Saturday, October 22, 2016

#NASBE16: Helping All Teachers Improve Their Practice Through Sound Policy

Live blogging

Thomas Toch, Center on the Future of American Education
Rachel Wise, Nebraska State Board of Education, Chair
Robert Hull, NASBE (facilitator)

Hull: Student success depends upon recruiting, preparing, developing, and supporting great teachers.

Toch: Traditional teacher evaluation was a drive-by; annual visits by a principal with a checklist, looking for clean classrooms and quiet students--superficial exercises that didn't focus directly on the quality of teacher instruction, much less student learning. No incentives to thoughtfully compare teacher performances. Most school districts didn't do them. Nearly every teacher received satisfactory rating; virtually no one fired for under-performance. Absence of meaningful measures of teacher quality made rewarding talent and other steps to strengthen the profession nearly impossible to implement. Incentives eliminated in ESSA.

Toch: More comprehensive teacher eval systems have launched several important improvements in public ed:
  • Elevating instruction - clearer teaching standards; ending teacher isolation/sparking discussions about what good teaching is; forcing school leaders to prioritize classrooms over cafeterias
  • Removing lower performers - in some school districts, removing teachers for underperformance for first time ever, through dismissal and voluntary attrition
  • Beyond "bad apples" - states and school districts increasingly prioritizing ways to help teachers improve their practice - "can't fire our way to a stronger teaching force"
  • Smarter staffing decisions - using data to manage human capital systems more effectively
  • Foundation for new roles, responsibilities - tapping highly-rated teachers to be peer evaluators, mentors, lead teachers--new roles that give teachers more pay and higher status; career ladders
  • Raising student achievement - early evidence from places with comprehensive reforms in place the longest is encouraging (cites DC, Tennessee, Cincinnati)
Good eval system includes: Multiple measures - CR observations, student surveys, certain achievement results. Evaluation Data Drives Smarter HR Decisions:
  • DCPS discovered teachers hired by May are 20% more effective
  • Teachers can sign up to visit top teachers in other schools in their subject areas and grade levels (in DC, teachers can sign up online to do this)
  • Instructional coaches, curriculum committee members, etc., drawn from ranks of top-rated teachers
  • A sound basis for paying top teachers up to $125K per year (Admin, $180K/year)
  • Target recruitment at higher ed institutions that produce the most top teachers
Many of the new evaluation systems are in early stages and are far from perfect. Challenges (not surprising, given pace/scale of reform to a core element of educational enterprise):
  • Technical problems - especially with student achievement measures
  • Lack of infrastructure - rubrics, systems design, evaluator training, data systems, etc
  • Costs - more comprehensive systems are more expensive
  • Teacher morale - speed, early "bad aples", focus, student test scores
Emerging infrastructure in DC:
  • Simpler rubrics
  • Multiple measures/reduced role for student achievement
  • Stronger eval/teacher training
  • Efficiency through differentiated observations
  • Better evaluator feedback/stronger links to professinal improvement (Common Core)
  • Teacher morale is rising
  • Complex policy change at the heart of the edu enterprise is a long-term proposition; can't happen overnight
  • no eval system is perfect
  • but, you can't help people improve if you don't know what needs improving--even if measuring teacher performance is an inexact science
  • hard-learned lessons of recent years; building on progress since 2009--staying the course is in the best interest of student and teachers
Rachel Wise on what's been going on in Nebraska through AQuESTT: Accountability for a Quality Educational System, Today and Tomorrow
  • Quality, not blame or shame
  • Beyond assessment and student performance as sole measures
  • Focusing on investments that we know matter in student success
  • Establishing a "Theory of Action" rather than a measure in isolation
  • Building a system to support and help teachers
  • Focusing on growth and improvement
  • Working collaboratively to support/improve the whole 
AQuESTT: Two-Pronged Approach to Analysis
  • Raw Classification
    • Traditional metrics of student achievement such as assessment, graduation rates, participation
      • No quantitative metrics associated with staff evaluation
  • Evidence Based Analysis
    • Qualitative analysis based on implementation of best practives and needs of support and technical assistance in the six tenets of AQuESTT
      • "School-level evidence" of the implementation of a formal staff eal process aligned to the Nebraska Teacher and Principal Performance Framework
      • "School-level Evidence" of an annual professional learning plan that supports continuous improvement
Virginia Q: Sorry to see this session at the very end with so few people...very valuable convo/presentation Toch: one does not want to make blanket statements. Fairfax is a rigorous district.

