Making classroom observations more efficient — and effective

A custom web-based system is making for more thoughtful classroom observation

Instructional leaders need to know what is happening when the bell rings and the door closes — in every classroom, in every building, every day. And the best way to do that is through careful but effective classroom observation. The challenge, then, is how to design a customizable, user-friendly system to observe classroom teaching that doesn’t seem like a top-down affair.

Just over five years ago, my organization, the Southwest Plains Regional Service Center in Kansas, set out to do just that, and to date, 13,572 teachers have been observed in 726 schools. This includes over 150,000 observations and over 6.5 million data points.

First, here’s what we know: Quality of teaching is the number one factor affecting student learning; collaborative dialogue is the number one factor affecting quality of teaching; and collaborative dialogue requires data.…Read More

7 ways data collection is improving STEM education

One district is getting students more active and analytical with data-collection tools, like probeware

Today’s students, being technology natives, expect the same kinds of engagement in the classroom as they seek out online. STEM classes in particular have a natural potential to be both tech-rich and inquiry-based, especially hands-on lab activities. The recent addition of probeware—sensory-based handheld devices for measuring things like water quality, light, and temperature—has allowed us to bring students out into nature and introduce them to the world of data collection and analysis. Here are 7 ways technology is enhancing and expanding STEM education in our school district.

Technology helps students acquire scientific literacy and hands-on experience.

Science isn’t about memorizing facts and formulas. It’s about developing an understanding of the scientific process and giving students opportunities to apply that process to their learning.…Read More

Report: States improve teacher policies

NCTQ’s annual report finds state policies to support teacher effectiveness are no longer the exception in the U.S.

teacher-policyTeacher policies across the U.S. averaged a C- grade, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), which on Dec. 8 released its ninth annual State Teacher Policy Yearbook.

The annual policy yearbook analyzes every state law, rule and regulation that shapes the teaching profession, from teacher preparation, licensing and evaluation to compensation, professional development and dismissal policy.

Across the 50 states and the District of Columbia, states average a C- for their teacher policies in 2015, up from an overall grade of D in 2009. The average state grade has held steady since NCTQ’s last comprehensive report card in 2013, despite the bar being raised on several key topics, including aligning teacher licensing policies with the expectations of college- and career-readiness standards adopted by many states.…Read More

Debunking the myth that good teachers shouldn’t use curriculum aids

Expecting teachers to go it alone hurts school improvement. It’s time to reframe the debate

curriculum-teachersThe myth that good teachers have the Midas touch and therefore don’t need curriculum programs has been around for decades. This myth paints teachers as curricular experts who are best positioned to create instructional plans tailored to particular students. It also reflects the prevalence of low-quality and uninspired textbook series that have dominated the market throughout the latter half of the 20th century. Some packages simply did not have much to offer, while others talked down to teachers, as the oft-used phrase “teacher-proof curriculum” suggests.

The perception that good teachers reject textbooks and design their own curriculum has been a persistent belief of educators over the years. Researchers have long noted unease about using teacher’s guides among many teachers, regardless of whether the curriculum in question was a traditional textbook from the 1980s1, 2 or a more innovative program reflecting the vision outlined in the widely adopted National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Standards of the 1990s.3, 4

Under the current era of the Common Core State Standards, this myth is playing out in some districts and schools in a different way. Teachers are encouraged to use the new standards as their guide for what to teach and are expected to gather and develop instructional resources to determine how. Curriculum resources of any kind are viewed as unnecessary, redundant to what teachers already do or should be doing.…Read More

Another requirement for teachers sparks controversy

New report says teachers should be required to prove data proficiency for licensure

teachers-data-licensure A new policy brief making the education rounds this week has sparked controversy over whether or not teachers should be required to prove data proficiency as part of their licensure. Proponents say it will ensure student achievement; opponents say it’s a premature move based on not-yet-there data systems.

The report, “Teacher Data Literacy: It’s About Time,” produced by the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) with support from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), says that state and federal policies have not gone far enough to promote the skills teachers needs to be data literate.

“Consequently, many teachers regard data as overwhelming, rather than as a tool for improving instruction and ultimately outcomes for students,” the report states.…Read More

Ten of the best virtual field trips

The benefits of virtual field trips are well known: They’re inexpensive—often free—and are less time-consuming than a real trip. But researching which virtual field trips are best can prove labor-intensive, and many resources are out-of-date.

To help educators save time, we’ve chosen these 10 virtual field trips based on their relevancy, depth and quality of resources, and potential for student excitement.

Know of any other great virtual field trips that didn’t make the list? Be sure to leave your suggestion in the comments section below.…Read More