Third International Summit on the Teaching Profession: Sitting at OUR Table

International Summit Logo

This time of year I typically dream of travelling someplace warm, but today I woke up wishing I were in Amsterdam.

As a Social Studies teacher, I would appreciate the opportunity to dive into the city’s rich history. Today I want to be there to participate in the third International Summit on the Teaching Profession.

Education leaders from around the world, including 150 teachers, are at the 2013 Summit to discuss teacher quality and evaluation. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report prepared for the Summit, 1 in 4 teachers globally never receive feedback from their school leadership. This highlights an opportunity for leaders to learn from each other about improving teacher evaluation and quality at the Summit. For example, today, the Dutch Education Minister shared that Holland is using peer review in teacher evaluation—a best practice learned from the U.S.

The previous Summits have been great learning opportunities for the U.S. delegation and inspired two important initiatives. One is the RESPECT vision statement for strengthening and elevating the teaching profession (shaped by over 4,000 American teachers). The other is Transforming the Teaching Profession, a framework developed by national groups representing teachers, superintendents, school boards, and state leaders that puts forth a common vision for teaching and learning.

Today in the Twitter feed for the Summit, a number of people tweeted a quote from the Estonian delegation, “Education is under heavy pressure. Either we make more and better rules. Or we must liberate the teacher profession…” As a teacher, I know that I want to be in a profession that is shaped by teachers. But owning our profession is not simply about being seated at a table set by others; we need to recognize that is our table.

While teachers and union leaders from the U.S. and other nations are at the Summit, I can’t personally be at the table in Amsterdam this week. Still, I can be informed and engaged. Here are some things I am doing:

  • Following the Twitter feed #ISTP2013 and participating in a conversation tomorrow on Twitter.

  • Reading the OCED background report for the Summit.

  • Reflecting on how I would answer the questions that are guiding this year’s summit and sending responses to the Teacher Mailbox,

    • How is teacher quality defined by policy makers, the teaching profession and society? What standards are set and by whom?
    • How is teacher quality evaluated? What systems are in place and how are the evaluations carried out?
    • How do evaluations contribute to school improvement and teacher self-efficacy? What impact can be expected on teaching and learning from teacher evaluation?
  • Engaging in conversations with my colleagues.

  • Watching Secretary Duncan’s video played during the opening session.

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Lisa Clarke

Lisa Clarke is a Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow and social studies teacher on loan from Kent, Washington.

RESPECT Vision Released for Comment

What would it take to make America’s most important profession also America’s most valued profession?

To answer this question, 16 Teacher Ambassador Fellows — active classroom teachers working temporarily for the U.S. Department of Education — have been listening to teachers all over the country. They have held over 200 roundtable discussions with thousands of their colleagues to talk about how they envision a transformed teaching profession.

The result is a teacher-written vision document, available on our website here [MS Word, 164KB].

Click here for more information on the RESPECT Project.

Answers to Teachers’ Questions About ESEA Flexibility (aka Waivers)

Teacher Question (TQ): What is ESEA Flexibility, what some are calling Waivers?
Answer: ESEA Flexibility is the opportunity for states to seek relief from some of the provisions of the No Child Left Behind law that aren’t working. Until Congress passes a law that fixes NCLB, states are being given the chance to request waivers of certain portions of the law. To qualify for flexibility, states must have plans in place to better prepare our children for college and careers.

TQ: Who can apply for ESEA Flexibility? My state? My school? My union?
A: The federal Elementary and Secondary Education law (now referred to as No Child Left Behind) gives states the responsibility for monitoring compliance with the law. Under the ESEA flexibility plan, only a state can apply. However, states will be creating flexibility plans on behalf of themselves and their districts. States will be encouraged to work closely with their districts to ensure a comprehensive plan that truly increases the quality of instruction and improves academic achievement for all students. Currently, more than 40 states have indicated their intent to request ESEA Flexibility.