Connecticut Q: Trying to work out a multiple stakeholder system student performance place an important part - if not test scores, what? Toch: thoughtful Q. Research I've seen suggests that VAM (as opposed to perfomance scores=snapshot, inherently unfair to teachers), imperfect as it is, is considered by researchers that are predictive of teachers success with their students; combined with multiple observations is a vastly improved system. Wise: We're blessed in NE - we're small enough and know each other. Our teachers are coming along with the process; evolution with teachers at the table, not necessarily the union

And - that's a wrap! See you all in Atlanta next year #NASBE17

#NASBE16: Stakeholder Engagement Under ESSA

Live blogging

Moderated by Abigail Potts, project manager at NASBE

Potts: Stakeholder engagement - federal requirement under ESSA. Work under ESSA is daunting: Early childhood education;
Teacher requitment, preparedness; Privacy
All just the tip of the iceberg
Perception: state DoEs will engage for a time, check the box.
Experience with states is they are taking very seriously.

Chris Hofman, Rachel Man, Teach Plus
Ben Rarick, Washington State Board of Education Executive Director
Dr. Randy Watson, Kansas Commissioner of Education

Hofman: Will talk about our own research and experiences
Man: Found 5 major challenges:
1. Identifying stakeholders and engaging a broader voice
2. Overcoming time and resource constraints
3. Educating stakeholders
4. Organizing stakeholder feedback and incorporating feedback
5. Planning for future engagement

Man & Hofman: Key take-aways from the above challenges:
  • Use networks you have to build relationships with previously unreached groups; allow your groups to be dynamic adding stakeholders as necessary
  • Difficult to find time and resources to meet all stakeholders F2F meetings are best but difficult to schedule (Vermont did this very well); partner with local biz to provide food for meetings (Alaska did this) due to limited manpower, resources in SEAs
  • Are we using friendly language (not jargon); clarifying misconceptions; structuring meeting times to maximize to get at the heart of issues - - know when to go broad and specific, balancing is beneficial (Florida did this well with their surveys - they created 9 different surveys with links to specific parts of ESSA)
  • Not all feedback will be incorporated in the plan, still provide meaningful engagement. Can provide the feedback to the public, to know where everyone is, taking that and synthesizing into actionable steps (Pennsylvania did this - providing a report and organizing into very clear steps)
  • Planning for long-term engagement; maintaining coalitions of support - - needs to become the norm, so need to be thinking about this as much as possible. 
Common Challenges in Stakeholder Engagement (The view from the other side):
  1. Meaningful engagement vs. checking a box
  2. Transparency
  3. Adequate representation of ALL stakeholder groups
Rarick: ESSA - Ensuring Meaningful Stakeholder Engagement
There's a big difference between engaging people and having a meeting. Stakeholder engagement, especially as far as implementing ESSA is concerned, should be something that has a positive impact on students. Jotted a set of questions to ensure we are not just attending a bunch of meetings, but engaging on important questions; acknowledge that the process was a collaborative process with the SBE. Held 7 forums across the state. Six primary themes emerged:
  1. supporting all students
  2. supporting all students, part 2
  3. challenging academic standards and academic assessments
  4. accountability, support, and improvement for schools (not as defined by the state assessment...)
  5. supporting excellent educators
  6. consultation and coordination
ESSA Focus Groups:
  • statewoie MAAC-tribal compact schools
  • library/media state organization
  • pasco-latino coalition
  • charter schools
  • tribal leaders
  • private schools
  • WA school attorney's organization
  • migrant education conference with parents and students
ESSA Workgroup structure:
  • accountability system
  • learning and teaching
  • student assessment system
  • school and district improvement
  • effective educators
  • ELLs
  • fiscal
  • report card
  • parent and community involvement
  • early childhood education
  • students with disabilities
  • federal programs
Decision to do engagement on the front end and the back end. Subtle elitism creeps out and that's unhealthy. Tendency to see some comments as "oddball", not relevant; your first instinct to dismiss, but you're learning how people are interacting with this law. There is real value to be had out of those comments. Commitment is the take-away:
  • Commitment to involving stakeholders on the front end of the plan development
  • Commitment to deeper engagemnet with focus groups
  • Commitment to travel
  • Commitment to combine forces among entities that have overlapping or related state authorities
  • Commitment to engage and get feedback both in person and through tele-town hall/webinar mechanisms
- Parents can't show up at 2:00 in the afternoon
- Break into small groups at tables to mitigate repeating same 30 comments
- Don't know how you can do this without traveling

