Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Two Percent Solution: Black Male Teachers?

In February, 2014, President Obama established My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) in an attempt to “address persistent opportunity gaps and to tear down barriers that all too often prevent boys and young men of color and other young people from realizing their potential.”  This has been an ambitious initiative, with mixed results. 

One of the challenges MBK faces is the need to recruit more African-American (A-A) males to serve as mentors, tutors, and teachers. In the US, only 2% of teachers are A-A males.  This is a problem to meeting the MBK goals.  And those teachers who are in classrooms find themselves in very difficult positions - that of not only teaching their class, but also serving as counselor, monitor, police, judge, and jury, for the other A-A students not in the class.   These A-A teachers are feeling overwhelmed, as well as believing that the system is abrogating its responsibility, and using these teachers as buffers.

In a recent article by Christopher Emdin, Why Black Men Quit Teaching,  Christopher provides great insight into the experience of the African-American male teacher. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Difficult Conversations and Student Engagement

The start of the school year is an exciting time for both students and teachers.  Personalities coming together to form new relationships, and thereby create interesting dynamics. Eventually, the energy in the classroom settles into a comfortable pace with a familiar feel.

But that familiarity within the classroom community sometimes leads to disruption by individual students who are reacting to, or dealing with, any number of things.  This can lead to difficult conversations between the teacher and the student.  If not done well, it can make a situation worse.  However, when handled with forethought, the results can be positive.

In today’s Wiredprofiles, we highlight an article by Frank (no last name), How to Talk to a “Problem Student” Without Them Tuning You Out, that offers recommendations for having those difficult conversations with students.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Deep Learning Support

Deep LearningScholarship, the concept that we as educators are forever learning, is one of the key pillars in the field of education.  It is a driver in the continued professional growth and development of certificated, administrative, and classified staffs.  Unfortunately, once the busyness of the school year takes over, deep learning become less common.  The concept of scholarship becomes difficult to maintain, and is replaced by quick snippets of activity with the hope of producing knowledge attainment, skills development, and academic language acquisition.  But given the capacity that is required, this approach fails to effectively support that learning.

Fortunately, the passion and commitment educators bring to their learning helps keep scholarship ever-present.  There are a number of online resources that can facilitate the learning, at a time and a place that is convenient to them.  And as technology continues to evolve and improve, it can better respond to the needs of educators in relevant and and meaningful ways.  In an article by Kristin Gray, Teaching Channel’s Deep Dives, she offers an example of efforts in supporting deep and continuous learning within the teaching profession.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Would You Pay For a Teacher's School Supplies?

TeacherSchool supply shopping has begun for more than 3 million teachers in our nation’s public schools. Stranger waiting in line behind Texas teacher pays for her school supplies.  As students return from their summer vacations, these teachers are digging deep into their shallow pockets for money to stock their classrooms with necessary tools and supplies for their students.  In a recent article,  Jennifer Earl wrote about a stranger who went out of his way to pay for a teacher's school supplies, 

So the next time you see a shopper walking around the department store with a cart full of student notebooks, pens, markers, paper, etc., it’s probably a teacher.  If you can, chip in.  If not, please thank him/her for choosing to impact the future.  You will be acknowledging the men and women who have dedicated their lives to a noble cause.

Friday, August 19, 2016

LAUSD's Girls Academic Leadership Academy

luis valentinoAs the new school year rolls out, over 650,000 make their way onto LAUSD school campuses.  But this year, a great opportunity has become available to middle school girls - a single-gender school. The Girls Academic Leadership Academy, or GALA, is a STEAM-themed school that will serve as a safe space for girls to immerse themselves in the sciences and the arts.

Research on the value of single-sex schools is mixed.  But for these students, single-sex schools are special places where they can be themselves, without the many distractions and pressures co-ed middle school environments create.

Reporter Kyle Stokes describes the district's celebration of the GALA opening in the newspaper article, LA Unified set to open California's 'first all-girls school in 20 years’.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Professionalization of Early Education

Historically, we as a country have invested little in early education, including pre-kindergarten.  And while not attending any pre-kindergarten programs might not have hindered students in the past, that is no longer the case.  The knowledge attained, the language acquired, and the skills developed in these early programs are critical to increasing student success in the K - 12 grades.

Several school districts have transformed their preschool programs by aligning them with their elementary schools through changes in curriculum, teaching methods, and student tasks.  Such changes require both a shift in mindset and a capacity to resource pre-k programs appropriately.  This shift includes creating conducive learning spaces, allocating sufficient resources, hiring and supporting highly qualified teachers, and compensating them accordingly.
A recent article by Lillian Mongeau, The Underestimation of America's Preschool Teachers: One City’s Attempt to Professionalize Early Education Could be a Model for the Nation, speaks to efforts at improving early education in the US.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Addressing America's Teacher Deficit

Teacher Preparation, Luis ValentinoIn 1904, John Dewey wrote about teacher preparation, and the role it should play in preparing teachers for the profession.  For Dewey, teacher preparation should focus primarily on preparing teachers to be learners, while they develop their capacity, and less emphasis on skills development that produces short-term gains (i.e., classroom management, lesson planning, etc.).