TQ: Does ESEA Flexibility require states to make judgments and decisions about my teaching based on a single test?
A: No. Just as a good teacher would never assess a student one time to determine a grade, schools and districts must have multiple ways to assess a teacher’s effectiveness. Under the ESEA flexibility plan, states must use multiple measures of professional practice in teacher evaluation plans, such as portfolios, meaningful observations, peer reviews, parent and student surveys, or other locally developed instruments. The measures must include, as a significant factor, data on student growth. In some cases, this will be means data from state assessments).

TQ: Does testing change under ESEA Flexibility?
A: States will be required to continue measuring students’ achievement annually in at least reading/language arts and math, and to measure students’ achievement in science once in elementary school, once in middle school, and once in high school. However, rather than mandating that all students reach an arbitrary achievement bar on a low-quality test, the flexibility focuses on ensuring that all students are making progress by requiring higher-quality assessments that measure student growth and truly reflect whether or not a student is on track for success in college and a career.

TQ: What will ESEA Flexibility do to change the curricula that teachers use at my school?
A: No Child Left Behind created unintentional incentives for states to water down and narrow their curricula. ESEA Flexibility does not require states or districts to adopt specific standards or a particular curriculum, but it supports states and districts in moving towards higher standards and a meaningful, rigorous and well-rounded curriculum.

With more rigorous standards in place, students can expect more individualized instruction. Furthermore, ESEA Flexibility will promote a well-rounded curriculum by basing accountability decisions on student growth and progress in addition to other measures of student learning and school progress beyond traditional assessment results. States will be able to assess a school’s success by looking comprehensively at how schools are serving their schools and communities in areas like school climate, access to rigorous coursework, and providing a well-rounded education.

TQ: Does ESEA Flexibility mean that states are given a pass on accountability for closing the achievement gap?
A: No. Both the President and the Secretary of Education believe strongly that education is the civil rights issue of our generation. The Department of Education exists to ensure that every child has access to a quality education. States that do not demonstrate a commitment to closing achievement gaps will not be granted flexibility.

Mentor Helps Native American Student Overcome Prejudice

Nellie Two Elk, a political science student at South Dakota State U.

"My passion lies in coming back to help," says Nellie Two Elk, a political science student at South Dakota State U.

Nellie kept a room full of 450 Indian Educators captivated as she shared what it was like to spend her first 5 years of life in Washington, DC and then move back to the Rosebud Indian Reservation as her father’s job changed.

At the South Dakota Indian Education Summit in Chamberlain, S.D. in late September, she explained, “In Washington, DC I never felt the effects of racial prejudices, but when I moved back to South Dakota, I felt that prejudice from my Native American peers, even though I am Native American.”

According to Nellie, her lighter toned skin and her lack understanding of their challenges set her apart as an “apple” and “white,” so she was not accepted by her classmates. Her pain was apparent as she shared, but what really struck me was how Nellie was able to triumph over her difficulties through the support and mentoring of her father.

“My father taught me that pride in my identity is a good thing and instilled many virtues in me,” she said. The importance of a mentor role in the lives of young people was heard repeatedly throughout the Summit, and Nellie’s story gave a first-hand account of the impact that relationship can have on young lives.

The theme for this year’s Summit was “Supporting Culture, Building Expectations, Creating Partnerships.” Participants celebrated this theme partly by adopting the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings and Standards that were created earlier this summer by the state Board of Education. This work will provide the roadmap for educators all across the state to teach the culture and history of South Dakota’s Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota people to promote understanding of the culture to help students like Nellie. Teachers spoke about how these Essential Understandings will help our Native American youth to develop the pride in identity that Nellie spoke so eloquently about.

Nellie, now 20 years old, is studying Political Science at South Dakota State University, and although she is away from the Reservation while in college, her goal is to return and try to help in whatever ways she can. “My passion lies in coming back to help,” Nellie shared.

After hearing her moving story, I look forward to seeing what this amazing young woman will do during her life.

Sharla Steever

Sharla is a 2011-2012 Classroom Teacher Ambassador Fellow from Hill City, S.D.

Read another post by Sharla about Indian education and the Rosebud Reservation.

ED’s Office of Indian Education

Bureau of Indian Education

Native Americans Tell Duncan About the Need for Reform

Arne is honored to receive a star quilt from Rosebud Elementary School.