Watson: Update from Kansas - Kansas CAN. Shout out to the five Kansas SBEs here at this conference. Are we going to manage? Or are we going to lead? The law will give us the framework to do it and we chose to lead to listen. 20 different community locations with over 1,800 participants. Three key questions of all:
  • What are the skills, attributes, and abilities of a successful 24-year-old Kansan?
  • What is K-12's role in developing this successful Kansan, and how would we measure success?
  • What is higher education's role in developing this successful Kansan, and how would we measure success?
Watson: We allowed no one to speak at a podium - engaged in small groups. Also had an Online presence for those who could not make any location of the listening tour. Didn't have very good turnout from business, so asked Chamber to engage biz and went out on 7 more tours just for them. Then, went back out to all in 10 locations across the state and said:
  • Here's what we heard from you all, did we get it right?
  • Two Board retreats.
  • New Vision launched in the fall of 2015 at the KSDE Annual Conference.
Defining Success (it's how we value):
  • Academic preparation
  • Cognitive preparation
  • Technical skills
  • Employability skills and
  • Civic engagement and giving back to others
State Outcomes (handout):
  • Kindergarten readiness
  • Individual plan of study focused on career interest
  • High school graduation rates
  • Post secondary completion/attendance
  • Social/emotional growth measured locally (teachers need that info to drive, state doesn't need it)
Q & A
Potts: I think I'll kick it off with ability to reach a diverse group of stakeholders - those who have not been heard. How would you recommend closing that gap? Watson: We have some inherent advantages to students and families of color. We had to adjust and visit at different times. Not just from people who are organized. It's not easy. Keep trying. Rarick: Standard approach - flyers, same people, same times...established networks. Need to be intentional. Reach leaders within different networks, partnerships. Man: There's a second part - once you're at the table, is your voice really being heard or are you just checking the box? Hard to ensure you're really doing that. Key is to touch back with stakeholders to ask if there's anything to change to improve engagement. Rarick: It's really hard work. Really hard. We were energized by those who took pride in designing the process. Watson: Teacher voice is so important. We took former Kansas Teachers of the Year, put them together in teams of 3, went out over the summer; created a voxer group to engage.

Potts: Pre-plan and After-plan. Gets difficult for a time. It's more than just listening. Using feedback to make decisions. Any advice about informing the decisionmaking process and being open and transparent? Rarick: Define what success is. If definition is that you walked out of every engagement feeling thrilled, then you're missing something and didn't engage very well. Watson: We're asking Kansas to fundamentally change school, meaning I have to change the agency b/c so much is about compliance. Engaging voice, implementing plan. Important. Not there yet. Hofman: Not all decisions will be based on points of advocacy, but feel your voice has been heard. Rarick: One of the messages: "Geez, thanks for engaging us...? Why did it take a federal law to engage with us...?" Now, how are we going to sustain?

Nebraska Q: Perception is that the decision has already been made. Watson: We asked very open-ended questions, then followed up to ask, "did we hear you correctly?"

Washington Q: What happens to the state office? It is compliance oriented? How does it change? Watson: Maybe I'll talk about that in Atlanta next year [at NASBE Annual Conference]. Expanded convos.

Massachusetts Q: Clarify that your Voxer group was just for Teachers of the Year? Watson: No. Created three groups: Teachers; Superintendents; Administrators. They can discuss among themselves when they have time b/c they have very little time to meet together.

