standard and only briefly mentioned elsewhere. We believe that the importance of helping high-risk children succeed deserves its own standard. Additionally, wording in the 2015 revision is considerably weaker than in the 2014 draft. In the latter, the verbs are precise, active, and guide leaders' actions. As an example: Standard 1 in 2014 read: "Vision and Mission. An educational leader promotes the success and wellbeing of every student by ensuring the development, articulation, implementation, and stewardship of a child-centered vision of quality schooling that is shared by all members of the school community." Now, it reads, "Standard 1. Education leaders build a shared vision of student academic success and well-being." There are many other examples. The 2014 language provides greater clarity. It offers a guide to action and spells out the constituents. The 2015 revision also ignores much of the content on creating a culture of continuous school improvement; the need for well-honed interpersonal skills; the importance of data collection, organizational learning, ethics and professional norms, and professional culture. Communities of engagement for families is so watered down in the current version that it now includes little action outside of the school. One must question what happened at Council of Chief State School Officers between the 2014 and the 2015 draft releases. William Owings Professor Educational Foundations and Leadership Old Dominion University Norfolk, Va. Leslie Kapl Retired School Administrator Newport News, Va. This letter reflects the personal opinions of the letter writers. Urban Classroom Experience Key To Student-Teacher Retention To the Editor: In response to the Teacher Beat blog post "Study: Student-Teaching Placement Could Be Teacher-Equity Lever," (www., June 2, 2015) and with an eye toward the Department of Education's plan to improve teacher equity, it's important to reiterate just how critical it is to prepare teacher candidates for success in urban environments. Student teaching provides crucial classroom experience. But where candidates complete this experience is an indicator of where they will end up teaching for their career, as suggested in the study mentioned in the blog post. To improve equity more broadly, we need to train and retain quality teachers to work in underserved schools. According to data from Education Trust, low-income students and students of color are more likely to be taught by lower quality teachers. In Tennessee, for example, teachers rated "least effective" made up nearly 20 percent of those in high-poverty schools, as opposed to 13 percent in low-poverty schools. Though factors such as salary can attract better teachers to work in urban schools, more importantly it is extensive clinical preparation that will retain them. Programs, whether traditional or alternative, must prepare high-performing teachers to be successful in low-income schools and districts. Without this training, few candidates, 24 | EDUCATION WEEK | July 8, 2015 | regardless of where they student-teach, will be able to tackle the realities of teaching students in these environments and will not remain in these classrooms for the long haul. We can't expect urban teachers to be excellent if we haven't trained them to navigate urban school environments, have difficult conversations, and teach diverse classrooms with students of different races, socio-economic backgrounds, and learning levels. Imagine being responsible to promote the academic and emotional growth of a class of 6th graders, reading anywhere from a 3rd to a 12th grade level, and with some having exceptional learning needs. Teaching is hard, and even harder without the preparation required to teach all students effectively. If we really want great teachers to remain in low-income schools, we must set them up for success. We must place them in these environments when they are learning to teach and equip them with the skills needed to teach diverse classrooms. All students need consistently high-quality teachers every year, and it's our responsibility to provide them. Jennifer Green Chief Executive Officer Urban Teacher Center Washington, D.C. K-12 Leaders: Embrace Branding To the Editor: For many school administrators, brandbuilding is something the Campbell's Soup Company does, not a school leader. And while the concept may sound like it belongs more in a sales-and-marketing meeting than a classroom, don't tell that to the school leader who wants to raise the reputation of his or her school, attract and retain top-tier faculty, fill student capacity, or build an endowment. Brands are about familiarity. They can own a place in our hearts and our minds. They can even instill pride. Schools must, as well. And so school leaders, you must ask: What is your school's mission? What differentiates you, as a leader, from others? What inspires and motivates your faculty? What language(s) do you own? What promise do you make to your parents and your students? What keeps your alumni engaged, long after graduation day? These are some of the questions every school-from elementary to higher education-needs to answer. Words like commitment, wisdom, honesty, integrity, and community are all great to live by, though hardly original. Every school needs to ask the question, "Who are we?" and then answer it with words the community can live by. One great example of this is particularly close to my heart, as a father. The brand at son's school is: "That They Be Good Men." This reflects everything the school is and does-in the classroom or on the athletic field. These are words on the walls and the website. Even more important, they reside in the hearts and minds of the faculty, administration, parents, and students. Brett Shevack Chief Executive Officer Brand Initiatives Group New York, NY COMMENTARY POLICY Education Week takes no editorial positions, but publishes opinion essays and letters from outside contributors in its Commentary section. For information about submitting an essay or letter for review, visit iStockphoto LETTERS to the EDITOR What We've Learned From a Longer School Day and Year CONTINUED FROM PAGE 23 hours. One natural partner was the community center next door, which provided recreational opportunities. Another was a city water plant, which supported a project-based learning activity that required students to learn about and make a presentation on how safe, clean water comes into their homes. Across town, the smaller, pre-K-6 Francis Parker School serves more students from higher-income homes. While many of them have been performing well academically, they now have the opportunity to take part in Fridayafternoon classes hosted through the Rochester Art Gallery, within safe walking distance of the school. These are just two examples of how we've turned to community organizations to provide the additional learning time students need. In every case, our schools have turned to organizations that were already well established in their neighborhoods. In another era, these organizations might have provided after-school activities, but now they are an integral part of our longer school day. * Make the longer school days voluntary, with a rigorous school-selection process. Participation in our effort to extend the school day isn't universal. In fact, it's limited to 10 schools that partnered with community organizations. All proposals from interested schools had to demonstrate how they met the National Center on Time and Learning's "seven essential elements of high-quality expanded-learning-time schools," which include the following: designated time for teachers to collaborate to improve instruction; enrichment activities, ranging from the arts to athletics to technology; and strategies for reinforcing positive behavior and achievement. Perhaps the best indication of the rigor of this process is the final tally of schools that participated the first year. Ten applied, and five were rejected because their plans didn't include all of the elements we required. In the second year, two of the rejected schools revised their proposals significantly enough to win the opportunity to participate. We know we're not alone in this effort. The nctl has identified more than 1,000 expandedtime schools, serving 520,000 students across the nation, and has offered a new resource aimed at giving policymakers ideas for how to combine extra learning time and better use of digital tools in smart, effective ways. It is a challenging process, as we've indicated, but a recent district survey shows that our teachers are responding positively. What is more, that study also found that in the 2013-14 academic year, test scores rose in most of the participating schools. Meanwhile, kids from low-income families nationwide continue to lose an average of two months of education every year because of summer learning loss alone. Isn't it well worth educators' time and effort to bring more and better learning time to the lives of their students? n