Arne is honored to receive a star quilt from Rosebud Elementary School.

Todd County high school student body president Grace One Star spoke eloquently during a meeting with education leaders concerned about American Indian achievement.

“It’s the lack of hope around us that makes us turn to gangs and the bad things some of us get involved in,” Grace said during the Aug. 26 Rural and Indian Education Roundtable at Rosebud Elementary in the Black Hills of South Dakota “We need our teachers and leaders to bring us hope, not more brand new textbooks.”

During the discussion, teachers, leaders, and families from rural areas spoke about issues of extreme poverty, unemployment, and the heartbreaking loss of culture and language taking place on the reservations. In particular, they spoke about the challenge of recruiting and retaining quality teachers and leaders in their economically depressed and remote area.

Secretary Arne Duncan listened and affirmed the need for the federal government to increase their interest in education on Reservation schools, and for the schools to help retain the native language and culture and to recruit and retain great teachers and leaders.

After participating in the roundtable discussion, Duncan attended the commencement at Sinte Gleska University in Mission, South Dakota. It was the first time that a U.S. Secretary of Education has given the commencement address at a Tribally Controlled University.

As Secretary Duncan and other state and federal officials entered the room, a drum circle and tribal royalty danced them in. Duncan welcomed the crowd in Lakota, the native language of the Rosebud Sioux people, and spoke about the importance of the Four Virtues of the Lakota: Wisdom, Bravery, Fortitude, and Generosity. “Education is the key to Lakota future,” Duncan said. “The Lakota must speak the Lakota vision.”

Sharla Steever

Sharla Steever is a Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow from Hill City, South Dakota.

Link to the Rural Education Resource Center

You Teach Where?

Sharla Steever

Yes, that is the response I receive almost every time I meet someone from a large urban area and try to explain where I live and teach. We really do have schools in South Dakota, and it is one of the most beautiful places on earth in my opinion.

I have lived my entire life in rural SD, both on the rolling plains of the central and eastern parts of the state and in the amazing Black Hills of the far western region.

I currently live and teach in the small artsy community of Hill City, SD — the school district for Mount Rushmore. I love the diversity of our tiny town. We have families that homesteaded here and have lived off the land all of their lives, wealthy retired people, young families that enjoy the small town life we offer but work in the larger community of Rapid City, and a large for our area Latino population. A local sawmill and the logging industry make up a large number of our employed population, as well as tourism. Our little school (450 K-12) is approximately 45% free and reduced lunch, and 25% Latino.

One thing that I have always felt strongly about is that I want to know that my students in my little classroom are getting the same kind of quality education that they could get in other schools across the U.S. I became Nationally Board Certified for that very reason — to push myself to be a teacher that could offer a world-class education to every student that walks through my door.

It is also why I am so excited to be a Teaching Ambassador Fellow this year. I am so inspired to know that the U.S. Department of Education is interested in the issues that face regions like my rural state, just as they are interested in the many other kinds of issues for urban and suburban areas. I am humbled and very excited to serve in this capacity this year and know that the growth I will gain this year will help me continue to be a leader not only in my school, district and state, but also at the national level.

I can’t wait for the adventures that await me this year.

Sharla Steever
NBCT – 4th Grade Teacher
Hill City Elementary

National Teacher Day

ED Commemorates National Teacher Day Across AmericaSecretary Duncan joined thousands of parents, students, school administrators and officials across the country in recognizing and honoring the work and dedication of America’s more than 5 million teachers on National Teacher Day.

To commemorate the day and acknowledge our nation’s “unsung heroes,” Duncan visited educators at Friendship Chamberlain Elementary and Junior Academy and Houston Elementary School in Washington, D.C.

At Friendship Chamberlain, Duncan visited the classroom of Stephanie Day.  Day, a 26-year-old Teach for America alumni and lead special education resource teacher at the Chamberlain campus, was selected by a panel of District education leaders as the 2010 D.C. Teacher of the Year.  Her goal during her one-year tenure as Teacher of the Year is to get the word out that Washington, D.C. needs more great teachers. See video of Duncan’s visit to Stephanie Day’s class.