Nebraska Q: Private and Public colleges to participate?? How did you do that?? Watson: Yes. You ask.

And - that's a wrap!

#NASBE16: Closing Day

Saturday, October 22
8:30 AM Breakfast and Q&A with Kris Amundson, President/CEO, NASBE

General Sessions
  • 9:30 AM More than Lip Service: Stakeholder Engagement Under ESSA
  • 11:00 AM Moving the Curve: Helping All Teachers Improve Their Practice through Sound Policy

Noon Adjourn

Friday, October 21, 2016

#NASBE16: Day 3 Preview

Today is the last full day of the conference.

7:45 AM Awards Breakfast. Arkansas State Board member and NASBE Chair-elect, Jay Barth presides for the presentation of several awards for Distinguished Service to sitting State Board of Education members.

9:00 AM NASBE Annual Business Meeting (NASBE Delegates), General Session

9:00 AM Exploring the Future of Teaching and Learning - which looks to be an exciting, interactive presentation for conference attendees who are not Delegates.

12 PM Lunch - while most of us will be networking at lunch, volunteer representatives from each NASBE region have volunteered to participate in a Focus Group with Edge Research, who partnered with NASBE on the survey to members; they will take their lunch with them to the Focus Group. There is also a separate lunch for NASBE Funders.

1:00 PM Book Talk: Cross X

Concurrent Sessions
  • 2:15 PM
    • Equity and Access: Ensuring Equal Opportunities for All Students
    • Teacher Discipline across States (joint session with NCOSEA)
  • 3:45 PM
    • Water Quality Crisis: Addressing the Environmental Hazards That Lurk in Schools and Impact Student Learning
    • Connecting the Education Data Continuum
  • 3:45 PM
    • Government Affairs Committee
    • Public Education Positions
    • Editorial Advisory Board (I've been asked to be part of this Board, so this will be my first meeting)
    • Board Meeting (if needed)
This post was updated to reflect Jay's new designation (from President-elect to Chair-elect, as per the vote of the Delegates Assembly earlier today).

Thursday, October 20, 2016

#NASBE16: Afternoon Sessions

Two more concurrent sessions: School Surveillance - The Consequences for Equity and Privacy and School Turnarounds - Lessons Learned and New Opportunities Under ESSA. I've opted for School Surveillance.

States and districts are adopting technologies that can surveil students continuously. Experts discuss the pros and cons detailed in NASBE's new report released today: School Surveillance: The Consequences for Equity and Privacy and show how SBEs can create privacy and equity guardrails.

Amelia VanceNASBE
Monica BulgerData & Society Research Institute
Theodore HartmanMontgomery County Public Schools
Chad MarlowACLU
Dakarai Aarons, Data Quality Campaign (moderator)

Vance: It's a school's job to watch students. Lots of valid reasons for surveillance:
  • keeping students on task
  • ensuring safety
  • auditing and efficiency, i.e., tracking school buses to ensure they are running on time
While not meant in a malicious way, there are unintended consequences that may threaten a nurturing environment:
  • the surveillance effect
  • equity and the digital divide
  • the effect on discipline disparities
  • fear of the permanent record
One-to-one devices heighten equity and the digital divide;
The fear of a "permanent record" does not come into play