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - July 8, 2015

Education Week - July 8, 2015
Nev. Moves to Split Clark Co. District
Crazy Quilt of State Responses To Cries of Overtesting
Common Core Trickles Into All States
Advocates Scrutinize Head Start Proposals
Supreme Court To Decide Case On Union Fees
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Ed. School Critic Levine, MIT Partner to Launch Teacher-Prep ‘Lab’
Ariz.’s 20-Year-Old ELL Case May End, But Debate Rages On
Spelling—en Español—Catches On, With Bees in Multiple States
Blogs of the Week
ISTE Conference Examines How Tech Is Reshaping Education
Budgets, Testing Issues Took Legislative Stage
States Struggle With How to Ensure Good Teachers in All Schools
K-12 Issues Fall Within Suite of Recent High Court Rulings
In States, Plenty of Talk But Incremental Action on Early Ed.
Lengthy Floor Debate Looms for U.S. Senate Over ESEA Rewrite
Fresh Entrants in GOP’s Quest For White House
House, Senate Appropriations Bills Would Cut Back Ed. Dept. Funding
What We’ve Learned From a Longer School Day and Year
The Illusion of Closing The Achievement Gap
The ‘Power’ of Adversity
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Scholars: Challenging Racial Injustice Begins With Us

Education Week - July 8, 2015