Following the visit at Chamberlain, Duncan visited with distinguished teachers and staff at Houston Elementary School where he thanked them for their hard work and commitment to improving student achievement.  In 2009, Houston students improved 14 points in reading and math, and the school met its adequate yearly progress (AYP) goals for the first time in years.

Principal Charlotte Whitten-Watkins, an educator noted for emphasizing a “no excuses for failure” policy, escorted Duncan to the classrooms of veteran educators who share that philosophy.  After a visit with Mary Riley, a 1st grade teacher with 43 years of distinguished service at Houston, Duncan stopped by the classroom of Tracy Thomas, where he reminded her 5th grade students to take a moment and thank her for her time and effort on their behalf.  Thomas is the only Houston teacher to receive a perfect score this year under the DC IMPACT teacher evaluation program. See video of Duncan’s visit to Houston Elementary School.

Secretary Duncan will continue his Teacher Appreciation Week tour with a stop at George Mason High School in Falls Church, Virginia, on Thursday, May 6th.

Todd May
Office of Communications and Outreach

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Secretary Duncan Participates in National Launch of School Leadership Project

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On Tuesday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Secretary of Education Arne Duncan delivered remarks at the launch of a new school leadership project sponsored by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS).

For more than 20 years, NBPTS has developed a record of creating rigorous standards and assessments for teacher excellence that, today, are recognized throughout the country. On Tuesday, the organization publicly announced the design of a National Board Certification for Principals – the first credential of its kind to focus on the advanced development of school leaders. This certification is part of the first phase of a larger NBPTS program, National Board Certification for Educational Leaders, which will also create standards and an assessment process for teacher leaders. The certification for principals is expected to become available in 2011.

Many national education and business leaders gathered at the Press Club to lend support for the initiative, including representatives from the American Association of School Administrators, the national associations for elementary and secondary school principals, and GlaxoSmithKline. The Department of Education is providing $1 million in funding for this initiative. Additional funding support is derived from the National Policy Board for Educational Administration, State Farm Insurance, the Wallace Foundation, and the Chicago Public Education Fund.

During his remarks, Secretary Duncan asserted that talent should be at the center of every effort to improve education in this country. “In Chicago,” he stated, “we learned that schools are the agents of change – and we learned that we couldn’t transform a school without a great leader …  and great teachers.” The secretary also noted that we need meaningful preparation programs and real evaluations that help school leaders develop and hone their skills. He challenged NBPTS and education reform advocates to shine a spotlight on how well students are doing in our nation’s schools. “Part of being a National Board-certified leader needs to be about improving and accelerating student achievement,” he said. “At the end of the day, that’s where all of our policies need to take us.”

Tiffany Taber
Office of Communications and Outreach

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Secretary Arne Duncan Recognizes Outstanding School Leaders

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Last week, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke in Washington, D.C., at the 2009 National Distinguished Principals Awards Banquet, sponsored by the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). More than 60 principals from public elementary and middle schools and private pre-K-8 schools were recognized with the award. Each year, NAESP honors elementary-level principals who have succeeded in providing high-quality learning opportunities to students and who have made exemplary contributions to the school leadership profession. This year, administrators from two U.S. Department of State American Overseas Schools and one U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity School also were honored.

Earlier in the week, in Arlington, Va., Secretary Duncan spoke at the 2010 National Principal of the Year Awards Gala sponsored by MetLife and the National Association of Secondary School Principals. For the last 16 years, this program has honored secondary school principals for exceptional leadership. This year, Sheila Kahrs earned the Principal of the Year award at the middle-school level. Principal Kahrs has worked to develop a model of “shared leadership” at her school, Haymon-Morris Middle School in Winder, Ga., and bases her leadership style on a “values-driven and data-informed” philosophy. Lucy Beckham earned the Principal of the Year honor at the high-school level for her success at creating a personalized learning community at Wando High School, one of South Carolina’s largest high schools. Located in Mt. Pleasant, Wando also is one of the state’s best performing high schools.

During both awards ceremonies, Secretary Duncan applauded the commitment and courage of the honorees and noted that every school in America needs an outstanding leader at the helm.

ED Staff

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