Key questions for policymakers to ask of SEAs and LEAs:
  • Which types of surveillance does our state employ?
  • What is the purpose for their use?
  • Are there policies in place to ensure surveillance is used equitably and respects privacy?
Seven Principles for Creating Equity and Student Privacy Guardrails of Governance:
  • Minimization - is surveillance the answer to the problem?
  • Proportionality - is the cost of surveillance proportional to the problem?
  • Transparency - making sure we're open about surveillance tech we're using (issues around trust)
  • Openness - with the community
  • Empowerment - not only for the benefit of the school, but for the broader community
  • Equity - making sure that all uses of technology are equitable; awareness of implicit biases that we have
  • Training - must have if going to make use of surveillance (privacy side, as well as equity side - implicit bias training)
Aarons: What are the challenges and opportunities?
  • Hartman: Fine line protecting the network for safety and privacy; finding the balance. Social media monitoring during Baltimore unrest - police were monitoring #blacklivesmatter
  • Marlow: plenty of of examples of where there is monitoring of hashtags like #blacklivesmatter; need to be aware of the misuse of monitoring. Layers of complexity. When you think in a broad sense, have to be careful of contexts; policies for checks, guardrails.
  • Vance: Surveillance dramatically went up after the Sandy Hook shootings; Sandy Hook had surveillance tech. A lot of tech surveils one-to-one devices, but is anyone taking a look at them? A lot of data is being collected and it's just sitting in a virtual box somewhere, waiting to be deleted and hasn't yet...needs protection
Aarons: Tell us about the ACLU's Bills proposed
  • Marlow: Surveillance=data capturing. Report cards. Not all is bad. Model bills try to strike a balance between school needs and privacy. Areas & risks:
    • student information systems - are virtual filing cabinets. It's helpful in terms of time and lessons. Enormous value. Potential downside - the fear of the permanent record. Need strict control of how long the data is kept. Empowering parents and students how their data can be used.
    • another area is one-to-one devices. Students can use for the year, but again, opportunities for inappropriate use. Need privacy protection for kids. Should not be at greater risk for searches. Bill says must contact parents first regarding
    • social media privacy - social media is the most vibrant free-speech kids have right now; protect those platforms for kids' safety.
Aarons: On social media:
  • Hartman: We have an enormous responsibility to help kids. Do we want to be monitoring devices? No. But, we know kids who are LGBTQ, for example, are bullied at a much higher rate than non-LGBTQ; also more suicidal as a result
  • Vance: first line of defense (for cyberbullying, self-harm, etc) should not be surveillance, but digital citizenship. There's a liability issue here. Need to keep an eye on protecting students.
  • Bulger: I would push back on using child protection as a gateway for monitoring. When you talk to teens about it, they are very aware of their need for privacy. Take care not to escalate small offenses; need training and awareness on how to manage this [in schools].
  • Marlow: when a student is given a device for a year, in their mind, they lose sight and think it is their own. Have to be very careful to allow people to explore and seek help; surveillance may keep them from exploring identity and/or seeking help. Always intervening doesn't always help.
  • Bulger: during physical and psychological development, there's experimentation; surveillance can hinder identity growth
  • Marlow: in response to bills, some states are carving out exceptions, attempts by the tech industry to see how far to go
  • Hartman: this is where the convo can spiral out of control, which is great for us student privacy nerds. With all of the free apps, thats for a different panel...back to surveillance!
Marlow, in response to audience Q: School Resource Officer is not in the same category as teachers and administrators, in terms of the way they interact with students; creates for a more complicated policy if all are included. Also, body cams are a bad idea for students in schools. Vance: One thing US DoE is developing resources on (FERPA): law enforcement records are not student records; not subject to same protections.

Kansas Q: WRT student records - how long to retain? Hartman: state law - in Maryland, it's 5 yrs, and it's media neutral. Vance: varies dramatically by state. Aarons: find out in your states and create good policy.

Maine Q: Wer'e really interested in this, but falling to local districts, no overriding state policy. Do you see that across the country? Vance: overwhelmingly, yes. Over 400 bills on student privacy, many have created state level requirements, none, however, have taken surveillance into account. As policymakers, power of the question!

Wyoming Q, a local control state - very concerned about student rights. Scrutiny and fear. As SBE member, must communicate with stakeholders about balance for security and liberty. Where is the balance for kids' freedoms? Also: at what point does too much surveillance take away from citizen responsibility? Marlow: TY. We've talked about risks - also need to talk about the risks to our First, Fourth, Thirteenth, Fourteenth amendment rights. It's critical. Risks in 2016 are being highlighted, like the bombing in Chelsea where I live. Social media has brought down dictators in the Middle East. All are legit teaching moments to behave responsibly. The way you fight bad speech is not by censoring it. It's with good speech. Hartman: the convo has to be had in a fundamental way. Keep the convo nuanced, not at the extremes. Marlow: we have a privacy carve out in our model bills. Balance is the challenge.