Teacher preparation programs that fulfill this vision is a tall order, considering the growing teacher shortage across the country.  The demand on school districts to find and hire new teachers places teacher preparation programs in the position of having to “boot-camp” candidates, then send them off to work in the most challenging school environment in the country.  These programs help teachers to survive their first several months of school, but will not necessarily help them to develop the necessary mindset for long-term success.

A more comprehensive model with long-term support can produce strong beginning teachers who can not only take on the challenges of teaching, but who can develop a growth mindset as a professional, a leader, and change agent.

But are such programs sustainable? Well, there are number of institutions giving it their best, looking at creating more comprehensive programs, with greater support, guidance, and accountability.  This approach will not only build stronger teachers, but will help to keep them in the profession.

In a recent article, Harvard's New Approach to America's Teacher Deficit:  The school hopes reshaping how young people enter classrooms will keep them there longer,  reporter Alex Zimmerman describes Harvard's efforts at developing teacher preparation programs that more effectively support teachers over time.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Technology in Education, a Cautionary Note

A great deal of energy, time, and resources have been dedicated to putting technology in the hands of the more than 50 million preK - 12 public school students, and to making it a legitimate teaching and learning tool.  And while we have all been exposed to the possibilities that technology can offer, there is research to suggest that those possibilities are not really translating into improved student engagement, or achievement. Recently, Anya Kamenetz reported on NPR, Caution Flags For Tech in Classrooms.

Given the investments that have already been made, and the increasing support from the education and business community, as well as the public, technology will continue to influence the institution of public education.  Therefore, we must ensure that we continue to keep the teacher, the student, and the content, the drivers of everything we do in education. Technology in schools and classrooms is relevant and valuable when it is in the service of the teaching and learning experience, but is not the driver of that experience.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Teacher Salaries Trail Salaries Of Other Professionals

Luis Valentino
Teacher pay in America continues to slide further and further behind other professionals requiring the same level of education, and the same amount of experience.  The salary disparity is felt more among teachers who have been teachers for several years.  And while job security and benefits are seen as compromises to higher salaries, it doesn’t make up for the disparity in salaries.

This should be a concern for for all districts, where teacher shortages are becoming extremely serious  across the country.  The high turnover among teaching faculties has made it difficult to fill vacancies to the capacity necessary.  Exacerbating the problem is the implementation of state and district priorities and mandates that require class-size reduction.  This will require additional cohorts of teachers to cover the demand.  A report by Sylvia Allegretto and Lawrence Mishel, of the Economic Policy Institute, The teacher pay gap is wider than ever: Teachers’ pay continues to fall further behind pay of comparable workers, sheds light on this serious issue.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Starting Your School Year Off Right

For both teacher and students alike, the first few days of the school year bring excitement and nervousness. It is a time for setting the tone for the year by building relationships, establishing routines and procedures, etc.  It is also a time for setting expectations and introduce the concepts, skills, and language that will be developed during the school year.  In a recent article by reporter Katrina Schwartz, Alan November, a former teacher-turned-author and lecturer, describes Four Skills to Teach Students In the First Five Days of School.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Addressing Equity and Access in Charter Schools

During my tenure as principal, one of the experiences I faced annually was losing students, including my top performing students, to charter schools.  One year I ended the school year with a 10% identified gifted student population on my rosters, but began the following year with only 2% identified gifted students on my rosters.  Eight percent of my gifted student population had gone to the new charter school down the road.  Within 2 months, my population began to grow from students returning from the charter school.  Interestingly, they were not the gifted students, but students who had been asked to leave the charter school, or who were struggling academically.

States and districts apply laws and policies to ensure equitable access to both traditional and charter schools. Unfortunately, they are not always applied evenly.  A study referred to in an article by Joy Resmovits, Some California Charter Schools Discriminate in Admissions, ACLU Report Says, speaks to the issue of equitable access to charter schools.  In order to remedy the inequities that exist, accountabilities must address the beliefs, practices, and cultures of schools that discriminate based on self-identified criteria, and work toward measurable change.  What needs to happen is that 1) the law needs to be written and applied with an equity lens at its core, 2) monitoring has to be more consistent and comprehensive, and 3), consequences for failing to follow the law must be more aggressively applied, to deter future violations.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Making Meaning Inside Our Private Universe

When I was a faculty member with the School Management Program at UCLA,  I facilitated a number of conversations and inservices on the topic of incorrect answers and misunderstandings.  It was based on the idea that regardless of how smart we are, our meaning making is often misdirected, causing us to draw the wrong conclusions.  This is influenced by our pre-existing mental model of the world around us. Our interpretation of certain concepts leads us to the incorrect or incomplete answers. 

A video we used that sits inside the work of Annenberg Learner, proved a valuable resource. It provided examples and discussion points that made the concept clear.  The video described high performing students answering a basic science question - you’ll be surprised by their responses.  In a recent article,  The Importance Of Getting Things Wrong, Anya Kamenetz wrote on this interesting topic.