This post was edited to correct typos and some formatting.

#NASBE16: Morning Sessions

NCSBEE and NCOSEA are running their conference in tandem with NASBE's:
  • NCSBEE's (State Board of Education Executives) Morning Session is all about State Board of Ed Policies and Practices. The Presentation is to include discussion on development of Board agenda, interaction with Department staff, Board Governance policies, and new board member orientation. Resources gathered from states will be provided and rountable discussion will assist members in sharing information and gaining knowledge from other state practices and resources.
  • Affiliates in the NCOSEA (State Education Attorneys) Session will engage in Round 1 of State Roundtable Discussions. Former NCOSEA President, Thomas Mayes of Iowa will moderate. Each member will be given an opportunity to briefly identify a legal issue of concern in his or her state. Identification of the issue to the group may lead to informal discussions with members throughout the remainder of the conference, with follow-up at the end of the conference.
NASBE concurrent sessions: A Well-Rounded Education Through Computer Science and ESSA and Early Learning: New Opportunities Ahead. (As I understand it, the decision to feature early learning is a direct outcome of the survey to State Board of Education members last time around).

ESSA calls computer science part of a "well-rounded" education, yet most states lack qualified teachers or content standards (MA voted unanimously to support digital literacy and computer science standards in June 2016). Maryland and Arkansas share how they are preparing computer science teachers as they adopt computer sciene standards. Panelists: Jay Barth, Arkansas State Board of Education and President-elect of NASBE (moderator); Anthony Owen, Arkansas Department of Eduaction; Marquita Friday, Maryland Department of Education; Kirsten Sundell, Southern Regional Education Board (SREB); Katie Hendrickson,

Two experts on early learning provide actionable data to help states take advantage of opportunities in ESSA to provide high-quality education for early learners. Panelists: Harriet Dichter, consultant; Jacqueline Jones, Foundation for Child Development. See NASBE's excellent publication, Education Leaders Report: Opportunities in ESSA for Improving Early Education, written by Harriet Dichter, which takes a detailed look at ESSA provisions pertaining to early childhood ed, suggesting ways SBEs can turn those opportunities into action.

#NASBE16: General Session Keynote

We are being treated to a keynote by Manny Scott, one of the original Freedom Writers.

Before he speaks, we are shown the movie trailer. Then, Scott stands at the podium and sings: "if I can help somebody as I pass along..then, my living shall not be in vain". Says he opens with that song, because it describes his life's purpose and because he believes it describes many of us. That, in the final analysis, our lives will be measured by how much or how little we have given ourselves, our lives in service, to love, to position others to flourish.

If you've seen the movie, it compresses 5 years into 2 hours; 150 students, into 5 main characters. "Marcus" is the character that best represents him.

He hopes his story will give us some perspective. New eyes through which to see some of the kids in our own areas. Perhaps a renewed heart. Hopes to provide at least one reason to stay with this work. He has a unique frame of reference - very different from most of us. Asks that we open our hearts and minds. 

Shares details of his life. Before he was 16 lived in 26 places. floors. Beaches. No blankets. Homeless. Hungry. The kid we avoided eye contact with. Would sift through garbage scrounging for food to survive. Brought all of those issues with him to school. Anger and rage simmering inside him. Poverty is not just the lack of money. Poverty is the lack of access - to resources and people that can help you.

Cut school 4th gr - 9th gr. Found family in the streets - gang members - all were lost. Fell so far behind in school. His English language was so far behind that he was labeled as a student whose first language is not English and was placed in an ESL class of Spanish speaking students - - and he didn't know a word of Spanish.

Dropped out of school in 2nd semester of 9th grade. Lived on the streets. Compelled to go back to school. Took a community of support to succeed, including lunch ladies ("Lunch ladies don't show up on school transcripts, but they are just as important").

Erin Gruwell became a student of her students - that's how she reached them. ("You will never reach someone if you vilify what's important to them..."). Ms. G believed in him before he knew how to believe in himself. She recognized his love for words. Helped him to get to college. Grad school, Ph.D

Remarkable story. Compelling story of healing, hope, and love.